Related: 40x40 List
Date completed: Sunday, October 18, 2015
The last time Scott and I had a professional portrait taken together was on our wedding day ten years ago. This year, we wanted to capture our milestone anniversary and include Stewie since he's in his senior years. For our fall photo session, I chose Mandy Dwyer of Glimpses of Soul Photography. I've had two previous photo shoots with Mandy for individual headshots and I always love her work. I strongly recommend hosting a headshot party for you and your friends - it's a great way to hang out with friends and everyone ends up with a great photo to use on websites and social media accounts.
Scott and I chose a photo shoot location that is meaningful to us - Bryant Avenue Pedestrian Bridge and Minnehaha Creek since we walk there daily. I'm thrilled with the photos and am impressed Mandy caught Stewie looking at the camera because he will definitely not be quitting his day job to become a model.
For the first time in 10 years, I'm actually looking forward to sending out holiday cards (ours will be New Years greetings). If you want to get in on this once-a-decade event, send me your address!
Related: 40x40 List
Date completed: Friday, November 20, 2015
All of my life, I've had a place to call home. My address has changed more than 14 times but my homes have all been safe and part of a healthy community. It can be easy to take this basic need for granted, but there are many individuals and families living in poverty without the stability that an affordable home provides. Because I don't want to take what I have for granted, I try to find volunteer opportunities to help open my eyes, mind, and heart to the challenges facing people in my community. While there are many organizations in the Minneapolis/St. Paul metro where I could volunteer my time, I've always wanted to work on a Habitat for Humanity project.
Twin Cities Habitat for Humanity has the Women Build program which invites women from all walks of life to work on a home build project with no previous experience necessary. I invited several women I admire to join me and was lucky to have my neighbor, Jean take me up on the offer. Jean and I have a lot in common and it was rewarding to share the Women Build experience with her. Several of the women in our group were regulars and could show us newbies the ropes. In fact, there is a group of woman who are in their eighth year of volunteering once a month! I plan on making this a tradition and hope more of my friends will join me for future Women Build dates.
This particular volunteer shift brought us to the Jordan neighborhood in Minneapolis. The five-bedroom single-family home is new from the ground up for a family of seven who will be moving from a two-bedroom apartment. We were fortunate to be able to work alongside one of the homeowners. I enjoyed getting to know him and talking with him about what it has been like to build his new home with his own hands. He is a hard worker who was kind and enthusiastic to teach me some of the lessons he's learned during the construction process.
While most of the volunteers tackled siding and trim, I helped disassemble and assemble scaffolding. I will never look at scaffolding the same way again! It's hard, time-consuming work that may not be all that sexy but building it properly is vital for the safety of the crew. Part of the challenge for us was adding scaffolding to unleveled, frozen ground full of gravel. We definitely had to get creative but swinging the hammer and moving heavy pieces of metal kept me warm (it was 25 ºF outside). I also helped clean-up the site which is the part I enjoyed most. I even got to use a sledgehammer to remove huge chunks of concrete from the ground.
One of the most inspirational parts of the day was meeting Larry Hossfeld, a long-time TC Habitat volunteer who worked on the house with us. A retired engineer, Larry has been volunteering since 1990. In addition to volunteering 40-50 hours a week on Habitat projects, he has donated five homes to Twin Cities Habitat for Humanity (read more about Larry via Kare-11 story and the TC Habitat blog post).
On my mind during the Women Build volunteer shift was President Jimmy Carter, the most famous Habitat for Humanity supporter who has cancer in his liver and brain. To honor President Carter, I wore my Still Kickin t-shirt because of its connection to brain cancer research and also supporting people who are persevering through incredibly difficult circumstances. Related to Women Build, when I purchased my t-shirt, the Still Kickin Hero was Sarah Super, a rape survivor and founder of Break the Silence. All of these incredible stories motivate and inspire me to make a positive difference in my community and support others to do the same.
Related: 40x40 List
Date completed: Saturday, November 14, 2015
With my self-imposed deadline of January 23, 2016 to complete my 40x40 list looming, my dear friend Amy invited me to her home for a craft date to make handmade greeting cards. She pointed out that this could help me accomplish #22 on my list: Hand write letters/postcards to my friends. Crafty indeed, Amy!
I arrived to find all the supplies one could ever need for a card-making crafting session laid out on her big dining room table. I always love hanging out in Amy's home - it is so warm and cozy thanks to the ambiance she creates with music, plants and flowers, a working fireplace, and sunlight streaming in the big windows.
Armed with scissors, glue, and tape, we took patterned papers and recycled greeting cards to transform them into our own creations. In just a couple of hours, we each created several original cards and in the process got caught up on each other's lives. It was more restorative than I had imagined. A welcome side effect after a week of insomnia. I'm already looking forward to my next card-making date with Amy.
Related: 40x40 List
Date completed: Sunday, November 1, 2015
My love of the Mississippi River is well documented. I consider myself lucky to have reason to visit her every weekday since my office at the University of Minnesota is steps away. I like to walk across the Washington Avenue Pedestrian Bridge to start and end my work day. Outside of work, I've walked along the east and west banks many times in both Minneapolis and St. Paul. I love that throughout the Twin Cities metro, the area surrounding the river has many personalities and the development ranges from gritty industrial to serene natural beauty to swanky residential.
But it's a big river - some may even say it's mighty - and deserves to be explored fully. Right around the time I was making this list in January, my friend Lisa and her family spent a weekend visiting river towns. Seemed fitting for the 40x40 list. Thanks for the inspiration Lisa!
One significant change in how this item was executed is that we only spent a day exploring and not an entire weekend. Ideally we would have made this trip one or two weeks prior during the the peak fall colors. Perhaps another year!
We started our day on the Wisconsin side of the Great River Road.
Before walking around Stockholm, we stopped at Maiden Rock Bluff State Natural Area for a hike. Thankfully Google Maps guided us to the area since there were no signs indicating this place exists. Once we arrived, there were no markers designating the trails. Adventure! It was well worth the initial confusion as the view from the top of the limestone bluff is breathtaking. We even spotted a few bald eagles.
Since we were so close, we also stopped at Maiden Rock Winery & Cidery even though we were too late for apple picking. We sampled the ciders and purchased a 6-pack of Crabby Cider™ made with Dolgo crabapples and a jar of apple butter.
We arrived in Stockholm and pretty much beelined to Stockholm Pie & General Store. It is the cutest and their pies (and dumplings) are spectacular. High on sugar, we walked around the two streets that make up Stockholm's business district. I'm glad we were able to stop and look around since the last time we were in the area, we passed it on our way to the A to Z Produce & Bakery Pizza Night (my photo of the day).
Read all about Stockholm's charms from Heavy Table.
Until I was researching our route for this day trip, I'm embarrassed to admit that I didn't realize that Lake Pepin is actually part of the Mississippi River - the widest naturally occurring part of the river, in fact.
Though we were stuffed on pie and dumpling, we stuck with my plan of having lunch at Harbor View Cafe before they close for the season. Harbor View has been on my restaurants to try list for a long time and for good reason. It's a charming restaurant that feels similar to those we visited on the coast of Maine. I had the "telefonos" - mozzarella stuffed risotto cakes on a bed of sautéed greens surrounded by roasted vegetables and the curry cauliflower soup. Scott had the Oregon King Salmon with asparagus, wild rice, and cranberries and mushroom barley soup.
We were so stuffed it almost ruined the experience. Perhaps a sign that this area is deserving of more than a day trip if you plan on enjoying all the culinary offerings.
We started walking around Pepin's business district but since it was Sunday and the end of the season, there wasn't much to look at. So, we returned once again to the water to walk around.
Here's a great guide to exploring Lake Pepin.
We originally planned on a stop at The Original Nelson Cheese Factory before crossing over the river to the Minnesota side. When we missed our turn, we just kept on driving. I guess that will be a stop for a future road trip!
We walked around the cute Wabasha downtown and the riverfront. We considered going to the National Eagle Center but we were running out of time to reach Red Wing before the shoe store closed. Another item for my growing "next time" list.
Even if you don't consider yourself a bird watcher, you'll likely be enthralled by the large raptors that call the area home. You can even watch them in action while sipping on a beer at Read's Landing Brewing Company like we did!
Red Wing, Minnesota
We made it to Red Wing just in time to visit the Red Wing Company Museum inside its Main Street shoe store. Not only did I get to pose with the World's Largest Boot, I also learned that Vasque is a Red Wing brand. I used to wear them in college and now I have my eyes on these beauties. When I asked about women's boots I was told that they have a line scheduled to launch late 2016 or 2017.
Looking at all those shoes made me want to walk along the river since the sun was setting. It was a beautiful end to a great day on the Great River Road.
The biggest takeaway for me is that no matter how many times we've tried, Scott and I do not like spending a lot of time in the car. It would have been more enjoyable if we had stayed somewhere for the weekend and taken lots of walks and spent time in surrounding regional and state parks. We'd then explore the towns for our breaks. The prospect of driving the entire length of the Great River Road still appeals to me but it would probably take us 10 weeks instead of the suggested 10 days.
October 2015 highlights
October by the numbers
The Nivens Family