Last year, I made a goal of walking a minimum of 10,000 steps every day in 2015. For motivation, I used a year calendar and color code stickers to visualize my daily accomplishments. I am proud to say that in sickness and in health; rain (snow) or shine - I did it!
Thanks to FitBit, I have some data to share. There's a couple surprises - like October not being as active as I would have thought since I love autumn and January is pretty active considering it is typically the coldest month.
Total Step Count in 2015
Total Miles in 2015
January 17: Winter warm-up walk (that day I walked 35,135 steps/15+ miles)
March 21: FiKA walk (that day I walked 27,481 steps / 11+ miles)
March 28: Lyndale walk (that day I walked 45,012 steps / 19+ miles)
April 4: Surly walk (that day I walked 45,025 steps / 19+ miles)
April 18: Accidental 1/2 marathon to get coffee (that day I walked 31,307 steps / 14+ miles)
April 26: Grand Rounds Loop (that day I walked 75,528 steps / 34+ miles)
May 8: FitBitGoalDay walk (that day I walked 80,606 steps / 35+ miles)
June 21: Summer Solstice walk (that day I walked 63,115 steps / 26+ miles)
September 26: Minneapolis Marathon Route (that day I walked 61,270 steps / 26+ miles)
November 7: Lake Street/Marshall Avenue walk (that day I walked 31,424 steps / 13+ miles)
Related: 40x40 List
Date completed: January 23, 2016
A year ago when I wrote my 40x40 list, I envisioned myself laying on a beach on January 23, 2016. Thankfully, a variety of factors prevented that from coming true and I was able to surround myself with some of the most important people in my life. I also spent five glorious days in New Orleans with my sister Emily and her fiancé Jonathan. It was also a bonus on that trip to have dinner with my good friends Kate and Tim whom I've known for more than 15 years as we met at Grinnell College.
To complete this 40x40, I found ways to transport myself from 23° temperature outside.
My first attempt to capture warmth had mixed results. I bundled up and broke out my hand warmers for a walk around Lake Harriet at sunrise. It got my blood flowing and it was a beautiful walk but Mother Nature did not delight me with a stunning sunrise like she has in the past. Good thing my love for her is unconditional.
When I returned home, I decided to take matters into my own hands and brewed some hot coffee and added a splash (ok ... a healthy shot) of Amarula, a cream liqueur from South Africa. I was first introduced to Amarula when my parents and I visited my sister Emily in Namibia where she lived for a year. Because my parents made this trip-of-a-lifetime happen, I was happy to be able to talk to them on the phone over the spiked coffee. We will be having a belated birthday celebration in February when Scott and I visit them in their new home in Sioux Falls, South Dakota and also celebrate their 45th wedding anniversary and my dad's 68th birthday.
Next, Scott and I went to Washburn Library where we like to spend leisurely Saturday mornings flipping through magazines, including one of my favorites - Sunset. It has beautiful photos of the west coast of the United States and I always find places to add to my travel wish list.
After our time in the library, Scott chauffeured me to Cosmo Nails, a neighborhood nail salon. While sipping on an extra hot chai tea latte, I had a pedicure and manicure while tweeting up a sappy storm thanking all the people who helped me complete my 40x40 list.
For lunch, Scott and I went to La Ceiba Bistro, a Caribbean restaurant by Chef Hector Ruiz. To start our tropical adventure, I chose the Caribbean drink and instead of selecting one of the juices, I asked for a splash of each - blood orange, pineapple, mango, coconut, and strawberry. We split an order of tostones (fried plantains) and I had a campesino torta which is grilled zucchini, grilled squash, grilled peppers, avocado, baby spinach, queso asado, black beans puree, telera bread. I highly recommend a visit to La Ceiba Bistro anytime of year but for Twin Citizens who may be tired of winter should get their immediately.
While at La Ceiba Bistro, I opened the birthday cards I received in the mail from my parents, my aunt Marlene and uncle Dan, my dad's cousin Cheryle, my cousin Erika and her husband John and kids Avery and Jay, my health coach Mary, my former co-worker and friend Joyce, and my friend Anne who arranged to have the card sent while she is currently traveling in India. I am once again reminded that sending handwritten cards and notes can really make a person's day.
Next, I surrounded myself with the warmth of friends and neighbors at Eastlake Craft Brewery in the Midtown Global Market for happy hour. It's always a joy to gather people who are important to me but it was particularly meaningful to me on my 40th birthday. I've been so fortunate to meet many interesting, smart, and funny people over the years. I also thought a lot about people who were not able to be at the party in person but sent greetings via USPS, text, Facebook, and Twitter.
To end my birthday, our neighbors Zach and Laura hosted Scott and I for a late dinner. It was the perfect way to end a perfect day. The homemade pie was as delicious as it looks in the photo and they even put a candle in it and sang the happy birthday song. It's always fun to spend time with these fantastic neighbors and I'm so glad they were able to be a part of the day.
Earlier in the week I was able to celebrate with my workmates. I had a '70s themed party had a soundtrack, photo slideshow, ice cream and hot cocoa bar, and photo booth.
Related: 40x40 List
Date completed: December 31, 2015
A couple years ago, my dear friend Lisa gifted me a framed photo of the two of us on a walk. I look at it every day and its presence reminds me of how lucky I am to have a friend like Lisa. It is also a physical reminder of our commitment to our weekly walks and how our friendship has strengthened because of them. The takeaway for me is that I need to print more of the photos I take - even if they are quick iPhone snapshots and not works of art.
Taking the digital files and making them into something to display in my home is so easy thanks to the many businesses built around getting us to print our plethora of photos. For this 40x40, I used Social Print Studio. I ordered 30 round magnets, two 8x8 metal prints, and two 20x30 enlargement prints.
For the enlargement prints, I chose two photos from our trip to Puerto Rico. For the metal prints, I chose one Instagram collage from our trip to Chicago and another Instagram photo I took on the way to work at the University of Minnesota. The magnets are a collection of 30 random Instagram photos.
Printing the magnets made me realize how easy it would be to give gifts to friends and family to celebrate memories we've made together. Just like Lisa did for me with her framed photo. Next time we snap a photo together, it just may turn into a gift!
Related: 40x40 List
Date completed: March 2015, May 2015, September 2015, October 2015, and January 2016
Washington, D.C. and Richmond, Virginia
Black Hills, South Dakota
New Orleans, Louisiana
Dates of travel: January 14 - 18, 2016
Lodging: AirBNB near the Garden District and private condo in the French Quarter
Travel planning resources
This was my first trip to New Orleans and the state of Louisiana. Scott has been there a couple of times for work but didn't get a great taste of the Crescent City since he ate almost every meal at Subway. Exploring the city together and with my sister, Emily and her fiancé, Jonathan was so much fun. I'd return to The Big Easy in a heartbeat.
We arrived in New Orleans in the early afternoon. We took a taxi to our AirBNB and checked in. We immediately started exploring the city.
Lunch at The Milk Bar
Walked on the Moonwalk along the Mississippi River
Beer at the Decatur Bar at Jax Brewery
Picked up dinner from The Fresh Market and ate in our apartment
Fluffer Nutter donut and nitro cold press coffee at District: Donuts. Sliders. Brew
Stopped at the Children's Resource Center library
Walked around Audubon Park and sat on a park bench to watch the birds
Walked around Tulane University and Loyola University
Lunch at Satsuma
Walked along the Mississippi River Trail near the Army Corps of Engineers to Avenger Park (The Fly)
Beers at The Avenue Pub
Dinner at Reginelli's (the only place that wasn't packed - note to self: always make dinner reservations!)
Emily and Jonathan arrived
Driving tour of New Orleans with Todd, a friend of Emily and Jonathan's
Drove past the new homes in the Lower Ninth Ward (I have mixed feelings about this)
Lunch at Mandina's (turtle soup, shrimp remoulade, and fried seafood platter: fish, shrimp, oysters and crab ball)
Who Dat Coffee
Drank a sazerac cocktail at The Sazerac Bar in The Roosevelt Hotel
Dinner at Green Goddess
Dessert at Sucré
Beignets and cafe au lait at Cafe Du Monde
Walked around City Park of New Orleans and went to the Botanical Garden, Train Garden and Sculpture Park
Rode a street car
Lunch at Shaya
Walked through Lafayette Cemetery No. 1
Cocktails at the Carousel Bar & Lounge in Hotel Montleone
Relaxed on our balcony at Todd's condo
Walked to St. Roch Market and ended up trying a piece of Manny Randazzo King Cake
Bought a Queens Metal necklace from Frenchman Art Market
Drinks at Molly's at the Market (frozen Irish coffee)
Dinner at Three Muses with Kate and Tim Fukawa-Connelly and Kate's parents
Breakfast at Croissant D'Or Patisserie
Janelle and Emily walked to the Riverwalk, ferried to Algiers and walked around French Market
Scott and Jonathan visited the The National WWII Museum
Muffaletta at Central Grocery
When we return to New Orleans
I knew there was absolutely no way that we'd see all that New Orleans has to offer. Since we visited in January and the sun felt so warm, we spent most of our time outside. When we return, I'd like to visit the many museums and cultural institutions in the city. I'd also like to eat more of the delicious food made famous in New Orleans. I'd also like to go on a few guided tours. We saw a bike tour and a few walking tours that seemed like fun. Because we had just a couple of full days in New Orleans, we stuck to the central part of the city. If we returned, I'd want to spend time near Lake Pontchartrain and take some day trips.
Related: 40x40 List
Date completed: Saturday, January 9, 2016
Talk about a sneaky way to have an excuse to get pampered! It's like a homework assignment I needed to complete to pass a class. I'm so close to completing all 40 items it'd be a shame if "spend a day at a spa" got the axe.
In all seriousness, having a spa day is a luxury and I am grateful I had the time and money to make it happen. I do not take that for granted.
Spa day at The Marsh
When I hear the word spa, I'm instantly transported to Arizona, California, or a tropical island. Though I guess I should think of Spa, Belgium. Bottomline- I don't imagine myself in Minneapolis! I wanted to recreate the vision in my head as much as possible but that's a tall order for January in Minnesota.
After way too much time Googling "best spas in the Twin Cities" and variations on that theme, I remembered a great experience I had at The Marsh with my friend Lisa so I booked our services there. It turns out that The Marsh is a great place to create a spa day. One advantage is that the purchase of a spa service comes with a guest pass to the fitness center with access to a locker, showers, and towels. They also have a great restaurant so you can really make a day of it. If it had been a a bit warmer, I would have taken a walk on the trails in their backyard.
Scott joined me for the pampering and we started in the fitness center for a romantic (ha!) walk on separate treadmills overlooking the scenic marshlands. We then had lunch and relaxed before getting our services. Scott had a massage and I had the Aromessance Body Polish and Wrap followed by The Marsh Ultimate Facial. Following The body polish and wrap was "interesting" in the same way our moms tell us something was interesting. It was quite involved (described in detail below) and I found about 10 minutes of the service to be relaxing. That said, three days later and my skin still feels extremely smooth and soft. After the exhausting (a bit dramatic) body treatment, I was ready for some serious relaxation. Thankfully that's just what I got with the facial. The esthetician created a treatment specific to my skin concerns and issues. Once she started her work, we didn't talk. It was glorious. I was given samples and sent on my way to continue relaxing at home.
Plan and budget for spa days
Spa days are extremely therapeutic for the mind, body, and spirit. Especially so in the winter. As long as I can work it into the budget, I plan on scheduling at least one spa day during the cold months.
A review of my first body wrap
As I said, the body polish and wrap was a bit overwhelming for this first timer. It wasn't until I started writing this blog post that I may be dangerously close to this craziness by getting a body treatment. Continue reading for my step-by-step playback...
Related: 40x40 List
Date completed: Saturday, January 2, 2016
Last year, I dipped my toe in the icy water of winter sports by attending the National Winter Trails Day event at Fort Snelling State Park. It was a fun event and inspired me to add cross country skiing to my 40x40 list. Because I knew I could do better than this...
In my defense - it is pretty difficult to ski with a purse!
Cross country skiing lessons
Because I am most comfortable learning new things with formal instruction and supervision of professionals, I decided it would be best to take a lesson. The Loppet Foundation offers group lessons on the weekends at the Hiawatha Golf Course which is not too far from our home. It seemed best to get acquainted with the course most accessible to my home. I was happy that Scott was willing to join me for the lesson.
Our group had about 16 students with two instructors - Thomas and Caroline. After getting fitted for boots, skis and poles, we talked about staying warm and dry while cross country skiing. Thomas and Caroline offered good tips about layering, neck and face gaiters/buffs/chutes, and skin protection.
We then went outside to get into our skis and learn some basics. After making it down a small hill without falling, I was quite proud of myself and ready for the next hour and a half of drills. Thomas and Caroline demonstrated and then we practiced the basic techniques of classic cross country skiing: falling and getting back up, double pole, herring bone to get up a hill, run up the hill, and snow plow for going down hills.
For most of the lesson I was able to watch Scott ski - he's quite good! I had a lot of fun and Thomas mentioned my big smile more than once so it must have been showing. I did fall a few times but at least I was more confident on falling safely and then getting back up without injuring myself. That said, I do have a giant bruise on the inside of my knee and I'm guessing I got it while skiing.
Skiing is in my future
My goal is to ski a couple of times this year. I don't want that lesson to go to waste and the only way I'll get better and more comfortable is through practice. I'd love to ski at Theodore Wirth Winter Recreation Area in Northeast Minneapolis, Hyland Hills Ski Area in Bloomington, and an extremely convenient option is Woodland Nature Center in Richfield.
Related: 40x40 List
Date completed: Throughout 2015
As you may be able to tell from the above photos, I love trees. In all seasons and across the globe, their beauty and character capture my attention. Trees are important for lots of reasons and I intend to do my part to plant and care for them.
The intention of planting a new tree in our yard, however, will have to wait another year or two. Our recent exterior remodeling project ate up our home improvement budget, time, and energy) and also created a larger landscaping project that will likely involve planting a new tree or trees.
To creatively complete this 40x40, I did the following:
Here's a round-up of some of the more memorable tree photos I've taken recently.
It's always heartbreaking to see the paint depicting a diseased tree that will be removed. This is why we should all do our part to support planting more trees!
Tree from another planet
Extreme pruning on a huge evergreen tree in the south Minneapolis.
My favorite tree in the Linden Hills neighborhood of Minneapolis.
Oldest tree in Minneapolis
Located on the banks of the Mississippi River in the Cedar-Riverside neighborhood of Minneapolis, this ancient oak is featured in Andy Sturdevant's Minnpost article about heritage trees and has its own website.
Related: 40x40 List
Date completed: July 18, 2015 and ongoing
Emails, texts, e-cards, tweets, Facebook messages, Instagram comments, etc. are all ways I connect with people. It has been a long time since I stopped to write to family and friends. Even thank you cards have been sent using the RedStamp app on my phone. I've felt the need to get back to handwriting letters and cards to people. If nothing else, my regressing handwriting and spelling skills will benefit.
Writing to a stranger
My first handwritten note was to a complete stranger. My inspiration was a home on Lyndale Avenue which I have passed on foot, bus, and car many times. No matter the season or weather conditions, this house is a charmer and makes me smile every time. I sense that a lot of love goes into this home and I wanted to thank the person or people responsible for brightening many of my days.
Project Gratitude at work
I'm also hand writing cards to my colleagues at the University of Minnesota thanks to Project Gratitude. Project Gratitude was initiated by Brian Lucas, the director of my office. He was inspired by a similar practice at Tennis and Life Camps, where he and his family attend a family camp each summer. I'm able to pause and think about the many ways people contribute to my work, professional development, or make the office a nicer place to be day to day.
People who may enjoy a handwritten letter or card
I want to continue writing to people who make a difference in my life. Here's a list I started. Add your ideas to the comments!
December 2015 highlights
December by the numbers
Numbers will be updated on January 1, 2016.
The Nivens Family