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top ten of the ’10s

top ten of the ’10s

before i dive into my year in review, i thought it would be interesting to do a DECADE in review. that’s right; we’re throwing caution to the wind and counting the 0 year as part of a new decade (sorry, dad).

so i thought about the best times i had in the 2010s. some days were really easy to count as a top ten day, but toward the end of my top ten, i was having trouble figuring out which deserved a spot and which didn’t. there are, of course, a lot of trips that i could have counted, but ultimately, the day had to be something really outstanding, and there was really only one trip i went on that was really outstanding. i also counted days/moments of clarity that, while pretty boring to an outsider, changed my life going forward.

and i’m still not sure on what my #10 of the ’10s is quite yet. i’m going to write up the rest and see where it lands when i get there.

  1. best black friday evah: i don’t have a blog post about this one because of the great blog migration failure of 2011, but BF 2010 was THE BEST black friday evah. i had scoped out a $500 fridge at sears and decided it was time to replace my top-freezer fridge. this was back in the old days (haha) of when black friday was actually on friday, so jane and i woke up at 3:30 a.m. to get to sears by 4 a.m., sat in the parking lot watching a movie on netflix until about 4:20, walked in, dodging the fanny-pack wearing, cruising old ladies, straight back to appliances, where i placed my order. we were out of there in 10 minutes and back in bed by 5 a.m. later that day, jane used an expired macy’s coupon (25% off!), and we won on scratch-off lottery tickets. i know there’s something else i’m missing about this day (i think jane had another expired coupon she used), but we STILL aspire for all black fridays to be like this one.
  2. Cali: everything about visiting california was AWESOME. it was WARM. sunny. the ocean. a couple days were standouts on this trip: the day jane and i went to HP world was just the coolest thing ever. you were IN hogwarts, just drinking butterbeer and trying on your house robes. of course, it’s all fun and games until you decide to go on a ride without your dramamine, but even the hour it took me to get over my motion sickness (while sitting in the three broomsticks) was still better than being at home. we also drove up the PCH to santa barbara (in our CONVERTIBLE) and ended that day at the santa monica pier, looking out across the pacific as the sun set. then the drive home, jane had a real-life video game moment when she realized she was driving the road from one of her racing games! the worst part of the day was that jane missed the turn to our hotel. but if that’s the worst part of the day, i’ll take it. #thankskim
  3. TED stalking: one day in 2013, jane and i decided to go to crypticon because ted raimi was going to be there. (my top three days all involve jane. liz, you gotta up your doing stuff with us game.) we knew it would be a little fun, but we didn’t realize it was going to be THAT fun. but first things first: that morning, we ran the big gay race in the cities, which was the start of the fun. after we got to crypticon, we found ted and had a picture taken with him, and he autographed my joxer picture. this was after we told him we sang the joxer song the night before in preparation (to which he looked a little scared and wondered if we were going to break into song right then). we went to a couple sessions, checked out the merch, watched a cosplay pageant, got a TWEETED REPLY FROM WIL WHEATON,
    tweettook a break and went to a halloween store at the moa, then came back to the bar where we got two glasses of free beer from the bartender. then we went to the halloween prom and watched as ted came in and danced with some chicas! then we decided to stalk him a lil bit (but not too much because we didn’t want to get kicked out). after the prom, we did a circuit of hotel room parties and drank way too much (well i did) and i ended the day barfing from all the drinking. excellent. also, jane knows that the doubletree is not physically by the hilton now.
  4. starting running: in 2011, i got on a scale and decided i was too close to 300 lbs for comfort. i also was uncomfortable in clothes, chairs, and other things. so i decided to start running. other than a brief stint in the summer of 1998, you wouldn’t find me running anywhere at any time. when they made you run the mile in high school, i was sure i could walk a mile faster than run it. but, one day in november of 2011, i made a conscious decision to just start doing it. i paid for a monthly fieldhouse membership at st. ben’s and printed out a couch to 5k schedule. and i stuck to it. the first  day i ran a whole mile nonstop? i felt so accomplished! one day i was scheduled to do a mostly run, little walk for 3 miles, but i decided to just run the whole 3 miles. somewhere along the way, i became someone who runs. i’m still not fast, but 8 years later, i still run regularly, and i run long. i’ve taken three or four breaks due to foot injuries, but other than that, i have run at LEAST once a week for 8 years. since then, i’ve run four half marathons, a bunch of 5ks and 10ks, 3-ish trail ragnars, and countless hours on my treadmill, pavement, trails, and in the woods. it’s never a wonderful experience. what’s wonderful is knowing i can do it and then doing it.
  5. first half marathon: in 2016, either liz or i (oh look! a liz moment!) decided to convince the other that a half marathon was a good idea. at this point, i’d been running regularly for 5 years, so why not? i trained, but not as much as i should have. the half marathon was ok, but at that point, anything more than 8 miles was just such a drag (i had lost some weight at this point, but i was still only about -50 at that point (-90 now – holy cow!)). so the end was really tough for me, but what the training and the half marathon did was tell me “hey, you can do this too! see if you can keep doing this.” since then, liz and i have done a half marathon every spring. my training has gotten tons better, and our time has gotten better each year too. i’m hoping for a sub-12 minute mile this spring.
  6. accepting the roch job: after working at merrill for 5 years during the recession, i was ready to do something that was a little more attuned to what i actually wanted to do (although working at merrill made me an extremely adept adobe-shortcut wizard). i found a relevant job in rochester and decided to apply for it. lo and behold, i actually got it and was ready to put in my two weeks’ notice. the day i put in my notice, i drove home in the gathering dusk (because i worked til stupid 10 p.m. but at least it was may) and felt so good about life in that moment. remember in jerry maguire when he’s in his pontiac trying to find a song to sing to and lands on “free fallin” and you can relate because we’ve all have similar moments? that was me, except it was nicki minaj’s “starships” and in a nissan altima.
  7. SC Tech interview day: my interview for my current job was the easiest interview of my life. i don’t know if it was because i finally felt like i knew what i was doing, or if it was because i knew i wanted that job because i wanted to get back to central mn so dang it, it was going to be great. but the thing that was good about this day, in addition to the interview, was that nate drove up with me and we stayed overnight in st. cloud. if he hadn’t come up that day with me to my interview, i don’t know if we would necessarily be back here. it was a very familiar, very grounded day for both of us, and i’m glad it worked out like it did.
  8. charlie’s alive: when charlie had his accident, they put him in a medically induced coma. we had no idea what he would be like afterward – they’d just taken out a racquetball-sized piece of brain and who knows if some of his motor skills or memories or brain functions would be lost. so when he came out of his coma, and he looked at aunt rae and looked confused, who then pointed and told him his mom was on his other side, and he turned to see her, then responded to questions by squeezing their hands, omg. aunt rae called us (liz, jane, and me – we were on our way to the hospital) and told us what happened, and we jumped up and down in a huddle in jane’s driveway. that was probably one of the best days of my life so far!
  9. corn syrup: in early 2010, i watched a doc that finally changed a life trajectory: king corn. it basically talked about the food industry and how corn is in a ton of our processed foods we eat, and then it dove into big ag subsidies and a how high fructose corn syrup is just, well, the devil. so i decided to try to not eat any corn syrup (not just hfcs) for a month. and i did it. and after a month, i realized that food made with real sugar was better tasting, and actually a little better for you than corn syrup (i did a lot of research while i was abstaining from corn-derived sugar). so, i continued to try to not eat corn syrup (or devil’s syrup as i like to refer to it now). since that 2010 experience, i’ve relaxed a wee bit (mostly in social situations), but the food industry has really turned around, too. items that i avoided in 2010 because of devil’s syrup now list sugar as the sweetener (and NOT corn sugar – that’s just a obfuscating term for DS). the organic/simple ingredients trend has really become more mainstream, and it’s easier to find food that’s fewer ingredients these days. i knew that my crusade had come full circle just in the past couple months when i went to buy ice cream (have to get the expensive stuff because DS is cheaper to make ice cream out of) and kemp’s – KEMP’S – had scrounds of “simply crafted” ice cream in the freezer made with sugar.
  10. where i get hung up: what is #10? there are a couple items i feel could fill out the top ten of the ’10s. it could be visiting all the mn state parks in 2018, but that was more than a moment. that was an ordeal (altho a very satisfying one!). it could be a couple of the trips nate and i took: when we did a southwest loop in 2018 or headed to utah in 2010 (my favorite part of that trip was the 2 overnights we spent in the black hills on the way back). memorable for sure, but outstanding? not sure. it could be wizardworld, but that was for sure not as fun as crypticon. it could also be getting up at the buttcrack of dawn to take photos of sunrise over the SE minnesota valley towns. it could be the day i submitted my passport paperwork: that’s a moment with future.

    but what i think i’m going to choose is something a little mundane. nate and i were living in st. joe and i had just gotten back from an evening run – so this is narrowed down to 2012 summertime. i came in the house, poured myself a glass of iced tea, and headed out onto the deck where nate was standing with the cats for their supervised outside time. i plopped down on the deck and stretched out, chatting with nate about what was going on as the sun set on the other side of the house, casting a pinky purply bluey haze in the east across the short backyard, pond, small field, and copse of trees – trees forever in central mn. i don’t know why i still remember that evening. maybe it was because of the timing of nate on the deck when i came back from a run. maybe because it was just before i started commuting to roch/austin. maybe because of the time of year (sprrummer is the bomb, y’all). or a culmination of all put into one memorable moment that i just won’t forget.

a very caribou love story

a very caribou love story

dear caribou coffee,
in case i couldn’t admire you more, i received an email from you the other day pronouncing your “clean label” drinks, which i promptly opened. since going corn syrup-free in 2010, it’s been a mission to ferret out the places and items i can eat and drink. while i have been failing spectacularly lately, i now know that you are one place i can get a tasty beverage and know that i’ll at least be HFCS free, if not all corn free*.
*[the new clean label line declares no artificial flavors, colors, preservatives, or sweeteners. i see a very prominent no high fructose corn syrup, and while i am sitting here pleased as punch so far, i’d like to know if this includes regular corn syrup as well, but i’m guessing a clean label means no corn-related foodstuffs.]
12132483_10101582915606791_3539012098377519292_oit takes a long time to come clean. according to a recent startribune article, this has been years in the making. in 2006, you started with rainforest alliance coffee beans, moved to milk, chocolate chips, vanilla, caramel (GOOD TO KNOW – but is there regular corn syrup in it?), PUMPKIN (!!!!), and now here we sit with a menu of 5 drinks that are 100% clean label, 2 of which are my go-to drinks – the crafted press and mocha -, with the promise of the entire drink menu going clean by the end of the year. 
so while i was cursing the system of corn-heavy foods in 2010, you were already on your way to nixing artificial junk. while i wrote to companies about the perils of including corn  syrup in their ingredients, you were moving to chocolate chips versus chocolate syrup. while i blogged about big ag monopolies, you were working on becoming 100% rainforest certified. 
and i love your why: “we believe that real ingredients taste better. And we invite you to taste the difference for yourself.”
that’s really what this all comes down to: a better taste. have you tasted ice cream made with cream, eggs, and vanilla versus the junk you buy in a gallon bucket? it JUST TASTES BETTER.
so while i would like to see an actual ingredients list on those flavor syrups (it’s not that i don’t trust you; it’s just that i’ve seen GMO-free corn syrup, and that’s rather disingenuous), i know that i’ll choose the ‘bou over the bucks or dunn, and not just for taste (although that’s a big part of it).
and while i still have a beef with you because you don’t offer your pumpkin drinks through thanksgiving, i am very encouraged by the clean labels, and just when i thought i couldn’t love you more for letting me get a hot crafted press, you go and do something crazy like this**. 
<3
**the next big thing that would make me swoon would be a massive recyclable/reusable cup effort. i’d buy stock.

why you should make your own ice cream

why you should make your own ice cream

i can list a multitude of reasons to make your own ice cream instead of buying it from the store, but it really boils down to two reasons:
1. it’s easy
2. it’s DELICIOUS.
(ok, really this can really be boiled down to ONE reason – #2).
since i try my best to stay away from corn syrups, i end up not being able to buy 98% of the ice in your average grocery store. breyer’s makes a few flavors of DS-free ice cream, and ben and jerry’s is, for the most part, free of devils syrup, but generally speaking, it’s hard to find a scround without corn syrup in its ingredients. (scround. hee hee.)
so, i requested an ice cream maker for christmas, and so far, i am not disappointed (and i’ve only made about six batches of ice cream).
i’m not gonna lie: the ingredients aren’t necessarily cheap. my go-to chocolate recipe calls for 3-1/2 cups of heavy cream. 2 cups is anywhere from $1.99-$3.75 in the store. add in the sugars, whole milk, and cocoa powder, and it can probably run you $7 for a couple quarts. but considering a pint of ben and jerry’s is $4? i’ll take my homemade! (you can also lean more heavily on the milk instead of cream, but it won’t be as creamy.)
some recipes are a little more complicated, especially those calling for eggs that need to be cooked, but you can find egg-free recipes (i love you, ATK, but the easier the better for ice cream). my chocolate recipe is milk, cream, cocoa, sugar, brown sugar, and vanilla. mix together, put in ice cream maker, chill, eat. total prep time is, at most, 10 minutes. the hardest part will be waiting for it to chill down enough. if you prefer soft serve, you can eat it right out of the maker.
at this point, after i’m done making some ice cream, i just rinse out the ice cream maker container and throw it back in the freezer so it’s ready to go for the next round. 
next on my list of ice cream flavors to try: peanut butter chocolate and cookie dough. when spring comes, i’ll pick some raspberries and strawberries and make fruity ice cream. 

GMOs

GMOs

today on FB, i once again got to say something about all the research i’ve done on corn since starting my no devil’s syrup odyssey. one of my FB friends works for eli lilly and wanted to know why the distrust of GMOs and that everything is GMO, so what’s the deal here.
i replied saying, well, GMOs aren’t inherently bad, but people have a distruct because there are plant genetic modifications that would never ever happen naturally. when they were figuring out round-up ready soybeans, they inserted a gene from a petunia. that wouldn’t have happened in a traditional GMO setup. 
anyway, i went on to say that i’d be more concerned about the pesticides and herbicides that the RR seed allows than the petunia gene, but that’s just me. and here’s an excerpt from my devil’s syrup book that has my opinion on the matter!
Ultimately, I’m not saying GM foods are bad. There is a lot of potential with transgenics and what companies could do to increase yield and help seeds resist pests. Transgenic seed and the process of creating them is not inherently bad. The lack of “regulation” on them, however, is disturbing and baffling. If the government were as concerned about GM seeds as they were about people consuming milk straight from the cow or what temperature I should cook my steak to, there might be a different attitude toward GM foods.
As it is, as of 2005, eighty percent of soybeans in the US were GM, as well as eighty-four percent of canola, seventy-six percent of cotton, and forty-five percent of corn.[3] Whether or not you like it, if you live in the US, you are most likely eating GM foods. I don’t think labeling the foods would hurt at all, but with the current state of processed foods in this country, you would be hard pressed to find a box of corn flakes without the GM label. The label, however, might shift the market if the average consumer is wary, and if labeling GMs becomes as a commonplace requirement as stating the nutrition facts on a box of food, then a true shift has happened. It means the US government acknowledges that GMs are, in fact, different than regular seed and should be regulated as such. I don’t think it’s going to happen on a federal level any time soon, but on a state level it could happen. And government regulation, or rather, deregulation, is part of the issue with how Monsanto does business before that devil’s syrup hits the grocery store shelves.

a devil's syrup update

a devil's syrup update

it’s been a while since i’ve done a devil’s syrup update. 
i’ve been avoiding it like normal, except when september rolls around and coffeehouses bring out the pumpkin spice everything, it’s kind of hard to keep my ban going when i love all things pumpkin. 
i’ve cut back this year on my pumpkin coffee intake to avoid the DS, but it’s so yummy. curse you, caribou! curse you, devil’s syrup! i could be going all out pumpkin, but no!
other than that, there has been a shift to devil’s syrup in some ice creams, as i’ve discussed earlier. i’ve noticed that all processed stick-shaped meat has DS in it. i thought i was safe! but even bratwurst bought directly from a meat market has it in it. the market in eyota has polish sausages that are DS-free, so i might just have to go with that. come one people; why do meats need sweetener?
speaking of sweetener, my coworker and i decided to go sugar free on our coffee creamer for the winter months, but every single sugar-free creamer we’ve picked up has had corn syrup solids in it. HOW IS THAT SUGAR FREE???? corn syrup is pure sugar! it boggles my mind.  
/rant
i’m almost done christmas shopping. i’ve got to figure something out for my grandma and pick something up for jane and my mom, but i think everyone else is done. i don’t know what this has to do with devil’s syrup, but there it is. happy almost-november! 

the ice cream dilemma

the ice cream dilemma

i requested an ice cream maker for christmas.
after another attempt at trying to find decent ice cream at mike’s, i have given up hope in the major ice cream brands. mike’s doesn’t carry breyers, and they only have two flavors of ben and jerry’s. i thought i would buy cadbury ice cream bars since they’d been really good and devil’s syrup free when the first came out, but i saw they were now owned by blue bunny, and SURPRISE devil’s syrup.
thanks, blue bunny.
i ended up buying the sugar free ice cream, which has about 1400 ingredients. 
so, here’s hoping an ice cream maker makes its way under the tree for me this year. homemade ice cream is delicious, and i would be able to make frozen fruit ice, etc. at the same time. 

excerpt from devil's syrup writings!

excerpt from devil's syrup writings!

i just wrote these couple paragraphs for the last chapter of my DS book!
This part of the state is a contrast in land studies. On the one hand, there are flat expanses that open the sky up to a driver with few trees dotting the horizon. Sunsets are vast and pastel. Fields are large, but there are more owners than west central; farmhouses crop up often and are easy to spot with the small cluster of trees close to the roadside. There are far fewer trees in this part of the state, and once you’ve gotten used to trees, it’s hard to go back.
When a person heads in a more southeasterly fashion toward the Wisconsin/Iowa/Minnesota intersection, the river valley rears its head, and valleys dip in and out of existence. One minute you’re driving across a flat expanse of corn-riddled farms and the next you’ve pushed on the brakes as you head into a rolling valley filled with trees with a river at the bottom. Nate and took a drive to a valley town during July, and as we drove along the ridge of the valley, we could see the rolling hills and trees – over the tops of corn fields.
“This would be a whole lot prettier if there weren’t so much effing corn,” he observed. Truer words and all that.

beer

beer

however uncouth it is - yum.
however uncouth it is – yum.

i’m not a huge drinker, and i generally like my beers to go down easy – none of this heavy stout stuff for me. lately i’d been getting bud light lime because it’s tasty and light. i knoooooww that i really need to branch out in my beer habits, especially since it’s made from, you know, CORN. i assumed it was GM corn, and when my sister liz shared this link, my assumptions were confirmed. on top of that, who knew that some beers have DEVILS SYRUP in them??
the bad

  1. budweiser
  2. coors
  3. corona
  4. michelob
  5. miller/light
  6. newcastle
  7. pbr
  8. red stripe

sigh. well, i’d been leaning more toward ciders lately anyway, a local one called ciderboys and also angry orchard, which is made by samuel adams.
it might be time to move to wheat beers, which wouldn’t be bad. i do like shocktop, and summit makes/made an organic beer i wouldn’t mind trying. unfortunately, for a person who likes to drink swill, the organic/local brewers don’t really brew swill.

four years baby!

four years baby!

another post because why not. i completely blew my fourth anniversary of being (mostly) corn syrup free. i don’t think i’ve completely converted anyone i know, but a lot more people are aware. that’s all i can ask! 
an excerpt from the last chapter of my DS book, that i’m so close to being able to print out and have people look at for more ideas.
So what about devil’s syrup? One thing I’ve noticed is that more and more food producers are leaving it out and using sugar.
Every time I go to the grocery store is an almost-adventure. What will be changed now? A couple years ago I noticed that M&Ms had HFCS listed on their ingredients’ list. I did some research and the only thing I can figure is there had to have been a governmental policy that had let manufacturers choose not to list ingredients that comprised less than two percent of the food. Someone threw out the rule, and now every ingredient must be listed, so now I know the truth behind M&Ms. (Unfortunately, I had already purchased a huge bag for monster cookies. Chalk that up to not paying attention.)
Last summer was pivotal when I went to buy some low-fat graham crackers and saw a note on the regular, full-fat box that said “Now HFCS-free!” Of course my cynical mind said, yep, and instead they’re using regular corn syrup.  I was more than pleasantly surprised when I scanned the ingredients and saw sugar in white caps. I still had to make my own marshmallows for the smores I was going to be roasting over a campfire, but chalk one more item up in the DS-free column.
Subway recently changed their bread recipes, so all the bread they use is now DS free. If I’d like to have a wheat-bread sandwich, I can now eat it with ease of mind. They also got rid of an ingredient in their bread that’s used to make yoga mats, but that’s another story.

ugh

ugh

on facebook i liked the “food inc” page, and now it’s everything i can do to not read the comments. if i ran that page, i would cry each post because no matter WHAT they post, there is always someone criticizing the article linked and talking about how awful food inc is now.
i’m not going to place blame. but wait i am: self-righteous vegans. because of them, i unsubscribed from the food inc page. couldn’t stand the blaming, the hate toward non-vegans, the vitriol and verbal vomit. bleah.
PBS just posted a recipe for lemon curd today, which is DELICIOUS, i might add – i made some yesterday. i read the comments because i wanted to see how many people had a fit because it was a microwaved recipe (a lot did). (and i can see their point – i made mine on the stove and it took maybe 10 minutes. the pbs version calls to take 7 minutes.)
anyway, before i go off on a tangent over microwaving vs. stove making, the point was this comment that i saw:
vegweird
speciesism??? really??
at first i thought that buying organic and/or local eggs and milk might work, but then i realized that wouldn’t be good enough for kelly. i wonder if she realizes that all plants, which are also SPECIES, die when she eats them? i think i read somewhere that the main reason cows are even alive today as a species is because humans use them for food.
anyway, i hate self-righteous vegans. let people eat what they want to eat and not shame others for eating what they want to eat.
i can hardly wait – i bet someone somewhere has an internet search setup for speciesism and will find this blog, and it’ll explode with angry comments from people who want me to stop eating meat.

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