38 Hours with Life Coach Laura!

Could anything be better than fairly spontaneous visits from friends? Personally, I don't think so. One of the drawbacks of going far away for school is that my closest girls from college are scattered all over the country (and, in some cases, globally!). While it's nice to know that I could find a couch to crash on from coast to coast, it is hard to know that we miss out on so much of each other's lives based on our lack of proximity. 

Laura and I actually weren't close friends during undergrad because she's two years older than me...we bonded my senior year, when she was already well out of school. I started affectionately calling her "Life Coach Laura," because it felt like she was living my life two years ahead of me. We both marched in the Band of the Fighting Irish, majored in accounting, and spent our junior springs abroad in London. She also worked for a Big 4 accounting firm as an auditor, and also reclaimed her life and sanity after around two and a half years of torment. She now lives in Chicago with her standard poodle, Fiona, who is the most intelligent and perfect dog on the face of the planet. 

Laura came up for a quick weekend trip on the last truly beautiful weekend of our fall, and we took full advantage of the gorgeous weather to get her honorary Minnesotan on in a big way. She arrived around 9pm on Friday, and of course the first thing I did (well, after jumping around and hugging her a lot and effusing over how excited I was at a really high pitch) was drag her to Loring Kitchen, which is IN my building, for cocktails and late-night food. This is Laura's drink: 

We dubbed it the "tampontini" because, let's be real, that hibiscus flower looks pretty questionable. Fortunately it tasted better than it looks, and we enjoyed our burger/pizza and major catch-up before retiring to my apartment. Catch-up continued, and then we snuggled down in bed to watch "Scandal" and worship at the altar of Olivia Pope. 

The next morning, we woke up, listened to stand-up comedy and had coffee in bed, and meandered over to brunch at Spill the Wine around 10. Laura is a girl who brunches in exactly my style...no holds barred on the breakfast booze, and splitting entrées is fair game. Nothing could make me happier.

We started with apple cider doughnuts, split the lemon ricotta pancakes and the kimchi-fried breakfast rice, and tried one of each of the mason jar mimosas (strawberry basil was declared the universal fave this time). 

It wouldn't be a trip to Minneapolis without a stop at a few major landmarks: this weekend, we chose the Sculpture Garden and Minnehaha Falls, because it was 68 degrees, sunny and gorgeous out. We got the obligatory Spoonbridge picture(s)...

...meandered around the Sculpture Garden enjoying people-watching and art-viewing...

...and soaked up the sun and admired the leaves, which were peak-pretty that weekend. 

Minnehaha Falls was a madhouse, as they were hosting a Halloween party. Cute small children were abundant, but Laura, being a proud dog-mom, obsessed over the four-legged guests instead.

We parked far away and hiked in along the river, then down to the falls and up around the basin before calling it a day. It couldn't have been prettier! Quite the contrast from my January visit with Hannah!

That night, we had a date planned with the Minnesota Wild. Laura's a huge hockey fan (she roots for the Penguins) and had never been to an NHL game at the Xcel, though her first and last trip to the Twin Cities had been to see Notre Dame in the Frozen Four in 2011. We made a pre-game stop at The Nook to check off another Minnesota must-do: a Juicy Lucy! The highlight, I think, of our Nook dinner was the beer-battered, honey-drizzled, deep-fried bacon cheese curds. 

That's right. Did you just feel your arteries clog, too? They were sinful. Laura ate her first Juicy Lucy with obligatory caution...

...and enjoyed it. Yay!

We happened to luck into (and splurge on) amazing, amazing seats for the game. As in, second row, just to the left of the Wild players' bench, right off center ice. This was my first Wild game, and I got hooked insanely fast. With views like these (none of which are zoomed in!), how couldn't you? 

Did I mention it was a giveaway night? And that the giveaway was blaze-orange hats, courtesy of Gander Mountain and Pheasants Forever? Because it was. And it was wonderful. Talk about a hilariously, stereotypically Minnesota way to welcome my Laura to my beloved home state. To accompany her hat, she bought a camo-pattern Wild t-shirt. For a player she didn't even recognize. 

We had a blast, and to top it off the Wild beat the Lightning 7-2! 

The next morning, we made a quick stop at Glam Doll Donuts to ensure we maxed out our sugar intake before 10am. Hannah met us, thank goodness, because otherwise the speed and ferocity with which we housed six donuts would have been vaguely inappropriate. 

Full and hyper, we headed back to my place, where I had to bid Laura a tragically sad farewell so she could get home to Chicago and Fiona by dinner. I've been missing her ever since then, and begging her (and all my scattered friends) to brave the now-frozen tundra and come make my life complete again. Really, I promise it's not thaaaaat bad! 

Love you, Life Coach, and can't wait til our next reunion!