Minnesota

There's no place like home.

One of the best perks of working at Stanford is that we get the same winter break as the students - a winter shutdown that starts before Christmas and runs through the first week of the New Year. I just went back to the office this past Monday, and after combining some extra PTO with the holiday, had nearly three weeks off - a total blessing!

I flew home on December 21, and promptly met up with Kels for beers at Union 32, a pull-your-own-pint place near the airport. While I was already suffering from the frigid Minnesota weather (I didn’t even have a proper winter coat with me, c’mon Liz!), it was so good to settle in with her, catch up after months apart, and start break off on a relaxing, indulgent note.

My parents have season tickets to the Hennepin Theatre Trust, the local Broadway touring affiliate, and generously added on three tickets to “Les Miserables” when all of us were home! “Les Mis” has long been in my top three musical favorites, and the new touring production is really beautifully done - updated well, while retaining the poignancy and drama of the original production I fell in love with like twenty years ago.

Post-show, we headed to Northeast for a quick happy hour at the Hewing Hotel, a local fave with Scandinavian vibes that was perfect for the frosty, flurrying afternoon.

And of course, it wouldn’t be a Lizzie trip home if the Schwegfam didn’t somehow find ourselves here…

…it’s truly a dangerous addiction. While our favorite staff member, Nicole, has moved on, we still marveled at the truly outstanding service and food. Particular standouts this time were the winter sunchoke soup, the arancini (a bar menu item, but they always give us an order on the house since we spend SO much time there), and the butternut squash caramelle - Spoon’s heritage grain pasta is seriously to die for.

I also enjoyed running into Matt, a colleague of Dave’s at Stanford, and his family - he’s from a neighboring suburb, and it was a hilarious small-world moment to see him at the next table over just a week after we hung out in California.

Christmas Eve found us headed to my beloved Basilica for the Children’s Choir Mass - an annual tradition I adore. Getting to attend the Basilica makes me so homesick - I haven’t found a church community in California that can even come close to touching how wonderful the mass experience is there.

Post-Mass, we headed home and dressed way down in our coziest clothes for champagne, a huge lasagna dinner, and presents! Particular highlights this year were Emily’s gorgeous archival photo books of our Italy trip - she’s an amazing photographer - and, for my dad, surprise Garth Brooks tickets from my mom! I actually got to play Santa’s helper on this one - she had a doctor’s appointment when the tickets went on sale, so I spent three hours the morning of my Stanford finance program’s orientation trying to purchase them on Ticketmaster. When the site bogged down, I hopped to Stubhub and lucked into an outstanding pair of tickets in the lower tier.

When my mom wrapped the printout of the tickets, she hid them under smaller gifts - a belt and a golf towel. Dad clearly knew something was up, though - he caught sight of the paper underneath the towel, and literally tossed the towel on the ground, shouting “Whatever, nice towel, whatever, I’M GOING TO GARTH!” He was so excited - it was a joy to witness, a true reminder that it’s way more fun to give than receive :)

One of my gifts to my family every holiday season is a suitcase full of wine! I really pushed the envelope this time - my suitcase was 48.8lb at the airport, with four bottles and a magnum crammed in among gifts and, oh right, clothes. We saved the magnum of Iron Horse “M” Cuvee for Christmas Day - it may be my new favorite from them, which is terrible as they’re never producing it again! Proving that we’ll do anything for bubbles, my mom, sister and I, with a little help from my cousin Carly, killed this bad boy - the equivalent of three bottles - in about three hours. OOPS.

Obsessed with these two and their matching plaid and their adorableness. My mom always laments that we don’t get good family photos on the holidays, but I think this one’s a framer for sure. As is this one:

While we thought we were super cute and funny and clever (also, freeeeezing), Jodes was less than pleased with our shenanigans. So we gave her one nice one for the frame…but just one. We had drinking and eating to do!

Post-Christmas, I started a mad frenzy of seeing as many friends as possible before my (originally scheduled) return to the Bay on the 28th. First up was this dynamic duo:

…plus Colleen and Baby R 2,0! So fun to get to spend some time with the cutest family in their new home - not gonna lie, I have major Minnesota real estate envy.

Post-Reuvers, I met up with Kels at easily the most festive bar I’ve ever seen: Lawless Distillery’s Miracle Pop-Up Bar, near the U of M:

Decked out with over two thousand ornaments, vintage signs, a bathroom wall entirely covered with nutcrackers (hahaha, I loved that justaposition), and a seasonally appropriate cocktail menu, I couldn’t get enough of the festive vibe - great way to avoid the post-Christmas crash!

We sipped on a “Partridge in a Pear Tree" and a “Run Run Rudolph,” people-watched to our hearts’ content, and decided we’re doing a warm-weather post-Christmas trip next year - already excited to escape to some fabulous island paradise somewhere with this one!

Post-Kels, I met up with Nate, Margaret, Matt, and Carlos, who is a champ. Nate and Marge also just bought their first home, and it is seriously a palace - I’ve got major FOMO with my 850 square-foot apartment compared to their three floors, four bathrooms, and huge backyard, ugh!

IMG_0347.jpg

The 27th found me a bit under the weather with what I thought was just a sore throat or cold - nothing serious enough to keep me from getting my hair cut and colored, or spending an afternoon with David. So fun to catch up with him, freshly post-engagement, and after almost a year and a half! By evening, though, my glands were super swollen and my throat was achy…

…and things rapidly took a turn for the worse on the 28th, with an emergency room admit, hospital ride to a different ICU, and admittance for airway monitoring. Definitely NOT how I thought my “last day” in Minnesota would go.

Fortunately, I was pumped full of drugs, monitored and finally deemed fit to make my escape right in time for the Notre Dame-Clemson game. Or…would we say fortunately? I think Em’s best friend Liz summed it up pretty appropriately, sadly.

After the debacle that was supposedly a college football playoff game (WOOF, OUCH, GO IRISH), I laid pretty low for the next several days, riding out a course of steroids that knocked me totally flat. On New Year’s Eve, I was seriously still so out of it that I couldn’t even power through for champagne - and my parents had even bought Nicholas Feuillate, one of my favorites! SAD. Jodi enjoyed for the both of us, once again cementing her status as the cutest human alive:

IMG_0402.jpg

And Kels, cementing her status as the best and kindest friend ever, came over for an ultra-low-key evening of making homemade tagliatellle bolognese! My parents bought a pasta roller attachment for their KitchenAid after we went to Tuscany, and it was seriously one of the coolest and most fun things I’ve ever done in a kitchen.

LOOK AT THAT PASTA. Seriously so good and fun! I didn’t even make it to the ball drop - pretty sure I was in bed and fast asleep by 10:30, oops. At least I started 2019 well-rested, okay, guys?!

Being a delinquent, and totally drained, I took no photos on my outing with Hannah the next day - the silver lining of being forbidden to fly until the 2nd was that we actually got to squeeze in seeing each other! My parents and I ended my time at home with a trip to Pizzeria Lola - turns out -15 degree windchills will give you a craving for cheese and carbs like nothing else, apparently.

And with that, it was off to the airport, back on a plane, and back to the Bay. All said in done, a break that was simultaneously eventful and uneventful, relaxing and jam-packed, full of highs and lows - sounds a lot like 2018 ended much the way it existed?! So thankful to my fam and friends for making it as great as possible!

Summer break and a Safeway story.

Hi crew!

It’s been a while and a half, hasn’t it? I decided I was going to take a summer break, primarily because I did the Classic Lizzie Thing in which I totally overload myself with two classes, thirteen discrete projects at work, a slew of visitors in town every weekend, and a social life that has been nothing if not overcommitted. Oh and also trying to go to the gym regularly and get a new car (my lease was up) and plan out the NEXT several months of my life. So some things had to give, and my blog was one of them. Alas! Alors! Anyway!

I’m hopping back in with a happy little moment from yesterday, involving me being a scatterbrain and the world being kinder to me than I deserve. I’ve been a bit homesick lately, after a rough month or two in general, and it was such a great reality check.

It started with a Sunday afternoon trip to my local Safeway, which is generally a mistake. I’m actually coming to think that going to my local Safeway, period, is generally a mistake (someday I’ll tell you all of my passionate love for Trader Joe’s, oh dear). Sunday afternoons at my local Safeway are overcrowded, understaffed, and always frenetic, and I am never at my best when faced with that combination of circumstances. I was also post-gym and pool on this particular Safeway trip, which meant salty hair, minimal makeup, and a “weekend T-shirt” (my designation) of the variety that really shouldn’t see the light of day. This particular “weekend T-shirt” was a just-because gift from my mother with the old Dayton’s department store logo on it. This is relevant, I promise!

After gathering all my ingredients for coconut curry chicken meatballs, Mexican corn, and a week’s worth of salad lunches, I popped the prettiest bunch of perfect white hydrangeas into my cart on a whim. The checkout lines, per usual, were minimum five people deep, so I settled in and whipped my phone out to read while I waited. The guy behind me had different ideas, and struck up a conversation:

“You’re not from Minnesota, by any chance, are you?” he said. I goggled at him, completely dumbfounded. I hadn’t said anything, so the accent hadn’t given me away. I wasn’t wearing any sports gear or anything. So I affirmed, cautiously, “I am – how on earth did you know?”

“It’s your shirt,” he continued, “it’s the Dayton’s logo. I haven’t seen that forever.” And I laughed, and we started the most pleasant conversation about where we were from, how much we missed Minnesota, et cetera. He had just been home at a family cabin on the Whitefish Chain, and he hailed from a suburb right by mine. I was having so much fun chatting with him, in fact, that as I unloaded my cart I completely neglected to grab my hydrangeas out of the child seat basket.

So I got all rung out and the cashier had already started scanning my new friend’s items, and all of a sudden as I was wheeling my cart out of the lane I spotted my flowers. In typical Lizzie form, I spazzed, offered to go to the back of the line, offered to go put them back, and all the while the cashier and bag boy are looking at me like, “what the eff, lady,” which just made me more self-conscious and embarrassed.

My Edina guy, cool as a cucumber, swooped my flowers out of my cart and said, “Don’t worry about it, let me buy your flowers.” Guys, I could feel myself turning beet-red with mortification as I dug through my purse looking for cash to offer him and came up empty-handed. And again, he goes, “It’s no big deal, it’s just a nice thing to do – let me buy a fellow Minnesotan a bouquet, seriously.” And I’m simultaneously utterly charmed and incoherent, so there was much stumbling over words and profuse thanking and bumbling around like a dork.

I’m not sure why this was such a monumental big deal to me. Maybe it’s that I’ve been a little cynical lately about humankind in general and Californians to be specific. This is not the sort of thing that happens here, and I realized that I took all of that very much for granted at home – the door-holding, the bag-carrying, the general demeanor of pleasantness and assiduity. It felt, for just a minute, like I was home and surrounded by people who cared, just a little bit, about making other people’s lives easier and happier and brighter. And that, in that moment, was not only nice, but kind of essential. So we said our goodbyes, and I headed to my car, smelling my hydrangeas all the way and feeling just a little more faith in the goodness of humanity.

Worst weather, best people: a weekend at home!

Dorothy Gale hit the nail square on the head... "There's no place like home." I snuck back to Minneapolis the weekend before the Labor Day holiday thanks to an insanely good flight deal, and had a fabulous whirlwind 72 hours with my parents and best friends in the process! 

At first, Dick, Jodester and I had grand plans of spending all day Friday on Lake Minnetonka - boating, scoping out stunning real estate, and getting me in a Minnesota lake for the first time this summer. Instead, the forecast was for weather in the low to mid 60s and rain all weekend. Damn it, Minnesota! What was this bull? Fortunately, I have the world's best parents, and they planned a doubleheader Friday evening of my favorite places: Spoon and Stable and the Guthrie! 

IMG_2241.JPG

It is a truth universally acknowledged that Spoon and Stable is the best restaurant in the Twin Cities. And if you don't acknowledge that, I will fight you. No, I kid. But not really. We showed up nice and early to clock time at the bar with Elliot, who made me their Daily per usual. The feature of the day involved, among other things, bourbon and orgeat, a an almond-and-rose liqueur that was revelatory. I adored it. Then again, I've never had a cocktail at Spoon that I didn't adore. 

We sat down to dine, and right after our salads showed up, so did this little munch!!

LOOK at the chins on this pumpkin, my baby cousin Hugh Arnold! He (and his parents Jake and Brook, as well as cousin Matt and aunt/uncle Mary Beth and Dave!) had been down the street at the Hewing having happy hour, and popped over to say hello (and for snuggles/second base, obvs). Such a fun surprise - I hadn't seen Hugh since he was a tiny two-month old at the third Arnold brother Josh's wedding in Miami

My very favorite person at Spoon is our server of choice, Nikki, who is an utter delight and spoils us rotten at every turn, chatting all evening and surprising us with treats in the form of extra dessert. Papa Bear loves to debate the age-old quandary: would you choose greatfood and average service, or average food and great service? Fortunately at S&S, you don't have to choose, but the service provided by people like Elliot and Nikki is so outstanding that it's almost ruined me for normal dining experiences. I seriously love it there so much it's a bit absurd. 

After doing a fairly obscene number on the honey and cream cake (sue me), we headed down the street to my other fave place in the Cities, my beloved Guthrie, for their final performance of "Native Gardens!"

Having no idea what we were getting into, we were all blown away by the show, a comedy about neighbors warring over their yards and property lines. It felt shockingly topical and universal, and I think, based on the audience's response, we weren't the only ones who could relate. For me, the highlight was my dad laughing his ass off, which rarely happens in a theater!

I spent Saturday morning having a much-needed catch-up with my hairstylist Jen, getting colored and cut and cleaned up, before a reunion with my very own ride-or-die, Kelsie! We chose to spend the afternoon doing what we do best: an alcohol crawl through the Twin Cities, duh. 

We started at Rojo with margaritas and guacamole...

...moved to Tattersall for a peek at their totally revamped cocktail menu...if you go, I HIGHLY recommend the new 18th and Central or the Humzinger...

...And we wrapped up our day out at Indeed, where I drank IPAs (and a Mexican Honey, duh) to my heart's content! Look at the changes California has wrought in me...and it's only been two months! 

We headed back to the Schwegfam World Headquarters for a fantastic Inner Circle dinner with my parents, who love Kelsie so much that they actually use the hashtag #4thchild with her. Realistically, we've been friends for literally half our lives and I'm pretty sure at this point she's grandfathered in. My dad grilled us burgers, we drank plenty of wine, and had a blast catching up until late!

Sunday morning marked the first time all weekend that I'd seen Minnesota blue skies, and we celebrated by heading to Lake Harriet for a morning lap. While I'd been on-and-off nostalgic all weekend, this was the first moment that I really, truly felt like I'd left the Cities, rather than just gone on some bizarre extended vacation. Looking at the skyline on the horizon tugged at my heartstrings in a way that metaphorically screamed that that view doesn't belong to me anymore...it's incredibly weird, and I still haven't really synthesized it. More to come, eventually. 

We vacated the premises as storms loomed more seriously on the horizon, and I headed home to clean up and pack before meeting Hannah in Edina for coffee! We chatted for nearly two hours about everything from "The Bachelorette" to our love lives, and I was so engrossed that I didn't even bother to snap a picture. Shame on me! That said, she's coming to California in a little over a month, and I can't wait to spend a week catching up then! 

All too soon, it was goodbye to Hannah and time for a crazy-enthusiastic hello!!!! to baby Ryan Reuvers! 

This not-so-little cutie pie (and his amazing parents, Zach and Colleen!) met up with me at Tavern on France for patio mimosas and a ton of cuddles. He was so excited to finally meet me that he pooped straight through not one, but two outfit changes. I have that effect on guys, apparently ;) 

The side-eye says it all...I'm clearly ready for parenthood. It was beyond fun to catch up with Zach and Colleen and meet their little man, who is just as precious as they are...can't wait for more quality time when they head to the Bay Area in THREE weeks! 

My parents came and met me, we had a disastrous dinner at Al Vento, and before I knew it it was time to head to MSP and board a late flight back west. While the weekend was a total whirlwind of activities and socializing, it gave me exactly the boost I needed as I headed into Stanford's year-end. Minnesota is good for my soul, friends - or at least it is now. We'll see if my tune changes come wintertime, when my thin new-Californian blood has to deal with subzero temps again! 

Goodbye, Minneapolis

As you read this, my mom and I are somewhere in western Minnesota or South Dakota, in a black Honda Civic packed to the gills with three suitcases, two lamps, a potted plant, and every article of clothing that was once hanging in my Loring Park walk-in closet. I said goodbye to the Twin Cities this morning, although it feels like I've been saying goodbye for a lot longer. 

Since I decided on this move, I've been thinking so much about Minneapolis. How this city has defined and shaped me for the last six years as a young adult, but really for my entire life. I had an almost out-of-body moment en route between goodbye parties last Friday, when I passed the building where I started my professional career at Ernst & Young. The café table where I sat the morning of my job interview was vacant, and I could almost see myself...black Calvin Klein suit, turquoise silk blouse from J.Crew, headphones in and my pump-up playlist blasting as I sipped a Caribou cold press. I remember feeling like my whole life was about to start that morning, and I imagined it all taking place right there. 

To think that I'm taking such a sudden, intentional left turn and leaving this city, this state, behind...it's a bit mind-boggling. I will miss so much about Minneapolis. I will miss how it feels like I can get anywhere in half an hour or less. Similarly, I will miss being able to see the skyline from half an hour away in almost any direction, thanks to Minnesota's prairie flatness. I'll miss the stillness of the Lakes on a summer morning, and the sunsets over Loring Park. The way the snow squeaks under boots when it gets teeth-hurtingly cold, and watching flaming red sugar maple leaves fall on Cathedral Hill in Saint Paul. 

Spoon and Stable happy hours, Tattersall's patio, and exploring new restaurants with friends and family. The moment when Erin Keefe tunes the Minnesota Orchestra, or settling into the rose velvet seats at the Ordway for another opera. The view from the Endless Bridge at the Guthrie. Baking in the sun at Target Field every summer, and watching Notre Dame games with friends at the Crooked Pint (actually, I WON'T miss the Crooked Pint at all...). And honestly, those friends, and my family. These are the things I'm intentionally giving up in leaving here, and when I stop to really think about that, it's a bit gut-searing. 

I just realized that 3rd Street downtown becomes Central in Nordeast. Isles Bakery, my favorite little breakfast hole in the wall, isn't so little anymore after an expansion. Continually realizing and discovering little gems like that make me happy, and remind me that there is still so much about this city that I don't know and haven't explored. 

While I am incandescently excited to take this next step, I can't deny how bittersweet it feels to close this specific chapter. Saying goodbye (for now?) to the city that has played such a huge role in shaping who I am today breaks my heart, but makes me incredibly grateful to have had those moments. Four apartments, one broken heart, numerous friends, one first date at a VFW, too many cocktails, 57 Guthrie shows, two jobs, three promotions, and myriad adventures later, I think that I can comfortably say that the girl waiting in the lobby for her EY interview would be excited and proud and thankful to be where she is today. I am. And though I'm so excited for the next chapter in California, I'm completely okay with saying "Au revoir" instead of "Adieu" to the Twin Cities. 

Til we meet again, you lovely.

Twin Cities Love Letters: Part I

First of all, THANK YOU from the depths of my heart to everyone who has reached out this week to congratulate me, share advice, and offer Bay Area connections in light of the news about my upcoming move! Not gonna lie, I’m just as nervous as I am excited about this change, and hearing from so many people was an absolute joy. I am so lucky to have such great people in my life, near and far!

That said…oh man, with the countdown clock under a month, I’m getting seriously nostalgic about my beloved Twin Cities, and every day seems to bring to mind something else I’m going to miss terribly once I relocate. With that in mind, expect a few of these love letters to my hometown over the next few weeks…starting with my Lakes!

This time of year is truly one of my favorite seasons in the Twin Cities. Once we get over the hump (snow on 5/1, omg seriously just demoralizing in every way), everything seems to suddenly, simultaneously burst into bloom. Tulips, the pink trees, dandelions and fresh foliage compete with babies everywhere...fawns in our backyard, ducklings and goslings all over the place, you name it. I adore Minnesota's springtime vitality, and nowhere is it on better display in Minneapolis than around the Lakes. 

That said, brave Minnesota ducks never let a little ice stop them...nor do we intrepid Minnesotans, who will get out and get our miles in whenever possible. Kels and I did Lake Harriet a few times in February (to be fair, on unseasonably warm days, but still!), and last fall my parents and I went as late as November. I'm going to miss the sheer brute determination of Minnesotans to enjoy our weather as much as humanly possible...though I'm not sure I'm going to miss having to brace myself for subzero walks to work every morning. 

I will immensely miss the Lake Harriet Yoga Project, one of the most cherished parts of my summer last year. Waking up at the crack of dawn and catching the sunrise spilling over an empty Bandshell...

...and spending mornings stretching and centering myself, while the birds wake up, the breeze blows off the water, and the boats bobbing up and down. Those mornings were so relaxing and satisfying, and my foray into the world of "being a yoga person" 

I will miss hot, sultry summer walks, admiring the rainbows of canoes docked around each of the Lakes. 

And watching sailboats and canoes mingle with the ducks and loons, on the calmest and windiest of days! It's a moderate regret of mine that I've never actually gotten myself out on one of the Lakes...lord knows I've spent enough time around them. 

I will miss peaceful twilight evenings around the walking paths...watching the sun fading slowly over the Bandshell, the water reflecting it all right back, and things quieting down as we lap the water. It's one of the most peaceful places I can think of to enjoy a sunset.

I will miss Concerts in the Park...and randomly stumbling on them during outdoor book club, and most of all making my family be two hours early to the Orchestra's annual Lake Harriet performance just so we can be front-row for magic like this: 

(Don't even get me started on how much I'll miss this orchestra. I can't actually contemplate it without getting a little bit teary-eyed.)

I will miss the stunning fall vistas around Lake of the Isles, and the way that, on a clear day, it seemed like there were two sets of gorgeous old homes and churches to admire. 

I think most of all, though, I'll miss this skyline view. The years of memories around the Lakes feel even more special when I think of how they've been a constant thread through my six adult years here...coffee and chatting with Hannah or Kelsie, dragging anyone I can to Lake Harriet Yoga Project, meeting my parents for walks and hitting up Isles Bakery afterward...even heading over by myself for a few hours of solitude with headphones or a book. I've loved these perfect little pockets of relaxation right in the heart of the city, and I know there's no real replacement for them. 

My new life in California, of course, won't be without water. We're living right on the bay, out near Bair Island, a reclaimed marine area dedicated to the protection and rehabilitation of a natural habitat. 

There are miles of walking trails, and should be plenty of wildlife to satisfy my urge to get away from the city, in my own backyard. I'm excited to explore a totally different world...while I'm a child of the Land of 10,000 Lakes, life by the ocean is a new animal for me!

That said...it's going to take a lot to fill the hole(s) in my heart left by Lake Calhoun, Lake Harriet, and Lake of the Isles. Friends, if you find yourself over there, snap me a picture and savor every minute of it! I'll miss it so dearly!