family

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!

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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:

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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!

2018 in review.

2018 is over and in the books, and as I alluded to yesterday a bit, I’ve got mixed feelings about it as a whole. It was a year with abundant positives, but equally abundant negatives that, I’m afraid, left me a bit sour at times. That said, if I learned anything in 2018, it was that I am gifted at keeping on keeping on even when life is kicking me in the proverbial teeth.

That said, looking back on this year was pretty damn sweet. How can you complain about a year with lots of travel, lots of friend time, and lots of Schwegmanigans? Just the way I like a year. Favorites:

Traveled:

New York City in February with Michael to celebrate our February birthdays! We packed so much into a long weekend - my first Met Opera trip for “Parsifal,” my third (and his first) time seeing “Hamilton,” adventures all over Brooklyn, staying up all night at underground jazz clubs, and WAY too much champagne. It was a truly exhausting joy of a weekend in a city where I definitely never slept.

Tahoe in March, for a much more successful ski trip than our family trip over the holidays last year! Dave and I nearly died on a blizzardy drive up - it usually takes 4 hours, and it took us 12 - but it was more than worth it for two bluebird days with over a foot of fresh powder. Honestly some of the best skiing of my life.

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Minnesota, several times! In March to see Leslie Odom Jr. with the Minnesota Orchestra, in May for a gala, in August for Labor Day (and my fourth time seeing “Hamilton!”), and in December for the holidays. Lots of lake time, the State Fair, my beloved orchestra, and of course Spoon and Stable…because why wouldn’t we?

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Colorado, a couple times, for quick little mountain getaways. Despite the complete lack of photos, I loved exploring Boulder and Denver, eating and drinking our way through amazing breweries and restaurants, and falling for the mountains…plus watching a Notre Dame victory over Wake Forest with bottomless champagne (and a Wake Forest fan!).

The absolute number one highlight of my year was my family’s trip to Tuscany over Thanksgiving. I could (and will) write volumes about it - the small, charming towns, the amazing pasta and wine, the history, art, and architecture - but for now, all I’ll say is that it was truly the best experience of the year. I already can’t wait to go back to Italy!

Celebrated:

my 29th birthday, in Sonoma and San Francisco in high style. We enjoyed private tastings at our favorite vineyards, cruised to Alcatraz to spend my actual birthday in a federal prison (as one does), and toasted at the Top of the Mark with - what else - champagne cocktails. Special thanks to Dick and Jodes for making the trip!

the Minnesota Orchestra’s annual Symphony Ball with a stellar crew of friends! Bonus to get to be home over Mother’s Day and spend it with my mama bear (over brunch at Spoon and Stable, naturally!).

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Cinco De Derby, in May, and Litmas, in December, with a ridiculously absurd cast of characters. One fact remains incontrovertible: I throw a damn good theme party. Case in point: in May, I oh-so-cleverly built a wall of Jell-O Shots to divide the “Mexico” half of the party from the “Kentucky” half of the party, and we filled a pinata with miniatures. I win.

Highlights:

My first Ring Cycle, at the San Francisco Opera in June with Michael! It truly surpassed my (very high) expectations - I’m definitely a convert to the Wagnerian cult.

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Living with this absolutely ridiculous delight of a human, who has truly become my best friend in the Bay Area. He’s taught me beer, ensured I’m conversant in any sport, and makes me laugh legitimately every day. Now if only he could get his toothbrush out of the shower in the morning… ;)

So many of my best friends made trips to the Bay this year to visit me! A wild St. Patrick’s Day weekend with Kaitlin, to Kelsie’s spring break full of adventures, Michael’s opera sojourn in the Bay, Hal’s mad sprint through DCI and Pride, and Nate and Margaret’s quick post-engagement trip…it’s so special that the people I love and care about are willing to come out here for me, and I love few things more than getting to show them around my new state!

Lots and LOTS of Napa and Sonoma time - with friends, family and my favorite wineries, of course! I’ve cultivated a taste for California cabernet, and love exploring the region…so much great food, spectacular wine and stunning scenery to enjoy. Getting to share it with the people I love just made it that much better, too.

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Best of all, another year with these people. I love my family more than anyone, and I treasure how amazing their presence makes any experience - whether it’s Spoon and Stable followed by “Hamilton,” sweating our asses off at the State Fair, yelling at each other over an aborted Michelin dinner in Florence, or even just getting drunk at 10am in our pajamas in Lakeville. They’re the best people in my life, and I’m so happy they’re mine.

A year in California.

Exactly a year ago today my mom and I drove the last seven hours of our epic cross-country road trip - from the Stockmen's Casino in Elko NV, where you cash your chips at the same counter where you check in, to San Francisco.

We celebrated our Bay Area arrival with cocktails at the Palo Alto Anthropologie (of course), I ruined a wall in my bathroom trying to hang a towel hook, and cried my eyes out with excitement and relief and apprehension about what was coming next. Part of it was shell shock, I think - driving 33 hours in two and a half days would do a number on anyone. Part of it was the sense of being truly unmoored, the finality of arriving at a destination that, for months, had felt like a hazy, surreal leap of faith. And part of it was a delirious sense of awakening, of starting to open this gift I hadn't even known I needed to give myself. 

Hackneyed clichés aside, that arrival in California 365 days ago started a period of my life that has marked a true sea change in me. I spent two weeks settling in before I started work - the first chasing around wine country and the city and the peninsula with my mom, stifling a bit of panic every time I got behind the wheel of my car, making more trips to Target than any self-respecting person has a right to make. Watching the Tonys in our hotel room over Sprinkles cupcakes with face masks on. Eating Stacks for breakfast twice. Losing our minds over Chandon's American Summer display of Em's designs. Laughing and freaking out, sometimes at the same time, and relying so much on her to keep me steady.

That week ended, of course, with me sobbing silently and uncontrollably as I drove her to SFO to say goodbye. I spent that next week waiting - waiting for my movers to show up, waiting in lines at the DMV, waiting for blistering migraines to abate as I adjusted to lower elevation and air that felt different than home. Waiting for my job at Stanford to start, waiting for Dave to arrive, waiting to make friends, waiting for this new place I lived to feel like home. 

A year later, it does, and for that I am constantly grateful. California has held so many surprises for me, and has changed me so much in ways I really needed to change. Stanford has forced me out of the complacent professional comfort zone where I had lingered for so long, challenging me most days with its sheer scope and breadth and complexity. Dave has become one of my best friends, and has opened up his world of friends to me with a generosity and complete lack of selfishness I've rarely seen in others (a generosity I don't thank him for often enough). Together with Drew and Laura, our madcap little apartment has been home to laughter and tears, parties and puking, messes and houseguests and hangovers and heartache; these experiences have made it a home for me in ways that pictures on the walls and monogrammed towels never could. 

I have found favorite restaurants, and wineries, and coffee places. I have learned to just never go to the Redwood City Safeway between the hours of 4:30 and 7, and have figured out that the 101 is faster to go to work in the mornings but to always take 280 home. I can drive to Napa without needing Google Maps (this says quite a bit about my priorities, given I still need it to get around campus from time to time). I have taken classes in opera, museums, Shakespeare, wine, and jazz, fallen for the San Francisco Ballet, experienced a deep-house club, and cultivated a burgeoning obsession with IPAs. 

I still get shivers every time I drive across the Golden Gate Bridge (although, secretly, the Bay Bridge is my favorite), but I've discovered that I actually think a lot of San Francisco is really gross. I struggle with the disparity between privilege and need here, which is so much wider and far more dramatically apparent than in Minnesota. I have gone out with a tech bro, a sommelier, and a guy who works for a venture capital firm, among others - and all three have absolutely lived up to the assumptions and stereotypes the Bay perpetuates about their respective breeds. My circle of friends ranges widely - doctors and data scientists, consultants and professors, architects and wine marketers and innovation strategists - and the conversations I find myself having are similarly diverse and challenging and eye-opening. 

I am asked, perhaps not quite as constantly as in my first few months, but still regularly - "Why did you move here? How long do you see yourself staying here?" For the first time in my existence, I am operating without a long-term plan, and I am comfortable with that. Rather than benchmarking myself against my peers in the Twin Cities - job, promotion, serious relationship, engagement, dog/house, wedding, baby - I find myself focused on a new project at work, weekend day trips, a bucket list that grows by two line every time I check off one. I know that this place will not be my home forever, but that's about all I know for sure. Whether I'm here for another three years, five, ten - I'm okay with being unsure about that. As for why I moved here, though, I think the experiences and people and adventures of the last year speak for themselves, and I hope that the next year only brings more of the same. 

...that said, I'm really glad I never have to go back to the Stockmen's Casino and Lodge. Leaving that in the last year is completely fine by me. 

Napa birthday to me!

Trying to play catch-up here after a tumultuous March...and realizing that the kind of week where I'm working 12-hour days all said and done isn't really the week to try to do this, but oh well! 

I've had an utterly delightful first winter in California. And yes, I'm aware that telling all of you that, especially as Minnesota braces for like six more inches of snow this weekend or whatever, is probably really mean of me. But...SORRY! Come visit me sometime for a hit of sunshine and warmth, why don't'cha? 

Anyway, one of the highlights of the winter was for sure my parents' trip out here for my 29th birthday! (Yes, I am that cool girl who voluntarily spends birthdays with her family. My parents are awesome. Be jealous.) They arrived to weather in the mid-seventies, and we spent their first day here dining al fresco, drinking wine on our deck, and watching the Olympics opening ceremony. But on Saturday morning bright and early...

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...we headed up to wine country! Sonoma, specifically, because we prefer it to Napa. Not that I don't love Napa, but Sonoma has such a more laid-back, charming, rustic thing going on that I can't help but give it a special place in my heart.  

We started the day at a family fave, La Crema's Estate at Saralee's Vineyard. (Ready for a blast from the past? Take a peek at my family's first trip there, before I even decided to move to California!)

I'm a member at La Crema, so we got to do a private tasting upstairs in the members' lounge (which I would like to move into at their earliest convenience, please). 

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Of course, we left with a little bubbly in tow...

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...plus a case of wine for good measure. Schwegmans don't screw around! 

Our second stop was new to all of us, but came highly recommended by Ashley at La Crema. DeLoach Vineyards specializes in pinots and is part of the highly-regarded Jean-Charles Boisset wine family. 

We fell in love with their fantastic "open-air photo booth" at first sight...

...and proceeded to fall in love with their fantastic wines, so much so that Mom and Dad joined the club in my name! They get all the wine sent to them, but every time I go to Sonoma, my friends and I can visit and taste for free at any JCB winery. I've already made a second stop there and can't wait to visit their other properties! 

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...and ending on a lighter note...Dad learned to take selfies, and the world will never be the same. 

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More birthday fun to come soon! 

101 in 1001 #78: Send a care package.

One of my favorite things to do in the whole world is to send cards/give gifts, especially presented prettily. Wrapping paper is my kryptonite. I regularly black out in Papersource (it's not my fault, everything they have is JUST SO GOOD). I have a minor addiction to good stationery (gotta love thank-you notes, monograms, and heavy, fancy envelopes!), and have had fun practicing calligraphy on and off for almost a year now. 

So when this item caught my eye on my 101 in 1001, I noodled it around a bit. Who to send a care package to? Kelsie, doing battle daily with 26 kindergarteners? Kaitlin, suffering through  a winter storm-heavy Boston winter? Hannah, maybe in time for the "Bachelor" finale? And then, while in Sonoma with my parents for my birthday, I saw the absolute perfect gift for my little brother in a boutique in St. Helena. That settled it - a care package for Jonathan. 

My sweet yiddle brudder has been having kind of a dickens of a time of it lately - a job he's not in love with, living in Detroit, adjusting to the whole "post college, make friends, starter career" thing. He's been an absolute champ through it all, and kept a great attitude despite some setbacks and less-than-awesome aspects of the whole thing. And I give him a TON of credit for that - I was definitely nowhere near as positive and optimistic at his age as Ernst & Young took continual hot, steamy dumps on my life. 

Jonathan likes to fancy himself a gourmand - his affinity for all things fine-wine-and-dining cracks me up on the regular. What better gifts, then, than "The Hungoevr Cookbook," which cracked me up on initial leaf-through, and a bar of the richest dark chocolate by Chef Thomas Keller, one of his idols, of The French Laundry fame? (It cracks me up because I know that he won't actually eat the chocolate - it'll end up on display on his bar cart or something equally ridiculous and totally Jonathan, and I love that.) The fun cocktail napkins were part of one of the aforementioned Papersource blackouts, and the card seemed like a great, well-timed little word of encouragement. 

And I thought I was done...until I started texting with Emily on seeing the preview for STARZ's new adaptation of "Sweetbitter," by Stephanie Danler. Em and I have very similar taste in TV and, for the most part, books, and I was surprised she hadn't already honed in on "Sweetbitter." Knowing she would love it as much as I did, I couldn't not pick up a copy for her, along with a ridiculously cute "Binge-Watching Kit" for when the show premieres (May 6! Mark your calendars!). The champagne bears were a last-minute addition to tie the card in - both also spoils of the Papersource blackout that produced Jonathan's napkins. 

And there you have it - all that remained was to package it all up in pretty tissue, (spend way too much to) ship it, and call this one a day! I think it's so fun to get mail that isn't just credit card offers, bills, and grocery store circulars...hopefully the sibbies agree. 

I was so thrilled that they both really loved the surprise...Jonathan actually sent a nice text instead of a meme for once: 

And Em shared hers on her Instastory (Follow her @emmykatie702 for amazing hand lettering that will make you so awed at her creativity!): 

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Gratifying, and always fun to do something unexpected and nice. Isn't getting actual mail so much more exciting than just bills and circulars?! 

For more 101 in 1001, head here...and if I have your address, keep an eye on the mail - apparently Papersource's power over me is greater and more terrible than I ever realized!