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If you enjoy local history, culinary adventures, fun walks and meeting new people, we’ve got a great afternoon plan for you. We discovered this one when it showed up on “Crowd Cut,” an online service that offers deals around town. This deal provided 50% off “Twin Cities Food Tours.” One of the great things about these online services is that they’ve given us a way to try new things around town without spending a lot of money. We didn’t know anything about the tours, but figured that at 1/2 off, we’d give it a shot and we weren’t disappointed.

Laurie Rupe started Twin Cities Tours just over a year ago, but it was this spring that it really took off. She explained to us that she’s actually an engineer who works for a well-know local corporation, but her love for food and the Twin Cities set her off on this side business. While she gives a lot of credit to a class she completed in Chicago, Laurie is a smart young woman who has clearly put her good business intuition and creativity into this new venture.

We started off at “Local D’Lish” in the North Loop neighborhood on the edge of downtown Minneapolis. This establishment provides fresh, locally produced products and classes to inspire meals that use them. They served us fruits and veggies, urging us to recognize the difference between fresh product and the mass produced variety. We have also picked up a Crowd Cut D’Lish offer, so we’ll let you know about the class we end up taking.

We moved on to “Punch Pizza,” which is a personal favorite, making it a familiar but welcome stop. We enjoy the Northeast neighborhood of this particular location and toss around the idea of moving there one day. While eating at Punch this weekend, we joked that if we ever moved there, we imagined it would become our new Friday night pizza spot.

Next was a quick stop for Laurie to share some local history outside of the Art Godfrey house. One of our favorite parts of the tour experience was hearing the insights Laurie shared about each of the establishments. She gave a brief background on how the businesses started, something about the owners and one or two funny or interesting stories.

We crossed the street to Kramarczuk’s Deli and restaurant. Established in 1954, this family-run business offers delicious meat and Eastern European delicacies and we got to enjoy a few of them.

Completely new to us was Gorkha Palace, a Napali, Indian, Tibetan restaurant on 4th Street. We especially enjoyed the Vegetable Samosas, crispy patties stuffed with potatoes and peas seasoned with mild spices and served with mint/tamarind chutneys.

Our final stop and course featured dessert at the Gardens of Salonica. We agreed on this being a favorite on the tour. How can you miss with three samples of Baklavas? And it was clear that Anna (the owner) knows what she’s doing. She even does a little blog segment on her website, sharing recipes and interesting tidbits on the food and restaurant.

We had a great three hours tasting wonderful food, learning about new restaurants and some local history and stories. And because this was a walking tour, we didn’t feel too guilty indulging a bit. Always glad to support local businesses we enjoy, we highly recommend Twin Cities Food Tours. However, unless you’re fortunate enough to get a spot on a tour by the end of October, you may have to look forward to taking in the fun next spring when Laurie starts up the new season. Enjoy!

Twin Cities Food Tours

When: Saturdays, March 30-October 31
Time: 11a.m. & 3p.m.
How Long: 3 hours
How Much: $42
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With the Minnesota State Fair just around the corner, it seems rather timely to take a walk down memory lane – back to the early eighties. But let’s get things straight; I’m not proud of all the choices I made back in my youth. Don’t judge my music tastes on this one, because I actually bought a ticket to hear Air Supply at the Grand Stand. The only reason I even ‘fess up to this embarrassing fact is that the story is too good not to share. Believe it or not, it’s one of my most vivid State Fair memories.

If you were there (go ahead and admit it!), you’ll know just which concert I’m referring to. My friends and I found ourselves sitting in the midst of hundreds of young teenie bopper girls. They were screaming and cheering for this sappy, syrupy love song-saturated duo from the moment they entered the stage.

It was only two or three songs into the set when lead singer Russell Hitchcock stepped out onto the ledge in front of one of the oversized speakers at the edge of the stage – just when a throbbing base line pumped through it. Russell, in roughly five-inch heels, lost his footing and went flying off the stage. Really. There he was lying on the cement about 10 feet below.

The band finished the tune and then the second half of the duo came to the microphone and announced (in his very Australian accent), “I’m sorry Russell has fallen off the stage, I cannot go on.”

That was it, concert over. Teenage girls crying into their t-shirts as the ambulance pulled away.

Thankfully, Russell came out of it with no more than a broken bone. And we have a humorous memory of days gone by at the Great Minnesota Get-Together.

I know you’re probably all nostalgic for a little Air Supply now. No doubt this one is a favorite of yours.

That’s one of my more interesting fair memories. What about you?

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Brent & Lisa arrive at the feet of "The Claw"

This was one of our busiest weekends of the year. Our typical agenda was interrupted to dedicate the entire Saturday afternoon and evening to the U2 360º Tour. This came on the heels of my 30th high school reunion on Friday night. I will circle back and blog about that later this week. Two nights in a row where I didn’t get to bed until well after midnight. It’s tough to recover from one late night let alone two in a row as I push closer to the mid century mark.

For those of you who went to the concert this weekend or a previous one on their current tour, or you’re a fan in general please feel free to chime in with your impressions.

This concert has been well covered in the media, much of it delayed by a year as Bono underwent back surgery and recovery. By now you’ve read the facts of the expenses and receipts to generate one of the most intimate major rock experiences in history. With their giant “Claw” or “Spaceship” circular stage, U2 transforms mega outdoor stadiums into a living room experience. It’s very hard to describe in a few words. The band lands themselves exposed on all sides of their circular thrust like stage which is engineered by Belgian company Stageco. The band has purchased carbon offsets in consideration to the environmental impact to transport 3 identical 360° Tour stage sets around the world.

You feel like you can reach out and touch a portion of the setting and the artists themselves. For those who waited in line for general admission floor access, they got intimate enough to have Bono and the band drip sweat on them as they criss-crossed the concentric circles via moving brushed steel bridges that spun around the circumference of the central stage. Fortunately, the rain that eventually drenched the venue halfway through the show washed the masses clean. The rain did not diminish the performance in my estimation. In fact the incredible electronic central video graphics performed well despite the weather. Resembling a large circular scoreboard at a hockey arena, the video screen is made up of over a million parts and descends down toward the center of the stage and over the band for fantastic visual effects. The elongated hexagonal video panels are all connected together and machined to create a truly unique experience.

So you can have all this really expensive machinery, stagecraft and logistics to manage it, but it takes a really outstanding group of performers to

Ready for the Crush!

pull off the complete package. U2 satisfied on all counts, even in a torrential downpour of rain. My reasons for saying this?

  1. The band genuinely enjoys performing together. They smiled at each other, played to each others’ strengths, and had fun with one another during the performance. In the final set, Bono came swinging across the stage on a circular red illuminated microphone hanging from a cable wearing a black leather suit decorated with red lasers. Wild!
  2. The band desired intimacy with their audience. They know where they are. They weren’t confused about which city they were in and they understood unique aspects of the Twin Cities. Hours before the concert in Minneapolis, Bono was meeting with local Somali leadership regarding the famine conditions that desperately need world attention at a time when world governments in the West are more consumed with their own insolvency and budget issues. For those readers who don’t know, the Twin Cities has the largest population of Somalis outside of Somalia in the world.
  3. U2 writes and sings smart, intelligent lyrics with deep meaning and philosophy behind it. And you can understand every line even when Bono’s falsetto cracks a bit.
  4. The band didn’t create this performance around a new CD. They understood that their fans wanted to hear their favorite tunes that spanned the decades from the earliest days like I Will Follow on Boy to Rejoice on the October release to Get on Your Boots from No Line On the Horizon.
  5. The crowd was engaged from start to finish. Concert goers spontaneously sang back at the band without being prompted, singing and tracking through every moment. The band actually stopped playing and listened to the audience sing to them a couple of times. For “With or Without You” the crowd simply hushed and listened.
  6. The band knows who they are and their talent is bigger because they’re comfortable with themselves. The audience understands this. What results is parents bringing their entire family to the concert. A band that speaks to generations of fans that are younger than 10 to well over 60. A friend’s daughter, about 6 or 7, when asked, “What’s your favorite song?” didn’t hesitate and said confidently “El-e-va-tion!”

My favorite song? Until the End of The World.

That song makes me thankful that even though I’m as guilty as Judas, He chose me to His inheritance before the beginning of the world. I don’t know why He did that. The only thing I can do is live up to His choice and be who He made me to be until the end of the world.

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Lisa and I have discovered a small jewel that we think is worth mentioning, especially if you’re looking for a nice “date night”. The place is Urban Olive and Vine in Hudson, Wisconsin. Hudsonis a small bedroom community on the east side of the St. Croix River, but only a short drive from the

Kay Timm has transformed an historic store front into a delightful shop

Friends joined us for Limoncello Marscapone Cake!

Twin Cities. Situated right off Interstate 94, it’s easy to get there and get home without difficulty.

Scattered along the main street of Hudson are several bar and grilles, cafés,  boutiques and art galleries [Art Festival will be in late September]. Running parallel to main street is the water front with marinas and a park with ample picnic areas and beaches.

We think you’ll like Urban Olive & Vine [like their Facebook page here] because the food is terrific and affordable. The ambiance is a mixture of original brownstone merchant store [painted white] in the front and a modern decor in the back. The owner is Kay Timm. She left her corporate job after several decades to pursue her passion and open her own shop. She offers a variety of tea, coffee, custom picnic baskets for a special afternoon stroll near the river, unique treats, several pairings of wine that complement fresh cheese, breads, olive oils and balsamic vinegars. Her menu is deliciously thoughtful and made from scratch. You’ll find surprising specials that are complemented with fresh home grown herbs and served by an attentive staff.

The Antipasta Plate and a local micro-brew

Date night at the UO&V is made special on Friday and Saturday evenings with local, live jazz from 7-10pm. Cleverly billed as “Hudson Unplugged”, it’s a fresh twist when compared to the typical boisterous, blue collar crowds gathering at Pier 500 or the other college-aged venues like Dibbos (yeah, Dibbos is still there.)

Back in our day, the drinking age in Minnesota was 19, but in Wisconsin it was 18. So Wisconsin drew a lot of 18 year olds from Minnesota to drive east. But now that most of us [hopefully] have outgrown venues like Dibbos, the UO&V offers us a new reason to make the trip across the river and rediscover Hudson all over again.

Peach & Strawberry Sangria w/ fresh mint!

Thank you Kay for your creativity and bravery at starting a new business. We hope to be back often!

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Now that the weather is finally warming up in Minnesota, Lisa and I have been reminded that it’s fun to roll down the window and turn up the volume on the iPod and sing songs that make you feel happy. And with temperatures finally over 50 degrees, we are thrilled!

Over the winter we found a duo named Pomplamoose who has been arranging their own tunes at home for a few years. You might recognize them from a Hyundai commercial they did last Christmas. The duo is Natalie and Jack. Natalie does most of the singing and  Jack plays a variety of instruments. They’ve written several of their own and arranged versions of songs you will recognize from Edith Piaf to Michael Jackson and Earth, Wind and Fire. Really. Their arrangements create a repetitive aura to their sound, but for some reason, I don’t get tired of hearing several of them in succession. I appreciate their arrangements and the work to create the mix to layer the tunes together for their YouTube Channel.

In the end, when I listen, I find myself smiling and humming along.

Here’s a version of the popular “Another Day”:

And an example of a creative take on Nat King Cole’s “Nature Boy”:

What are some songs that make you feel happy and want to sing out loud?

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There are times when you can’t help but sense God trying to get your attention. Our latest “tap on the shoulder” has led us to lots of discussion about free will and the sovereignty of God. This topic typically provokes one portion of the population to yawn and “turn the channel” and another to jump in with a host of strong opinions. Either response can be understandable.

There has been no lack of debate on this subject over the centuries, so we’re not looking to rehash worn arguments. That’s not to say we don’t enjoy a lively discussion. But, what we find most interesting right now is how it seems to be crossing our path in all sorts of unexpected ways.

Logan’s Law
It started with a short PBS Masterpiece series, “Any Human Heart.” The main character, Logan Mountstuart, drifts through life believing it’s no more than a conglomeration of chance and luck. With that foundation, his choices aren’t based upon much more than what he feels at the moment.  It’s no wonder since his dying father counseled him early on to “enjoy good luck when it comes your way. It’s all luck in the end.” The question is “Is life a game of Russian roulette?”

Adjustment Angle
Then there’s the movie we just saw. “The Adjustment Bureau” is a sort of sci-fi romance fantasy based on a short story. The “hero,” David Norris, (played by Matt Damon) accidentally walks in on his frozen boss being examined by strange men in suits. Norris runs and these men chase after him. He soon discovers they are part of the “Adjustment Bureau.” This bureau, run by the “Chairman,” is in charge of making sure humans stick to his plan.

Clearly the “chairman” is a god-like figure and the plot certainly leads to questions of what God’s role is in our lives, how much say we have and if we have any power in how things unfold. It seems to suggest that if you have a strong enough case, you be may able to change God’s mind.

Poirot Principle
Last night we settled in after a long day, relaxing with Hercule Poirot and “Murder on the Orient Express.” Hopefully it’s an old enough film that we’re not spoiling the plot, but it revolves around the murder of a man who had kidnapped and killed a young girl named Daisy Armstrong. Due to his mob connections, he got off scot-free.

Detective Poirot happened to be aboard the train where the man was murdered, but he discovered most of the passengers were connected to the Armstrong family. One of those passengers, had been Daisy’s nurse. Upon Poirot solving the mystery, Greta explains that she and 11 other passengers determined to kill the kidnapper, essentially because God should have done so. Poirot asks this woman who, interestingly enough, is a missionary, why she didn’t leave justice up to the law and to God. She replies,

When he creates a hell on earth for those wronged? When priests who are supposed to act in his name forgive what must never be forgiven? Jesus said, ‘Let those without sin throw the first stone.’” In effect, she tells the detective that her lack of sin affords her the right to take justice into her own hands. Is it ever all right to step outside the law in any case?

Greater Good
That brings me to the biography I’m currently reading, “Bonhoeffer.” Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a part of a group of people who conspired to kill Adolf Hitler to end the diabolical path he was on. After much prayer and soul searching, the attempt is actually made, but fails. He is hung just days before the Nazi’s surrender.

Life Lessons
And finally, this morning there was the message we heard in church. During an unexpected and long bout with illness, our pastor experienced numerous lessons that God has been teaching him. He shared that sometimes God uses adversity to lead us into to places we never would have ventured into otherwise. Sometimes God allows hard times for reasons we may not see ahead of time.

Obviously, the themes we’re talking about here are a lot deeper than a simple blog post. But how we each answer the questions brought up in these movies have far-reaching implications for how we live our lives. What say you?


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Are you one of the million folks who signed up to follow the latest Hollywood “star” to crash and burn in public? We are not following Charlie’s tweets. Neither Lisa nor I have ever watched an episode of Two and a Half Men either. We’ve seen a few scenes and that was enough. His antics off screen were enough for us to filter that show from our limited TV viewing. And it seems that was a good decision in hind-sight.

I felt sad to see his recent interviews this week. Of course, Lisa and I were as surprised as you at his answers. But I felt the interview on ABC was a poor one anyway. I’m not defending Sheen, but Andrea Canning’s reactions showed she was judging him and  his answers to her questions. Sheen appears to lay it on thick and he goes on to provide the most outrageous answers as a result. You can watch part of Canning’s interview here. As shocking as his answers are, a good reporter is supposed to stay objective.

Since then, he’s been interviewed by Jeff Rossen of the Today Show and in the last couple of days had his kids taken away.

I find it more shocking that hundreds of thousands of people are watching the latest Charlie Sheen “Reality TV” episode with the expectation that they’ll be one of the first to re-tweet his final micro blog before he OD’s on something. It’s a morbid fascination. Have all of us gotten so numb with entertainment that the only thing that piques our interest is watching someone self-destruct on national TV?

Do yourself a favor, un-follow Charlie. Turn off the follow up interviews and say a prayer for Sheen and his family. Pray that someone close to him takes the keys out of the ignition before Sheen’s car goes over the cliff.

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