Three Recent Realizations About Myself

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I’ve basically been living and breathing web development recently. I wish I had been keeping track of the amount of time that I’ve spent learning, building, applying for classes, reading, etc. It’s been a huge time investment for me. The one nice thing about it, though, is that I enjoy it. Spending a ton of time on something doesn’t seem so bad when it’s something you like. I recently finished a three month class from Skillcrush on some web development topics. It didn’t go deep enough to make me qualified for a job, but it did give me some good practice. I feel like I have a solid foundation, and now I just need to flesh out my knowledge a bit, keep building, and work on having an awesome portfolio and web presence!

Being laid off was maybe one of the best things that’s happened to me. I would like to go back to work, of course. It has given me an opportunity, however, to do some soul searching and figure out what I want to do. It has given me a chance to reflect on the jobs I’ve had in the past, the skills that I currently have, and what skills I’m missing. I’m trying to find the balance between finding a job as soon as I can and finding a job that I will actually enjoy.

Through all this reflection and learning, there are a few things about myself that I have realized lately.

  1. I am really lucky. I have the most fabulous support system, which has been really necessary during the last few months. Losing a job is one of the hardest things that people go through. Even though my previous job was not very satisfying, it’s still hard to be without work. I was already learning web development though, so when I was laid off, I already had something to work towards. I have people around me who are proud of me for taking my career into my own hands. I have found something I love to do, and I’m working hard to learn it, so it’s nice to have all that hard work recognized.
  2. That doesn’t mean I don’t have bad days. I took a class last week about finding a job, and one of the things we talked about is the roller coaster of emotions that people go through when they lose their job. There are definitely the good days, when everything seems to be going according to plan. But, there are also the bad days, when things seem gloomy. Those bad days are the days when I internalize everything that’s happened, which is definitely not productive. It’s normal though. So, I just take the lows in stride, and wait for the upswing that will come.
  3. I have learned to be more appreciative. I have been lucky enough this year to watch spring unfold. I have watched the tree outside my living room burst into life after the winter. I have watched the bare branches become full of bright green leaves. I appreciate myself more. I have been able to take time to learn more about myself. It has helped me not be so hard on myself. I have been able to focus on me my family, my pets, my living space, and just breathe. I have grown to appreciate stillness and quiet. I have been able to appreciate my thoughts and the sounds of nature. I have been able to tear myself from the busyness of American life for a little while and experience the world around me. I appreciate that there is a program that allows me to worry less about money during this hard time so I can focus on getting a job that will make me happy. I will forever be grateful for this time and all it’s done for me.

Right now, positive thinking is really important to me. Being able to see the silver lining and all of the good things around me is something that isn’t just for right now, but is something I think will come in handy for the rest of my life. Even though things aren’t always good, and life can be terribly difficult, it’s good to be able to come at problems with a bit of perspective.

Let’s talk! What have you learned about yourself this week?

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Deep Thoughts Thursday: A Feminist Marriage

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This week, I wrote an email to the hosts of one of my favorite podcasts, Stuff Mom Never Told You (or SMNTY for short). I have never written to the host of a podcast before, so this was new for me! I usually only share my opinions with people I know or here on the blog. This time, however, I really felt the need to voice my opinion. For the last week, I’ve been drafting an email that I actually sent.

I have been listening to SMNTY for the last 2-3 years. It covers all kinds of topics of interest for women. They discuss these topics from a feminist viewpoint, and I definitely don’t have a problem with this. They have talked about topics like current issues (abortion, health care), history (hysterical pregnancy, fashion, makeup), and awesome lady role models (Margaret Mead, Judy Blume, Ruth Bader-Ginsburg). There were two related episodes that caused me to write to the hosts. The episodes, “A Practical Wedding” and “A Feminist Marriage”, featured a guest, Meg Keene. She started the site A Practical Wedding, which features posts about wedding ideas that are a little more down to earth.

During the two episodes, they discussed all kind of topics related to weddings and marriage. This included ways to have budget wedding that is still classy, avoiding patriarchal wedding traditions, pre-marital counseling and splitting household chores. I thought that they were really interesting episodes! There was, however, a point that I did not agree with. In fact, I didn’t agree with it to the point that I needed to write a letter about it. At one point during the episode about having a feminist marriage, Meg Keene made a point that when feminists get married, they should keep their own last name, and not take their husband’s. They also said that kids should take their mom’s last name, not their dad’s. While I agree that women should have the option to keep their name when they get married, and there should not be so much pressure for women to change their names, I also think that women can be feminists and change their name when they get married. The same goes for whether or not kids take their dad’s last name or their mom’s. It’s really up to the parents to make that decision, and I don’t think either decision is inherently wrong.

Instead of trying to recreate what I said in the email, I am just going to repost it here:

Hey Cristen and Caroline!

I have been a dedicated SMNTY podcast listener for a few years, but this is my first time writing in! Hurray!

I recently listened to your “A Practical Wedding” and “A Feminist Marriage” episodes with Meg Keene. For the most part, they were awesome! I have been married for a little over three years, and had a rather “practical” wedding myself. I really enjoy being married (it doesn’t hurt that my husband also likes SMNTY), and I would consider our marriage a feminist one.

The one issue I had with thise episodes was when you were discussing the woman taking her husband’s name. It felt like the message was, “No feminist should ever take her husband’s last name, and their kids need to have the woman’s last name. If this isn’t the case, you do NOT have a feminist marriage”.

I wholeheartedly disagree! I have a unique perspective on last names because I am on my third one (my step-dad adopted me when I was in high school). My husband and I discussed the name issue at length. He would have been happy no matter what I chose to do. I am a feminist, and I chose to take my husband’s last name. Not because I felt pressure to do so, but because I like his name. I also like that we have a common family identity. I never feel like his property, or like I am any less of a person. I also don’t feel like I gave up any of my identity by changing my name. I have no regrets about my decision.

In some ways, it felt like Meg Keene (and by extension SMNTY) was shaming women who had made the decision to change their last name. We are, of course, entitled to our own opinions, but as feminists we should be building each other up. All feminists, but especially those in influential positions, should be careful not to shame and police the actions of other feminists, just like we expect others to not shame and police us. Aren’t we all supposed to be working together toward a common goal? Shouldn’t we be empowering each other, rather than alienating those we may not agree with? If we spend our time belittling each other for decisions that are, frankly, personal, that is taking time and energy away from fighting against more pervasive patriarchal aspects of society. If being a feminist means demeaning, judging and shaming others, I am ashamed and offended. I am also then, not a feminist.

I really hope this was not the point you were trying to make. Asking people to think about traditions, biases and decisions is one thing, shaming them is another.

Thank you for continuing to make such an important, influential, funny and rad podcast! Even when I don’t agree with something on the podcast, I have nothing but love for you!

I think I get the point that Meg Keene (and the podcast in general) is trying to make: it’s important for people to be aware of ways to bring women up, in order to be on more of an equal footing with their male counterparts. I think that it’s important to look at traditions that may be perpetuating patriarchal attitudes, and try to find ways to stop those attitudes. As I said in the email, however, I don’t think that shaming others is a way to achieve this goal. Alienating others doesn’t really seem like it would be beneficial to feminists. As a feminist, I considered not changing my last name after I got married. I liked my pre-married name. I also like my married last name. We ultimately decided it would be less complicated and confusing if we had the same last name. We liked the idea of having a common family identity, not just for the two of us, but also for any kids we have in the future. I don’t feel like I lost my pre-married identity by changing my last name. I don’t think that identities are attached to names like that. I think that people should be able to make decisions that are right for them, especially when those decisions don’t really affect other people.

I’m glad that I wrote to them, even if they never respond or read the letter in a future episode. It was something that I was dwelling on, and over the course of a few days, I decided that the best thing that I could do would be to give my perspective on it. I’m glad I was able to get that off my chest and show that a feminist marriage cannot fit into a little box – just like all marriages, every one is a little different.

Deep Thoughts Thursday: A List Post for the New Year

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Happy end of 2015, everyone!

I thought I would do a quick year in review, so I can give some of my impressions of how this year went, and what I hope for in 2016. So, here’s my post of lists!

In many ways, 2015 was one of the best years of my adult life, and one of the hardest. I suppose variety is the spice of life, right? How was this one of the best years?

  • This was probably the best year of marriage so far, for my husband and I. We moved into an apartment we love at the end of 2014, we have two adorable cats, and we are working on being healthier, happier and more successful adults. He started a new job that he likes, and I am working on blogging and learning to code. So, I would consider this year a success for our little family! 🙂
  • Like I mentioned above, I am blogging and coding. This year has been huge for me when it comes to doing things I want to do. Things I have always wanted to do. Almost a year ago, I started this blog, and I think it’s been pretty successful! I have some wonderful readers, and I am really enjoying myself! Coding is frustrating and so much fun all at the same time. Sometimes I feel crazy for trying to teach myself, instead of forking out money to have someone teach me. But, this allows me to learn at my own pace, and if I need to stop working on it for a little while, I am not out any money, just valuable practice time!
  • This year, I have started trying to get healthier. It’s a slow process and something I want to work on more next year. It’s good to work on it though, and I really feel like it’s better for the process to be slow rather than too fast and unsafe. This is a priority for me when it comes to both my physical and mental health. 2016 will have this be a priority again.
  • I turned 30 this year, and that is a pretty exciting milestone! I am pretty happy to be out of my 20s. I am still confident that my 30s will be a really awesome!

And how was it one of the hardest years?

  • I think that as I get older, it becomes more and more clear how complicated and difficult the world is. There are many beautiful things about the world, but there are also things that are really hard to hear about. It’s hard to know what to do to fix the ills of the world. I know it’s part of growing up, and it’s not like I was blissfully unaware of what was going on in the world before now, but this year these issues have become clearer and more at the forefront of my mind.
  • As I have talked about here before, I was diagnosed with PCOS this year. This is still new to me, still something that I am trying to navigate. In many ways, I know that this is going to be an uphill battle for me in the future. I am lucky to have very supportive friends and family, which I am so thankful for. But, the thought of maybe not being able to have kids is terrifying to me. I have been spending some time trying to prepare myself for that. It’s not that I am focusing on the negative things, I am simply trying to be realistic. There is a chance that kids won’t be in the cards for me. At least not biological ones. Which is heartbreaking. But I am confident that 2016 will bring some answers to this and will bring some progress to getting the symptoms under control.
  • My grandmother died a few months ago, and I know it’s something my family is still working through. Today would have been her birthday. I know that it’s a blessing that she is not hurting or struggling anymore, but it’s still sad. There is still a void in my family. I have been lucky that I have not lost many people in my life so far. It is still sad, of course.

I think it’s a good sign that there are more things that come to mind about why this year has been awesome instead of reasons why this year has been tough. I really hope that 2016 is even better!

Here are a few things I am planning on working on in 2016:

  • My health: I think that this is my number one goal for the coming year. There are things for me to work on both mentally and physically, and I am really excited to make some progress!
  • Blogging: I have a great foundation with All Things Autumn, even though I have fallen off a little bit in the last month or so. I am so excited to jump back on the bandwagon in 2016, and bring you all more exciting and awesome content! I am also excited to take some classes from WordPress’s Blogging U.
  • Coding: I am hoping to be able to use the skills I’m learning by summer. That will take lots of hard work on my end, but I have motivation, so why not run with it?
  • Cookbook material: I started 2015 wanting to publish a cookbook. I have been working on content for it, but I need to keep working on it! This year, I will start working on some more original recipes to include in it! I will hopefully learn a lot of new cooking techniques! And hopefully find some good, healthy things to eat along the way!

In general, 2015 was not a year of big accomplishments for me. It was not a year where there were tons of big events to put in a scrapbook. Most of the successes for me have been internal, quiet and small. It may be the introvert in me, but I am satisfied with it.

Tonight, my husband and I will be quietly celebrating the start of a new year at home. We found ideas of foods that other cultures think are lucky, and we’re having them for dinner: pork, greens, and beans. I am glad to be spending tonight this way!

I hope you all have a wonderful New Year!

 

Deep Thoughts Thursday: Thankfulness

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Since today is Thanksgiving in the US, I think it’s the perfect (and obvious) opportunity to talk about thankfulness. I was to start off by saying that I don’t think that people should only talk about and think about what they are thankful for during the holiday season. The holidays are a natural opportunity, but finding things to be thankful for all the time and living with an attitude of gratefulness is really important. As I’ve mentioned, I am trying to make more of an effort to focus on all of the good things in life, all of the things that I am lucky to have. Both when things are going great and not-so-great, I want to reflect on things to be grateful for. I just think it would be good for me to take a step back from my busy life and reflect.

A few days ago, I wrote about some of my favorite things, which would basically sum up what I would say if I were to list the things I am thankful for this year. It’s not that those things don’t bear repeating, but I think I said what I wanted to say. If you didn’t read it, go check it out!

People in the US have mixed feelings about Thanksgiving. There are people that basically feel that it is honoring the settlers who came over and brutally treated the indigenous people. While I agree that the slaughtering and taking land from the people who were here first was wrong, and a really dark time in America’s history, Thanksgiving to me isn’t about that at all. To me, it is a time to spend around the table with my family, reflecting on the blessings of the previous year. I spend this time eating more food than I should, and enjoying the company of my loved ones.

One of my favorite things about holidays is how they have evolved. For me, holidays are not necessarily about commemorating the same message as when it was celebrated originally. The beauty of holidays is that there are so many opportunities to make your own traditions. Not everyone eats turkey and pumpkin pie on Thanksgiving. Some people go to multiple dinners, some to one. I used to watch the Thanksgiving parade on TV. I really only stopped a few years ago. My family has Thanksgiving dinner as more of a lunch, so every year, we are at least a little hungry again by dinner time. My mom and I used to make dressing for dinner, since that’s one of our favorite parts of the meal. This year, my husband and I will have chicken enchiladas with a pumpkin enchilada sauce waiting for us in case we get hungry. And, even if we are too full to eat it today, we will be able to eat it tomorrow, and keep the Thanksgiving spirit alive for one more day!

My point is that I have a lot to be thankful for. This year, I am especially thankful for traditions, especially the special traditions I just share with my family.

What about you, dear readers? What are your favorite traditions and holidays? What are you thankful for?

Deep Thoughts Thursday: A Diagnosis

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This week has been overwhelming, to say the least. On Monday, I went in for my very first ultrasound, to help diagnose the PCOS that my doctor is certain I have. Ultrasounds are not that scary, but it’s weird. I read up about it before my appointment (of course), and found out that they are not painful. And, for the most part, it wasn’t. There was a short amount of time where it was a little painful, when the tech was getting images of my left ovary, which is the one that is uncomfortable. I was told that I would have to wait a few days for my results, which caused me some anxiety. Which made me realize that being an anxious person and having a disease that causes anxiety is going to be one of the top goals for me to fix.

I got my results today, my ultrasound came back normal. Like, no cysts. My doctor is still convinced that her diagnosis is correct, since I fit pretty much all of the other symptoms, and my tests all came back consistent with PCOS. I think that not having visible cysts maybe means that I caught it early. I really hope that I am able to heal this, and the symptoms will go away. I am still coming to terms with what this means, and trying to learn what steps I need to take from here. Having some direction will maybe make me feel less anxious, sad and empowered. And, maybe then I will be able to go back to my normal blogging schedule, and write about other things! 🙂

Deep Thoughts Thursday: News Story Reactions

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I generally don’t write about particularly divisive topics, even though I have some pretty strong opinions. There are times, however, when topics arise that I feel the need to write about. So, let me preface this by saying that I am not trying to offend anyone. I think that people have the right to make decisions about how they live, and even if I don’t agree with them, it is certainly not my place to judge. If anything I write about is offensive to you, I apologize, but I feel the need to say something, because this is something I feel very strongly about.

Within the last week or so, I have come across two news articles that have given me some pretty strong feelings. They have bothered me to the point where I have been meditating on them for a few days, and I am still feeling a strong emotional reaction to them. The first was an article from about a week ago about a bride that presented a certificate of purity to her father on her wedding day. The second was about a blog post giving advice to men on how to deal with their wife if she isn’t interested in having sex.

There are many thoughts that have gone through my head in reaction to these articles. These thoughts don’t really come from a place of judgement (especially not for the bride), but I do feel strongly about the rights of women.

In case you didn’t hear about either of these stories, I will give you a quick idea of what happened. The first story is about a woman, who is the daughter of a pastor. On her wedding day, she gave him a present: a framed certificate of her purity. She had went to a doctor to get a signed certificate stating that she had not been penetrated. She had promised him that she would remain a virgin until marriage when she was young, so she was happy to “honor” him with the present. The second article is about a pastor who is a blogger. He wrote a post about what husbands are supposed to do when their wives are not interested in having sex with them. Essentially, he said that if a wife is not interested in sex, a husband should still have sex with her (but only if she has consented, which he basically said they have to unless something serious is going on) but not look at her face. He stated that he should treat her as if she’s Medusa, and only look upon her body, rather than looking at her face and having an emotional connection.

First off, there is nothing wrong with a woman “saving herself” for marriage. If a woman wants to remain a virgin until married, that is absolutely her right. I don’t think that anyone should judge a woman for making that decision. A woman’s virginity, however, is not really her father’s concern. Parents generally always raise their kids to hold a certain set of values, but it is up to the individual to decide whether to uphold those values, or adopt a set of values for themselves. This set of values includes things like whether or not to have sex. This decision is a deeply personal one for everyone. Parents can guide their kids, and give them advice on these issues, but the decision is ultimately up to the individual.

The biggest reaction I had to both of these articles was the sense of entitlement that was evident. In the first article, it seemed that the father felt entitled to proof that his daughter was still pure. What would be have done if she had refused? Of if she hadn’t abstained? Besides being her father, I do not understand what his grounds are for making that kind of demand. In the second article, it seems that the blog post is saying that husbands have the right to demand sex from their wife whenever they want. Even if this isn’t really what he was trying to say, this is an attitude that men have. There is so much proof that there are men out there that feel that their needs surpass the needs of women, to the point where there is no consideration of whether women have needs or not. Women are sometimes taught that their needs and desires don’t matter, or that their husband’s needs must come first, which leads to a sense of entitlement, which is so dangerous for relationships.

The first article shows that there is a pretty big misunderstanding of how women’s bodies work. Having a woman go to a doctor to prove that she is pure is somewhat ridiculous. A doctor would check a woman’s hymen to see if it were broken. The problem with this is that sometimes, a woman’s hymen doesn’t break during sex, or her hymen will break for reasons completely unrelated to sex. This includes things like playing sports. Putting a burden of proof solely on a woman is so unfair. There was no mention of whether the father of the bride demanded that the groom prove his purity. And, that is because the groom was probably not asked to. Not only is there not really a test to “prove” it, male purity is not seen as being much of a priority. Many times, males seem free to make whatever decisions they want about their bodies and sexuality without fear of being chastised, but women are not given this same consideration.

When it comes to the second article, even though the author said that he doesn’t condone rape, he did say in a previous post that he did not believe that marital rape is a thing. This is not only dangerous, but it is also untrue! Any time someone is forced into having sex, regardless of relationship, it’s rape. This relates very heavily to the entitlement point that I made above. It seems that the argument is that rape can’t exist in a marriage because women are supposed to be available for their husbands basically whenever requested. And, they are supposed to do so happily. That is the exact point that his blog post is saying. If a wife is essentially forced into having sex (out of duty, rather than desire) her husband should not emotionally connect with her. The Bible says many things about marriage, duty, and gender roles, but I don’t think it ever says that a man can force his wife to have sex with him whenever he wants it, unless there are extenuating circumstances. Sex is supposed to be a loving act, especially within marriage, so forcing or shaming a woman into submission is definitely not loving. There are other ways to fix relationship problems, and they generally involve communication and empowering women to stand up for themselves. Telling women that their needs and desires do not really matter seems to only be perpetuating rape culture in America, by leaving women voiceless and powerless in their romantic relationships and marriages.

I know that there are points related to both of these stories that I am missing. I know that there are some people of the Christian faith that have a more conservative view of the lessons of the Bible. I do not want to judge them, even though I disagree. I know that these stories are not totally representative of Christianity, or even conservative Christianity. I do, however, think that it’s important to realize how their lessons and actions are harming the people that they are supposed to love. I also think it’s important for people to realize how these ideas and rules are having an impact in the bigger picture, and are doing so much damage to women and their agency. I hope that we will be able to change this, so women are free to hold onto their belief system without losing their agency, identity, or right to live a happy and fulfilling life with the same rights and opportunities as everyone else.

Deep Thoughts Thursday: My Five Favorite Places in Minneapolis

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Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about living in Minnesota. I have lived here my entire life, and though there have been times when I have considered moving somewhere else, I always find reasons to stay. Those reasons generally revolve around friends and family, but there are also some really awesome things about living here.

In the United States, Minnesota is not one of the most popular states. In fact, it’s one of the states that is made fun of a lot, or the state that people don’t know much about. I think most people think Minnesota is always winter, and we all hunt and talk in funny accents. Maybe it would be best if people continued to feel that way, because I honestly think if people knew how awesome it was here, people would want to move here. Except in the winter, when it usually is really cold.

Minneapolis is the biggest city in Minnesota, and is where I have spent most of my life. It has this wonderful mixture of city life and nature, which I think is really unique. It’s not a huge city, but it is big enough to be able to find many of the same things you can find in the big cities of the world, just on a much smaller scale. Minneapolis is known for being dedicated to the arts, with many museums and theaters. There is a pretty good night life here, unless you want to go to a liquor store on a Sunday, in which case, you can’t. We generally have a pretty good education system. I could list benefits of living here for a long time.

In thinking about living here, I came up with my five favorite places to go in Minneapolis and the surrounding areas. These are places that I think should be on anyone’s to-do list if they come to visit!

  1. Walker Art Center and Sculpture Garden
    Basically within walking distance of downtown Minneapolis, is the Walker. It is an art museum that focuses more on modern art. Right across the street is the Sculpture Garden, which is an outdoor modern art museum of sorts. The Walker is fun because there are all kinds of exhibits to check out, and they are not always the same. Admission is $14 for adults, unless you’re a member. They also offer free admission on Thursday evenings and the first Saturday of every month. They also have Walker After Hours events that are basically parties. An upcoming one has a “Hippie Modernism” theme. The Walker has two restaurants, one of which occasionally gets chefs to come do one night residences. If you don’t like Modern art, the Minneapolis Institute of Art is also close by. They always offer free admission, and have art from all kinds of different areas/time periods. They have special exhibits, and on every third Thursday of the month, they have a special theme party for adults. There are drinks, a DJ, and fun activities all surrounding a theme.
  2. Mall of America
    If museums aren’t your thing, but you like wandering around large buildings with lots of other people, the Mall of America is perfect for you! It’s also perfect if you love shopping. Like, really love shopping. With over 500 stores, 50 places to eat, and the nation’s largest indoor theme park, the mall has a lot to offer. It is also really close to the airport, and there are hotels in the same area, so it’s perfect for visitors! I really try not to go there on weekends, personally, because it’s gets really crowded, but I am one of the few Minnesotans that thinks it’s a fun time. If you get sick of the mall, but still want to shop, there is an Ikea right across the street. I could spend so many hours in Ikea… Not just because I get lost, but because there is so much to look at!
  3. First Ave & 7th Street Entry
    If you’re in Minneapolis for the nightlife, I highly recommend First Ave. It has been a Minneapolis institution since 1970. They have live music just about every night, and there are also DJs and dance nights. It’s a great place to catch a show, especially since it isn’t an arena. Generally, the bands that play there aren’t the biggest names in music, but there are still some pretty awesome bands that play there. It’s also right in downtown Minneapolis, so it’s really easy to get dinner and walk to First Ave for a night of music.
  4. Indeed and Surly and Fulton, oh my!
    Minneapolis is home to tons of taprooms and breweries. In the last few years, there has been an explosion of them, and they have grown in popularity amongst locals and visitors alike. Indeed, Surly and Fulton are only three of the many breweries in the area. These places are best visited in the summer, because most of them have outdoor seating. Here in Minnesota, however, winter weather and snow does not stop us from enjoying a good beer. So, the taprooms all also have indoor seating as well. There are many events held by taprooms all over the city throughout the year. There are lots of people who bike between breweries so they have spend the day trying out different beers from many different places.
  5. Hell’s Kitchen and Angel Food
    This restaurant is in no way related to the Gordon Ramsay show of the same name. In fact, the restaurant was around first. This restaurant has a soft spot in my heart. It’s where my husband and I went for our first date, where we went the night we got engaged, and we still like to go there either to celebrate or just enjoy a nice evening out. This place definitely has a sense of humor, but that doesn’t reflect in their food, which is just plain delicious. Right upstairs, they have a bakery that they call Angel Food. They make delicious looking cakes and pastries. I never have enough room after eating at Hell’s Kitchen to get a sweet treat from Angel Food. Both places really know how to make delicious eats.

There are so many awesome places in Minneapolis to see. I don’t think I could make a list of all of them, because it would take me a very long time. This is a pretty good start though.

Let me know what you think! Have you ever been to Minnesota? Which of my top five favorite places would you most like to visit?