Sunday, July 10, 2011

Living the Dream

It's so hot, there's nothing to do but hang out at the pool. Hope you enjoyed our adventure!

PS. One of us has to go back to work. I wish we could keep Chinooking.

Comments from the Internet:

  • I'm proposing a Tour de Cities in September, lead by you of course...
  • I heart your blog & I don't want it to end.
  • I just read every post. Love it!
  • I just gave your blog props! It's da bomb!
  • Must visit Twin Cities ASAP!
  • Your blog is a great reminder about all of the exciting possibilities in the city.
  • These two are not only clever, but quite awesome. Follow their blog about their adventures with the Chinook Book. Love it.
  • Just found it today... it's great! What a cool idea. Now I'm looking into getting our Local First coupon book to try something similar
  • I heart the blog and only wish it included recipes because I'm strangely hungry after reading it.
  • I applaud your creative way to play-keep it up
  • I can't find words to express how much I love this!
  • Although I do not like the shutdown and what it is doing, I have been enjoying your adventures. What a great thing!
  • Hey, you're famous! a great blog, you two...clever and fun!
  • Holy crap!
  • Your blog is makin' me smile. So Kate & Pippish! Where are we going later this week? I want to see you two in action. :)
  • What's the blog address? I'd love to read it.


What's in a Blog: A Review

When we decided to do a blog, I knew the most important part would be to start. I have thought about starting a blog several times but, you know, too many other great ideas to pursue.

This has been a very positive experience for us and here are a few bullets that I think led us to success:
  • Don't over think it. Picking the blog title was the hardest part. No proofreading just post. We both wrote and editing was only allowed post post. This allowed us to retain the confidence to keep writing.
  • Keep it simple. We used blogger, a pretty easy and standard tool. We tried to limit each posts to 2 paragraphs and a few pics. We didn't concern ourselves with blog design, though I suppose that's personal preference really.
  • Go Social. Though it was hard at times to be so exposed, Twitter, Facebook and Email helped us spread the word and reconnected us with both Minneapolis as well as friends and family.
  • Stick to the Theme. We talked about our staycation and reviewed our adventures. Not a lot more. This made it easier to decide what to write about and prevented writers block.
  • Little bit of discipline. We blogged for 2 hours each night, mostly in our front porch with limited distractions. Gave us time to think and a bit of personal space during a week of togetherness.
The results? 60 some posts, a dozen FB posts and a few more tweets. A zillion comments from friends and strangers. Oh and a little press. Just about 3000 hits folks, in 9 days. Not bad.

We recommend blogging during your next adventure.

Staycationonomics: It's all about the Benjamins

I've already covered chinookonomics (part 1 and part 2), but the point of our staycation wasn't to save money per se. We were on vacation and using the Chinook Book gave us a great theme for the "trip."

However, even though we spent more than we normally would have in a week here in the cities, we still saved a ton of money. Here's the run down on our 8 night staycation:

  • We didn't buy plane tickets. Savings: $450 - $700
  • We didn't have to stay in a hotel. Savings: $700 - 900
  • We didn't have to rent a car. Savings: $200 - $350
Also, like any week-long vacation, we didn't buy groceries (Savings: $100). Here's where the coupons come in...on dining and entertainment (excluding bike and home improvement purchases) we saved $120 plus our two discounts for laid-off state employees of $58.

To sum it up, by opting for a staycation, we saved close to $2,000. How do you like them apples?!

Chinookonomics Pt. 2

In an earlier post, I outlined some of the economics of the Chinook Book. As we wrap up, I thought I'd add a few more thoughts.

There are many ways to pay off the cost of each Chinook Book ($20 each) with savings. For example, each book contains a coupon at Patina for $20 off a purchase of $50 or more, which we've used for wedding presents. During our trip to the Guthrie, we saved $34. Grocery store savings in each book for us equals easily close to $35. You get the point.

This week we used 27 coupons from our Chinook Books, which saved us a total of $168.93 and we spent $500. On average, each coupon saved us $6.25 or 30% off the purchase.

I work for You!

When people ask me what I do, I often say "I work for you," which often creates a brief moment of confusion before I explain that I work for the state. Kate thinks I should I just say, "I work for the state, so I guess I work for you."

Anyways, with the Government shutdown entering week 2, I'm not working for you, at least not formally. However, when I am working, my job is to help plan the future of transportation in the state. I'm planner in MnDOT's office of statewide multimodal planning, and we both lead planning efforts and help improve planning in general at the department.

Some of my projects have included a report examining lots of options for sustainable funding and an overview of how we plan for various types of transportation, but my primary role at the moment is managing a visioning effort called Minnesota GO.

Minnesota GO is an effort to create a long-range vision for transportation in the state. It's the first step in updating our 20 year transportation plan. Transportation projects last a long time (20 years for a typical road and close 100 for some bridges), so looking out into the future is kind of important. Yes, there are plenty of pot holes that do indeed need to be fixed today, but we also need to anticipate and prepare for major changes in the future:

  • Aging of the Baby Boomers: will they all continue driving into their 80s?
  • Rising and erratic fuel prices: will we continue to run on oil forever?
  • Economic shifts: what will our economy look like in 15, 20, 30 years?
  • Climate Change: will we have more floods, extreme heat days, etc?
You get the point.

You can help shape the vision at: Hopefully, this budget crises will be resolved before too long and we can get back to planning for the future.

Sunday Morning Stroll, Blue Moon: A Review

Despite what you may be hoping for, we kept it low key this final day of adventure. It was like 90 degrees when we woke up. Even though rain and thunderstroms were predicted all weekend, it's been nothing but sunny and hot. Champagne problem in MN, I know.

This morning we walked to 39th and Lake for a coffee and a pastry at Blue Moon Coffee Cafe. Super friendly neighborhood joint with a colorful welcoming interior. We reminisced about our week and wished for more days of adventure. An Iced Latte and Cherry Chocolate Scone for me and Coffee and Cinnamon Twist Muffin for Pip. Oops, looks like we enjoyed ourselves so much, we forgot to take a picture before it was all gone.

The coupon was for half off an organic coffee drink. Yes, recommended especially if you live in the zone. With two, total savings: $3.50

PS. The day lilies are in bloom! I hope you enjoyed the flowers I passed along the way as much as I did.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Wait an Hour for the Magic: St. Paul Cheese Shop 2

We posted earlier on our trip to the St. Paul Cheese Shop on Grand to get their Signature Chevre. Tonight we got our chance to enjoy the cheese with Jeff and Maureen.

The chevre came with various dried fruits and nuts and some olive oil drizzled on top. Our instructions were to lit it sit out at room temperature for at least an hour, at which point the magic happens, and serve with warm bread. I picked up a baguette from New French Bakery (which are on sale after 1pm on Saturdays!) and we dutifully took the cheese out of the fridge half an hour before we left the house.

The chevre was truly magical - smooth and creamy with a little sweetness from the dried fruit. This is definitely the start of a long relationship!

We enjoyed our chevre with homemade margaritas - thanks Mo!

We said it before, but we definitely recommend the St. Paul Cheese Shop.

Cactuses and Tiny Puppies, Seward Cafe: A Review

Keeping it local this morning with a stroll down Milwaukee Ave to Seward Cafe. We drive by this joint most days, stare at it from the windows of Luce, and think of it when at the Coop. Despite all this, we've never been. Jacob also gave me lots of coupons, so we better figure out if we like this place.

When we walked in, I was immediately struck by the decor on the window sill...

An interesting selection of cacti and porcelain dogs, all with a layer of dust indicating love and neglect simultaneously.

Anyways, at the Cafe we were greeted with a smile and instructed to take a menu and fill out our order. "This place is more deli style than restaurant style" the dude behind the bar said. We hit submit on our order, and waited at our table for our name to be called over the intercom. The food was good but basic. I created my own omelet with Spinach, Mushroom, and Feta. Pip got Super Green Earth breakfast: Cheddar, Broccoli scramble melted over Hash. We liked the 2 egg and half order options respectively. Remember we are pretty full these days.

Really, the food was just fine. I don't really think a food photo will add anything to this post. This dirty hippy spot was much more of an experience. With its wobbly, rickety picnic tables in the pleasant tree- filled back patio and the above child art adorning the walls, on the right occasion we would definitely return.

Our coupon was buy one get one 1/2 off. Total Saving: $3.75

PS. The Birchwood still wins.

How to Move a Couch, Central style

We stopped over at Ranisha's garage sale this afternoon. She lives in the Central neighborhood of Minneapolis. Let's call this a colorful location. Not really part of Chinooking, as we have come to call it,  but definitely part of staycation. Here is a clip of what was happening on 3rd ave.

The Color of America: Ace Welna and Abbott Paint

Although we've focused our staycation activities on exploring the cities and enjoying ourselves, we've lined up one home improvement project for tomorrow: painting our bathroom. Today was about supplies, tomorrow will be about actual work. Two local shops: Ace Welna and Abbott Paint.

Ace Welna, 24th and Bloomington, Minneapolis
Agenda: Mirror

We have a wooden frame (courtesy of Tutu) that we wanted to convert into a mirror for our bathroom makeover, so to Ace we go. Welna has two locations, the closer of the two doesn't carry mirrored glass, so I had to go to the slightly further away location. I got immediate and wonderful service. There was even free popcorn.

Coupon: $5 off $20 or more.

Abbott Paint, Grand and Fairview, St. Paul
Agenda: Primer

We had enough leftover paint from previous painting projects to cover our small bathroom project, but we were fresh out of primer. Our Chinook Book coupon got us $6 off per gallon of their Elements, zero VOC paint. As with Ace Welna, we got great service.

While we waited for our tint, Kate decided we needed these stylish painting shirts. Abbot let us know, btw, that they have the Colors of America.

Coupon savings: $6

We'd recommend both.

PS. Before and almost after bathroom shots...