Mary Elisabeth

on Fridays I burn my fears…

Learning from sunsets

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Have you ever watched the sunset over a beach?  To me, there’s something very humbling about being near the ocean.  Then, add a breathtaking sunset and the world feels that much more amazing.

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Tonight I had the pleasure of watching the sunset on Pebble Beach in California.  Standing there looking over the water inspired a few personal lessons I’d like to share:

  • Observe.  It’s in observing the details of our surroundings that we learn great things.  We learn about others, the world, and ourselves.  Observing my surroundings during the sunset led me to discover a crab, a hermit crab, an anemone…sea creatures I wouldn’t have seen had I not been paying attention to the uniqueness of the environment around me.
Crab

Crab

Anemone

Anemone

  • Breathe.  We all know breath is vital to our life.  We need it.  But how often to we really breathe?  Deep, full bodied breath that trickles through our entire body?  It’d these deep breaths that relax us, energize us, and heal us.  Yoga has helped me discover my breath (so much that my doctor knew I did yoga by how I breathe).  Breathing in the ocean air in itself is a bit magic.  Tie that with a deep, full bodied breath and it’s even more impactful.
  • Cherish.  I was able to convince someone I love to take a break from work and join me to take in this breathtaking experience.  Fortunately, he likes sunsets and the ocean, so my job wasn’t too difficult.  Something about sharing the sunset together reminded me to cherish my time with those for whom I care deeply.  Our time on earth is limited and we don’t really know when the ones we love will leave our lives for one reason or another.  So why not act like every moment is a special sunset with the ones we love?!
  • Be.  Sunsets only last for a few moments and if we’re distracted by other things in our lives, what we did that day or what we’re doing later, we miss the sunset.  Have you ever heard that if you watch the sun just as it sets you’ll see a green light?  I haven’t actually seen a very bright green splash, though have seen green in the sky surrounding the sunset.  I wonder if that claim is simply meant for people to be focused on the sun as it sets.  Because if you aren’t, you’ll miss the green light!
  • Play.  Watching the sunset I took off my shoes, felt the (cold) water on my feet, sand in between my toes.  I had the urge to play, run, jump, do a cartwheel (which I am very poor at actually performing).  After the sunset I attempted a handstand (key word – attempted).  Something about the ocean, the waves, the beauty, the color, and the final sunset felt like a celebration to me.  And what better way to celebrate than an attempted handstand?!

Here’s to many more literal and figurative sunsets in our lives!

<3 mel

 

1 Month Into San Francisco

Running across the Golden Gate Bridge...breathtaking

It has been a little over one month since I made the official move to San Francisco.  The past couple weeks in San Francisco started off with active apartment hunting (when I first moved here I was living in a temporary situation: living with cats + cat allergy = not a good idea).  I saw several places and my housemate and I ended up with about 5 different options to choose from (whoever said finding an apartment in SF was hard was only half telling the truth).  We chose a wonderful place in Cow Hollow and we are both very pleased with the situation!  We have a garage, laundry, backyard with lemon tree, hardwood floors, gas stove, and lots of natural light.  I especially love the garden in the backyard, as it is a zen sanctuary that feels so relaxing.  And I signed the longest lease I have ever signed for myself…a 1 year lease.

A flower in my backyard garden.

A flower in my backyard garden.

The weekend I moved I purchased a Keetsa Mattress, which came very efficiently packed in a box.  It was nice because I was able to go to their showroom in SOMA after my half marathon, take a nap (I mean test out the different mattresses) and then leave with my mattress in a box.  When I took the mattress out of the box it sprung open and adjusted to its full size.  I slept on it directly on the floor until my bed frame came from Amazon during the week.  I didn’t realize how big of difference it felt sleeping 14 inches off the floor!

Mattress in a box!

Mattress in a box!

The box was well designed...even had wheels for easy transport

The box was well designed…even had wheels for easy transport

Mattress on the floor

Mattress on the floor

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Mattress atop bed frame…oh how I appreciate sleeping 14 inches off the floor!

Me happy in my new bed!

Me happy in my new bed!

My new commute is a little longer than before (1.5 miles versus 1 mile), but it takes me about the same amount of time to walk because my new commute is flat versus hilly.  It’s a relaxing walk down Greenwich, or if I’m feeling like I want more life in my commute I can walk down a busier street like Lombard or Union.  And fortunately, the Real Food Company is on my way to/from my office – perfect for picking up groceries or a meal.

View from my commute

View from my commute

In the past few weeks I enjoyed a house dinner with great friends who I met in Michigan.  They grilled salmon on a cedar plank and now I’m not sure regular salmon will ever taste the same again!

I also started taking an Improv class at BATS.  It is fun!  Different than the classes I took at The Second City, but it is great to be improvising with a group again.  It goes for another month and I already anticipate that those four weeks are going to fly by!

Last weekend I attended HackCancer, a fundraiser at the Fairmont Hotel.  I checked it out after discovering the Tonga Room for the first time.  Some SoFi colleagues went to the Tonga Room for a “going away” celebration for one of our coworkers.  It felt like being on a pirate ship.  Minus Johnny Depp, unfortunately.

 

Fairmont Hotel

Fairmont Hotel

Last weekend I also ran the San Francisco Half Marathon with a friend visiting from Michigan.  The course was beautiful – starting at the Ferry Building, running along the water, across the Golden Gate Bridge, and then back into Golden Gate Park.  The morning was beautiful – sunny, low wind, and tens of thousands of people out for a healthy morning run.  We ran the entire way, even up the hills, slowing down to take photos of the amazing views from time to time!

At the Pre-Run Expo

At the Pre-Run Expo

The starting line

The starting line

Running across the Golden Gate Bridge...breathtaking

Running across the Golden Gate Bridge…breathtaking

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I finished, yay!

Excited to finish, still standing, & had a great time!

Excited to finish, still standing, & had a great time!

This weekend and last I got in some good farmers market time.  First, at the Ferry Building, with my friend visiting from Michigan.  We sampled enough stone pitted fruits to add up to at least 4 full pieces of fruit!

Ferry Building!

Ferry Building!

This weekend I went to the Fort Mason Farmers Market, and found all sorts of goodies.  I love this farmers market because it has a good amount of variety, but without the touristy crowds that are drawn to the Ferry Building.  I picked up a “lemon cucumber” which I haven’t tried before, and filled bags with other local fresh finds, including 3 pints of strawberries I managed to get for only $8 (thanks to either my great negotiating skills or convincing smile, or both!).

Lemon cucumbers!

Lemon cucumbers! 

Farmers Market shopping spree!

Farmers Market shopping spree!

Last week/weekend I think I set a record for number of times I ate out in a 5 day period of time.  I went to a couple places I had been before and also tried many new places.  Restaurants I went to include:

Woodhouse Fish Company (2x) – #1. Whole roasted branzino with roasted veggies; #2. Crab and Bay shrimp stuffed artichoke and sautéed local salmon over roasted veggies

Branzino from Woodhouse Fish Co

Branzino from Woodhouse Fish Co

Salmon with roasted veggies at Woodhouse Fish Co

Salmon with roasted veggies at Woodhouse Fish Co

Troya on Fillmore – Grilled local sardines

Grilled sardines a la Troya

Grilled sardines a la Troya

Roam Burgers in the Marina – salad with 3 mini turkey burgers

Roam Burgers salad with mini turkey burgers

Roam Burgers salad with mini turkey burgers

Juice Shop the greenest juice!

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Cafe de Ami 

Lite Bite – grilled chicken with broccoli and asparagus

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Square Meals 

Many healthy options at Square Meals

Many healthy options at Square Meals

North Beach Restaurant – salmon with sautéed veggies

Pesce Seafood Bar – Grilled local sardines.  Not as good as the sardines I ate at Troya.  Someone else in our group got a dish with fresh crab and avocado which looked delicious and very well presented!

Grilled local sardines.  Okay.  Not as good as the ones from Troya on Fillmore

Grilled local sardines. Okay. Not as good as the ones from Troya on Fillmore

 

Local fresh crab & avocado stack looked more delicious than my grilled sardines.

Local fresh crab & avocado stack looked more delicious than my grilled sardines.

Gamine (the third time I have been here) – Just got an artichoke appetizer.  Then headed over to Fino Restaurant, an Italian place located in The Andrews Hotel.  I ate salmon over sautéed swiss chard.  A nice healthy pre-half marathon dinner.

Artichoke appetizer at Gamine

Artichoke appetizer at Gamine

Salmon & veggies at Fino Restaurant

Salmon & veggies at Fino Restaurant

Tadich Grill – went here, put our name on the list, and had a treacherous experience even just waiting for a table.  We were waiting at the bar, which we were told was fine by one of the waiters. Then the waiter sent us to the “counter” to order an appetizer while we waited.  When we got to the counter to order an appetizer the waiter there screamed at us for thinking we could just order an appetizer there.  Then, when another customer tried to help us, the waiter started screaming/swearing at him too.  We left and I will not go back to that place again.  Unbelievable.  Worst service I have ever experienced.

Foreign Cinema – delicious!  Sea bass tartare with tarot (root vegetable) chips and calamari baked in a spicy romesco sauce in a cast iron pan; for a main dish got salmon cooked in a fig leaf, served with soft figs with spring beans and a pea puree.

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Sweet Maple – poached eggs florentine (over spinach and tomato) without the english muffin or hollandaise sauce, served with a side of fruit

Sweet Maple from the outside

Sweet Maple from the outside

Zazie – this was our post- half marathon run meal.  I ate poached eggs over fresh crab and avocado, served with a side of mixed greens

Poached eggs with local crab and avocado.  Perfect post run meal!

Poached eggs with local crab and avocado. Perfect post run meal!

Elite Cafe – poached eggs over cajun spiced fresh crab and bay shrimp, served with a side of mixed greens

IMG_1892David’s Tea – won some free tea from David’s tea on Polk St.

Lots of tea to choose from at David's Tea

Lots of tea to choose from at David’s Tea

Greens – I got two poached eggs with sautéed mushrooms and tomatoes.  Amazing!  They were super accommodating to my food intolerances and the resulting brunch was so tasty!  The friend with me got their Ferry Plaza Sampler, which was a healthy combination of local fruits, nuts, honey, and cheese.

Poached eggs with a variety of sautéed mushrooms.  Delicious!

Poached eggs with a variety of sautéed mushrooms. Delicious!

My friend's Ferry Plaza sampler

My friend’s Ferry Plaza sampler

Here’s to more fun in the (sometimes) sun in California!  And to conquering more items off my San Francisco List.

Venture on,

MEL, the Venture Gal

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The New Form of Homelessness

Since graduating from college I haven’t lived in the same place for more than 8 months, even though I have been living in the same city for the almost 3 years since graduating.

I lucked out with my first place out of school – I rented a nice house in a charming neighborhood about an hour from my office.  I had lots of space, nice decor, & fabulous housemates.

When the owner returned in the spring, I needed to find a new place to live.  The one advantage to the Ann Arbor housing market, if you choose to play this game, is that during the summer, summer sublets can come quite cheap.  So I subleased a room in a nice old house about 2 blocks from my office.  Even though the place didn’t have air conditioning (I like hot weather anyways! & now I feel more prepared for any travel to India) it was a great place to spend a summer.  My housemates were cool & I was so close to downtown & my office that I barely needed my car.

Then came fall.  My sublease ended & I needed to find a new place to stay.  I had no where.  I refuse to pay rent in Ann Arbor that is equivalent to rent I would pay in places like the Bay Area, New York, & Chicago.  Plus, I have wonderful family in the area with plenty of excess capacity when it comes to sleeping space.  So I stayed with family for a couple months…

…until a generous friend offered a spare room for me to lease on a monthly basis.  “Perfect!” I thought!  It was all well & good until the not sleeping caught up to me.  I’m not sure why exactly I had trouble sleeping there.  It was a bit louder than I was used to, & maybe that made a difference.  I don’t know.

Around the holidays I decided to move out & back to square one…since I spent the holidays mostly with my family anyways, I stuck around there & ended up commuting a bit more than an hour to my parents’ house.  It’s actually exactly what I needed.  Why, you ask, would anyone need an hour plus commute after being able to walk to work?  Good question!  Driving that amount of time forced me to do nothing, in the sense that I wasn’t on my computer, or typing emails on my phone.  I was in the car, debriefing my mind from the day, listening to the radio, free styling, or speaking thoughts & poetry into my Evernote voice recorder.  It was a zen-like time where I could just be & do non-work related activities.

At some point I checked out some books on CD from the library, thinking I could use that time to be a bit more productive & learn something from books.  What I realized was that it was more valuable for me to spend that time learning about myself, than to spend it learning about a concept talked about in a book.  Plus, listening to people read books while I’m driving makes me tired, so by avoiding listening to books on tape I significantly lowered my chances of falling asleep at the wheel.

Come the end of the University semester I started my sublet search.  I waited a bit longer to start my search, than I did in the previous year, because I learned that the longer you wait the more prices drop.  I ended up finding a place for a very low price in the basement of a house on campus.  The house was, well, whatever you would call the opposite of charming.  It provided me with the off campus, frat living experience I never had.  Fortunately, all I literally did in there was talk to my housemates, briefly, & go hide out in my room to read, write, & sleep.  Though sleep was a rare commodity at the beginning of the summer.  It took me awhile to get used to the late night noises, & early arrivals (I would often wake up early in the AM, when my housemates were just getting home).  I never used the shower or kitchen there.  And just in case you’re making weird faces because you I didn’t shower…I did…I showered at my gym every morning!

I’m glad I lived there.  It was a learning experience & a memorable one.  Plus, I am now much better at falling asleep & getting a decent night’s sleep in places that aren’t pristine or completely silent.  I still am anal about bed bugs.  Otherwise, I’m pretty adventurous.

At the end of the summer I was back to homelessness.  I explored options to share an apartment with someone in Ann Arbor.  I sent emails to Craigslist postings, to be notified within days that it was taken.  This time I was less concerned about location, as I was about price & length of lease (I was looking for something less than a year & ideally month to month).  Nothing.

I had been living out of a suitcase all summer, because in the sublet I would only bring a week or two worth of clothes & then I’d visit family on the weekends to do laundry & visit family & use the kitchen to stock up on some meals for the week.  So living out of a suitcase during the fall wasn’t too much a shock to my system.

Ann Arbor’s requirement for year long leases with premium rent charges wasn’t something I was interested in swallowing.  Especially considering:

  1. My expectation to not live in Ann Arbor for a full year
  2. My grandmother’s huge house in Ann Arbor that has lots of extra capacity
  3. Travel

It didn’t make economic sense (& other types of sense) for me to sign a year lease in Ann Arbor.  Where did that leave me?  Still homeless.

During this homeless period I got creative about where I slept.  One night I slept at my gelateria, upstairs.  Another, I slept at my couch in my office.  My car was another option, but before I explored that, I struck a deal with family to make it work for me to stay there when I am in town.  I remember that first night back to sleeping in a bed…Wednesday, September 5, 2012.  I wrote in my journal:

I’m sleeping a bed tonight.  Not something to be taken for granted.  Last night I slept at Iorio’s, upstairs.  I pushed the two bean bags together to cobble together something.  It was tough.  Store doesn’t close until midnight, so it wasn’t even free of people until 12:30 am.

I am grateful for a bed to sleep in.  I am also glad to have the flexibility to be able to live out of a suitcase.  Traveling & living light.  I don’t mind the “perpetual homelessness” feeling, at least for now.  And I am not without “home” yet I am homeless in the sense that I don’t have a place to call my own.  Maybe this is the new form of homelessness.

Take nothing for granted.

Venture on,

mel, the Venture Gal

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1993 Roadtrip from da UP to Utah

This summer I took a road trip to Idaho with my mom & it was an amazing venture!  We had so much quality time to spend together, while seeing some of the countries most beautiful wide open spaces.

This wasn’t the only long road trip I have ventured on…

Portage Lift Bridge

Portage Lift Bridge in da UP (Photo credit: awyu322)

In January 1993 my family drove from the Upper Peninsula (da UP) of Michigan to Kaysville, Utah (a total of 1,627 miles).  At the time I was 4 years old, my younger brother was 18 months old, & my mom & dad led the charge.  We drove our infamous “Ernie” car, a large maroon van with seating for at least 7 people.  Why the “Ernie” car you may wonder?  We called it the “Ernie” car because of the sweet tunes that we’d blast – Sesame Street on cassette tapes.  Old school!  We were pretty cool.

Once we arrived to Kaysville, we visited with my mom’s parents, my grandparents.  My mom’s brother & his family came to visit while we were there.  At the time, they were living in Montana, but made a point to join the festivities & gathering in Kaysville.  His 4 kids (3 girls & 1 boy) joined & the 6 of us enjoyed playing & getting to know each other.  What I especially loved was playing with their gerbils.  I loved animals, even little rodent looking creatures, like gerbils.  I’m not sure if this venture predated my family’s pet hamsters & unintentional hamster breeding operation (that’s what happens when you don’t know the genders of your hamsters).  This discovery of gerbils played an important point in my life, as I consider it the primarily inspiration & drive that led me to adopt a hamster from a classmate in the third grade, without my parents knowing of course.  You bet there’s another story behind that…

Anyways, back in Kaysville, one of my cousins enjoyed my younger brother Nick as much as I enjoyed the gerbils.  I wasn’t sure why because my brother screamed, cried, pooped, ate, & didn’t always listen to you.  Whereas gerbils pooped, ate, were pretty obedient & didn’t make much noise.  I got along fine with the gerbils & they with me.  However, my brother & mothering cousin didn’t quite get along.

Our venture in Utah lasted about a week until we decided to head back home.  I’m sure this is one of those stories that if you asked my parents to tell it they would tell it differently than me (& differently from each other).  Overall, I think we’d agree that this trip brought us closer to our family & small rodents.

Venture on,

mel, the Venture Gal

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If you could go anywhere in the world, where would that be?

If you could go anywhere in the world, where would that be?

International Federation of Medical Students' ...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This question was inspired by Chris Guillebeau, author of the $100 Startup.  I have thought about this question before & have a running list…

  • Italy – especially to Morrone, where my family is from
  • Spain
  • South France
  • Portugal
  • UK
  • Sweden
  • Finland
  • Luxembourg
  • Lemmer (Netherlands)
  • Iceland
  • Ireland
  • Switzerland
  • Croatia
  • Macedonia
  • Russia
  • Turkey
  • Brittany
  • Austria
  • Greece
  • Australia
  • New Zealand
  • Malaysia & SE Asia (Indonesia, Thailand, Singapore, Hong Kong)
  • Philippines
  • Central & South America – Brazil, Argentina, Costa Rica, Venezuela, Peru
  • Africa
  • Prague
  • Morocco
  • Jerusalem
  • Toronto
  • Road trip to every state in the U.S. (“road” taken lightly…I know there’s no road to Hawaii…yet)

Travel to me is a lot about the people I am traveling with.  Maybe I will make a list of people I want to travel with

Where would you venture to?!

Venture on,

mel, the Venture Gal

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44 Reasons to Move to the Bay Area

Yesterday I returned from a quick trip to CaliforniaSan Francisco to Carmel Valley & various places in between.  Each time I go to & return from the City by the Bay I end up with more reasons why I love it & would love to live there.  Of course there are so many wonderful places in the world & many more I have yet to explore.  But when it comes to San Fran & the Bay Area, here are some of the reasons to move there:

 

  1. The Ferry Building

    The Ferry Building

  2. Population between 24 & 35
  3. Artichokes (I got 12 for $1 on this past trip!)
  4. Weather / Sun (yes, I know it’s not always sunny in San Francisco, but I’m coming from Michigan people!)
  5. Tommy Leep‘s get togethers
  6. So many smart & driven people – the work ethic is contagious
  7. Outdoor crossfit
  8. Walkable city
  9. Dates

    Dates at the Ferry Building Farmers Market

  10. Ability to get around without ownership of a car
  11. So much good food
  12. Caltrain
  13. Paybyphone for parking
  14. So much to do
  15. Cheaper flights to Hawaii
  16. It’s in my blood (I was born in Berkeley)
  17. Constant access to a place for loose change & restaurant leftovers (i.e. homeless people)
  18. Dog friendly
  19. Sidecar & Lyft (because just one isn’t enough)
  20. Cable cars (makes listening to “Over My Head” by the Fray so much more meaningful)
  21. Each one of my friends (you know who you are!)
  22. Fresh ingredients for juicing

    Fresh ginger. Perfect for ginger in juice!

  23. Virgin Airlines
  24. Runs to Coit Tower

    Pre-run to Coit Tower

  25. Fresh seafood

    Fresh Sustainable Seafood at the Ferry Building Farmers Market

  26. BATS Improv
  27. Getaround
  28. SFO’s free wi-fi
  29. Billboards for early stage tech companies

    Tech company billboards – only in the Bay Area

  30. Entrepreneurial energy & resources
  31. So many talented people
  32. Sonoma & Napa 
  33. Christmas trees & palm trees united in Union Square

    Union Square during the holiday season

  34. Avocados

    An Impressive Avocado

  35. Population of guys between 24 & 35
  36. The beach

    Me & my daddy at Pebble Beach

  37. Dungeness crab

    Crab!

  38. Farmers markets & farm stands galore
  39. Creativity
  40. Always meeting new awesome people
  41. Commitment to making a positive impact

    Spread good vibes!

  42. Artichokes 
  43. Breathtaking views 
  44. The Ferry Building

    Palm trees & fresh local food…what more could I ask for?!

Will I ever live in San Francisco?  Time will tell.  I know I have some good reasons to want to live there!

What reasons would you add to this list?

venture on,

mel, the venture gal

Crossfit CU

Over the summer I went to Champaign, Illinois for a few days, to spend some time working with one of our companies there.  I drove from Michigan, which was long, but convenient since Champaign isn’t uber convenient to get to by plane or other form of transportation.  Plus, once I was in Champaign there was so much spread out that it would have been difficult to get from points A to B to C without vehicle access.

It also was nice to have a car because that meant I could get to the Crossfit CU gym, which was located only within driving distance in a warehouse adjacent to corn fields.  I emailed them before I came & they were quick to respond & welcome me to join the WOD while I was in town.  I went early on a Wednesday morning, met one of the coaches there & found out that Wednesday’s are open gym & there is no prescribed WOD.  Bummer!  Except I was able to do the WOD from the previous day as part of open gym.  The coach was super helpful & even gave me a couple of tips that helped me improve my deadlift.

The next morning I went back for an actual WOD.  I met another coach & owner of the gym, Sky.  Super nice & helpful.  The class was a decent size, about 10 people.  I liked the focus on form & fundamentals & the very hands on coaching.  Sky really paid attention to what everyone was doing & gave pointers & commentary when necessary.  The workout was challenging & afterwards we all wrote our results on the whiteboard.  I even made the list as a visitor!  How welcoming!

Bottom line:  Crossfit CU is a great place to train if you’re in town.  The team there is welcoming, as are the other cross fitters.  I felt at home & challenged even while on the road.  I will definitely go back next time I’m in that area!

Venture on,

mel, the Venture Gal

 

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3 Days in Bawlmer (aka Baltimore) & DC

The National Mall on a Sunny Day

Last week was my first time to Baltimore, Maryland, or as the locals call it, “Bawlmer”.  Baltimore is a city I hadn’t put high on my list to places to visit, but I’m sure glad I got the chance.  My key intent in going to Baltimore was to check out the Natural Products Expo East.  It was a huge benefit to get to visit with friends in Baltimore & Washington D.C.

I flew into Washington from Lansing (because it was a cheaper, more convenient flight) on a Thursday morning.  Straight off the plane I grabbed the metro to head to downtown Washington DC to meet an entrepreneur for lunch in Dupont Circle.  On my way to lunch I spotted the Farmers Market by the White House & walked through to check out the fresh local goodies.  There were plenty of baked goods & some food trucks, as well as an assortment of fresh produce.  It was a small market, but a nice mid-week source of local treats.  There were even honey needs on display, hard at work creating a sweet sugary substance.

Farmers Market by the White House

For lunch I et an entrepreneur at Sweet Green in Dupont Circle.  I discovered Sweet Green back in college when I spent about a week in DC for the Carson’s Scholar Program.  Pretty much every day that week I went to Sweet Green for a meal.  One of the coordinators for the program also loved Sweet Green, so we ate there quite a bit.  So good.  So fresh.  It’s basically build your own salad with fresh, local (when possible) ingredients.  It’s fast, convenient, & tasty!

I had a great, energizing lunch & then headed to Baltimore from there.  To get to Baltimore I needed to take the metro to the central station where I could hop on the MARC train to Baltimore.  It is ridiculously easy to get around there.  From the airport all the way into town & then to Baltimore, all without need of a taxi, car, or hovering device.  Impressive.

Baltimore, the Greatest City in America, according to this all-knowing bench

When I got to Baltimore I took a taxi to get from the station to the Natural Products Expo East.  At this point I was pretty exhausted of the trek & a cab ride kep it much simpler to get there.  Plus, the driver said he took credit, so that made my life easier.

When I got to the Expo I handed the driver my card, to which he responded, it doesn’t accept it.  So I handed him another card…same thing.  4 cards & more frustration later, I dug up enough cash to pay him.  Ridiculous!  If I knew his name/cab number I would warn you against him.  I felt pretty tricked into paying with cash ultimately & I tell every cab driver about Square if they don’t already use it, because it seems to make very little sense as to why they wouldn’t use Square.

Baltimore!

On Friday I continued to explore the Expo after a morning meeting with some entrepreneurs.  It would be more appropriate to say that I “ate” my way through the Expo, sampling kale chips, coconut water, super foods, chia seeds, hemp seeds, sunflower seeds, & more!  One of my favorite products that I tried was Crio Brü.  It’s basically brewed cocoa.  Just as you would brew coffee, you brew Crio Brü.  It takes better than hot chocolate!  Such a great flavor!  I spoke with the company for awhile, as I actually initially discovered their product when I was in Ogden, Utah on a stop along my road trip last month.  Apparently the company is from that area & wasn’t surprised that I discovered them there.  Most of what I saw at the Expo though was less than impressive.  Unlike the tech industry, where innovation is commonplace, I find food/natural products to be very reactive.  Products there are reacting to what is popular now: coconut water, super foods, gluten free.  Nothing beyond what has already been discovered.  There was lots of the same kind of products…just wrapped in a different label.  When I think about it, it makes sense.  The show is meant for brokers & dealers to find new products & it’s logical for them to look for products that they know customers want.  That entire day I survived off Expo food, which brought me to my second big revelation:  Healthy processed food is still processed.  Kale chips, though made with a healthy leafy green, are still processed.  Personally, I still feel better & more energized when I eat real, whole foods, no matter how healthy the processed snack.

Bob, of Bob’s Red Mill, & I at the Natural Products Expo East

After spending some time at the Expo, I walked to Fell’s Point to meet my friend who I was staying with for a Friday night dinner at Woodbury Kitchen.  This restaurant came recommended to me from a foodie local entrepreneur & is a farm to table gem in Baltimore.  I ordered grouper dusted with beet & served with a side of local salad veggies.  It was delicious!  And a really reasonable price.  Don’t be worried that I didn’t choose the crab – I ate crab the previous night at a restaurant downtown called with some entrepreneurs behind the Nur bar.  It was energizing to meet them & learn more about their story!

Grouper at Woodbury Kitchen in Fell’s Point, Baltimore

The Nur Team in Action at Natural Products Expo East

Saturday morning after my run & crossfit adventures I checked out the Fell’s Point farmers market before heading up to DC with my friend.  When we got to DC we met up with our mutual friend at the Sculpture Garden & then walked through the National Mall, passed the National Book Fest, & had a nice relaxing stroll & time to catch up.  From there we parted ways, my friend from Baltimore headed to Dupont Circle & my friend in DC & I trekked up to Glover Park (an uphill venture with a big backpack).  After some socializing, a disappointing Michigan football game (that we watched at Buffalo Billiards aka the “Michigan Bar”), & post game gathering at Afterwords Cafe in Kramer Books, we ventured back to my friend’s apartment in Silver Springs, Maryland.

The National Mall on a Sunny Day

The next morning (or same morning at that point) came quickly & I metro’d it to the DC airport for a seamless flight back to Michigan.  My big backpack & bag of Expo samples safety made it back too!

Venture on,

mel, the Venture Gal

 

 

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Huckleberry Cookies

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When I cook I like to use local, fresh, seasonal ingredients.  One of the things I love about traveling is trying different types of local & seasonal foods in different places.  In Idaho, huckleberries are the state fruit & are in season this time of year, so when I saw them at the Lewiston Farmers Market I had to get some (even though they were $12 per pound).  I used them in a fruit salad I made with all sorts of fruit I got from the Farmers Market.  Then, I made huckleberry pancakes for breakfast with my family one morning.  My final huckleberry creation for this trip to Idaho was huckleberry cookies.  I initially thought I’d make huckleberry muffins, but considering I didn’t have a muffin tin, my muffin intentions soon improvised to become cookies!

These are the ratios & ingredients I used (may be off by a tsp here or there):

  • 3/4 c almond butter (I used Maranatha Roasted Almond Butter that I got from Vig’s Health Food Store in Lewiston, ID)
  • 3/4 c date paste (I soak dates in water & then blend them to form a honey like substance that is less sweet than honey, agave, & others)
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 c coconut flour
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 c (or more!) huckleberries

First I preheated the oven to 350 degrees.  Then I blended the almond butter & date paste.  Then I added in the coconut flour, vanilla, cinnamon, & huckleberries.  I mixed those ingredients all together, tasted the batter & then added the egg.  In retrospect, adding the egg with the almond butter & date paste makes the most sense.  But I wanted to eat the batter, so I kept the egg until last.

Once the batter is ready, plop those cookies on a sheet & let them bake for 25 minutes.

Let me know if you try them!  I’d love to hear what you think!

Venture on,

mel, the venture gal

P.S.  You can replace huckleberries with blueberries or another berry or fruit, depending on what’s in season in your town!

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Zucchini Breads [Paleo]

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When I was in Idaho this past week, one morning my mom & I went horseback riding at Ride N High Trail Rides in Culdesac, Idaho (about 40 minutes from where we were staying in Lewiston).  It was early, so we saw the sunrise as we drove to the ranch & then our ride was beautiful!  Our guide, Redgey, was so great!  He told us stories of his family, history, & about the area.  He also sent us home with fresh cucumbers, corn, & a huge zucchini from his garden!  The zucchini was so large that it fed us for various meals throughout the week…we used it in a sauté with garlic, onions, & tomatoes; my mom cooked some up for an omelet; & then I made 2 loafs of zucchini bread.  And there is still some zucchini left!

The zucchini bread recipe I made is an adaptation of the Moist Chocolate Zucchini Bread recipe at PaleOMG.  I made two different loaves – a chocolate & non chocolate (because the group I made it for didn’t all want chocolate).

My version is:

  • 1.5 cups shredded zucchini
  • 2 eggs, whisked
  • 3/4 cup almond butter
  • 1/3 cup date paste
  • 4 TBS coconut flour
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2 tsp cinnamon

[add 1/4c cocoa powder for Chocolate Zucchini Bread]

First, preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Shred up the zucchini.  I recommend using a food processor, as it makes it so much easier & smoother.  Remove as much liquid as you can from the shredded zucchini (I used paper towel…though I imagine there are better ways to do this).  Then, mix all the ingredients together, put them in a coconut oiled pan & cook up that bread for 30+ minutes (check on it as it gets closer to 30 minutes & keep cooking until it has bread consistency).

Since I was making two different loaves, in one pan, I separated them with no other than…you guessed it…zucchini!  Lesson for next time I do this (or you do it), after cooking them with the zucchini between, take it out when the loaves harden up a bit & then continue to bake because the moisture from the zucchini separator prevents the zucchini bread from cooking all the way through very well.

Enjoy!  And let me know what you think if you try out the recipe!

Venture on,

mel, the venture gal