Life
  • Zoey Update: Bitter Truths

    As most know, Zoey has been with cancer for nearly two years. She has been through poking, prodding, CAT scans, radiation, and most recently, surgery. After all this, she still greets the vets with a lick and a wagging tail, cautiously, but still happy. We're the same way. Our Oncologist makes us laugh, so that's a plus.

    This appointment on December 2nd was one we've been dreading for a month. During that time we have seen large regrowth of cancer. The once flat surface from eye and tumor removal surgery, now looks like she has another eye, except this time it is covered up with hair and skin. She also had brief diarrhea and colitis, which cleared up with help from our general vet, but prompted us to make an appointment with Oncology to make sure there wasn't more going on. 

    What's up: Our Oncologist says the regrowth is not something he's particularly pleased with, and that it is painful for Zoey. She still choses to be a happy dog over everything else that is going on, and that tells him that her pain is still able to managed. He predicts our dealbreakers will be 1) If she starts to be unsocial 2) If she shows no interest in food. This appoinment also led us into talked about euthanasia, and if we had looked into at all - we hadn't - so he walked us through what happens. Simply put, the time we have left could be weeks to a month. There is no way of telling right now.

    Zoey's cancer progression of last month has forced me to start thinking about her inevitable death, and how I will cope. Only one animal has died in my life - my gerbil, Derby, in the 4th grade - and it was emotionally crushing. This will be that to the nth power. 

    There was an article in the NY Times some months back in which a writer used his column as a way to process his dogs death. The tone of the article was sad, but it had a playfulness - the kind that makes you laugh as your just about to burst into tears...maybe I'll do something like that.

    Although there are fluctuating percentages of sadness, Zoey is still very much alive, and happy to be with us, and we are very happy to still have her. 

    - B

  • The Last Goodbye

    Sweet Zoey,

    You have been amazing to me the past 3 1/2 years. I got you as a pup, when I was in need of friendship. You became my companion, my best friend, and my little girl. You have been through a broken bone, poking, prodding, radiation, medication, and surgery. But in the end we lost, and now it's time to say goodbye. 

    To everyone that has helped us over the years financially, thank you so much. Without you, we wouldn't have been able to give Zoey the past two years of her life, and that life was well spent. Zoey has gone to Canada, numerous camping trips on the north shore, adventures on road trips, and has made so many faces smile in the world.

    I love you so much Zoey, and I hope someday to see you on whatever other side there is for us in death. 

    The following are photos from the time we got Zoey as a pup, until our final walks.

    Goodbye, sweet girl. You are gone, but never forgotten.

    - B

  • Road Trip: Lake Superior

    I love spontanious trips.  Some of the best adventures I have ever had have been set in motion by the words, "hey, want to go on a road trip?" One time it was a week in advance, and another time it was a casual mention of a road trip a year in advance.

    The case with this trip came from how much stress we were carrying from Zoey's cancer, and the nature fix that had been absent in our lives for some time. At this point Zoey had been 2-3 weeks past surgery and her sutures were looking pretty great. Anna had time off work already, and with some help from the amazing folks over at Parka to cover some of my work, we were able to make this trip happen.

    We drove most of the way around Lake Superior. From the North shore of Minnnesota, to the actual north shore of Superior in Ontario, and then down into Michigan. Unfortunately we didn't have time to travel closer to the shore through the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, or Northern Wisconsin. Next time!

    All photos taken with: Canon 5D MKII + Canon EF 40mm f/2.8

    Day 1

    Day 2

    Day 3: (zoey was eyeing flys in the fire pit)

    Day 4

    Day 5:

    - B

  • Zoey, One Week After Surgery

    It's hard to believe that one week has already passed by. The first hardship was getting used to the site of Zoey only having one eye, but by the end of the day we had gotten pretty comfortable with the fact. During the first night I think I woke up about every hour when she would sneeze - each time I would get out of bed to make sure her stitches hadn't broke, or that there wasn't more blood than what was to be expected while her incisions were healing. Luckily Anna and I both had days off after the procedure, so it was nice to stay at home and make sure the first steps to recovery started smoothly. 

    Zoeys mood is peppy as ever. She plays, she gets excited, and is still so affectionate. Today (7/24) was her first outing away from the house, unfortunately I wasn't around for it, but Anna told me she was so happy to be outside on an adventure again. I got to see her in the evening and snap some photos.

    We learned tonight that the tumor was an osteosarcoma (bone tumor), and that with the surgical removal we just went through, they follow up with chemotherapy for best results. The U of M talked with us over the phone about this, and brought up the future and what the expected life span is after the treatment. They predict 12-18 months for the type of tumor Zoey has, including chemo. We meet with oncology again on August 12th to move forward with treatment, and get her stitches removed.

    Stay tuned for more updates.

    <3 Bryant, Anna, & Zoey

  • Zoey Update and Surgery

    Zoey, the evening before surgery 

    First let me start by saying thank you to everyone who took time to support us this past month - financially, and emotionally. We raised enough money to pay for Zoeys surgery, and this is helping us get through to the next step, which I will address further into the blog. Until then, thank you all so much. We raised $580 at Parka in three weeks from folks who donated generously as they came to eat and drink coffee, as well as those who attended the Ping Pong Tournament put on by Forage Modern Workshop.

    *The photo at the bottom of the blog shows Zoeys current condition and may be disturbing to some. Stop at July 17th if you are one of those people*

    Zoey and Cancer

    Early-Late 2013, Zoey was diagnosed with a granular cell tumor. Which we treated with a full round of radiation throughout the summer. This was all made possible through the support of family, friends, and the world wide web. Checkup appointments down the road leaned toward the tumor being at a stand still - neither growing nor deteriorating anymore than where it was at.

    May 2014, dental started to become an issue. When we had our post-radiation checkup, we voiced our concerns, and doctors recommended dental work to remove ulcers on her gums that have formed, as well as removing a few teeth. We went ahead with the dental work, but during tooth extractions, the doctor operating noticed what looked like a white mass. The doctor took a small biopsy, and reported her findings to us. Knowing Zoeys history, they wanted to test to make sure it wasn't something new. A few weeks later when the results came back, the report was positive - cancer was back. This resulted in stains to classify the cancer, but we got no results. 

    June 2014, we met with Oncology at the U of M. We talked about Zoeys current condition, our options, and the fact that none of the stains were coming back with any results. Though more stains could have been done, it wasn't worth waiting weeks for results with how fast the tumor has been growing. Surgery was then recommended from here, and the way it was talked about was that Zoey will probably have many years left. 

    July 16th 2014, we met with the Surgery department at the U of M. We talked about Zoeys current condition, and what the procedure would involve. Maxillectomy + Enucleation (removal of eye and bone/tissue). Through this surgery we could get a large enough piece of the tumor that Oncology would then be able to test and get some results. Through classifying this tumor, the hope is to find out whether or not chemotherapy would be a good option. The fear about this tumor is that it is growing so quickly that chemo will not be able to combat the tumor - whatever classification it may be. This is all news to us by the way. Upon hearing all this news, the surgeon continues to point out, "are we only delaying the inevitabe?" And we are thinking, "what? Isn't this surgery supposed to give her a life? and not 'x' amount of months?"  Everything moved really fast. I thought we would have a week or so to prepare before surgery, but we scheduled it for the following day

    Honestly, I couldn't tell you what the actual prognosis is, because both Anna and myself have been thinking all this time that surgery was going to save Zoeys life, and not just give us some glory months. My hope is that there is mixed information. Not just because I am an optimist, but because she is my dog, my companion, and my best friend since she was 4 months old.

    July 17th 2014, Zoey was dropped off at the U of M in the early morning. We received a call at 3:15pm saying that the procedure was a success and that she is doing well, 98% of the tumor was removed, but they are still concerned about the 2% left and how that could react. At 7:45pm, we received another phone call saying she is doing well, and that they had sent a photo to my email:

    Now all we can do is wait for Zoey to heal, and wait for results to come back. I will be trying to keep everyone up to date through my blog here, as I think that will be the best form of communication with everyone.

    Again, thank you all so much. From the bottom of our hearts, thank you.

    <3 Bryant, Anna, & Zoey

  • Far Away Places, A River, And Some Animals

    Here in Minnesota, the middle of March is a prime time to take a trip and shake off them winter blues. Ideally, to a warmer place. It's the perfect pick-me-up for the wandering minds that feel like they are at ropes end, and given the sheets of snow we've had dumped on us this year - warmth is good.

    This year took us 1,036 miles south to Tennessee to visit friends and family. Most of our adventures took place within cities - Chicago, Indianapolis, Louisville, Cleveland, Chattanooga, Madison - with a brief trip to the Great Smoky Mountains. 

    Indianapolis

    Louisville, KY

    Cleveland, TN

    Great Smoky Mountains National Park

    Chattanooga, TN

    Chicago, IL

    Madison, WI

    - B

  • Dogwood Throwdown

    The following are candid shots from the latte art throwdown at Dogwood Coffee on March 5th. Baristas from the surrounding area came together to drink beer and pour lattes. Some shops that participated include: Quixotic, Urban Bean, Bull Run, Spyhouse, Dogwood, Parka, River Rock, Peace, Publika, and more.

    The winner of the evening was Keith from Dogwood Coffee

    Image below of the bracket taken by Andrew, who competed from the Minneapolis Institute of Arts 

    - B

  • The Frozen North

    Winter in Minnesota (along with the rest of the midwest) has been pretty extreme. The day after Minnesota was in blizzard conditions, Anna and I ventured north to stay in a log cabin for three nights. Snow shoe adventures, clouds of snow, ice cave adventures into Wisconsin, and more. Never have I explored the north in conditions like this. The setting was very surreal, and the landscape felt like it was not of this state at some points. Do enjoy what was our view. <3

    Day 1: Bear Head Lake State Park

    Day 2: Tettegouche State Park

    Day 3: Ice Caves of the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore

    This year Lake Superior froze over upwards toward 90%, reaching a 10 inch average for ice thickness. To get to these "ice caves" in the following images, you walk along the southern shore over the ice on Lake Superior. 

    - B

  • Day 16 and 17: Final Snippets

    The last few days we spent in Beijing were running errands, meeting up with people we hadn't seen yet, eating good food, and spending the last of our yuan at Zoo Market. I did my best to just enjoy time outside the lens, but carried the camera with me in case moments arise where I would regret not having my camera. But everything stayed pretty chill.

    The experience of traveling to Beijing has been all too surreal, and that's exactly what it is. Having been home for nearly four weeks now, it doesn't even seem like we were there. I find myself joking saying, are these my photos? I suppose I could have magically inherited someones hard drive...but that impossible, right?

    To experience a culture I've only brushed the surface on in years of education, and to do it with some really awesome people, has been such an amazing experience. And most of all, seeing where Anna grew up and lived for so much of her life has helped me better understand how aspects of life in China have shaped who she is.  

  • Day 15: Tiananmen Square and Forbidden City

    "We're going to let you lead us there," says Anna. And I did just that. After being in Beijing for two weeks, Anna and her younger brother, Daniel, wanted to see if I could navigate the subway and get us to where we needed to go. The destination was Tiananmen Square, and other than going up the wrong stairs that brought us to the opposite side of the street we wanted to be on, I executed my task flawlessly.

    Tiananmen Square

    The most recent historical mark of Tiananmen Square brings us back to events that transpired on June 4th, where a pro-democracy protest turned violent. China was put under martial law by Communist Party Leaders at this time. The police and troops that moved into the square killed several hundred, maybe even thousands (there is no solid number here), of protesters in the streets that surrounded the square.

    Most of you will recognize the "tank man" image from this period of time. The article I've referenced is pretty interesting. Four photographres, four images, one moment. Followed by the images there are brief writings from the photographers writing about their time.

    Forbidden City

    Forbidden City is accessed through a gate from Tiananmen Square, which was the Chinese Imperial Palace from the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) to the Qing Dynasty (1644-1912). This served as home for emperors and households from hundreds of years. Common people were not allowed inside the walls, but today, anyone can walk through the immensity that is, The Forbidden City.

    Once we were past the gates, I took to photographing Forbidden City a little different compared to that last major places we visited. Mostly because I was tired of seeing people all over the place. So, this a collection of photos taking a quiet look at the design, architecture, patterns, and more. I really love it, and loved approaching it this way - mostly because I myself found some peace shooting in this manner.

    After our little tour we ran into some shopping areas to pick up quick gifts for people back home. Here we encountered some photographers we had seen earlier in the week shooting in the same location. The guy on the left took to waving cheerfully, and then continued to take photos of me taking photos of him. When we first crossed paths, I caught him taking photos of Anna and I (probably more here than I), so I returned fire in a world of digital pixels. Many of the locals do this same thing on the street and would hold up their phones or cameras all nonchalant and "sneak" photos of you. I made it a game that whenever I noticed this happpening, I would bluntly take photos of them in return. All reactions were the same - smile and carry on.

  • Day 14: Old Summer Palace

    Old Summer Palace was once a complex of palaces and gardens built in the 18th and early 19th century. It served as an area where emperors of the Qing Dynasty would handle government affairs. In October of 1860, during the Second Opium War, British Commisioner Lord Elgin ordered the destruction of the palace in response to men that had been tortured and executed in late September.

    What remains are mostly European-style buildings, and very few Chinese-style buildings. Plans to rebuild are out of the question, because any reconstruction would destroy a part of Chinese history. What they are and have been doing though, is restoring old vistas and filling lakes. And what remains of Chinese buildings have been refurbished.

    You still have all the vendors and souvenir shops here, but there was one booth in particular that was really fascinating. A man was making dragons out of melted down sugar, shaping everything with a small stick. Really cool.

    This is but a scratch on the surface to what Old Summer Palace is about. If you want to read more about it you can check out wiki, or cross reference other sources you find elsewhere.

  • Day 12: Migrant School and Boy Scout Campout

    "Included Migrant School"

    We had the chance to visit and shoot some photos for a migrant school through a volunteer named Jonathan, who is renting a room from Anna's parents. This is a school for children whose families lack the proper documentation to live in Beijing, omitting their children from being included in the local school system. These families primarily move from rural areas to the city in search of more prosperous work (or work at all), but are unable to pay the fees or aqcuire the proper documentation for legal migration within the country. They migrate to the city for all kinds of reasons – they may have been layed off, factories may have been shut down or farmers and farm workers may have become obsolete as a result of new technology.

    The school is entirely dependent on donations and all the teachers working here are volunteers, some are foreigners, but most are locals. The children here are high in spirit, friendly, funny, charming, and were, overall, such a pleasure to be around. 

    When we had first arrived it was hard to know what all the kids thought of us. Some would hide their faces and run away, but would quickly open up once I showed them what was going on with the camera. Others would run up saying, "lao shi!" (teacher) tugging at Anna's arm. One of the funniest thing I had happen though were kids trying to look through my ears. I would humor them and take out my gauges, which I'm sure freaked them out a bit, but it's something so strange you can't look away, right? To interact with these kids has been one of the most rewarding experiences I've had. My only regret is not having more time to spend with them.

    After our morning at the school, Anna's brother, Matt, had rented a car to drive us up north, to a place beyond the great wall. Where we were going was a boyscout campout, which Anna's youngest brother was a part of. There was food, there were badges, there was fire, all that good stuff. And as the sun started to set in the valley, we ended the night with skits performed by the scouts, and some good bonfire, coal tossing fun.

  • Day 11: Hutongs and Meandering

    Hutongs are old traditional homes that used to cover much of Beijing. Many remain intact and are being protected to try and save this part of chinese cultural history, but at the same time many others are being torn down to make way for things like roads and apartments.

    The walkways we experienced through the hutong alleys were no wider than the span of ones arms. The streets that run through the hutong neighborhoods vary in width. In one neighborhood only a few bikes that had carts on the back could drive through. In another neighborhood only one car could travel through at a time. 

    If you notice the first character in the license plate below, it will indicate from what area it's from. This guy is from Beijing.

    What followed after our day of wandering through hutongs was a fancy date night at McDonalds (we originally wanted to go to a hutong pizza place, but were unsure about whether it was open or not), and then walking across town to explore, photograph, and eventually reach our goal of hitting up Slowboat Brewery.

  • Day 9: Crowded Subways Day 10: Pet Markets and Football

    Day 9: Crowded Subways

    Sitting, standing, and squeezing to get around. Anyone visiting doesn't need much more than that, especially if your only plan is to stay within the city. Public transportation here is so wide and vast, that if you can figure out the bus and subway system, you just opened up a path to just about anywhere in Beijing.

    I only ever had one experience 'squeezing' into a subway. It was rush hour time, and it seemed as if everyone that needed to go north was doing just that. Through winding tunnels and escalators that brought you to and from the light, herds of workers were probably heading home, and traveling with a group of six during this time was no easy chore. When we had reached our platform, loose lines were formed near the doorways where the subway would stop. The brakes would screech, and a sweet "ding dong" sound would be made over a speaker with an announcement saying, "this is where you're at and the door is about to open," except when everyone is already heading north, no one wants to get off. So you push and squeeze and hope you get on that subway and not the next. In my case, it was push, squeeze, and as long as I could stay pressed up against that person at the doorway long enough for the door to close behind me, I could stop pushing and find some relief that the door had closed behind me, and I was not left behind.


    Day 10: Growing up, Pet Markets, and Football

    We spent the day exploring the streets and making our way to one of Anna's old residencies. There was a pet market on the way that Anna had mentioned, and we decided to walk through. An escalator takes you from the street into an underground marketplace that has shops selling dogs, cats, fish, fountains, tobacco, pipes, camping stuff, and much more. All lighting is artificial, and space is little in each store. You see that cages are piled with animals, and the conditions and health of many are not so good. Most were sleeping in their own fecies, with bugs crawling around them. Some cats look like they have infections of some sort. Later we came across pet squirrels and bunnies where one bunny was laying dead in its cage while the others continued running around it. Surrounding the cage of bunnies was the shop owner, and many other customers, all just ignoring the fact of a dead bunny, and instead admiring the squirrel on a leash. Then there is the question about the breeds. Do some get better treatment than others? The siamese cats we saw there were active and in good health, but maybe they were just part of a new lot of animals that were delivered recently.

    What happens to these animals I wish I could say. From the poor health and living conditions it seems like many will die, but my hope is that people purchase many of these animals and give them a home, a better life, and the love they deserve.

    I know it's hard to switch what's going on during the day right after seeing the animals, but bare with me here. We had left the animal shops and gone a canal by Anna's old apartment complex where she spent a lot of her time at growing up, and later we met up with the family to enjoy a game of football for anyone that wanted to play. And of course, good food was had in the evening. It might have been the air, or just that I was really hungry, but going a dinner without snapping tons of photos isn't all that bad, right? "Just enjoy it before it gets cold man."

  • Day 8: What Remains of the Olympics

    Waking up to Pidgeon, we started to prepare for our day. We all decided that we would bus out to the Olympic Forest Park and also see the Olympic Green.

    Olympic Forest is a large man-made nature park that was built alongside the Olympic Green for the Beijing 2008 Olympics.  It's one of those things that if you get the chance, seeing it is awesome - only once though. Then there are the exceptions that If you live around it and have friends or family in town, it's great to go see it again. Kind of like that exhibit you only thought needed one walk through. Souvenir trinkets are still sold on the sidewalks, souvenir photographs are still available, and from what I could hear, tour groups were also available. Still, I am glad I got to go look around at least once.

    Oh yeah, and there is a half empty mall underground here as well. That's where the lights and cute lookin' bull come from. 

  • Day 7: Staycation, Art Crawls, and Exploring

    While in China we were hoping to travel outside of Beijing. Maybe get into the countryside, maybe go hike through some forests, parks, wherever travel took us? But the money exchange it turned out we had less than we expected, but enough for a small trip if that's what we decided. Long story short, we decided not to (being that there is so much to see in Beijing already) and instead had a staycation with Anna's brother (Matt) and his wife (Kara). Kara was on a small break from work at the time, and that is where "staycation" comes from.

    798 district is an awesome art zone in Beijing with a large artistic community. Galleries and merchandise from working artists are available in small stores, and there are many art spaces to walk in and out of. 798 has a series of 50 year old decommissioned military factories that add to the space of their art exhibits. Works of street art are abundant here as well.

    To get to Matt and Kara's apartment while we were staying with them, we neeed to take a path that brought us past a garbage trench, and then over some railroad tracks where the trains still passed by. While running some errands for eggs we saw a man selling jewelry, where a woman and her son (or maybe grandson) were looking to buy. Further along we saw some vendors selling turtles, and a puppy just hangin' out in the middle of it all.


  • Day 6: Temple of Heaven

    Not only is Temple of Heaven one of those popular parks and tour attractions that everyone needs to visit, but it is also a massive space for the community to gather. The surroundings of the temple have areas for excercising which are free to the public, and throughout halls of the temple people are playing cards, playing instruments, knitting and making crafts, and just pretty much go to the park to hang out. You'll see there was a photoshoot going on there too. I decided to get on the line and take some photos just to see if I could, and no one seemed to mind or care that I had stepped in. Lets me note in the second photo showing all the photographers, that one guys stance in the back is intense. You don't mess with a guy holding that intense of a photo stance.

    Watching the community choir/band get together at the end of our visit to the temple was a really powerful experience. They are all there because they love doing it. No one claps, no one cheers - instead they all join in song from the heart.

    Oh, and when you need to sleep, you just find a bench or whatever serves best.

    Temple of Heaven

    Temple of Heaven is a series of religious buildings in which the Emperors of the Qing and Ming dynasties would pray to the heavens for good harvest.

    The temple was built in 1406 to 1420, but was not known as Temple of Heaven until the 16th century when the Jiajing Emperor added on to the temple. In the 18th century, the temple was renovated, which was the last large renovation of the tempel during imperial time due to funds.

    In 1900, the temple took serious damage due to the occupation by the Eight Nation Alliance during the Boxer Rebellion. Robberies of temple artifacts made by the alliance would later be reported during this time. 

    During the fall of the Qing empire, the temple was left unmanaged. As a result several halls bagan to collapse over the years.

    In 1918 the temple was turned into a public park, and declared a World Heritage site by UNESCO in 1998.

  • Day 5: Chill Mornings and Walks

    What chinese I learned today: "Hen hao war!"

    Relaxing mornings, great food, street walks, and fun at the security guards home. In the last photo, the cage in front of the building has a hamster in it. Story is that someone was away at the time and needed someone to watch their little critter. Whether it's a friends or one of the residents here at the apartments, the hamster was there during our entire stay. On this particular day we were walking down the road and saw the guard with a friend trying to introduce a mouse into the cage. They were laughing and chuckling, and when they were out of sight and we were halfway down the road we heard one of the men yell, "hen hao war!" (what good fun!). It was pretty hilarious. 

  • Day 4: The Wall

    We spent a night at Anna's brothers place and planned on a trip to the great wall. The part wetraveled to is called, Huang Hua Cheng. How we got there went a little something like this.

    We needed to take the subway as far north as possible, then catch two buses from beginning to end, and then another bus, and then a black cab up to where we would get on the wall. All adding up to 3 1/2 hours of traveling.

    When we had arrived there was a sign that read, "not open to the public," but beyond that there is a man you pay 10 yuan to use a ladder to climb up onto the wall. 

    Hills and mountains surround the wall with pollution hanging about (adds a nice mistly look), and at most we only ever saw a couple people on the wall. The further we walked, the more ruin like the wall became, which also meant greater difficulty to climb.

    When time came to get off the wall, a man on a farm opened his gate to us for 20 yuan. Let's not foget the dog that was growling and barking outside the fence as well. 

    Past the farm a road leads down to a village where we had just missed the bus that comes every hour. While waiting at a small restaurant, the locals started talking to us, and while I couldn't understand what anyone was saying, it resulted in a womans husband giving us a lift down the road to a bus that comes more frequently. Then began the long journey back home.


  • Day 3: Chill Mornings and Shopping Excursions

    Day 3: Chill Mornings and Shopping Excursions

    Staying with Anna's family meant some great breakfasts, cluding her moms baked oatmeal which I had never had until now.

    After a day exploring and hiking around, a chill day was needed (this pattern continues the rest of the trip). You might think of chill as, "we'll just lounge around the house all day," which is pretty close to what we did. Half a day of lounging was about all we could take, and then we head out into the world for some shopping at Zoo Market.

    Zoo Market is a maze of shops that seem neverending. Here you come to bargain and sift through knock off brands of clothes, shoes, accesories, et cetera. Sizes might be correct to someone in the world, but the label is never a thing to trust. You can't try on things, so you eye and hope for the best. Worst comes to worst and you're out a short amount of cash. 

    To bargain it is necessary to have someone with you that speaks chinese. I know next to none, so I just watch Anna negotiate, she then translates what's going on. By the end of the trip I was starting to do better with numbers. I think after this trip I will be looking into chinese for a language come fall semester. It's pretty much guaranteed that we will be back here in the coming years so, "thanks," and, "no thanks," just doesn't cut it.


  • Day 2: Where we are - Summer Palace

    Day 2: Where We Are

    Anna's family has an awesome area to live. There is a courtyard between the complexes with a basketball court, a garden that is maintained, a bike repair guy right down the road in case anyone needs something fixed on the fly. Pretty sweet. The apartment has four bedrooms, a full kitchen, a couple rooms for entertainment and office purposes, and a porch like room that serves as an area for the garden. I would often find myself forgetting that I was in China, and then I stepped outside.

    The most difficult thing I encountered on our trip was the language barrier. So on the first day when we ventured into the city to walk down to the police station and register our stay, it was both strange and exciting to be sitting in a room full of people not knowing a single word anyone was speaking. 

    After our morning of registering with the police, we decided to hit the ground running and visit one of the sites on our list. So we managed to visit the Summer Palace during the afternoon, and later that evening we met up with the rest of Anna's family that hadn't yet seen us for some amazing food. 

    Summer Palace

    Summer Palace is a marvel of landscape architecture and garden design that has been recognized by UNESCO as a world heritage site. First known as, "the Garden of Clear Ripples," it was later destroyed by allied forces during the Second Opium War (1856-60). It wasn't until 1886-95 that it was reconstructed by Emperor Guanxu and named, "Summer Palace." intended for use by Empress Dowager Cixi. The palace took damage in 1900 during the supression of the Boxer Rising and was then restored in 1902. The palace became public in 1924.

    Oh yeah, and the infamous marble boat was under construction while we were there, so tough luck on that one, but hey, I got a picture of the picture they put up of the real thing! 


    Petty cabs are pretty awesome.
    So this is how dishes come. clean and sanitized in shrink wrap
    Nang Chao Rou (stir fried bread and cumin lamb)
    Red noodle dish
    Peanuts
    Xi long hua (broccoli w/garlic)
    Yang rou chuanr (lamb kebabs)
  • Day 1: To Travels and Trunks

    On May 13th Anna and I left for Beijing, China. Most of her family lives over there so we stayed with them during our stay. They are super generous hosts and took part in a lot of our outings. Much of Anna's life was spent living in Beijing, so it's really awesome that I got the chance to see where she grew up.

    I will be putting up blog posts that correspond with each day we were gone.


    Day 1: "To Travels and Trunks" 

    Some people love flying, some people hate it. For most, it's a love hate relationship. You're excited that you are going somewhere new, gaining new experiences, taking time off of work, traveling, and getting behind those gates that a boarding pass and a good record allows clearance for. But then there is the flight time, the airplane food, strangers, the chance of having a child seated behind you, the discomfort of never being in a comfortable sleep position - all factors that can bring a negative outlook upon flying.

    It's not that many of these factors happened on our trip. In fact, our flights were all relatively pleasant - minus of course getting to sleep in an upright position, but that's a tough one for most people. When getting on the plane there is always that walk through first class and you can't help but be a little bitter about it - you get to see how much leg room there is, those fancy seats, the gift bags everyone is digging through with goodies that are supposed to provide comfort for the trip. It's like christmas up there! For all I know they are given sleeping pills and a complimentary mini bottle of hard liquor for take off, but who's to say?

    Since I started working at the airport, getting past security and walking amongst thousands of travelers has lost some excitement, but we do get a celebrity here and there. Then there are the people that have just spent six months somewhere crazy. There was one guy that was returning home from being a ski guide in Antarctica (how crazy is that?). I don't know how he did it. My body can barely handle the lows in the Midwestern United States. But enough of all this. Here are some photos from the evening of take off.


  • The Northern Air

    The North Shore in Minnesota is by far one of my favorite destinations to visit. All year round it offers an escape away from city life. Even if you only have a day to spend up there, you can get a nice fill of solitude and trails. This year was the first time I had ever visit the shore in winter, and I was in aw by frozen shores, ice slabs floating in the Lake Superior, and then as you drive further and further up the shore, it turns into clear waters and bright blue skies. The site of these waters and being able to breathe in the crisp northern Minnesota air puts me in a state of elation.

    Along the shore there are many waterfalls to hike into. With only a day up north you can really only travel to one of them. Well worth the trip we made. Water that was once rushing over rocks, creating deep pools was now frozen with ice thick enough to walk over it all. In some spots snow and ice revealed the force under the ice. Water was still rushing along as it had when it was melted, just hidden underneath. A dangerous surprise if you're not careful.

    Summer (2012)

  • Thrifty Finds Are One of A Kind.

    You can find some pretty awesome things at the thrift store, and this dress was one of them. It fit Anna perfectly, all for a whopping $3! Even if we only use it just this once for a fun shoot, it was totally worth it.

    Also, I couldn't wait to get out and shoot with Canon's Mark II, which is my most recent investment. My 5D has been taped together, and I've noticed a drop in quality at some recent shoots, so I have put it on the shelf to rest, and will use it as a back up now. 

    Anna's gloves make for a perfect reflector.

    This guy wanted to get a photo taken with Anna.

    We heart trees.

    Nothing better than ending the day with truffles from this place.

    - B

  • Happy 21st, Anna!

    A happy 21st to, Anna! We celebrated around Minneapolis and St. Paul, having good food, beer, and some photo opportunities. All done with 19 obnoxious balloons floating around in the back of the car. It would have been 20, but during my time spent at one of the many stoplights throughout the day, one popped all of the sudden. Scary moment. Friction and that balloon did not get along.

    Zoey was absolutely terrified of these balloons. When Anna had first arrived, she ran through the kitchen, back and forth, back and forth, wagging her butt full of excitement (it compensate for her lack of tail), but head down in fright. Once she had finally got to Anna, she was weary and kept an eye on those balloons.

    For breakfast I whipped up some dutch oven pancakes, complete with raspberries, blueberries, pomegranate, and 100% maple syrup - the good stuff, and of course, an awesome pour over from Ethiopia.

    Still trying to conquer her fears, Zoey eventually got to the point where she would just run past the balloons without being too overly weary.

    We made it to a few of our favorite food/dessert spots in the Twin Cities. First stop, St. Paul Cheese Shop. With a wide variety of cheeses imported from all over the place, we stopped by for lunch to get a sandwich made up. I forget what we had. I know it was a swiss cheese, greens, and some sort of confit or chutney on there that was sweet. Second, we stopped at Dr. Chocolate's Chocolate Chateau. From some of the top truffle/chocolate makers in the states, they have a ranging variety of bizzare and interesting flavors that are quite delicious. For example, Olive oil basil with smoked sea salt, port with plum and fig, walnut, biscotti, and so on. Really great stuff. The 'William Dean' chocolate down there was actually in the Hunger Games movie I guess. Never seen it, but that's pretty cool.

    We put the balloons to good use. Our day was mostly planned around food, but with the time left between meals and outings, we ventured forth around the twin cities for some shots showing the skyline in the background with the balloons as well.

    I skimped out on taking photos at dinner, and beer, and all that good stuff...but you can imagine it ;]

    - B 

  • Fall Into Autumn

    I can't think of a better season. Multi-color treetops around the city, playing in leaves, brisk mornings with coffee. It's a breath of fresh air. It's the time of year where you don't have to compromise much to stay warm either. You can dress about any way you want, except for beach attire. A bit cold for the beach. And the weather conditions? It's not wet all the time, like spring. It's not freezing cold, which in my case means wearing 6 layers and still freezing. And it's not like summer, where you are wearing the bare minimum (depending on where you're at) just to keep cool. Fall is my season.

    Zoey has a love for fall. Burrowing into the leaves and jumping out of them, diving for sticks, hopping around. These piles are a playground to her. This is the one year marker for Zoey and the fall season. Here's the shot I took of her last year.

    She's grown quite a bit. I have also grown through the lens.

    My dearest love. It doesn't get any better than it does with you ^_^ <3

    Here's to fall you guys. Cheers.

    - B

  • Sarah & Mike

    The newly engaged couple! Had a really fun time with these guys. Got to utilize the 1.2, walk through some beautiful areas, and catch up on life. I met Sarah at a party of hers a couple years back that a coworker invited me to. I later ran into Sarah at the grocery store I'm always shopping at. Since I was shopping at that location almost everyday, it gave us the chance to easily keep in touch. Then there's facebook, which brings us to where we are today.

    - B

  • Mornings, Excursions, and Photos

    There actually comes a time when I manage to get in touch with friends. Rare. But it happens.

    EV and I got together a few weeks ago, just before we started up school and our schedules started filling up. We cooked up some breakfast at her place, then we head out for a short excursion to Wisconsin for New Glarus beer, and hiking in Willow River State Park. 

    Let the good times roll. Just need to make more of them.

  • Before you hit play: I want to mention a few contributing factors to this post. Lately I have been inspired by narratives and spoken word. The photo project, This Wild Idea, and the podcast, This American Life, have both played a large part in this. With that in mind, this post is something new that I am really excited to try.

    So hit play, and enjoy the photos that go with the audio.

  • Showin' Off Minneapolis

    A friend of mine I went to school with in Chicago came up to visit for the weekend. We try visiting each other in Chicago or Minneapolis at least once a year. It depends on schedules and finances. He moves to Boston at the end of the Summer, and this was the last open weekend he had to do anything, so Minneapolis it was! We showed him some of our favorite spots that deal with food, art, coffee, dessert, and summer activities. Good times.

    I made us some Buttermilk waffles topped with roasted pecans and blueberries with some fresh maple syrup we got from the farmers market.

    Visiting the sculpture garden at the Walker Art Center. You can kind of see that these trees have chimes hanging all throughout the area. If you sit under them and close your eyes it's a real relaxing and dreamy type sound that relaxes you to the core.

    On the second day we decided to hit the beach. It was about 93ºF so it was perfect. First we went to the farmers market so we could get all the ingredients necessary for Mojitos. After that we went canoeing on the lakes, had an awesome dinner grilling kebabs, and chilled out for the rest of the night with beer and good times.

    This was a long one. The next time we visit it will probably be in Boston. Can't wait.

    - B

  • Farren & Nathan

    I'm really excited for these two. They will be joining in marriage come October. I've known Farren for just over a year now from a show called "Art In The Park" that my cousin hosts down in Harlan, Iowa. We both come and sell at her shows, so It's a good chance to see each other and meet. It was the perfect time to sneak in some engagement photos. We had beautiful weather for it. The day couldn't have been any better.

    I'm honored to be their photographer for the wedding. Four months and counting!

    It's gonna be good :]

    - B

  • Little Man Is Done With Kindergarden

    My little brother just graduated from Kindergarden. I attended his graduation the other night with the rest of the family. Everyones schedule is kind of all over the place, so it's rare we can all get together like this. I try to make it out to the parents place, but it doesn't happen as often as I would like it to. It was great to see everyone, and amazing how much my brother has grown in the past year.

    They got dressed up in capn' gown, got certificates, did the walk, etc. I don't remember ever doing stuff like this at the end of of Kindergarden. At the end they blasted some kid friendly dance music and ran out of the place jumping and flailing. Cute, and funny.

    Family <3

    Gramps treated us to frozen yogurt after the ceremony.

    Young wise one.

    Mom

    The boy was pretty tired after everything. This has to be the most adorable picture I've seen of the guy.

    - B

  • Grilling Season

    It's here! That wonderful time of year to go outside and man the grill to cook up some delicious eats. We meet with some friends of ours every week and switch off who does dinner and who does the desserts/beverages. This week it was their go at dinner. Build your own kebabs! 


    For drinks we prepared some Mint Limeade

    Find the recipe here


    For dessert we made Pavlova
    Find the recipe here
    - B
  • The Drive In Theatre

    That they do. I have never been to one, until today. Last year Anna and I were going to go to one, but before we knew it, winter was here. 

    The lineup was: The Avengers, Battleship, and then the Chernobyl Diaries

    We were awake for all of The Avengers, then half of Battleship (fell asleep because it was that terrible, in my opinion), and we woke up and left at about 3am, which was probably about 20-30 minutes into Chernobl Diaries.

    All in all, it was worth the 8 bucks. It's the experience of a Drive In that counts.

    Dinner was an Apple Pecan Salad w/Goat Cheese.

    - B

  • Three Years Of Westerns And Counting

    2010, the travel bug hits

    It was my first time camping outside of my backyard.  I had never been to a national park, nor had I ever taken hikes in areas as vast as where we had gone.  This trip was with my friend, Luke, who is always up for adventure and the best friend a guy could have when a drastic change in life calls for a getaway.  With less than a weeks notice of the trip, we had our bags packed and head out west for a week.  Overwhelmed by the beauty, I was compelled to continue my travels and photograph as much of the world as possible.

    2011 - Travel and exploration had become a needed fix to keep sane...

    When I came home in 2010, I needed to surround myself with people, and reconnecting with old friends was my priority.  This also led to new friends, one of which accompanied me on the 2011 Western trip.  Her name was EV.  We had met late in the summer of 2010 and talked about the idea of a road trip.  So, if she was able to save up money, I would do the same and we would travel out west a year later.  We met with each other every Thursday up to the day of the trip to stay connected.  The anticipation leading up to the trip was intense.  I had put in nearly 300 days of work, no days off, usually working midnight to noon, and then having another 4 hour shift in the afternoon at a bagel shop down the road.  This drove me into the ground, and I had put in my notice for my last day to be the week before the trip.

    2012 - Travel, Love, Life.  They all connect.

    Before I left on my trip in 2011, I had met a girl.  Her name is, Anna. Many of you have come to recognize her through my 358 project, and also in continued aftermath photos.  During the past year, I would always tell Anna how beautiful it is out west and rant about Glacier (it's been my favorite so far).  I can't remember when we planned our trip, but it worked out perfect, as Anna's spring break from college had been during the week of my birthday.  We thought, "perfect," and made March 9th - 18th designated time for travel.  

    A batch of photos only posted here:

    Anna had found out she didn't have to work, so we left a day earlier in the afternoon and made it to Western Iowa, where my cousin, Kris, let us stay for the night.  She's a huge supporter of the arts, and hosts two art shows a year, always having me come set up.

    Heading out from Iowa, the first major stretch was through Nebraska.  For anyone that has been through Nebraska, you know why it's a "major stretch."  It's about a 430mile stretch of nothingness.  The speed limit jumps from 70 to 75, and the only towns are north or south of the highway about an extra 5 - 10 miles.

    Our first stop was Arches National Park.  This was a first time for Anna, both national park and out west.

    Quite the awesome site to walk out of your tent to.  (Monument Valley)

    The drive alone has such wonderous and vast views.

    We are talking about going to the Pacific Northwest (Washington) come this summer.  Olympic National Park will be the main destination, and you can't forget about stopping in Seattle for the coffee scene ;]

    - B

  • Substitute Valentines Day

    If you're one of the many unfortunate people that had to work on this day (like me), chances are you may have flipped things around and did stuff for it on your day off.  However, that's not to say we didn't do anything tonight.  I did get off work early and managed to get home with enough time to buy a rose, write a card, and crack a bottle of wine to go with the homemade Dulce De Leche Cheesecake I made (derived from smitten kitchen.  How we love her site)

    We celebrated this weekend with one of my days off.  You could say, "a day of indulgence," which it very much was (who says you can't eat desserts 2, 3, or even more times in a day).

    In the morning we attended a yoga class.  As my health insurance is no more, I need to find other means of keeping my muscles and body in some sort of good shape.  I could do it on my own, but what's the fun in that? 

    I've never done a class or, "session," in anything like this before.  So to sit in with 7 other people doing these kinds of things was a little bit intimidating at first.  Good thing I had a spot in the very back of the room ;]  Every now and then I had to do a quick look around to make sure I was doing things correctly.  Very relaxing and very mind numbing (in a good way), it seems to be a good thing to keep doing.  The community college up the road from us has a yoga class, and we're going to audit it.  Thursday mornings, you're booked for yoga!

    Following Yoga was lunch.  We had a list of potential places to go, and what better place than a Cheese Shop!

    With a great viee on cheese, France 44 Cheese Shop, is a must to visit.  They had everything from Chocolates, Oils, Sandwiches, house sauces and spreads...bah!  Overwhelmed.  I wanted it all. They also set up an area where you could fill up your own bottle of oil to bring home:

    Note to self:  Need Olive Oil.  Always running out.  I'm currently buying small $1 size glass containers of Olive Oil from the Grocery down the road.  I think we manage 2 - 3 nights of cooking with the amount that's in it.  Enough of that though.

    Sandwiches.  For the love of...sandwiches.  What we got was fresh Ciabatta (I think it was Ciabatta) topped w/mozzarella, tomato-garlic confit, greens. Delicious (so delicious, that the next day I made my own tomato-garlic confit to go on our sandwiches for dinner).

    Tea anyone?

    We were.  The only unfortunate part is that they were out of pearls.  It happens though.  So we put aside the milk tea craving for another day and let chai take hold.  It made more sense to get some chai, as it was 0ºF with windchill (that's my guess, but I am an ice cube in any temp).

    Back to the 60s now:

    hi, Pola <3 em="">

    Oh, Mr. Rogers.  The many mornings I spent watching your show.  Then, to find you here.  Awesome.

    We went to the 1968 Exhibit that is currently on display at the Minnesota History Center  It's examined as a pivotal year in American History.  More about everything on the site, but it's all that jazz.  The place was packed.  I guess if it was a year that I was alive, I would be at the exhibit to reminisce and take a look back at everything that happened during one of the years of my being alive.  Kinda makes you wonder, what's going to be up on display 50 years into our future?

    Long walks in museum = coffee pick me up time.

    Pour over, how I love thee.

    We stopped by kopplins in St. Paul.  I hear tons of people talk about this place, but have not yet had the chance to experience it.  This was also the first place I have ever been table to try a cup of Kenya.  I think I was so caught up in the moment that I forgot to take note of what I thought about it.  

    Dinner consisted of a 3 course meal at Cup-Cake.  We were really only there for the red wine soaked pears and the ginger cupcake ;]  After dinner we went to watch the Oscar Nominated Short Films in "action." My 3 cheers are for, Norway.

    - B

    (more valentines fun and Dulce De Leche Cheesecake Squares recipe on the next post, here)

  • Round 2: Jhermayne, Kamani, and Iisiah

    It happened sooner than I thought! 

    The gang for the afternoon

    We met up to take some photos at the Walker Art Center's Sculpture Garden.  It turned out to be a snowy and gray day, so location turned out perfect with heat, beautiful colors, and a great space.

    Here are some of my favorites (outtakes included):

    After an hour or so of Kamani, we switched gears and photographed a bit of Iisiah and Jhermayne:

    Needless to say, I've definitely been broadening my horizons lately.

    I've been a bit behind on posts and edits lately.  Just getting around to catching up.  Lots of changes and fun things have been going on, along with opportunities that have been popping up left and right.

    Things are good :] 

    - B

  • Caribou Supports The Special Olympics

    Caribou this weekend is a proud supporter of the Special Olympics. We are helping out by providing the glorious substance we call, "coffee."  For today and tomorrow, myself and other wonderful individuals in the world of Caribou will be serving coffee at Breck school, who is hosting the Poly Hockey State Tournament.

    I always read and see visuals about what the company I work for does, and the involvement we have in the community.  To actually be part of it is pretty awesome.

    Mmk.  Poly Hockey.  To be honest, I wasn't exactly sure what it was until I took some time to witness the event.  Then it clicked.  It was what we called, "floor hockey," when I was in school.  It was my favorite thing in the world.  Every Phy. Ed period during elementary and early middle school I would hope that we would play.  I actually had a swelling feeling inside and a slight urge to play again.  I like this sport.

    Goalie was always my most feared position.  I was little though.  I think it was possibility of getting hit in the face.  I've been scarred ever since I got hit in the face with a golfball.  My fault entirely though.  I stood in front of my friend in 3rd grade and said, "I bet you can't hit that golfball."  No treats or money in exchange.  Just gloating rights.  Well, you can guess what happened.  He managed to hit it, and that would mark my third black eye in two week period of time (I have stairs and a baseball to blame for the other two)

    These guys played hard today.  They even had me cheering on the side lines.  No team specifically.  Everyone deserves some cheering, right?  Fun for everyone.

    After watching some Poly Hockey, I got myself back to the stand to serve some coffee.  I met this friendly fellow:

    I didn't get his name unfortunately, but, he did manage to strike my interest highly when he showed me the Contax Zeiss lens he had with an adaptable mount for Canon EOS.  I even got a chance to play with it.  Though, I don't feel I took the time I should have when he let me mount it on my body and take a few shots.  The one that did turn out though, wow.  So crisp.  In comparison to the EF 50 1.4, the sharpness is just...wow.  Like a true film sensation with a digital sensor.  

    I want that lens for myself.

    In the last hour I had a little bit of fun with displaying our coffee.  I made the triforce from Zelda,  I made a large 'C' out of cups, and I took a candid shot of Steph.  Only two though.  Only one made the cut, because I'm picky ;]

    Hi, Steph! :D

    Awesome good times.

    - B

  • Jhermayne and Kamani

    Had a fun little shoot with a buddy of mine I work with and his daughter that is 3 years of age now:

    Jhermayne and Kamani

    I've never sat down with another human and taken shots in a studio like fashion (except for that slack class of a graphic design course I had in high school, when all we would do is screw around, and come to eventually blew up a strobe, getting us kicked out of the studio area).  Natural light is my friend, and spontaneity is a common theme to most portraits I have ever taken.  My method of portraits stem from two things:  1)  My inability to direct and tell people what to do, along with the fear of not being able to accomplish the task, and 2)  My thoughts of capturing who the person is from spontaneity (which explains why my camera is plastered to my face, but, can't miss a moment).  So, I am pushing myself to get out there and accomplish what I know I can do, while ignoring that dreadful, "I can't," thought.

    We all start somewhere.  It's a matter of keeping at it.  This really was a fun shoot to do.  Anna hung out at Caribou until I got off of work to help (she's awesome with kids), and Jhermayne brought his daughter, Kamani, to meet us there. We chilled for an hour or so, playing, letting the little one drink her hot chocolate and pick at a cookie (which eventually became Jhermaynes), all while snapping shots.  Kamani, just being her.  She was shy at first, but eventually warmed up and kept wanting to pose and take pictures once she learned what i was doing with that contraption of glass, plastic, and metal in front of muh face.

    :]

    I think we are going to keep updating pictures when months go by and Jhermayne picks up outfits for her.  A fun way to watch her grow too.  Looking forward to it.

    - B

  • It's really done?

    Yeah.  358 days went by so quickly. So we go out with a bang...kinda.

    358/358

    Folder statistics:

    - 81.87GB worth of space
    - 19,421 photos taken
    - 721 photos uploaded
    - 358 folders created

    (this is the spot where I start to reminisce, right?)

    Wow. I almost feel lost now that it's done. It's been quite a year. So much has happened. Road trips, car accident(s), hospitalization, found love, my puppy, exploring the culinary world, the holidays, in and out of jobs, etc. Pretty damn eventful. Looking back is quite a trip. I went from taking little or no photos to taking photos everyday. My love of photography and my dedication to the art returned in full swing, even before I finished the project. It took me a month worth of images to figure that one out.

    For anyone thinking about starting this up, do it. Especially if you've never attempted it and have thought about it. Yes, a lot of people have done this. That doesn't mean you can't make it your own. We all have lives worth documenting. Whether it be your morning breakfast, a daily portrait, journalism in other countries, pets, travels, etc. Go for it :]

    So.  What next?  

    I really want to put everything into a book.  That's a start to keeping me busy.  I'd really love to see everything in a physical hard bound copy. Mmm.  Tangible work.

    "All the worlds a stage", and, "we are the artists"


  • Rural Minnesota: Abandoned Goodies

    Exploring rural areas has become kind of a lost concept to me.  I used to do this all the time during my teen years when all I had to get around were my own two feet.  So, yesterday I tried exploring.  Driving aimlessly through the backroads of Minnesota, it was harder than I thought to find anything of interest.  I managed to come out with a spots though.

    1st stop:

    2nd stop:

    everything decays

    mirror remnants on the walls

    creepy attics

    welcome home


    - B

  • Abandoned Cathedral - Gary, IN

    How it came to be:

    Erected in 1926, this structure was built not only to be a church, but a place where the community could gather as well (gardens, a community center, banquet halls, a motion picture booth, etc)

    In the 1960s, the congregation of the church could no longer afford the upkeep.  It was decided in 1974 that it would be closed off and sold.

    1997:  The church was badly damaged in a fire.

    Present:  "One architect has offered plans to turn the church into a "ruins garden" like those found in Europe."

    Abandoned Cathedral:  City Methodist Church - Gary, Indiana

    Often times when I find a beautiful wreck like this and try to find where it's located, I have no luck.  It's easy enough to google, but to save a step for anyone looking, here's the address:

    577 Washington St - Gary, Indiana

    Now, the visual tour of the place:



    - B

  • Giving thanks

    Anna and I went to visit her some of her family in Indianapolis, as well as celebrate the holiday with some awesome people.  

    Feast on pixels these pixels:

    Set up

    Anna and I made stuffing for the feast.  Apples, pecans, cranberries, white wine, veggie broth, sage, parsley, chives, onion, salt, p;epper, diced rye bread, let sit for some hours, and put in the oven for 45min.

    1st up:  French Onion Soup.  

    Pie, Salad, Pumpkin Roll, Sweet Potatoes.

    Finishing up the first course.

    Branching out and trying Duck for the first time.  It was delicious.



    - B

  • Birthday weekend with Anna (day 3).

    Birthday coffees and Chinatown

    Espresso, courtesy of Intelligentsia Coffee.  Best espresso I've ever had.  So smooth.  It tasted of brown sugar and sunshine.  Even 3 hours later (when I should be sick of the aftertaste, I was left wanting more.

    It was a double header for coffee.  Caribou has a birthday drink you get for free, so we went there first for breakfast and coffee,  but then ended up not finishing our drinks, so went around the corner to Intelligentsia.  Just can't get away from that place.  Definitely not complaining though ;]  

    Happy birthday, love!

    Anna has spent good portion of life living in China, and it's a huge part of who she is today.  So, what better place than to spend a day in Chinatown.  It's not the same, agreed, but if I can get as close to it as possible, then yes, lets go. 


    First things first.  We had some amazing Milk Tea from one of the first places I ate at here.  Joy Yee Noodle.

    Milk tea & Coconut Milk Tea

    The abundance of shops to gander around in are a must.  So that's where we started.  Found some awesome Panda shirst, a watch or two, some pendents from Final Fantasy to indulge my nerdy self, all of which weren't bought because of how much I don't need some of the things, and sizing issues.  No xs in mens and no Large in kids = SOL for Bryant.  We did however come across a lot of stuff Anna loves in the markets down here.  Dried dates, a certain Iced Tea that is really hard to find, Pomellos, some herbs, etc.

    Dinner tonight was Si Chuan styled food.

    They brought out some spiced cabbage for an appetizer kinda thing, along with a pot of tea, and later our order consisted of Si Chuan styled green beans, and if I remember correctly, Cumin rubbed lamb?  Something like that.  Delicious none the less.

    Leaving is always hard.  Half because it was our vacation and a small getaway, and half because of my past schooling and friends I've come to know.  Both cities have so much to offer on different scales.  Always happy to be from Minnesota though.

    - B

  • Birthday weekend with Anna (day 2).

    Good morning, Chicago:

    The morning is never complete without coffee:

    For attractions, we started out with the bean in Millenium Park:

    Following the bean, we head over to what is formerly knows as, Sears Tower.  It's now Willis Tower.  They built those sweet glass balcony type things extending over the edge of the tower so you're standing out and looking down at the city below your feet.  Love it.  We stood in line for about an hour and a half to get to the top.  What was mind boggling is that you think one line is done, and you just end up right back in another one after transferring to a new room, with yet, another line.  Awesome.  Worth it though.

    Afterward, we took a gander to the North side of Chicago to visit threadless' retail store.  Good stuff.  

    With bellies full, we took a walk on the Navy Pier and went on the Ferris Wheel.  Haven't been on one of these things in forever:

    Desert to end the night?  I think so :]

    - B 

  • Birthday weekend with Anna (day 1).

    Photo of the weekend  *drum roll*...

    There are a long chain of photos that act as a .GIF of this guy running at the Geese.  Hilarious though.  Such determination.


    Chicago:  The Windy City

    Anna's 20th was this weekend, so we decided to take a trip to Chicago for a little vacation, and to see a good friend of mine.

    How do you travel on a budget?  I'm sure there are many ways.  To us, it's Megabus.  Some people may cringe at the thought of taking it, since there are some horror stories floating around out there, but I've never had a problem with it.  It just sucks to sleep on.

    Rates start at $1 depending on how early you get around to booking.  Come on.  Who wouldn't take that? 


    We managed to stay fairly busy.  I don't see myself as the best tour guide or planner, but we managed fairly well.  Above everything though, food was a priority.  We started off with a popular restaurant called, Portillo's.  They serve Hot dogs, burgers, cheap eats in one line, and in another, they serve pasta, salads, pizza, etc.  Despite it's popular name, it's a fun place to experience.  The employees are all very charasmatic and outgoing, and most importantly, they serve good eats.

    Portillos:  Chicago Dog (onions, relish, spear pickle, sports peppers, ketchup, -mustard.  Never been a huge fan of mustard)

    Nourishment?  Check.  Half the locations I know are from growing up and taking trips with the 'rents.  The Shedd Aquarium is on that list of locations.  Full of aquatics and creatures that dwell in lakes, oceans, riverways, etcetera, it's a fun place to go through.  You think it wouldn't take an hour or two to walk through the place, but it really does.  You kind of get sucked in to all the neat stuff they have swimming around, and that's just general admission.

    Turtle battle! 

    Of course, a day would not be complete without going to Dinner. We went out with Yoahn and his friend, Dima, that is visiting from Boston.  Our plan was to indulge in Dim Sum, but they weren't serving it.  We decided to delve into other entrees (eggplant, tofu, peppers, etc).

    Yoahn, just being awesome.

    Dima, a pleasure to meet you.

    Well hello there, familiar one. :]


    - B