The Year Of Spontaneous Adventures – Part I (San Diego Spring)

As many of you know, we took a lot of trips in the year 2013. While a few were much anticipated and expected (a wedding in September), most of them were unplanned and slightly spur of the moment. We ended up taking a total of SIX major trips in the year 2013! I had intended to write them all down synopsis style in Christmas-letter form. I even had the letter all organized in my head, grouping our trips by season and everything. Come the first week of December, the pressure of graduate school applications weighed heavily upon me, and the looming due dates meant that the dream of finally putting together a Christmas Newman Newsletter never materialized. Thus, I decided that chronicling our 2013 adventures would become part of my inspiration for blogging on a more regular basis in 2014.

So here I am, ready to blog. The nice thing about a blog is that I show WAY more pictures of said adventures with you than I ever could with a Christmas letter. And, to those who read my blog who may not have received a Christmas letter due to postage costs, you lucked out! So, without further ado, I bring you the first Spontaneous Adventure of the House Newman!

San Diego Spring (aka California Dreamin’)

To those of us in Minnesota who are sick of snow and ice, let me remind you that the last major blizzard of 2013 was May 2. As a girl from Africa, this was too much for me. Perusing flight deals one night, Zach chanced upon a fabulous deal on two plane tickets to San Diego. A quick phone call and a (few) hundred dollars later, we were on our way to San Diego to visit Zach’s dad, Keith, and his girlfriend Karen for Memorial Day weekend. Being spur of the moment, we unfortunately could not take a few more days, having rationed out (my) vacation for the rest of the year already at this point (more on that in posts to come…).

Despite the brevity, the sunshine and perpetual 75-degree weather was just the balm to soothe the harshness of a Minnesota winter that wouldn’t let go. Adventures included trips to several of Keith and Karen’s favourite culinary haunts, a mandatory visit to Stone Brewery World Bistro & Gardens, and a surprise adventure to the San Diego Zoo’s Safari Park. Unlike the regular zoo, the Safari Park is closer to Escondido and is home to many of my familiar African friends — wildebeest, impalas, Thomson’s gazelles, elephants (African ones!), rhinos, lions and cheetahs (oh my!). It was like going home, complete with the beating sun and acacia trees. We also got to see a cheetah run full tilt (70 mph) after a stuffed bunny that was hooked up to a car winch. As something you rarely get to see in a real safari park, that was pretty exhilarating.

Unfortunately, this trip was only three days, so I can only give you the highlight pics from our safari and trip to Stone (you don’t want to see my 50 or so badly shot photos anyway). We are also horrible about taking pictures with people in them, so apologies to the parents (and in advance for all the posts to come).

A San Diego Safari In Spring

Wait, where am I?

Wait, where am I?




It's siesta time at the wild game park.

It’s siesta time at the wild game park.

IMG_1831a IMG_1830a

Please notice the lion sleeping IN the land rover.

Please notice the lion sleeping IN the land rover.


The cheetah, his handler, and his companion dog.

The cheetah, his handler, and his companion dog.

The hot air balloon we did not take.

The hot air balloon we did not take.

Stone Brewery Tour

Stone Brewery - hops are a plant, did you know?

Stone Brewery – hops are a plant, did you know?


Apparently they employ penguins.

Apparently they employ penguins.

Bourbon barrels for infusing flavor.

Bourbon barrels for infusing flavor.


Adventures in Paleo (aka A Newman New Year)

I’m not one of those people who takes pictures of my food. I mean, it really has to be spectacular for me to whip out my phone and take a picture of it. So, for those who clicked on my link to see a picture of my amazing paleo cooking skills this evening, I regret to inform you that no such pictures exist.

What this post does contain, however, is a pseudo-New Year’s update on the Newmans, and one of those New Year’s things is that we’re trying out being somewhat paleo. For those who do not know, the “paleo diet” is one in which you restrict what you eat to whole and natural foods that you would likely eat if you were a caveman (or woman). That means — NO grains, NO dairy, NO processed foods. (Here’s a link to a blog called NerdFitness that explains it better than me that I found when I was researching this latest diet phenomenon during my Christmas vacation.)

Now, we’re being somewhat paleo, meaning that we are still eating dairy (I cannot live without a little cheese and Greek yogurt in my life), and we don’t eat paleo on the weekends. Call us cheaters if you must, but I feel like life changes happen best in small increments than in drastic shifts. At least for me. I’ve also committed to trying this diet and time table for January/February.

Why small increments? It’s in part due to a recent article I read around the New Year about the failure of setting goals. (For those of you who missed it on my Facebook – if anyone who reads this doesn’t also see my stuff on Facebook – here you go: Forget Setting Goals. Focus on This Instead). The article talks about the importance of changing personal systems as opposed to setting goals. Now, I slightly disagree with this article in that I feel that goals are still important. Without a goal, what is the purpose of changing your systems? However, as someone with “Achiever” in my top 5 StrengthsFinder results, whenever I set a goal it goes like this: Exhilaration! Motivation! Winning at life! But about a week or so after the novelty has worn off (and I few excuses are made here and there), it quickly becomes: Arduous. Guilt-driven. Defeating.

So this year I’m focusing on changing my systems. And one of those systems is eating too many carbs and letting life get in the way of my exercise routine. Specifically, the two systems I’m working on this month and next are:

  1. Working out whenever I go into the office to work — no excuses.
  2. Reducing my carb intake by focusing on eating paleo.

The good news is that I’ve already lost three pounds, which is exciting! The bad news is that I’ve only lost three pounds. But it’s a start. It’s probably because we’re cheating by not being paleo on the weekend, but I’m not after immediate, drastic results. I’m after changing my old normal — which was to eat whatever I wanted whenever and only go to the gym when I felt like it — to a new(er) normal of making meals at home and working exercise back into a weekly habit.

I’m also a big believer in easing yourself into diets (hence the necessity of keeping cheese in the diet. At least the stuff we buy is made with skim milk). If putting a bit of chunky peanut butter on my celery sticks will make me actually choose celery sticks over chips and guac for a snack, I think it’s worth it. Keeping all those bad foods out of the house is good too.

So, back to my adventure in paleo for this evening. I am a rare Pinterest-er, despite my many friends who routinely use its boards for planning life and meals and crafts (I still have trouble understanding the whole “pinning” to boards thing. I just don’t get the appeal, ok?). But I found this recipe for Walnut Pesto Chicken there, and it was delish. It also had the bonus feature of conveniently using up the rest of the frozen pesto from my freezer that was loving made with the last of our CSA basil, which reminded me of summer and how wonderful it was when I didn’t have to wear finger gloves while I working in my home office (this feature in addition to running my birthday-gift space heater at my feet).

I also roasted some brussel sprouts in olive oil, salt and garlic. That was also delish. The whole meal was carb-free. Take that.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that I’ve been meaning to write an update since last June, but it hasn’t happened because it was a self-defeating goal. Now I’m striving for systemic change by blogging more regularly. I say that every time I post on here, but this time I mean it. 🙂 It’s about changing systems, so the new system is posting the blog at least twice a month so you all know what we’re doing with life.

And for those of you who read the recipe, yes, I did add the Parmesan cheese. 🙂

Summer Ready

We are summer ready! The day started with some lovely sunshine and coffee time on the porch, where we creeped on people walking on Grand, unaware that we were studiously observing their every move. We also watched two different cars try to parallel park, as well as a peddle-a-pub, which actually managed to successfully parallel park in front of Punch Pizza. We applauded.

Then, we took down our long-standing icicle lights from the porch, remnants of Christmas, and rebulbed restrung and re-globed our Chinese lanterns and hung them in their stead. That’s been on my to-do list since the temperature first crested over 60 degrees about a month ago. June 01 is close enough, yeah?

If that summer fun wasn’t enough, we then proceeded to pot our herbs, which have been sitting in a bag in the dining room for about 3 weeks. Did you know oregano seeds are so small they come in a sachet inside of a sachet?? We didn’t either. Oregano also apparently takes 90-200 days to grow before harvest, so, depending on our gardening abilities, we may see our first crop sometime next spring.

We also made homemade coleslaw and red sangria in preparation for grilling out with good friends this evening, and then, on a whim, I decided to complete our summer preparations by making lemon-lime bars. Nothing says summer like citrus-y treats!

Incidentally, I’m probably also feeling that we’re summer ready because we FINALLY found – and agreed upon  – a lighter-weight summer quilt for our bed at Target last night. When I got married, I was under the impression that men didn’t really care about decorating or home design. That was a fallacious assumption, I have since found. Don’t get me wrong — I do do most of the decorating around here, and mostly my creations are approved with a “That looks nice” or a “I don’t have an opinion,” but apparently bedspreads do not fall into those two categories. Without central air this summer, though, it will be nice to rid ourselves of the faux-down comforter for the season.

All of this to say, our house has been “summerized” despite the threatening rain clouds this afternoon.  Bring on the sunshine!


We’re Alive!

So when we said the “future home” of all our doings, we meant the future as in over a year later. However, seeing as this is the year of vacations — we are taking approximately six or seven in 2013 — I knew it was time to revive the blog with a promise to get better at updating. At least, when we have fun pictures to share.

A quick update on us:

  • Zach just finished his Human Biology course at Bethel — and while unofficial yet until his final is graded, we’re fairly certain he is an ‘A’ student.
  • Why is Zach taking Human Bio? He is considering a career in social work — specifically with regard to connecting people with needed services and/or public policy (lest you think social work is all about counseling or custody intervention). Consequently, most Masters of Social Work programs require a documented study of human biology – perhaps it may come in handy.
  • I (Kaari) am also considering grad school — probably more along the PhD route in Comparative Literature. And before you ask, yes, I will likely pursue university-level teaching as a career.
  • I took my GRE at the end of April, and hoping my scores are “ok” enough. It’s tough to determine when most schools’ websites say (in various tactful ways), “Yes, we require the GRE. No, we do not have a minimum score, but consider it in the context of the rest of your application.” Translation: We require the GRE because we can, and we really care more about your other application materials unless it becomes a life-and-death decision between you and another candidate.

This is most likely what you’ll hear us talk about if you ask us how we’re doing. Or, we’ll tell you about all the great restaurants we’ve ate at the last few weeks. As budding Twin Cities “foodies,” trying new places and shunning chain restaurants where possible is becoming kind of a hobby of ours. Last week we tried hibachi at Wasabi Fusion. I have never done it, and though it was quite steamy around the grill, the food was delicious!

Also, the spring decided to make a brief stop and then skip right on into summer, but then return. Last Tuesday, it was 90 degrees. Today, it was 65. Three weeks ago, it was snowing. So I guess you technically might call this the season of sum-ring-ter — or something.