2021 Year in Review

Friends and family,

Merry Christmas! Wow, what a year. While we all continued to cope with life in a pandemic, there were still many moments that made us smile, learn and grow. Here are a few highlights from our year.

Our Wedding

On July 31, 2021, we tied the knot in a small, rooftop ceremony near downtown Denver. We are so grateful to the friends and family that made the trip out here to be with us on our special day.

We took pictures at Cheeseman Park — just before our ceremony and unexpected rain! | Photo credit: Nick Sparks Photography.

Mother Nature had other plans in store and gifted us with a downpour just as we arrived at the venue after taking pictures in the park. Needless to say, our guests arrived wet, and we delayed and moved the ceremony to the covered area of the roof. Despite it, we had an amazing time celebrating with loved ones. After all, we had drinks, delicious desserts and pizza to warm our spirits, and plenty of love to fill our hearts.

We had planned to have our ceremony facing the mountains on the other end of the roof, but thankfully our venue had some coverings on the other side. | Photo credit: Nick Sparks Photography.

We haven’t planned a honeymoon yet, but plan to go somewhere international once travel has opened up more. And we hope to make it to Minnesota for another reception soon!

Time with Family

The pandemic prevented us from seeing friends and family as much as we had hoped, but a few friends were able to visit us in Denver throughout the year, and at our wedding. This past fall, we finally traveled together again, first to Iowa in October where Amanda’s cousin got married.

In Iowa with Amanda’s aunt and uncle before her cousin’s wedding. A lovely weekend with lovely people
— and the best scalloped potatoes that Amanda won’t stop talking about.

Then, we road tripped to Indiana for Thanksgiving where Dick was finally able to meet Amanda’s family and another childhood friend. While we were there, we visited the Studebaker museum to learn about South Bend’s history and involvement in the auto industry.

The Cats

We now have three kitties living with us in our Denver apartment. Harvey and Stanley were both adopted in 2020, and in May 2021, we added Letty to our family.

The boys meeting Letty for the first time. Lots of sniffing was in order.

Letty is the little gray kitten, and she fits right in with the boys. She and Stanley love to play and tumble around the apartment together while Harvey observes the action from afar.

Last year, Stanley was diagnosed with a fatal disease called FIP, and we didn’t think he would make it past kittenhood. But thanks to an experimental treatment and a wonderfully supportive vet, he made it! After three months of daily medicine last summer and fall, he became cured in February of this year.

Letty and Stanley have become the best of friends.

We look forward to throwing him a cured anniversary party this year, shortly before Letty turns 1 and gets to wear her brothers’ hand-me-down party hat.

Our Work

In May, Amanda began a new job working from home as an editor of a b2b automotive magazine. She loves being able to spend all day with the kitties, and we’re lucky that our apartment has a built-in office nook just off of the kitchen — which means easy access to coffee and a commute that can’t be beat. Three trade shows took her to Las Vegas, Pittsburgh and San Jose.

Amanda introducing speakers on stage at one conference in Las Vegas. | Photo credit: Ross Stewart, RM3 Photography.

Dick is still working as a field engineer for an environmental measurement company, and has traveled quite a bit this year. He even climbed his first wind turbine after many years working in wind energy. Jobs took him all over the continental U.S. and even to the Bahamas, Aruba, Hawaii and Alaska. Some locations were beautiful, but unfortunate to travel to when much of it was still closed.

The first climb up a turbine.

For Fun

When we weren’t working, we laid pretty low for most of the year, though we did get in a couple day trips around Colorado, and had a few meals and game nights with friends.

Another visit to Mount Evans — the highest paved road in the U.S. and home to goats and other furry critters!

Amanda had plenty of time to catch up on reading, puzzling and rewatching the Golden Girls and The Circle.

Dick likes to cook and showed off a few of his skills when making homemade pasta for bolognese and ravioli, and using the sous-vide for homemade ice cream. He was excited when a new Nashville hot chicken joint opened up in our neighborhood, in walking distance from our apartment.

Dick found a waterfall on a day off in Hawaii.

Cheers to the New Year

We are looking forward to 2022 and crossing our fingers that the world health situation improves so we can travel again and see more of our friends and family. If you’re ever in Denver or want to visit, our guest room is always open to a friendly face — just make sure you’re not allergic to cats!

With much love,

Dick & Amanda

One last highlight: Amanda shared this photo of Stanley in a Facebook group, and got over 1,000 likes. We are taking applications for his agent now that he’s gone viral.

That Wall You’re Hitting? It Might Be Growth in Disguise.

If you’re like me, you’ve had plenty of moments where you were ready to throw in the towel. You felt like you were failing, no one cared, the challenges you were facing were too steep to continue trudging through.

That feeling has been prevalent in many aspects of my life over the past few years. In some of those situations, what once felt insurmountable, somehow ended beautifully.

Truth be told, I tried to give up. But it didn’t work. The universe stepped in and wouldn’t let me walk away, try as I might. Now, in retrospect, I am so glad I stayed where I was.

Because what I learned is that sometimes that struggle is trying to teach you something. For whatever reason, you’re not supposed to move on … yet.

If you can stick it out, bear through the pain, you probably will come out the other side better. Yes, you might have some bruises and cuts, but they will heal eventually (pro tip: therapy is an amazing way to seek healing).

And one day — whether that day is tomorrow, next month or even next year — you’ll suddenly realize what that moment was trying to teach you. You finally “get it.”

That moment is often worth sticking around for.

I Wrote an Obituary for My Cat

When my faithful feline companion of over 13 years passed away recently, I couldn’t stay silent. I just had to acknowledge his life, his death, and my deep love for my special cat. The first thing I thought of was to write an obituary for him. While words can’t express how much Captain meant to me, and how deep I felt his loss, it was all I could do to share his story with the world.

I wrote two versions. The first was just a Facebook post for family and friends. But it didn’t feel like enough. A shorter version was then shared and posted with my former local newspaper.


The First Version

Captain, a cat with sass and an old-man at heart even as a young lad, passed away on Sunday, December 15, 2019, from kidney failure.

He was probably born somewhere in the Minnesota-North Dakota region in the early 2000s. His first few years of life are a bit of a mystery, but his journey lead him to a Humane Society and a little box in the Fargo PetSmart where his soon-to-be-mom fell in love with the feline who pawed at her from his window and leapt out for their first meeting. And so he went home with two college gals needing the company of a cat in their first apartment.

For the past 13-plus years, Captain brought much joy to his mother’s life—and only a little bit of stress like when he ate one pet fish, and later when his health was beginning to decline.

Captain was the cutest, most regal grump you could meet. He would often literally turn his back to you with displeasure for a multitude of reasons ranging from a late meal feeding to leaving too long on vacation.

He was intelligent. Without fail, he would stand at the ready moments before his 10 p.m. auto feeder dispersed his evening snack. His bathroom habits were immaculate, and he was a tidy boy.

Many were impressed with his voracious appetite. Treats were devoured with tenacity. Captain had a special affinity for cheese, and would run from any corner of the house at simply the sound of a bag of shreds coming out of the fridge. He was clever and cunning too, sometimes swiping food from people’s hands if they looked away for one moment.

Captain didn’t fancy toys much, but he sure did like catnip. Yeeoow! bananas were sure to be licked, loved, and kicked to death.

He practiced regular cardboard scratching, couch lounging, and sunning. He loved watching people on the toilet and rubbing on their legs for pets. Chin scratches were his favorite.

Captain was an inquisitive soul, and he showed no fear. He explored new environments with curiosity and on occasion escaped out an open door. One day he even ran through the MSUM campus when he was illegally brought into the CMU for production night of the school newspaper, in which he was a star mascot – Captain Advo. More recently, he was a champ on a two-day drive to Denver, where his home has been for the last six months.

Every adventure came with even more naps though. He was never far from the couch or bed and often provided morning snuggles. It was a true treat when he chose your lap on which to lay.

This handsome boy will be sorely missed, and never forgotten.

Captain is survived by his adoptive mother Amanda (and Dick), his sister Little Girl, and loads of others who gave him pets and love throughout the years. He is preceded in death by his canine brother Brick.

Please consider donating to your local humane society or cat rescue group in Captain’s honor so more special pets can find their forever homes.

Rest in peace, sweet Captain.


The Forum obit

captain forum obit

On Moving On

Hindsight sure is 20/20.

Looking back, I never thought I would be a divorcee. Or childless at 32. Or figuring out how to find myself, love myself and what to do with my life after being in a relationship for over a decade.

Sure, I was bothered by those things for awhile. But I’ve come to accept and embrace them. They’re facts. Bullet points on my biography. Things that makes up my story, but also aren’t my identity.

Because there is so much life left to live. So much more to realize. New experiences to be had. New people to meet. New connections to be made and old connections begging to be renewed. Worlds you didn’t even know of, waiting to be discovered. And sometimes, to open yourself up to those things, you have to close other parts of your life.

To get to the next chapter, you have to turn the page. Sometimes that means making hard decisions and confronting things that scare you. Knowing when to fight and when to walk. I learned the hard way. I learned the lesson late. But better now than never. I’m grateful for the chance to hit refresh. Because it’s not a do-over or a new start. I now come with a little more baggage, some scars and wounds below the surface. I’m still me, just an updated version.

Change is scary. But it also presents opportunity.

I’ve learned to acknowledge pain. Feel it. Then to tell fear and anxiety to bug off. Look beyond it. Believe that things are brighter and better.

There are lots of things I never saw coming. Some were hard lessons to learn, some hurt other people, some challenged expectations. Some came out even better than I could have dreamed.

Pushing myself out of my comfort zone, taking risks, and actually enjoying the escape from my bubble, has been incredible.

Life is a funny thing. It throws you curveballs to keep you on your toes. It roughs you up. It slaps you in the face and kicks you to the ground. Sometimes it’s nasty and ugly and unfair. But other times it’s beautiful, awe-inspiring, full of hope and grace. Despite the downs, there are also ups. The sun does, in fact, shine again, if you let it.

You can let those bad moments keep you down, or you can dust yourself off, get up and move on. Take control. Fight back. It makes you stronger.

I have no idea what the future holds. But I am oh so excited to find out.

30 Things I Know as I’m Approaching 30

Today is my 30th birthday. I say that with both a bit of trepidation and a bit of excitement. Even though I’m a decade older, I still feel young at heart. Within the past year especially, I really feel like I’ve grown tremendously as a person and I’m pretty proud of the adult I’m becoming. Adulting can be hard, but the longer I live, the more I learn.

Here are 30 things I know so far.

  1. Loving yourself, truly deeply, is so much easier said than done, but it sure does help to remember that no one is perfect and you’re pretty great.
  2. Friendships are a tough thing sometimes, but the best ones are worth fighting for, and the toxic ones are worth dumping.
  3. Life is too short to spend your time doing things you hate.
  4. Above all, making your marriage your top priority is so important.
  5. It’s OK to eat dessert first sometimes. In fact, I encourage it.
  6. Your pets’ lives are even shorter than your own. Cherish every moment with your furry friends.
  7. You should do at least one thing every single day that brings you joy.
  8. Serve others when you can. Make a positive impact on the world.
  9. Reading and watching TV is great, but the best escape is a conversation with your loved one.
  10. There are a lot better uses of your time than using it worrying what others think.
  11. Travel is one of the best things you can do for yourself, even if it means taking a brief financial hit.
  12. You really should treat yourself to a giant fruity adult beverage with an umbrella for getting through yet another work week.
  13. “Things” do not matter. Purge the clutter and embrace your inner Marie Kondo.
  14. A funny cat video can make almost anything better.
  15. When you look good, you feel good. Dress how you want to feel. 
  16. Appreciate nature. Even a short walk to take in the crisp fall air, or a summertime picnic, can do wonders for the soul.
  17. Have no shame about doing childlike things sometime regardless of your age. Like having a tea party, building a fort or putting a juice box in your lunch bag.
  18. Watch cartoons after a scary movie to help prevent nightmares. 
  19. Be confident. Stop doubting yourself.
  20. Never be afraid of asking for help.
  21. If your mind ever feels too crowded, take some time to sit back, close your eyes and meditate. Just allow your mind to wander without distractions. Journal if it helps. Get it out. You will feel better.
  22. Not all healthy food tastes bad. Try new things because you might be pleasantly surprised.
  23. If someone inspires you, tell them that. If someone made you smile, tell them that. Thank others for being awesome. It might just make their day.
  24. Regular massages are one of the best indulgences you can buy yourself, and they are worth budgeting for.
  25. Coupons are great, but just because you have one doesn’t mean you have to use it.
  26. Facebook is a time suck. Unfriend/unfollow those who do not add something positive to your feed. Life is too short to be bombarded with hateful political rants from that guy you know from somewhere but you can’t even remember what from. While you’re at it, try turning off all push notifications.
  27. Be proud of yourself and your accomplishments. Just keep a level head.
  28. Take time to appreciate the beautiful things in life. Like fall colors in the trees, summertime flowers, kindness from others, the art of dance, a frothy coffee or Channing Tatum.
  29. The ’90s were the best decade for music, movies and TV.
  30. 30 is going to be my best decade yet. I just know it.

Special thank you to my husband for being awesome and supportive. I’m so glad to have you in my corner and in my life.

The Best FREE Stock Images

As a blogger, you probably know how important it is to use high-quality images in most of your posts. You hopefully also know that you can get in a bad situation if you rip images from Google, even if you link back. The problem is, it can be hard to find websites that provide great images for free with the right kind of rights. Since I started blogging, I started keeping a list of my favorite sites to get images from. Then it hit me: Why am I hoarding this list? Surely someone else could use some handy dandy links too!

So roughly in order or my own preference, here are some sites to check out next time you need a photo.

www.unsplash.com

By far the favorite site for bloggers. Free, high-res photos with rights to copy, modify, distribute and use for commercial purposes with no permission or attribution required. If you like scrolling, you’ll love Unsplash. It didn’t used to be searchable, but looks like it is now. Lots of landscapes and a few neutral settings that are great if you need something general as a backdrop to overlay some text on. I subscribe to their emails to see all new photos added every 10 days, which is handy to save the ones you like most to use later.

www.pexels.com

Very Unsplash-like, but a wider range of images, and easier to search and filter. Totally free and you can do anything with them (with the Creative Commons zero license that almost all the sites on this list also use). Super easy to use.

www.designerspics.com

Lots of nice neutral food or workspace photos, free for personal or commercial use. Searchable or browse photos by category. No download limits or hoops to jump through, and no attribution required.

www.photopin.com

Has a huge database to choose from. Most are Flickr-type photos, not professional or editorial quality, and a lot of duds in there, but you can find some gems. Free to use, even commercially, though credit is required. Once you select your photo though, they generate HTML code for attribution you can just paste in your blog right under the photo, which makes it really easy.

www.gratisography.com

Let me be blunt: These photos are seriously weird, but in the best way possible. Like, wacky and fun. Not searchable, but you can filter by category, and either way there’s a lot of scrolling involved, but also some chortles. I’ve only found a small handful of photos from them I ended up using, but I adore this site just for its quirkiness. Free, high-resolution for personal and commercial use, no copyright restrictions.

www.pixabay.com

Searchable or by category. Wide range of image types, tons to choose from, and they accept user-submitted ones, which can be a good and bad thing. Totally free though and easy to use. No copyrights – you’re free to adapt and use for commercial purposes without attributing the original author or source.

deathtothestockphoto.com

A little laborious to use and haven’t yielded many winners to me, but there are a few gems here and there. Mostly artsy photos. I subscribe to the monthly emails to get photo packs delivered where you can download the zip folder. Totally free, no restrictions. Otherwise you can’t download or view photos from their site unless you pay for an account, which is kind of a bummer.

www.picjumbo.com

Site itself a little more cluttered and not as easy to use, though it is searchable, but I often don’t get any results for specific words (like cider. WTF.). If you don’t anything specific though, they have some great photos just by scrolling their page or filtering by category. Can get new photos emailed to you, or pay for a premium account for access to even more. I think there’s a limit on downloads for free.

www.lifeofpix.com

High-resolution photos with no copyright restrictions for commercial use. Unsplash-like, but searchable, though no category filters. Library seems smaller than other sites. A lot of nature and city photos.

search.creativecommons.org

So this is kind of the mother bear, I think, and obviously has the largest library to pull from, but just like a Google search, you may have to scroll through a lot of duds to find the right image. The plus is that you’re more likely to find specific images you’re looking for here, including pop culture photos instead of generic background images. The con is that not all results will be licensed with Creative Commons Zero, so you may still need to link back or follow certain rules to use some of these photos, and I’ve found it super confusing to figure out which I can alter, which need attributions, etc. To play it safe, I generally keep this one as a last resort, and I’ve certainly gotten to that point before.

Where do you get your blog photos? Am I missing a great site?

Weird Things Fargoans Say

Being a native Hoosier, when I first moved to the Fargo area, I was hyper-aware of all the strange things people here said. It was almost like another language sometimes. I had to ask what certain sayings or words meant, and sometimes there was confusion because the way I talked was different than the way my new friends did.

Ten years later, I’ve adjusted and most of the Fargo-area colloquialisms are old hat. In fact, I’ve even (unintentionally) adopted the Nordic “o” sound and slight accent.

This post is one that’s been on my list for many months, because I think regional slang is just so fascinating. That’s why I present you … the weird things that people say in eastern North Dakota/western Minnesota (from the perspective of an Indiana girl).

Karaoke

The one thing that grates on my nerves more than anything up here is how locals pronounce karaoke. All I had ever heard it pronounced before was “carry-oh-key.” Up here? “Kuh-row-key.”

Kitty corner

When something is across the street on the other side from you, in Indiana, it is catty corner. Here, it’s kitty corner. Which you’d think I prefer because cats are awesome, but even Buzzfeed agrees with me that it’s catty.

Taco in a bag

Back home, walking tacos were the shit. You know, taco meat and toppings inside a bag of Fritos. Here, they are tacos in a bag and they are eaten with Doritos. I would be upset about this, but it turns out it’s damn delicious with Doritos, so I give this one a pass.

Aunt

Where I come from, your parents’ sister is your aunt, rhyming with ant. Here, it rhymes with haunt.

Lunch/dinner dinner/supper

This is the most confusing thing of them all. Many folk here (primarily the older ones) refer to the second meal of the day as dinner and the last one as supper. Which makes dinner plans quite confusing sometimes. So in Indiana, we ate breakfast, lunch and dinner; here they eat breakfast, dinner and supper.

Hotdish

I’m on a fine line between hating and embracing this term. In Minnesota country, they eat hotdish. Hotdish is any kind of meal consisting of a meat, veggie, starch and cream of whatever soup baked in the oven. So basically, what the rest of the world calls a casserole. I literally had never heard of a hotdish before moving here, but I came to quickly find out they are all the rage here. It’s like, a giant culture thing. Tater tot hot dish is by far the most popular (and delicious).

Ride bike/drive truck

I recall finding this little colloquial gem out when I worked as a summer intern as a copy editor at the Fargo newspaper. I saw the phrase “drive truck,” as in “No I can’t go to the party. I gotta drive truck tomorrow.” and I promptly red-penned that sucker for correction. I then found out that it is such a common phrase here that they let it fly, but only by profession. So if you are a semi driver that gets paid from a company, you can drive truck. But if you’re poppin’ in your pickup to get some milk, you drive your truck or a truck or the truck, or you drive trucks, or you’re a truck driver.

Similar to ride bike. My husband sometimes says things like “I remember when I was a kid riding bike to my neighbor’s house,” and I always say “you mean riding your bike? You’re missing an article, chief.” But no, he contends that’s just how they say it here. I will never succumb to this silly rule of a grammatical mess.

“Oh fer cute”

This really is an endearing little phrase you’ll hear old grannies say in these parts. Show someone your rad new kicks and you’ll get an “Oh fer cute” response. Tell a side-splitting knock-knock joke and you’ll get an “oh fer funny.” Say something stupid and you’ll get an “Oh fer dumb.” It’s a thing.

Uff Da

The most cliche and totally true phrase Minnesotans and North Dakotans say is definitely uff dah (pronounced “oof-dah”). You’d think this is limited to old people but I legit hear young folk say this too. It’s used as a strong exclamation of any emotion, but I like to think of it as a “gosh darn it.”

Dontcha know

Another cute expression similar to Uff Da and the “oh fers.” As in, “Dolores said it’s pretty windy out today, dontcha know?” Also must be said with the long “o” sound.

Duck Duck Gray Duck

You probably know this game as Duck Duck Goose.

Frig

Many folk (mostly older) shorten the word refrigerator to frig. They still pronounce it fridge, but write it as frig.

Pop

The one thing both (most) Hoosiers and Fargoans can agree on though, is that bubbly carbonated beverages are called pop.

 

Why You Should Attend Your High School Reunion

I had no idea that so many people had so much nonchalance toward high school reunions until I started planning my own. Maybe my school was just atypical, but I had been looking forward to a reunion ever since I graduated. At my school, we had always been a small but close-knit class. Even though we had your typical social groups, we were all pretty friendly toward one another. And in our community, almost all the kids traveled through the same school and had the same classes from kindergarten through senior year, so we all knew each other really well.

A few of my close friends even said that they didn’t want to go, but I twisted their arms, and dontcha know, they told me what a great time they had and were glad I talked them into coming. I was a little nervous myself, but I put on my positive pants and any fears melted away quickly.

With that being said, I want to spread the word about how great reunions can be, because once I started telling my new friends and co-workers about my reunion, almost all of them said they didn’t or wouldn’t go to their own.

9 Reasons You Should Attend Your Reunion

  • In my experience at least, the “cool kids” won’t even come, and if they do, they’ll hang with their old crew anyway. At my own reunion, I found that every person that came wanted to be there and was genuinely interested in catching up. Even the ones I barely spoke to 11 years ago! In fact, some of the best conversations I had were with kids I wasn’t even close with back then.
  • One of the reasons many people said a reunion isn’t worth it is because with Facebook, they already know what everyone’s up to. The thing is, Facebook leaves a lot out, and there’s a lot to be said for the social experience of face-to-face, in-person interaction. There’s just something about hearing your old classmates tell you about their lives now that you will never get from stalking them online. In a day and age where so much of our interactions are online, it’s worth it to get out of the house and have real conversations.
  • It’s nostalgic. You have a shared common experience with this particular group of people, and that alone is pretty cool.
  • Your old classmates will remind you of things you had long forgotten about, and a trip down memory lane is most always a good thing.
  • It won’t be nearly as awkward as you think it will be. I worked it up in my mind (thanks, social anxiety!), but in reality, talking to everyone was really easy and natural. You just pick up where you left off 10 years ago. I wasn’t expecting that to happen, but it was such a pleasant surprise.
  • Now you and your classmates can drink together. Legally.
  • Old high school drama doesn’t matter anymore. As adults, you have so much more in common now. Place aside any old grudges and make the best of it. Even those you didn’t talk to at the time will still be fun to talk to now.
  • You only have a few reunions in your life and you might as well go and see how fun it is. I can almost guarantee that you’ll have more fun than you think you will.
  • If nothing else, think of it as a night out with your old friends. It’s an excuse to get prettied up and out of the house. If it ends up awkward, you can always bail, but you may go and be pleasantly surprised!

Side note: If you do go, please say thank you to the planning committee. Take it from me, putting those things together is hard and the organizers would really appreciate knowing that their time, effort and money was appreciated.

If you have a reunion coming up, I encourage you to take the leap and attend if your schedule allows.

Did you go to your reunion, or do you plan to?

Lessons I’ve Learned in Therapy

Today I’m admitting something that’s kind of hard because of a stigma attached to it: I tried therapy. And actually, so far, it’s working wonders. I’ve learned that many people suffer from anxiety, which I had no clue was so common, and reading others’ brave posts made me want to share my own experience.

These are some of the most helpful takeaways I’ve gotten from therapy, so far.

  • I cannot change the past and I cannot control the future.
  • I should not dwell on the unknown.
  • I cannot control other people’s actions or feelings and I shouldn’t give them the power to control mine.
  • Someone else’s opinion does not have to become my truth.
  • Other people’s actions are not a reflection of me.
  • I control my own decisions. I should never feel bad for what other people might think of me or what I do.
  • My feelings are never bad, and I shouldn’t feel shame, as long as I don’t act negatively on the bad feelings or thoughts.
  • Assertiveness is a set of skills, not a type of person. Like most skills, it can be learned and chosen when to be used. Just like something in your tool set — it’s there when you need it and put away when you don’t.
  • In times of panic, trick your mind out of its natural flight-or-fight response and force yourself to think rationally by breaking down all scenarios and making them manageable.
  • (Unhealthy) Worrying is a waste of time.
  • Life is too short to do things that do not bring you joy.
  • It’s OK to say no. It’s OK to prioritize what you need.

At the recommendation of my therapist, when I start overanalyzing and worrying, I ask myself simple questions. The easiest one is, “So?” The other is “Why does that matter so much to me?” These questions help me break down scenarios, see the big picture and get past the mental block and to the root of my insecurities. So what if this person doesn’t like me? Is it the end of the world? In which areas can I take control?

At one point I realized I was over-committed and under-delivering on almost all my obligations. But admitting that you can’t do it all is the first powerful step to regaining control. You just have to choose to do it. You shuffle things around, you re-prioritize, and like Tim Gunn would advise, you “make it work.”

Have you ever tried therapy? What tips do you have?

Natural Grocers Comes to Fargo

Today is a special day in Fargo because our very first natural grocery store has opened its doors! (To be fair, we do have three small-scale markets with natural items, but this is our first big operation.) Today marks the grand opening of Natural Grocers by Vitamin Cottage in Fargo — the first in our state, housed in the former Office Depot building on 45th and 13th.

I know, most of my readers are probably all like, “What’s the BFD? Just go to Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s!” You see, friends, Fargo has neither. I have heard that Whole Foods has per capita requirements in all locations where they open stores, and Fargo is a bit shy of those (which is kind of a crock because we have tons of rural towns nearby that travel in for shopping).

The closest we have to natural and organic shopping are bulk items at Costco, the small but still growing natural selection at Target, those three small natural markets, plus the Internet and farmer’s markets (but those are only open for about three months out of the year anyway).

The point is, there really was nowhere we could go to find everything on our list. I would often have to split my shopping list up between all of the aforementioned locations, and that’s a drag. This store is really kind of a big deal, and it makes me so happy to see that Natural Grocers believes in our market and is offering a one-stop shop for all my crunchy needs.

I was lucky enough to have been invited to a sneak peek event and soft opening this past weekend, and I was part of a small group treated to a talk, complete with complimentary treats, by the store’s corporate and local staff and first dibs on shopping at the new store.

We were fed totally delicious chicken curry lettuce wraps (get the recipe HERE), yogurt berry parfaits and green tea lemonade. Mmm.

I learned about the stores’ history, values and offerings, and I can honestly say I am really impressed. Far more than I actually expected to be.

natural grocers inside

Here are a few things I just love about this store:

  • Each store has a nutritional health coach that customers can meet with for totally FREE to learn more about natural living and eating.
  • Every single item sold in the store is free of artificial colors, flavors, sweeteners and preservatives. This means I don’t have to worry about label reading and can trust that everything is safe.
  • ALL produce sold is organic. What had never occurred to me before is that at other stores where both organic and “regular” produce is sold, there is a high likelihood of them coming into contact and cross-contamination, which means the organic produce is not really organic anymore. Here, I can be confident that it really is.
  • All of the meat sold is naturally raised, with no hormones, antibiotics or byproducts in the animals’ feed. Just another way I can tell they really care about high quality in everything they sell.
  • They offer frequent and FREE cooking demos and classes, and for every four you attend, you get a free $10 gift card to the store.
  • They also support many sustainable initiatives, such as being totally bagless, and following green building practices when they can (in our case, this meant moving into an existing building instead of tearing it down and building from scratch).
  • They are passionate, informed, and most importantly to me, friendly folks dedicated to natural living. I felt totally loved and welcomed in the store.
  • They have a really vast selection of products, from regular food and grocery, including fresh produce, meats and dairy, shelf-stable cupboard items, to vitamins and supplements, pet products and beauty and personal care items.

The store also claims that they are the low price leader in the industry, and I hear that often, so I always compare prices before believing that. As I was roaming the aisles during this event, I snapped photos of random items that I knew other places sold so I could see if their statement holds up.

Here’s what I found. A few price comparisons on randomly selected items:

  • Organix cat food: $1.59 for 6 oz at Natural Grocers; $1.59 for 3 oz at PetSmart (NG wins big!)
  • Evol burritos: $1.99 at both Target and Natural Grocers
  • Giovanni 2chic shampoo: $7.43 at Natural Grocers; $6.42 at Swanson
  • Blue Diamond Cheddar Cheese Nut Thins: $2.99 at Natural Grocers; $3.06 at Swanson
  • Organic ground beef: $7.99/lb at Natural Grocers; $20 for a 3-pack at Costco (Costco wins on this one)
  • Traditional Medicinals Throat Coat tea: $4.39 at Natural Grocers; $3.79 at Swanson
  • Health Valley cereal bars: $4.89 at Natural Grocers; $4.89 at Target; $4.79 at Swanson
  • Pacific Natural Foods Organic Free-Range Chicken Broth: $4.19 at Natural Grocers; $4.44 at Swanson
  • Go Raw Simple Flax Snax: $4.15 at Natural Grocers; $4.69 at Swanson
  • Orgain Nutritional Shake: $11.55 at Natural Grocers; $13.29 at Swanson
  • NOW Foods Liquid Multi Gels 180 ct: $36.09 at Natural Grocers; $29.69 at Swanson
  • Nature’s Way Echinacea Goldenseal, 180 ct: $20.65 at Natural Grocers; $14.54 at Swanson
  • Seventh Generation Disinfecting Wipes: $6.59 at Natural Grocers; $3.59 at Swanson; $2.99 at Target
  • Seventh Generation Free & Clear Dish Liquid: $3.49 at Natural Grocers; $3.59 at Swanson; $2.99 at Target
  • Wellness cat food cans 5.5 oz: $2.15 at Natural Grocers; $2.09 at PetSmart
  • Organic red raspberries: $2.99
  • Green kale bunch: $1.50

Based on my “research,” Natural Grocers definitely wins the price battle on some items, but not all, and most were awfully close. I wouldn’t call them the leader, but I will say that their prices are good, and that’s good enough.

Here’s what I got in my first store haul. I went small to begin with, but I definitely look forward to going back and loading up on more. They’ve got me as a new customer for sure.

Those caramel squares were spectacular, and that bunch of kale made yummy kale chips when I got home

This post is not sponsored, but I did receive a gift card for attending the store’s sneak peek opening event. I was not obligated to write anything, but wanted to anyway because it was too sweet not to.