We're Honeymooning in Australia & New Zealand. Suggestions, Please!

This is probably a picture of Hawaii or something, but it's how I imagine Australia looks.

This is probably a picture of Hawaii or something, but it's how I imagine Australia looks.

My hubby and I decided to wait a few months to take our honeymoon. Mainly because we wanted to go to Australia and mainly because when it's freezing cold in Minnesota, it's summer there. January on the beach sounds pretty damn good to a couple of midwesterners.

We're still ironing out the details. All we know for sure is that we want to do both Australia and New Zealand and that we only have 16 days (including travel time). So a week in each spot. Based on the fact that Australia is enormous, we're limiting ourselves to one week in Brisbane and its surrounds.

For week two, I think we're flying into Wellington or Christchurch, NZ and renting some sort of campervan, though we will not be staying in it every night. This is my honeymoon and there will be showers.

Things we for sure want to do:

  • See/snorkel/SCUBA the Great Barrier Reef (we think we can road trip to the southern tip of it from Brisbane)
  • A few days at a cool beach, relaxing and drinking things out of coconuts or something. I have it on good authority from two sources that Byron Bay is excellent. 
  • At least one great hike in New Zealand. Doesn't need to be difficult, just pretty.
  • Maybe a visit a vineyard.
  • My guy really wants to see something from Lord of the Rings 'cause he's into that. 

Any travel advice, things to avoid, stuff to do fer sher, we are ALL ears. Best advice gets to come with us!*

*no chance

#253. Someone Unplugged Our Freezer & Cleaning it was Disgusting.

You don't want to look in there. 

You don't want to look in there. 

We're currently fixing up our basement. One of the guys helping us with the renovation had to unplug the fridge/freezer and move it. He forgot to plug it back in. 

We discovered this approximately three days later. 

I was doing laundry and detected the distinct funk of rotting flesh. I know, even typing those words makes me want to ralph! I looked at the fridge and saw a few tiny drops of blood on the floor. Ah, crap. 

The good news:

This is our extra fridge/freezer set up and most of the stuff in there was the weird leftover cuts from a 1/8 of a cow we bought last winter... like the heart, liver and a few (sniffle) short ribs. It could've been worse.

The bad news:

We had to clean it all up and it was thoroughly disgusting. Blood, guts, gore and stank. And that's why this is Hey Eleanor challenge #253. You can watch it all go down in the video below.

PS I mentioned that we're fixing up our basement, which means this thing is finally gone. Couldn't be happier!

#252. We Did Pre-Marital Counseling & the Aftermath Shocked Us.

Who knew taking care of your relationship was such a hot button issue? 

Who knew taking care of your relationship was such a hot button issue? 

On Labor Day weekend, I received an email from a HuffingtonPost Live producer. They were doing a segment couples in premarital counseling, not because they believe they have problems, but because they want to make their marriage last. She'd stumbled upon my blog (this one from Mpls | St. Paul Magazine - Three Non-Romantic Things I'm Glad I Did Before My Wedding) and wondered if I'd like to participate in the HuffPo Live's discussion via webcam.

Uh, DOY.

Not only did a live interview on Internet TV sound scary as hell (#252), the topic excited me. Our premarital sessions were in the top five things Josh & I did pre-wedding. It offered scheduled time away from wedding planning to discuss the bigger picture (you're not planning a party, you're planning a life together...remember?). Our counselor helped us identify our relationship's strongest aspects as well as our weak spots. We discussed fighting fair and how to de-escalate an argument.

We learned a lot about each other & about our relationship. It was awesome. 

I believe our counseling sessions shows we're A) mature adults who B) believe our relationship has room for improvement and C) that we're not too proud or overly-confident to admit that we don't have it all figured out. It takes some serious balls to put your relationship's nitty-gritty details out there. It requires humility and vulnerability. I think those are two extremely important qualities in every single relationship in your life, not just romantic ones. 

I thought the HuffPo segment went well

Me, on the tiny screen! | HuffingtonPost Live

I even had some smart stuff to say and my hair looked pretty good (you can watch the whole thing here)! And then, like a GD idiot, I read the comments. Some of my favorites:

Today is my 2 year wedding anniversary and in those two years we have grown together, like we should. No counseling, just common sense.

If you think you need a counselor, you probably shouldn't be marrying at all. Just stay single.

Counseling for arguing and finances- totally not prepared for marriage if one needs that.

My blood boiled.

I immediately wanted to post things like, "Good job! Two whole years! That must be a world record or something," "Yep, we asked for an expert's science-based advice... better give up on the whole thing" and "OMG! You're right! If I were prepared for marriage, I would've learned that trolling on the Internet anonymously is the appropriate way to confront another person." There were also comments about me slurring my words and sounding drunk, which was obviously due to a microphone issue. To say these comments annoyed me is an understatement. (I did like the She looks like Emma Stone comments. Who wouldn't?)

I took a few deep breaths, then thought: What kind of loser d-bag is watching the HuffPo Live and taking the time rip on a stranger's marriage?

Haters gonna hate, trollers gonna troll. Whatcha gonna do?

I ignored the nasty comments (well, until now). However, this whole thing has me thinking about how we take care of our relationships. You change your car's oil regularly. You visit the dentist every six months (kinda) because you don't want your teeth to fall out. Most of us take preventative actions in a lot of areas... but you're an absolute failure if you work on your romantic relationship? That's BS.

So for those folks who think counseling is a crutch, those people banking on their 'common sense' when shit hits the fan, those people who said "I do" knowing they already had all the answers...  

That's why I didn't marry you. That's why I married this amazing guy.

[Cue Taylor Swift! <<< I'm embarrassed that I kind like this song.]

The repair sign seemed fitting for this post, but not for our relationship.

The repair sign seemed fitting for this post, but not for our relationship.

Did you do pre-marital counseling (mandatory or otherwise)? Do you wish you had & why? Let's discuss!

#251. The Only Way I'll Eat Tomatoes

Tomatoes are gross... except this one way.

Tomatoes are gross... except this one way.

I'm really open-minded about food. I've eaten this, that and both of these (a few times). So it might surprise you that I find tomatoes to be pretty disgusting. I like tomato sauce, love pizza and ketchup has a permanent place in my condiment bar... but just the idea of biting into a beautiful cherry tomato makes me queasy. It's part texture, part flavor. Maybe you like how they burst in your mouth, but yuck-yuck-yuck, ew-ew-ew!

I challenged myself to start liking [disgusting] tomatoes (#251).

So many tomatoes. 

So many tomatoes. 

Tomatoes are, supposedly, really delicious.

I wish I could get excited about them. I do think a beefy heirloom tomato fresh out of the garden is about as good as it gets, tomato-wise. I'll tolerate them on a burger or in a BLT. Maybe a Caprese salad with fancy mozzarella, basil and balsamic. Sometimes I will stumble upon a really, really good end-of-the-season tomato and think to myself, "I get what the hullabaloo is all about!" But in general, when I pick up my CSA (cause I am a bobo), I'm all like, "what in the Sam Hill ammi gonna do with these tomatoes?" After trying them all sorts of ways (example: salads... where I literally just eat around them), I figured it out.

Roasting. 

Four ingredients and 120 minutes = delicious tomatoes.

Four ingredients and 120 minutes = delicious tomatoes.

Roasting tomatoes is stupidly simple and turns these red and orange orbs into something worth raving about. 

I should note: roasting tomatoes is more of an art than a science due to varying sizes of tomatoes. But even if you can't boil water, your main challenge here is to not forget that you have tomatoes in the oven. Set a timer!

Put these jerks in the oven and make them taste awesome. 

Put these jerks in the oven and make them taste awesome. 

Oven Roasted Tomatoes

Ingredients:

2 lbs tomatoes 
Olive oil (about 3-4 T)
Salt
Freshly cracked pepper

* Optional: add chopped garlic, fresh oregano, a few sprigs of fresh rosemary... seriously, you cannot mess this up. I repeat: Cannot.

1. Pre-heat your oven to 325.

2. Meanwhile, slice up the tomatoes. Quarter of an inch should be good. You can leave cherry tomatoes whole. Place them in a single layer in a shallow baking sheet.

3. Drizzle olive oil over the top. Feel free to use your hands to make sure they're coated; no one is watching.

4. Sprinkle the whole thing with salt and pepper. Please for the love, use Kosher or sea salt and freshly cracked pepper. Treat your food with the respect it deserves. 

5. Bake for two hours. Here's where the art-not-science comes into play-- you might need to go a little longer. If they've started to brown a bit on the edges, you're going to be really happy with the result. 

Roasted tomatoes = nature's candy

Roasted tomatoes = nature's candy

Now you've got a load of roasted tomatoes. What do you do with them? Ideas:

  • Egg scramble with spinach, leeks, garlic and roasted tomatoes. Parmesan optional.
  • Cauliflower rice with sauteed onions, zucchini and roasted tomatoes. Bonus points for toasted almonds added in at the last minute.
  • Add them to a Greek salad. Or any salad.
  • Eat them plain.
  • Go all Marcella Hazan: Puree your now-roasted 2 lbs of tomatoes in a blender. Add the tomatoes to a large pot. Add an onion, sliced in half. Season with salt/pepper. Feel decadent? Add a half stick of butter. Simmer uncovered for 45 minutes (or until it's your desired consistency). Smash up big chunks of tomato as you go, remove onion before serving. 
  • Freeze them and break those puppies out mid-winter when all the tomatoes are absolute junk. 

* * * 

How are you using up all these GD tomatoes? Share, please.

5 Ways I'm Not Saying Bye to Summer

Summer, please don't go. I was just getting to know you. 

Summer, please don't go. I was just getting to know you. 

I know it's technically still summer, but let's get real: Labor Day happened, and that means I'm mentally moving toward fall. That being said, I hear Minneapolis is going to be a sunny 70-something this weekend. I'm way farther north than a lot of people, so I'll betcha your weekend will be even nicer. With that in mind, here are five ways I'm clinging to summer.

1. Reading Summer Sisters by Judy Blume

Read this in five days. | Summer Sisters - Judy Blume

Read this in five days. | Summer Sisters - Judy Blume

I'm a mere 15 years late to this party, but let me just say I picked up this book on Monday (like Labor Day Monday) and am damn near finishing it. It's a beach-y read that will make you wish you were 16 again. Not exactly War and Peace, but who wants to read heavy crap like that in the summer. Less embarrassing to read in public than 50 Shades of Grey, too. Judy Blume, I just can't quit you!

2. Cranking the Tunes

I love music, but especially in the summer. Mainly, music you want to blast while driving with the windows rolled down. Here are the tunes I'm loving this summer (via Spotify). Some old, some new, some just new to me... like "Invisible Touch." You're going to like it. 

3. Drinking Iced Coffee

Cold brew coffee, no pumpkin nowhere! | Extraction Coffee Co. - Minneapolis

Cold brew coffee, no pumpkin nowhere! | Extraction Coffee Co. - Minneapolis

I'm just going to say what 50 percent of us are thinking: the pumpkin spice latte is overrated. I'm not giving up on my cold press coffee for no one, no how. I don't care if the leaves start changing and overnight lows are in the 40s. Cold press tastes like summer and I want it year-round.

As an aside, Josh and I received a subscription to Extraction Coffee Co. as a wedding gift. I literally don't know anything about the company other than the fact that some days when I leave my house, I'll find a bottle of cold press on my stoop. You can read more about them here, but don't tell me too many details. I'm enjoying my mystery coffee and like pretending that summertime Santa delivers it.

4. Watching Rear Window

Quite possibly the best summer movie ever. | Rear Window

Quite possibly the best summer movie ever. | Rear Window

This is a great movie to watch on a summer night. Alfred Hitchcock is my favorite movie man of all time, and in my opinion, this is his best picture. The gist: Jimmy Stewart, a famous photographer, becomes a bit of a peeping Tom after breaking his leg on the job. He spends the hot, humid summer spying on the people living in the apartments across the courtyard. All is fine and well, until he thinks he witnessed a murder. I'm not giving anything else away, but trust me when I say Hitchcock didn't earn the moniker the Master of Suspense for nothing. 

5. Driving with My Sunroof Open

I'll be that person until the first frost, even if it means I'm secretly blasting the heat.

* * *

How are you clinging to summer? Please share.

PS I'm considering a similar move to this one... definitely a spring-to-summer transition, but why not do it in the fall?

Everyday Eleanor: Sean Tillmann

The man, the myth, the legend... Har Mar Superstar

The man, the myth, the legend... Har Mar Superstar

It's the latest installment of Everyday Eleanor, where I talk to regular people doing ballsy things. You might know him as Har Mar Superstar, Sean Na Na or Sean Tillman. Whatever the case, once you witness the Tillmann experience, you’re pretty much in love. A soul singer–songwriter with a hefty dollop of ’70s porn star swagger, Tillmann talks about finding confidence on stage, alter egos and why it’s still awesome to eat like a child (into your 30s and beyond).

How does a white guy (with an excellent mustache!) from Owatonna, Minnesota become one of the hottest R&B/Soul acts in the music biz?

I always listened to that kind of music and knew I could sing that way. I think a lot of lyrics on the first album were more tongue in cheek… And then as it grew into a thing, I got a little more serious, but I was still having fun and wild at live shows.

I’m 36 now, so I’ve grown into a point in my life where I’ve had enough experience to actually sing the subject matter with the pain of actual soul music. So I kind of waited for my voice and myself to mature. It worked because I kept doing it. There were ups and down and times where I’d just not do it for a couple years. But I just waited until it happened and it worked out.

Costumes or alter egos can be transformative tools. What things are you able to do as Har Mar Superstar that you probably couldn’t in your day-to-day life?

Har Mar used to be an alter ego. In the year 2000, I put out three albums, and one EP. It was too much stuff, so I needed another name and it was fun to play a personality. I’d pretend Har Mar was my brother. I could get magazine to pay me to interview myself and they wouldn’t even know. That was a fun experiment. But over the years, when you’re more associated with your music, you don’t have to rely on shtick. People know Sean Tillman is Har Mar Superstar and I don’t act or speak any differently when I’m one or the other. [Initially], I was faking it to make it. I was looking for confidence onstage, and eventually that translated into my real life. So I don’t really think about it anymore or need to hide behind an alter ego because it’s tiresome. We grew into the same guy.

I love the idea of dressing up and becoming someone else.

Yeah, well you put on stage clothes and it’s a whole different thing. You’re in character. It’s so fun. I don’t know, it makes you feel sort of invincible when you go out there. You’re like, Whatever. I’m bringing it. I got dressed up for this. I am going to blow these peoples’ minds.

Working on his bronzin' | Har Mar Superstar

Working on his bronzin' | Har Mar Superstar

People have nightmares about being naked (or near naked) in public. I’ve seen you strip down to your skivvies on stage numerous times, so clearly this isn’t your issue.

I’ve just always felt more comfortable in my underwear. When you’re in your jeans and you have to step into your car in a different way, I hate that. When you’re in your briefs, you can be like ‘Whatever, I’m just going to roll over this bed and jump off a chair.’ I don’t know, I’m just more agile. And I get really sweaty on stage too, so it’s a multipurpose thing. I’d just end up dancing around in my underwear. I don’t do that as much anymore, but I still typically end up shirtless ‘cause I’m sweaty as hell.

What’s your biggest fear/what keeps you up at night?

Man. I don’t know… they’re all health-based. Like my biggest fear is going on Web MD and diagnosing myself with, like, sickle cell anemia when I just have a cut on my finger.

Sexy time clearly plays a big role in the HarMar Superstar experience.  Most good dates start out with great food. What’s on the menu if you’re looking to impress a special lady?

I never cook, I always go out. When I go out with my girlfriend… we eat like children. We’ll go to a diner and eat jalapeno poppers and omlettes and a hot dog. We’ll go to the Commodore and get an amazing chicken sandwich. We go for it. We like to live life and just eat delicious things. But we eat as if we’re 13-year-olds who were sent out on the town with money from our parents.

I do love soup dumplings. Soup dumplings are the best food. They’re hard to find. I love M Shanghai (http://www.newmshanghai.com/) and Shanghai Café (http://shanghaicafenyc.com/) in New York. There’s very Din Tai Fung near LA (http://dintaifungusa.com/)… I’ve heard there’s a place in St Paul, but I can’t substantiate that. There’s got to be one person [who’s an expert]. I never understood how they made [the soup dumplings] until someone told me that the soup was made into ice cubes and they make the dumpling around it. My mind was blown. It’s the best.

Only the finest | Har Mar Superstar

Only the finest | Har Mar Superstar

What’s on the boombox these days?

The new Spoon album. It’s so good.  I’ve been listening to a lot of Betty Davis and a lot of William Onyeabor. I have a new Father John Misty and I am very excited about them too. He just mastered it last week and we’ve been rockin’ it.

Advice for someone trying to launch their own music career?

Touring is the most important for me. Just getting out on the road and getting really good live. And make music that you can stand behind, forever. People will scrutinize it and ask questions about it for the rest of your life. Also, have a carefree attitude and do what feels right and put it out there. Be yourself. Do it up. Have fun.   

* * *

Follow Har Mar Superstar on Twitter and Instagram. You can check out my other Everyday Eleanor interviews in the archives. You know you want to.

I want to hear your Everyday Eleanor story. Email me at heyeleanorproject@gmail.com.