Girls’ Weekend!

The last weekend of September, a few friends and I headed to the north shore of MN, near Lutsen. We had a BLAST! Food, waterfalls, nails, shopping, hiking, food, hiking, food, chick flick, wine, food, books, magazines…did I mention food? 😉

Can’t wait for the next girls’ weekend!

And some of my top recommendations of places to visit on Minnesota North Shore are:
World’s Best Donuts (They were closed when we went on Saturday! And we seriously drove all the way back up to Grand Marais the next morning just to get them. Worth it.)
Coho Cafe (though we were quite disappointed with their portion sizes when we ordered the food to go)
Angry Trout Cafe
Temperance River State Park (for hiking/scenery)

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Minnesota State Fair Food 2012

It’s been a few years since I’ve posted my reviews of the MN State Fair Food, so here was our experience from TODAY!

On the ride home I had each family member tell me their favorites from the day. If you know us at all, it is no surprise that Husband’s are mostly savory and mine are mostly sweet. 🙂

Husband’s Top 5:
1. Pork Chop on a stick
2. Honey lemonade
3. Vegie Fries
4. Moe & Joe’s Banana Sandwich
5. Fried Green Tomatoes

Heidi’s Top 5:
1. French Meadow Bakery Scone with strawberries and cream
2. Moe & Joe’s Banana Sandwich
3. Blue Moon Sweet Corn Ice Cream
4. Wild Rice Specialties Burger
5. Chocolate PB Cup Fudge Puppy

Anja’s Top 5:
1. Mini-donuts
2. Cheese curds (she called them cheese bundles)
3. Chocolate PB Cup Fudge Puppy
4. Strawberry malt at the Dairy Building
5. Moe & Joe’s Banana Sandwich

Markus’s Top 5:
1. 1919 Root Beer
2. Strawberry malt at the Dairy Building
3. Roasted Corn on the Cob
4. Pronto Pup
5. Honey Lemonade

The kids went on some rides with friends on the Kidway, and their favorites were the Ferris Wheel and the Super Slide.

Other highlights:

  • Running into people we know. I know it’s MN, so it’s likely, but when there are over 100,000 people ANYWHERE it’s unlikely that you’re going to find a friend, right?
  • Husband saw Gene Simmons. I asked him why he didn’t snap a picture, and he said “because he’s not really a celebrity.” ??
  • State Fair Bingo. We got two Bingos, almost three. A couple of my favorite things on our card were “someone using an electric cart who clearly doesn’t need to be” (which we did spot) and “man wearing overalls with no shirt” (which we didn’t spot).
  • The miniature rooms and quilts in the Creative Activities Building.
  • Getting to vote on the art we liked best in the Fine Arts Building. We peruse every single piece of art every year, but this is the first time we recall getting a ballot. Nice touch!

Things we missed that we’d like to do next time (mostly because they were on a schedule and we would always find ourselves at the opposite side of the fair when they were supposed to be going on):

  • Flippenout performance
  • The lumberjack show
  • Meeting Curious George
  • San Felipe Tacos Carnitas Asian Fusion Taco (it’s been on our list for 2 years but yet to be tasted)

Dallas, Day Five

had breakfast at hotel
packed up and checked out
drove to Northpark Center and walked around
had (the acclaimed) brunch at Blue Mesa Grill (****1/2 out of *****, it was fabulous)
returned our rental car and passed the rest of the afternoon at the airport
flew home where some sweet friends picked us up
hugged and kissed our kids a bunch (though Markus was a bit tentative around us at first!)

Cool floral arrangement in the lobby of our hotel (blurry)
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Most of the containers at Northpark held cacti, which is not common in malls around here!
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Crowded Blue Mesa. The brunch is so popular you usually have to wait awhile to get in.
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Again, not the typical Minnesotan brunch – it was Tex-Mex fare. But oh so good! And the first meal of the trip that we didn’t split. 🙂
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Apparently all-you-can-drink mimosas are a big deal in Dallas. I was able to finish one, and that was enough.
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Cool dude at the airport. 🙂
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I ran around in that thing pictured behind Husband on Anja’s behalf. It made music. I took this picture for her as well (creeeepy!).
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That’s that! Our Dallas trip. Have you gone anyplace lately?

Dallas, Day Four

Slept in
had cereal and juice/coffee in room
drove to Manny’s Uptown (***/*****) for lunch with a high school friend of mine
Had brisket tacos, uptown queso, and Husband had a mango frozen margarita
walked around uptown with my friend, saw his place
went to Breadwinner’s Cafe (****/*****) for dessert, had key lime pie and chocolate seduction cake (key lime was excellent, I’m a hard sell for any non-homemade cake)
stuffed, drove back to hotel
Sat by pool in the sun, then the hot tub
showered
went to Galleria Dallas, shopped
Had supper at Mi Cocina (***/*****) beef taco, pork tamale, cheese enchilada, all decent
back to hotel to relax

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I often get tired of dragging my big camera around, so a lot of pics on this trip were taken with my little point-and-shoot, an old Canon Powershot. It’s funny, because even though the camera can’t “do much,” I sometimes like the shots I get with it even more than if I’d taken them with an SLR.

Dallas, Day Three

slept in
had cereal and juice in hotel room
drove to Dale’s Donuts (****/*****) (so small they don’t have a website, but we found them!) – two cake, three glazed, all delicious! (cake donuts had a hint of vanilla)
had Whataburger (**/*****) (Texans call it “waterburger”) for lunch, split a bacon cheeseburger and fries. It was meh
Fossil Rim – fed lots of animals while we drove, took video, bought shirts for the kids
Off the Bone BBQ (****/*****) in south Fort Worth for dinner. Had brisket and ribs with potato salad, fried okra and peppers/pickles/onions mix. Super-good and cheap.  These hole-in-the-wall restaurants have really cemented our opinion that they almost always do it up better than chains.  A. Mazing.
came back to hotel
worked out at the hotel gym
watched “Pretty Woman”
went out to TGI Friday’s for late-night apps (potato skins, boneless wings, fried green beans)
bed

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I always get the best shots of Husband eating. It’s kind of my thing.
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So from far away these might look kind of like MN cows (dairy), but up close they are HUGE (and for beef). You know…everything is bigger in TX. 😉

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I will spare you the embarrassing Blair-Witch-Project-style video from when a European Red Deer stuck its head in the window of my car, but let’s just say that my mom nearly emptied her bladder watching it. Good comedy. And a zebra pulled the same stunt with similar effects. All over there are signs saying, “These animals behave as if they were in the wild.” My foot. They are trained, because pretty much every car has bags of food for them, to walk up to your vehicle and beg. Wild animals DO NOT DO THIS.

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If you haven’t had fried okra before, you’re missing out. 🙂
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Dallas, Day One

I don’t have a great April Fool’s post.  Just not enough energy…

However, last week I had a photography workshop near Dallas, TX. Husband came along, and we took our first vacation together since pre-Anja. It was a fun five days, and I came back feeling so relaxed and refreshed. I’m posting a little re-cap here for posterity. 🙂

Woke at 4 a.m.
de-iced plane for an hour
got charged a ton for a rental car, 52% tax
Mattito’s for lunch, had cheese enchiladas (***/*****)
Drove around and walked around Highland Park, looking at homes
Drove to hotel and checked in, took a 2-hr nap
Went to Bartley’s BBQ (****/*****), had brisket, sausage and ribs and homemade bun, carrots and potato salad
Drove to Gaylord Texan but it cost $15 to park
Drove to Fort Worth Stockyards and walked around, most things were closed
Drove to Wal-Mart for some supplies (klassy, but we couldn’t afford the stuff at the hotel)
Back to hotel, TV and bed

Early airport shot:
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Cool ceiling at Mattito’s:
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The rental Tahoe:
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Walking around:
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Our hotel room:
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A Minnesota Staycation – Day 6

Day 6 of our staycation included:

  • A good sleep.  The bed was comfy (I rarely get a good night’s rest when I’m away, but I slept quite well here).
  • Breakfast at the Inn: heavenly bananas (bananas and blueberries with granola and creme fraiche), Eggs Benedict and fried potatoes, raspberry peach cobbler with ice cream, OJ, tea/coffee and water.  I thought the eggs were a little bland, but Husband maintains that was just because I still had a slightly stuffy nose.
  • A stroll, in the rain, through the downtown area of Stillwater.
  • A little shopping. My favorite shops: Interior Motive, Rose Mille,The Chef’s Gallery, and St. Croix Antiquarian Booksellers.   Also, someday, I’d love to take Anja here.
  • A late lunch at The Freight House.  We split the meal that Husband got last time he went there, the smoked brisket sandwich with a side of sweet potato fries.  Oh. My. The Deliciousness.  The meat was smoked perfectly, and the toppings complemented the meat so well.  Ours came without mayo, but we decided that was fine.  The fries are very crispy on the outside and sweet potato sweet and soft on the inside–great with just a dash of salt.  If it weren’t for the leaky roof (we had to walk around 6 or 7 bus tubs catching dripping water at the entry…haha!), I could have given this meal, if not the restaurant, five stars out of five.  The wait staff has always been friendly, the service prompt, the joint fairly clean.  I’ll have to be unbiased and give it a 4 out of 5.
  • A trip home to share some “thank you” goodies from Tremblay’s (yes, we stopped there again) with Husband’s family and see our baby girl.
  • Began watching Beverly Hills Chihuahua (oh, help me!) with Anja before bed.  She remembered the dogs’ names after only 20 minutes of watching (Delgado and Chloe, in case you care).

A Minnesota Staycation – Day 5

Day 5 of our staycation included:

  • A workout.
  • Salads from Target for lunch.
  • Cleaning and laundry (I know, doesn’t seem like much of a vacation, but I figured if we stayed on top of it, we wouldn’t have to do it all the week after).
  • Husband’s folks coming to babysit.
  • A night in Stillwater, MN, just the two of us!  We stayed in the Aurora Staples Inn, in The Peacock Room. Hors d’oeuvres and wine/sparkling juice greeted us upon arrival.  Just a short drive from the Twin Cities, it is like you have entered another world.  Stillwater is small, yet enchanting, with its lift bridge, adorable shops, and idyllic setting on the St. Croix River.
  • A stroll around the neighborhood–there are so many attractive homes in Stillwater.
  • Supper at Savories—yum!  Husband had steak frites with homemade pommes frites and homemade ketchup.  I had chicken penne with sun-dried tomato pesto cream sauce and mushrooms. The complimentary sun-dried tomato focaccia bread and dipping sauce, a rosemary olive oil with balsamic-infused honey, were delicious.  The only downside to our meal was that Husband’s meal only came with about a tablespoon of ketchup for half a plate of fries.  He was told if he wanted more, he would have to pay for it.  When you’re already paying $22 for your steak bites and fries, is it really that hard to throw in another tablespoon of ketchup?  Four out of five stars.
  • A soak in our jacuzzi tub–so relaxing!  And we had picked up a few chocolates from Tremblay’s in town and ate those for a late dessert.

A Minnesota Staycation – Day 4

Day 4 of our staycation included:

  • A morning at the MN Children’s Museum.  Anja much preferred this to the Science Museum, and who can blame her?  It’s geared toward children ages 1-12.  Her favorite exhibit was Habitot, basically a glorified play area for those 4 and under.  If you have a card at a local library, and you have impeccable timing, you can often snag a pass that gets up to 6 people in for free.  We were unable to procure that pass, so we ended up paying $8.95 a person (anyone over the age of 1), which is a little steep for a few hours of exploration, but since we were on vacation and all, we figured the splurge was worth it.
  • Café Latte for lunch.  There are a LOT of online reviews for Café Latte, ranging from “best desserts ever” to “way overrated.” Their overall rating is pretty high, though, so we decided to give them a chance. We went around 1:30, when we thought the crowds would have died away.  Not so.  It was nearly impossible to find a seat, much less one that would accommodate a high chair.  The three of us split a couple things, as usual. We got a turkey avocado sandwich on whole wheat bread (which, for $6.95, comes with a side salad or chips or pretzels and a pickle) and a bowl of roasted potato garlic soup. Both were very yummy—the soup had great texture and flavor, with chives and spinach to complement the garlic and potato. I got the sandwich with some provolone, sprouts, tomatoes, cucumbers and lettuce, all which enhanced the avocado sauce well. We saved room for dessert. I had read nothing but good things about their Classic Vanilla Cheesecake, and let me tell you, it did not disappoint. It is probably the best cheesecake I have ever tasted in my life. At $4.95 a slice, it’s a bit pricey, but no more than you’d pay for a slice of dessert at any sit-down place, and oodles better-tasting. I told Husband next time we’ll have to just get a whole cheesecake (“Thank you,” say Heidi’s thighs.). We also got a piece of their chocolate cake to go, since that was the other dessert everyone raved about.  It was good, but not better than my homemade.  The addition of a scoop of ice cream from our own freezer probably made it better than it would have been sans mode.  Four out of five stars.
  • Cereal/salads for supper.
  • A bike ride
  • Watermelon
  • A cost of $52.25.

A Minnesota Staycation – Day 3

Day 3 of our staycation included:

  • Morning at the MN Science Museum.
  • Boca Chica for lunch.  We weren’t terribly impressed with Boca Chica. It hadn’t come recommended by anyone and didn’t have stellar reviews. The three of us split an order of chicken flautas and a pick-two lunch of a beef and bean tostada plus a chicken soft taco. Each plate comes with your choice of Spanish rice (which had peas and carrots in it…strange…) OR black beans OR refried beans. I think it’s the first Mexican place I’ve ever eaten at that didn’t give you both rice and beans. The service was poor. We had to ask for our beverages twice and also had to ask for the free chips and salsa. The flautas were decent—covered in Mexican crema, cilantro and guacamole. The tostada and taco were fine, but nothing above average. I’d give it probably two out of five stars.
  • National Night Out for supper.  This is often the only time of year we get to talk to our neighbors, but unfortunately we couldn’t stay long…
  • Perkins with out-of-town (as in California out-of-town) friends for dessert.
  • A cost of $36.