24 Hours in Reykjavik (and where to eat!)

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Reykjavik is a colorful, charming and growing city, full of activities and food. When traveling to Iceland, be sure to make exploring the city a part of your itinerary. You can do it in 24 hours and spend the majority of your trip off exploring all of the natural wonders and landscapes around the country. (or spend more time if you can!) We dedicated one full day to the city on our trip. Here are a few options of what to check out!

We stayed down by the old harbor and our backyard view was like a charming secret garden. We could walk anywhere in the city and come home to a pretty quiet street. The location could not be beat.  While we stayed in an Airbnb, there were multiple inns and guesthouses on our street.

To get a good solid day in, wake up early and head out for coffee. There are coffee shops all over the city. You could do a full coffee shop crawl and compare. The first one we popped into was Reykjavik Rost, right down by the harbor. The interior is a charming instagramable dream. I had a deliciously stuffed croissant with ham and cheese and the most perfect cappuccino.

Because this particular coffee shop is located on the harbor, I should mention the tours! There are tours you can take out onto the water, like whale watching and the northern lights. While we wanted to do both tours, the weather and cloudiness were not on board with our northern lights tour; so that didn’t happen. We also talked to travelers we met who did do a whale tour and they were not able to see much.. so we ended up skipping it. If you go, let me know how it was/is!

While food and drink costs can be high; many bars and restaurants offer a happy hour. Yes its probably geared to visitors to the city but the deals are worth it! Check out a few places for drinks and small bites, if it includes a charming outdoor patio, even better.

The street art! I could have spent a full day just checking out all of the street art in the city. My travel companions may think I’m a bit odd… snapping photos all over the city… but there’s so much to see! Who doesn’t want to pose like my friend below 😉

And because posing is hard work: back to the food 🙂

Be sure to grab a cinnamon bread from Braud and Co. Its a local chain bakery with the most delicious baked goods. I went here three times for this bread!

Look at that cinnamon perfection.

And you cannot leave the city without trying an Icelandic hotdog! Here they are made with lamb instead of pork or beef. Order it with everything; raw white onions and crispy fried onions, ketchup, sweet brown mustard called pylsusinnep, and remoulade sauce. Its delicious but sweeter than I anticipated. You can try different ones throughout the city. We queued up for the ones at Baejarins Betzu and I’m wishing I had ordered more than one… 

When you need a break from all that food; head to Hallgrímskirkja church and up the tower. You’ll see the city from above in all its colorful glory.

After taking in the view and getting a bit of an appetite back; a fish and chips crawl is always a good idea. We tried a couple different places like from a food truck and from restaurants.

 

There are a few museums in the city if you are interested; some of them seemed a bit too tourist geared (ahem the penis museum… yeah I said the P word) but you never know what might strike your fancy in there 😉

Shopping abounds all over the city. You can find cold weather gear, a Christmas centered store, local wool sweaters, art, you name it.

And but of course, I’ve gotta close this post out with more food. Two of the best meals we had in the city were at Fish MRKT and Forerttabarinn.

And of course this doesn’t hit all of the many options for your 24 hours of exploring the city but it sets a great starting tone. What other questions do you have about exploring the city?

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How to Explore Iceland’s South Coast

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After four days spent exploring Iceland, I can tell you my absolute favorite was driving through the south coast and visiting Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon.

Below is how we did it in one day.

We stayed in Reykjavik and took an entire day to drive to the Lagoon and back. We left our Airbnb at 6 am to start our drive. The total drive time depending upon weather is four and a half to five hours to the Lagoon. Always check the weather prior to departure. Keep in mind conditions can change in an instant depending on the season you are traveling.  You can also choose to stay in towns on the way like Vik or rent a campervan and stay wherever you choose along the way. But, it can be done in a day too, weather dependent.

 

Once you get to the lagoon the views are breathtaking. You’ll see white, blue, black and turquoise icebergs floating and dancing before you. The icebergs are 1,000-year-old pieces of the Oraefajokull glacier breaking off and heading out to sea. You can hike around the perimeter or during the summer months take a boat tour out and around the icebergs.  We saw multiple seals swimming around and lounging near the icebergs.

After hiking around or boating between the icebergs, there are a couple of food trucks situated by the Lagoon parking lot. These could be weather or seasonal, but when we were there the options were fish and chips or a truck with lobster rolls and seafood stew.

On your way to the Lagoon or your way back, take time to pull of the side of the road and explore. There are waterfalls coming out of everywhere! Could you imagine this backdrop as your backyard? Many of these are private property (and many are not). Picture your morning view, a cup of coffee and the beauty of a backyard waterfall. I’m in.

Skogafoss waterfall is also on your path to or from the Lagoon. Skogafoss is about two hours out of Reykjavik. If you’re lucky, you’ll catch a rainbow or two… we did 🙂 Unfortunately I did not get to climb the 370 steps to the top of the waterfall (stairs and being 6 months pregnant does not equal a great climb), but if you do I hear the view of the coast at the top is beyond worth it. There’s also a hiking trail that begins here and a camping area.

Renting a car versus taking a bus tour was how we picked to explore and I’m so glad we did. Every time something popped up into our view that we wanted to check out; we just pulled over and explored. We could take our time or just a picture and hop back in.

On our way back to Reykjavik we stopped off to check out the Black Sand Beach, Reynisfjara in Vik. There is a parking lot here with a restaurant, toilets and a food truck, in case you need to fuel up!

The black sand mixed with the powerful waves and rocky cliffs is a sight to behold. I’m guessing there are fewer visitors early in the morning; so if you can, make it your first stop on your way to the Lagoon.

Keep in mind the sneaker waves. Do not stand too close to the water and never turn your back to the water.

Finally to wrap up your South Coast tour; if you’ve done it in one day as we did, pizza and beer is the only acceptable end. Olverk Brewery is a must on your way back into the city. The brewery is located about 30 minutes outside of Reykjavik.

After stuffing ourselves with pizza we made it back to the Airbnb just before midnight. A very successful day of exploring the South Coast.

Truly there is so much to see! Any questions about traveling Iceland’s South Coast?

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My Top Travel Items

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Hello! And it is off to Iceland we go! Today we are off on what turned out to be our Babymoon. We booked the trip prior to knowing our little guy was on his way; but what better way to celebrate his impending arrival but with another international trip? As I’m packed and we are off, I figured why not put together a list of my favorite travel items?!

First, my top packing tip: the rolling method! I’m able to fit so much more in my suitcase, which is a lifesaver to this over packer. Now I know over packing isn’t the best tip, but you’d never guess how much I fit in that suitcase with the rolling method.  Also, in this case, my overpacking may be helpful since the weather calls for layers. The rolling method is life changing. Try it!

Now for my Top Travel Items:

  1. Reading material: Lately traveling is the only time I’m able to enjoy a good read. Whether you are killing time on the plane, in the airport, enjoying a cafe or a beachside retreat; a book is a must. I guess I’m old school because I still prefer an actual book to my kindle. My latest read was We Were The Lucky Ones …you can pick it up here:

2. DSLR Camera: While I am no professional photographer by any stretch of the imagination, I still love to play around with my Canon EOS. I enjoy playing around with it and I get better shots than using my phone. Here is the one I use.

3. A Tripod: A tripod is key for any solo traveler wanting to get themselves in a few shots. Set that timer mode and go! It also helps eliminate the shake or blur from photos. Again no professional over here but I find it useful. I use a lightweight, adjustable, easy to pack one like this one.

4. Shoe bags: Have you ever used shoe bags in your suitcase? The husband introduced me to these and I’m never going back. For trips that involve sand, mud, rain or snow, I can zip up my shoes in a separate compartment, pack on top of everything else and keep the muck from getting all over my clothes. I’m all in on these. Plus since I’ve already saved room in my suitcase with the rolling method; these truly add no more bulk at all. We use ones similar to these.

5. Make up: This lipstick. While I don’t normally wear a ton of make up while traveling, a good lip color does wonders. It just makes me feel more put together even when I’m totally not. Even if this is all I manage to swipe on in the morning, I still look awake and ready to explore.  Find it here!

6. Facial Moisturizer. Planes, travel, different water and diets all dry out my skin. When I’m traveling I need an intense moisturizer. My favorite is Kiehls. Nothing keeps my face from drying out quite like it. I have no doubt it will hold up to the wind, rain and potential snow we will see in Iceland. Grab it here:

7. Blanket Scarf: A cozy wrap is a must-pack for me. I freeze on airplanes and miss the days of blankets for all! This also comes in handy if the weather in your destination is cooler than expected; or if the Airbnb is lacking in blankets. A good neutral can be paired with many an outfit. Always keeping those layers in mind 😉

 

What are your top travel items? I’ve got more; just ask! 

 

Wedding Planning Tips

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On a park bench in Bruges, Belgium, my life forever changed. My now husband shocked the heck out of me with a beautiful, simple proposal. There I was thinking he was trying to tell me how much he enjoyed traveling. But at that moment, what he was really getting at was, “Will you marry me”?

The next year was consumed with wedding planning. Wedding planning can be fun but overwhelming at the same time and then not so fun at all. With blogs on blogs of tips, Pinterest and Pinterest perfect weddings, how do you decide on anything? How will you make it reflective of the two of you? Below are some of my favorite unique tips we discovered during our planning process.

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1) Go with your gut. What are you naturally drawn to? Trust it. When you find it, stop looking. Questioning and comparing your decision over and over again will be the thief of the joy you initially found in that decision. If you love it and think its beautiful then go with it!

2) Weddings can be as expensive as you make them. Look for deals and decide where you want to splurge and where you want to save. After looking at wedding bands for my husband in multiple brick and mortar jewelry stores and balking at the costs for a simple, thick, gold classic band; I turned somewhere else. The internet! Blue Nile has so much information on their website on how and what to buy. I felt I knew what I was purchasing and saving some money at the same time. Turns out the husband also turned to Blue Nile for my wedding gift; we are repeat customers!

3) Invite Suites: who knew paper could be so expensive or the options so endless?! In order to save here and have a more personalized experience, I found a friend who was starting her calligraphy business. She had created an invitation suite for someone else and it looked great. I paid her a fee for the digital file and design and then researched local printing companies. Another option is to use Etsy! The same concept; have a suite designed for you and use a local printer. Just click here to head over to Etsy and search the many options for invite suites.

4) One of the most important things to us for our wedding day was that we enjoy it! I know that I am too detail oriented and too much of a planner to allow myself to relax on the actual day; which is why I needed someone to step into my shoes and take charge of the overall management. We didn’t want a family member or a friend essentially working all day and not enjoying themselves; so a wedding day coordinator was a must for us. Look around your area; there are many different packages available that can fit your budget. We used Rosetree Events in Minneapolis and I cannot say enough good things. I didn’t worry about a thing and was able to enjoy every moment. Truly one of the best decisions we made.

5) Make it fun! Yes there are a lot of moving parts and not everything during planning is “fun” but it can be! For example, we wanted donuts instead of cake for dessert. So on the weekends we would go on donut hunts… test out different shops and do a little tasting on our own. Or as a couple we never had a song… so to pick out the first dance song we made appetizers and cocktails and listened to lists and lists of songs. An evening of food, drinks, and music… what could be better?

Hopefully, these tips help your planning.

What is your favorite wedding planning tip? What did you do to make your day reflective of you?

How to Honeymoon in El Nido, Philippines (And What to do!)

With a running list of places I plan to visit one day, determining where we should honeymoon should have been easy right?

Wrong.

With flights, costs, timing, seasons and future plans, I found picking a place to be almost overwhelming.

We narrowed it down by determining what we wanted to do. A honeymoon to me has always looked like a beach, a lounge chair and a cocktail in hand. We wanted a region we probably would not visit for some time afterward.

The Philippines has always been on that running list and after seeing images of El Nido; I was on board.

El Nido is one of the most stunning places I’ve ever been. El Nido is in the province of Palawan. The white-sand beaches, coral reefs, and limestone cliffs are breathtaking.

After many google searches and trip reviews, we found and settled on El Nido Resorts for our stay. It doesn’t get more “honeymoon-esq” than Pangulasian Island Resort. With only 42 villas, at times we felt like the only guests at the resort. We always had more than enough space on the beach and at the pool. We rented kayaks and paddled our way around the island. Service was impeccable and I always felt so welcome. We were told the average stay here is more like 4 days; so by the time we left they were calling us the long timers. We actually met a family also from Minnesota at the resort. They’ve been coming for years and plan to continue to do so; 30 plus hours of travel be damned. If that doesn’t speak to the magic of this place, I don’t know what else will. The monkeys were the only ones not thrilled with our arrival 🙂 Make sure you lock your doors as they are known to enter your villa and make a mess of things! Or they will steal your bananas and cookies!

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There are many stay options from airbnbs on the beach of El Nido, to hostels and bed and breakfasts and other resorts off of the mainland.

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To get there we flew from Minneapolis to Chicago, Chicago to Seoul, Seoul to Manila and from Manila we took Air Swift to El Nido. The views over the islands are spectacular in flight. Try to grab a window seat 😉 Bonus if you are staying at an El Nido Resort Hotel; at the airport you have a private lounge with snacks, water and wifi; key! (Just a warning; Air Swift is prone to delays and cancellations. Hold your breath and hope for a smooth arrival!)

Once we got to the El Nido airport our hotel guide was waiting to take us on a golf cart to the docks and then a 30 minute boat ride to the resort.

The resort offered a lot of the island tours included with your stay; but if you are staying in town, get up early and negotiate a private boat tour. The lagoons will get crowded. I’m serious about the early part! Catching the sunrises are an extra perk.

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The secret lagoon was my favorite; we kayaked through the hole and found ourselves the only visitors. It was serene and stunning. Again…. go early! There are so many island tour places to see; Big Lagoon, Small Lagoon, Helicopter Island, Snake Island, Commandos beach and more.

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Besides island hopping, the diving and snorkeling are out of this world. The coral reefs are unbelievable. We only had to swim five feet from our hotel beach to see the beauty of the underwater world. We also took a boat tour that dropped us off in a few different spots; sharks, turtles, squid and jack fish were everywhere.

If you need a break from the sun and water, try some bar hopping. El Nido is hastily developing and every traveler and backpacker looking for a cold one has options.

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You must eat grilled seafood on the beach; point and pick out what you’d like. Its grilled right there in all its glory.

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We took full advantage of the “it’s our honeymoon so we are just going to relax mantra.” I mean, could you find a better spot to do so?

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There are also private island day trips to be found. El Nido Resorts owns one of them: Entalula Island. We paid for a day trip to the island, which included lunch and an all-day stay. With cabanas, cocktails and that stunning view; what more could you want? There was a public side to the island where many of the boat tours dock for lunch as well.

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Is El Nido on your list? If so, any other questions for me about El Nido? There is so much to say 🙂

Back to Blogging 2018

Hello friends! It’s been some time since words hit this white space. A lot has changed. You won’t find any more comedy about bad dates. Though you can re-read and reminisce here. And here.

Instead, you may find the joys, laughs, and lessons of marriage.

Because this happened:

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You will still find delectable bites and drinks; perhaps an occasional recipe or two. The love of food doesn’t fade.

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In about five months you may also catch tips and tricks for the new mom or mom to be.

Because this also happened:

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What does remain unwavering is the love of travel and joy of writing. With trips to Paris, Amsterdam, Bruges, and the Philippines; we’ve got a lot to catch up on!

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Ready to join me again? Or for the very first time? 🙂

Nutmeg’s Spreads: My New Favorite Snack that Gives Back

Farmers markets are my jam. I could spend every weekend perusing each vendor. I want to learn about the products, those new cookies and that bundle of flowers.

When the season is right, I stock up on ALL the tomatoes I can get my hands on. I’m always walking out with two or more bundles of flowers. At the Minneapolis Farmers Market you just cannot get me away from the pork egg rolls, omg yum!

But the last time I went to the Linden Hills farmers market; I may have just found my new go to every day snack. Like I need a new jar of this already. I’ve licked that thing clean.

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Have you had Nutmeg’s Spreads yet!? If not, introduce your life to the best peanut, almond and cashew butter. Not only is this my favorite almond butter, but every time you’re eating this delectable snack, you’re giving back! Nutmeg’s exists to provide financial resources to nonprofits in Kenya. So every time you’re snacking.. you are actually spreading the love.

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During the time I spent sampling each; I met multiple repeat customers. They either told me or I overheard; we just cannot keep this in our fridge. Our kids/we/me keep eating it!

So its delicious and you’re spreading the love. What more could you want? Well an added bonus is that Billy and Megan, the owners are so welcoming and informative. They’re mission driven and full of jokes. The company reflects them and is named after them, Megan (Meg) and Billy (he’s the nut ;)).

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This weekend you can find them Saturday at the Northeast Farmers Market and Sunday back at Linden Hills. Stop by, say hi and try those spreads!

How to Staycation: AC Hotel Bloomington

Growing up I moved ten times before high school. Ten! When your family moves that much it is inevitable that you will live or spend significant time in hotels. I look forward to hotel stays, heck I even crave going to a hotel just to relax. It feels like coming home.

These days I am most certainly not moving around as much but I still enjoy a good staycation. In fact after last weekend I’m pretty sure Staycations will happen for me more often. I’m getting them on the calendar 🙂

There is no better place than the AC Hotel Bloomington Mall of America to kick off your staycation tradition or to book for your next trip to the Twin Cities. With its proximity to the Mall of America, a shopping weekend could not be easier. It was the perfect excuse for me to pop in to the new Zara and do a little wardrobe updating.

From the minute you walk in the lounge, the entrance is enticing. The signature scent embraces you. All of the natural lighting makes the lounge a comfortable space to hang out, relax or to get some work done. The modern clean lines remind you of Europe yet the art is local and gives you that Minnesota feel at the same time.

 

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After all that tiresome wardrobe updating at the MOA, nothing could be more refreshing than one or two of the hotel’s signature cocktails.

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Cocktails require accompaniments and the AC’s tapas style lounge menu will absolutely do!

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After an evening of signature cocktails and tapas, getting out of that heavenly king sized bed was not on the top of my to do list. I could have stayed cozy in there all morning!

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But alas I had to… a European breakfast was calling my name! I mean they even have a machine fresh cutting prosciutto for you each morning. How do I get one of these in my house?!

 

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I was also pretty impressed with the help yourself breakfast drink selections. Iced coffee and soy milk, yes please!

Now if this doesn’t look like the perfect little breakfast plate.. 🙂

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Signature scents, cocktails, tapas and beds you don’t want to get out of.. what more could you want in your staycation?

Thank you AC Hotel Bloomington MOA; I had a wonderful stay!

(Disclaimer: A complimentary stay was provided in partnership with this post)

Where to Wine: Willamette Valley

I recently returned from a bucket list trip to Portland, Oregon. I had heard tales of this Foodie Mecca and for far too long drooled over the Instagram posts coming out of that city.

Finally it was time for me to explore Portland and feast away!

We walked all over; ate till we could not eat anymore; stopped by as many breweries as we could in sequence… and got caught in a political protest!  The airbnb may have had mice, but even that could not stop my new found love for Portland.

Not only did we traverse the city…. But we found ourselves a driver and booked it to wine country. I may be a wine country newbie but the Willamette Valley blew me away. Our driver Chris, if you can, you must find Chris, was the most knowledgeable, funny and charismatic guy. He has lived in the area for many years and developed relationships at multiple vineyards. I credit Chris for much of the attention and care we received in each and every tasting room.  With Chris we truly received the VIP treatment. Every naïve wine question I asked was answered with respect and an intent to educate. I’m quite certain we received more pours than the anyone else in those tasting rooms.

The rooms we were in felt personal, welcoming and boutique.

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Our first stop was at Domain Roy & Fils. Upon arrival we were treated to champagne and a tour around the facility. We were given time to enjoy the view and walk around. I could sit on the patio here all day. Our tasting took place by the fireplace and could not have been more enjoyable. Jordan explain their processes, the wines and exchanged dog stories. If you go, he is the best!

Our second stop was at Alexana Winery; another beautiful tasting room with floor to ceiling windows over looking an 80 acre vineyard. Here to my surprise I found a Chardonnay that I absolutely love. It is a stunning bottle and may have reopened my palate to Chardonnay. I’d be remiss not to mention that I also walked out of Alexana with a few Pinot Noirs as well. The staff here were beyond happy to educate, talk and get to know you.

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Our third stop was Fairsing Vineyard and I’m quite certain the view cannot get any better than here.

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There are no descriptors for this place. Its like a heaven on earth, a peace, a calm and warmth from the wine. Take me back.

Our fourth and final stop was Saffron Fields Vineyard. We sampled more wine and walked around the beautiful Japanese garden here. Our trip happened to coincide with a thanksgiving meal pairing and we snacked to our hearts’ content. I walked away with a bottle of the most delicious Rose.  The tasting room staff gave us many more restaurant recommendations for our last night in Portland.

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Seriously stunning. I’m dying to go back. Who is with me?

 

Season of Joy and Coffee.

Thanksgiving weekend came to a close and it is raining outside. Raining! In November. In Minnesota! I’ll take the rain though and patiently await the snow. Perhaps it will make this holiday season feel as if it is not racing by. I always say I’ll  take in and savor each activity, each moment with family and friends and every twinkling light. And yet every year it all goes by in a blink of an eye.

The rain almost reminds me to stop, breathe in the season’s tidings and enjoy it.

Perhaps this season will be one of new traditions for you. One I just started is decorating seasonal plants for our front porch. Ok ok.. I know tons of people do but this year was my first time. I was totally that person out front in her pajamas decorating, with my coffee in hand of course! I loved it.

Another new tradition I’ve enjoyed this year has been heading to Caribou Coffee and creating my own drink. Caribou is going over the top this season, with toppings to make more than 500 holiday drinks!

 I stopped by my local Caribou, ordered up my drinks of choice and played around with toppings to my heart’s content. I was a barista for 5 years so Caribou’s Topped By You is right up my alley. I totally miss whipping up new drinks behind the espresso bar.

Of course I couldn’t just try one; I mean I dream of one day ordering an entire restaurant menu… at one sitting 🙂

So first I went with the Blended Truffle Mocha, topped with dark chocolate chips, brownie bits and candy cane.

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Next up, the Dark Chocolate Raspberry Truffle Mocha with more brownie bits and dark chocolate chips. Both were topped with vanilla whip cream. Let me introduce them to you below, my Joyful Chocolate Delights! (because with this amount of chocolate you cannot help but be joyful!)

Voilà. And holy yum.

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Head into your Caribou Coffee store for Topped By You Tuesdays. Try all of the whips and toppings being offered for free between 3-4pm. Also on Tuesdays snag a dollar off a large holiday drink throughout the holiday season! Create your own holiday drink, Top Me and Top Bou. Or order one of my Joyfuls!

I’ll be over here breathing in the season, taking it slow and sipping on a Joyful Chocolate Delight!

(I’ve partnered with Caribou Coffee in facilitating this post. All opinions are my own.)