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.. 🙂

AC Hotel Breakfast

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)

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Brunching Lately

I’m often asked, what is your favorite place to eat?

Makes sense right, as I blog about food, eat food, check out the new and the old “hot” places. Duh.

I read articles about food, new restaurants and local chefs’ accomplishments on the daily.

I’d rather be lost in a pile of recipes or Foodnetwork’s archives than be stuck with my daily work. (shhh)

Cookbooks are my secret pleasure… reading them. Yes I read them…. I don’t really cook with them, as following a recipe is not for me; I’m a pinch there, squirt there, cup or two here kinda girl.

For the most part, my pinches, squirts and random cups work out.

A few days ago, when asked where my favorite place to brunch was… I blanked. I’d like to blame the oodles of cold medicine I was under the influence of…. however it may also be due to the fact that I haven’t brunched in a while! Shocking.  I know.  I am the self proclaimed bruncher and would gladly wear any article of clothing, exclaiming, “But First, Brunch!” should you happen to want to send me such article of clothing… really I’ll take them 😉

The only cure to this mind fart is of course, to go BRUNCH!

So off to Birchwood Cafe we went.  Please slap my hand because it has taken me far too long to try this place out.  Birchwood’s commitment to real, local and community shines true on your plate.

The commitment is apparent in that first bite. And that first sip of an afternoon cocktail.

I had to try the Birchwood Beef Burger… with housemade ketchup, mustard and onion, pickled cucumbers, and lettuce on a birdseed bun. (I have this thing with burgers)

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To sip on the side I had the Rosemary Elderberry Mimosa. Just yum. I’ll take another and another please!

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If you are like me, and Birchwood Cafe is still on your must try list, perhaps check it off this weekend? 🙂

Other places to try: here …. here.. and here.

Pickle Please.

Happy Friday Y’all!

(Y’all is the last remnant of my Austin Trip a couple weeks ago….)

I’m in Milwaukee to celebrate my fourth Bachelorette lady since May… off to drink champagne, dance around and share delicious food and memories with some wonderful ladies.

To kick off the weekend festivities, how about some funny facts about me you may not know and a contest!?

1. I have many nicknames. Tina, Xtina… Peanut… “my little pigpen”… and Chris (though you must gain my permission to call me Chris).

2. I took multiple years of Tae Kwon Do and actually competed in the Junior Olympics twice. Who knew?! 😉 My championship photo actually hung in our first post college house… Eat your heart out…

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3. I must avoid the throw pillow section at Target or HomeGoods, as I will leave with an entire new set of throw pillows every time.

4. I totally dance around my bathroom as I’m getting ready or about to hop in the shower.

5. I used the same tennis shoes from high school until I was 28 years old…. yes I know. I’m a phenomenon.

6. Pickles and I are in love. Did you know I’m a pickle person? Put a few in my fridge and they won’t last long. Snack away I will. Which is perfect for National Pickle Day tomorrow!

Oh Snap! Pickling Co. wants to celebrate National Pickle Day by giving lucky pickle fans a chance to win $100 and free Oh Snap! pickles.

Um yes please!

To participate:
  1. Like Oh Snap! pickles on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Oh-Snap-Pickles-1451071898529397/?fref=ts
  2. Find the hidden Oh Snap! Pickle on the contest page http://ohsnappickles.com/pickle-day/
  3. Enter your name, email, and location of the Oh Snap! pickle for the chance to win $100 and free product samples.

$100 and free pickles wohoo!

Good luck and Happy Friday Y’all!

The Middle of What?!

Wait, its the middle (almost end) of September already?

In the midst of travels, weddings and adventures, I’ve failed to get caught up on the present.

My planner is filled to the brim, and while being busy is a blessing and keeps me going, I’m ready for a minor cool off.  (Not weather related) Events cool off.

To look at the upcoming weekend and see blanks, nothing penciled in… nothing cooking… it brings a slow, sweet smile. It means time for coffee and perusing online… on my couch.. with the wild puppy snoozing at my feet. She too loves quiet mornings, smelling my coffee ad gazing up at my unmoving body. She likes the blanks in my planner most likely more than anyone.

Blanks lead to unplanned evenings.. the opportunity to try new places. You know, my M.O.

Like Saint Dinette over in Lowertown. The place of the fabled cheeseburger. The participant in the Twin Cities burger war of 2015. I keep questioning who is next, who will throw down another….. Who will attempt to conquer next?

Saint Dinette’s story is one of coming together.  Of “invoking the welcome and comfort of a “maison,” or house — a gathering place for this re-born River City.” They wish to share the flavors of the region with you.

Head there and I think you’ll agree, they’ve done just that.

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Next time I find a few blanks in the planner….. you know where you can find me 😉

Have you been?

Up the Funk.

While I am a steadfast non-rule breaker… I sometimes fall into the old adage of “some rules are meant to be broken.”

However that typically only applies to food. Food rules. Is there such a thing? I mean I’ve never gone to culinary school. I’m not trained and my techniques in the kitchen are… not chef like.. but I eat.

I know when food tastes the way it should.. I know when food is mediocre.

How? Because I eat a lot and wide varieties of foods. So I’m not sure if there really are food rules, but I do know when classics are taken for a spin. When things get funky and the ante goes up.

Which you can absolutely find at Nighthawks.

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Like bacon. Scallion. Kimchi pancakes.  HUGE chunks of bacon.

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I’d say the rules or the funk have been turned up in this case.

And foot long wieners come rolling out, piled with a mass of ingredients. We pretty much ordered this out of fascination. But it had to be ordered.

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AND the chicken. My first nibble into the fried chicken wars of 2015…

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Delish. Crispy on the outside, not drippy greasy and juicy on the inside. The flavor, the spice, so on point. We tried the Kingfield spice.

My only disappointment? Not ordering the burger.  I sat at the counter and watched dozens of these prepared in front of me. They called to me, each and every one of them.

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Hey lonely little burger……

Next time.

Yes….. next time.

Have you been?

A Little Sip n Flow

Alright, one cool weekend and everyone is all “Where’s my comfy sweater and PSL latte?”

I’m over here soaking up the sun and the mornings where I can still take the dog out in barely there layers…. 🙂

I’m not yet ready for fall and am not one who invites it in so soon.

I’m the one praying for 70 degree October days and keeping my boots and sweaters at bay…. (for as long as I can!)

I will wear open toe booties until the first snow falls..

So…

Here are a few of my favorite ways to enjoy the rest of summer!

1) Yoga at the brewery! How could you beat a morning flow session and a cool environment to get your sweat sesh on?

2) Slow Saturday mornings and brunch at home..

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3) Sipping my iced coffee with Almond Breeze Almond Coconut milk… I’m a true “iced-coffeer”, you know the kind that prefers iced to hot coffee, so when Blue Diamond sent this to sample, I was all about my iced lattes! (I will drink iced even when it snows!) Call me crazy 🙂

Have you tried their Almond Breeze Almond Coconut milk?

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4) Summer BLT Salads, because, tomato season, hello!IMG_3535

5) Cherishing those lingering cabin days..

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So while some may be wishing for fall, you can find me in the city, sipping my iced almond coconut milk latte, begging summer to stay and participating in a little yoga flow 🙂

This post is sponsored by Almond Breeze Almondmilk

Hopping on the Red Wagon…

As a kid, I had one of those red wagons, you know the one with the black handle?  That you would hop into and ride down the hill?

It was in a sense a mini rollercoaster, careening down the hill. Perhaps a friend or sibling or two grasping my waist and hanging on for the ride. Sometimes you tumbled off and others you almost swung into a tree.  I mean the handle wasn’t the best steering wheel; but it was o so fun!

The restaurant we tried on Saturday brought up all of those red wagon memories. And for obvious reasons.

Red Wagon Pizza Company was on our evening agenda. Red Wagon stated as a passion project at the Linden Hills Farmers Market. Today you can visit the brick and mortar restaurant in South Minneapolis off Penn.

The black and white vintage feel was an inviting haven from the pending thunderstorm…. I also wanted to run off with the roses next to us 🙂

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Bar chips were ordered to start the meal.

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Next was the arugula salad…. while normally it comes with strawberries, the pickled peaches were a welcome substitution.

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As it was my first time at Red Wagon, we went with the classic Red Wagon Pizza; house cheese, red sauce, homemade sausage, soppresatta ribbons, chili flakes and a tiny drizzle of fig balsamic.

When you use loved and fresh ingredients….. you can taste it. And Red Wagon for sure loves its ingredients… you can taste it in every bite.

I’m ready for another pizza pie please 🙂

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I’m disappointed the leftover pieces are in someone else’s fridge and not mine…. 🙂

I’ll be over here wishing I had another piece of pizza and reminiscing of wagon roller coaster rides….

Have you been to Red Wagon Pizza Company?

Philly and My Cheese Steak.

Each plane ride leads me to the next. Each trip, long or short, has me craving a new adventure.

I am always dreaming of that next departure.

I cannot be still and stay. My most comfortable place is the airport.

Last weekend was spent traipsing through Philadelphia with the one and only KB.

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Off we were to explore her new city and eat just about everything in sight. It was as we called it, a foodie weekend, with not much but food crawls on our  minds.

Naturally our first stop had to be a cheese steak.   I’ve had Pat’s and Geno’s on a previous Philly trip, so this time, we walked blocks and I mean like 6 miles to get to Jim’s Steaks.

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I made (yes made) KB order, as technically she had never ordered one before. Don’t worry, whiz was involved.

Our next stop was a jaunt to a pop up beer garden for happy hour. I could live in this pop up beer garden. Which by the way at the end of the season is stripped down to the bare parking lot that it came from. The Pennsylvania Horticultural Society puts these on and it may be the best summer activity ever. Beyond jealous one is not on my street. Ahemmm Minneapolis….

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Post beer garden, you should probably head to Tria Fitler Square for you know… carbs and cheese.  The perfect “beer-soaker-uper”. Get the Truffled Egg Toast with Fontina Fontal. O my god this is the best toast or anything else that you will ever put in your mouth.  We also had the Pistachio Herbed Ricotta with Lavender Honey Bruschetta.  I plan to recreate this at home very soon. SO good. The braised beef short rib gnocchi was also to die for. All in all, carb heaven.

Naturally the next morning, we had to start brunch on the same carb and cheese train. Because we totally did not have enough the night before. AND we had trekked all the way to the new Century 21, meaning we had burned off at least half of the night’s delights.

Check out Zavino Wine Bar for seriously the largest meat and cheese tray ever.

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After more walking, exploring and a daytime cocktail or two, our dinner reservation at Mercato arrived. I’m told you are not to take photos here, and as I do not break the rules, I refused to do it. However others were doing it and KB demanded documentation. Somehow, someone managed to take the below………..

 

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(Shhhh!)

With my stomach and carb love full, off we went to wander the picturesque historic streets. If anyone would like to purchase the below home for me, I’d greatly appreciate it.  Then I could spend more time traipsing through the city and sampling the restaurants to my heart’s content.

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While I’m over here already dreaming of the next trip, I left Philly happy at a friend’s new home, happy for her next adventures and delighted to have met some of her new people;  amazed at her already amassed knowledge of the city and passion to explore.

(I’ll be over here eating salad all week)

Have you been to Philly?

Water and The Soul.


I’ve got the travel bug again, and I’ve got it bad. Spain is on the brain. Have you been? I think I may need to go.

Spain may be next.

So while I’m dreaming of tapas and architecture, my mini travels to weddings this summer will have to suffice.

And suffice they  have.

Bayfield, Wisconsin may have stolen my heart a few weeks ago. Who knew this charming place was a mere 4 hours away?

Not me.

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A town that claims to be where the water meets the soul. I’d very much have to agree.

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Waking early to the sun over the water, the town slowly creeping to life. the early birds sailing through the calm waters.. buying the ferry tickets to Madeline Island.. and taking in the calm around you.

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I could totally spend another weekend on the shores of Lake Superior.

Renting mopeds and exploring the island.

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Eating white fish cakes and hearing about the island’s late night shenanigans.

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I’ll take another order please.

I’m ready to plan my next weekend here. Have you been?

Bayfield, you’ve kept my travel bug at bay.

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Dresses and Dairy Delights

We could most likely call this summer, the wedding summer. The summer of dresses, and shoes and flowers, cakes and cocktails.  The summer of love and families joining and the meeting of so many new to me people.

With a good 8 or 9 weddings on the calendar, and with so many out of town, why not turn them into weekends of exploration too?

Like hopping into cheese shops along the way to Green Bay, WI.  Tucked into the plethora of cows and farms during the drive, one must explore the dairy delights.

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Did you know cheese curds were meant to be eaten at room temp? You know, to optimze the squeak in your mouth……..

Post devouring squeaky cheese curds, one must put down a few beers.

At Titletown Brewery of course. Just avoid the food. Until last Friday, I did not think it possible to screw up bacon wrapped brats.  It happened. Just have the beer.

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The only way to recover from mismanaged bacon would be a trip to Lambeau Field the next morning. Obvious I guess when dating a packer fan. Ultimate gesture of Romance?

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Did anyone notice my purple tank top….? #skol

 Continuing on this road of recovery calls for the famous Green Bay Bloody Mary; from St. Brendans Inn.

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Next stop on the adventure? A butter burger from Krolls.  Literally a slab of butter is cooked into the burger and shall commence dripping down your hands once eating. The ulitmate diary indulgence.

And because Lambeau Field, Bloody Marys and a butter burger are the only way to properly prep for a wedding, off we went, fully preped and “dairy-ified”.

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Do you have weddings to attend this summer?