Monthly Archives: September 2013

Another New Doggie Box Battle

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Subscription Box Saturday – Doggie Box Edition

Recently, I was offered a 2-month subscription to PetBox for $29 through Coupaw, a deal site for pet products. Let’s see how it stands up to our favorite BarkBox.

Here’s our September comparison.

PetBox

What: “Each box contains five to six items such as healthy treats, toys, grooming products, etc. Each month your PetBox will have five to six new items with a minimum retail value of over $60. These high quality items are each hand picked for your pet’s enjoyment. For each PetBox that we ship each month, we give $3 to help animal rescue efforts.”

Cost: $29 per month or as low as $19 per month for a 12-month subscription.

Our first box:

And the Contents:

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September PetBox Contents: Gourmet Select Carrot Crunch Treats, Petrodex Doggie Toothbrush and Toothpaste, Safemade Newt Chew, Doggie Sunscreen, PoopBags with dispenser, Nootie Daily Pet Spritz, No Grainers Soft Chews

Of course, Shamrock wanted Newt to jump out of the box as soon as possible, so he could play with him!

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Do you think it could be for this reason?

PB5I think it’s funny that “newt flavor* tastes like chicken.” Rob won’t be testing this out any time soon. Unfortunately, Newt lost a couple of legs in a matter of minutes. I think Shamrock wanted to get to the bottom of that Newt flavor!

I had never heard of Doggie Sunscreen before, so I am glad that included some information:

PB6

It’s good, too, that we received the toothbrush kit. Once upon a time, I used to brush Sophie’s teeth. I don’t know how I got out of the habit. I’m sure that chicken flavored toothpaste from when she was a pup is no good now. At least they will have their own toothbrushes and I can start this habit again.

Overall, we liked the box. Not too shabby for the $14.50 I paid. However, the homepage states that the retail value is well over $60. I searched for these products online and came up with $36.96. Not a bad deal for those paying $29 for the box, but it doesn’t exactly meet the $60 claim. Here’s my breakdown. It was a quick online look-up. And when I saw a sale price, I ignored it and went with the regular price.

  • Gourmet Select Treats – $2.59 (7 oz bag)
  • Petrodex Toothbrush & Toothpaste Kit – $10.59
  • Newt – $4.29
  • Nootie Daily Spritz – $11.99
  • Doggie Sunscreen – $2.50 ($4.99 for two)
  • No Grainers Treats – $5
  • TOTAL = $36.96

~

BarkBox:

What: “Each monthly box contains a combination of 4-6 treats, toys, and hygiene products that have been hand selected and approved by Scout, head product tester for BarkBox. BarkBox is dedicated to supporting the health and happiness of all dogs! That’s why we donate at least 10% of our profits to shelters, rescues and animal welfare organizations.”

Cost: $29 per month or as low as $19 per month for a 12-month subscription.

September BarkBox Contents:

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September BarkBox Contents: It’s Purely Natural Treats, Wagatha’s Tuscan Pizza Organic Dog Biscuits, VetraCare Liquid Bandage for Pets and….

Wait, that box is missing an item that Sham stole out of the box right away!

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That’s a cool koala rope toy, squeaker, animal toy all stuffed in one!

I have not seen promises as to how much the BarkBox claims to be worth each month, but I thought I’d check on these items just for comparison.

  • Aussie Naturals Koala Toy – $7.99
  • It’s Purely Natural Treats – $7.88
  • Wagatha’s Organic Treats – $10.95
  • VetraCare Liquid Banadage for Pets – $7.99
  • TOTAL = $34.81

You can always get $5 off your first month’s subscription of BarkBox by clicking on my referral link.

In case you are curious, here are the other doggie subscription boxes we’ve tried!

Since thinking about and spoiling my pooches makes me happy, tell me something you are/were happy about this weekend!

*Note: I have not been compensated to review either of these subscription boxes. I have purchased each subscription myself, using deals whenever they are offered through various deal sites.

Cheers~
Carrie

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The Bulldog – Lowertown St. Paul

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Okay, so it’s not the same as the Bulldog NE. Can I say it’s as good? Hmmm… It’s almost like comparing apples to oranges. Well, maybe not that different. Maybe just two kinds of apples that you really like and you can’t choose between the two of them. Okay, so I’d probably choose the Nordeast location most of the time. But the Lowertown location of the Bulldog was actually much better than I expected.

Although you will find no cupcakes here. 😦

My husband suggested we stop by for dinner before another event we had taking place in downtown St. Paul. My friends Sally and Ryan love this place. I really wasn’t too excited about the menu online. And when we arrived, nothing sounded good to me. It was one of those days.

As I mentioned in the post about our beloved Bulldog NE, the Bulldog in the Lowertown area of St. Paul isn’t related. In fact, I didn’t think any of the Bulldog locations were related. But after checking out The Bulldog Lowertown website, it appears that of the four Bulldog Bar/Restaurants throughout the Twin Cities, the Bulldog NE is the only one not affiliated with the others. To make things more confusing, the websites for each location are different from what they actual title each restaurant:

I guess the non-affiliated location in Northeast/Nordeast Minneapolis is a bit confusing, too. The website is www.TheBulldogNortheast.com. But I’ve seen it written and/or called the following:

  • The Bulldog Northeast
  • The Bulldog Nordeast
  • The Bulldog NE
  • The Bulldog N.E.

I digress. Now that we’ve got all of that out of the way, back to The Bulldog – St. Paul, which is where this experience occurred…

I was immediately surprised by how big the interior is! For some reason, I wasn’t expecting that. The focus here is on Belgian beers, just like at the Bulldog NE. They also have descriptions of beer styles in their beer menu:

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But they have other rotating taps as well. I’ve been off my usual IPA kick for several months for some reason. On this particular occasion, I chose what I would probably consider more as dessert beers.

BulldogLT Tap

My choices of the day were the Young’s Double Chocolate Stout and the Lindemann’s Francoise Lambic

I just love how the new Young’s tap handle looks like a chocolate bar in the midst of being unwrapped. 😉

For dinner, Rob was in the mood for this:

PHILLY CHEESESTEAK Thin-sliced sirloin, sautéed peppers & onions topped with our spicy cheese sauce on a hoagie $9.50 with Cajun Tater Tots

PHILLY CHEESESTEAK
Thin-sliced sirloin, sautéed peppers & onions topped with spicy cheese sauce on a hoagie –  $9.50 {served here with Cajun Tater Tots}

Oh, boy was he in heaven with that Philly Cheesesteak. {The tots were fine. He’s had better; but it didn’t stop him from eating them!} I had a bite and thought it was rather good, too. I’d recommend it. Still, believe it or not, I thought my dish was so much better!

QUESADILLA Shredded cheese, beans & pico de gallo hand-rolled in a tortilla with your choice of tasty goodness. Beef $9 | Chicken $9 | Pulled Pork $9 | Veggie $8

PULLED PORK QUESADILLA
Shredded cheese, beans & pico de gallo hand-rolled in a tortilla with choice of filling. {Options: Beef $9 | Chicken $9 | Pulled Pork $9 | Veggie $8}

I chose pulled pork because I read somewhere else on the menu that it was house-made. Otherwise, I normally order my quesadillas with chicken. I thought Rob could try it, too. But then I realized it had beans. Sometimes, I do win out with his allergies! 😉

This quesadilla was stuffed to the max and oh-so-flavorful. It actually put the cheesesteak to shame on the flavor-meter. I wouldn’t exactly call it a quesadilla though. It was probably more like a grilled burrito. Yes, it was stuffed that much! But I loved it. I did end up giving Rob a taste of just the pulled pork and I think he got a little jealous. I couldn’t even give him a section because the beans were well mixed-in. When we go back to the Bulldog in Lowertown St. Paul, I’m going to have a hard time ordering anything else.

What is your favorite dessert-like beer?

What is your favorite quesadilla filling?

Cheers~
Carrie

Yesterday was National Cheeseburger Day

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Did you know that yesterday was National Cheeseburger Day?

My husband suggested that we go out for cheeseburger. I obliged because it was only the American thing to do!

So, naturally, we went to Fong’s

a Chinese restaurant in Bloomington.

We debated where to get a burger on such a special day. We wanted to try someplace new. Then, our friend Shondra {who works at Fong’s} posted on Facebook that it was National Cheeseburger Day and to come out and visit her. We recalled that she recently told us that her place of employment actually served really good ones. So we decided to pay her a visit…

And boy are we glad we did!

We ordered this burger (to split) with cheese, fried onions, lettuce, tomato and mayo:

That’s all this baby needed. It was soooo good and hit the spot for a classic Angus burger. Rob said that it instantly shot up into his Top 10 list. I was rather surprised. He’s had so many burgers by now that, he might have to separate them into “Classic” and “Specialty.” Either way, if it made that list, it’s in need of a revision.

Tip: The burger is not on the regular menu, so you’ll just have to ask for it. Apparently, it’s on the lunch menu and there is a kid’s version on the dinner menu, as well. But they’ll have no problem putting in an order for you. And get this: The burger is only $7.25. {Add 50 cents each for cheese and fried onions.} We consider this a steal.

Speaking of steals, the Happy Hour isn’t too bad either:

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Naturally, because we ordered a burger on National Cheeseburger day in a Chinese restaurant, I ordered a margarita.

Naturally.

Fongs MargaritaSo you think that’s funny? Well, here’s what even funnier. Because Rob wasn’t sure if the burger was going to be as good as he wanted it to be, he said we’d split it and ordered the dish that has been continually his fave at Fong’s:

Fongs Lo Mein

Beef Lo Mein

Keep in mind that the portion you see is half-eaten. You can get at least three meals out of this baby. He still loves it, but was kicking himself as I polished off the burger. {Of course I gave him a couple of bites!} Oh, by the way, the fries are worth trying, too!

Then, as I checked out their website to link in this post, I realized that the real name of this restaurant is:

David Fong’s Cantonese & American Cuisine

No wonder they know how to do a good burger.

Did you eat a burger for National Cheeseburger Day? If so, where & why?

Where’s the craziest place you’ve had a burger and loved it?

Cheers~
Carrie

Buffalo Tap – Savage

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There’s a lot that’s led me up to this post:

  1. I was able to knock a beer off my IPA Wishlist recently here.
  2. I recently talked about the best places to take out-of-town guests, partially due to this establishment’s Juicy Lucy.
  3. I experienced the most recent Packer win at this fave Packer bar.

So there you go. It’s time.

The Beer

I was really surprised when my husband told me that he wanted to go to the Buffalo Tap recently because he said he’d read on Facebook that they were were carrying bombers of the Stone R&R Coconut IPA.

“What?” I asked. “Do you remember my IPA Day post? That beer’s on my wishlist to try!”

Naturally, we went.

And let me just tell you, if you want updates on new beers, wines, dishes, specials or happy hours, it’s a great idea to follow your favorite bars and restaurants on Facebook or Twitter. I personally don’t do that. Well, I do some, but I don’t see every post. But that’s only because my husband does. I make him in charge of that! And it’s a great tip he’s given you!

615Our verdict? The beer was a good IPA in its own right. However, we were disappointed because we couldn’t find even the slightest hint of coconut in the aromas or the flavors. It seems a little much that Stone took the time to bottle and market this beer that way. And we love Stone!

But unbeknownst to us, Buffalo Tap had a beer we adore on tap that day. Only, we’ve only had it in the bottle before!

Creme Brulee STout

Do you see the Crème Brûlée Stout?

It is undeniably incredible in the bottle, but even better on tap. That keg went fast because we didn’t get back to “The Tap” again before it was gone. In fact, it can even be difficult to find this beer in the bottle. So if you do… You. Must. Try. It. Nom Nom. It’s made by Southern Tier, the same brewery that brings us the infamous Pumpking Ale, which is another one You. Must. Have. if you find it on tap like we did here last year and here this year.

In general, the beer here is ridiculously overpriced, especially if you want a specialty beer. For example, on Game Day a couple of years ago, I remember seeing a tall Guinness or tall Surly for $10. Your domestics aren’t too bad, but sometimes I feel like you need to take out a mortgage to get something special…

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Sample Beer Prices

But let us count all the other reasons Buffalo Tap is a hit, whether or not you bring out-of-town guests.

The Northwoods Feel

This isn’t important to me when dining out, but the décor is a nice touch when you are bringing out-of-town guests. To go with this theme, you’ll also find that they serve buffalo (hence the name) and elk. While I don’t generally eat either of those, it’s a nice option for others.

Minnesota and Wisconsin Food

The menu here is HUGE. Robert Irvine wouldn’t approve. But somehow, they make it work. The variety is also perfect when you have out-of-town guests with different tastes or just picky friends. Here are some things we recommend:

  • Cheese Curds – They have some of Rob’s favorite here. Choose original or spicy.
  • Bloody Mary – Technically a beverage, but it comes with a nice skewer of sides and a beefstick. Alongside you get a beer chaser {aka beerback}.
  • Juicy Lucy – As I stated in my post about where in the Twin Cities to take Out-of-Town Guests:

Forget Matt’s.

Forget the 5-8 Club.

Get your Juicy Lucy here – the Parmesan Patty Melt to be exact. Matt’s Lucy is a good dive bar burger that is worth trying, but our burgers at the 5-8 Club were absolutely horrible. On the other hand, the Parmesan Patty Melt Juicy Lucy at the Buffalo Tap is heaven. For those of you who don’t know what a Juicy Lucy is, think of an inside-out burger. It’s one with the yummy, gooey cheese right in the middle. This one is served on Parmesan Encrusted Bread. Need I say more? You just need a little patience because you don’t want to bite into it right away, or that cheese will squirt out and burn you. Give it some time to set. Then cut it in half. Drag the chips through any melty cheese that oozes out.

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This photo doesn’t do this perfect Parmesan Patty Melt Juicy Lucy any justice!

I’d also just stick with the chips. The fries are nothing to write home a blog post about.

My go-to healthy choice on this menu is the Cela Grilled Chicken Pita. {I substitute cottage cheese for the chips on this one.}

Grilled chicken diced and wrapped in pita bread with lettuce, tomato, cheese blend and cucumber sauce. Raw onion on request. Make it Buffalo Style by adding Buffalo Sauce and substituting ranch or blue cheese for cucumber sauce.

Tip: If you are looking for cheaper items on the menu, you can always go for the hot dogs or soup. They are still quite filling! Then, there’s the wine…

Packer Game Day

I love Packer Game Day at the tap! We get there early before the game starts because the downstairs area with televisions devoted solely to the Packer game fills every seat before kickoff. It’s like sitting in a roomful of friends!

There is a requirement to watch the game here, though…

BT-packTo be honest, I don’t blame them. If we are going to hold tables that could otherwise be turned during the lunch hour, it’s only fair. And $15 for at least 3 hours is nothing. In fact, Rob and I have known to drop way too much money here. Sometimes we’ll start with a coffee and Bailey’s (me) and a coffee and Rumple Minze (Rob). Then I’ll have a Bloody Mary since they are my favorite here. {Although, it’s been a while and they looked a little different when I saw others ordering them the last time I was there.} Then Rob’ll order a couple of beers and before we know it and have even had anything to eat, we’re up to almost $50.

One way to keep it more affordable when we are there for a game is to order wine instead. Seriously, you can get a bottle of Mondavi Cab for $12.95/bottle.

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While affordable, I had a harder time choking that stuff down this weekend than I have in the past. Maybe it’s because I was also drinking Diet Coke. {For some reason, I don’t like their tap water there; so I don’t drink it.}

Or you can take your chances and hope for a Packer Touchdown. Every time they score {a touchdown anyway, I’m not sure that field goals count}, you can get a Miller Lite for a $1. Our table was very lucky last weekend!

Packer Touchdown Beers

Packer Touchdown Beers!

You know me, I don’t tend to drink light beer, but if I’m needing a water or another Bloody Mary Chaser, I’ll take it. Or I’ll share. Remember, we’re all friends here!

GO PACK GO!

Where do you go to see your favorite sports team when it’s not televised on the main network stations?

Cheers~
Carrie

Walk FUR Love & Food & Fitness Link-Up

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Last week, I attempted to run three miles. 

During my first attempt, I stopped and walked. I couldn’t handle (or thought I couldn’t handle) the hills in my neighborhood. I was angry with myself because I’ve done it before. I almost walked home. I turned the corner and started running again, anyway, just to see what would happen. Another runner was running toward me, a young guy. I always nod or lift a hand to wave to whomever I pass when I’m running. Before I had the opportunity to do so, he extended both of his pointer fingers toward me as if to say, “You go, girl!”

That’s all it took. It immediately lifted my spirits. A young, fit kid was giving me props. It was enough for me to finish the route. I was slow. But I did it all, despite the walks and made it home.

The second run was difficult, too. But I made it three miles without stopping. Despite the fact that it took me 39 minutes. I still didn’t feel ready for the 5k, especially because I’ve have intermittent back pain. Not while running, but in the evening later on or during the day at work.

I told my friend Stacy that I almost considered not doing this 5k… that I though about skipping it entirely. But while I was running, I thought about all of the people who donated to the cause. I thought about all of the dogs who needed adopting. I knew in my heart that I needed to go and support this cause.

Now here’s the part where I hope you aren’t disappointed in me…

I walked the 5k.

I could tell you about all of my excuses. How I woke up with a charlie horse in my left calf. How I didn’t walk the dogs this week, so I wasn’t sure they would be ready and didn’t want to leave Rob behind handling both of them. How after sitting in the grass for an hour my back hurt and I was stiff. I could tell you all those things (okay, so I did) and more.

But I walked it anyway. And you know what?

I had a hard time walking it.

I didn’t do so well. Neither did the pooches. After about a half mile, I could tell they wanted to be done. Pathetic. I felt like a bad doggie momma not walking them enough. Then I tried to think of the positive things instead.

  • Now I had the chance to walk again with Rob. It’s been one of our favorite things to do together when I was doing the LOST Virtual Race Series.
  • At least I was walking this thing. I know we would have been catching up on episodes of Downton Abbey on the couch if we hadn’t!
  • And I also knew that walking is the best thing for my back.

I do have to say that I was really surprised by how small this event was. I knew it was going to be small, but not this small. I think Rob counted six runners. {It wasn’t timed.} But you know what? It was more about the dogs. My favorite was the kissing booth! You could get puppy kisses for just $1.

I did expect more staff, too. I thought they would recognize alumni or do an adoption announcement with the pets needing to be adopted. None of that happened. But what do I know? I’ve never organized one of these things. I truly wasn’t looking for recognition for adopting Shamrock. It was more that I think when you show those things, people’s hearts fill with joy and they may be inspired to do the same. I will say that when we parked ourselves in the grass about an hour before the walk, we loved passing the time watching all of the other dogs and their owners, occasionally letting our dogs interact with some of them.

I also felt that they gave away too much. There were a lot of items in our goodie bags, although I’m sure they were most likely donated. They offered free t-shirts and hats with suggested donations of $10 and $5 respectively. That’s it! And they served lunch – barbecued sandwiches, potato chips, cookies and pop. Yes, I’m sure – donated. But there were donation boxes set up everywhere. Honestly, I just wanted to give, give, give to make this not only a better event, but so they could raise so much more money! It’s such a good cause and we would never have that wonderful new addition to our family without it.

So, in terms of running, in terms of fitness, what now? I’m not really sure. I’m thinking I should back off on running. I don’t think I should be experiencing back pain again. After the walk, I iced and napped. And I’ve gained 12 lbs since the surgery. But I have to start somewhere.

Since I haven’t tried hard enough to incorporate all of the things I need to, I’m going to start simple. And since walking is the best thing for my back, my goal is to walk a minimum of one mile every day no matter what. I can surely do that. My plan is to do that through the end of this year.

What I want to do is finish the LOST Virtual Races. Joe has added four more races to reflect the last Stations of the LOST Dharma Initiative. I wanted to run them. I need some sort of goal.

Or maybe I’ll start with the 7 miles of walking the first week and increase 10% every week.

And I need to strengthen my core.

There’s a lot I need to do, but I’m going to start with the walking, until I can wrap my head around everything. Until I can get past the fact that I’m not where I was pre-surgery and I can formulate a real plan.

Now it’s time for:

planning

Last week…

Food:

  • MondayPork Chops with Veg – It was a 100 degrees. Rob didn’t want me heating up the house. He called an audible and we went to Roasted Pear for half-price wine night and pizza.
  • TuesdayHot dogs (Nathans) & Veggie – I reheated some leftover green beans and added some pesto.
  • WednesdayChicken Taco Skillet (with beef) – I went with the Bertolli’s bag meal this night. These are only in our freezer for last-minute, I-feel-too-busy-and-emotionally-drained-but-it’s-better-than-eating-out nights.
  • ThursdayChili or Bag Meal – Our plans changed. Rob had a Happy Hour planned with the boys. It just so happened that I had last minute plans with the girls, too. My friend Jen picked up a Papa Murphy’s Herb Chicken Mediterranean deLITE pizza. So good.  We had grapes for dessert. This night also doubled as a puppy play-date for Sophie, Shamrock and Sohpie’s old pal Finnegan.
  • FridayHealthy Take-out – Another audible. I stopped at the grocery store and was about to call Rob to find out what he wanted when he called me to find out where I was. He had already made plans to meet a couple of friends at Sul Lago. I wasn’t about to complain. I will say that it’s the first time I ordered the scallops there and they were crazy good. The crisp salad on the side was so refreshing, too. I will definitely get those again!
  • SaturdayWalk FUR Love 5k. Dinner out – most likely here. You’ll see a post this week on where we went instead!
  • Sunday – Packer Game Day at the Buffalo Tap. Another post on that this week.
  • BreakfastsMagic Smoothies, Overnight Oats, Granola with Milk, Peanut Butter Toast
  • Lunches – Leftovers (Lasagna Soup!) and Snack Lunches

Fitness:

  • Monday Walk on treadmill and/or pilates/yoga. Nothing. It was 100 degrees. No excuse.
  • Tuesday – Run 30 minutes – I didn’t do very well with this one. See above. I think I stopped running at about 28 minutes before I started walking. But I kept going.
  • WednesdayPilates/Yoga, walk one dog around the block
  • ThursdayRun 30 minutes – Run 3 miles. Completed! YAY!
  • Friday Walk one dog around the block (Rest Day)
  • Saturday – 5k Race (walked)
  • Sunday – Nothing

So let’s look at what’s in store for this week:

Food:

  • MondayThree Cheese Lasagna Skillet
  • Tuesday – Black Bean Burger (cooking for one after getting my hair done) with Caprese Salad
  • Wednesday – Pork Chops with Pesto Green Beans
  • Thursday – A variation of these Philly Cheesesteak Sloppy Joes
  • Friday – Poker night! It’s the first of the season and we are expecting 22 people. Rob plans on going to Happy Hour. Sometimes I go, sometimes I don’t. It’s always a last minute decision (based on what I have left to clean!) There’s always something healthy at the Mediterranean Cruise Cafe, but if I don’t go, there’s plenty that I can eat at home, too.
  • Saturday – Dinner out with the girls. It’s my turn to pick and I’ve chosen Barrio. I’ve never been there. What would you choose?
  • Sunday – Another Packer Game we can’t watch at home. There are only four this year, but the first two happen to be back to back. Will we go back to the Buffalo Tap? We have a few other options. Not because we don’t love the Tap, but because it can get spendy!
  • Breakfasts90-Second Breakfast Sandwiches, granola with greek yogurt, Magic Smoothies, and/or Peanut Butter Toast
  • Lunches – Leftovers and Snack Lunches

Fitness:

See my notes above. This week’s goal is to walk one mile every day. That’s it.

How do you adapt when you can seem to do what you used to do?

Cheers~
Carrie

Subscription Box Saturday

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What do you do when you get three subscription boxes in one day?

3 boxesYou write about the easiest one!

This is the first time I’ve received all three of these on the same day. This is not to to mention the other two NEW boxes I received earlier in the week.

But I can’t talk about them all.

So let’s start with Birchbox:

September Birchbox Contents

September Birchbox Contents

I love the contents of this month’s box! I am really excited to give everything a try. I am especially excited for:

Ojon Restoriative Lash Treatment and Mascara Duo

Ojon Restorative Lash Treatment and Mascara Duo

I knew that this was “lash treatment,” but didn’t know it included mascara until I was writing this post. I love this kind of stuff! You know I’ll be testing it out tomorrow!

Another item that is hard to see in the contents picture:

Birchbox Pedicure

VOESH New York Lemon Pedicure Scrub

This is another item I can’t wait to try. Just receiving this made me feel like I’m being pampered this month. I’m going to save it for a reward after a run or a race.

The other items:

  • BCBGMAXAZRIA Bon Genre perfume sample – I love receiving perfume samples. I am waiting for the day that I love one so much that it makes me run out and buy it. I have a few of my staple favorites and I don’t often deviate. But when the day comes that I adore a scent, you better believe that I’ll be getting a full-sized bottle.
  • COOLA Tinted Matte SPF 30 Mineral Suncreen – I would more likely expect to see this in the summer, but whatever. By now, we all know that we should be wearing sunscreen year round. Being fair-skinned myself, I apply it often. However, with my Vitamin D deficiency discovery as of late, I’ve been foregoing the sunscreen on short runs after work.
  • RUFFIAN Nail Lacquer (Fox Hunt color) – This is an all-purpose color for fall or spring. Maybe I’ll treat those tootsies after the pedicure treatment.

As you can see, I’m quite excited about this month’s box. If you subscribe to Birchbox, what did you receive? Everyone receives something different depending on how you answer the profile questions! Just $10 per month.

What products are your favorite for pampering yourself?

Cheers~
Carrie

Best Twin Cities Restaurants to Take Out-of-Town Guests

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This post was inspired by a friend who has family in town this weekend. She wanted ideas for where to take them. And while she came up with her own answer, it did get us to thinking where we’ve taken our out-of-town guests.

I feel a little guilty writing this one.

Why? Because I know that there will be some opinions out there. I may sound like I’m dogging some Mpls-St. Paul institutions. Let’s just say that these are not necessarily the best restaurants in the Twin Cities to take your out-of-town guests. Of course, that all depends on you and your guests. Your tastes might be completely different from ours.

So, instead, let’s label this list as our favorite places to take guests who come in from out of town. We want them to experience restaurants that we not only love, but that are also either unique, capture a piece of Minnesota or offer a bit of fun. They are listed in no particular order. At the time of this writing, Restaurant Impressions might not be written on all restaurants listed yet. But you can always hop over there to check!

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Cossetta’s – St. Paul

I have to admit that Rob has never been to Cossetta’s {the original eatery} and I haven’t eaten there in years. However, after a trip to the newly renovated/expanded Alimentari, including the eatery/pizzeria, Pasticceria, Italian grocery and restaurant with my parents this past May, it’s worth a trip… if only for the pastry/gelato/supermarket experience. Most would notice how grand the paticceria and rest of the building looks. But instead, my dad noticed what kind of light bulbs were used. He’s cute like that.

photo 3(3)~

Buffalo Tap – Savage

Forget Matt’s.

Forget the 5-8 Club.

Get your Juicy Lucy here – the Parmesan Patty Melt to be exact. Matt’s Lucy is a good dive bar burger that is worth trying, but our burgers at the 5-8 Club were absolutely horrible. On the other hand, the Parmesan Patty Melt Juicy Lucy at the Buffalo Tap is heaven. For those of you who don’t know what a Juicy Lucy is, think of an inside-out burger. It’s one with the yummy, gooey cheese right in the middle. This one is served on Parmesan Encrusted Bread. Need I say more? You just need a little patience because you don’t want to bite into it right away, that cheese will squirt out and burn you. Give it some time to set. Then cut it in half. Drag the chips through any melty cheese that oozes out.

This photo doesn't do this perfect Juicy Lucy justice!

This photo doesn’t do this perfect Juicy Lucy justice!

If that’s not enough of a reason, the bar has a rustic, Minnesota northwoods cabin feel that makes the perfect setting for out-of-town guests. The menu is large with something for everyone. They also serve buffalo, hence the name. And fried cheese curds. As a cheesehead myself, I like to show guests from back home where I watch Packer games when they aren’t on regular TV here in Viking Country. Yep, it’s right here at “The Tap.”

A plus: There are some excellent beers on tap!
A minus: Said beers are often way overpriced.
A plus: You can still get a bottle of Mondavi Cab for $11.95. Not kidding. As my husband would say, “Cheap at the price.”
A plus: They make some of the best Bloody Marys – perfect for game day.

Three pluses over one minus? We’ll take it.

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The Happy Gnome – St. Paul

This is an easy pick for your guests who may have an affinity for beer like we do. Rob stole my brother away on one visit, leaving his other half behind with the kids. They sipped fresh brews and devoured poutine. Oh yeah, this was all just a few days after my back surgery. Maybe he needed to get out, too. 😉

If you’ve had a late night, I’d say get the delectable breakfast sammy the next morning. Best in the Twin Cities! But the folks at this gourmet gastropub change the menu often, so who knows if it’ll be available when you read this. No matter what you order, you should always wash it down with a beer or two that you’ve never had and perhaps may never have again.

Jared's Beer Flight

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Forepaugh’s – St. Paul

Rob likes to describe this experience as “taking someone to your rich uncle’s house.Forepaugh’s is housed in a 19th century Victorian Mansion. You can make it an expensive, fancy evening out, if you’d like. {A lot of special occasion events are held here.} Or you can do what we do: Drop by during happy hour in the bar area and let Joey or Victor wait on you. The bar menu is less expensive and quite good. In fact, we voted them as having best “Toast” in the Twin Cities. You’ll just need to go to find out what that means. And The Double Double Bacon Cheeseburger is on Rob’s Top 10 list. Furthermore, the Deconstructed Banana Cream Pie is a dessert for which you’ll return. It’s an impressive place. Have your guests take a walk around the mansion and check out all levels. Ask the staff about the ghosts.

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Sul Lago – Prior Lake

Perron’s Sul Lago is a no brainer for us, being one of our favorite restaurants and all. Forget Manny’s. Forget Murray’s. {And, yes, we’ve had both.} If you want a steak, come here instead. That being said, let me preface that statement with this: I like filet mignons. The best I’ve ever had in Minnesota is here. My mom said it was the best steak of her life. But I tried a friend’s sirloin and wasn’t as pleased. Maybe that’s because I know how much more I love the filet. Still, the steak sandwich gives Murray’s a run for its money.

It’s a place where the service is great because they leave you alone to linger for hours if you wish, just like they would in Italy. Rob’s favorite pasta – the Sausage and White Truffle Oil – is back on the menu! The food is fantastic, as is the ambiance. And, you’ll find our favorite Bartender, Billy, there, too. He makes the best French Pear.

French Pear Martini: Elderflower liqueur, pear vodka, sparkling wine, lime juice

French Pear Martini: Elderflower liqueur, pear vodka, sparkling wine, lime juice

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Nicollet Mall – Minneapolis

While this technically isn’t a restaurant, it’s a great area in downtown Minneapolis where you can stroll and hop from place to place to try a little bits of what Minneapolis has to offer. We recommend going on a Saturday afternoon when it’s not crazy-busy. Just be sure that there isn’t a Twins game or a big event when you go or that whole lazy-Saturday-afternoon plan will be blown out of the water. We do this because we aim to get a seat for our guests.

Our favorite stops? The Local Irish Pub (duh!), the News Room (especially for the brie cheese curds), Devil’s Advocate (tap beer selection) and Brit’s Pub (rooftop lawn bowling). My husband also found this great map of the Mall and printed out menus for each location for his parents when they were in town. In the evening, The Dakota Jazz Club is recommended for something swanky. We often pop in when they open for a cocktail and some frites before venturing somewhere else down The Mall. Other evening faves include Vincent (French) and Zelo (Italian).

BRIE CURDS DEEP FRIED BRIE, HOMEMADE BLUEBERRY KETCHUP 11.95

Brie Curds – The News Room

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So those are our current picks. And after yesterday’s post, I realize that I should be taking peeps to The Bulldog NE more often. I think we’ve only done that once. Whether they are beer and burger lovers or just like sweets, I’m sure they’ll love it as much as we do.

What are your favorite places to take out-of-town guests where you live?

Cheers~
Carrie