Monthly Archives: June 2016

Lakeville Brewing Company


Happy Thirsty Thursday!

Last Friday, my husband had a surprise for me! He was taking me to the opening of the Lakeville Brewing Company, in of course, Lakeville, Minnesota.


I didn’t know where we were going until we arrived. It was their opening day! There’s a nice-sized fenced in area with room for picnic tables and games. It’s dog-friendly, too! The inside was packed, but we lucked out with two seats at the bar.

LBC is a brewpub, too, so we considered having dinner there as well:


We were intrigued by the Reuben Nachos. What would you order from this menu?


To be honest, though, we decided not to dine. We don’t usually go to a new brewery nor restaurant when they first open because we know that there are always kinks to be worked out. So we can’t attest to the food.

Not only do they have food, but they are also a full-scale bar with wine and cocktails!


Did you notice they have Tom Gore Cabernet Sauvignon on the menu? I’ve been picking up a bottle of that whenever I see a $2 rebate on ibotta. But now, ibotta even offers a $2 rebate whenever you order a glass of Tom Gore Cab at any bar or any restaurant!

But what about the beer?!


Well, we can’t attest to that either. I wanted to try their Milk Stout, which was not available. {Did they print their menus too soon!?} And Rob wanted to the try the American IPA, which was in the process of being charged and was to be available later that evening. Instead, we went went with those Sweetland Orchard guest ciders. They were quite nice for a hot day. But it wasn’t until after we ordered them that we saw the listing of beers on the wall, which were somewhat different from the menu.


Rob said that if he would have known he would have tried the Laurentian Porter. But after looking it up, found out it was a smoky beer by HammerHeart. {A brewery we love, when their beer isn’t smoky…}

What I do find too bad is that their logo is a bit similar to Excelsior Brewing Company. But, yes, we’ll have to make a trip back to Lakeville Brewing to try their actual beer. HA! I found myself criticizing a few things. Then I stopped in my tracks, reminding myself that this was just the beginning.

Which reminds me, I have yet to tell you about all the improvements to Nutmeg Brewhouse in Burnsville!

Have you ever been to a brewery or restaurant on the day it opened?

What were your thoughts?


The Worst Toy in our BarkBox


Sophie & Shamrock Saturday!

Sophie and Shamrock got their June BarkBox last week… with a camping theme!


The always funny tidbits they offer for the hoomans:


All of the boxes are a bit different, based on dog size and availability. Here’s our contents:


Let’s Review:

  • S’mores Treats – The BarkBox treats are always a hit with Sophie & Shamrock. But they really smell like S’mores. So don’t be tempted to eat them yourself!
  • Granola Bites Trail Treats – We have not yet opened these, but I have no doubt they will be loved.
  • Etta Chew – always Sophie’s favorite
  • Giggle Buddy Bear – I like the giggle sound of this toy and the stretchy legs. Sham likes it, but it isn’t his favorite. He’s still obsessed with peas in pod, though!
  • Pawty Training Roll – Worst BarkBox toy EVER! Let’s delve into why…

When we pulled the Pawty Training Roll out of the box, we thought, “This is the dumbest toy ever!” The velcro unrolls the toy only part way. “How would you use this?” Rob and I thought maybe stuffing it with treats or something, but it still seemed weird.

I had the girls over for a puppy play date so that Rob could meet Kim’s new Shih Tzu puppy, Phoebe. I showed Jen and Kim the Pawty Training Roll and we all discussed what a stupid toy it was. Then I tossed it aside as we discussed other things.

Phoebe went right for it!

She loved the challenge of getting the velcro apart and the crinkly sound of the roll. Once unrolled, she used her paw to roll it back up. So adorable. This toy was designed for mid-size and big dogs; but this 2-lb, 11-week-old Shih Tzu loved it! {It went home with Miss Phoebe!}

Moral of the story:

All dogs are different and you’ll be surprised which toys they love!

That’s one of the things I love about BarkBox. We’ve discovered some great toys that Shamrock loves that we would have never bought for him otherwise. The ones I have bought him, he never seems to take much interest in…

If you’d like to try out some new toys on your pup, you can enroll in BarkBox. This link will give you an extra free box added to your subscription. {Full disclosure: Sophie and Sham will get a free box, too!}


Happy Saturday!

Phoebe the Shih Tzu!


Sophie & Shamrock Saturday

Remember when I told you that I traveled with some friends down to Iowa to help my friend Kim pick up her puppy? Well, I was lucky enough to see Miss Phoebe just four days later:

At about 10 to 11 weeks old and just 1.8 pounds, she is such a doll!

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I just can’t handle the cuteness. Especially when those sweet little eyes look up at you!


Seriously, remind me if I’m ever down to just go visit some puppies. Puppies = happiness.

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It’s even better when it’s your friend’s new puppy because you don’t have to deal with all of the difficulties of puppyhood. You just to get to enjoy the cuteness overload as she prances across the floor.

I was curious how Shamrock would react to a puppy this size.


He looks pretty happy there, but he was honestly very intimidated. They got so close to playing, but neither of them were quite sure how to initiate it. Perhaps if they get to spend more time together.

Here is a nice little video of the moment they met:

The video cuts off short because that bark really surprised me. On the 5-hour trip home just four days prior, she hadn’t made a peep!

Rob was really upset I didn’t take any longer videos. I didn’t even think about how difficult it would be to get videos and photos of a moving target. Plus, I wanted to enjoy every moment. I am excited for many more play dates with Miss Phoebe. She loves people and seems like she is going to be a cuddle girl, just like my Sophie Jean. She is going to bring so my joy to Kim and her daughter’s lives!

Happy Saturday!

Abi’s Cafe


There is no way I would have ever known about Abi’s Cafe. It doesn’t come up on the usual lists put out by the most well-known publications. The only reason I heard about was this because of this story.

I rarely watch the news on TV, but I overheard this in the background one day and thought, “Where is that?” The next day Rob sent me this article. It’s really worth a read, especially if you weren’t in a position to view the video. But in a nutshell, a homeless man came into her restaurant one day begging for money. Rather than sending him packing, she gave him a job.

It’s been on my restaurant wishlist to try ever since.

But that newsworthy piece is only the reason that prompted me to look up the restaurant. After discovering it was El Salvadorian {aka Salvadoran}, a cuisine I’d never had before, I was even more intrigued. I started to do some research on what was the best to try there – and on both Yelp and Facebook, ratings popped up at 5 Stars.


I can honestly say that I don’t think I’ve ever seen that. So when it was my choice for Girls’ Dinner Night Out this month, Abi’s Cafe was my pick!

Abi’s has no website other than Facebook, nor any true menu listed online; so I’m providing my photos to you for your viewing pleasure along with our food. We didn’t know it at the time, but we were lucky to be served by the owner! She is a friendly, upbeat, helpful woman who really wanted us to experience what they have to offer. We asked a lot of questions!

You’ll find that there is a mix of the traditional Latin food that we are all aware of along with some dishes more likely to be found in El Salvador.


We didn’t order any the appetizers listed below because we wanted to try the pupusas, that are all the rage on Yelp as the best and most authentic in the Twin Cities.


Still we started with some drinks that we highly believe were made from scratch. They took a while and we could hear them whirring the machine in back!


They were listed under the Naturales portion of the menu, which she highly recommended. These non-alcoholic beverages were absolutely fantastic! So fresh-tasting and refreshing.

Cantalope {recommended, but not on the menu!}, Limonata, piña

Cantaloupe {recommended, but not on the menu!}, Limonata, Piña

Since her recommendations were spot on from the get-go, we all ordered recommended menu items.


Jen got the Combination Platter so she could try a bit of everything.


Combinación Guanaca platter of Salvadoran favorites: mixed pupusa, tamale, plantains, rice and refried beans – $12.99

She had enough food to take home for one or two more meals! And those plantains were some of the sweetest I’ve had. Here are some other “Salvadoran Cravings”:


Kim went with an assortment of pupusas:

Before we all received our papusas, she brought these condiments to the table:


She explained that the container was a sort of “Salvadoran cole slaw”. I would say it’s a cross between that and kimchi. It’s made with cabbage and I’m thinking vinegar. There are jalapenos somewhere in the mix, too; but very little. It’s more for flavor than an attempt to be spicy. The pourable container contains a tomato sauce that is a bit runnier than ketchup.



I tried the Queso con Loroco Papusa because it was recommended as unique. She described loroco as a special, unique flower native to Latin America. She said the closest flavor description people give for loroco is asparagus; but she didn’t think that was quite accurate. We think that it was a decent comparison. That being said, my favorite of the papusas was the Revuletas – made with pork rind {more like ground pork, just more flavorful}, beans and cheese.

I think the condiments along with the pupusas might be an acquired taste for those who are not used to them. But without them, the pupusas seem like they do need just a bit of sauce. I wanted a thicker one. But that’s just me. I don’t know anything about what Salvadoran cuisine should be like, so I’m not critiquing that in any way! I definitely can see how pupusas can be a sort of easy, portable food – like a quick, easy weekday lunch.

None of us ordered seafood, but if I’m sharing the menu with you, you must know that it is available!


Along with my pupusa, I decided on another traditional dish that she recommended.

I was really unsure how to eat my Pan con Pollo {traditional Salvadoran chicken sandwich}. I got most of the chicken off the bone. Then I picked the sandwich up and took a bite, as most of the sandwich fell apart. It’s one of those messy sandwiches! The flavors were good though, and I basically ate all of the sandwich filling.

I’d highly recommend stopping at this tiny restaurant on East Lake Street in Minneapolis. Abi’s Cafe offers cuisine that you can’t find many places. Our service was impeccable and some of the friendliest I’ve had. As we were leaving the owner told us to “Have a good night! Or is it evening? I’m still learning!” I would have never known that she wasn’t fluent in English. Not in the way she described dishes and made recommendations. It just seemed so natural. 🙂

Have you ever been introduced to a restaurant for a reason other than it’s food?

Have you ever had El Salvadoran Cuisine?

If so, what’s your favorite item/dish?

What would you try off this menu?



Four Leaf Brewing Company – Clare, MI


Happy Thirsty Thursday!

Last year, before our annual trip to Michigan, we decided that we’d love to see more of Rob’s home state. We resolved to either make a stop somewhere on the way to visit Rob’s parents’ place or take an overnight trip. Last year, we went to Traverse City, with the intent of hiking the Sleeping Bear Dunes. However, a heavy cough kept us from doing anything active. It didn’t stop us from having a good time, though!

This year, with our attempt to visit Rob’s parents twice, but in shorter visits, there is little time to explore. However, I did find a new brewery just 30 minutes away from my in-laws’ small town!


I think I found it on Google maps when I was searching breweries in the area. Located in Clare, MI, a town which prides itself in it’s Irish heritage, Four Leaf Brewing Company is appropriately named.

And I learned they even had live music on Saturday nights to boot! You may or not know from the blog that Rob’s dad is a lover of Irish Folk music. It’s one of the reasons we wanted to travel to Ireland with them, which was an absolutely wonderful trip a few years back.

Alas, it was Memorial Day weekend and no live music was booked that Saturday. That didn’t stop us from taking a trip!


We grabbed a table and ordered a round of beers:


I really wanted that Vanilla Hazelnut Stout; but they were all out. So I settled for the new, not-yet-on-the-menu, Chocolate Stout instead.


Four Leaf Brewing has only been open since September of 2015. I thought the beer was good; but Rob thinks that they are still working out a few kinks. He thought the stout was over-carbonated. When he ordered his second beer, he poured it into his previous glass {which he is known to do from time to time} to help remove more of the bubbles. I have to admit, it did taste a lot smoother. Maybe that’s just a personal preference though.

We ordered some food and, while waiting, played a game of Euchre. I always have a deck of cards in my purse! But many breweries will have cards and games in a corner or on a shelf somewhere. We wanted to show Rob’s parents that this is what we often do when we visit a brewery. {Although, it’s often Cribbage when it’s just the two of us!}

I was intrigued by their small menu and had to order this:

ITLIAN CRUNCH A San Francisco style crunchy bread, layered with basil, salami, pepperoni, parmesan, goat cheese, & balsamic glaze. Vegetarian served with roasted red peppers. 8.50 Gluten Free + 1 Banana Pepper Rings + .50

ITALIAN CRUNCH A San Francisco style crunchy bread, layered with basil, salami, pepperoni, parmesan, goat cheese, & balsamic glaze. 

I absolutely loved this sandwich! If we ever get back there, I’d order it again and again. It was the perfect combination with no flavor over-powering another.  Everyone else ordered this:

FROMAGE JAMBON A twist on a classic French grilled ham and cheese, served on locally baked bread, topped with Swiss and aged white cheddar cheeses, accompanied by a cream sauce & mustard. Vegetarian option served with roasted red peppers. 7.50 Gluten Free +1

FROMAGE JAMBON – A twist on a classic French grilled ham and cheese, served on locally baked bread, topped with Swiss and aged white cheddar cheeses, accompanied by a cream sauce & mustard.

They all seemed to like it just fine, but after I forced Rob to try my sandwich, he said mine was much better. And those chips were oh-so-kettle-crunchy and perfectly paired with these sandwiches.

We all went away satisfied, plus we got to try something new! That half-hour ride back home felt like forever. Which is funny. Rob and I have no problem driving a half hour to get somewhere throughout the Twin Cities metro; but when driving from one small town to another, it feels so much longer!

Still, I hope that the appearance of Four Leaf Brewing Company will attract more brewers to the area. But, as of right now, it’s worth a trip to Clare just to visit Four Leaf. One day we’ll make it the Michigan cities were all the well-known breweries reside. As for now, we’ll support the small-town little guy!

Have you ever sought out new-to-you places in your home state?

What’s been your favorite discovery?


Just a Summer Weekend!


Last weekend…

I don’t know if I told you that I took up running again. As much as it frustrates me with how slow I go, I just have to remind myself that I am still doing something. I just like the feeling of breathing easier after every run. I love that feeling in my lungs!

This weekend, amidst the heat and humidity, Rob and I ran the Chocolate 5k around Lake Como in St. Paul. We’ve done this track before for the Challenge Obesity 5k {which has since been moved farther north}. However, this trail was a bit different. We didn’t run on the walking trail which is closest to the lake, but the biking trail, farther out. The posted results seem skewed, even though they said they were accounting for the fact that the finish line was really 3.5 miles and they had a separate mat at the 3.1 mile mark. Still my 5k app and Garmin have my 5k right around 45 minutes, while their results are like 8 minutes longer. I don’t get it.

That is soooo incredibly slow, even for slow me! Here’s the steamy after photo:


My worst 5k run was 38:40. So, 45 minutes is a jump.

Here is a list of my 5k race results (the ones I’ve run) for my own personal comparison:

  1. 38:54
  2. 38:20
  3. 38:40
  4. 36:08
  5. 38:27
  6. 37:44
  7. 35:35
  8. 38:13
  9. 37:35

I have to take into account that all of those were in 2012 when I was in the throes of running and before back surgery. And now that I look a bit further, I have only run one in one other 5k race completely since and that was in 2014, about a year after surgery and that one was higher yet at 42:40.

But it was hot; it was humid and I told myself to keep it slow and keep running under a target 5 Heart Rate Zone. I wanted to enjoy the run – the oxygen circulating through my lungs. I didn’t want to feel frustrated or like I was going to pass out or that I had started off too fast like I did when I did a trial 5k run earlier in the week. And truth be told, my only struggle was a small hill.

I would like to say I ran the whole thing, but I did stop to walk for a water break half-way through. I normally don’t hydrate during a 5k, only before and after. But it was just too hot not to so.

And while running, I did not partake in any of the Ghirardelli chocolate that was being passed out on 4 different occasions on the course. It just didn’t sound good to me at the time. {I know! Me and chocolate!} I also didn’t want to take it and just hold it until the end because I knew it would just melt in my palm!

I did, however partake in the Choc-ola after the race!


The night before, I was up from 12:30pm until 4am, too. It wasn’t due to nerves about the race, but first because I was hot, then because Rob was snoring, then because of the dogs keeping me tucked in. I started to read because that usually helps me get back to sleep. It didn’t.

No matter what, I’m glad I did it.

We followed up with brunch at the French Hen and a couple of beers at The Gnome. I followed that up by a 2 1/2 hour nap! Then it was off to dinner with the girls… more on that to come!

Sunday was busy, too… with a 5-hour trip down to Iowa to pick up this pretty little thing:


Meet Phoebe, my friend Kim’s new Shih Tzu! There’ll be more cuteness to follow on a Sophie and Sham Saturday, I’m sure!

How did you fill your weekend?




Sophie & Shamrock Saturday

Last weekend, we watched Miss Lyla. She took Sophie Jean’s place in Saturday’s Dog Day 5k, since Sophie had been limping and had a bit of a sore paw.

Every night, when I’d go to bed and read, it was a three-dog night. 😉 {Sophie kind of blends in with the blanket. Can you see her?!}

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While Lyla’s daddies were gone, I stopped by their place and checked on their other critters: kitties, sugar gliders, finches, a bunny and a guinea pig. Lyla has a lot of siblings!


Cuteness overload ahead!


Cadbury the Bunny…

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Louise the Guinea Pig…

I got to feed Cadbury and Louise some lettuce and hay!

I could just sit and watch them eat all day. How can you not smile watching their dainty little munching?

Cadbury likes to be held. Now Rob wants a bunny. Somehow, though, I don’t Shamrock will let a bunny stay very long. He already terrorizes the ones in our backyard!

And how can you not love Louise’s adorable face!?


The finches are new. Want to name them? Jared says that Desi and Lucy are in the lead!


Then we have the Sugar Gliders, which were no where to be found until after I put the bowl of food in their pen…


I always feel like these nocturnal creatures are looking at me with alien eyes!

And yes – they do fly! Well… glide. When Jared got his first one, he brought him over on a visit. It flew across the room and escaped under the couch, luckily because Benny went right for it and would have had him for dinner!

And last we have the kit-kits. Stewie {the gray one} is the most talkative and greeted me at the door. They were hungry, immediately eating the dry food I poured them and following up with a communal wet food platter!

All the sweetness you could want for a Saturday, no?!

Happy Saturday!