Friday, December 20, 2019

Eating Meat in Minneapolis

I was going to give this post a title of just "Minneapolis"... until I looked at my photos and realized it was pretty much a bunch of pics of meat that I ate.  I hadn't been back since 2014, other than the airport for connections, and I had the chance to return for another work trip to our Minneapolis office.  I was joined by coworkers who lean to the carnivorous side of life (as I sometimes do!) and we definitely indulged.

But first, a photo of some art because it was outside our super cool hotel, the Emery.  I wish I'd taken more photos inside, because the lobby was so unique (so many plants!) and the rooms were quirky too.

For dinner the first night we were in town, a group of us headed to Manny's a classic steakhouse and Minneapolis meat institution since the '80s.  It's often in the "top steakhouses" lists nationally, and they bring out this rolling cart of meat to describe the cuts and help you make decisions.  I've been fortunate during my travels to experience a lot of great steakhouse, so I was excited to visit Manny's.  I couldn't resist taking a photo of the artwork in the waiting area of the restaurant, which is pretty, um, ballsy.  LOL.

The side at Manny's are shareable, and we got the giant hash browns with onions and the macaroni and cheese.  I loved the macaroni, but I wished the hash browns were crispier.  It's such a thick patty, the insides don't get crispy, so I think if they did two thinner layers it would be better.  But they're doing fine without my input, so I'll let it be!

For steak, I got the filet though I considered the baseball steak because that sounded good too.  It was a really good steak, as you would expect.  Not the greatest steak I've had in my life, but a great steakhouse experience for sure.

The server was outstanding, and he threw in a crazy dessert for us to try.  It was huge, and it had a steak knife running through it!

The next night, our larger group went to another downtown restaurant known for its meats, Butcher & the Boar.  We ordered a smorgasbord of things (including charcuterie and the sausage sampler), and they were all delicious!  The restaurant has a hipster beer garden vibe in all the right ways, and I thought the food was really great.  I preferred it to the more traditional experience at Manny's the previous night.

For my main, I was going to order the sausage sampler, but they ordered some for the table so I got to try those beforehand!

So I ordered a steak for dinner, again!  And it was another filet... topped with smoked onion rings.  It was really good, even better than the one I had the previous night.

So as you can see, pretty much the only photos I took in Minneapolis were of meat.  :)  It's a really cool city that I'd like to explore more someday, but sadly the weather wasn't the most conducive to that.  Maybe next trip!

Thursday, December 19, 2019

Succulent & Cacti Naked Cake

I've been wanting to learn to do flowers and succulents in buttercream frosting, because I've always found piping to be a bit intimidating.  As I've grown more confident in my ability to make good-tasting cake and frosting, I've spent the past couple of years focused on making my cakes look more well-stacked, level, and decorated.

photo by Allison

My friend was organizing a baby shower for another one of our work friends, and a naked cake with succulents and cacti totally fit the bill.  The mom-to-be is a plant lady, so it was the perfect excuse to try out something new in decorating!  I used Wilton gel food colors (Moss Green and Leaf Green for the plants) and some videos from Wilton to get started, then just went to YouTube and typed in "buttercream succulent" and watched techniques.

photo by Allison

I screwed up quite a few of them, but the ones that didn't find their way into my mouth (emotional eaters, I see you) ended up on little pieces of parchment paper to go into the freezer.  Freezing them really helped firm them up for when I placed them on the cake itself!  It also helped divided up the work so I could get this done on a weeknight.

I'm SO pleased by how this cake turned out.  I'm an amateur baker and decorator with no training, just figuring things out as I go.  But I love to bake as a sort of love language, so I'm game to try new things.  My favorite professional to follow is Minette Rushing, who I met during my time in Savannah.

I'm pleased as Punch with how this cake turned out!

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Return to Bentonville, Arkansas

I've traveled to Bentonville, Arkansas on and off since 2012 for work, as it's the home base for retail giant Walmart.  I went back for a few days this year for a work trip, and I tried my best to take photos of some of the highlights!

From a food perspective, my favorite meal was at The Preacher's Son, set in a restored church just off the downtown square in Bentonville.  Their menu changes seasonally, and in hindsight I can't remember exactly what we ordered, but everything, from the cocktails to the appetizer to the food was delicious.  I vaguely remember choosing a cocktail with pisco in it, because it reminded me of my honeymoon in Peru.

Preacher's Son

Preacher's Son

Another night, we went as a group to Doe's Eat Place, which makes me chuckle.  Saying "Eat Place" instead of restaurant reminds me of the time on The Office when Kevin decided to speak in "small talk" and not using complete sentences.  "Why waste time say lot word when few word do trick?"  That said, the tamales and steak were yummy, the portions were huge (I shared my steak with my work bestie) and Peyton Manning has eaten there, so...  #winning.

On our last free night, my coworkers and I visited Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art.  It's as beautiful a building as ever, but the collection/organization have changed a ton since my last visit.  It's definitely worth visiting, but it has dropped off my list of favorite museums in place of some others.  But the sculpture trails are worth a visit on a sunny day for sure!

We actually hit up two museums in the same day, visiting The Walmart Museum in downtown Bentonville.  It's another place that I think has expanded/grown since I first visited.  I remember it feeling a lot smaller.  But my favorite bit of the museum is still Sam Walton's preserved office, down to stacks of magazines and things on the floor.

You could pretty much count the 21C hotel as a third museum, if you think about it.  It's full of artwork, including a painting from a French artist that I really loved!  We grabbed beautiful drinks at The Hive (I think mine was the Origami Crane.) and then walked to Tavola for Italian food.  Both The Hive and Tavola were placed I used to visit on trips in the past.

My 2019 trip to Bentonville was a good mix of new and old haunts for me.
Have you ever been to Northwest Arkansas?

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Miramar Beach with a Toddler

I'm working on a few posts about my travels over the last few months, but while it's still warm in Tennessee, I decided to knock this one out since it's beachy!

I mentioned in a past post that we went to Miramar Beach near Destin, but I didn't do a post about it because life got busy.  Well, earlier this month we went back with my parents and sister!  Kenny is definitely a little water baby.  We stayed at a timeshare at Majestic Sun, which was just a short walk to the beach.

I will say this... I'm not a beach person.  A couple of hours of beach time for like two days is enough for me!  I like trips planned around food, sights, nature, museums, culture... and I'm prone to a sunburn if I'm not careful.  So both last year and this year, I wasn't overly excited at the prospect of a sandy baby and the beach... and both times I was ultimately happy that we went.

I think the trick has been to follow Kenny's lead on the beach.  We generally stuck to his feeding times and naptimes (last year, I was still nursing, so we nursed on the beach) and he was a happy camper.  This year, since he's down to one daily nap, we would do the beach in the morning, head to lunch, nap in the afternoon, then decide how we wanted to spend the rest of the day.  The nice thing about Miramar Beach is that the sand is pretty soft, and the water can be pretty warm and gentle.  We've been able to let Kenny play near the water (supervised, of course) and he can get into the wet sand and stay cool.

A few of the spots we ate that were worth visiting... Grimaldi's for pizza, the Surf Hut and Pompano Joe's for seafood, and Fat Clemenza's for Italian!  All of them were kid-friendly, with great service.

Am I converted to a beach bum?  Not quite... I still love a swimming pool over salt water.  But because it makes Dan and Kenny happy, I'm content to go every so often, so long as we can eat good food and see some sights in addition to sand!

Here are a few throwback photos to last year's framily trip to the same beach.  Look how Kenny has grown!  We were in a rental house just down the street from the condo where we stayed this year.

What's your favorite family-friendly beach destination?

Monday, September 23, 2019

2019 DAR State Conference, Continental Congress, and Juniors Retreat

Am I even a blogger anymore?  I'm months and months behind!  But I like to come back here and look at old posts, so I figure I'll still update from time to time!

2019 has been a busy year as usual for the Daughters of the American Revolution!  In April, we had our annual Tennessee State Conference, and for the third and final year, I had the pleasure of serving as a Personal Page to our State Regent Mrs. Reynolds.  This year, my Mom took care of Kenny at our place, and I had a fun weekend with my friends in service!  We also had the pleasure of having Mrs. Van Buren visit our conference, during her time as First Vice President General.  She is now our DAR President General!

2019 Tennessee Pages at State Conference
with Mrs. Van Buren

I was also featured in a local magazine, Franklin Lifestyle, about how the DAR supports veterans.  It was an honor to be able to call attention to the positive works that DAR members make in their communities.

In June, for the first time in a few years, I went back to Washington, D.C. for Continental Congress.  I was one of many pages who attended from Tennessee!  For our Page event, we went on a night tour of monuments.  I was also able to sneak away with a couple of friends to visit the National Portrait Gallery.

2019 Tennessee Pages at Continental Congress

And then this month, we had our annual Tennessee Juniors Retreat.  Earlier this year, we lost an incredible member, Rebekah Lemley.  She was our State Outstanding Junior last year and one of the kindest souls you could meet.  So while we were cleaning up Old Fort Park in Murfreesboro, we also planted a dogwood tree in her memory.  We also attended the Constitution Week Bell Ringing at the State Capitol.

As you can see, it's been a busy year for these Daughters, both in service and in celebration!  If you've found this blog while searching for information on joining the DAR, check out more of my DAR-tagged posts.

Friday, July 19, 2019

Pittsburgh with a Toddler

In June, we flew to Pittsburgh for an extended weekend (sort of between a long weekend and a week!) to visit with Dan's family and friends.  It was Kenny's first trip to Pittsburgh, and honestly he was at the perfect age to visit the city!  We flew on a direct Southwest flight, like we've done with Kenny before, and he was pretty good.  We are definitely at the age now where even though he can fly for free, it's getting difficult/uncomfortable if he doesn't have his own seat.  So I'm seeing more road trips (or buying him a seat) in our future, especially now that I'm the proud owner of a minivan!

We rented a car upon arrival, because it was the most convenient way for us to get around, especially now that our extended family has grown and requires more carseats.  That meant we had some flexibility to take Kenny to the Children's Museum in Pittsburgh.  As an added bonus, the museum was offering free admission for Veterans, and with Kenny being under 2, he was also free admission.

Kenny absolutely loved the museum!  They had exhibits with Curious George and Eric Carle (he loves The Hungry Caterpillar) that he really enjoyed exploring.  It was fun to see him get hands-on in an environment designed for little ones.

On the top floor, there is a water play area.  Hindsight, I'd have packed Kenny swimming clothes or strips him down to shorts, because he got DRENCHED.  But he was enjoying it to the max, and I was glad we did that activity last, because he was not happy we had to leave.

We also got to visit the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium, a place Dan loved as a kid!  We were lucky again because the zoo had free admission for veterans for the summer, so it was another free excursion for us, along with a big group of family and friends.

Kenny loved the warthogs!

Sidenote:  I was saddened to learn that the zoo was no longer AZA accredited, as we make an effort to support those zoos and aquariums that are.  But this was a fairly recent change due to disputes over elephant handling.  They do have ZAA accreditation (a much newer and smaller organization), and I believe Pittsburgh's a high quality facility, but I know that means it cannot participate in some of the species survival programs and grants that AZA zoos have.

The Pittsburgh Zoo is hilly, but it has plenty of shaded areas and an air-conditioned aquarium to give you relief from the heat.  I didn't love the parking situation, as it's a gravelly hike to the gates, and you have to take an elevator (with stroller) or escalator to get to the exhibits.  But overall, there are tons of animals and lots to see, so much you might not get to all of it in one visit if you have little ones.  I liked the elephants and lions the best, I think.  There were also newborn leopard cubs to see!

I'd love to take Kenny to the Carnegie Museums on a future visit, as I haven't been since Dan and I were dating.  We also didn't get to visit the most kid-friendly area of the zoo, so maybe on another trip we could head to that first.  It was a hot day, and all of the kids (and adults) were just worn out from the hills and heat.  I've also heard Idlewild has a Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood area of the amusement park.

Overall, it was my favorite trip to Pittsburgh yet.  We had a lot of time to relax and let Kenny enjoy being around his cousins, uncles, aunt, and Nana, friends, dogs, etc.   And we also were able to show him some pretty cool places to go too.

Pittsburgh has a ton to do for families of toddlers!
We're lucky to always have an excuse to go back.

Kenny's cousin-dog, Taco

Saturday, July 13, 2019

Staying in a Pod Hotel: Washington, D.C.

On the same trip that I visited Fredericksburg, I also did something pretty interesting... I stayed at a pod hotel!  The Pod DC Hotel, specifically.  Located in Chinatown, it is very close to Metro Center where our large DAR events are located, and not too far from our headquarters itself.  Since I was traveling in for just a quick trip, I decided to give it a go because the price was really good. ($124-154/night for a full-size bed.  The bunkbed room was cheaper, but I was staying alone.)

Super cool hotel digs!

This wasn't a space-age pod hotel, where you sleep in like a spaceship capsule.  The Pod DC is a micro-hotel with stripped down rooms that offer the bare essentials but have really great amenities and social spaces.  I was a little nervous, given it was a new concept to me.  I was also still pumping, so I needed a fridge.  I contacted the hotel in advance, and they had a little medical fridge sent to my room that served my needs.  (During the day, I had them store milk for me in their walk-in freezer.)

Pano of the room, which had a tiny but nice bathroom!

Overall, the room was clean, efficient, and had everything I needed.  The Wifi was good, and I was surprised by the size of the TV!  The bed was comfy, the bathroom was clean and modern (tiny!) but good for the trip.  There was also a small safe, and they had so much thoughtful storage, shelves, and hooks.

But the best parts about the Pod aren't the rooms, because you're just there to sleep.  The common areas (diner, whiskey bar, gym access, etc.) are super chic, and a ton of people were hanging there who weren't even staying at the hotel.  In addition, it's on the edge of Chinatown near Metro Center, so lots of restaurants, shops, and more.  Just a block to Walgreens, Starbucks, you name it!

I also found the staff to be SO HELPFUL.  They were so helpful knowing I was pumping and traveling, and they solved all issues very quickly.

If I were staying in DC on my own again and needed to be near the National Mall and things, and the prices were lower than Airbnb and traditional hotels, I'd definitely stay at a Pod again.  It's not kid-friendly because of the space constraints and lack of bathtub, but for a budget-conscious adult or couple, it would do the trick!

After all, you spend your day away from your room anyways, in places like the beautiful DAR Headquarters!  Had to include a few insider photos...

The eagle lectern has been used by multiple Presidents

Would you stay at a hotel like the Pod DC?

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Fredericksburg: Washington Family Sites

Last last year, I was in D.C. for a DAR meeting, and I'd hoped to attend the annual Christmas open house.  But then President George H.W. Bush passed away, so the event was cancelled as the government was shut down.  I was disappointed but understanding... and then three wonderful DAR friends whisked me off to Fredericksburg, Virginia, to visit some historic sites!

Ferry Farm

Our first stop was George Washington's boyhood home, known as Ferry Farm.  There is a replica of his home on the site, overlooking the river, and you could just imagine what life must have been like for his widowed mother managing the family estate and 276 acres on her own until her children were grown.  The site is supported by the state and local DAR chapters.

Fittingly, we paid tribute to Mary, Mother of Washington, by visiting the Mary Washington Monument.  The Mary Washington Monument is the only monument in the United States erected to a woman by women. The DAR's first resolution in 1890 was a pledge to complete a memorial monument to Mary Washington, and it was one of two organizations to support it.  DAR members contributed nearly three-fourths of the $11,000 raised for the project.  It felt very fitting as a DAR member to visit this site!

Mary Washington's monument is near to Kenmore, a historic plantation owned by her daughter Betty Washington Lewis and husband Fielding Lewis.  I had no idea the financial and personal sacrifices this well-to-do couple made towards the American Revolution!  You can't take photos inside the house, but it was worth touring!  It's known for the decorative plaster work on its ceilings.  It wasn't known as Kenmore until the 1800s, named by its new owners, but the name stuck over time.  The site is, you guessed it, also supported by local DAR chapters!  It was pretty cool to go around and get a DAR discount because of the contributions made over the years by our members.


Model showing Kenmore in relation to the town

On our way out of town, we did two quick stops to see the exteriors of the Mary Washington House and the Lewis Store.  The gardener for the house was actually outside as we approached, and she allowed us a peek into the back garden and told us a bit about the history.  Mary Washington spent her last seventeen years in the house, which sits walking distance from Kenmore.  If I ever come back I'll have to revisit!

The Fielding Lewis Store was built by the father of Fielding Lewis, and it was just down the street from Kenmore and Mary Washington's house.  It was a general store.

I was truly blessed to have three wonderful DAR members take me on this awesome tour of Fredericksburg sites related to the family of George Washington!  I'll never forget it.
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