weekend review

Hope you all had a great 4th of July weekend! We sure did. Our friends, Brandon and Sarah, drove up to see us from Indiana so we packed their visit full of good food and fun activities.

Friday night they arrived around 9pm, so we just grabbed a late dinner and played a few rounds of Quixx (a dice game). Saturday we slept in, made biscuits and gravy, and then spent time wandering the Mall of America and eating gelato. For dinner we had juicy lucy burgers and honey-glazed cheese curds at the Nook before heading home to enjoy cupcakes for my birthday and play a new board game we bought – Betrayal at House on the Hill. It’s a suspenseful strategy game that involves exploring an old haunted mansion. I was skeptical at first but am now addicted!

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Sunday we picked up drinks at 5 Watt Coffee and then headed to the Midtown Global Market to check it out and have lunch. Brandon couldn’t stop raving about the Pho (Vietnamese noodle soup) he ate. We stopped by the Stone Arch Bridge to enjoy the view and explore a little. It was a beautiful day but a bit warm, so we escaped to the movies to take a break. We saw Finding Dory and really liked it! After the show it was time for dinner at one of our favorite restaurants – The Rusty Taco. We were really excited to take Brandon and Sarah there. Thankfully they loved it! After dinner, we headed home to play more Betrayal at House on the Hill and a game of Ticket to Ride.

Monday we popped over to Glam Doll Donuts to pick up tasty treats for breakfast and then spent the afternoon at Canterbury Park getting sunburned, eating free hot dogs, and cheering on the horses and wiener dogs that were racing. That evening we played one more round of Betrayal on House on the Hill before calling it a night. Brandon and Sarah left early Tuesday morning and while we were sad to see them go it was so nice having the long weekend to spend with them!

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My mom and grandma came up to see us and if their visit had a theme I’d say it was “good times & good eats”. Aside from playing cards, watching movies, swimming, and visiting the Stone Arch Bridge Festival… we pretty much spent the rest of our time eating around the city! We hit up Red Cow, Melting Pot, Mozza Mia, Bruegger’s Bagels, and Paciugo Gelato…twice! What can I say – we really know how to do it up right. 😉

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May

This month…

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My brother graduated from college! It was very exciting but also bittersweet because the university he attended is closing its campus. Ryan graduated from this college too and we have many friends, neighbors, and family that will be impacted by the closing. But hopefully, all will be on to bigger and better things – my bro included. He’s currently on tour for a month with a doom metal/rock band as their roadie/guitar technician. Quite the post-graduation adventure if you ask me!

We had a game night with old friends and new. Many laughs were had by all! If you’re looking for a good party game pick up The Game of Things – I promise everyone will love it.

We saw Ryan’s sister when she and a friend came up to Minneapolis for a Beyoncé concert. It was a short visit but they had a blast and we were happy we could provide them with a place to crash.

My friend, Jessica, and I went to “Arts in the Park” in Eden Prairie. It was a gorgeous day for it (80s, sunny) and we both had a nice time wandering around the festival. We also took a lovely long walk around Lake Nokomis.

We had a relaxing Memorial Day Weekend. We went out for dinner, watched a movie or two, and enjoyed the nice weather. I also met up with Jessica to hike around Murphy-Hanrehan Park Reserve before cooling off at our apartment’s swimming pool.

Looking forward to more fun, sun, and pool time in June!

Life Lately

This poor blog’s been pushed to the back burner lately so I thought it would be nice to stop by and check in!

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March

Ryan & I spent the first part of March on vacation in Kauai (trip recap: Part 1Part 2, Part 3).

Ryan earned a promotion at work and is now Lead Returns Coordinator.

My company hosted an office party and took everyone out to dinner at Crave, followed by an evening of laughs at the Brave New Workshop Comedy Theater.

We spent Easter weekend in Nebraska with Ryan’s brother and his little family. Ryan’s sister also made the trip out which was a real treat!

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April

This month was pretty low-key.

To commemorate our upcoming wedding anniversary, Ryan and I both added pineapples to our tattoo collections. They represent our love for the Hawaiian islands and will remind us of the two visits to HI that bookend for our first 5 years of marriage (honeymoon on Oahu + anniversary trip to Kauai).

Besides getting inked we spent time with friends, went to the movies, shopped around for a new kitchen table before snagging one off Craigslist, kept up with our workout routines, started spring cleaning, ate at the Rusty Taco, and enjoyed the few sunny days that popped up.

We’re looking forward to more warm days and the fun activities that are coming up.

Hope you’re all having a nice spring so far! ❤

✈ Kauai | Part 3

We’re recapping our vacation to Kauai! Need to catch up? Here’s Part 1  + Part 2.

Day 7: Tubing a Former Sugar Plantation

We had another big day planned so we breakfasted at Living Foods Market & Cafe under the eye of a watchful lizard. Ryan had cinnamon apple crepes while I had a cinnamon roll and another local kombucha. This one was brewed by Kauai Island Kombucha (which the cafe has on tap) and the flavor was Turmeric Tsunami (turmeric, ginger, and pineapple). Ryan was thirsty too so we swung by the Koloa Rum Co. for a quick tasting. Ryan really liked their spiced rum!

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From there we moved on to our next activity – tubing. When I first heard about this, I practically signed us up on the spot! We love tubing and the opportunity to do it through the fields of a former sugar plantation was something I didn’t want to miss. Kauai Backcountry Adventures is the company that organizes these tubing tours and their guides are knowledgeable and very entertaining. Lots of laughs! After a van ride up a mountain road (with a quick stop to peek at Mount Waiʻaleʻale), they gave our group a safety chat and popped us in our tubes.

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We sailed along the old irrigation canals and through five dark tunnels (which were hand dug in the 1800s!). It was a fairly gentle ride but with a few twists and turns. The water was only a few feet deep so it was safe, chill way to spend an afternoon. Everyone had fun kicking off the rocks and bouncing into each other’s inner tubes. In the tunnels, the headlamps on our helmets lit up the lichen-covered walls and ceilings. It looked like golden glitter!

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A picnic lunch was provided afterward which quieted our growling tummies and gave us a chance to chat with our guides, who were locals. One of the guides tipped us off to hula pie, an absolutely scrumptious dessert as it turns out. Macadamia nut ice cream piled high on a chocolate cookie crust and topped with chocolate fudge, whipped cream, and more macadamia nuts… where can you go wrong?! It was a great way to end the day.

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Day 8: A Soggy Send Off

The sound of rain woke us up early. It ended up storming until dinner but we didn’t let that stop us from making the most of our last day in paradise. For breakfast we dropped by Aloha Aina Juice Cafe in Puhi for an acai bowl (a really thick smoothie that’s been topped with granola, fruit, or peanut butter).

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From there we drove up to the north side of the island. We wanted to visit Ke’e Beach (the last beach accessible by car on the north shore) but were forced to turn around early because the road was flooded out.

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So we stopped by Wainiha Beach Park and Lumahai Beach instead.

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When the rain picked up again, we hopped in the car and started to make the drive back down to the south shore. Along the way, Ryan saw a farmer’s market so we made a quick stop, dashed through the rain, and were rewarded with taro chips and an amazing piece of lilikoi cheesecake from The Right Slice.

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Thankfully the clouds lifted once we reached Poipu. We took full advantage and ate supper outside (more kalua pork & pineapple pizza!). Just as we were leaving for the airport the skies shifted yet again revealing a beautiful farewell sunset.

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Mahalo, Kauai! It was wonderful to experience the HI life with you. 

✈ Kauai | Part 2

We’re recapping our vacation to Kauai! Miss Part 1? Click here to catch up.

Day 4: Chicken Soup and a Coastal Cruise

After a bowl of chicken broth and a few naps, Ryan chauffeured me around a bit. Our first stop was Kauai Juice Co. in Kapaa. I’d been stalking their Instagram for weeks and was dying to get my hands on one of their drinks! I ended up trying (and loving!) their lilikoi lychee kombucha while Ryan raved about their starburst juice (mix of strawberries, oranges, and pineapple). We took our drinks for a ride up the coast and paused to watch the waves at Larsens Beach, Anini Beach, and Hanalei Bay. My stomach wasn’t up for it, but Ryan sampled food from both The Green Pig food truck (mac & cheese bites) and Chicken In A Barrel BBQ (sampler meat plate).

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Day 5: Naps, Netflix, and Gelato

That pretty much sums up the entire day. I was totally out of commission. Thankfully, a day of downtime seemed to do the trick because the next morning I was back to feeling like myself.

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Day 6: The Grand Canyon of the Pacific

Finally fever-free and ready for fun! We spent the day driving up the winding road to Waimea Canyon, making sure to stop at all the different overlooks along the way. With rocky red cliffs, deep valleys, and waterfalls, the unbelievable vistas go on for miles! Waimea Canyon is often called the Grand Canyon of the Pacific. Just up the road from Waimea Canyon is Koke’e State Park where cool forests and a view of the beautiful Kalalau Valley await. On our way back from the two state parks, we turned off on a long dead-end road expecting it to lead to another lookout area. It instead took us to one of the entrances for the U.S. Navy’s Pacific Missile Range area – ooops! We hightailed it out of there and found our way over to Salt Pond Beach to eat and swim a little.

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Click here to check out Part 3.

✈ Kauai | Part 1

12800171_10153470768903157_6393356340519259203_nAloha! It’s been a few days since we returned from Kauai and we’re definitely missing the sunshine and sand between our toes. However, thanks to all the photos and great memories, we’ll be able to reminisce about our time there for years to come.

As I mentioned before, we decided to take this big trip to celebrate paying off debt and our upcoming 5-year wedding anniversary. After choosing our destination, I booked our vacation through Costco Travel (flights, hotel, and rental car – it was a breeze!) and started finding recommendations for activities, beaches, and restaurants via blogs, Pinterest, Instagram, and TripAdvisor forums. Before we left, I made a quick Google map highlighting the places of interest to us. It proved invaluable as we navigated our way around the island!

All the hard work and travel research really paid off, because we had an amazing time! It was such a fun vacation and I’m excited to share our adventures with you.

Day 1: Traveling to Paradise 

Whew! 11 hour travel day. Talk about exhausting! Flew from Minneapolis > Phoenix > Honolulu > Lihue. Picked up our rental car and drove to Kiahuna Plantation (a condo resort) in Poipu on the south shore. Dumped our bags and immediately set out in search of food. Ended up devouring dinner at the Olympic Cafe right across the street. A mai tai and kalua pork quesadilla for the Ryan and a grilled sandwich for me (sourdough topped with melted brie, avocado & sun-dried tomatoes – mmm mmmm!). Collapsed into bed right after.

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Day 2: Bagels + Beaches

We woke up early, got breakfast at Rainbeau Jo’s food truck (bagels and smoothies), and ate it at Nukolii Beach. Then we grabbed a few groceries, made sandwiches for lunch, and played in the waves at Poipu Beach all afternoon. On our way to dinner, we stopped by Spouting Horn, a natural lava tube that releases a huge spout of water during large swells. It was neat to see! We then wandered through the Shops at Kukuiula to check out their Farmer’s Market (every Wednesday night) before eating at Merriman’s Gourmet Pizza & Burgers (a kalua pork, grilled pineapple, pesto, and jalapeño pizza that was to die for!). To cap off the evening, we borrowed some chairs and sat out at Shipwrecks Beach to watch the cliff jumpers and catch the sunset.

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Day 3: Flying High, Feeling Low

I picked up a stomach bug (most likely from all sick people on the plane) and started feeling poorly. However, I managed to rally enough for the one-hour helicopter tour we had booked months before. Folks… it was absolutely incredible!!! Sure, I had to douse myself in disinfectant and spent the rest of the day in bed with a fever and the flu, but it was so worth it. Hands down, one of the best parts of our trip!

We flew with Mauna Loa Helicopter Tours and Ronnie was our pilot. He was funny, knowledgeable, and a wonderful tour guide. He even took us farther out over the ocean to see if we could spot any whales (sadly, we didn’t see any). I would absolutely recommend flying with Mauna Loa Helicopter Tours! A helicopter ride is definitely a splurge, but they make it fairly affordable. Their operation is well-organized and extremely safe. You’re on a private tour and every seat is a window seat (this is a guarantee and not something I found with other companies I looked at). You also have the option to fly with the doors off (at no extra cost). That is what we chose to do and it was the perfect way to see the island, take clear photos, and make the most of an already exhilarating experience.

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One of the reasons we opted for a helicopter tour is because Kauai is home to the Na Pali Coast, a stretch of must-see shoreline. It’s one of the most beautiful places ever! Emerald cliffs, white beaches, cascading waterfalls… absolutely breathtaking. However, much of it is inaccessible (due to the sheerness of the cliffs) so in order to see it you only have a few options: go on a very long and rigorous hike, grab a boat tour, or (you guessed it) take to the skies. In addition to the Na Pali Coast, Kauai has Waimea Canyon, Mount Waiʻaleʻale, Honopu Valley, Hanalei Valley, and many hidden waterfalls and beaches. We wanted to see it all and a helicopter ride allowed us to do just that. Kauai is stunning!

We also got very lucky because the skies were so clear the day we toured that not only was our pilot able to take us everywhere he wanted but we were even able to see the top of Mount Wai’ale’ale. This extinct volcano is one of the wettest spots in the world and is usually shrouded in mist and clouds. It averages more than 452 inches of rain a year and our pilot said the top is only visible 10-15 days a year.

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Click here to check out Part 2.