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Freezing for Fun

Brr, it’s been a mega-chilly week around these parts. I don’t think it’s just the cold (although there’s been a few days when we were lucky to get into the single digits) but the WIND has been ridiculous. It just rips right through you and you’re chattering and shaking in seconds. Even the short walk across the parking lot into work each day is brutal. I’m wondering why I never purchased remote start for my car.

Ben and I took an abbreviated trip to Kenosha/Racine over the weekend. It was supposed to be two nights with some time baked in for sight-seeing, but I got a last minute call from a dear friend (who was in town from NY) so we cut it short a day. It worked out well though, because we failed to plan ahead and all the local tours and attractions we thought about viewing were full. Everyone must have had the same idea!

We finished up one of our Ingress game banners and then worked on another one down on the Kenosha waterfront. Let me tell you, it looked beautiful but it was absolutely freezing…

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(looks like spring doesn’t it? No snow in sight!)

So much of the snow seems to have melted away and it appears like any old Spring day – with grass and all – but we took turns bundling up, grabbing both phones, and dashing out to hit the locations we needed while the other kept the car running and the heated seats on high. The very last place we had to go was way out to a lighthouse on the pier.

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After checking my phone battery (84%) I doubly secured my coat hood so it wouldn’t blow off and we scuffled as quickly as we could along the pier. There was absolutely no wind block, poor lighting, and patches of the pier were icy and slick so we stepped carefully. The worst thing was having to pull off our chunky mittens so we could work the phone screens, but we were done quickly and then I suggested to Ben a quick picture while we were at the edge of the pier. I clicked the button and POOF – the screen went black. My battery died from the cold. Ugh!

Scampering back into the cold and shaking with our hands placed over the car heaters, we laughed, plugged my phone in, and decided we needed some food. We checked into our hotel and at the suggestion of the hotel rep, made our way across the street to a local pasta place. Evidently all their pastas are made from scratch and it’s “beyond excellent”.

What was “beyond excellent” for me wasn’t the food at all – but the insane Christmas décor. I have never seen a restaurant so decked out for Christmas. It was amazing.

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They had trees decorated with twinkle lights, bulbs, bows and tiny ornaments, strings of lighted garland, a HUGE Santa, and even reindeer flying in the air…

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We were seated next to the fireplace, where they had a string of red twinkle lights

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We ordered salads and then waited for our main courses to arrive. The salad was pretty basic but there were a few pieces of spinach. The blue cheese dressing was more like just sour cream – not a fan.

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Ben is a sucker for any kind of alfredo so it wasn’t a surprise when he selected their chicken & broccoli alfredo pasta.

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It was amazing but so rich. I don’t think I could have eaten an entire plate of it. But you could definitely taste the parmesan and cream.

My entrée was a trio of two ravioli, a “small” piece of lasagna, and then half a plate of gnocchi. It looked bare without a sprinkling of cheese on top. Don’t they know this is Wisconsin?? 😉

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I have ordered gnocchi several times because I keep thinking that I “should” like it. You know what? I just don’t. I’ve never had it were it wasn’t slightly gummy or rubbery and that’s just not my thing. I ate three and left the rest on my plate.

As we were walking back to our hotel, we spotted a lot of people walking around down by the waterfront again (what? in the cold?). We hopped back into the car to explore only to learn it was a breeding ground for rare Pokémon. There must have been 50 people shaking in their shoes and wandering around catching Pokémon. And then Ben and I did it too because we’re crazy. LOL

On our way back we saw this amazing building next to the civil war museum. I’m not sure why the purple but it was soooo cool!

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Our hotel room was amazing. We were at the very back of the building facing the water AND had access to two Ingress portals / Pokémon stops. That meant every 5 minutes we were hacking and getting additional gear. I almost didn’t want to stop to go to sleep. Hee Hee.

The view from our room. There’s a long sidewalk wrapping around the water and then behind it you can see the rows of townhouses. Can’t you imagine living each day with such a view?

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Hudson: Home of the Hot-Air Balloons

Happy Thursday! The forecast for Nov 17th is 65 degrees. You heard me, 65! This lady is taking a much-needed lunch break for some fresh air at work today. It’s been such a wonderfully mild Fall. There is a big cold front sweeping in tomorrow afternoon and the temps are supposed to go from the mid-60s down to the high 30s by dinner time. Yikes. That’ll certainly feel like a severe change!

I’ve been feeling bad about my lack of blog activity but sometimes you have to embrace the ebb and flow of life and settle into whatever the new normal is. It’s been a really stressful and challenging time and I haven’t had much interest in doing a lot of things. I come home mentally and physically exhausted and just want to curl up on the couch and read/watch TV. Then I mentally berate myself for neglecting my blog, among many other things. I’m actively working on figuring things out so hopefully this won’t be the norm forever, but bare with me friends.

We’ve been trying to get out of the house a little more lately just for a change of pace and scenery. I’ve needed more away time to not think about work and other stressors and little trips here and there have been a wonderful relief. When we were in MN, I mentioned about the little B&B we stayed at but didn’t finish our last day…

The restaurant attached to the B&B:

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While this place wasn’t as great as our Door County experience, I think we’d go back another time if just to explore the city during tourism season. I could see the fringe of activity on main street and I bet the hustle and bustle would be really fun during Summer. It just felt so relaxed and away from everything.

We had time to kill so we sat on chairs in our porch. Pretty view of the marina:

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We’re not used to big breakfasts but breakfast wasn’t served until 9am (why??) so by the time we could go and eat, we were hungry! It was a carb-bonanza with caramel rolls, biscuits with sausage gravy, cheesy eggs, and fresh fruit. For homemade rolls though, no one makes them as good as my mother does. 🙂

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Back to the room to pack up and head on out! More views from our room:

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After the later-than-planned start, we crossed back over the Mississippi river to work on another Ingress banner in Hudson, WI. We had been concerned about cell signal but I really wanted this banner (I love the colors and think it’s so pretty). We were really glad we decided to go for it – so much to see in the town! Hudson is known for being the premiere winter ballooning event and winter festival in the Midwest. Annually more than 40 balloons have flown since 1990.

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Ingress usually points you in the direction of historical locations, parks, and various places of interest. It’s an amazing way of learning some of the city’s treasures and this proved the case once more. We started out weaving through various churches and tiny parks before arriving at the local water tower – way up on a walking path with a captivating morning view:

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Plus it’s nice to get out a do a little walking here and there while driving around town! We found ourselves at another park with amazing trees and the best view of the entire city. It was completely void of people and I could have stayed there all day.

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So pretty!!!!!

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Silliness in the park. Because that’s how we roll!

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We lucked out with the best weather imaginable and had the windows rolled down and tunes blaring as we weaved through town. One section had us looping down by the Mississippi riverfront and I saw the cutest restaurant with people dining al fresco and 90s music playing. We decided right there to finish the banner and grab a late lunch / early dinner before settling into the drive home.

We got seated on a high table right next to the outdoor bar.

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Blackberry margarita for me!

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Ben selected the meatloaf sandwich and I had the half turkey sandwich

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Really tasty food! I wasn’t that hungry after breakfast and the 1/2 sandwich was the perfect size. The hostess offered to take our picture – can you see the river in the background? I bet it’s a gorgeous walk at night with all the street lights on.

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I told Ben I want to move to Hudson. He laughs at me but we both loved the town. It’s close to the Twin Cities and the craziness of big city life to reap those benefits but far enough away to be peaceful and slower-paced.

So that’s it for MN. We had a lot of other banners we wanted to do but they always seem to take longer than we plan (maybe because we stop too much to explore the areas). I’m trying to talk Ben into another trip during Christmas vacation – but we’ll need to wait and see how the weather is that week. I love to plan!

Six Miles along Victory Memorial Parkway

Oh boy – it’s a somber night in the household after watching the Packers fall short this week.

What’s better is looking at my trip pictures and reliving all the fun we had. I wrote about our trip through Eau Claire and Chippewa falls and although that was amazing, we had more shenanigans in store.

We woke up early Saturday morning and loaded up on the continental breakfast. I love it when you find hotels with a hot dish – it can be a challenge to eat healthy on the road – and this hit the spot with some delicious scrambled eggs, french toast, and sausage links.

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We said goodbye to Eau Claire and headed West across the Mississippi and into Minnesota.

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Our first stop was Victory Memorial Parkway – a part of the Grand Rounds Scenic By way in Minneapolis. Every tree has a memorial stone at the base in honor of the servicemen of Hennepin County. There’s two lanes on either side with a substantial boulevard in between where the memorial trees line either edge. Smack in the middle is a biking and walking path – and on a warm and slightly breeze October day, we were taking advantage of the weather and out on our feet!

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We tackled an 18 mission banner first and literally breezed through it. The locations were so close together that we completed the entire thing in less than an hour – when a usual banner of that size would be closer to 3 hours.

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It’s a pretty one – I love it!

Since we flew through that so quickly and the day was young, we got ambitious and decided to tackle the 66 mission banner – our largest EVER to date:

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This would take us all the way down Victory Memorial Drive and then across and all the way down AND back up Victory Memorial Parkway. It *looked* short on the map and easier to do on foot, so we parked the car and got walking.

Gorgeous, gorgeous day – lots of people out playing Pokemon Go, walking their dogs, and a few folks reading on blankets. Despite ample traffic, it felt quiet and removed from the chaos. I REALLY wish we had something like this in Green Bay!

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I was working up a decent sweat and I kept glancing at Ben who was wearing his new sweatshirt (I can’t convince the boy to take it off since he’s bought it).

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We were about 20 missions in when we realized it was a LOT more walking then we had planned on AND we didn’t bring a phone charger with us. We went into a big of crisis mode at that point, trying to keep our screens extra low and picking up the pace. We didn’t want to be miles away from the car with no working phones and have to walk all the way back – and then back AGAIN to finish the rest of the banner.

Another 10 minutes later and we began to notice it was getting really cloudy and overcast. Sure enough, we started seeing tiny drops on our phone screens. Oh no. Hustling, panting, and chugging along – we managed to get 56 of the 66 done before my cell went dead. I grabbed Ben’s phone and kept working on his while he walked the extra .4 miles back to the car (we made it most of the way!). The car grabbed me just as the rain really began to fall and with our phones plugged into chargers and our feet throbbing from all the exercise, we finished the rest of the mission in the car.

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It was much later than we anticipated when we finished (4pm) so we started the drive into town to find our hotel. The plan was to check in and get our luggage all sorted before it got dark and then try and find some place for dinner.

We were smart and packed a few snacks and lots of bottled water. I often don’t like to drink when we have road trips but I’m learning that’s not an option. You need to stay hydrated!!

The skyline:

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Downtown Minneapolis was chaotic and the roads leading into our hotel were blocked off for some event (apparently there was a zombie Halloween party going on). After our GPS pointed out which tall building was our hotel, we saw a parking ramp right next door. Long story short – the hotel was actually 6 blocks away (huh?!). By the time we found our hotel, checked in and walked back to move the car to a closer location, we’d already incurred a $30 parking fee. Exhausted and not thinking too clearly, we grabbed our suitcases and walked them through the throngs of zombies all the way back to the hotel.

We couldn’t roll the luggage because the ground was LITTERED in fake blood. Pretty messy and nasty. Some of the folks at the party staying in our hotel:

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By the time we got our luggage into our rooms and sat down on the bed, everything hurt. We hadn’t had anything substantial to eat since breakfast and my feet were killing me. We found this hotel via Living Social and as part of the offer we received a food credit in the attached dining area. We figured even if it was uber pricey, with the credit we probably would be comparable to some other place that would require more walking. (why do I never think about ordering pizza or something that delivers??)

The dining room / bar reminded me a LOT of LA. It felt urban and glitzy and was almost empty – surprising to us on a Saturday night (maybe that’s why they were doing a Living Social promotion??)

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We were the only ones not eating at the bar, so we spread out on the booth and laughed about the folly of the day. I was actually pretty impressed with our food too. We both ordered a pulled chicken sandwich with a semi-spicy sauce. I didn’t have much of an appetite and only ate half of mine. Ben was MORE than happy to gobble up the rest.

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From there we slowly staggered back up to our room…

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And after more than 16,500 steps on our pedometers, we literally fell into bed and instantly crashed to sleep.

(at the time we were SO tired and a bit defeated about the parking lot hassle but this is how the best memories are made, don’t you think?)

 

A Surprise Zoo Visit

Hello Tuesday night. I was looking at the calendar and somewhere just after October 2nd I think I hiccuped and wound up  at the last week before NOVEMBER and all the crazy that comes along with the end of the year.

Ben and I took a long weekend off from work (Friday/Monday) to reap the benefit of two shorter work weeks. I needed a break to recharge and just get some fresh air. We wanted to get away and do something that would be fun but not horribly expensive and decided on a little road trip and exploration while working on some more of our geo-caching game.

Our first stop was to work on the Chippewa Falls banner. First things first, Ben wanted to visit the Leinenkugel brewery. It was a trip down memory lane because Ben and I visited the factory and went on a brewery tour when we were dating all the way back in 2011.

Then (2011):

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Now:

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Isn’t that one of the joys of having pictures – to be able to look back in time and see yourself years earlier? We appear to change so little from day to day but it happens! I think it’s called getting older…

After we emptied our piggybank on new beer clothes for Ben we were off to finish the geo-mission. What I love most about playing Ingress is that the missions take you into all these fun areas of cities that you would never know existed if you were just a casual visitor. we get all around town exploring fun places – like a beautiful park on our warm Fall afternoon.

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There was a small wedding taking place in a nearby pavilion so we quickly moved past and were instead able to get out and walk around some of the trails. It was a fun resting spot to stretch our legs and take in the colors.

The park was so nicely maintained and it was large for the size of the city. There were lots of play areas for the kids, walking trails, cooking areas and people out enjoying themselves.

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I don’t think we could have picked a better weekend to have ventured out. Plus we got really lucky with the colors being at or close to peak.

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Happy explorers:

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As we packed up and moved on to hit some other park locations, I jumped out of the car to hit a plaque on the side of a long building. I couldn’t reach it from the sidewalk and had to find an entrance in the fence, but I was so concentrated in what I was doing that I didn’t really pay attention to WHERE I was…

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That is, until I looked up and saw a porcupine staring back at me:

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As it turns out, Chippewa Falls had a really cute mini zoo open and free to the community. In Green Bay we have to pay to go to our local zoo but here it was wide open and people were free to wander by the cages and check out the small display of animals.

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I motioned for Ben to park the car and we detoured to walk down the path and see the animals. It was a quick viewing because some were hiding mid-day, so we got back in the car, drove about 20 feet when Ben said “was that a bear?”. And we stopped the car again.

Yes Ben, it was a bear.

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And a tiger too! (or two)

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We saw hyenas and a small group of buffalo – including an albino buffalo! It was amazing and so uncrowded. I loved that they offered something like this in the city and we found a collection box to make a donation. I wish more places had something like this. It was such a cool and welcome surprise on our way out of the park!

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We ended up spending our first night in Eau Claire, about 20 minutes from Chippewa Falls. I was able to meet up with my friend Jeff and we enjoyed a nice dinner together before hitting the hay. You wouldn’t think sitting in a car all day would tucker you out, but maybe that comes from being old too. Ha Ha

More to come from our mini adventure, stay tuned!

 

 

The History of Pittsburgh

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Good morning – here’s a tasty treat picture for those of you who feel like zombies this morning due to lack of sleep… Like me. Normally I can sleep through storms but last night’s was particularly loud and we were both in and out for most of the night. Anyway the above treats were from that little Italian pastry shop in Pittsburgh. We had cannoli that they fill on the spot (half a lemon ricotta and half a chocolate mousse) and then the lightest and airiest cheesecake. Ummm delicious!

Pittsburgh is called the City of Bridges and although I will debate that title with City of Hills, there were a lot of bridges. We decided to venture downtown for a “brief” outing to get another one of the banner missions in the GPS game Ingress that we play. It was supposed to take 1-2 hours max but nothing in that game ever seems to go as planned… That’s how some of the best memories are made folks – through unexpected chaos!

We had to start out by one of the local parks. It’s a very odd phenomenon compared to flat and somewhat sprawling Green Bay. We exited one of the huge bridges and immediately were at the park. Boom. We had to pay to park in the lot and then it was somewhat of a hike to get to the actual spot – which included walking under bridges.

I sort of think we look like zombies heading towards the light…

 

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We spent the next FIVE hours (not the 1-2 as planned) walking all over downtown Pittsburgh. There is quite a lot of interesting history in this city.

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The park was built over the area of Fort Duquesne. I’m not sure if you can read the seal below but it says “This marks the exact site of Fort Duquesne, built by the French in 1754. The fort was destroyed by the French on the approach of the English army in 1758″.  After the site was destroyed, it was replaced by Fort Pitt in 1758. Now we just have a random park commemorating the area…

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Amid a curious background of bridges and skyscrapers. It feels like a quiet piece of calm while the city blurs all around it.

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Another hefty bridge separated the sides of the park. When you walk under the bridge is so thick and insulated that you really don’t hear the road noise above.

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On the other side was the Fort Pitt museum. We didn’t go inside but did grab a quick shot of the menfolk by the cannon. Because boys love toys right?

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The only historical building still standing is preserved and run by the Daughters of the American Revolution. Since I just so happen to be one, I thought I should be in this picture.

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The rest of the day was a hazy blur of finding locations and winding our way through town. It was a pretty warm day and when you’re in the heart of downtown there’s a real food desert. All the gas stations and fast food stores close down over the weekend so trying to find a bathroom or a place to buy bottled water was impossible. About 3 hours into our adventure (and 12,000 steps on the pedometer), we located a dirty 7-11 that didn’t have a rest room but did have water. Hallelujah!

At the end of our misery fun trek all over town, we fell into the hot car and drove over to Heinz field for the weekend Rib Festival. The place was LOADED with festival goers and we had eyes on the freshly squeezed lemonades and BBQ eats. Luckily there were a zillion lemonade stands and armed with deliciously cold beverages, we then stood in line for 40 minutes to get our BBQ plates!

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The line-up of all the BBQ joints:

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I was really interested in good Texas BBQ so we lined up for a place that had a ton of ribbons for “Best BBQ”, etc… We didn’t notice until we got closer that those ribbons were all from 5-10 years ago. Hmmm

After collecting our plates, the tired troops slugged back to the parking lot to set up a little table and chairs and enjoy our food.

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It smelled delicious, it looked delicious, it tasted atrocious. I’ve never really had “bad” BBQ but this was it. The meat felt like it hadn’t cooked long enough to tenderize and there were huge pieces of chewy fat that you couldn’t separate from the meat. We were pretty defeated and had aching feet so we picked around on our plates before tossing 90% in the trash and went back home for cold showers, homemade sangria, frozen pizza, and Mexican dominos.

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It was a peculiar but memorable day, that’s for sure. I’m sure that’s what we’ll remember and joke about years from now when we look back on this visit together. 🙂 Plus the 16,500 steps probably helped burn off some of the calories from all that cheesecake!

Our last day together was pretty relaxed. Nicole made us some delicious lasagna. She even made the sauce herself. I’m such a terrible hostess. Ha ha. I think I had build-your-own deli sandwiches when they came to visit.

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The day was a little sad because we didn’t want to leave. It’s hard knowing it will be a while until we see each other again…

Final smiles!

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Our last minutes in Steel Town were spent watching the Cardinals slaughter the Pirates in the TGIFridays restaurant in the airport terminal.

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My team was winning and Ben was enjoying a pre-flight beer – not a bad way to end a vacation!

Until next time Pittsburgh!

Not so Laborious Weekend in Pittsburgh

Happy Football Season! It’s way too early for football season but here we are and the days march along. Ben’s settled in on the couch to watch the game and I thought it would be good to catch you up on our fun weekend away from home.

I’ve blogged about it before but we met an amazing couple on our honeymoon a few years ago and feel like we’ve been best friends forever. It’s hard to be away so we’ve tried to get together when we can. They invited us to come to Pittsburgh over Labor Day weekend and we’ve been excited all Summer waiting for the weekend to arrive.

Before I even start tackling the trip, I have this weird/amusing thing to share. Ben and I have been lightly toying with the idea of doing some extensive remodeling in our house (i.e. kitchen, all three bathrooms, the basement, all the flooring up and down stairs, the windows, and the roof). All of these projects come with a giant price tag so we’ve been just window shopping more than anything else. But a couple months ago I found this beautiful kitchen counter top that I loved. It’s terribly pricey so probably not what we’d end up with… but I’m wondering if it’s a good or bad sign that it was used as the decor in the Minneapolis airport bathrooms?

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It was EVERYWHERE. They actually had quartz lining the entire back wall of the bathroom stall. CRAZY! I don’t know whether be amused or appalled that my counter tops are in a nasty airport bathroom.

Anyway, we were picked up at the airport on Friday night and after lots of hugs and laughter I made them take me to a sandwich restaurant that one of my co-workers had been raving about to me. He swore up and down these were the BEST sandwiches I would ever have and a true taste of Pittsburgh. Sold!

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Primanti Brothers is a sandwich chain known for a classic sandwich with meat, french fries and coleslaw all together. It was a whopper!

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It was also horrifically dry…

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I’m not sure but I think the combo of the huge dry pieces of Texas toast and the french fries along with not-so-saucy coleslaw made it hard to eat. I ate half my sandwich and even that was rough going. It was a pretty big disappointment after so much hype. Boo

We stayed up way too late that first night (OK every night) but it was wonderful sharing stories and falling into an easy rhythm as if we hadn’t been apart. Ben and I are pretty silly and you don’t often find people who surprise you with equal amounts of silly and crazy – like the random monster interrupting me trying to enjoy my morning cup of coffee.

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Matt surprised us with his cooking abilities and made us bacon, egg, and cheese bagels for breakfast. They were delicious. I could probably eat one of these every morning and be a happy camper.

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Mostly we spent the first day vegging about. We made a special trip to Moio’s pastry shop where we loaded up on decadent weekend desserts. It’s a good thing we don’t have one of those around here or I’d be in serious trouble.

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I was really surprised at how hilly Pittsburgh is. I guess I just assumed I’d see a lot of industrial areas and old abandoned steel manufacturing buildings but nothing especially noteworthy about the terrain. It was crazy! All the new construction is built up on hills. Have you ever seen pictures of Greece with those cute little houses all on top of each other? Imagine that with larger and newer homes and you have the Pittsburgh suburbs. I don’t know how they get up the roads in Winter (that would make me crazy) and my ears popped each time we went out for errands because of all the elevation changes.

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I have no idea how you’d bike or go for a leisurely walk around here. the picture doesn’t do justice to how steep some of these neighborhood roads were. They had an Italian ice truck with loud Caribbean music come through and I was wondering how that car dealt with the hills. You can see how low the street behind this picture is, as well as the steps in front of this house in relation to the angle of the truck. And this wasn’t even a really steep section of the road…032

I think the steep hills and roads would negate me from ever moving to that area. Sorry my friends! This gal is used to the flat lands of Wisconsin. I like seeing 3 miles down the highway when I’m driving. lol

We sent the boys out for lunch food and they returned with herb and garlic rotisserie chicken and salad fixings. I made myself a delicious chicken salad with balsamic vinaigrette.

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After spending most of the day bumming around the house, playing games, and drinking recreations of Mexican cocktails we drank together during past trips, we weren’t in the mood for a large dinner. They took us to a local restaurant with an extensive beer list for Ben. I got a pesto chicken flatbread and swear I took a picture of it… but it’s no where to be found on my phone. I did get this one of my favorite people (sorry for the bad background lighting).

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We did take a little meander to downtown Pittsburgh so I’ll try and get those pictures up this weekend. It’s getting late for this lady so time to wrap things up here in blog land.

Tomorrow is Friday! Hurray!

Hiking Around the Third Ward

Hello on this beautiful summer night! The heat is just around the corner but right now I have all the windows open, a glass of iced tea in my hand, and am enjoying both the breeze and the fact that it’s after 8pm and light outside. Summer just is amazing.

A fun spur-of-the-moment mini vacation was to take a day and drive down to Madison followed by a drive over and day in Milwaukee. The premise was to just get away and enjoy a change of scenery. We hunted for some decent hotel prices and were on our way.

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Madison was our first spot and we drove right to the capital to walk around and work on a “banner mission”. I’ve mentioned before about Ingress, the GPS game Ben and I play. One thing that we’re enjoying about the game is how different cities have missions – meaning you visit different locations in certain orders and collect badges. When the badges are strung together they make a unique picture that gets stored on your game page for everyone to see. Here is the one for the capitol called “Hack the Loop”:

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From the map information this looked like it would be really quick to complete but we were sidelined by tons of road construction and, as luck would have it, a day when the capitol was swarming with people getting early seats to a concert that night. Chaos!

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There was a lot more walking around then we had planned on and by the time we were done it was after 8pm. Long day of driving and walking!

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Walking ALL over and around the capitol… tons of weird intersections but a mountain of fun shops, little niche restaurants, food carts, and people.

018Ben began driving back towards our hotel while I searched my phone for a decent dinner option. I wasn’t really hungry at that point but I was THIRSTY! We settled on the Great Dane Brewing Co for beer (Ben), root beer (me), and a half chicken wrap with a bowl of potato soup. Delicious! Added bonus: the Brewer game was on TV so we scrunched into the same side of the booth and sat and watched while we ate. I think that’s one of the best things about vacation (or weekends too) – time just doesn’t matter. You can stay out late because you don’t have to be anywhere the next morning.

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We had the gnarliest hotel ever in Madison. Take it from me, if you’re ever in Madison, DO NOT stay at the Microtel. It was beyond hideous. When we arrived to check in there was no running water or working phones (huh?) but since it was early afternoon we didn’t really care and left right away for the capitol. When we got back and really inspected the room, it was heinous. I will spare you all the details except to say that I slept IN my clothes, threw all their pillows off the bed, made Ben purchase bottled water so I could brush my teeth in the sink, and I opted NOT to take a shower the next morning. Yeah.Had we gotten back to the room earlier I think we would have just left. Looking back, Ben says we won’t make that mistake again despite how late it is. Lessons you learn! 🙂

The next day we had planned another mission badge that started by the capitol and ended all the way over in Mt Horeb:

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You can argue that this game is somewhat pointless but for people who really don’t get out much, it gives a sense of purpose, is so inexpensive, and lets us discover all kinds of random areas, parks, beaches, cities. I love it. We wound our way through quaint little city blocks in Madison with old homes on tiny streets that were amazingly well-kept and so full of charm. We stopped in Verona for lunch at burger joint. I love being able to get quick reviews on my phone. I don’t know how I lived with a “dumb” phone for so long.

This place was a tap house and they had all kinds of fancy beers that made Ben almost gleeful… and a little hoity-toity for such a down to earth establishment. Ha

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The “wall”

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I think you all know I’m not a beer girl but boy did I have some wonderful root beers on this trip. Holy cow. They were ice cold, with deep vanilla and caramel notes. Mmmm amazing stuff.

I rolled with a California burger which came with cheese and guacamole. I’ve never tried that combo on a burger and it was really tasty.

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We arrived in Milwaukee in the late afternoon and fully inspected our hotel. It passed with flying colors – and not just because they had freshly made oatmeal blueberry white chocolate cookies. I NEED to try and replicate this recipe!

It was early enough that we decided to head down to the Historic Third Ward. It’s an area of downtown Milwaukee that is, well, historic. I’d never been there and since the weather was perfect for walking (especially after a day in the car), we thought we’d complete another banner, get some exercise, see the sights, and find a quaint place to eat dinner too.

We remembered too late that Summerfest (the local summer music festival) was going on so parking anywhere was crazy-expensive. We settled on the parking ramp right outside the Ward and they wanted to charge us $25. Yikes.

A quick back story: when we were in Madison, there was no parking ramp and poor Ben was running back and forth putting money into the meter because we kept running out of time and everything was taking longer than planned. It was a bit of a mess and we didn’t want to deal with that again. We explained we just wanted to walk around and got a weird looking ticket before parking the car.

The Third Ward didn’t disappoint. It was just beautiful: full of huge brick buildings that look so well maintained and yet “old”. You can tell there was so much history and change and yet the buildings are still there. There were little shops all over, seating areas, and a park with twinkle lights wrapped all around the trees.

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It was a little overcast and we were concerned about rain but luckily only a few errant sprinkles cropped up as we wove up and down the street. We finished this banner really quickly but I don’t think it’s as pretty. It looks like it needs an additional line to complete the picture:

the third ward

While we were playing, a local game player (opposing team) spotted us in-game and was super friendly. He offered up some great dinner suggestions in the area. We ended up at a pizzeria in one of those beautiful brick buildings.

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We ordered a pizza with pancetta and it came in little rosettes. Also, one of the quirks to an old building – the bathroom was downstairs! You had to walk down these creepy stairs and then down an equally creepy stairwell to get to the bathroom. That alone was an experience!

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The sprinkling was getting a touch worse when we left the restaurant and when we drove up to pay in the parking garage our total came to: $4. FOUR dollars!!! What a deal! I think we must have fed almost $15 into the meter at Madison and I was expecting the $25 Summerfest fee. It doesn’t take much to make my day, hee hee

We woke up the next morning and decided we were done with the game and ready to just do something random – so we drove another half hour to the outlet malls in Pleasant Prairie. I have friends who RAVE about the mall so we decided to finally make the trip. They had a couple stores that aren’t at the outlet mall in Oshkosh but nothing that I would make a specific trip down there for. we found some deals on exercise shirts (Adidas and Under Armour outlets), I may or may not have bought another unnecessary and totally beautiful purse, and we took it pretty easy overall because I was feeling really dizzy that morning.

While we were paying for a pair of swim trunks at the Eddie Bauer outlet, the store employee told us to check out the “cheese castle” because it was a fun touristy place and had great sandwiches for lunch. Sold!

The “castle”:

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It was definitely a tourist trap. I actually didn’t think the food was great and we could have done without the trip there. I guess it felt a bit cheezy (cheezy, get it?) after all the more rustic places we’ve seen.

I mean we’re comparing sites like this:

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to stuff like this:

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variety!

We got a start on the road right after lunch and ended up hitting all the 4th of July traffic heading into Milwaukee. The road was at a complete standstill and we ended up taking the first offramp and driving down the frontage roads so we could make some headway. A lot of other people had the same idea so it was slow going but even at 35mph we were FLYING compared to the interstate. It took us almost double the time to get home.

It was a wonderful trip though with lots of fun memories. We’re already looking at the map for more missions to see were we should go to next. A little R&R is good for the heart, mind, body, and soul. ❤