Archive for the ‘Amazing Places’ Category

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Well, several of you guessed correctly last night – today Ben and I went to the Iowa State Fair! WHICH is in the “1,000 Places to See Before You Die Book”! I love this book – I highlight and date all the places I’ve been to that are included in it, so I can look back and remember everything that I’ve done when I’m old and wrinkled 🙂

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The Iowa State Fair is one of the highlights of my summer and I’ve gone every year that I can remember. The food, the animals, the culture, the people watching – oh, the people watching – are all so uniquely Iowa. I just love it!


The State Fair is Iowa’s largest event, which attracts a million visitors from all over the Midwest, as well as the rest of the U.S. and many foreign countries.


My personal favorite part of the fair is the FOOD. All diets go out the window when it’s fair time! I started the morning off with some hot, sugary JR Miniature Donuts!


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Seriously – these are one of the best things on earth – a must have for any fair visitor!


Ben started his eating adventures with his favorite fair food – Cheese Curds!



Naturally, I had to have some. Crunchy, gooey and oh-so-delicious!


Ben’s sooooo happy – he looks forward to these cheese curds all year long!


We finished off our eating extravaganza with a Foot Long Corn Dog, which is my #1 favorite fair food of all time. The light & crispy batter is something that you can only find at the fair, and is just to die for. Sadly, the moment we bought this to share is when my fair food fun came to end. Since I don’t eat fried foods, the JR donuts took my body for a wicked spin and I couldn’t stomach even a single bit of the dog…I was SO upset!!!!


Ben tackled the entire foot long himself…what a champ.




Now you can’t possibly talk about state fair foods without mentioning the phrases:

  • On a stick
  • Deep fried
  • Chocolate covered

Here are the worst offenders I found:

Chocolate covered bacon & deep fried pineapple (that poor pineapple!!)

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Deep fried mac & cheese and…well…pretty much anything you can think of dipped in chocolate. This year they had frozen peanut butter “pucks” dipped in chocolate! Holy cow – I would have scarfed this if I hadn’t just polished off a big bag of donuts!


Ok take a moment to recover. That was a lot of grease and chocolate…

So my second favorite part of the state fair is the animals. 😀

First we hit up the sheep barn:


This one just kept staring out the side of his pen…sad sheep!


Here’s the fair’s Biggest Ram!



Next we saw the pigs. I wonder what this one is dreaming of…probably flying…


There were pigs running around everywhere in the barns…I almost got steamrolled half a dozen times!


O…M…G… look at this pig tongue!! We were walking by a pen and Ben stopped dead in his tracks when he saw this. This pig was sleeping with his tongue hanging out!


Of course it wouldn’t be the Iowa State Fair without seeing the Biggest Boar:



This guy…was massive…in every way. Oh dear.


Some more animals:

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And finally the fair’s biggest bull.


Ummm…this thing is bigger than a Buick. Check out the fan behind it so you can get a sense of how big it is!


Next we went to the Agriculture building.IMG_6915

The agriculture building is where they hold the competitions for best/biggest fruits, vegetables, etc. This pumpkin is the size of a small child…


The inside of the Agriculture building:


The agriculture building also holds what the Iowa State Fair may be most known for: the Butter Cow! Yep – this thing is made entirely of butter! Last year they had a butter Shawn Johnson, in addition to the cow. HA!


Butter udder:


Here are some of the fruits & veggies that are all vying for first place.


Other rando pictures from the fair!






I can’t remember a single time that I’ve been to the Iowa State Fair where it hasn’t been 95+ degrees and semi-miserable at times. Today it was a little cooler with a fabulous breeze. This, coupled with great company and great eats, resulted in another successful Iowa State Fair visit!!


What’s your favorite fair food? Do you have a state fair? Is it a big deal where you live?

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Monday:   Viiiiivaaa Las Vegas day one re-cap.
Tuesday:   Viva Las Vegas day two and day three re-cap!
Wednesday:   I got back into the real world groove after being on vacay!
Thursday:   I made the creamiest, milk-shakiest Green Monster to-date and got down with a delicious, nostalgic treat!
Friday:   Three Question Thursday made it’s Friday morning debut.

Today’s picture is of Kalalau Valley on the NaPali Coast in Kauai, Hawaii. I picked it because my heart literally leapt in my chest when I saw it – it’s so incredibly beautiful!

The Kalalau Valley is renowned for its natural beauty, is surrounded by cliffs more than 2,000 feet high and is only accessible by a 2x.5 mile region. Amazing!

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Our final day in Las Vegas started as any good, last vacation day should – at the pool! Complete with $10 pina coladas, of course. They were delicious though 😀 Oh, can I just talk about the heat in Vegas for a second? It’s so hot that it literally feels like you are sitting inside an oven. That’s the only way to describe it, because normal temperatures don’t get that hot! I think we saw 110 degrees while we were out there! The pool (and the pinas) were the perfect remedy though 🙂


After sufficiently baking ourselves to a light crisp, we headed out for more exploring. Past the forum shops at Caesar’s Palace, once again 🙂 


And into The Mirage Hotel & Casino for lunch at BLT Burger – the best burger joint on the planet!


Really cool decor at this place…


We started the meal off with…A TWINKIE MILKSHAKE. Let me repeat that. A TWINKIE MILKSHAKE!!!!! This was quite possibly, the tastiest thing I have ever eaten on the planet… It was vanilla ice cream and caramel sauce blended with Twinkies. O…M…G… Ben and I split this, took our first sip and just kind of stared at each other in amazement…it was so delicious!!!! The texture of the milkshakes was the thickest I’ve ever had from the blended up twinkies inside. Seriously to die for – but seriously a once a year treat if I ever saw one! One of our friends got the Mocha Mudslide milkshake, which he cashed in about three minutes…it was incredible!

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Ben and I also split the BLT Burger & Thin Fries. The restaurant cooks their burgers for 4 minutes a side so the outside is grilled to perfection and the inside is rare and juicy – perfect!


After another hefty lunch we headed back out to the streets to walk it off and cruised over to the Paris Hotel & Casino. Look Ma, the Arch de Triumph! 😀

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For dinner on our final night we headed out to the New York New York Hotel and Casino for dinner. All my friends had been there before and they wanted to make sure I got a chance to see it – I’m so glad I did because it was AWESOME! Just like walking through the streets of New York inside!

Starting our walk to NY NY:



Isn’t that awesome? The hotel totally looks like the skyline of NYC!

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Once inside, we decided on a fabulous Asian cafe to eat at – Chin Chin.


I started out the night with my favorite Asian inspired beverage, a Tsing Tao.


Aaaaaaan don’t worry – we requested no glasses with our beers, so they brought us paper bags to drink them out of instead…because we’re classy like that!

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For dinner I ordered the Beef Chow Fun. This was a savory wide-noodle dish that did not disappoint – I LOVE wide noodles! Chin Chin was a win win!


Group shot on our last night in Vegas!!!


Dinner concluded with some more casino tours including the Monte Carlo,


More of the Paris Hotel & Casino,


And ended with a quintessential Vegas show…the fountain show at the Bellagio Hotel. How Oceans 11 of us 🙂




Overall, I couldn’t have been happier with our time spent in Vegas. This town is truly what you make it. If you’re looking to have the most insane bachelor or bachelorette party of your life – don’t worry, you’ll get it! But if you’re also looking for a nice time with your friends, getting as crazy or semi-crazy as you want, Vegas has that option too. We had a fabulous time exploring the incredible unique and intricately built hotels, throwing our dollar bills away in the penny slots and most importantly, spending time with all of our best friends. Vegas: I WILL be back!!!

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Day 2 in Las Vegas started with some flamingo watching at The Flamingo 🙂 Ben and I got up early to explore our hotel and stumbled upon a whole lagoon type area filled with flamingos, exotic birds, ducks, turtles and fish…it was practically a zoo!


Photo op 🙂


While continuing our hotel exploration, I stopped to get a breakfast bar at one of the many gift shops. I saw this baby and snatched it right up. Ummm Vanilla Yogurt bar with 11g of protein? Sign me up!


This was crunchy, sweet and creamy, so delish. Plus, I was stuffed – yes, stuffed – for a really long time! I had never even heard of these bars before, but they are awesome! 


After that we headed to the pool to wait for the rest of the crew to get up and at ‘em. Ben and I are early vacation risers…well I should say, I’m an early vacation riser and being the excellent husband that he is, Ben now is too 🙂

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After sunning ourselves for the duration of the morning, we headed to Margaritaville, which was attached to our hotel, for lunch. Honestly, a lot of times places like this are kind of just “meh” but our meals here were SO good!


Mmmm, I got a giant plate of nachos 🙂 When in Rome…


These were homemade tortilla chips, piled high with chili, 3 kinds of cheese, tomatoes, guacamole, sour cream and HEAPS of jalapenos! They tasted just as good as the look and I shared with the whole table 🙂


This is Matt. I told Matt I’d give him $2 to eat a GIANT glob of sour cream. He almost did but decided at the last minute that it probably wasn’t in his best interests. I agreed.


Our lunchtime view of Caesar’s Palace (I’m obsessed!)


We felt like a good long walk was in order after lunch, so we strolled down to The Venetian hotel after we were done eating. The Venetian is famous for having an Italy inspired canal running through the middle of the hotel, that you can take gondola rides on!




For dinner on Day 2, we headed to a hole in the wall…literally. Self-proclaimed “Hole in the Wall” Battista’s Italian Restaurant” is where we dined!


This place is SO awesome – the menus are on the wall and each meal comes with soup or salad, REAL garlic bread studded with roasted garlic cloves, an after dinner cappuccino (the best cappuccino I’ve ever had – don’t worry I have the recipe!!!!) and FREE white and red house wine!




Ben and I split the Seafood Fettuccini. This was fresh fettuccini, giant scallops, tender mahi-mahi and mouth-watering shrimp. All in a homemade red sauce – to die for!


Oh – Battista’s resident accordian player. FABULOUS!



After dinner we all hopped in a limo and headed down to Old Vegas. Think Freemont Street, Golden Nugget, Binion’s and 4 Queens. Old Vegas definitely doesn’t have the glamorous feeling that the Bellagio, etc. has, but is perfectly “authentic” – I just loved it!



We have a winner! It wasn’t me though…

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The boys played many rounds of craps and black jack in Old Vegas 🙂


Don’t worry – I got it on some of that Black Jack action too!


The street that a lot of the old vegas casinos are on – Freemont Street – is covered by an overhead canopy type covering that they play light shows on. Aren’t these cool??

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Ben got artsy and took these – he’s a great photographer!

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Day 2 in Vegas was so much fun and just like Day 1, we did SO much in just one day!! I miss it already… Day 3 re-cap coming soon! 😀

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Hey everybody – I’m back!!

Las Vegas was AMAZING – I am so glad I can finally say I’ve been there! The city was a lot different than I thought it would be – definitely a lot less “seedy” than what I was expecting. In fact, I’m going to go ahead and say it, Vegas was beautiful!! It’s all in what you do and where you go, in my opinion 🙂 Ok, trip re-cap, starting with Day 1!

Me and my girlfriend in the airport waiting to take off. Don’t worry – we made matching shirts for all the couples going on the trip!


RATS! Delayed by a fuel spill…our Vegas luck had run out before we even got there! It didn’t end up being as terrible as we thought though, and we were only delayed by about an hour. Soon enough, were were off!


After a quick 2.5 hour flight, we arrived in Vegas and met up with the third couple going on our trip. They had flown in from Chicago, so we met them at our hotel: The Flamingo. All pink, all the time 🙂




We got up to our rooms, got cleaned up and were ready to unleash ourselves on the town 😀

The ladies:


And the fellas:


If you’ve never been to Vegas, know that literally everywhere you turn, there are slot machines. Like, everywhere you turn. So, I didn’t fight it – I hit the penny slots in the lobby of our hotel on our way out!


After losing a couple bucks (:()we hit the streets.


One of the couples we went with goes to Vegas once a year and the first place they always hit after they drop their bags off at the hotel is La Salsa Cantina for some bomb-diggity chips, salsa, burritos & margaritas! We happily continued the tradition 🙂



These margaritas were as long as my body, actually… No worries – I split mine with a friend – nobody needs an entire yards worth of margarita in their body!

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After dinner we hit up Planet Hollywood Hotel & Casino. Ummm – this is seriously one of the coolest places I have ever been to in my life! I wish I had taken more pictures of the inside, but trust me, if you go to Vegas you must hit PH up simply to see how fabulous it is. While the boys played some table games, the girls hit up some more penny slots. Because we’re high rollers like that.


Up next was strolling through the forum shops at Caesars Palace (ummmm, coolest place I have EVER been to – can I LIVE there???) They truly made the hotel, casino and associated shops feel exactly like Rome. The detail they put into the buildings, the fountains, the columns and sculptures is unbelievable.


We made a pit stop at a swanky cigar bar in the shops and had some of the most delicious, hand-crafted mojitos I have ever had!


I got a Nectarine Mojito. Absolutely divine 😀


After mojitos, we hit up this Irish casino and proceeded to play beer pong, college frat-party style, until it was time to hit the hay.

Considering that were delayed an hour because of a fuel spill and we didn’t even get to our hotel until 4:00 – we accomplished a TON our first night in Vegas! And we didn’t even stay out that late! Overall first impressions of Vegas:

  1. Nothing is exactly alike and the architecture and attention to detail in all the hotels is so fascinating
  2. Very clean considering it’s called Sin City
  3. Comparable to no other place on earth. I seriously felt like I was at an amuesment park! 

I hope you had a wonderful weekend too – stay tuned for Viva Las Vegas Days 2 & 3!

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Hello, and happy Friday!

I’ve had a very productive morning which started by shipping some ducks in the mail. Don’t fret, they weren’t the real kind…

They were sugar cookie ducks! 😀



I made these for a blogger friend who is giving them to some special little kiddies – I hope they like them!



If you’re new to the blog, let me just tell you that I LOVE to bake – it’s actually what got me into cooking in the first place. I also love “arts & crafts” type projects, so making & decorating sugar cookies is something that I love! Have a need for sugar cookies? Contact me!

After getting my ducks in a row – HA – I finished packing. Be so proud of me. I fit everything into one little carry on suitcase. That never happens! I am usually guilty of bringing like, 8x the amount of clothes that I’ll actually be wearing while on vacation – so I put the kabosh on that this time around!


After I finished packing, I made brunch. I was actually really scared to make this, but I tried anyways – an Egg White spiked Green Monster!


I had some Egg Beaters egg whites that I had to use up and thought, what better way to pump up my Green Monster, than with some egg whites?!


I sat there for it least 5 minutes asking myself “Should I do it?? This is risky. I could potentially lose a whole green monster if the egg whites make it disgusting. Am I willing to do that?” The answer was, I’ll never know if I don’t try. So I did…and it was great!


I still don’t have any old fashioned oats in the house, so I replaced the 1/4 cup of oatmeal in my green monster recipe, with 1/2 cup of egg whites. The whole smoothie was a little frothier than normal, partially because I used an un-frozen banana instead of a frozen one too. It didn’t affect the taste though – perfect and refreshing as usual!


For snacking during my flight, I packed some raw zucchini and an apple!


Super random, but a girl’s got to do what a girl’s got to do when she’s got food that needs to be eaten and she’s leaving for vacation!



Ok. I think I’m officially ready to head out the door! Thanks to everyone for the well wishes and fabulous suggestions of what to do while I’m out there. If you need to know one thing about me and my girlfriends – know this: we are EXPERTS at cramming our agenda with fun things to do!!

We are off to the airport now. Hopefully I’ll come back a little tanner and a whole lot richer ;)  Viva Las Vegas!

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