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Got a question? If you're wondering if I've ever "been to X", "bought Y", "used Z".....leave a comment and if I've done it I'll give you my opinion. Feel free to ask!

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Stonewater Massage & Skin Care - Lino Lakes, MN

I found Stonewater Massage & Skin Care using SpaFinder for a gift certificate I had won as a Miche Consultant.  It was the best gift certificate because I found Stonewater!  I recently purchased a series of four 50 minute massages for $100 plus tax off of, which is 50% off of services!  I love getting my massages by the owner, Steph, as she is definitely a "master" level masseuse; however, I have recently been recieving massages from Bree, a friendly, pint-sized woman with large, strong hands.  I received a massage last week and I went for the hard, deep massage - I know it is good every now and then to get in and loosen up, but I ended up a bit sore... so yesterday I asked for a bit lighter touch and found myself blissfully relaxed with no soreness today.  Everytime I go there I receive excellent customer service.  I'm a member of their blog, friends on Facebook, and get the deal emails from Crowd Cut so I find very affordable ways to enjoy their variety of services.  Plus, ample free parking!  They offer everything from couples massages, Thai herbal ball massages, foot treatments, facials, exfoliating treatments, mud and algae wraps, and steam sessions - basically the largest variety of services I've ever found in one spa!  I've had scrubs, wraps, steam, massages, couples massage, etc. and I've loved them all.  Check out their website and their "brother" company Mastiff Fitness - same couple owns them both - massages after you work out right at Mastiff!  Another couple of small MN businesses to support -book online and tell them Desiree sent you! 

Stonewater Massage & Skin Care                                                     Mastiff Fitness

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

New Hire and Higher Dress -

          ModCloth - $10 discount code - Mod Cloth strikes again!  The collar is a classy twist to this simple, navy blue dress featuring a side tie to help show off your waistline.  The shoulders are definitely wide enough to wear your normal undergarments and remain modest for the office.  This beauty hits about two inches above the knee and has a slit up that back that is a bit higher than desired for work, but is still appropriate.  You must be careful when you sit down, the silky liner that fully lines the dress makes the dress slide up when you sit, so be conscious of that.  The material is sturdy and you should not iron per the instructions on the tag, but it steams like a dream.  Pair it with a pearl necklace and earrings like I did and you are sure to be a classy lady if in the office or out to a nice dinner!  My coworker saw me this morning and immediately loved my dress, telling me she may be getting the same one and we'll have to be "twins"!  If this came in other colors I would surely consider another purchase.  If you snag this dress off of the website, it is affordable and yet you will qualify for free shipping!  Happy shopping!  Get $10 off of your order with this link: $10 off Mod Cloth!!!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

21 & Older: Angry Orchard Hard Cider, Crisp Apple - Down Under Liquor and Tobacco, Circle Pines MN

My husband stumbled on a good find next to a gas station at Down Under Liquor and Tobacco in Circle Pines - Angry Orchard Hard Cider.  There are three kinds, of which my favorite is Crisp Apple.  I don't drink beer, so this is a nice medium for me - not a mixed drink and not some super sugary beverage.  My husband's favorite is the Traditional Dry.  Even stumbled on another recipe - the ginger apple cider can be mixed with Absolut Orient Apple and a lot of ice - my husband calls it The Angry Ginger because if you drink too many you will get heartburn.  I don't appreciate it the same way he does.  They are all gluten free and a six pack will run you approximately $9 - while supporting a small business. 

Discount Tire - Blaine or Lino Lakes, MN

Discount Tire  - My husband blew a tire on his truck yesterday, so he took it to Discount Tire on Baltimore Street NE in Blaine.  We sometimes visit the Lino Lakes Discount Tire off of Lake Drive.  He and I are loyal Discount Tire customers - you can't beat the customer service and while they are salespeople, I never feel high pressure sales.  They are very quick at turning around your vehicle and offer free tire rotation and flat repair if you purchase your tires from them.  Frequently in the winter my rims would get rusted and air would seep out - they take apart my tire and rim, buff off the rust, and get me going again like new!  A couple of years ago I went in and was told I needed some new tires because they were so bad it was dangerous - I had strict orders from family not to get new tires - so as I told the mechanic/technician that, he said that someone had bought new tires recently that were the correct size and they were in better shape than what I had - so I walked out of there with safe, used tires and it didn't cost me anything!  They would have been thrown out otherwise.  THAT is customer service.  My Sable received new tires from Discount Tire shortly before it died, my husband's truck has new tires from them, and I'm sure in the future when we need new tires, we'll be going to Discount Tire!

Monday, May 21, 2012

Capes -

Power Capes  Too cute!  Purchased a LivingSocial deal, plus they were on sale - I got a customized cape - overall size and color, shape and color of emblem, letter and color - and shipping for $15!  You can't make it that inexpensively and spend only the time I did on it!  They go around your neck with Velcro, which I'm sure is a parent-pleaser that it doesn't tie - the Velcro would give out before you'd choke!  I ordered two (separate orders) on May 3rd.  I received one last week and the other today, 18 days later.  I was in no rush, so it didn't matter to me.  I think they're a fun gift and the price is right!  I'd say it is worth it!  They also came with discount coupon codes:
You can access all of them at the same website - just use the tabs at the top of the page.  Enjoy!

New Hope Cinema Grill - New Hope, MN

Tired of spending an arm and a leg on a movie theater experience?  The candy, pop, and popcorn add up quickly for a super unhealthy trip to the movies (because who can resist theater buttered popcorn?!?).  The New Hope Cinema Grill offers a more affordable way to do dinner and a movie - why not eat dinner at the movie?  They also have comedy nights where the setting is more like a comedy club, but I've only experienced the dinner and a movie.  Ample free parking is available for the theater - which is a part of a strip mall.  There are only a couple of screens that play movies and the movies are generally ones that have been out for a while - but who cares?  If you've never seen the movie it's all the same!  In the past couple of months we have seen Moneyball and The Safe House there - big name actors, just a short while after they hit the main theaters.  There are many kid-friendly flicks as well - showtimes usually earlier in the day.

The entry has an arcade for the kiddos (or adults who enjoy that type of amusement), a modern looking lounge area, and the theaters which are set up more like a comedy club with a long row of seats up to a bar-table or chairs in front and back to share a small cocktail tables.  I recommend sitting at the bar tables if you plan to eat a meal.  Before the movie the wait staff come around and take your orders - they have limited bar for adult beverages (serve a pitcher if your heart desires), pop, and bottled water.  My husband and I have gone twice now and have always had great service.  You do get served during the movie, so if you're the type that cannot handle interruptions, I do not recommend this type of movie outing.

They accept credit cards and the meals are priced pretty reasonably - I think we pay approximately $8 a meal (burger and fries) with options of appetizers or seasoned sour cream for your fries (num!).  The best part is that New Hope Cinema Grill offers discounted tickets on Groupon - sometimes you can catch comedy tickets at reduced prices or multiple ticket offers at reduced rates - we went using a Groupon for four movie tickets for $7.00.  Not bad for an affordable, fun date night or family outing!

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Sarna's Classic Grill - Fridley, MN: Sunday Dinner

A group of my four closest girlfriends and our mothers went for a "Daughter and Mother" A.K.A. "DAM" dinner at Sarna's in Fridley today.  Being my first dinner at Sarna's, I wasn't sure what to expect, but since Mother's Day Brunch was so tasty, I figured it had to be good.  We arrived approximately 6:30 and sat inside due to the chilly/breezy weather - they do have a patio when the weather is more accommodating.  As usual, the ambiance was nice and the restaurant had patrons but wasn't so crowded and loud that you couldn't hear each other speak.  We even managed some orders before happy hour ended.  And random fact: when a member of our party called to make reservations, she was asked if we would be on separate checks... a bizarre question to ask when making reservations... but ok.

Our waitress was oddly brusque every time she answered you, but her second and consequent sentences of every response were quite a bit more friendly - usually you get all or nothing, but we got bi-polar.  Despite that oddity, we enjoyed each other's company amidst some tasty drinks and eats.  I devoured the Shrimp Poppers and Spinach & Artichoke Dip appetizers - both absolutely delicious and a couple dollars off for happy hour.  I tasted my mother's Sangria (a slightly alcohol-infused version of Dimetapp) which was good, but my raspberry lemonade and Jeremiah Weed was a good twist on an old favorite.  Kudos to Sarna's for having a Jeremiah Weed page in their drink menu!  We moved on to our main course and I enjoyed a Caprese Chicken Sandwich that had fresh basil, mozzarella, and tomatoes and balsamic vinaigrette on a ciabatta bun - very tasty!  I upgraded to their sweet potato waffle fries (that I dip in honey instead of ketchup) for an extra $1.50.  Honestly, wouldn't do that again - they were very thin and crispy.  The regular french fries looked more appetizing - so I'll stick to those in the future.  A great meal made even better by our company.  I'll return, but won't be getting the sweet potato fries and will hope for more consistently friendly service next time.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

The Chair Salon, Minneapolis, MN - 75 Minute Aveda Facial

I purchased a LivingSocial deal for The Chair Salon in Minneapolis, MN - and they had so many people interested, they actually didn't have enough appointments to accommodate everyone before the deal expired - so they extended it to get everyone in.  The salon is situated in a quaint part of Minneapolis off of Bryant and 35th.  The decor inside is very ecclectic - even the bathroom has its own flair, covered top to bottom in various depictions of the Virgin Mary.

Lynn Gaddis, is a very personable and friendly esthetician who services their facials in the lower level of the salon - a cute little area adorned with colorful parasols.  You relax on a bed of feathers for 75 glorious minutes of a facial using all high quality Aveda products - cleansing, masks, oils & moisturizers.  Lynn will give you a leg/ankle stretch, head/neck/shoulder/arm/hand massage, and an overall relaxing experience.  Her facial and massage, while relaxing and feel amazing, are a bit faster paced than my ideal facial/massage experience (I prefer Sarah's facial at ReVamp - tell her Desiree sent you!).  You can't beat what you get for your money with the LivingSocial deal at The Chair - so keep your eyes peeled for them.  You can also visit their website for deals when they have reduced prices for services.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Atkins Endulge Chocolate Coconut Bar vs. ZonePerfect Protein Bars - Sam's Club, Fridley, MN

My husband and I frequent Sam's Club, seldom leaving with less than a $300 bill... but we stock up on all sorts of good items!  This last time we bought two saw horses that I've already used, a tank top I wore to work today (with compliments), kitchen staples, and an assortment of food and snacks!
I have some comments on the protein/energy bars that we purchase there.  This last trip my husband's eyes lit up when he saw the Atkin's Endulge Chocolate Coconut Bars - so we purchased a couple of boxes.  I was eager to bite into a Mounds-like morsel only to find disappointment - it tastes great up until the after taste.  There's only 1g of sugar and that's the problem - they must have filled in with an artificial sweetner that lingers on your tastebuds and won't subside without eating something else.  My hubby loves these bars, but he'll be eating the rest of the two boxes we purchased!
On the other hand, the Zone bars are my favorite!  Admittedly, I eat them as my breakfast in lieu of a more healthy start, but I figure it's better than nothing!  I'm a sucker for the Zone Perfect Protein Bars - especially the Double Dark Chocolate.  It comes in a duo pack with the Dark Chocolate Almond.  We also get the duo pack of Chocolate Caramel Cluster and Chocolate Peanut Butter - those are my hubby's favorites, but he can have them!  I'm in it for the Double Dark.  The ZonePerfect are also some of the more affordable protein bars you'll find...

Monday, May 14, 2012

T-Box Bar and Grill - Ham Lake, MN

We stopped in at this restaurant tonight around 9:00pm.  We were hungry and looking for a meal.  But as it turns out, T-Box stops serving meals at 9:00pm!  We could order appetizers, and since it was getting so late we decided to stay.

This place is on the corner of 147th Avenue and Highway 65.  It's a very unexpected place - upscale and a bit trendy.  The ambiance is comfortable and a different mix of sophistication and rusticity.  There are wooden booths (the seats are bare wood - I'd recommend they add pads) and tables.  They have a great looking half-circle bar.

As for the food - we had the chicken skewers flavored with a balsamic reduction, basil, grape tomatoes and chunks of fresh mozzarella on skewers.  This was good - but not something that I'd go out of my way to have.

We also had the nachos - now those were really tasty for nachos.  They had cheddar-jack cheese (light amount), corn & black bean salsa with habanero aioli.  It was just on the fringe of being too spicy for me, but not even close to being too spicy for my husband.

The prices are on the high side.  We've eaten here before - usually having sandwiches/burgers.  But they do have full dinner selections, again priced higher than you'd expect to pay at a place in this area.

All - in - all I'd give this place a thumbs up for something different.

Belkin Cooling Lounge - Lap desk for PC

I receieved this lap desk as a Mother's Day gift - and it's really functional and comfortable.  It is a good size - basically the same as my lap top.  It has a built-in fan that plugs into the USB port on your pc and it's remarkably quiet.  It definitely keeps your lap cool (that's the functional part) and the padding on the bottom is very comfy without being bulky.

Almost every night I sit on the couch with my laptop on my I've wanted one of these for a long time.  It's perfect - I'm using it now.  Thumbs up!

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Sarna's Restaurant - Fridley, MN

For Mother's Day today we had brunch at Sarna's.  The buffet was not the most extravagant we've experienced - but the food was good.  Everyone really liked the walleye, and then each of us had our favorites.

I've eaten here numerous times and the food is great.  They have a varied menu, and the atmosphere is comfortable.  They also have an outdoor eating area - good sized so we've never had a problem sitting out there when we've chosen to.  The price is moderate but considering the quality of the food I feel it's a good value.

Rudolph's BBQ Ribs - Cub Foods

Rudolph's BBQ Ribs (frozen - purchased at Cub).  My husband bought Cub's two for one ribs and fixed one package tonight.  They were really good!  But a tip - you might want to heat them a little longer than the package calls for.  While they were thawed last night for a couple of hours on the countertop, and then put in the refrigerator to finish thawing until tonight - they didn't come out of the oven very hot.  They were definitely warmed through - but not hot.  Thumbs up.

Infinity Braid Slide Sandals - New York & Company

Originally $22.95, but 40% off, these sandals are just shy of $14 and worth every penny.  Paired with my new Mod Cloth dress (see previous post), these are classy but flirty and will match just about any spring/summer attire you don.  Their lack of arch support and cushion makes them perfect for slow, short walking days or mostly sedentary - I haven't tried them yet for extended walks, but I'm going to guess that they aren't pleasant after too many miles.  Get them while New York & Company is still running their 40% off the entire store sale!

Coach Tour Dress in Noir -

This may be the best $47.99 I've spent on a dress!  The length is still modest enough to wear in the office with wide enough straps to wear a bra without the straps showing, and a high, but cute neckline.  This classy and flirty dress not only fits at the waist with room for lady hips, but it even has hidden pockets to stash your lip gloss.  The material is a tad thicker so you won't be chilly.  I wore this dress today for Mother's Day out to brunch with silver sandals and it was perfect for the occasion.  I received compliments left and right and because I am so satisfied with the purchase, I am on ModCloth right now trying to decide which dresses I'm going to walk away with now!  Shipping was free on an order over $50... and returns are free... how can you go wrong?  Check out ModCloth and Save $10 with this link!

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Green Mill - Blaine

This Green Mill in Blaine has my favorite Bloody Mary. They make their own mix - and I've found that not all Green Mills use the same recipe.  Blaine's is the BEST.

Green Mill has an amply varied menu.  Something for everyone - burgers, pasta, walleye, and of course pizza.  We were with the grandsons last night and they wanted pizza, so we took advantage of their $19.99 deal.  You get an extra large (16") 2-topping pizza and an order of chicken wings - boneless or bone-in.  We ordered the Diablo boneless and the boys loved them.  The boys wanted plain cheese pizza, so 1/2 was cheese, the other half was sausage and onion.  It was delicious - their sauce is unique.  We normally get the deep dish Il Primo - that's our favorite.  But this hand-tossed, 2-topping pizza was very tasty too.  Enough for the 4 of us - we have left-over wings to take home, but managed to eat the whole pizza. 

You can't go wrong with any Green Mill - I've been to several and I've never been disappointed in the food.  But again - if you're looking for a great Bloody Mary you need to come to the Blaine location.  Our favorite bartender is working there again, and our service last night by the waitress was great.  She had this sunny, friendly disposition that was very disarming.  Our pizza took a little long for one of my grandon's liking (he was starving) - but it was Friday night, and I'm sure the pizza special had an impact on the kitchen.  We waited approximately 30 minutes for our pizza to be done.

Big thumbs up for Green Mill - especially the one in Blaine!

Friday, May 11, 2012

Embassy Suites - Overland Park, Kansas, Metcalf Avenue

This week I stayed at this hotel for a couple of nights and was very disappointed.  Embassy Suites is known for a few things - complimentary breakfast and drinks, as well as the fact that when you rent a room - it's a suite.

Well, to start my disaappointment - I wasn't given a suite.  I have stayed at many Embassy Suites and have never seen a room like this.  It seemed to have angeled walls - even though I wasn't on a corner.  The size of the room was more or less like any other hotel's typical room, but again it had a weird feel with the angled walls.

In addition to the strange room set-up, here are the other things that made this stay less than acceptable:
  • The T.V. was not at the foot of the bed like a normal hotel room - instead it was to the right side of the bed.
  • The cleaning crew left a used bar of soap in the shower.
  • When I woke up the first morning to make coffee - there was no cream.  I only use cream - and without it I won't drink coffee - especially the kind you make in your hotel room.  So I left a message for the maid asking for cream.  She/he never left any even with the note.
  • The heating/cooling fan was so loud it sounded like an airplane engine.  When I called for my wake-up call - I suggested they have engineering look at it.  The front desk clerk was very pleasant and apologized.  But of course the next day nothing had been done - and I'm sure it's because nothing could be done.  My boss was also staying at this same hotel with me - she had the same issue with the fan - too loud.
  • And speaking of wake-up calls, I asked for 1 wake-up call and a reminder call 15 minutes later.  Never got the second call - I was reallly irritated about that.  I called the front desk when I woke up 30 minutes later than desired - got a nice apology and that was that.  However the next night when I called for a wake up, I questioned the guy at the front desk to ensure it's something they can handle.  He provided a more satisfactory answer - saying that the night guy was new and probably didn't realize that the second call had to be sent manually, and that he'd take care of it.  Which he did - got two calls the next morning.
The only positive thing about my stay at this hotel was the guy who cooked the omelets at breakfast.  He was very friendly and efficient - a bright spot and great way to be greeted in the morning.

Overall, this hotel earns a thumbs down from me.  I'll be staying someplace else next time I'm in the area.

There may be multiple Embassy Suites in Overland Park - this one is at 10601 Metcalf Avenue.

El Rodeo - Maple Grove, MN

I went to this restaurant with 3 other girlfriends for the second time.  And this time we were all very disappointed in the service, and not impressed with the food.

We struggled to get attention from the waiter when we needed it.  We were never offered refills or additional drinks/food - instead we had to ask for it.  There were long lapses in-between visits from the waiter.

The staff, including our waiter, we all very friendly and pleasant.  But again, when you have to keep flagging the waiter down for service it casts a shadow over everything else.

As for the food - that was mediocre.  They have a cheese dip that is great, but everything else was just so-so.  I shared a combo appetizer plate with one friend - it had fajita beef, chicken and shrimp, along with chees quesadilla triangles.  A little strange - because there were no tortillas to fill with the meat, and that was not a mistake - it's how it's served.

All in all - based on this last visit, I wouldn't recommend them.  However, it wouldn't be fair for me not to mention that the previous time we visited this place it was great.  That was around 9 months ago or so.  We had no issues, so that's why we returned.  Unfortunate how one bad experience will deter us from going there in the future - but we have lots of choices and opportunities to be treated better.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Mucho Loco Mexican Restaurant - Elk River, MN

We ate at this restaurant on Saturday around 4:00pm.  We were seated immediately, and just as quickly we were brought chips, salsa and guacamore.  The guac was excellent.  I ordered ala carte - 1 chicken enchilada and a side of beans.  My husband ordered the Burrito Mucho Loco (shredded grilled pork burrito with melted cheese with jalapeno, lettuce, guacamole and tomotoes).  He also had a couple of Dos Equis - and in the end our bill was less than $18.  Everything was very good including the service.  The atmosphere isn't anything special - just functitonal.  But all in all - I give Mucho Loco a thumbs up!

Thursday, May 3, 2012

J. J. Murphy's Irish Restaurant - Blaine, MN

I'm sitting at J. J. Murphy's, a new restaurant in Blaine. This is the third time my husband and I have eaten here. And we really like the place - the food is really good, the service has been exceptional each time, and the atmosphere is nice too.

Food - between us we've had the fish and chips (they have a small size that is plenty big for me and only $7.95), strawberry/chicken salad, shepherd's pie, curry chicken and the Irish breakfast. Everything tastes great, the prices are very reasonable and the portions are big. The last three dishes I listed are really a lot of food - my husband didn't even finish everything tonight. They have the usual Irish food - corned beef and cabbage, Irish stew, colcannon and champ. Young children may have a hard time finding something they'd like, but I think it's varied enough to meet the needs of a diverse group of adults.

Service - we've had A different person wait us each time we've been here. The last two times it was someone who was brand new. I think they are doing a great job hiring - because they all have great attitudes. Big smiles, very polite without being stuffy.

Atmosphere - the first time we came there was a three-piece band that started out sounding a bit Irish, but then moved into a "John Denver meets Charlie Daniels" style. Had A fiddles, goiter and drums - they really sounded good. Unfortunately I didn't get the name. The decorating wouldn't get a 10, but for the size and lay-out they've done a good job keeping if simple and inviting. They are striving for and Irish pub motif - falling a little short, but still nice.

I know we'll be back time and time again. I would recommend it as an unique little gem of a place in the northern suburbs of Minneapolis and St. Paul.