Experiencing Detroit { Small Plates + Hoedown }

Back in June I finally  got to experience the Downtown Hoedown. I am not kidding when I say I have been begging various people to go with me throughout the years to no avail [Granted, prior to this year the hoedown was a lot shadier]. Enter Katie. I could go on and on, but we were meant to be friends it just took us a few years to finally cross paths. Thus, to the hoedown we went.

Thank the Lord for Urbanspoon. It’s really helpful when two incredibly indecisive girls are standing in the middle of Detroit starving. We finally settled on Small Plates, having heard great things about it, but mostly because it was super close.

[note: a lot of these pictures are blurry-apologies!]

The next door neighbor, Detroit Beer Co., looked pretty awesome as well. Has anyone ever been there? It’s now on my list.

The interior is nice, nothing fancy, but stylish and upgraded. Our waiter was good, he flipped a coin for us to decide our entrees (I mentioned how indecisive we are right?), but then became just a bit too talkative after that.

Signature fries, delish. I selected the original ones, Katie got sweet potato. No shame in that we pretty much finished off the pails.

Margarita pizza never fails me. I have yet to find one I dislike, and this one was amazing. You can tell how good something is (or how hungry I am) when the pictures show it half gone before I remember to snap the photo with my phone.

Pretzel sliders. Pretzel bread is big right now, and I love it. Add angus beef, grilled onions, white cheddar, and applewood smoked bacon and you have a treat.

Small Plates was a winner, they had actually just re-launched their menu, and I’m guessing changed some staff because amongst the good things I had heard I also saw a lot of negative reviews. There was nothing bad about this meal though, unless you don’t like sharing. As with most tapas places you will walk away with the best experience if you order a bunch of items and share. It is also reasonably priced which is always a perk!

This year was the 30th anniversary of the hoedown, a summer staple in Detroit. For the first 29 years it ran, the Hoedown was the largest free country concert series and was held at Hart Plaza. However this year they chose to move the event to the grounds surrounding Comerica Park and sell tickets. In my opinion this was a fantastic decision. As I mentioned before I could never convince anyone to go with me in previous years, and this was because of how crazy it was known for getting.

The tickets weren’t an absurd price, they sold 3-day passes for $30 (they sold out in hours) and then single day tickets for $20. We went back and forth between Saturday and Sunday (Dierks Bentley vs. Miranda Lambert) and finally settled on Saturday to also see Montgomery Gentry. The ticket price was completely worth it, it was busy, but not to the point where we every felt overwhelmed by people.

We stood in the same spot for probably about 5 hours, choosing to wear my high-heeled boots was not a wise decision. It was such a great time though and completely worth any pain we felt. On that note, pain led to what was probably a very unwise decision:

Strolling through downtown Detroit sans shoes. Okay not so much strolling as me begging my feet to make it just a few more yards. The best part about this was the women leaning out their windows yelling “You go girls!”. We could not stop laughing, and those socks are somewhere in a trash heap. We did have to pry our feet back in our boots when we walked over some broken glass, like I said, not the best decision.

Fun fact: As thousands of people exited the concert area Jimmy Johns had staff set up everywhere handing out sandwiches. Genius I tell you. It was fantastic.

Love her!


On a concert note, earlier this summer I also went to another fantastic one. I have been wanting to see Jon McLaughlin for years. Back when I was in college I had tickets to a nearby show only to have it cancelled a week before, so disappointing. Fortunately I am not alone in loving him, and some of my favorite ladies (Kristen + Katie W.) are also big fans. When we heard he was coming to Ann Arbor we knew we had to go.

The concert was at The Ark, which is actually a non-profit venue. I love that. It is also a super intimate setting which makes for a really enjoyable evening.

This man is one of the most incredible piano players I have ever seen. I couldn’t even believe my eyes at some moments. It was such an amazing time.


Our hectic summer of traveling is starting to wind down. We are in Northern Michigan right now, enjoying the lake and Traverse City. Sunday we head to Mackinac Island with my parents and in-laws for a couple of days. For an island that doesn’t allow cars I am praying they have some solid wi-fi because Monday morning might be the craziest part of my year in terms of work. I am being optimistic that everything will go smoothly so I can quickly hop on a bike and enjoy my vacation!

Have a wonderful weekend!


Down the Coast

Okay I’ll admit it. I’m starting to grow fonder of Detroit/Michigan. It helps that I have been in Northern Michigan on the Lake at least once a month this summer (that never happens). B and I have this problem that every time we visit a new place we want to live there. We’re not quite sure what that means, but have taken to just enjoying our busy summer and also appreciating the moments at home.

Can you blame us for wanting to live there?

We decided to make the most of our last day in California and take the beautiful drive down the coast and visit as many beaches as possible. We started in Malibu and decided to venture down the pier.

There were a ton of fishing hooks on the pier itself, a bummer if you decide to go barefoot.

This shop at the end of the pier was my favorite. My goal of the day was to find a good sweatshirt, and right when I saw their logo I was just praying they would have one sporting it. Sadly, I wound up with a mug.

Next on the drive was Santa Monica. It was so interesting to see the differences between the beaches throughout the day. Santa Monica was definitely the touristy one, Malibu felt like a beach town and then walking through Santa Monica and down the pier felt very similar to Navy Pier in Chicago. Too many people in too small of a space.

Fun fact, Santa Monica is also the end of Route 66!

Even the beach there was insane! That does not look relaxing to me at all, it looks like my worst nightmare in terms of a fun day. There was no way we were venturing into more chaos, so we just strolled to the end of the pier, bought a few souvenirs, and hurried back to the car.

The next “stop” was Venice Beach, except we wound up in a super shady area. I almost had a panic attack thinking about exiting the car, thus, we kept driving. There was a quick stop at In-N-Out after that. I know it’s bad, but I have no regrets about all the ridiculous food I consumed on this trip.

Now this is more like it.

My body relaxed just staring at Newport Beach, this was my pick of the day. I had read and heard so much about it and it didn’t disappoint. Unfortunately we didn’t have much time to spend there, and pretty much all of it was spent running from store to store trying to find a sweatshirt (success!). I have never been so thankful for a patient husband willing to go into the same store multiple times for his indecisive wife.

The reason we sped through Newport was to get to B’s reason for loving California. The beach of all beaches, Laguna.

My first impression-parrots in the window. Such an unexpected thing to see, but they were beautiful.

It was gloomy at this point of the day, and the sun was already setting so we didn’t get the full effect. However, it was still beautiful. I was fully expecting the beach to be insanely crowded a la Santa Monica, but was pleasantly surprised. We did spy a wedding reception, and the bride and groom strolling down the beach for pictures. Slightly jealous of that, you could just tell how stunning they were going to be.


That’s my Newport sweatshirt! I also caved and bought one in Laguna.

After we finished strolling the beach, we hit up the local coffee spot (Starbucks) and explored the main strip of Laguna. Hence my second sweatshirt, and a t-shirt for B. I think he was sad that he didn’t spy any Laguna Beach stars, I did remind him that the show has been off the air for a while now.

We were planning on heading back to the hotel early, but stopped to grab some frozen yogurt on our way out (it’s our new obsession). We found the best plaza and just spent some time relaxing and taking in the beach air. The smell of the pizza next door also pulled us in and we enjoyed a post dessert dinner. B and I agreed that our time in Laguna was one of the best parts of the trip for us, the ideal relaxation moment.


This is a crazy work week for me, and we are heading back to Traverse City this weekend, however I will be back Friday with another Experiencing Detroit post!




Hollywood Hills

I didn’t mention it in my last post, but B and I were not alone in California. There were 16 of us in total, all in the same hotel, trying to get to the same places at the same time in Los Angeles traffic. You can imagine how well that went! Our usual plan was to make it to at least one place together and then if we separated from there, so be it.

Saturday morning held our most anticipated part of the trip, aside from the wedding. I am blessed with some fantastic grandparents-in-law who took us all to The Magic Castle. There is really no way to fully describe how incredible it was. The Magic Castle is a super exclusive magician’s club and school, that also serves a killer brunch. Unfortunately, you are not allowed to take pictures inside, apart from the entrance room, so I will leave you with the key to “open sesame.”

The Magic Castle is located about 2 blocks off the main Hollywood strip, so after we finished up brunch (I ate my weight in bacon, no shame) and the magic shows we headed down to the Walk of Fame.

My man Frank!

I didn’t even take a picture of the outside of Grauman’s theater, or any of the other theater’s in that area where most Hollywood premiers happen. Why? Because Hollywood is creepy. It is one of those places that is great to visit because you see it on TV all of the time, however once was enough for me. There was a point where Yoda was following me down the street trying to touch me and I wanted to cry.

Of course before we ventured elsewhere we made our way to the sign! The above picture was actually day 2 of trying to get a good picture, day 1 we went to the Griffith Observatory, which had incredible views of the Valley, but an awkward angle of the sign.


Saturday evening was wedding time! I was so excited for this wedding, even more so after my favorite photographer posted some pics the weekend before we went of an engagement session she was doing at the venue, The Carondelet House.

If we lived in California, I would have most definitely made this our venue.

My main squeeze Kara, the flower girl. Rockin’ her gold glitter Toms. She was my dance partner.

Quick change!

I just kept walking around all night raving about how gorgeous everything was.

Our table!

I don’t know if you can sneak a peek at that menu, but I almost cried when we had to leave before the late night bites came out. Grilled cheese and fried macaroni? Yes please.

I’ll end this on a sweet note, with the red velvet cupcake I managed to snag! It was delicious and disappeared before my dinner did.

Tomorrow brings our beach day!

In the City of L.A.

You are probably catching on to the fact that this has been a crazy summer. We have been gone almost every weekend, mostly in Northern Michigan with a few out of state adventures (we feel so blessed that we have been able to travel this year!). We had been looking forward to our biggest trip since before our own wedding, because this was for the wedding of Brandon’s Uncle Mike. Now I’d say that is a fantastic reason to head to the West Coast!

We found our hotel on one of the discount hotel sites, and let me tell you-we will most definitely be doing that again! After walking out to the pool area we about died and went to heaven.

Our trip out there was crazy, after our flight being delayed an hour we were happily on the runway when the power on the plane shut down. Now that is a freaky experience, I will not lie and say I held it together. I most definitely thought I was going to die and made sure B was aware of that. He pointed out that the flight attendants would not be calmly walking around if we were in a life or death situation. Of course he was right, and we made it safely!

It was 3:30 AM California time when we finally made it to our room (6:30 AM Detroit time, yikes). And of course Thursday was our planned Disney day so we had to be up at ready to go at 8 AM. I thought this would be a huge issue, but our internal time clock had a different idea and we were up 3 hours later at 6:30 AM. Thank goodness we were headed to Disney otherwise we would have been cranky, cranky people.

There are 2 Disney parks in California, the classic Disneyland and the newer Disney California Adventure. Before we left I polled various people who had visited both and was told that California Adventure was the way to go.

Cars Land opened about a month prior to our visit, and oh my goodness, it was the best. It literally felt like stepping into Radiator Springs. Disney really does a fantastic job at setting the scene and putting together everything perfectly.

“Jessie” up there on that float was incredible. It was like a mini-preview of the Olympics!

I had watched Unwrapped a few days before we left, and the episode was centered around Disneyland (perfect timing!). One of the food items they featured was the Mickey ice cream bars, from that point on I was craving one so it was a necessary purchase on a hot afternoon!

If the sky had been slightly bluer there is a good chance I would have walked right in to that backdrop, it definitely put into perspective how realistic the backdrops are for movies and television shows.

You can’t tell, but I have a vice-grip on my MIL and B’s leg (back row, right side).

Goofy breaking it down!

I couldn’t end this first California post without the above. The first thing I wanted when we got off the plane was In-N-Out Burger, there is something about hearing how awesome something is for years that makes me think I cannot live without it. Probably not the best way of thinking, but it sure was amazing. It was definitely not a one-time only visit.

Tomorrow I’ll be posting about our venture into Hollywood and wedding details!

Happy Monday!

Summer Vacation

We are taking full advantage of summer this year. Michigan weather has been outrageously uncharacteristic which means I am often warmer then I like, but I’ve hit the point where I want to dig my heels in to August and refuse to let Winter start to creep in. The nice thing about 2012 is that we actually have free time, last year we were so busy planning our wedding that any free moments went to DIY projects and trips to Grand Rapids to pull everything together.

We did sneak in a trip to Grand Rapids a couple of months ago. It was completely impromptu, it was around 6 on a Friday evening when we jumped in the car (sans hotel reservation) and made the quick trip (2 hours). We both went to college in GR so we could pretty much make it there in our sleep (we didn’t).

After securing a hotel we headed over to The B.O.B. for dinner. This was the site of our wedding reception, it holds multiple bars and restaurants, along with the special event space. We chose Bobarino’s, they have amazing pizza and sandwiches, and some killer desserts.

Okay, those are garlic cloves. I love garlic, but it is a good thing I removed most of them or B would have probably gotten a separate hotel room.

I mentioned killer desserts above, after our meal I straight up begged B to order two desserts. He was reluctant but was a fantastic husband and agreed.


The one on the left is a brownie, ice cream, whipped cream creation. The right is dark chocolate mousse. Heaven.

Sometimes I am a klutz, and it comes out at the worst times. Maybe it was my excitement over two desserts, maybe a sugar rush, I don’t know…but this happened:

So awkward. I always hated carrying martini glasses when I was a waitress, so serving dessert in one was bound to go wrong. I just couldn’t believe that it shattered, it only fell on the table. After mourning the remainder of the mousse that I couldn’t enjoy, I picked up all the glass pieces, awkwardly placed them on the mousse, and we hightailed it out of there (the bill was already paid).


Another fantastic food night happened a couple weeks ago, this time closer to home. Katie Grace, Carrie and I headed to downtown Royal Oak for dinner at Cafe Habana, a fantastic Cuban restaurant hidden away just off Main Street. I didn’t grab many pictures, I was enjoying the conversation too much!

Citrus pork tacos-sorry for the blurry picture!

Katie Grace!

Carrie and Katie both got the above-for the life of me I can’t remember the name. Something Cuban! It looked incredible though. My tacos were not great, they were a little dry unfortunately. We also ordered the Pan Cubano. I would go back just for that-grilled cuban bread with chimichurri. It is all about the chimichurri.

We made a trip down Woodward to Ferndale after dinner and stopped at Treat Dreams for dessert. They make homemade ice cream in the most unique flavors (think Thanksgiving Dinner, Purple Yam, Lemon Basil). We went slightly on the tame end, Katie and Carrie ordered the Salty Caramel and gave it rave reviews. I ordered the Dark Chocolate Chip, also amazing.


I wanted to throw one last picture in just because I love it. I was blessed to be a part of Bethany and Riche’s wedding in early June and just loved this picture wall that she made for the reception!

Happy Monday!!






A Birthday Weekend in Chicago

I love that my birthday always falls on Memorial Day weekend. It was fantastic as a child when I had a day off school, and it is still wonderful now that I get to spend a long weekend with B.

This year we decided to make it an extended long weekend and B took Friday off. Thursday night we booked a hotel and Friday we made the trek to the Windy City.

I am and will always be a city girl. Some people hate the hustle and bustle, but it invigorates me, something inside me just wakes up when I step out on the street. One of the things I love most about Chicago is Lake Michigan. We spent one evening just strolling down the beach, staring at the city line (hunting down Oprah’s condo that she’s never lived in), and just chatting about life. To me, that is bliss.


We spent a lot of time just driving around the city and really just enjoying a relaxing weekend. Saturday was my birthday which we spent on Navy Pier and then walked the equivalent of, oh I don’t know, FOREVER, to get to dinner at Lou Malnati’s Pizzeria. Fortunately, the wait was well worth it.

We tried both the deep dish and thin crust pizza (deep dish won!), and also ate our weight in garlic cheese bread. There are no pictures of this bread because we instantly devoured it. Carbs are a good friend of mine and if you throw on garlic and cheese there is no hope.

Let’s talk about that little beauty. Deep dish cookie, vanilla ice cream and cherries. That was my equivalent of a birthday cake and it was amazing. I still dream about it.

I have a fantastic husband. I really can’t believe we are almost to one year of marriage. We’re still new at this but we are having a blast and learning a ton.

We did make a little stop in the Village of Winnetka on our way home. Okay, maybe not quite on the way home, but 30 minutes out of our way isn’t that crazy! If you aren’t familiar with the above house you need to catch up on your Christmas movies. It was the featured house in Home Alone, and just recently sold for $1.5 million, a steal! I do believe that is B’s dream home, so perhaps one day we can convince the owners to slash the price just a bit more 😉 .

Enjoy your weekend!!

Experiencing Detroit { Pizza Papalis }

Greektown! I love Greektown. Strung lights, lots of brick, Astoria. It doesn’t get much better than that.

{Insert disclaimer here that Pizza Papalis is not exclusive to Detroit, there are a few locations. But the setting here is beautiful and so worth the additional drive.}

The hostess must have sensed I was going to be snapping pictures and put us in the best spot. Having worked in a restaurant for years I’m aware it is not kosher to move yourself once seated, so I always cross my fingers that we end up somewhere good when I’m planning on blogging.

I have said it before, but we are often very plain people when it comes to our food. I have a husband who does not like vegetables (no clue how I will ever convince my children they are a necessity). We ordered the thin crust pepperoni pizza and breadsticks, and honestly, neither was impressive. Given that Chicago-style pizza is their specialty I won’t hold that against them, we are just trying to eat healthier in whatever shape that takes. The breadsticks were awful. I don’t even know how to describe them. I didn’t even bother taking a picture.

I’m still confused on how the restaurant works, we walked in and then were instructed by the downstairs hostess to go to the upstairs hostess to be seated. There were people seated in both places so I’m not sure if it was an every other type of thing. I’m thrilled we were upstairs though. We went on a Friday evening, right after work, and there was barely anyone there as Greektown hits its prime time much later.

We snuck next door to Astoria after, I’ll have to do a separate post there some time, if for no reason other than an excuse to order every delightful thing they sell (pastries are the specialty, don’t try the ice cream).

Detroit is a beautiful city, it has the bones to be a destination, but a lot of work to do to get there.
[I snagged this one through a fence in the parking garage, they seemed to know it was a fantastic view and felt necessary to block it]
Halfway to the weekend!