I feel the need

I feel the need

Monday, March 30, 2015

Fluffy girl's food weekend!

Hello everyone!

So Hubby and I are huge fans of Food network.  (Who isn't?  Game shows involving food, cooking shows involving how to make food, commercials for food places....it's all fantastic!) We especially enjoy Diners, Drive ins, and Dives , which, if you are not familiar, is a show where a fluffy guy named Guy Fieri goes around America and finds places that look skanky outside, but serve awesome food inside.  Hubby and I watch the show and always talk about taking a trip to someplace just for the food.

Well, we did just that this past weekend.  We went to the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minnesota, for the express purpose of checking out places Guy had been to.  There was no shortage of places to go to.  We set aside two solid days and two partial days for the eating project.  And now, I'm going to share with you the places we went and the food we ate.  You know I'm fluffy, which means I like food of all sorts, but my goal this trip around was to pick foods I probably would never eat in my real life.  (So...no Cheetos.)

Stop #1. Thursday night.

Pizzeria Lola:  This place is smack dab in the middle of a residential street.  The claim to fame is wood fired pizza made in a giant copper oven in the center of the restaurant.  That's their claim to fame and oh yeah, the pizza is GREAT! We had the Korean B-B-Q pizza.  Win!  But this is so much more than a pizza place.  Nothing is deep fried.  

I'll let that settle in a minute.

Nope, nothing deep fried here.  So, what, they don't have a starter menu then?  Nope, they do.  And it's pretty much all vegetables.  I'm not even kidding.  So how is that a win for a fluffy girl?

Well I'll tell you:  Those veggies are THE BOMB!  Hubby and I shared the seasonal veggie dish, with Brussels sprouts and squash and onions.  Three of my least favorite things to eat.  But this was, in a word, yum.  I don't know what voodoo they did on those veggies, but I'd think about going back just for that. 

So roasted veggies, Korean BBQ on the pizza, then what?

How about olive oil on the ice cream?

You read that right.  Hubby had choco/vanilla twist soft serve with olive oil and sea salt. I would have, but they had a home made caramel and sea salt that was so good I wanted to bathe in it.

That was night number 1.  We were barely in the hotel and our eating weekend was off to a great start.  

Stop #2. Friday morning.

Friday I knew was going to be a big eating day, so hubby and I made use of the hotel gym (it was a really nice one) and got a work out in before we did damage to our bodies.  Also, I wore my trusty (and new) step counter on Friday and Saturday.)

Friday was going to be all about Mall of America.  BUT, while eating dinner at Lola, we found a snippet of info about a donut shop and, being fluffy people, we had to check it out!

Glam Doll Donuts might be my favorite place on earth as of this moment.  What they do with bacon and pastry is nothing short of magic.  I had the bacon whiskey apple fritter.  (That picture there is me...happy even BEFORE I ate the most delicious thing I'm going to eat in this lifetime.)

The donuts are huge...I couldn't finish mine in one sitting.  (That should tell you something!)  and the place is cute, fun, and popular!  You'll find this slice of heaven in a place the locals call Eat Street, 17 city blocks of eating adventure.  We didn't go beyond Glam Doll donuts this time around, but one our second trip to Glam Doll  (Yes, we made a return trip on Sunday) we drove up and down Eat Street and oh yeah, we're coming back!

Stop #3. Friday lunch.

The food court at the Mall of America is like everything else at Mall of America:  Huge, and pretty much all chains.  While we swore we weren't going to eat at any chains this weekend, it's hard to do when you're in the chain link capital of the planet.  So we settled for a place we don't have around here the Cadillac Ranch.

Typical American fare, we did very much enjoy the chicken wild rice soup  (I'm a sucker for good soup) and we split the fish tacos, which were really good.  Portions are large, so splitting is not a bad idea.

Stop #4.  Friday night/Saturday morning.

After stomping around Mall of America, Hubby got us theater tickets to see "A Midsummer's Night Dream" at the Guthrie theater.  This was a huge treat for us, since we sort of fell in love over Shakespeare at the Guthrie.  Fun fact: The first woman my husband ever saw...let's say nearly fully disrobed...was Julianne Moore (yes, THAT Julianne Moore) during a performance of "Hamlet" at the Guthrie.  If you're at the Guthrie ever, check out their wall of past performances. She's up there. Nye's Polonaise Room.
 Anyway, after the play it was late and we were hungry!  (Soup  and fish tacos will only carry you so far and then you need to eat!)  So we headed to a place we knew was going to be fun:  

Let me see if I can explain this place:  Ummm, nope I can't.  Not really.  It's basically a city block long, divided into four rooms:  The polka room, the Polonaise room, the Chopin Room and another room I don't remember the name.  The polka room is, and I'm not kidding, a place where a live polka band plays and people polka.  Late into the night, tirelessly, they polka.

The Polonaise room has a piano bar where locals line up ala karaoke, and take turns singing old standards.  The rest of the patrons are encouraged to cheer and to sing along.  Probably the best part I've been to in a while.

But, this is an eating weekend. What did we eat?

I'm so glad you asked!  We ate Polish.

Everything Polish...Polish sausage, polish perogis, Polish cabbage rolls.  And we washed it down with about a pound of sauerkraut.  

I realize that doesn't sound like every one's cup of tea, but let me explain to you that Polish food, along with German food and pretty much anything from Northern Europe, is the ultimate comfort food. Heavy, warm, not too spicy, the platter of food the waitress put in front of us at midnight on Friday was much like a giant hug from our grandmothers, most of whom are up in heaven happy that we've given a try to their cooking once again.  The portions are beyond huge, so don't let the price blow you away.  Split the dinners.  Drinks are a little pricey, but hey, you're drinking at a place Esquire Magazine listed as "The Best Bar In America" in 2006.  

The food is good and plentiful, the drinks are great, the atmosphere is awesome, and the wait staff is fun. The only downside to this little kitschy gem is that it's closing in 2016.  Apparently, in spite of everything it has going for it, the owners want to move on to something else. So, if you're in Minneapolis in the next year and you're looking for something COMPLETELY DIFFERENT, get there before it's too late.

Hey, I was so blown away by the place I ate a beet.  And no, Nye's didn't change my mind about beets. They are still horrible poison.

Total steps taken according to my step counter:  13,030, Somewhere north of 5 miles walked.

Stop #5. Saturday morning.

I saw an episode of "Triple D" a while back and Guy was eating lobster in a dive bar.  According to my list of places he'd been, that place was called The Smack Shack.  Now, when finding the place, there was some confusion.  I thought the Smack Shack was a food truck and a dive bar.  Where we wound up was anything but that.  It was a large, somewhat industrial looking place with very nice table and clean bathrooms.  Have they changed the definition of "Dive bar?"

No!  See, here's what happened:  It is yes, a food truck that serves a dive bar. (The 1029 bar)  Check out this story

However, it is also an 8000 square foot building in a pretty neat and trendy looking part of Minneapolis.  That is where we wound up Saturday morning.  We took the light rail train (Hey, Milwaukee...see, if the plan for light rail had included actually GOING ANYPLACE, like it down in the Twin Cities, it would have passed.  We rode light rail to EVERYTHING on Saturday.  It was a breeze.) and the walked a short half mile to the place.  

The dish that's a claim to fame is their lobster mac and cheese (I know, lobster in Minnesota...) but we were there for brunch, so we tried something else.  Hubby had the SMACK BENEDICT and I had the chicken and waffles.  Hey, I've never HAD chicken and waffles and I always went them when people have them on TV.  Also, since this was a foodie weekend, I had a mimosa...a blood orange mimosa, with brunch, something I've never done.

My chicken and waffles was great.  Really, really good friend chicken.  But hubby actually asked the waitress if he could hug the chef, he liked his Smack Benedict that much.  I've never seen him ask that before.   

Never fear, however, we did try the lobster.  We had something they called the Lobster Corn Dog.  I called it a reason to move to Minnesota.  It was that good.

I could easily have split my meal with anyone.  Three huge pieces of chicken and a very large waffle, cut into quarters.  Hubby's portion was just right for him.

Stop #6, Saturday night.

Two years ago many family members gathered at Mission American Kitchen and Bar for my sister in law's birthday. I wasn't at that gathering, but for the last two years Hubby has been singing the praises of the Tempura tofu.  I know, sounds gross, but tofu done right is really good.  So, even though Guy Fieri hadn't been there, (it's too fancy) we put that on the schedule just so we could get the tempura tofu.

Hey, guess what?

They don't have it anymore!

Compared to every other place we went this weekend, Mission American was by far the fanciest, and the most expensive.  However, the portions, once again, were huge, so we were able to split everything and not get too crazy with the debit card.

The winner for me was the starter:  Truffle cream cheese won tons with a balsamic dipping sauce.  Think Crab Rangoon without the crab.  Soooooooo good and light!  We had the Guinness Braised Beef and the peas and pancetta risotto. I'm a sucker for anything that's risotto.  Everything was top notch and delicious.  None of it was tofu.  This is definitely a good place for a date, and hey, if you get there when wine bottles are half price (we did) that's a win!  And it's close to the light rail station so if you decided half price bottles of wine actually means two for one, you're still good to get back to your hotel room, pretty much no matter where it is.

The restaurant is a block away from the statue of Mary Tyler Moore. I would have taken a picture next to it, but there was some sort of quasi religious/political protest and I didn't want to disrupt any one's freedom of yelling into a microphone with so much distortion no one could understand them.

During the day Saturday, you know, between meals, we spent quality time at the massive train station in St. Paul  (which is the end of the line for the light rail.) and we walked around the Minneapolis Sculpture garden at Walker Art Gallery 

Total number of steps:  14,868.  Well north of 6 miles.

Stop #6 Sunday Morning.

We weren't going to cram anything else into the weekend.  We were going to go to church at my cousin's church, Bloomington Living Hope Church, hit Glam Doll Donuts one  more time to get some donuts to take home to the kids and we were going to eat the giant bag of grapes we bought at Target.

Somewhere during the sermon at church I realized I needed eggs.  I needed eggs BAD.  Now, we could have gone to the restaurant in our hotel. They had a nice looking breakfast buffet.  That would have been okay. But I didn't.  Nope. 

Instead we found one more Guy Fieri favorite. Not his last, to be sure, but one that would fit on our schedule.  The Colossal Cafe.  My understanding that there are two.  We went to the one in Minneapolis....and it's huge.  The restaurant seats...14. Not 14 tables, no.  14 people.  
You place your order at the counter and you wait for a table to open up.  When your food is ready they call your name.  You don't go get it, you can't.  There isn't that kind of room. They bring it to you.  And the food is GREAT.  I had a spinach mushroom omelet with grilled bread.  Awesome. hubby went to the wilder side and had one of their "flappers" a yeast made pancake with apples, walnuts and brie covered in a honey syrup.  The lady at the counter warned us off having a tall stack of flappers because they are huge.  The people at the tables on either side of us wished they'd been warned because they wound up not eating about 70% of their food. Those flappers are HUGE!  (Compensating for the size of the place maybe?)

Take out business there is brisk...mostly because there just isn't any seating.  But the food is awesome and the pricing is spot on.  Breakfast sandwiches really looked good and everything is made from scratch.

So there you have it.  My foodie weekend. We barely touched the surface of the Twin City food scene, so oh yeah, we'll be back.  But hey, you don't have to travel five hours like we did to find fun and funky places to eat.  Try being a tourist in your own home town.  Check out Guy Fieri's list inspire you and try something new!

Oh, and with all this eating did I gain weight?  I don't know, what, you thought I'd weigh myself after all that? Nope. That happens tomorrow!

Monday, March 23, 2015

So...I've never seen that before! (Once again, Sam's delivers entertainment.)

Yesterday I was put in mind of the Disney song "When I see an Elephant Fly" from "Dumbo.  There isn't much in suburban life that surprises me anymore.  I've been living the suburban life for at least twenty-five years.  I get it.  And I've seen about everything this life has to offer, good and bad. 

Or so I thought.

Yesterday Hubby and I made the mistake of going to Sam's Club on a Sunday afternoon.   Really the only good time to go to Sam's is when they first open in the morning. Then everyone's fresh, and there aren't that many people.  By Sunday afternoon, at the end of the weekend, everyone, customer and employee alike, has a white knuckle grip on sanity.

All we needed yesterday was...um...yep I've forgotten what we needed.  I know we didn't need a cart because that's just $100 waiting to fly out of our pockets.  So whatever it was we had to have on Sunday afternoon from Sam's we got and we got in the line where they check out your receipt.  This is something Sam's does, and I've never understood it.  There isn't a lot of real estate between the check out lanes and the door, and the stuff they put between those two points is way too large to sneak into your cart without being seen.  Granted, they've added self check lanes, and I can see the wisdom in having some double check a receipt before something small...like an expensive prescription or a new phone...goes walking out the door by accident.  Still, even with the blue self check receipts, the receipt checkers do little more than a quick glance at cart and receipt before sending you on your way, especially on a busy day.

We got in line behind a guy who was getting his receipt checked.  I don't know why, but the woman at the door was line checking his cart.  This was taking a long time, and I was getting grumbly because, as you know, I love waiting in line at Sam's.  Only good things happen.  

I watched the scene, at first to find out why she was doing a line item check of his receipt,and then because it got good...and then weird...quickly.

Here's how it played out as I saw it:

Checker:  Okay, black berries, strawberries, eggs, bread, grapes, bananas.  But bananas aren't on the receipt. They aren't paid for.

Man:  (Raised voice) Like hell they aren't lady.

Checker:  No, sir, see, here...

Man:  (Slaps the receipt out of the woman's hand and storms out of the store.)

I've never seen anyone lose it at the receipt check, and I've NEVER seen anyone slap a receipt out of someone's hand.  The woman looked out the sliding doors and yelled, "Sir?  Sir, come back, you have to come back."  Then she got on her radio and called for a manager. 

Meanwhile, she never stopped checking receipts.  That's dedication.

Hubby and I walked to the entrance and watched this guy continue to dodge traffic and head for his car, pushing the cart all the while.  We could hear the checker's request for a manager blare over the loudspeaker.

Then, for reasons we don't get, the guy turned his cart around and stormed back into the store.  He hadn't cooled down one bit, that I got as he passed me.  I wanted to wait and watch the final act of this drama...but Hubby wanted to install the new garage door, which we got instead of a new TV with our tax refund (so much more fun...a new garage door).  So, I'll never know how that ended.

BUT, the point is, I think now I've finally seen everything I could possibly see in suburban life.  Sure, I've never seen an elephant fly, but I've seen a guy slap a receipt out of woman's hands because she said he didn't pay for the $1.38 bananas.

So there's that.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Okay, Target employee, what is it, you say, you do here?

Good morning!

It may surprise some of you, given how often I've mentioned retail customer service fails, that I spent a number of years working in retail.  Yes, I was a truck unloader for Kohl's.  I worked third shift, unloading the truck, opening boxes, and putting clothes on the racks.  Generally I didn't have much contact with the customers, given that the store closed by the time I got there. However, during the holidays, when the store was open much later, I spent quality time doing "recovery" which is a fancy word for "clean up the mess the customers made so that other customers don't think we're a pigsty."  I spent a lot of time in men's sweaters where customers would, and I watched them do this, unfold a sweater, look at it, and then throw it on the floor.  While I was standing less than a foot away FOLDING SWEATERS.

I'm telling you this story to explain that I understand customer service in a retail setting is a painful, thankless job.  However, I also know that if your job title includes the words "customer service" then you best be of some kind of service to the customer.

Take my trip to Target earlier today.  I have not yet jumped the bandwagon from Walmart to Target like so many people have for a couple reasons:  Prices aren't as good, selection isn't anywhere near as good, and Targets aren't open 24 hours a day, which doesn't actually mean that much to me, but I like a store that cares enough about customers to be open whenever the mood to shop strikes me.

We can add one more thing to the list of reasons I don't shop at Target as much as I might.  See, when you go to Walmart, you see the Walmart people working.  Someone is always unloading something, shelving something, or working a cash register.  At Walmart they don't howl, "GOOD MORNING" at you from ten feet away because corporate told them to.  They are too busy working and you are too busy shopping for that sort of nonsense.  If you pass them in an aisle, they'll ask if you need help, but otherwise, they leave you alone until you get to the check out counter and then they are all business.  They don't comment on what you buy (yes, Woodman's checkers, I'm pointing at you.  It's called Neuro water.  Yes, it works, and you've been selling it since you opened.  I would like all Woodman's checkers to STOP STARING AT MY NEURO WATER AND SCAN IT AND PUT IT IN THE DOGGONE BAG) and they don't try to make idle chit chat. They also don't chit chat with their bagger (Again, Woodman's, did I need to know how many people didn't show up to work today and how you feel you should be getting time and half for coming to work on a Saturday?) because most Walmarts have that wheel of bags and the checker bags everything for you.

Target...well let's just say Target's not that efficient...and after today I'm thinking it's because they're too busy paying people to provide NO SERVICE AT ALL.

Here's how this went down:  I bought three items.  Three. My plan was to be in and out of the store in under fifteen minutes. No cart, no list.  I found my three things and, in spite of the very agressive stockers who kept trying to greet me every six feet I walked, I made it to the check out lines.  There were three cash registers open. Three.  On a Saturday morning.

A side note:  Why do big box stores bother having 20 lines for check out when they have no intention of ever opening more than three?  Exactly one day a year, Black Friday, do they have all the lanes open.  The rest of the time it's three.

Anyway, so I look at the lanes.  Lane nine is closest and it looks like the shortest lane, however the checker is an older guy who has checked me out before (that sounds bad) and I know he's not the fastest price gun in the west.  Also, the woman he's currently serving seems to be giving him quite a bit of problems because he's struggling to get her order checked out properly.  So, knowing this is going to take more time than I'm willing to spend, I take a step toward another line.

That's when it happens:

"Oh, Ma'am, I believe line 9 is your best choice."

You've seen these people at Targets, and I know I've had to deal with them at Sam's Clubs.  These people with clip boards who watch the lanes and direct you to the shortest one.  At Sam's Club they scan your items so that your check out time will be faster.  It's a scan scam, don't let them do it. All that does is lock you into a lane no matter what.  Letting them prescan you takes away your choices. Don't do it.

This woman, however, didn't have a scanner.  Nope, her job was only to watch the lanes and direct us.  Except there just weren't that many people waiting.  I mean, yes, the three lanes each had three people in them, but that was it.

But she sounded really sure of herself, so, in spite of my better judgement, I got into lane 9.  And stood there for four minutes while Dexter tried to get this one woman on her way.  The guy in front of me has been in this lane so long he's doing that "Are you serious about this" dance people do when they're stuck in line.

I'm in this line another couple minutes when the lane watcher radios for help.  "Kirsten I need you to come up front please."

So, Lane Watcher can tell people where to go and she can order checkers to come up, but she can't open a cash register herself?  I see this as inefficient and stupid.  Especially when...

A woman got in line behind me and Lane Checker says, "Oh, Kirsten, it's okay.  We don't need help up here."

Really?  All three lines just got LONGER. And Dexter is still struggling with this woman.  (She has nine items.  I don't know what sort of transaction she's trying to do, if she's paying in pennies or what, but she has nine items.)  But no, apparently, the lines are longer, and that's okay with Lane Checker.

A couple ladies walk past Lane Checker with items, and they are looking for a lane.  I want to wave them off mine.  Lane Checker says, "Lane 9 is your best choice."


The women say, "No, we're looking for self check."

Lane Checker says, "We don't have that."

Well, Target, you should!

Back to my lanes.  Now the guy ahead of me is going through and almost done.  I'm next.  Whoo hoo! I look at the other two lanes and see that, not only are they empty, but the people who got in those lanes AFTER I GOT IN 9 are long gone.

And then I hear this:  "Kirsten, we need you up here after all."


Someone walks up to Lane Checker and asked her something. I didn't see the person, but I like to imagine it's the Bobs from "Office Space" asking her the question we all want to know:
 And she says, and I'm not making this up....

"This is my job. This is all I do. I watch the lanes and tell people which ones to go in and then get checkers up here when we need them."

If I hadn't been working with Dexter at this point, trying to get my own order checked out,  I would have yelled over the woman behind me, "WELL YOU'RE VERY BAD AT YOUR JOB!"

Monday, March 9, 2015

Thank you, Kohls, I found my YES!

Good afternoon!

Memory is faulty, but blogging is forever.   I say that because, in getting ready to write this blog, I went back and reread a past post.  One thing is very clear to me:  I was never happy at Stuff,
Installed, not from the minute they hired me.  I didn't know how right I was when I once told Lumberg, "Firing me is not the worst thing you could ever do to me."

I only bring all that up because I was looking for the post where I went on a rant....stop laughing...about buying earrings at Kohl's.  I found it.  You may want to click HERE to read that.  We'll wait....

Okay, so you know that when I went to buy earrings I was all but ignored, which sent me on a rant. Today was the complete opposite, but just as annoying and just as rant inducing.  Let me tell you the story:

If you shop at Kohl's you know that they're new sign campaign is "Find your YES!"  I suppose this means if you've got a question or need a product that Kohl's offers or could offer or might offer, all you have to do is ask and you'll get a YES for an answer.  Whatever.  

Today all I had to do was return a sweater and kill some time between job interviews.  I really didn't need to shop because I'm not employed.  I have no place to dress up for.  And I have an "interview outfit" which I wear for pretty much all of the interviews I go on.  It's a good outfit:  Black pants, black sweater, some pop of color in the shirt under the sweater, black flats.  Sensible, business-ish.  But I don't need clothes.

However, Kohl's, being Kohl's, sent me a 30% off coupon and a $5 off coupon.  So I figured if there was a blouse or something on the clearance rack, maybe I'd pick it up.

I was there, killing time, minding my own business, not bothering anyone...and then...


I was startled because I was thumbing through the clearance racks, and this time of year there are so many of them at Kohl's, not even looking at the people around me.  And here's this woman, an employee, yelling a greeting three racks over.  

"Hi," says I, not looking up.

"Finding everything okay?"

This is more than I wanted to get into it.  "Sure. Of course."

"Well buy it all up!  I have to put out new stuff, so you go ahead and buy all this. We're practically giving it away."

I used to work at Kohl's, and I gotta say, this was way more information than 1) I wanted and 2) I needed to be told.  I can read. I can do the math.  The with my coupons the blouse in my hands was going to cost all of $0.70.  But hey, she's got a job to do and apparently her job depends on me buying more clearance clothing.  But I had a blouse, and that's all I really wanted, so I moved on.

I found myself in the jewelry department. I know, I don't have good experiences there.  But I was cutting through jewelry to get to men's to get to the cash register where I was going to drop $0.70 on a blouse.  I paused, because a necklace that would really go nicely with the blouse caught my eye. I looked at it, checked the price, and decided against it.

"Oh don't put that back!"

Again, why are people talking to me?  I look around and there's another employee, standing ten feet away.  Do they have a ten foot rule?  You have to yell things at customers ten feet away?  

"I really like that necklace and it would be great with that blouse.  Don't put it back!"

"I'm...just browsing," says I.  "I really wasn't looking for a necklace."  

"Oh, but that one's so nice..."

Her voice fades as I walk away.  Are these people working on commission?  I wandered a little more and then cursed myself a lot as I went back to jewelry and picked up the necklace.  Yes, I bought it.  But not because Noisy told me to.  I bought it because it does look really good with the blouse and really, since I was using my Kohl's card, I really didn't feel right about charging $0.70.  So yes, I bought it.

But hey, I also found my "YES."  "YES, as a matter of fact, you CAN shut up and walk away from me!"

Thanks, Kohl's.

Fun Fact Friday: Now that it's dead, Sarah reveals a childhood dream.

Happy Friday all! What do you want to be when you grow up? That's a question we ask little kids...and I haven't a clue why....