Welcome back to my randomness… with Friday Finds, Take 2….Hope you all had a great week! We made it to almost-Friady. Yay! And I made it through February without a broken bone- double Yay! Our only February hick-up was that our dog ate sand at the beach and had to spend the night at the Emergency Animal Hospital. Fortunately, he is back to his crazy, jumping, kissing 10-year old self.
Donkey Taqueria- If you are visiting Grand Rapids, Michigan, or live within an hour radius of Grand Rapids, this restaurant is a must. It is my favorite restaurant. So much so that I always have fabulous intentions of trying one of the new eateries that keep popping up around the city but just cannot tear myself away from Donkey. I love being guaranteed great service, a delicious Paloma, and top-notch food. Every. Single. Time. Making it feel even more special is the fact that it forces you to just relax. You cannot call ahead (there isn’t a listed phone number), making you come to terms with the fact that you are just going to have to show up and go with the flow. If the wait is too long, we have always had good luck going across the street to Winchester for a pre-dinner drink. Donkey will just text you when your table is ready.
Lee and Birch– Looking for a different activity while you wait for your table? Just head up the street to Lee and Birch. I went in to just “check it out” and pretty much could have seen myself in all of the clothes in the store. It is small, which feels cozy and not too overwhelming. The sales people are pretty chill, helpful but not at all pushy.
Zing Zangs- This is an oldie but goodie. One of my brothers-in-law is our designated Bloody Mary guy and this is a favorite. Whenever he and my sister-in-law ask what they can bring, I always want them to bring the Bloody Mary’s. He did, however, share his secret, so now we can all make delicious Bloody’s. Zing Zangs has just the right amount of spice and thickness. It’s as much a staple at our family gatherings as ice cream cake, maybe even more so!
Barre 3 via You Tube- With all of this eating and drinking going on, I thought it only “fitting” that I throw in a workout too. I just discovered this tonight, and it is great! It is perfect for when, say, your stairclimber is covered in plastic and every item in your storage room is now in the family hangout room because you had/have a “vision” for your laundry/mudroom (insert teeth-clenched emoji here). Moving on… the You Tube sequence is about 40 minutes long and would actually be perfect for when you are traveling too (there are small weights involved, but, let’s be honest, I’m not using those at home either). I really found the instructors to be encouraging and saying everything I needed to hear throughout the workout. The sequences are really easy to follow, and since repetition is key, it’s fairly easy to stay on track.
Well, there you have it, my barely-travel-related Friday Finds. I’ll be back next week with the Island Interviews Series. You may have also noticed all of the beautiful beaches lately on my Instagram account.. stay tuned, a related post is coming next week too.
**I have no more fun ways to say this, so just know… this post may contain affiliate links, meaning that, at no cost to you, I may be compensated. Thank you!
Today I was fortunate enough to have a “work afternoon” with Kelly from the Lily Pad Cottage. Have you visited her blog? If not, you should go right now. Not only is her design and taste impeccable, but she is also seriously such a nice person. She is gracious and generous (much like that famous designer on HGTV from Texas) and has been helping me/fielding all of my annoying questions since the idea popped into my head that I wanted start a blog. Oh, and did I mention she is super fun? I had such a great time shopping and eating (and talking) our way around Grand Rapids today. If you are in town for a few hours or just passing through or looking for a little break from all of the holiday gatherings, here are some stops to put on your list.
We met at Reinspired Treasures in Alger Heights. Again, if you haven’t been, it’s worth checking out. From vintage to new home items to repurposed, well, treasures, they seem to have a little bit of everything. I have to do at least 10 laps before I feel like I have seen everything there is to see. This is the store that feeds my wooden sign addiction.
After shopping for a bit, we headed across the street to The Old Goat. I had been hearing about this restaurant for awhile and was excited to check it out. The food was delicious and was brought out on a cute wooden cutting board. There are soups, sandwiches, salads, and even entrees if you are particularly hungry from your shopping. And I sort of feel like I could have stared at the ceiling for a few more minutes if I hadn’t been too busy chatting.
We then headed to Eastown for a quick coffee and to pick up some donuts for the kids’ after school snacks. We met at That Early Bird, another great setting, very calming colors and not too quiet, not too loud. I love the pretty designs in the coffee, but, believe me, even if this coffee was super ugly, it still is one of the best cups I’ve had.
D’Arts Donut Shop was the last stop of the afternoon to pick up a couple 1/2 dozens to take to our respective homes. Again, the setting is unique and trendy, and the donuts will not disappoint. I went with the Christmas sprinkles, Hot Chocolate with Marshmallows, and Peppermint Mocha. And have no pictures to show for them. Because they went that fast.
There are seriously so many cute stores in downtown Saugatuck, Michigan, that it was difficult to make a short-list (because, of course, I have a list). Nonetheless, here are my suggestions if you only have a few hours. Autumn is the perfect time to go for a stroll in this cute and artsy village. It is considerably easier to find a parking spot and, well, the picture above demonstrates the pure beauty of it all. One word to the wise, Saugatuck truly is on its own time, so just because a store opens at 10am one day, doesn’t necessarily mean it will open at 10am the next day (because some days, we all just need that extra cup of coffee).
Speaking of which, after parking, head to Uncommon Coffee Roasters, because no Saturday morning stroll is complete without that cup of coffee in hand. Also, if you brought the kids and decide to head to my next suggestion, you will need the caffeine.
The Teeny Tiny Toy Store is a must with children. As the name suggests, it is, well, tiny. Nonetheless, there are oh-so-many good toys in the store that you will likely finish your grande vanilla latte and your children will still be finding new toys that they absolutely need.
And then, to make your husband happy, you could head across the street to Landsharks to get geared up for sporting events, ski trips, Michigan souvenir shirts (my favorite!), etc, etc.
Now, by this point, your children, okay fine, my children, will likely be bouncing off the walls (quite literally), so you can just walk a short block to the village park, deposit them there with your husband, and continue on your merry shopping way. Warning, there is a scary snake/worm at the entrance. While a little disconcerting at first, the snake/worm will grow on you and you will find yourself taking pictures of your children climbing it.
The Brass Anchor Co. is my new favorite shoppe in Saugatuck. The clothes are trendy yet classic, the mugs and framed prints make me giggle, the home decor is just my style, and I can easily find a gift for any host.
Because you may just end up spending too much time at The Brass Anchor, you may just quickly want to pop into Wine Sellers of Saugatuck on your way back to the park to pick up a bottle or ten. There is quite a bit to choose from and also fun wine accessories. If you have more time, other wine options could include either the Tabor Hill or Fenn Valley wine tasting rooms.
Finally, after dragging your children from the playground, end your day at Phil’s. And get a burger. I do not typically order burgers when dining out, but I almost always order a burger from Phil’s because it is, in my opinion, by far the best burger in West Michigan. Oh, and if you become a regular, you may just get your name on the marque for your birthday or anniversary or graduation… You just never know.
Saugatuck is such a great village in winter, spring, summer, and autumn. Brace yourself for more Saugatuck posts because I’ve only scratched the surface and most definitely will have even more suggestions and unsolicited advice.
I have to admit, before last fall, I had no idea Banff even existed. I thought we would just go to check it off of our Places We’ve Been list. Little did I know, it quickly rose to the very top of my Favorite Places list (have I mentioned that I love a good list?) and we were already planning our Next Trip Back before we reached the airport. There truly is something for everyone in Banff. As I have mentioned, we will likely never qualify as outdoor adventurers. However, if you do meet the qualifications, there will plenty for you do in Banff. If, on the other hand, your resume does not include rock climbing or kayaking, you will have an equally amazing time. When we were there, age ranges in Banff included babies to 85-year old grandparents. I’ll say it again… There is something for everyone in Banff. So what did we do? See below.
Fairmont at Banff Springs: If you never left the hotel, you would still love Banff from the Fairmont. Who wouldn’t love staying in a castle with fabulous service, mineral pools, a spa, people walking the hallways in their white hotel robes, restaurants overlooking mountains and streams? There is a good amount of shopping and restaurants on the hotel grounds. Walk down a short trail to the Waldhaus to sit on the deck for a drink and appetizer.Get a savory Indian dinner while over looking the mountains at Indian Summer (which was a pop-up restaurant for the summer/early fall season), get (another) drink on the patio surrounded by pink and purple flowers with the mountains on 3 sides of you and the castle on the fourth. Downtown Banff: Should you decide that you would like to venture out (and you really should… even if you thought you would just read your book and catch up on some Fixer Upper and maybe get back some of that sleep you lost when you had insomniac infants in the house,you really, really should leave the hotel), downtown Banff again has something for everyone. There are plenty of restaurants to choose from, ranging from Greek to Irish to Chinese; fancier dining to breweries and coffee shops. There are plenty of tourist shops but also places where you could pick something up if you forgot it at home or if the weather took a sudden turn (e.g., Lululemon, Lole, Patagonia, North Face). We found maple syrup to bring home, as well as Rocky Mountain soaps, and hilariously adorable pajamas for the kids from Little Blue House by Hatley. We even picked up some Banff Starbuck’s mugs for those in our family who are collectors.
Road Trip- Go to Lake Louise. Just do it. I can’t imagine you would regret it. Ever. It was so breathtaking that my eyes welled up. And this was on a rainy, 45 degree day. You can rent a canoe and row to the middle of the lake, or simply take a walk on the trail by the lake. Or, if you are more adventurous, hike the trails into the woods by the lake. Or, just take a lot of pictures. So many pictures that you need to give your camera to the person you came with because you just can’t seem to stop clicking. It is easy to see why this could very well be the most photographed lake in the world. Finish up with lunch or a drink at the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise on one end of the lake. (And, if you have enough energy and time, head to Lake Lorraine. It is at the top of my list for next time.)
Hike- Again, just do it. You likely won’t regret it. You may not run up the mountain. You may ask the concierge for the trail on which you are least likely to see any wildlife and what to do should you see, say, a bear. You may not be an outdoor adventurer. And it may take you half a day to get up the mountain. But it is worth it. The views are stunning and just breathing in the mountain air and seeing nature (minus said wildlife) make every step worth it. Next time, we will be even more adventurous and hike up the mountain with the gondola going back down. Because, there will absolutely be a next time.
In the meantime, here are some random things to consider when planning your trip to Banff:
- When we go back, we will try to shoot for early September/late August. When we were there in mid-September for 4 days, the temperature fluctuated between 40 degrees and 80 degrees.
- Bring running/hiking gear (and other outfits, of course). This is such an outdoor community that even if you don’t run/hike, you could still just wear your athletic wear around (you know, just in case inspiration strikes). You could even check into your hotel services regarding gear. At the Fairmont, they had a program with Reebok, and you could rent hiking clothes/shoes. You will likely also want to bring warmer athletic-ish jackets/fleeces, at least one with a hood. Maybe bring one nicer outfit like a knit dress or jeans and a nice top. And a sweater. Just because, in my opinion, you can never be too prepared for cold weather. (If you are going when the weather is warmer or if you plan to check out the hot springs or mineral pool, bring a swimsuit. Obviously.)
- If you are the kind of person who needs to know/be on top of things, you may want to review exchange rates, kilometer vs miles, and Celsius verser Fahrenheit.
- Rent a car with GPS built in. It made the trip from the airport and the day trip to Lake Louise so much easier.
- Research altitude sickness if you are coming from an almost-sea level departure city into Banff.
Oh, Banff, I can’t wait to visit you again!
*Please note that I may be compensated through the above links.