Wolverines in Texas – Vacation Recap

Over Labor Day weekend, John and I traveled to the great state of Texas to see our Michigan Wolverines take on the Florida Gators in the Advocare Classic. A number of friends came along to cheer on Michigan and we had such a blast so I thought I would share some of the fun highlights.

Our first stop on Friday was a trip to Delaney Vineyards in Grapevine, Texas.

I was surprised to find a winery in Texas because it is so hot, but apparently they have a few regions that mimic the California coast and actually produce some fantastic grapes. They had a nice facility and have been around for more than 20 years. They have a few of the vines onsite and you can walk through them and taste some grapes right off the vine. My friend Chandra (who recently joined us for a guest post) was also on the trip:

After our tasting we were able to purchase bottles and sit outside which was a fun afternoon activity. Safe to say we thoroughly tried a nice selection…

Saturday was game day and we decided to purchase tickets to the official alumni tailgate which turned out to be a great idea mostly because of the air conditioning. It also included food and drink and they had a fun lineup of former players and music to keep it exciting.

The game was so exciting and we won making the whole experience even better. AT&T Stadium is huge!

On Sunday we visited the historic Fort Worth Stockyards.

We did some shopping and were right on time to see the cattle drive.

Of course I found a winery for us to stop in at. Cowtown Winery was the perfect refresher on a HOT day.

We stopped by Cooper’s Old-Time BBQ for all the meats before we hit the rodeo. Make sure to bring your appetite. The Stockyards Rodeo was the main attraction. There were barrel races and all kinds of tricks. At the end they had bull riders and one of them almost got trampled! We thought he broke his ankle, but his boot had just come off. It was intense!

I really needed to invest in a cowboy hat to protect me from that Texas sun. I am not built for that kind of heat! We had a fantastic time in Texas and I wish we could have spent more time exploring. Who knows maybe Michigan will play there again soon.

What are your favorite spots in the Dallas/Fort Worth area?

For more Travel recaps, click here.



Summer Vacation – Kentucky Part 3

The fourth installment in my summer vacation recap is about our stops at Maker’s Mark, Four Roses and Buffalo Trace distilleries. You can read about the first stop in Cleveland, our first day in Kentucky, and our second day at Jim Beam via the links.

makers mark 5

Our first stop at Maker’s Mark was a hike. It was about an hour drive to get there from our hotel, but we started with that one so we could work our way back through the other distilleries. Maker’s Mark was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1980, so as you tour the grounds you get a peek back in time.

Makers Mark Collage

Most of the distilleries were shutdown for summer so we got a unique look at the cypress fermentation tanks. Some of them have planks that are more than 200 years old.

Makers Mark Collage2

Some of you may know that Maker’s Mark has a distinctive red wax seals on all of its bottles. This was trademarked in 2012 and no other liquor company can use the red wax seal on their bottles. We had the chance to tour the bottling area and see where the bottles are dipped.

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Makers Mark Collage3

As we were checking out the barrels we learned that they put special wood slats into the Maker’s 46 barrels to give it that extra oakey flavor.

makers mark 9

We got to sample all of the different Maker’s Mark varieties in their special tasting room. I especially liked the Maker’s 46:

makers tasting

John and I had a lot of fun in the gift shop where we got to dip our own Maker’s bottles and take them home. They are so cool that I never want to open them!

Makers Collage 4

After Maker’s Mark, we headed over to Four Roses Distillery. We didn’t make it in time for the tour, but they had a patio tasting going on so we signed up for that. I loved the name of Four Roses, which was named after a romance, you can read the full story here.

four roses

We had a little break after this stop and headed over to Wallace Station for a delicious lunch. It was featured on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives on the Food Network. It was the perfect place to stop and right in between our distillery visits.

wallace station

We had a little bit of time to kill as we had signed up for a ghost tour at Buffalo Trace Distillery. When we arrived the distillery was seemingly deserted, setting the stage for the tour.

buffalo trace 1

Buffalo Trace is a National Historic Landmark dating back to 1792 when “The Old Taylor House” was built on the property and still stands today.

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Buffalo Trace was featured on the TV show Ghost Hunters and is said to be haunted by the ghost of Col. Blanton. On our tour we heard lots of stories and got to visit the haunted sites as well as the Stony Point Mansion where Col. Blanton died in 1959.

buffalo trace

We didn’t see any ghosts, but we did have a complimentary tasting of some of the Buffalo Trace products and I have to take a second and rave about the Bourbon Cream! This stuff is amazing…it puts Bailey’s to shame…but you can only get it at the distillery…so I bought two!

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Have you been to the Bourbon Trail? What were your favorites?

For more travel posts, click here.



Summer Vacation 2015 – Kentucky Part 2

The third installment in my summer vacation recap is all about Jim Beam. You can read about the first stop in Cleveland and our first day in Kentucky via the links. On our second day in Kentucky we visited the Jim Beam Distillery and boy was John excited.

Jim Beam

We arrived just in time for the tour and the first thing I learned is all bourbon is whiskey, but not all whiskey is bourbon. The U.S. government has a set of regulations that determines exactly what can be called bourbon.

Jim Beam 2

John preparing for our tour!

One fun fact is that bourbon can only be made in the United States. In 1964 Congress declared that bourbon had to be distilled and aged in the United States and it can’t be called Kentucky Straight Bourbon unless it has been distilled and aged in Kentucky for at least two years.

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Another bourbon regulation is that all bourbon must be aged in brand new charred oak barrels. Distilleries can’t recycle the barrels so they are purchased by all sorts of companies to use for scotch, sometimes wine and furniture among other things.

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Each bourbon maker has it’s own mash recipe, but to be a bourbon the recipe must consist of 51% corn.

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The color in bourbon comes from the barrels. The only thing that can be added to bourbon is water, if anything else like coloring or flavor is added you can’t call it bourbon.

Jim Beam 7

Now for the fun part, John and I got to clean and imprint our own bottles of Jim Beam Knob Creek! Below is the machine they used to clean, dispense bourbon and label the bottles. When they clean the bottles they have to use the same bourbon that they ultimately fill the bottles with so they don’t alter the flavor in any way.

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After they dipped the bottles in wax we each got to put our thumbprints on the top and then they would be down in the gift shop for purchase. I had some fun pictures of this process that got deleted (boo), but here is the bottle right before we put the wax on it:

knob creek

They had quite the collection of special and commemorative bottles on display. One of which was the I Dream of Jeannie decanter. We learned that the bottle on the show was actually designed after this bottle.

I Dream of Jeannie

The tour ended in the tasting room and we each got to pick three things to try.

Jim Beam 9

We had a blast on our tour and I even got a fabulous Jim Beam candle to take home. It was definitely my first stop into becoming a bourbon aficionado.

Jim Beam 10

What Jim Beam variations are your favorites?

For more travel posts, click here.



Summer Vacation 2015 – Kentucky Part 1

As you saw in my first vacation recap post, on our way out of Cleveland, John and I got a late start and stopped for a fun lunch. But we were so excited to get on the road and get the heck out of dodge.

road trip

We had to make a pit stop for gas and I couldn’t believe where we randomly stopped…it’s like they knew I was coming!

Duchess

We finally made it to Kentucky and had to take the obligatory welcome shot:

Kentucky

We didn’t get to our final destination until a little later on so I didn’t have to much to report for the first day. On day three we decided to go to lunch at Mark’s Feed Store.

Marks Feed Store 4

We were a little to late to do any bourbon tastings (most of the places closed at 3 p.m.) so we found a winery instead! We stumbled upon Broad Run Vineyards which was sort of in the middle of nowhere. We were the only people there and spent a few hours getting a one-on-one tutorial with the owner. I think we both learned a lot and I really appreciated the passion the owner had about wine.

broad run Collage

Our hotel, the Embassy Suites in Louisville had a complimentary happy hour every day that we made it back in time for. I tried a Bluegrass Sunrise!

Bluegrass Sunrise

We made dinner reservations at Proof on Main which had a cool, artsy ambiance. The food was great and John was able to get a bourbon flight to kick things off. For dessert they even brought cotton candy to the table for us!

proof on main

We had a great time during our first few days in Kentucky and were pumped to finally start hitting the bourbon trail.

For more travel posts, click here.



Summer Vacation 2015 – Cleveland

John and I finally decided to take a vacation that we had been planning for two years…the Kentucky Bourbon Trail! We originally had planned to visit for one of John’s milestone birthdays, but life happened and it didn’t work out for us. I never forgot about it and planned to make it happen for him for his birthday this year. We decided to make a road trip out of it since we had to make a stop in Cleveland before heading down to Kentucky.

My dad’s birthday is in July and I always get us tickets to go to a Yankees game (we are lifelong fans) and this year they happened to be playing in Cleveland. So I figured we could all meet up for the game and then John and I could continue our trip down to Kentucky.

I must preface my vacation recap by saying that I took some awesome pictures on our trip and then the day after we got home my phone crapped out on me and I lost everything back to February (when I last backed up). I am happy to report that I am backed up to the Cloud now, but those pictures are gone. I had to piece my recaps together with what I had posted on social media and the pictures John took – but just know that I had some really great pictures for you.

We drove down to Cleveland mid-afternoon and checked into our hotel, the Aloft Cleveland which was pretty close to the stadium. Cleveland is a great town to explore – for ideas check out my previous Cleveland trip.

Aloft Cleveland

We headed over to meet up with my dad at Progressive Field where the Cleveland Indians play. If you’ve never been it is a fun stadium to go to. Plus I love hearing John Adams play his legendary drum.

Progressive Field Progressive Field 2 Progressive Field 3

I’m going to show you a little before and after picture, because this ended up being a crazy game lasting for 16 innings! You can see in the second picture that nobody is left. I found this article that had some crazy numbers from this game. The final score was 5-4 and the game took five hours and four minutes to play. How weird is that? Even though the Yankees lost it was still a great game to watch and since it was only the second Yankees game we got to attend this year we definitely got our money’s worth!

Yankees 3

The next day before we took off, we stopped for lunch at The Willeyville next to our hotel.

Courtesy of The Willeyville as my photo was lost from the great phone fiasco.
Courtesy of The Willeyville as my photo was lost from the great phone fiasco.

This will forever be remembered as the day I introduced John to a Bloody Mary. I didn’t realize that he hadn’t had one before or else I would have tried before now. He loved mine and ended up getting one for himself.

the willeyville 2

We had a blast and I will tell you more about the Kentucky Bourbon Trail in my next post! What are your favorite places in Cleveland?

For more travel posts, click here.



New Buffalo Wine Tour Recap

Disclosure: I was invited to participate in the SWMI Sip & Stroll wine tour and received comped wine tastings. All opinions are my own.

I had an amazing time on the #SWMISipStroll recap and wanted to share all of my awesome new wine discoveries with you. You can read more about our trip here and about our awesome hotel here. We visited four wineries on our trip and I stocked up on some amazing choices!

Our first stop was Domaine Berrien Cellars, the only winery I was familiar with on this tour. I sort of love that this winery was started as a retirement hobby…there’s hope for me yet! I enjoyed the 2012 Viognier and the Cabernet Franc in particular.

Domaine Berrien Collage

Our next stop was Lemon Creek Winery where we learned about mixing wines. Our host told us that mixing wines is the future and encouraged us to to try his Lighthouse Red and Pinot Noir mixture which I loved. I brought these two home to try again.

Lemon Creek Collage

Our first stop on the second day was Hickory Creek Winery. I had the most fun at this winery and they laid out a nice spread for us. We got to try all of the wines along with some great cheese and chocolate. We loved this winery so much that I joined the wine club! They even have a quaint little cabin that you can rent out with your girlfriends for a fun wine tasting weekend.

Hickory Creek Collage

On our way back home we stopped at The Chocolate Garden which I have always seen signs for, but never stopped at…if only I knew! This place is amazing! They hand make decadent chocolate truffles in almost any flavor you can think of. What sets these truffles apart is that there is no hard outer shell to bite through. Each truffle is rolled in coarse chocolate to create a creamy truffle. In case you are interested, you can order these online for a unique gift.   I tried Vanilla Rose, Salt & Pepper Caramel and Sticky Bun:

Chocolate Garden

Our final stop was Contessa Wine Cellars. They had a beautiful terrace with an amazing view of the vineyard. I could not get enough of the Cabernet Franc. It had an awesome peppery finish and I knew that it would taste amazing with steak. John made some for me the next day and I was right! So delicious!!! I am saving the last bottle for a special occasion.

Contessa

This was a great little wine tour and I would love to go back with my husband sometime soon!

Where are your favorite Michigan wineries?



Staycation at The Harbor Grand

Disclosure: I was provided a free night’s stay at The Harbor Grand in exchange for this review. All opinions are my own.

Last month, I was honored to attend the Southwest Michigan Sip & Stroll Weekend hosted by Deb at Just Short of Crazy and Renee at What Mama Wants. My bestie, Jen and I decided to have a girl’s weekend and take advantage of the opportunity.

MeandJenselfie

We drove for about three hours and checked into The Harbor Grand, a full-service boutique hotel in New Buffalo, MI. When we arrived, I was surprised by how small the hotel was, which I loved! There are only 54 rooms, which make it the perfect place to stay. Jen and I got a room with an amazing balcony view! I bet this looks even more beautiful once everything has bloomed! The other feature that really stuck out to me was how updated the bathrooms were, they had whirlpool tubs and a stand up shower!

balcony view

After we checked in, we headed out for Part 1 of our wine tour which I will recap in a separate post. We came back to the hotel around 5:30 p.m. for drinks and appetizers in The Terrace Room at the hotel. I had a lot of fun with this because the Terrace Room has a rustic, Italian theme to it, complete with a waterfront view and a fireplace. We gathered around the fireplace for some appetizers, which were delicious!

the terrace room

I had fun trying a few of the drinks including this delightful Lemon Raspberry Fizz, with one of my favorite ingredients…Limoncello!

Lemon Raspberry Fizz

If we would have stayed after dark, you can order a smores kit and take that outside to make them over a real campfire. I thought that was a fun touch! We also had a lovely chat with the owner which I loved because you could tell he had a real passion for hospitality. New Buffalo is a great destination as it is halfway between metro Detroit and Chicago. It makes the perfect getaway with a little something for everyone.

After appetizers and drinks, we headed off to The Four Winds Casino (about a 10 minute shuttle ride away) and recently featured in USA Today’s Leaving Las Vegas: The best casinos outside Sin CityThis was a lot of fun and a HUGE casino, definitely providing some fun nightlife in the area.

Since we didn’t do so well at the casino, Jen and I decided to head back to the hotel and sample the movie and ice cream selection. One of the fun parts about The Harbor Grand is they offer a huge list of movies that you can rent as well as 24-hours of Ben & Jerry’s…yes you heard that correctly. We decided on Mean Girls and Chubby Hubby!benandjerrys

The next morning, we were treated to a lovely breakfast in bed care package outside our door. It came complete with mimosas for the perfect girl’s weekend!

care package

mimosas

We had such a great time at The Harbor Grand and I would love to bring John back with me next time. He would have loved it! Next time I would love to make this a long weekend and spend more time in New Buffalo. This could also be a fun stop on the way to or from Chicago. I am so glad that Deb and Renee tuned me into New Buffalo. I never would have thought to go there, but I can say with certainty that I will definitely be back soon!

Have you ever been to New Buffalo or stayed at The Harbor Grand? What was your experience like?

For the original Sip & Stroll Weekend post, click here.

Wine Wednesday: Southwest Michigan Sip & Stroll Weekend

Disclosure: I was invited to participate in this hosted tour and will be provided with complimentary lodging. All opinions are my own.

Since it is #WineWednesday, I thought there was no better time to share with you that I’ve been invited to the Southwest Michigan Sip & Stroll wine tour this weekend! I had a big event at work and just started teaching again for the semester, so this couldn’t have come at a better time.

This is the first year for the Southwest Michigan Sip & Stroll weekend being hosted by Deb at Just Short of Crazy and Renee at What Mama Wants and I’m thrilled to help kick it off. Because it starts on Friday, I was able to take the day off of work and recruit one of my besties, Jen, to come along for the ride.

Wine Tour

Our tour is kicking off on Friday, where we check into The Harbor Grand, a full-service boutique hotel in New Buffalo, MI.

Harbor Grand

We’ll be touring four wineries and The Chocolate Garden on Friday and Saturday before heading home. I can’t wait to try the Sticky Bun and Vanilla Rose truffles, which I hear pair perfectly with my favorite, Pinot Noir.

sticky_bun_200

I am familiar with Domaine Berrien Cellars as their wine is featured at Michigan by the Bottle, a favorite hangout of mine, but I am excited to learn more about the others including Lemon Creek Winery, Hickory Creek Winery and Contessa Wine Cellars. I will hopefully have a few new Wine of the Week selections to share with you after this trip. A few fun facts to note:

  • Domaine Berrien Cellars was the first winery in Michigan to release a commercially grown and vinified Syrah.
  • Lemon Creek Winery is home to the oldest Cabernet Sauvignon vines in the State of Michigan.
  • Hickory Creek is known for crafting wine in the Old World style.
  • Contessa Cellar’s tasting room looks like an Italian villa overlooking their beautiful orchards.

SWMISipStroll-Banner

After doing a quick search on our hotel, I am definitely excited to check out The Four Winds Casino (about a 10 minute shuttle ride away) and recently featured in USA Today’s Leaving Las Vegas: The best casinos outside Sin CityWe will also have to make a stop at Oinks Ice Cream Garden, which is a treasure trove of pig paraphernalia! For those of you that don’t know, I love pigs and collect piggy banks.

You can follow our trip throughout the weekend on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram using #SWMISipStroll.

Have you been to New Buffalo before? What are your favorite places to visit? If you’ve been to any of these wineries I would love to get your recommendations!



Cleveland Recap – Day 3

Disclosure: I was invited on a two night/three day blogger tour of Cleveland in exchange for writing about my experience. Opinions in this and other related posts are 100% my own.

Sunday morning in Cleveland was what I imagine my perfect Sunday to be like. Food, yoga and shopping!

We started our morning at the Cleveland Flea and it was so much fun! I was hungry, so we hit up Elise’s Crepes for a Nutella and banana crepe.

Elise's Crepes

We then scoured the Flea for some goodies. There were a number of jewelry boutiques, including Red I Jewelry from my Day 2 recap! I also found this cool perfumery called Indigo Perfumery. They have classes where you can make your own perfume. I would love to do this the next time I’m in Cleveland!

Flea

After shopping at the Flea, I got to join a rooftop yoga class hosted by Harness Cycle. This was so refreshing and a great way to close my weekend.

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This was the view from the roof. Thanks for an awesome weekend Cleveland! See you soon!

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UPDATE: I was included in one of the tourism videos, check me out!

Day 3 was so relaxing and refreshing! Here is Day 1  and Day 2 in case you missed them.

For more information on Cleveland, visit Positively Cleveland.

Cleveland Recap – Day 2

Disclosure: I was invited on a two night/three day blogger tour of Cleveland in exchange for writing about my experience. Opinions in this and other related posts are 100% my own. 

Day 2 in Cleveland was probably the most jam-packed day of my trip. I had so much fun and loved all of the activities.

I met Katie, my tour guide for the day, at Coquette, which was a quaint patisserie and wine bar. This was so perfect to start the day and I will definitely be coming back here with my girlfriends. They have pastries, macaroons, champagne and just anything you could think of. I enjoyed Pistachio and Dark and Stormy macaroons and another pastry that was delish!

coquette

After breakfast, we visited The Feast of Assumption Festival in Cleveland’s Little Italy. This was so awesome and I wish I hadn’t been full from breakfast! I saw so many restaurants I wanted to try and this is a place I would love to bring John to.

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We headed to the cultural area of Cleveland next and took a quick stroll through the Cleveland Museum of Art, which was beautiful! I wish we would have had more time to see some of the exhibits.

Museum of Art

On our way to the next stop, we drove through the Cleveland Cultural Gardens, which has 36 different gardens for a variety of cultures. They were all landscaped differently and were really neat. It would have been cool to do a bike tour through the gardens or picnic there.

My favorite part of the day was our trip to The Christmas Story House! A Christmas Story is one of my favorite movies and I make my family watch all 24 hours of it on Christmas Eve.

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We started out with the official tour, which was awesome!! I got to explore all of the fun parts of the house and reenact my favorite scenes. I tried to get a good picture of the leg lamp in the window, but it was SO sunny!

Leg Lamp

I had tons of fun playing around in the house!

Do you know what Ralphie just said?

Do you know what Ralphie just said?

I've gone blind!

I’ve gone blind!

Be Sure to Drink Your Ovaltine!

Be Sure to Drink Your Ovaltine!

You'll Shoot Your Eye Out!

You’ll Shoot Your Eye Out!

We visited the museum, which had a ton of keepsakes from the movie and the gift shop where I loaded up on souvenirs!

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Since I was in the mood to shop, we headed to Banyan Tree, where I found this amazing lariat necklace from Red I Jewelry, which I am just in love with!

banyan tree

We finally had to head back to the hotel and get ready for dinner. We had pre-dinner drinks at The Velvet Tango Room, which specializes in prohibition style cocktails. From the outside it doesn’t look like much, but I loved the atmosphere inside. I could have stayed here all night and hung out with the girls. I would love to come back here on a girls trip!

Velvet Tango Room

We had dinner at The Greenhouse Tavern, a rustbelt restaurant in downtown Cleveland, which was where all the action was:

greenhouse tavern

Then we headed over to Chinato, an old-meets-new Italian style restaurant. Next time I will have to come here for dinner!

Chinato

I’m not even sure how we packed all of this into one day, but it was AMAZING! There were so many cool places I would love to come back and check out.

Day 2 in Cleveland was so much fun! Here is Day 1 in case you missed it. Stay tuned for Day 3!

For more information on Cleveland, visit Positively Cleveland.


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