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Earlier this week, I sent my older sister, Sarah, to cover the #GreatMNBlogTogether sneak preview at the Minnesota State Fair Grounds earlier this week. Here’s a little peek at what she learned and saw [and TASTED] while there.

In just a short period of time, the Great Minnesota Get Together begins. I am one who always goes for the food. THEN I received a text that asked it I wanted to step in and go try some of the foods coming out and share my experience and I was excited to say the least.

The event was held in the History and Heritage Center and if you haven’t been in this building I’d highly suggest checking it out, it’s full of great things to see and learn.

While there pick up the 2018 Minnesota State Fair History Walk pamphlet. It’s free and when you complete it bring it back for a prize!

While my expectation was that the event and the fair is all about food, I learned it’s about much more. We learned a lot about the food vendors in the past and how they were mostly made up of church or fraternal organizations- now there are only two left.

This year there are 27 new items at the fair to eat. We sampled five of them- from savory to sweet, comfort food to refreshing.

New this year- Anchor Coffee House. They brought us some of their cold brew to try. It was smooth and their vanilla cream gave just the right amount of sweet to the coffee. You can find them outside Ramberg Music Cafe on Underwood Street between Carnes and Judson.

After we had our coffee, we needed some breakfast. Hamline Church Dining Hall will be serving up some Banana Fosters French Toast this year. Located on the north side of Dan Patch Avenue between Underwood and Cooper Street. This specialty will only be available until 10 a.m. each day of the fair.

Time for lunch! You’ll need to head over to the Food Building for this one. Sausage Sister & Me is located on the East Wall. Here you will find the UpNorth Puff Pasty. This is a delightful puffy crust filled with everything you could imagine. A porketta sausage, cheese curds, grain mustard and chopped dill pickles. It’s sprinkled with salt and pepper and baked to perfection. This is the perfect item for lunch!

Next up is dinner and this one was my favorite one to try. It’s a BBQ Split consisting of a scoop of pull pork, a scoop of mac and cheese [they offer gluten free!] and coleslaw. This is available at Midtown Global Market’s Mama D’s. They are located in the Taste of Midtown Global Market booth in the International Bazaar. THIS IS IMPORTANT–> They will only on at the fair the last six days! It was amazing and you don’t want to miss trying this one.

Finally- time for some dessert!

This one is from Sweetie Cakes and is also found in the Food Building. This time over on the South Wall. They have lots of cake options including Black Forest Cake, Birthday Cake and Peanut Butter Cake.

This is only a small view of what is offered the 12 days of the fair and don’t worry my beer loving friends, they also have 27 new beverages for you this year too!

So who’s ready for the Minnesota State Fair?

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It’s almost that time…back to school.

Time to stock up on new clothes and shoes and gear to start the year off. I don’t know about you, but it can be overwhelming making a list of all the necessities. This one needs new shoes, this one needs a new backpack and lunch box and this one has grown out of all of their clothes.

Ridgedale Center in Minnetonka has put together a fun back to school shopping event to help parents check off as much on their back to school checklist as they can in a day. In a sense a way for families to start the new year with some “good vibes”.

Event details:

  • Ridgedale Center 12401 Wayzata Blvd Minnetonka 
  • Saturday, August 18th, 11 am to 3 pm
  • Back to school shopping, styles and trends from stores such as Gap, H&M, American Eagle and more. Grand Opening celebration at Old Navy.
  • Hair and make up demonstrations by Riley Rose, New Reflections, Sephora and All Pro Sports Barbershop.
  • Creative Workshop: Led by illustrator, Cat Coq, where she will teach guest of all ages fun ways to replicate creative lettering.
  • Lots of photo ops, giveaways, free entertainment and more.
  • AND—> Ridgedale Center gift with purchase. For those who spend $50 or more, receive a free “good vibes” tote bag. Spend even more and receive a bag filled with items such as mini notebooks, pop sockets and more.

[Offer available while supplies last. Visit the event on August 18th 11-3 or Mall Management office M-F during office hours through Sept. 7 and present receipts from Ridgedale Center merchants dated in Aug of 2018. Must be 18 or older or have parent/guardian present. Limit one gift per person.More details at ridgedalecenter.com/events]

Ridgedale Center has partnered with me to help spread the news and also give one reader some “Good Vibes” to start the school year off-. One reader will win a $50 gift card [good at ANY Ridgedale Center store or restaurant] and a “good vibes” tote bag and goodies.

You can enter the rafflecopter giveaway right here:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclosure: This is a sponsored post. 

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Last weekend we celebrated J’s 45th birthday with a little staycation at the Sheraton Bloomington.

Located the perfect distance from both downtown Minneapolis and the airport and Mall of America- it was a perfect location for us to zip up to Target Field for the Def Leppard and Journey concert for the evening. [That was my husband’s idea and birthday gift, by the way.]

Just last summer, Sheraton Bloomington underwent a 15 million dollar renovation and it is clear that not a detail was spared- the hotel looks exquisite.

From the time you walk through the doors of the beautiful, expansive lobby all the way to the hotel rooms, the remodel gives the hotel a modern and upscale vibe through and through.

Here are some of the amenities you’ll find at Sheraton Bloomington:

Sheraton Fitness Center
Business Center
Sheraton Club Lounge
Complimentary Wifi
Complimentary Starbucks Coffee & Tazo Tea
Pet Friendly
Free Self Parking

And of course, Lela Restaurant.

There are various room options from 400 square foot rooms to 1000 square foot suites. Sheraton Bloomington spoiled us forever by hosting us in one of their suites and I’m pretty sure they’ve ruined us for all future hotel stays- nothing will quite compare.

We loved the separate living area and tv’s in both rooms, a jetted tub, in room coffee and treats and bathrobes.

It was a cozy and comfortable night of rest and we enjoyed a yummy brunch [complete with blood orange mimosas] at Lela the next morning.

Now here’s the really fun part….

Sheraton Bloomington has partnered with me to give away a one night’s stay and a $100 gift certificate to Lela to one reader.

You can enter the giveaway by commenting below why you deserve a staycation?

Disclosure: This is a sponsored post. I’m so thankful to have a working relationship with Sheraton Bloomington and Lela. All images and opinions are mine. Winner to be chosen via random.org on Friday August 10 at 8 a.m.

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Simplicity in the Suburbs by Simplici - 9M ago

It’s time to share what I read in March.

In case you missed it, here’s what I read in January and here’s what I read in February. 

The Broken Girls by Simone St. James

This was a February Book of the Month* book. The story follows journalist Fiona Sheridan as she works on uncovering why anyone would ever want to restore the rumored, haunted boarding school, Idlewood Hall. The story goes between 1950 and 2014 and was a really good book with an ending I didn’t see coming.

Sex, Jesus and the Conversations the Church Forgot by Mo Isom

In a world that is so saturated with sex, author Mo Isom shares her testimony and gives an honest look at the conversations the church forgot to have. She goes where few Christian authors have gone. It was a good read even though parts were redundant. I would recommend this book to youth workers and high school and college age students.

Other People’s Houses by Abbi Waxman

This was my March Book of the Month Club* book. It was a quick and easy read but definitely more chick-lit like than I usually read. Also? A lot of language. Frances Bloom is carpool mom extraordinaire- always available for her kids and her neighbors but when she discovers one of the other neighborhood moms having an affair, everything goes haywire. One thing the book did well was examine the difficulties of divorce and separation on children.

Hunger by Roxane Gay

This one was HEAVY. This was a memoir that I learned about on a podcast at the end of last year so I added it to my list and as an add on one month with Book of the Month*. Roxanne writes about her lifelong weight struggles and the underlying reasons for her overeating and weight gain. It felt like reading the pages of her journal. It was long and it was heavy.

*Interested in joining Book of the Month? Here’s my link– use YESPLZ for a free book when you join.

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Here’s the books I read in February [and if you missed my January reads, you can see those right here.] As always, you can follow along book by book on Instagram- #SamaraReads2018

After the Eclipse by Sarah Perry

I learned about this book on the Smartest Person in the Room podcast- coined as one of the best books of 2017, I knew I had to read it. It was a really hard, devastating read but also important. When the author was just 12 years old, her mother was brutally attacked and ultimately murdered while she slept in the room next door. Now in adult hood she writes about waking up, what she heard, what she saw and the aftermath of living without a mother. This book took me longer than normal because it was hard to read, it’s hard to think of a 12 year old going through such trauma and the aftermath of being shipped back and forth between family members.

Two Girls Down by Louisa Luna

This was my January Book of the Month* book. A mother’s worst nightmare, her two daughters are taken during broad daylight from a strip mall parking lot. A former bounty hunter and ex-cop team up to find the sisters and put the pieces of the puzzle together. It was an intense, somewhat scary read but really well written.


The Woman in the Window by A. J. Finn

Once I started this one I didn’t want to put it down. Such a thriller. This was a Book of the Month* book and while it’s 400+ pages, it’s a quick read. A homebound woman suffering from agoraphobia [fear of going outside] sees something from her window with grave consequences. It’s being made into a movie by Fox. Really good read.

The Tech Wise Family by Andy Crouch

If you’re looking for ways to create healthy boundaries for yourself and your family, this is a good book to start with. Written in a Christian perspective, some of it I didn’t relate with it but still other pieces of it were quite apropos. Raising kids in an iPhone generation is hard.


An American Marriage by Tayari Jones

This was my February Book of the Month* club book and it did NOT disappoint. [It’s also Oprah’s book club book right now, so I expect you’ll be seeing and hearing a lot about this one.] Just a year into their marriage, Roy is wrongly convicted and sent to serve a 12 year sentence in jail. Can their marriage survive while he’s behind bars just a year into their marriage? When the conviction gets overturned five years in, he is ready to return to his life again but is his wife? This was a really bittersweet read. I really enjoyed it.

Girl, Wash Your Face by Rachel Hollis

Full disclosure: When I kept hearing about this book I assumed it was about make up and had NO interest in reading it. I was wrong. After hearing Rachel Hollis on a podcast about a month ago, I was intrigued and started following her on Instagram [one of my favorite follows] and knew I had to read her book. She goes through all the lies she once believed and had to overcome to become who she was meant to be. She writes from a Christian perspective but is so real and so raw. I have a feeling this will be one of my top books at the end of the year.

*Book of the Month Club was one of my favorite 2017 discoveries. Each month you’re given the option of five books, you choose one on the 1st and it’s shipped directly to you. Join now with code: YESPLZ for a free book.

*Affiliate links were used in this post. That means, if you use my links and purchase a book, I get a small percentage back. Purchases won’t cost you more or less, but it will help fund my book habit which I in turn share with you.

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