The Great Minnesota Get Together is Almost Here! #GreatMNBlogTogether

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?


Back to School with Ridgedale Center GIVEAWAY

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]

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. 

Staycation at Sheraton Bloomington + Lela Restaurant Giveaway CLOSED

Winner has been chosen and contacted- congratulations ELIZABETH! 

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?

*Don’t be alarmed if you can’t see your comment right away- it sometimes takes time for it to publish due to the spam blocker and increased traffic on the site. All comments should publish within 48 hours.*

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 on Friday August 10 at 8 a.m.


The Best Summer Ever at Children’s Theatre Company: Three Things To Know Before You Go

Last weekend, Miss E and I had the privilege of attending opening night of The Best Summer Ever at Children’s Theatre Company.

This is probably the first time I’ve gone to a show knowing literally NOTHING about it. I wasn’t sure what to expect but have yet to be disappointed at a CTC show so knew we were in good hands.

I really enjoyed it and so did Miss E. Though a good amount of the humor was funnier for me than her, mostly because it brought me back to my own childhood summers.

The Best Summer Ever is at CTC until July 29 and tickets are still available.

If you’re interested in attending or trying to decide if this show would be a good fit for your kids, here’s a few things you need to know before you go:

1. The cast is made up of just two people. Kevin Kling is the narrator and story teller and Victor Zupanc is the musician. On a related note: Kevin Kling wrote the stories and poems and Victor Zupanc composed the music and wrote the lyrics.

2. Kevin Kling helps bring awareness to differences. Right away, the audience will notice that Kling’s arms aren’t like everyone else’s and he also points this out during the show.

3. The play is just one hour long with no intermission but is truly aimed at older elementary kids. I brought my 9 year old and she enjoyed it but admittedly some of the humor and stories went over her head. I wouldn’t bring kids younger than her.

We really enjoyed the show and the creative storytelling. Have you seen The Best Summer Ever?

Disclosure: I’m so thankful to have a working relationship with Children’s Theatre Company. In exchange for my review, I was given complimentary tickets to opening night. This review contains my opinion. Photos are used by permission from CTC.


May and June Reads

I’ve fallen a little bit behind in sharing but figured it was time to share my May and June reads!

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

As always, you can also follow along on Instagram with #SamaraReads2018.

Not That I Could Tell by Jessica Strawser

This was a March Book of the Month book. The story follows an investigation in a close knit neighborhood after a mother and her twins go missing in the midst of what seems to be an amicable divorce. The neighborhood women are speechless of where she’d gone and why she’d leave and if they should be concerned. I really enjoyed it. I wouldn’t necessarily consider if a thriller but it was a good read.

Bring Me Back by B.A. Paris

B.A. Paris is one of my favorite thriller authors and her newest book does not disappoint. Twelve years ago, Layla goes missing while on a vacation road trip and is never seen again. Her fiancé Finn has moved on and is now engaged to her sister, Ellen, when he starts receiving mysterious emails and starts wondering if Layla is alive or someone is trying to get inside his head.

Then She Was Gone by Lisa Jewell

This was an April Book of the Month book. Ten years ago, 15 year old Ellie Mack goes missing without a trace. Her mother, Laurel, has struggled for the past ten years when she meets Floyd and his 9 year old daughter, Poppy. Poppy strangely resembles her missing daughter and slowly Laurel starts unraveling what really happened to her daughter.

Braving the Wilderness by Brene Brown

This has been on my list for quite some time. I’ve read other Brene Brown books and always finished them feeling as though I have sigh better understanding of self. This one was no different. She examines what it means to belong, learning how to behave and love those we don’t see eye to eye with, removes the barriers of hatred. I think EVERY human should read this and apply her principles to life, especially in the hostile political environment we currently live in.

Drunk Mom by Jowita Bydlowska

I ordered this book after seeing Nora Borealis post about it on Instagram. Jowita’s memoir shares, in detail, her downward spiral into alcoholism after becoming a mom. While she openly writes about previously becoming sober, this spiral is dangerous and hard to watch [and read about] She wrote in a very real and raw way- so much so that you could actually feel how strong her desire to drink was on the pages of her book.

The Child Finder by Rene Denfeld

This book was recommended to me by a hockey mom friend. The story follows investigator Naomi [nicknamed The Child Finder] as she looks for a little girl who disappeared in the mountains a few years earlier without a trace. It was a really good read.

Baby Teeth by Zoje Stage

This was an advance readers copy sent to me by the publisher. It goes on sale July 17. Seven year old Hanna is making her mother Suzette crazy. She does not talk, has been kicked out of local schools, yet is a perfect angel when Suzette’s husband and Hanna’s father, Alex, is home. The book is a slow unraveling of the relationship between mother and daughter and ultimately brings quite a bit of awareness to child mental health. I didn’t like the ending. AT ALL.

The Perfect Mother by Aimee Molloy

This was a May Book of the Month book. A normal girls night out for some mom friends turns scary when one of their babies goes missing while out. There were a lot of characters to keep track of but overall I enjoyed this one.

Disclosure: Affiliate links are included in this post. That means if you click on and purchase a book I have linked, I will receive a small commission from Amazon. It will cost you no more or no less. 

The Greatest Showman Birthday Party [Under $100]

Frannie just turned 5 and to celebrate she wanted a Greatest Showman themed birthday party. It is hands down her favorite movie and soundtrack and she has watched it so many times she could probably recite most of it to you.

We held her party at her local dance studio which was fun because the instructor assigned to her party was able to create a little routine to one of the songs from the movie and have the kids perform for their parents.

I wanted to share some of the things we did for her party as of all of the parties we’ve ever thrown I think this was the simplest and also likely the lowest cost. Without including the studio fee of $100, the party cost us less than $100, yet included all of those fun and special details I like to include for parties.


Birthday Invite from Etsy $16 & then I send the .jpeg to Walgreens. Most of the time you can get 5×7 prints made for around $1 with a coupon code.


  • Barnum’s Animal Crackers  [24 for $38 on Amazon or around $1/box at Target]
  • I typically order cupcakes from our Target bakery as they can customize colors and flavors as desired. $17
  • I think everyone who throws parties needs a Cupcake stand [Mine is Martha Stewart brand from Macy’s that I purchased years ago but this one is similar.]

  • Clown Noses $6.99 [I displayed these in a clear glass jar on a cake stand, things I already owned but could use to display them.]

Not pictured: Temporary Tattoos   $4.70 I bought these for the kids to choose before the party began while we waited for all the friends to arrive. Super simple little treat that takes up some time.


April Reads

It’s time to share my April reads!

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

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

This was another Book of the Month* club book. The story follows 30 year old Eleanor Oliphant who lives a rather boring life until she meets a new coworker and they happen upon an elderly man in distress. This book went in different directions than I expected and at times was slow but I enjoyed it over all. 

The Year of Less by Cait Flanders

At 29 years old, after spending two years paying off $30,000 of debt, giving up alcohol and giving her health a complete overhaul, Cait decides to give up spending for a year. She creates rules on what she can and can’t buy. [She can buy groceries but no take out coffee etc] and she chronicles the experience month by month. I really enjoyed this book. It’s inspiring, honest, relatable and most of all, authentic.

Our Little Secret by Roz Nay

This was a tangled love story that results in a missing woman and is full of secrets and lies. It’s definitely a thriller.

Dance Stand Run by Jess Connolly

I’d been reading this book month by month since the new year. I liked the way Jess honestly walked through her understanding of holiness and encouraged woman to stop watering down their faith. 

The Widower’s Wife by Cate Holahan

I LOVED this thriller- it was hard to put down. A couple in financial distress make a plan to make all their problems go away but the plan changes and twists throughout the book.

The Reader by Bernard Schlink

This book starts out like a love story around the time of WWII and gives a fascinating perspective of a woman’s role in Nazi Germany. I wasn’t sure how much I liked the first half but I really enjoyed the second half. 

A Mother’s Reckoning- Living in the Aftermath of Tragedy by Sue Klebold

On April 20, 1999, Sue Klebold’s son Dylan walked into Columbine High School with his friend Eric Harris. Together the two boys killed 12 students and a teacher before taking their own lives. She writes honestly and reflectively about her son, how it felt to live in those minutes, hours and days that followed. Her story captivated me and broke my heart. Her feelings as a mother, full of grief and shame and wondering “how could my child, the promising young man I loved and raised, be responsible for such horror?” Her book is haunting and sheds light on so many dark corners of mental health and suicide awareness.



Disclosure: Affiliate links are included in this post. That means if you click on and purchase a book I have linked, I will receive a small commission from Amazon. It will cost you no more or no less. 

March Reads

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.

February Reads

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.

January Reads

At the request of several I decided that this year I’d recap my books each month [likely with a top ten post to still come at the end of the year] but this way you can get an idea of the books I’m reading throughout the year.

In January, I read:

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

This was on all sorts of top ten lists for 2017 and was a September 2017 Book of the Month* Club book.

The story follows Mia and her daughter, Pearl, who are living a nontraditional life in a very traditional neighborhood.The story delves into transracial adoption, surrogacy and abortion. It was really good- I could hardly put it down.

The Chalk Man by C. J. Tudor

The story goes between 1986 and 2016 as the main character, Eddie, looks back on some mysterious happenings in 1986. Now an adult looking back, strange things start happening again that include some of the same chalk drawings from his childhood and he slowly tries to put the pieces of his memory and what really happened together. This was my December Book of the Month* book.

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle

This is a classic book that I had never read and Henry was gifted for Christmas. With the movie coming out this spring I knew I wanted to read it and am so glad I did. The book mostly follows Meg and her adventure to find her father and ultimately keep herself, her brother and her friend Calvin, out of harms way. I wouldn’t call it science fiction but it’s along that line. The story has so many messages and an ending that will make you want more [there are four more books following this one]. It’s a Newberry Medal Award winning book and aimed at young readers – I would say late elementary and middle school would be best. This would be a great book to read aloud to kids.

The Wife Between Us by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen

This was another December Book of the Month Club* book. This book was a thriller and once you start you won’t want to stop reading. It follows “Nellie” and her relationship with Richard. The beginning of the book is a lot of back and forth between the past and the present but by the time you start Part Two, you’ll be fully invested in finding out where the story will go. It’s hard to say much without giving a lot of the story away. The book definitely went in directions I was not expecting. 

Tell Me More by Kelly Corrigan

I’ve long been a fan of Kelly Corrigan and this book did not disappoint. It’s written in the style of a memoir going through 12 important things we need to say like: I’m Sorry, I Was Wrong, Tell Me More, I Don’t Know, I Know and more. She writes in a conversational and real way about her life, her marriage, her family of origin and raising her daughters. I’ll likely go back to this one many times over.

Currently Reading:

Daily Acts of Kindness Devotional 

Dance Stand Run by Jess Connolly

After the Eclipse by Sarah Perry 


*Book of the Month Club is a monthly subscription service. Each month, you choose one of five books and it is shipped directly to you. You can get your first month free by using code: MYBOTM