Hallelujah – Best Free Educational Activity In Notre Dame, IN

As I was researching things to do (between Grand Rapids and Chicago) I was feeling discouraged that many of the attractions I found were closed on Sunday. However, my friend noted that we instead of driving along the coast of Lake Michigan we could head to South Bend, Indiana to see the University of Notre Dame before hitting Chicago. With this new revelation I did further research and found that any guests could attend Mass at the Basilica of the Sacred Heart, which was right on campus. So we decided to wake up bright and early and attended the 10AM Mass.       My friend and I got there around 9:15am to check out the area and wow the buildings were incredible – both outside and in. The paintings on the ceilings were so vivid and detailed. These pictures don’t even do the cathedral justice, but with the high ceilings and tall columns you just felt like you were a part of a very grand affair.  Soon visitors filled the seats and while I have attended Mass previously, I’ve never been a part of one that was so structured. There was a pipe organ with a full choir performance at the beginning and many interactive sections of the service. We sang hymns, listened to the priests message, and there were a number of processions with various people dressed in white wardrobes parading down the aisle during different parts of the service. It was extremely formal.  Once the service concluded many guests then felt comfortable to takes photos of the facility. While I do not practice Catholicism (I am a non-denominational Christian) I can appreciate the time that these individuals took to preserve this service, and openness and generosity to open this for all to attend. I had a wonderful and safe trip in the Midwest (up to that point) and was thankful to have an outlet to praise God

What are you thankful for?

 

XOXO,

Rockstar

 

 

Basilica of the Sacred Heart
101 Basilica Drive, Notre Dame, IN 46556
(574)-631-7800

Hours
View on campus ministry website

Snacking on a “Match Made in Heaven” duo in Grand Rapids, MI

I didn’t really know much about Grand Rapids and as such I did not have high expectations on the food scene. However, to my surprise there were several restaurants that came on my radar. One of them was Uncle Cheetah’s Soup Shop, a small mom n’ pop restaurant specializing in homemade soups! They rotates twelve made from scratch batches and patrons can choose to enjoy alone or pair them one of their with gourmet sandwiches creations – yum!

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Counter

The store is certainly eclectic and because the menu changes frequently all soups are written on a chalk board. The descriptions all looked incredible and as a first timer I didn’t know where to start. Luckily everyone is allowed to sample before making a purchase which is awesome since the flavor profiles of each were so different!

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Enjoying my Soup and Sammy

I eventually decided to grab a cup of the Reuben (stand alone) and Tomato Saffron to pair it with The Old Goat Sandwich (White Cheddar, pulled Mozzarella, and Rosemary Goat Cheese Spread). It was comfort food, but not super dense that I couldn’t move for the rest of the afternoon. They also have a sister store called The Electric Cheetah, which is more of a traditional sit-down dinning experience with a larger menu (beyond soups and sandwiches), if you were interested and just down the street, but this meal was perfect for what I needed.

While I was trying to stay away from carbs, I felt that my calories were well spent at Uncle Cheetahs.

What would be your cheat meal?

 

 

XOXO,

Rockstar

 

Uncle Cheetah’s Soup Shop
1133 Wealthy St SE, Grand Rapids, MI 49506
(616) 451-4780

Hours
Sun: 11am – 5pm
Mon-Sat: 11am – 8pm

 

Learning about Gerald Ford at the Presidential Museum in Grand Rapids, MI

When I visited Atlanta (Coke Musuem Post, Six Flags Over Georgia Post) at the tail end of 2018 I purchased a Family Membership ($40) for the Jimmy Carter Museum (Carter Post).  One because the reciprocity agreements allows patrons to visit any of  the Presidential Libraries and because I was genuinely curious to learn more about our great leaders. Through this membership I had already visited several local Presidential Museums (Reagan Post, Nixon Post) and next up on my list was President Gerald Ford – the only President who was neither elected to Vice-President nor President.     Aside from ascending the ranks without the people’s votes (he was appointed by Nixon, before he resigned) there were several things that were different about this President. One is that his Museum and Library are in two separate locations. The Museum is located in Grand Rapids and the Library is in Ann Arbor. I didn’t get a chance to see the library but from several reviews it appeared that the Museum was the main attraction. Second, Ford graduated from the University of Michigan and was recruited to play for the Detroit Lions and Green Bay Packers (!!!); however, he turned both down and decided to work as an Assistant Varsity Football Coach at Yale University and applied to their Law School – wow!  

I spent several hours in this museum reading and learning about Ford’s legacy and I think his leadership in Operation Baby Lift – a mission that evacuated more than 3,000 orphans from North Vietnam in April 1975 spoke to me most.  I live in an area that has the largest Vietnamese population outside of Vietnam and these immigrants work ethic and culture truly makes Southern California more rich and diverse. I can only imagine how grateful those children were and how had changed their lives.

What kind of legacy would you like to leave?

 

 

XOXO,

Rockstar

 

Gerald R Ford Presidential Museum 
303 Pearl St NW, Grand Rapids, MI 49504
(616) 254-0400

Hours
Sun: 12pm-5pm
Mon- Sat: 9am – 5pm 

 

Best Thing I Ever Ate – Buttery Soft Smoked Salmon in Ann Arbor, MI

Salmon is my all time favorite fish (See Best Sashimi in LA Post) so when I found, Durhams Tracklements & Smokery, a highly rated smoked salmon shop I immediately added it to my Midwest Roadtrip list. The days of operation were limited (only open three days!) so I didn’t know if I’d be able to check them out, but lord and behold the route dates were set so that I’d be in Ann Arbor on a day they’d be open!! Woo!

Storefront

On the outside there were two large rainbow fish flags that flew in the wind against the dusty red and white brick and mortar. While the location was in Kerrytown, a prominent neighborhood in Ann Arbor, the storefront was very discrete and had I not intentionally added this as a destination to the GPS I would have easily missed out on this hidden gem.

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Menu for the day

When you enter inside the interior resembled the back of a warehouse than an actual store. There was an open kitchen with various appliances, and an exposed fridge with fish and cheese products. But if you looked on the left side of the room, one wall was plastered with various accolades and publication mentions.  I had a feeling it was going to be good, but I wasn’t prepared for what was in store for me.

Owner preparing some samples

The owner came greeted us at the front and gave us an overview on his products. He informed us that the Atlantic salmon was sustainably farmed and flown directly to Tracklements from Norway. They are then smoked by hand in small batches and packed in hand-trimmed pieces in vacuum sealed packages. Afterwards he asked if we’d like to sample a few and we happily obliged. I found the hot smoked salmon tasty, but once I put the cold smoked salmon slice in my mouth I felt like time stopped. The fish just melted in my mouth. It was so creamy and velvety. What was going on?! It was so indulgent without feeling heavy. My friend and I looked at each other and without words we knew that we needed to buy at least several packets.

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salmon purchases

A few minutes later a (what looked like a regular customer) came by and dropped $200 (!!!) for 4 packets of his Solstice (a seasonal variety) and some smoked meats. He commented on how the Solstice (aka “The Peat”) was only prepared during certain times of year, so my friend and I decided to pick up one (afraid that had we not the next customer would buy all of them!). We also selected the original cold smoked salmon (The Highland), the Ras el Hanout, and a Smoked Duck (yes, random, but why not?!). It’s not a wonder why Tracklement’s was recognized as a top mail ordered item from the New York Times  “Best Holiday Foods By Mail” 1995, 1997, 2002 etc. Another customer commented that she often shipped this to her children when they were in college and after trying the samples, I would be ecstatic if my family sent me this!

This was easily my favorite food/meal on the trip and would praise hallelujah if I received a package from Tracklemsents. If you received a mail-order package, what would you be most excited to see?

 

 

Tracklements – 212 E. Kingsley St. Ann Arbor, MI 48104

Wed 10am-3pm; Fri 10am-5pm; Sat 8am-3pm

 

XOXO,

Rockstar

 

Tracklements
212 E. Kingsley St. Ann Arbor, MI 48104
(734) 930-6642

Hours
Sun – Tues: Closed
Wed: 10am – 3pm
Thurs: Closed
Fri: 10am- 5pm
Sat: 8am – 3pm

Grocery Shopping at a Local Favorite in Ann Arbor, MI

When you’re in Ann Arbor, Michigan no trip would be complete without a visit to Zingerman’s, a local market and Food and Wine Magazine’s  Top 10 Jewish Deli’s in the Country Located right in Kerrytown, this quirky and colorful shop evokes a Trader Joes feel with their “hand written” packaging and cartoony advertisements. However, in addition to their signature baked goods they also carry everything you need to make a perfect sandwich or bagel-wich. Though my favorite baked goods were definitely their dessert ones! If you have a sweet tooth you’re in for a treat!  I picked up a few loaves of banana bread (various flavors) and the brownies – oh man!! Those were money!!! The Magic Brownies (with walnuts) and the Buenos Aires (a dulce leche flavor) specifically were so amazing! You definitely want to pick up a pack if you get a chance.

Overall, Zingerman’s is a super friendly neighborhood market and they allow you to sample their goods as well! Everyone is super hospitable and I can totally see how locals and residents would come here to enjoy fresh bread and other baked goods.

What would you get all this local bakery?

 

 

XOXO,

Rockstar

 

Zingerman’s Delicatessen
422 Detroit St, Ann Arbor, MI 48104
(734) 663-3354

Hours
Sun – Sat: 7:00 am – 9:00 pm

Starting the day with a Healthy Lebanese’s Breakfast in Garden City, MI

As my friend and I continued our Midwest Travels and headed North from our next stop was Detroit, Michigan. Unfortunately it was raining cats and dogs on our visit so we decided to head towards Dearborun, home to Motor Citie’s very own Henry Ford (yes, of the Ford Car Company). Along the way we decided to check out Al Tayeb Restaurant (Yelp), a Lebanese breakfast shop, and fill our tummies with some warm food. Upon entering we saw a mostly middle eastern clientele and were excited to start our day with an authentic breakfast.

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We started the meal with some complimentary tea and glanced around the room to see what other tables ordered. It looked like a family style meal with members ordering a few items to share and while my friend and I were only two people we ordered four items to share. It was way too much food, but the colors and taste were worth it!

Our Spread!!

We were recommended the fool ($7.99) as it was a crowd favorite, along with the Fatteh, cooked chick peas with garlic yogurt and pan fried nuts ($8.99), Hummus ($7.99), and Spicy Potatoes ($5.99). I wasn’t a fan of the fool, but loved making mini pita sandwiches with their fatteh, hummus, and assortment of veggies. It felt light and you could mix and match for different textures and tastes.

What kind of meal would warm you up on a cold rainy day?

 

 

XOXO,

Rockstar

 

 

Al Tayeb Restaurant
873 Inkster Rd, Garden City, MI 48135
(734) 237-4606

Hours
Sun – Sat: 8am – 4pm

 

 

 

Screaming my head off at the Roller Coaster Capitol of the World in Sandusky, OH (Part 2)

Earlier this year I purchased a Platinum Knotts Berry Farm Annual Pass to help with my workout regime (to which I attribute a part of losing 12 lbs – post here) and also to visit Cedar Point as it was one of the participating theme parks. I had seen so many videos and articles highlighting Cedar Point’s intense roller coasters and as an adrenaline junkie I had to test it out myself.

Various Ride Signs at Cedar Point

After extensive research I found out that there were 17 roller coasters and since I was only going to be at the park for one day I decided to splurge on the Fast Lane Plus (you get a discount with your Platinum pass) to maximize my time at the park and ride EVERYTHING! It was absolutely worth the investment and I rode every big coaster at least once (except for Millennium Force – which unfortunately was closed for repairs), and several other rides more family friendly rides. To my surprise one of my FAVORITE rides wasn’t a coaster and you can read about it in the Part 1 Post.

 

More Rides at Cedar Point

My friend and I arrived at the park around 10:15am and rode the following coasters: Windseeker, Wicked Twister, Gatekeeper, Gondola Ride, Raptor, Blue Streak, Valravin, Rougarou, Corkscrew, Magnum XL-200, Top Thrill Dragster, Maverick (x2), and Steel Vengeance (x2). Among these Maverick was my favorite followed by Steel Vengeance (the longest line – my friend and I waited 20 minutes even with our Fast Lane Pass, but it was so worth it!) and Top Thrill Dragster, which is the tallest and fastest roller coaster on earth with speeds of 120 mph in 3.8 seconds!

 

If I’m traveling from a way away I don’t usually visit any location twice, but I would certainly welcome another opportunity to come back to Cedar Point, and hopefully ride the award winning Millennium Force!

What’s your favorite ride of all time (either at Cedar Point or somewhere else)

 

XOXO,

Rockstar

 

Cedar Point
1 Cedar Dr, Sandusky, OH 44870
(419) 627-2350

Hours
Months: May – October (See Ticket Website for Dates Open)

Enormous Cheap and Delicious Sandwich Lasting Three Meals in North Olmsted, OH

I generally try to refrain from eating theme park food, so I heavily researched local bakeries that were along my route from Cleveland to Cedar Point and found Fragapane Bakery (yelp) as an inexpensive local option. I’d read many positive review, but holy cow! I was not expecting to be blown away by this mom and pop shop. They’re known for their cold subs and while I was expecting a standard subway size sandwich, I was given over a pound of meat that lasted me for three meals! THREE!!!

Fragapane’s North Olmsted Location

They use Boar’s Head products and allow you to sample before making your final selection. I couldn’t decided so I ordered the 3 meat combo (teriyaki ham, corned beef, chicken) and with Provolone cheese and mayo. I’m still amazed at how much meat they gave you – and when my friend and I were eating lunch at Cedar Point several people were eyeing ours subs. For $6.99 I was beyond impressed and know that if I make another trip to Cedar Point from Cleveland, Fragapane will surely be my grab-and-go option!

What meat would you select in your sub?

 

 

XOXO,

Rockstar

 

Two Locations 
Fragapane Bakery
28625 Lorain Road, North Olmsted, Ohio 44070
(440) 779-6050

Fragapane Bakery
650 Dover Center Rd, Bay Village, OH 44140
(440) 871-6340

Hours
Sun: 6am – 3pm
Mon: Closed
Tues – Fri: 6am – 6pm
Sat: 6am – 3pm 

 

First time visiting THE best theme park in the USA – Cedar Point, Sandusky, OH

Over the past few months I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my weekly visits to Knott’s Berry Farm – 1) because it’s close to home and I can complete my 10k steps and 2) everyone loves Snoopy! So when summer started and I prepared for my Midwest Trip I was immensely curious on how Knott’s sister park, Cedar Point, would compare.

On my visit I got to see both Schroeder and Snoopy in the Camp Snoopy Meet and Greet, and take tons of funny photos throughout the park. However, the sheer size of the park plus the variety of rides is on another level and while I came primarily for the rollers coasters (see Cedar Point Part 2 next week!), there were a number of attractions that I loved including the Horse Racing Carousel. My gawd! How ingenious! and it actually goes pretty fast!  There was also a barnyard with camels, horses, pigs, goats and other farm critters. Many of the locals and tourists alike were taking selfies with Samuel and Camel. lol And for those of you aren’t afraid of heights Winkdseeker has the most uh-mazing view of the park and lake. This swing set goes up 301 feet giving you a birds eye view of the park in it’s glory and extends out at a 45 degree angle.

Would you be brave enough to see the entire park up that high?

 

 

XOXO.

Rockstar

 

Cedar Point
1 Cedar Dr, Sandusky, OH 44870
(419) 627-2350

Hours
Months: May – October (See Ticket Website for Dates Open)

Jamming to legends at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, OH

No trip to Cleveland would be complete without a visit to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. I mean Drew Carey had continuously claimed how much “Cleveland Rocks” and it would be unpatriotic to ignore such a catchy tune. Open daily from 10am-5pm, my friend and I decided to visit the 6 floor iconic museum on Day 1 of the Midwest roadtrip and loved seeing artifacts and hearing some timeless pieces.

Photos from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

On this visit the museum hosted a special Woodstock exhibit featuring photos and artifacts from the 70s. While this period was instrumental in the development of Rock and Roll, I was most eager to see and learn more about Elvis, The Beatles, and The Jackson Five. And there were definitely some awesome garments and instruments.

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More photos from the Hall of Fame

You might notice that a few of the photos above feature artists in different genres. For example Britney Spear’s “Opps I did it again” outfit and Michael Jackson’s magic glove were prominently featured in the museum. Yet, I recently learned through one of the movie screenings (included in admission) that to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame the criteria is based on global impact through music. This year Janet Jackson was inducted as a Class of 2019 recipient even though her music is predominately R&B and and Hip Hop.

Based on impact, who do you think should be inducted into the Hall of Fame? I think Kelly Clarkson, the first American Idol winner, should be considered for the Class of 2020!

 

XOXO,

Rockstar