Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Mystery Trip!


The girls over at Dating Divas are always coming up with some super creative, super awesome dates. PS, they have an amazing new website, so be sure to check it out!

So I decided to craft my own fabulous date, which I (surprisingly!) kept a total secret from Mr. Tote. It started out early Saturday morning when he woke up up to go to a separate event we had planned to attend. I told him “change of plans,” to which he looked quite puzzled. He was frustrated in an incredibly adorable way and kept huffing and puffing and grunting for me to tell him where we were going. I told him to dress warm and that was it.

Once we were in the car, I whipped out a crossword puzzle that I had created for free with clues to our mystery destination. DSC03913

A few of the clues were:

  • These are good for your heart. The more you eat them, the more you fart.
  • Nickname of Robert Van Winkle.
  • We met Mike and Jilly here (two river otters)
  • We go to this event to see the lighting of the Christmas tree
  • John Wayne stars in this type of movie


Even though he successfully completed the crossword puzzle with my help on only one clue, he was still totally confused. I told him to think outside the box. I could see his wheels spinning and I wish I could have taken a picture of his puzzled look (I chose to be safe, keeping my eyes on the road and hands on the wheel).

“A chili cook off?” he finally said.

Yep! We were headed to Kalamazoo for their chili cook-off. We’ve been to this event once before, while we were dating. So when I saw my friend from Discover Kalamazoo earlier in the week, she reminded me that the cook-off was taking place this past weekend. I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to attend, since we had such a blast the last time we went.

We arrived in downtown Kalamazoo right as the two-hour tasting window started. With our spoons and score cards in hand, we made our way from location to location in single digit temperatures. There were three categories (Office, Retail and Restaurant) with 38 local shops showcasing chili.DSC03857 DSC03858DSC03868

Chili was served indoors, so we were only outside briefly as we shuffled around, enjoying the heated sidewalks of the Kalamazoo Mall, the first outdoor pedestrian shopping mall in the United States. DSC03870DSC03875

We managed to visit over 20 locations before tapping out, our bellies full of chili. We strategically planned our last stop at Olde Peninsula Brewpub and Restaurant because, let’s face it, you can never be too full to taste some hand crafted beer. I ordered us an eight-glass sampler to share and we got to work filling out our voting cards. Did I mention that one of the voting boxes was conveniently located right outside Olde Peninsula? I could hug the genius that thought of that one.DSC03885DSC03891 DSC03897

After the sampler and a pint of Stout Chocula, neither of us were fit to drive home.DSC03903DSC03904DSC03905 DSC03907

Mr. Tote suggested napping in the back of the Jeep. I suggested the nearby Radisson Hotel. His puzzled look from that morning returned for an encore appearance! I could tell he thought I meant napping on the couches in the hotel lobby. Little did he know that I booked us a room for the night… and a romantic dinner at Epic Bistro. I had spent the past few days sneaking around our house packing his clothes, deodorant, toothbrush, etc. And I had recruited his mom, who stopped by our house to pick Ozzy up for the night.

So after a nice afternoon nap, we bundled up and walked the block and a half to dinner, admiring the ice sculptures that were created earlier in the day. Obvs, our ‘oohs’ and ‘ahhs’ were brief. Remember… SINGLE DIGIT TEMPS, PEOPLE!DSC03910DSC03880 DSC03882DSC03911

For dinner I had Wood Grilled Duck Breast (yum-O!) and Mr. Tote had a ribeye topped with gorgonzola. We spent the rest of the evening enjoying each other’s company, watching our dear Spartans lose yet another basketball game and pondering how on earth I managed to pull such a fast one on him.

Needless to say, I can’t wait to surprise him like this again!


  1. Very, very cool. Such a romantic and fun date idea! Your post and photos made me quite nostalgic - I used to live in Kalamazoo and worked downtown. I loved those heated sidewalks, and we'd hang out at the bar in the bottom of the Radisson after work. Thanks for the idea, and the memories :)

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