Heather's Hangout

Sharing the people, places & little moments that make a difference.

5 activities for fun with girlfriends October 23, 2017

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Sometimes simple fun is the best fun!

I’m very fortunate to be surrounded by kind, courageous, fun people, including a wonderful group of women who I call my good friends. I’ve certainly learned over the years that it’s not the quantity of friends but the quality of friendships that help make life meaningful and fun. I love spending time with these friends. And as with most circumstances, it’s not so much what we do, simply that we’re spending time together.

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One thing I look forward to during the cooler months is indoor fun with friends. Our activities of choice change a bit when the weather changes. Makes sense as we want to be outdoors to enjoy beautiful, sunny weather and move indoors when the weather isn’t so beautiful.

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I love spending time with girlfriends, especially lately as I’ve really built some strong bonds with amazing women. We’ve been talking about activities and plans for the winter months. Here are some ideas I’m working to put on our calendars:

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Ceramic/pottery studio: I recently went to a local ceramic studio with a girlfriend and had a blast creating a vase. I love being crafty and artsy so enjoy the opportunity to paint something to take home. It’s a nice time to relax with friends, enjoy girl talk and see what creativity we can spark.

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Painting class: You may think you aren’t an artist and can’t paint, but the popular step by step painting classes are really for anyone. I’ve even seen great pieces by children! These group classes are often by reservation so get a group together, choose the piece to paint and get artsy. It’s fun to compare paintings at the end because no painting looks alike!

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Motivate yourself with others!

Girls night in: Sometimes the best fun is hanging out at someone’s home, with drinks, food, movies, games or whatever, and girl talk! As much as I’m dreading the cold weather, I’m looking forward to inviting some girlfriends over, building a fire (a requirement with my new home!), serving snacks, pouring drinks and enjoying time with friends – perfect indoor fun.

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Fitness class: While not everyone loves to work out, many of my friends are willing to try classes if someone goes with them. And I’m usually ‘that friend’ who is game to try something new! Indoor cycling, Zumba, Pilates, yoga, boxing, water aerobics, whatever. There are SO many choices of fitness classes (almost too many) and it’s always better with a partner or three! I love attending Zumba classes for the great exercise I get while dancing to fun music, however, more so lately, I enjoy seeing the girlfriends I’ve made over the years of attending the same class. I even arrive early for the chance to catch up with them, and we meet for happy hour now too (when we aren’t sweaty!).

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Progressive dinners: These can be fun, simple events if you live in close proximity to your girlfriends. Someone hosts the appetizer course, you all move to another house for the main meal and then move to another home for dessert. Have 2-3 women take on a course so it’s more fun, schedule 1-1.5 hours at each stop, and enjoy!

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What are some fun activities you look forward to with your friends?

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Food, shopping, history at Boston’s Faneuil Hall Marketplace October 13, 2017

Filed under: Random Travels & Exploring — Heather @ 4:15 pm
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Faneuil Hall Marketplace in Boston

Arriving early for a conference gave me a beautiful day to explore Boston. Motivated to get the most out of my time in one of my favorite cities, I woke early on my second day and after a sweaty workout in the hotel’s gym, I set off for new sites. (And, yes, I did shower before setting off, in case you wondered!)

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On a recommendation from a friend, I headed to Faneuil Hall Marketplace. I had researched the location prior to leaving Detroit, but it wasn’t quite what I expected. It was busy! People milling around everywhere, spilling out stores and relaxing at restaurants and bars. I loved it all!

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Cobblestone streets take visitors along several buildings – North Market, South Market, and Quincy Market Colonnade – that house more than 70 retailers. Some of the stores are popular around the country, like The Gap, Victoria’s Secret and Sephora, while others are more local to the area, like Make Way for Ducklings (okay, I really just love this name!), Local Charm and Revolutionary Boston.

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When you enter the Quincy Market Colonnade building, you’re greeted by

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Great Hall inside Faneuil Hall

an…..interesting smell. It’s a multitude of food vendors battling for aromatic space in the air. Lobsters, oysters, sandwiches, gelato, frozen yogurt, pizza, salads, sausages, smoothies and much more provide delicious options to please any hungry patron. But you must be patient. Especially if there on a weekend. At lunch time. Note to self, don’t visit marketplace around lunch time on a Saturday.

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Faneuil Hall is a cool historic building to visit while at the marketplace. Built in 1742, the hall has been used for public debate, meetings, special events and more. Faneuil Hall served as the seat of government during the Revolutionary period. It’s full of beautiful architecture inside on the first and second floors. You can almost picture our ancestors sitting in the chairs listening to debates and informational meetings, participating in decision-making and encouraging change.

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After I wandered for a while, I realized I was starving. I walked through Quincy Market a few times before deciding I was a bit overwhelmed at my choices. I tried to get a spot at Cheers – yes, an authentic replica of the famous TV bar – but the line was crazy long. And, did I mention that I was starving at this point? After passing the Mija Cantina & Tequila Bar a few times, I decided I could eat some Mexican food. I found a spot at the bar so I could look outside at people walking along the cobblestone street. Mija has an open air patio and bar, which was great in the beautiful weather. I met some nice people also sitting at the bar, all from outside of Massachusetts. That’s one of the parts I love about traveling away from home – meeting people and hearing their stories about traveling.

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So worth the splurge at Berry Twist

After filling up on Mexican food and a drink (although I skipped sampling from their extensive tequila menu), I wandered through the marketplace a bit more. Several street performers were at various spots, including a juggler, musicians and a magician. After the performances, I headed to the waterfront. It was bustling with activity but I found a shaded spot on the grass under a big tree to enjoy a pretty water view and relax.

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There are many walking options near the marketplace. The waterfront is across from the marketplace so you can walk along that. The Freedom Trail also runs from this area.

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A fun fact I learned while washing my hands in the restroom is that Paul Revere, as the first president of Boston’s Board of Health, supervised the outhouse inspectors, who were responsible for ensuring residents properly emptied out their outhouses and didn’t let them overflow to prevent disease. And, now, you too, learned a fun fact.

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It was a fun day at Faneuil Hall and the waterfront. I’m happy for the opportunity to explore a great part of the city and meet so many friendly people.

 

Jolly good time at new Jolly Pumpkin location August 6, 2017

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Always stop to greet a horse

This weekend, I had the pleasure of attending a private sneak peek of the new Jolly Pumpkin location in Royal Oak. The event benefited Camp Casey, a local horseback riding program for children and teens with cancer. Horses, craft beer, good food and a good cause. It was a winning night all around!

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I’m excited to have a Jolly Pumpkin location in Royal Oak. I love the other locations (Traverse City, Detroit and Ann Arbor. There’s a tap room in Dexter, but I’ve yet to visit.). The location remains at the site of Bastone Brewery and Vinotecca, on the corner of Fifth and Main in downtown Royal Oak. The interior has been renovated – still the same open concept but more rustic and natural, similar to the other Jolly Pumpkin locations (particularly Traverse City, which is my favorite); the bar is now in the center of the area; and it’s a larger space since they took over Vinotecca’s space.

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Camp Casey had the brilliant idea to bring their well-branded truck and horse trailer, along with one of their Hero Herd horses, to the event. Parked in front of Jolly Pumpkin, a steady stream of people stopped to pet the pretty Queen B and learn about the organization. And, of course, I had to stop to greet my four-legged friend and the volunteers (I am a past board member of Camp Casey, and an equine therapist for the organization). My girlfriend sloooowly pulled me away from the horse so we could check out the restaurant.

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My friend and I snagged an open table shortly after arriving, a good spot near the front to check out the restaurant and of course people-watch. Our donation got us a beer and plenty of delicious food. There was a nice buffet available highlighting some of the menu choices. I loved the various flatbread pizzas, and while I’m not usually a mac-and-cheese fan, I really liked theirs! The steak bites and pasta were also good. I’m looking forward to trying more of their food menu.

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This Jolly Pumpkin serves craft beer from Jolly Pumpkin (do I need to write “of course?”),

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Many craft beers to choose.

North Peak and Bastone’s. I heard that they will serve rotating beers from other breweries. They also have ciders, wines (I saw several Michigan wineries listed) and cocktails (many sounded delicious!). A nice variety of choices!

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Bastone Brewery moved into the Monk Beer Abbey space along Fifth Street. You can still access it from Jolly Pumpkin. I liked the interior update and the menu also looked good (they are focusing on Belgian food and brews).

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The location opens Monday, Aug. 7 to the public. With Jolly Pumpkin’s good reputation and the location, this will be a popular spot.

 

Exploring our nation’s capitol June 14, 2017

washingtonmonumentLast week, I was in Washington DC for the One Voice Against Cancer lobby day to meet with my legislators regarding funding for cancer research and prevention programs. I was honored to be selected by LIVESTRONG to attend this event with more than 100 other advocates from across the nation.

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The experience was awesome and my meetings were positive and hopeful (read about the experience). And I do love being in Washington, DC. I love the history of our nation, watching American and foreign tourists learn about and remember the past (hoping not to repeat some of it). I love the excitement and energy that drifts through the town. I love exploring the different neighborhoods and cultures. I love meeting with our legislators and their staff to work together to change the tide for people touched by cancer.

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After a whirlwind of meetings, I decided to stay an extra day for a bit of sightseeing and fun. It was a bright, sunny, cool day in DC. After breakfast at Bob & Edith’s Diner, we started our exploration by heading toward the National Mall.

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No matter how many times I visit Washington, DC, I love touring the national monuments, museums and memorials. I’m always a little in awe of how large these monuments are….large and impressive in their architecture, construction and meaning. I get reflective, motivated, and emotional thinking of the situations that stirred such thoughts and speeches from these historical figures. So many of the quotes are as meaningful and relevant to the world today as they were when spoken decades ago. I would love to know that our current elected officials walk through these memorials at least once a year, but alas, I truly wonder how many of them have never visited. I think it would be a good reminder of the honor, and major responsibility, of representing the American people.

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The Washington Monument greeted us, standing tall with blue skies above and American flags surrounding it. We walked around toward Thomas Jefferson’s Memorial, overlooking a tidal basin from the Potomac River. People relaxed on the steps, enjoying the breeze, while others were on paddle boats and kayaks in the basin. We then walked to the Franklin D. Roosevelt Memorial, which leads you through the historic years of his terms. FDR’s memorial leads to inspiring and memorable quotes from Martin Luther King, Jr and a large statue of the man.

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It never fails that I get emotional walking through the Korean War Memorial, with the statues of soldiers ‘walking’ through the greenery and the images of men and women engraved on the wall. I can’t help but touch these images, wondering who they represent, who came home, who didn’t. No matter how many times I walk through the memorial, tears always fill my eyes and my heart beats in gratitude for all those who served to protect us and also sadness for those lost. The emotions continue through the Lincoln Memorial, Vietnam Memorial, and World War II Memorial. This is one of my favorites as I love standing near the center, looking around at the wreaths representing every state, knowing all of these make up our great country. As we wandered through the memorials, veterans of all ages from many of our wars also toured each memorial. I can’t begin to imagine their thoughts or memories. I can only be grateful for their service and sacrifices.

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Mainelobsterroll_beerWe stopped at Luke’s Lobster in Penn Quarter for lunch where I enjoyed my first Maine lobsterroll and poppyseed coleslaw, along with my first Allagash craft beer from Maine. It was all delicious!

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I really enjoyed wandering Dupont Circle. I liked the small businesses, homes, ambiance of the neighborhoods. It was busy and hip, yet still resembled a quiet, historic neighborhood. We discovered two neat record stores, filled with albums that brought back many fond memories of listening to great music with my parents. We enjoyed drinks and deviled eggs on the outside back deck at Exiles Bar. They were smoking some great smelling meat. We unfortunately made a quick exit when a woman lit a cigarette near us and we realized the outdoor deck is also a smoking area (so glad that Michigan doesn’t allow smoking outside when food is also served).

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We took the Metro (underground subway system) back to Crystal City where OVAC lobby day was hosted at the Marriott. It was fun riding the Metro many times while in DC. It gets so busy at certain times of the day (especially work day mornings!). Michigan does not have good public transportation, certainly nothing like the Metro, and I wish we did. I finally felt like I was getting the Metro down by the time I had to head home….well, okay, I sort of felt like I was getting the Metro down! I might have gotten on one (or two) wrong trains had my friend not nicely asked where I was going (when everyone else was headed the other way). Well, I would have figured it out eventually. And if nothing else, there’s adventure in exploring the places you didn’t plan on visiting!

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We ended the trip with final drinks at Highline (above McCormick’s & Schmick), which has a great open bar with live acoustic music and plenty of space to relax and socialize. I can picture many fun happy hours occurring in this space.

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It was a great day of exploring new areas and stepping into the past for reminders of all we’ve been through as a country. And just like I’m confident in our ability to make great strides in our fight against cancer, I’m also confident in our ability as citizens to find our way back to a country of kindness, good leadership and smart decisions that help many, not just a special few.

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One of my favorite quotes from Martin Luther King, Jr.

 

10 activities for a fun girls night in April 5, 2017

Filed under: Life Lessons — Heather @ 4:00 pm
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I love my girlfriends. I love spending time with them, individually or as a group. I, of course, adore my guy friends too, yet there is something special about being surrounded with strong, funny, smart women. I’m fortunate to have many of these women in my life, women who build each other up, provide support, encouragement and love. These women cheer for me when things are going well, and hug me when things go south.

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I have girlfriends from all walks of life. Some who I’ve known since childhood, others I met in college, and others entered my life in the past few years or even months. As I’ve aged, I’ve come to realize the importance of maintaining strong relationships with many of these friends, and also come to understand that some friendships fade over time and it’s okay to move on. I cherish each as they touch my heart and teach a lesson in their own way.

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I’ve enjoyed many adventures with girlfriends over the years. From international getaways to road trips up north (northern Michigan, for you non-Michiganders!) to visits at the local coffee shops, there is laughter and fun to be found all over. And there’s also lots of fun to be had staying in for the evening. I recently enjoyed a fun night in with a small group of girlfriends, indulging in food, music, facials and girl talk. It was a wonderful night of connecting with friends and the much needed relaxation and laughter recharged my soul.

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Staying in with friends is an easy, cheap opportunity to have fun and connect/catch up. There are so many activities to enjoy so I thought I’d share a few of my favorites. The biggest catch to a relaxing night in – ditch the technology. Leave your phone in your purse and instead tune into your friends. One of my favorite parts of my recent girls night in? Not one of us reached for our phone the entire night, ensuring that we were all tuned in and focused on connecting with each other.

  1. Cook new recipes. Sometimes the hostess will try a new dish or we each bring a dish to share.
  2. Choose a theme. Plan a spa party, fiesta night, ’80s theme. You can plan food, decorations, games and more around the theme.
  3. Wine tasting. Have everyone bring a bottle of wine to sample. You can even make it a theme, such as from certain locations (Michigan, Napa, etc.) or types (white,  Cabernet, Riesling, etc.).
  4. Facials. Who doesn’t love getting pampered??
  5. Games. There’s everything from cards to board games to video games and even ‘made up’ games (and drinking games if it’s that kind of night!).
  6. Movie night. There are some great girls’ movies! You can go ‘old school’ with movies like Dirty Dancing, 16 Candles, Breakfast Club or Pretty In Pink. We also like Sex in the City, any Melissa McCarthy movie, Love Actually or sappy romances such as The Notebook.
  7. Plan an activity. Make cards, a holiday craft or vision board.
  8. Dance party. You all know I’m a big fan of music and breaking into random dance at any moment while I’m at home (or anywhere).
  9. Girl talk! My favorite of girl time is catching up on everyone’s lives. It’s a great time to reconnect. We always touch on topics across the spectrum, from love to career to celebrity crushes to hair styles to family to laundry detergent to recipes to exercise to favorite travel spots to lingerie to…..well, I don’t need to spill it all. You get it. Any topic is up for conversation.
  10. Pillow fight. Okay, I’m just kidding. I know some men reading this are wondering about the pillow fights that girls supposedly have at all sleepovers or gatherings (how did this idea ever start??) so I had to throw it in.
 

Exploring food and drink spots in Austin, Texas October 24, 2016

Filed under: Random Travels & Exploring — Heather @ 11:17 am
Tags: , , , , , ,

austinsign_hhWhen I traveled to Austin last weekend for the 20th anniversary of the LIVESTRONG Challenge, I was fortunate to travel with some great friends. In between our LIVESTRONG events, we had time to explore Austin.

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We decided to stay near South Congress so we could walk as much as possible around Austin. A great decision as it was convenient for lots of fun (and I got a ridiculous amount of steps on my Fit Bit)!

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While we wandered through much of downtown Austin to see the sites, we also indulged in some great food and drinks. Here are a few of the places we visited:

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Home Slice Pizza: This New York style pizza is available by the slice or whole. It’s so good that you might as well order the entire pie because you won’t eat just one piece! You can eat in or carry out. I love the ‘neighborhood’ feel as you walk in, breathe great scents and indulge in some very good food.

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Snack Bar (adjacent to the Austin Motel). There’s a cool, laid-back atmosphere when you walk into this diner. With space to sit inside or outside in a covered area, it’s a great place to simply hang out. But they also have good food that includes locally grown options and a nice selection of wine, beer and cocktails. Sadly, we learned that both Snack Bar and Austin Motel are scheduled to close Oct. 30 so get there quickly.

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Hotel San Jose’ lounge: This hidden gem on Congress is like walking into a secluded snackbaraustin-signsanctuary. Oddly, the noise of the street seems to disappear as you step through the opening to the garden. The outdoor lounge is surrounded by lush greenery, the relaxing pool to one side and a mellow vibe throughout. I enjoyed a delicious Tokyo Mule cocktail (okay, maybe more than one!). In the evening, the dimly lit area is perfect ambiance for good conversation.

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Torchy’s Tacos: With clever taco names (Trailer Park, The Democrat, and Brushfire), you’re not quite sure what to expect. Thankfully, we were rewarded with good food! I love Mexican so was happy to try this location for lunch. Be forewarned though – the tacos are big and filling! I tried the Baja Shrimp and Chicken Fajita tacos. Both were delicious (although the chicken was a bit spicy) and filled me up.

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Container Bar: Located on popular Rainey Street, this eclectic venue was created using shipping containers. Seriously. It’s a trendy area yet somehow finds a way to be laid-back and fun (only in Austin?).

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Iron Works BBQ: It’s a good thing we walked to/from this place because, holy moly, I needed to burn some serious calories after eating here. Located in a brick red, old iron work shop, Iron Works serves traditional Texas barbecue. With very generous portions of the meat (I think I laughed at the portion of chicken that was plopped onto my plate), as well as several choices of sides , you can’t leave here hungry. The chicken was juicy and the brisket pretty much melted in my mouth. The corn on the cob was yummy. The macaroni and cheese put me over the edge. Food coma.

 

Making my own MOD Pizza September 2, 2016

ModpizzaA friend recently asked me if I had tried MOD pizza. I wondered if this was a new style of pizza that I was not hip to. I’m not really into fancy or weird pizza. I just like good ‘ol fashion simple pizza.

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He soon clarified that MOD Pizza is a new restaurant near us. He described it as “Subway style ordering” for pizza. Once he mentioned it, I suddenly was craving pizza (don’t you hate when that happens?!) so decided to check it out.

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MOD (meaning “made on demand”) is a restaurant that started in Seattle and has spread across the country via franchises. It was fairly busy when I first arrived at the new location, which was a good sign to me that people like the food.

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There are three different sizes of pizza – Mady, MOD and mega (prices range from $4.47-10.47). I like that the crust is thin (gluten-free crust is also available) and the pizza is wood-fired. Once you choose your size, you can choose your choices of sauce, cheese and toppings. There are lots of choices! The crazy thing is that you can choose as few or as many ingredients and the price doesn’t change. So many other pizza restaurants charge extra for multiple toppings and consider some, like chicken, as premium.

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If you don’t want to think about the many ingredients you might want on your pizza, there are specialty options, such as the Jasper, Caspian and Mad Dog. You can add or subtract ingredients from these pizzas, at no extra charge. MOD also serves salads (again that you can choose from specialty or create your own) and breadsticks.

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There is room to dine in or you can get your food to go. If you dine in, you can order from a small menu of beer and wine, plus a variety of non-alcoholic drinks and milkshakes. I ordered my pizza to go and was a bit concerned it would take a while to cook since there were so many others waiting in front of me. However, my pizza was ready after a few minutes of waiting (as a bonus, I met a really nice woman who chatted with me during our wait!).

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Most importantly, my pizza was delicious. I liked my choice of toppings and look forward to trying a different mix next time I’m hungry for pizza. Have you checked out MOD Pizza? If so, what did you think?

 

 
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