Invitations, Favors + Papa Bender Dinners

by Jenn (eating bender) on July 20, 2010

What could possibly incorporate all three of those things?

Why, a trip to Arizona, of course! Sorry to leave you all hanging for a week, but I ended up turning off the computer for a long weekend in favor of this:

You all know how much I love home. I caught the Arizona fever again. But this time, my business partner Jill was there to catch it with me – and she can vouch that it does, in fact, exist. :)

One of the main focuses of the trip was some down and dirty wedding planning. I crossed several things off my to-do list and am feeling better already:

  • DIY invitations (I can’t WAIT to show you how these turned out!)
  • DIY wedding favor bags (again, can’t WAIT!)
  • DIY wedding ribbon wands (for the entrance during the reception)

There’s more, but you get the gist! All of our paper-made goodies came from a store called the Paper Depot that is a must if you 1) can get to Minnesota and 2) are planning a big event or love scrapbooking. The possibilities and color combinations are endless in this store!

Additionally, my mom created an extraordinary version of the wedding menu I mentioned in my last post. Thanks to all who commented about the seating chart question. Your thoughts and ideas were SO helpful and I even sent my mom the post to show her how awesome you all are. :)

Beyond the wedding preparation extravaganza, Jill and I also had a chance to visit her brother, who works at a restaurant in Scottsdale called Culinary Dropout, on Saturday afternoon.

After saying hello to her brother, we settled down to order. To start, we had raspberry cocktails made with rum, mint and a bit of sugar. They were perfectly sweet – the fruit inside was great, too!

Jill’s brother recommended that we order the soft pretzels and provolone fondue. Twist my arm…

He knows what he is talking about, that’s for sure! The soft pretzels were warm and doughy with a sea salt topping. So flavorful, moist and chewy. I was swooning.

And whoever decided to melt provolone into fondue is an absolute GENIUS. Enough said.

It was a nicely portioned appetizer and we saved some for my family to try back at home. Jill also ordered a Home-Ec Martini to taste, which was magnificent. It was made with Belvedere vodka, Grand Marnier, strawberries, basil and lemon juice.

It was a great adventure into the shopping area of the city.

Last but not least, it wouldn’t be a trip home if I didn’t highlight the various culinary works of none other than Papa Bender himself. My first request? I think you know what’s coming…

Oops! How’d that get in there? 😉

But in all seriousness, my first request was very much related to margaritas.

Fajitas, of course! I wanted Jill to experience my absolute favorite meal. PB didn’t disappoint. He set up our fajita station complete with all the usual fixins.

I loaded up my tortilla with shrimp, chicken and flank steak Рplus red and green peppers, tomatoes, black olives, marinated onions, cheese, sour cream and salsa. Ol̩!

I can safely say that these still hold the title of, “Best Fajitas in the World.”

Papa Bender also made us fresh turkey burgers with swiss chard and corn on the cob. It was my first time having corn all summer, which officially made it official in my official summer rules book.

On our last night, Papa Bender pulled out all the stops.


Served with tomato, olive and artichoke antipasto, baked potatoes and Swedish potato sausage, which Papa Bender had picked up after Jill mentioned it was a family favorite. That guy misses nothing!

I snagged two of the crab legs along with a potato and sausage, with swiss chard, mushrooms and tomatoes on the side. It was a true culinary treat.

I am always so spoiled by Papa Bender’s love for cooking. I need some of his motivation and creativity to rub off on me – I’ve been slacking here in Chicago lately!

All in all, it was a phenomenal weekend. The dry heat and sunshine were a nice break from the clouds and shower-like humidity of the Windy City.

Now that I’m back, things ought to be a bit more normal around these parts. I have some product reviews and giveaways that I’ve been meaning to post for weeks. I’m excited!

Question: Where is your favorite place in the world to decompress?

I think from this post it’s pretty obvious what my answer is. :mrgreen:


1 Marianne July 21, 2010 at 1:48 am

Back when I was living in Victoria, I would say home was where I would decompress. But now I’m living back at home, so I guess I need to find another place, eh? Perhaps Victoria? LOL.

2 Jenn (eating bender) July 24, 2010 at 10:29 am

Haha, so funny how that works out. I wonder if I’d say the same about Chicago if we ever move to Arizona!

3 Erica July 21, 2010 at 4:03 am

What a great trip! Maybe AZ is calling both your name and Jills!! Cannot wait to see all the wedding goodies. I am so not creative and am always amazed by people that are. The restaurant looks incredible- soft pretzels and provolone fondue.??? drool worthy for sure. Favorite place to decompress is right where I live 😉

4 Jenn (eating bender) July 24, 2010 at 10:30 am

Perhaps it is! We were joking about opening a POP! branch out there 😉 I have to say Erica, I think you are plenty creative! The recipes you make are always scrumptious! Glad to hear your favorite place to decompress is right where you live. That’s awesome!

5 cookeatburn July 21, 2010 at 4:34 am

Woo hoo for getting all of that wedding stuff girl – you ROCK!

Any of the SW Michigan beaches are places where I can just lay back and relax (and have many memories of doing so) – Holland, South Haven, St. Joseph… just thinking about them makes me smile :).

6 Jenn (eating bender) July 24, 2010 at 10:31 am

I’ll have to visit some of those beaches sometime. They sound wonderful!

7 Jessica @ How Sweet July 21, 2010 at 4:36 am

Northern Michigan! We have vacationed there forever on the lake and I absolutely love it. Going in 2 wks!

8 Jenn (eating bender) July 24, 2010 at 10:32 am

I was just talking to someone who said it is breathtaking up there! Definitely adding on my list – I hope you have fun :)

9 brandi July 21, 2010 at 6:34 am

Sounds like the perfect trip and a great time to relax and enjoy friends and family!

My family has always gone to the Outer Banks for vacations, and it has a special place in my heart. Even though it’s different every time we go, I still love it. We even went there on our honeymoon!

10 Jenn (eating bender) July 24, 2010 at 10:33 am

I haven’t heard of Outer Banks – Googling now! I can’t wait to create a “must-visit” list after reading about all these fabulous locations!

11 MarathonVal July 21, 2010 at 6:52 am

Oh man, that fondue……. wowza!

12 Jenn (eating bender) July 24, 2010 at 10:33 am

I know!!!! Amazing :)

13 LiveForTheRun July 21, 2010 at 6:57 am

I love Arizona and the next time I go you better believe I’m on the lookout for this place. Holy amazing food Batman!

I don’t know if I’m thirsty or ready for a pretzel.

14 Jenn (eating bender) July 24, 2010 at 10:34 am

Yes! I am already planning a return trip – and I don’t know what’s better, the drinks or the pretzel! Might have to call it a tie 😉

15 Jenna July 21, 2010 at 7:14 am

That looks like it was one fantastic trip!

My favorite place to decompress would have to be a beach, listening to the crashing waves. Life is good in that moment.

16 Jenn (eating bender) July 24, 2010 at 10:35 am

Thanks, Jenna! The beach definitely is a wonderful place to decompress!

17 Jessie (Bites and Pieces) July 21, 2010 at 8:23 am

Looks like a fun time! Those pretzel rolls would have had me swooning too! My favorite spot to relax is on the west coast of FL, at Fort Myers Beach. The beach is just perfect and so peaceful there. In fact I wish I was there right now. :)

18 Jenn (eating bender) July 24, 2010 at 10:36 am

The west coast of Florida is GORGEOUS! I wish I was there right now, too 😉

19 John July 21, 2010 at 8:54 am

Man those fajhitas look awesome! Golf course is a good decompression spot for me… long as my play isn’t too bad :-)

20 Jenn (eating bender) July 24, 2010 at 10:36 am

Totally with you on the golf course, John! That’s a great one!

21 Astrid July 21, 2010 at 11:41 am

That food looks so excellent! Especially the soft pretzels with the provolone fondue. We need to plan a meetup in Chicago for next month! It is approaching quickly!

22 Jenn (eating bender) July 24, 2010 at 10:37 am

We definitely do! It will be here before we know it – let’s figure something out in the next couple of weeks!

23 biz319 July 21, 2010 at 12:28 pm

What a great trip Jenn! At least you didn’t have all of our humidity in Arizona, just the heat!

In the summer I actually grill my frozen crab legs on the grill – they steam in the shell and you get an extra smokey flavor from the grill.

Love all the food your papa made!

24 Jenn (eating bender) July 24, 2010 at 11:22 am

Thanks, Biz! I completely agree with you about the humidity. I’m a big fan of dry heat! Glad you enjoyed the Papa Bender spread :) I truly do need to draw more inspiration from him. Hope you have a great weekend!

25 Katie @ Health for the Whole Self July 21, 2010 at 12:36 pm

Looks like a great trip! Can’t wait to hear more about your wedding planning!

My favorite place to decompress is probably the Outer Banks. It is so relaxing down there!

26 Jenn (eating bender) July 24, 2010 at 10:38 am

You are the second person to say Outer Banks, so I finally Googled it and WOW! I used to live in NC but was so young that I don’t remember this area. It looks phenomenal. It’s officially added to my list :)

27 Kelly July 21, 2010 at 12:59 pm

Yum. When I saw those eats I knew almost instantly they were from Culinary Dropout. I was there not that long ago when in Phoenix for busines. Sooo yummy. My favorite place to decompress is the yoga studio. It’s one of the few places I can really focus.

28 Jenn (eating bender) July 24, 2010 at 10:39 am

That’s awesome that you’ve been there too, Kelly! Yoga studio is a great place to decompress, that’s for sure!

29 couchpotatoathlete July 21, 2010 at 1:51 pm

My favorite place to decompress is my bathtub. I can sit in there with a candle or two lit and a good book. I feel relaxed immediately.

30 Jenn (eating bender) July 24, 2010 at 10:42 am

That’s a GREAT one – love curling up with a good book, anytime, anywhere! It’s always a great way to decompress :)

31 Natalie (The Sweets Life) July 21, 2010 at 1:52 pm

So glad you had a fun trip! I wish we’d gone to Culinary Dropout when we were in Scottsdale–I’ve heard good things and those raspberry cocktails look awesome!

32 Jenn (eating bender) July 24, 2010 at 10:40 am

Next time, for sure 😉 You will love it!

33 Rachael July 21, 2010 at 7:08 pm

The pretzels and the strawberry basil adult beverage look wonderful. Fruit, herb and alcohol? I’m sold.
My favorite place to decompress is the desert in southeastern Utah. It was one of the first places I explored as a solo backpacker, and I would disappear for days and days into the arches and canyons. I associate it with stillness and independence and sheer beauty. I’m definitely due for a trip back!

34 Jenn (eating bender) July 24, 2010 at 10:40 am

I have heard great things about Utah. That is so cool that you were a solo backpacker – I can only imagine how amazing it would be to experience something so beautiful in that way. I would love to hear more about the places you went sometime!

35 Rosey Rebecca July 22, 2010 at 9:07 am

Your whole trip looks like so much fun! I love the pretzel-fondue thang!

36 Jenn (eating bender) July 24, 2010 at 10:41 am

Thanks Rebecca! It was delish :)

37 BroccoliHut July 22, 2010 at 9:26 am

Oooh! can’t wait for the wedding details!

38 Jenn (eating bender) July 24, 2010 at 10:41 am

Can’t wait to share!!

39 runningaroundnormal July 23, 2010 at 8:50 am

What an awesome trip! And look at you crossing all those things off your wedding to-do list!
The pretzel fondue bites look delicious.

40 Jenn (eating bender) July 24, 2010 at 10:43 am

Thanks, Paige!!

41 CaSaundra July 23, 2010 at 6:37 pm

Crab legs!? Ohhh yum! Will Papa Bender adopt me!?
And my fav place to de-stress is going home where
I grew up; being with the fam and being in a small
town atmosphere is much needed every so often.

42 Jenn (eating bender) July 24, 2010 at 10:44 am

Haha, I will check with him on that 😉 Being with the fam is absolutely a must every so often! I love the small town atmosphere as well.

43 Brittany July 23, 2010 at 9:33 pm

Jenn, I’m quite certain that if I were fed Papa Bender’s delicious food I would never want to leave AZ either!

I think my favorite ways to decompress are going for a walk or doing yoga.

44 Jenn (eating bender) July 24, 2010 at 10:44 am

It’s VERY hard to leave, let me tell you!! :) Going for a walk and yoga are great ways to decompress for sure!

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