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What $100 Buys in...Minneapolis

By Anna H. Blessing
April 3, 2010
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Affordable finds from this design-crazed Midwestern city, where Scandinavian style meets a homegrown, pioneering spirit.

$8 Rubber bands
An eight-year fixture on the stationery scene, Russell+Hazel practically wrote the book on whimsical office wares, adding colorful patterns to everything from file folders to these supersize, 5/8-inch-wide rubber bands. Russell+Hazel, 4388 France Ave. S., russellandhazel.com.

$22 Trivet
The Swedish-American population in Minneapolis is one of the country's largest, which explains the city's bounty of Scandinavian goods, such as this playful, hand-felted-wool Dala horse trivet. Ingebretsen's, 1601 E. Lake St., ingebretsens.com.

$2 Key chain
With over 100 kinds of beaded, fringed, and feathered footwear, Minnetonka Moccasin has cornered the market on suede slippers since 1946. Our pick: the pocket-size, 2 3/4-inch mini-moc key chain (it comes in its own tiny box!), a subtle way to sport the style. Love From Minnesota, 178 IDS Center, 80 8th St. S., lovefrommn.com.

$9 Honey
Ames Farm owner Brian Fredericksen considers each jar of honey a snapshot of an area's botanical identity. Varieties are produced at his 17 Minnesota hive sites, and each is named for the predominant nectar-source plant; the Basswood yields floral notes and mint. Mill City Farmers Market, 704 S. 2nd St., amesfarm.com.

$10 Bath soak
A natural-products trailblazer since 1868, J.R. Watkins's southeastern Minnesota apothecary turns out chemical-free concoctions like this bath soak made from sea salt and lavender oil, packaged in sweet containers with old-time labels. Patina, 2305 18th Ave. NE, patinastores.com.

$38 Wooden robot
Twin Cities architect William Dohman took reclaimed wood from area construction and demolition sites to create his series of Block Bots—a nice alternative to today's high-tech toys. (This two-inch-by-four-inch model was an oak spindle in a former life.) ILikeYou, 501 1st Ave. NE, ilikeyouonline.com.

Keep reading

The BT Guide to Getting Online From Virtually Anywhere

Online Addiction Level: Low You get a kick out of tapping into your social network from unlikely locations, but you're not willing to invest in an arsenal of gadgets to facilitate constant contact. The Fix Before settling on your trip accommodations, search travelpost.com's database of hotel chains with free wireless networks. And once you've nailed down your itinerary, use JiWire's free Wi-Fi Finder to pinpoint hotspots near the places you're visiting and to find out how much each one costs, if anything (jiwire.com). Online Addiction Level: Medium You'd enjoy your cross-country road trip a whole lot more if you could blog about it from the middle of the interstate (in the passenger's seat, of course). The Fix Sign up for pay-as-you-go mobile broadband. Both Verizon and Virgin Mobile offer prepaid, no-contract packages that get you online through either company's 3G cellular network. Plans start at $10 for limited 10-day access, but you'll have to buy a network-specific USB modem (from $60) to get your laptop online. Online Addiction Level: Intervention-Worthy Your typical family vacation includes at least one all-out brawl over who gets to check their e-mail first. (So much for bonding!) The Fix Use a MiFi (novatelwireless.com) to maximize a subscription-based mobile broadband plan. (Think of it as a portable hotspot that can support up to five computers at once.) Depending on the carrier, you'll get the device free (Sprint) or deeply discounted (Verizon) when you sign up for service, for about $60 a month.

Are Paid Travel Membership Clubs Worth It?

ROAD TRAVEL: American Automobile Association The Deal Starting at $38, an annual AAA membership gets you free roadside towing and lock-out services, discounts of 5 to 15 percent at thousands of hotels, and offers like $30 off weekly rentals at Hertz (which, weirdly, tops Hertz's own #1 Club Gold membership perks). Worth It? What you're paying for is really the services, not the deals: We've found that many hotel owners are happy to float discounts comparable to AAA's even if you aren't a member. aaa.com. AIRLINE: Spirit Airlines $9 Fare Club The Deal For $40 a year, members have access to exclusive fares, sometimes for as low as a penny. A few recent samples: a one-way flight from Chicago to Myrtle Beach, S.C., for $16, or a Fort Lauderdale to Freeport, Bahamas, flight for a measly $9. Worth It? Only if you're going to take more than one flight a year—which is potentially a challenge. Deals are usually last-minute and off-peak, and Spirit serves only 40 cities (biased to the East Coast, the Caribbean, and Central and South America). spiritair.com. HOTEL: Tablet Plus The Deal Each week, Tablet Hotels, a booking engine for boutique and luxury hotels, offers its Tablet Plus members discounts of up to 70 percent at certain properties (example: $174 vs. $249 at New York's Bryant Park Hotel). Extra bonuses: spa vouchers, upgrades, complimentary airport transfers, and late checkout. Worth It? Sounds great, but the annual fee of $195 is a real stumbling block. It's even more insurmountable when you find out that Plus members' "exclusive" deals are exclusive for only 24 hours. tablethotels.com.

Welcome to Leslieville, Toronto's Next Big Neighborhood

All-day brunch spot At 10-month-old Lady Marmalade, the menu focuses on breakfast, "the rest of breakfast," and lunch. Chef David Cherry cooks up poutine with bacon and miso gravy—plus 10 varieties of eggs Benedict—for a devoted crowd gathered around '70s-era thrift-shop tables. 898 Queen St. E., ladymarmalade.ca, poutine $7.75. After-dinner treat In a food-centric neighborhood, even dessert must live up to the highest standards. The year-old Ed's Real Scoop does just that, thanks to a rotating cast of one-of-a-kind flavors (Guinness stout, pear-and-Parmesan) and cream sourced from a local dairy. 920 Queen St. E., edsrealscoop.com, ice cream from $2.50. Cool kids' shop Cheryl Tschupruk and Gini Bechard opened Baby on the Hip three years ago to supply the city's green-leaning parents with everything from natural-rubber pacifiers to bamboo crib bedding to handmade, turtle-shaped organic-cotton crocheted rattles. 969 Queen St. E., babyonthehip.ca, pacifiers $8.50. Coffee culture It's hard to say what drives more traffic to Te Aro Roasted, a year-old café in a former auto-body shop: the fresh sea-salt chocolate-chip cookies, the El Salvadoran beans roasted on-site by co-owner Andy Wilkin, or the unbeatable people-watching from the front terrace. 983 Queen St. E., te-aro.ca, coffee from $14.25 per pound. Nomadic-style center German-Chilean clothing designer Alexia von Beck and her Greek chef husband turn the spotlight on international culture at their 8-month-old Holy Cow Market. It's stocked with an eclectic mix of trinkets (antique wooden Buddhas, clay Moroccan tagines) collected over years of dedicated globe-trotting. 1100 Queen St. E., holycowmarket.com, tagine $43. Down-home cooking Patrick McMurray's pub The Céilí Cottage is no by-the-book barroom, with a 40-seat summer patio, an all-ages winter ice-skating rink, and weekly roast dinners all year. Former champion oyster shucker McMurray also regularly does the honors on fresh hauls from Malpeque Bay. 1301 Queen St. E., ceilicottage.com, oysters from $13.50 for six. Continuing education From pasta making to Butchery 101, the evening workshops at The Inspired Cook help anyone live out their foodie fantasies. After class, students can browse the 2-year-old shop in front for tools to put their new techniques to good use. 1378 Queen St. E., theinspiredcook.com, workshops from $43.

Using Your Cell Phone in Europe

WHAT TO ASK YOUR SERVICE PROVIDER "Will my phone work?" Ask your service provider to be certain, but generally speaking, AT&T and T-Mobile operate on a wireless network that works in Europe (it's called GSM). Verizon and Sprint don't, with a few exceptions. A key question to ask about your device: Does it support quad-band frequencies? If the answer is yes, your phone will work in Europe. Also, be sure to ask if international roaming is enabled on your phone. If it's not, your provider can turn it on simply by hitting a button. "Does it make sense to buy an international voice, text, and/or data plan?" Think about how much you'll use your phone abroad. Is it just for emergencies? Or are you using it for local calls and texts, say with a group you're traveling with? If it's for emergencies only, going with your provider's per-minute charges is probably your best bet; that's $1.29 per minute in Europe. If you're likely to use your cell phone more extensively, see the info below on rate plans, costs, and other alternatives. "How do I turn off the data features on my phone (e-mail, etc.), so I don't get hit with a huge charge?" If your phone connects automatically to the Internet, you'll pay data-plan rates whenever the phone downloads e-mail or connects to the Web. The result can be an astronomical bill you didn't know you were racking up. Every phone is different, so check the user manual or call customer service to turn off these features. AT&T has a helpful guide for iPhone users who are roaming internationally (and trust us—you can get hit with major fees). One overall tip: Use Wi-Fi on your phone instead of a 3G network to check e-mail; Wi-Fi is based in the local area (like the café you're in) and doesn't cost anything. "What other fees should I expect?" Your destination country may charge you applicable taxes and fees for using its networks locally. It's best to ask your provider. "Should I buy a 'disposable' phone at my destination instead?" Yes, if you don't want to worry about fees. You can get a phone at cell phone stores in touristy areas, at cell phone counters in department stores, and even at airports. Budget about $40 to $75 for a phone, which will usually include some prepaid calling time. You'll also have a local number, which means calls and texts within the country will be free. "Will I get charged if someone calls my phone while I'm in Europe, even if I don't answer it?" If your phone works in Europe, you can be charged for incoming calls, even if you don't answer them—and even if your phone is turned off! Normal international airtime rates apply ($1.29 per minute for all carriers), so tell people not to call or leave messages. You can also call your service provider to disable your voice mail, but note that setting it up again when you return will probably be a hassle. PICK YOUR PROVIDER AT&T Will your phone work? Yes. Costs $1.29 per minute for voice, 50¢ per text. Data download (e-mail, apps, Internet usage) costs vary depending on the phone type. Other options AT&T offers special international rate plans that bring the per-minute calling cost down to 99¢ and text messages to 20¢ (add the plan for about $6 a month). Alternatively, you can swap out your SIM, the small card that acts as your phone's brain. It stores your number, your contacts, and other important info. A new SIM card will give you a local number, but your features (applications you've downloaded, namely) won't work. Buy a SIM card ahead of time from companies like cellularabroad.com and telestial.com; prices range from $20 to $70. You have to "unlock" your phone to replace the SIM. As a protection against theft, service providers "lock" phones (meaning the phone will work only with your specific SIM). AT&T will unlock your phone if you're a long-term customer in good standing. It will take a few days to get your phone unlocked, so plan ahead. T-Mobile Will your phone work? Yes (with a few exceptions, like Sidekicks). Costs T-Mobile customers can call for $1.29 a minute; texts cost 35¢ to send and 20¢ to receive. Download data for $15 per megabyte. Other options T-Mobile doesn't have any special rate plans. If you plan to make a lot of calls, try using a new SIM card. T-Mobile will unlock your phone if your account has been active for 90 days (it will take one to two days to get it unlocked). Verizon Will your phone work? Maybe. Verizon has seven models that use the GSM technology that works in Europe, such as the BlackBerry Tour and HTC Touch Pro2. Costs If you have one of the seven models, voice is $1.29 a minute. You can add a monthly $5 plan to bring that down to 99¢ a minute. Texts always cost 50¢ to send and 5¢ to receive. Download data for $20 per megabyte, or buy an international data plan that will offer a 100 megabyte monthly allowance (rates vary depending on the phone type). Other options Verizon offers a free rental phone for up to three weeks. Standard calling rates apply. A new SIM card won't work in phones that are not GSM-compatible, so buy a disposable phone at the airport. Sprint Will your phone work? Maybe. Sprint has five models that are compatible with Europe's wireless technology. Costs $1.29 per minute for voice; 20¢ per text. Data download is about $16 per megabyte. Other options Sprint has a rental program that includes three phones that will work in Europe. One-week rentals range from $29 to $70, and insurance is suggested (starting at $9 for a week's rental). Otherwise, buy a disposable phone when you get to your destination.

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