Monday, August 31, 2009

A peek inside General Mills

I spent a little over 24 hours in Minneapolis last week. It has to be the shortest trip I’ve ever been on, and at the same time, the most jam-packed.

I’ll just warn you, turn away now if you don’t like looking at other people’s trip photos. But, stick around if you want a little peek behind the scenes of a baking giant. I’ll keep the commentary short.

General Mills hosted about 50 bloggers to come to their international headquarters in Minnesota for their first ever Eat & Greet.

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They’ve been around forever, but I guess they’re kinda new to social media and were putting their foot in the door with this event. I’m not completely sure how they picked who they picked to attend, but I’m glad their PR company invited me. And actually when they said we would be visiting the Betty Crocker test kitchens, well… I was sold.

They flew us in on Wednesday in time to attend a reception dinner at the Mill City Museum that evening.

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The museum, which actually used to be an old mill, was downtown and right on the Mississippi River.

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Across the way you can see a hint of the Pillsbury Mill Building.

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Inside was set up for dinner and socializing.

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I didn’t know anyone. No one. So I was happy to meet another food blogger. This is Jenny from Picky Palate and so super sweet.

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Before dinner we were able to tour the Museum. Lots of cool General Mills and Betty Crocker memorabilia. Anyone have one of these Easy-Bake Ovens from 1972 or a Betty Crocker mixer?

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There was an interactive journey chronicling flour milling and its impact on Minneapolis through an eight-story Flour Tower Elevator Tour which was pretty cool. Don’t have pictures of that. I know… you’re disappointed.

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Here we are making each other pose with pancakes.

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Photo ops, taste-testing, flour feeling and then home to the hotel.

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The next morning. Early. We packed our stuff and headed off to General Mills. I have to say everything COMPLETELY exceeded my expectations.

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We were greeted by the Doughboy right when we walked in the door.

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The entire building or buildings I should say were beautiful. They had graphic details like this everywhere. Who else wants a word wall? Me. I do. I do.

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They had memorabilia exhibits, including Betty, the Green Giant, Wheaties and on and on.

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These old advertisements make me smile.

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As soon as everyone was in the building, we had a quick bite for breakfast.

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This is Anna from Cookie Madness, Megan from Megan’s Munchies, Jenny from Picky Palate and Nicole from Baking Bites.

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Yes. Yes. Yes. Betty Crocker Kitchens, here we come.

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This is a view of just part of the kitchens from an observation floor above. There are 19. Nineteen. Nine. Teen. Kitchens.

And excuse me, but look at that view.

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The Trix Bunny and Lucky Charms guy took pictures with everyone. Hi Amy!

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Doing double duty here. Filming Jenny with her new Flip camera (everybody got one) and trying to take still pics at the same time. And, she’s trying to grab as many box top coupons while keeping her dress from flying up. Guess we were both doing double duty.

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Then, this next part was like getting free samples in the grocery store… but on steroids. New cereals and …

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gluten free cereals to sample…

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Nut Clusters, Yoplait Smoothies, Parfait Delights, Fiber One Muffins.

Why did they even serve us breakfast. I was stuffed.

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These two were always nearby hamming it up.

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Bruschetta…

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Oh … if you watch the Food Network you should know who this is. Ask Aida was there to answer questions. This is the best photo I have where she’s also smiling. Sorry for the blurriness.

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More sampling and photo taking with Mel, A Dramatic Mommy.

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A little blogging in between. Not me. I didn’t even bring a computer.

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Here’s that pesky rabbit again. He thinks he’s being funny with the bunny ears. Okay, so it was pretty cute.

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Did I mention, we were also allowed behind the scenes of the brand new photography studios?

This was my favorite part. I could have spent the whole day… week… month here.

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As you enter, you’re greeted by a gallery of images. Photographers are given free license to create artwork using general mills products. These were just a few I was able to snap a pic of.

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Next was the prop room. How they can choose just the right white plate, I don’t know.

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Here’s sweet Megan with Hungry Girl. You know, the NYT Best Selling author of 200 Recipes Under 200 Calories. Okay, please say you don’t know who she is. I didn’t. But it’s probably because I eat at McDonald’s.

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And finally, lights, camera, action.

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Their proofing system is pretty amazing. They can look at photos on the fly. That’s a still camera on the right, not a video camera by the way. It takes a 98 meg file. That’s ginormous!

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This is the food stylist’s tool kit. Love it!

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Food bloggers getting tips from a food photographer. They even handed us their business cards. Big mistake.

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The photographers take all the photos for all the recipes, magazines, cookbooks and packaging.

And hearing the stories of how they’ll choose just the right brownie for a single shot, it’s no easy task.

Their work is beautiful though and here’s their website portfolio to prove it.

After the photo tour, we started wrapping things up. Lunch, the company gift store, and then a shuttle to the airport by 2:00 p.m.

General Mills was incredible. The people, the campus, the culture. If you live in Minneapolis, run and apply for a job. Now.

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In addition to their programs and products, they have an on-site restaurant, cafeteria and Caribou Coffee for employees.

They have a grocery store, childcare services, banking services, doctor’s office, dry cleaners, hair salon, photo lab, fitness center and gas station, all on the premises.

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Seriously, it’s like being in a mall.

And any minute, I expected to turn the corner and find a Lucky Charms Leprechaun Land amusement park complete with rainbow roller coaster.

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But alas, there was only this outdoor seating and some pretty amazing views.

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Here’s the store that carries all the General Mills products. I even spotted some Teriyaki-flavored Chex Mix. Cool.

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In addition to the corporate store and convenience store, they also have the cutest gift shop.

You can find all kinds of gifts from baby toys…

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… to even squirrel underpants. Gotta love this place.

101
Katie said...

wow!!! That looks amazing! Thank you so much for sharing, I wish I could visit!

August 31, 2009 04:18 PM
102
Juli P said...

I remember going on an annual field trip in grade school to the General Mills Betty Crocker Test Kitchens. It was the highlight of my school year, the boys loved our trips to the Tonka Truck factory in Minnetonka.
Being from St. Paul, I know many who work there and LOVE it. It is it's own zip code, you never have to leave the campus…sort of like the Target HQ.

August 31, 2009 04:19 PM
103
beesknees said...

Great photos! I drive by the GM headquarters on my way to work every day. Cool to see what the inside looks like :)

The Mill City museum and surrounding area is really nice, too. I am glad you got to go to Yum! They really do live up to their name.

August 31, 2009 04:30 PM
104
Anna said...

Great photos! The fact that you got me not blinking is testament to your superfly photography skills ;).

August 31, 2009 04:30 PM
105
Jaden Paige said...

Wow that is insane! I would love to visit there… How cool! :) Thanks for the inside peek!

August 31, 2009 04:36 PM
106
Jene said...

Love, love, love General Mills test kitchens. What a great company. I know a home economist that worked for them and "invented"(?) Snickerdoodle Cookies way back. She's in her 80's and still so proud she worked for GM. She has lots of sweet stories.

August 31, 2009 04:38 PM
107
Angel said...

Oh how fun! I live just minutes from there but had no idea it was so neat inside.

I've been wanting to check out the Mill City Museum too. I have some photos from that idea (for a wedding at the Guthrie) on my blog if you want to see more of the area.

http://tadacreations.blogspot.com/2009/08/real-photos.html

~Angel

August 31, 2009 04:41 PM
108
The Duchess of Wessex said...

Thank you for sharing this with us! What fun… Looks like the Best tour event ever!

August 31, 2009 04:50 PM
109
Beach Bum said...

How exciting! Thanks for sharing! Looks like you had a great time packed into those 24 hours!

August 31, 2009 05:06 PM
110
Susan said...

I remember visiting the Betty Crocker exhibit on a field trip in school.
Thanks for the travelogue!

I'm still trying to figure out the need for squirrel underpants

August 31, 2009 05:13 PM
111
Katie said...

Oh my goodness. I would LOVE to work there. How fun. Thanks for sharing your adventure with us!

August 31, 2009 05:22 PM
112
Natalie O. said...

Your trip looks amazing. What a great opportunity!

Just out of curiousity, have you ever made an Elvis Fluffernutter Cake?

August 31, 2009 05:32 PM
113
Amy J in SC said...

Wonder if they have any openings? Although that would be a pretty long commute… cool trip.

August 31, 2009 05:46 PM
114
The Bertone's said...

That looks like such an amazing time. Great adventure, glad you enjoyed it! :) Great pictures to by the way!

August 31, 2009 05:49 PM
115
Rhonda Parker said...

Wow – that is so great! It's amazing the things that go on that we have no idea about. :) Lucky you! Thanks for sharing. I love looking at other people's trip photos. :)

August 31, 2009 05:55 PM
116
Gina said...

What a great adventure. And, a camera that takes a 98MB file?! YIKES! That's some kind of big!!!!!

August 31, 2009 06:03 PM
117
Annie said...

looks like so much fun!!
i'm a MN girl ;)

August 31, 2009 06:11 PM
118
Michelle said...

OMG! Can you say JEALOUS?!?
This isn't open to the public?? I'd be on the next flight!!!!!!
So much American cultural history there!!

Thanks for the AWESOME pics!

August 31, 2009 06:15 PM
119
Beth said...

I'm sorry, but that food photographer looks like George McFly in "Back to the Future".

Looks like it's a vacation destination, not an office.

August 31, 2009 06:17 PM
120
Kate Craig said...

SO cool! Um, I had an easy bake oven from 1992 :)

August 31, 2009 06:36 PM
121
Anonymous said...

Oh my gosh, I would be in pig heaven if I could work there!!!

August 31, 2009 06:45 PM
122
goodpueblo said...

wowowow!!! I want to be there so bad!! That looks like an amazing trip, glad you had fun!

August 31, 2009 06:53 PM
123
MNjen said...

Wow! Its cool to see what goes on inside there! I live just south of Minneapolis and have never had the opportunity to go tour the campus. Thanks for sharing your pictures & experience! :)

August 31, 2009 06:57 PM
124
Karen said...

How fun!

August 31, 2009 07:07 PM
125
Jamie said...

Amazing! And Franken Berry? I can't find that anywhere. That cereal totally reminds me of childhood!

August 31, 2009 07:16 PM
126
Michelle {Brown Eyed Baker} said...

What an awesome trip! Would love to get on their list the next time they do something like that ;-) Thanks for sharing your experience!

August 31, 2009 07:22 PM
127
Casco Bay Soap Co. said...

OH MY! what a great opportunity! looks fantastic, go Bakerella! thanks for sharing!!!

August 31, 2009 07:41 PM
128
KimboSue said...

What an awesome opportunity! That place looks cooler to work at than Goo.gle!!

August 31, 2009 07:56 PM
129
Krystle said...

Wow! What a fun recap to read!

I am from MN and just had my wedding at Mill City Museum last month! It is such a fun area with the river right in the back and the Stone Arch Bridge.

Thanks for sharing!

August 31, 2009 08:02 PM
130
Maryam Al Awadhi said...

WOW…. sounds like u had so much fun… i wish if i were with u…

do they allow visitors or only employees???

August 31, 2009 08:09 PM
131
Nadine said...

OMG, what a fun trip!! I'm totally jealous!!

Thank you for sharing!!

August 31, 2009 09:12 PM
132
Hennifer said...

OMG that looked like so much fun. Thank you for sharing. I love General Mills, hmmmm… Chex! Drool.

August 31, 2009 09:23 PM
133
LoriLyn said...

Looks like a fun place to visit and work! I'm glad you got invited :)

August 31, 2009 10:38 PM
134
Danielle Hawes said...

That sounds like so much fun!!!

I am sorta kinda jealous. Ok, I am.

How was the GF food? My mom is GF only so I am always curious!!

August 31, 2009 10:48 PM
135
martha.30004@gmail.com said...

You look so beautiful! How fun to share in your experience!!

August 31, 2009 11:01 PM
136
Abigail Vawter Fitzsimmons said...

SO. AWESOME! I live in Wisconsin so that's not too far from the twin cities. And that looks like the most fantastic place to work! :D

I wanna be a photographer there!!! :3

I loved the squirrel undies. It's a good idea. I mean, really! You gotta house-train your squirrel somehow. xD

August 31, 2009 11:15 PM
137
stephie said...

I cannot beleive you got to meet hungry girl and didn't know who she is, I visit her website almost daily, you should,too. It is really fabulous information. She is a life saver for anyone on weight watchers. Or anyone trying to lower calories and raise portions. A real GEM.

August 31, 2009 11:45 PM
138
Anonymous said...

hey you got a picture of Dawn Meehan (http://mom2my6pack.blogspot.com/)! She's another blog i read almost daily :)

She's the one taking the picture of the bruschetta.

August 31, 2009 11:58 PM
139
boredmando said...

Man, that is so cool! Totally jealous

September 1, 2009 12:32 AM
140
tammy said...

That was so cool!

September 1, 2009 12:45 AM
141
tammy said...

That was so cool!

September 1, 2009 12:45 AM
142
Mary said...

What a great report and fun experience! Thanks so much for sharing!!

September 1, 2009 12:53 AM
143
sarahe said...

jealous jealous jealous jealous

September 1, 2009 01:06 AM
144
Mrs B said...

Ahhh…oh so close to meeting such an inspiration! I work at General MIlls HQ and saw those "Eat & Greet" signs all around and was hoping that maybe it would be a public "eat and greet" aka – you would get to mingle with the broader employee base. Oh well, it was really fun reading your post and seeing all those sights that I walk by every day. It is a GREAT place to work and I am very blessed to work there! Thanks for visiting and hopefully you can come back again!

September 1, 2009 01:24 AM
145
The Gomes Family said...

That looks so cool! You look like you had fun!

September 1, 2009 02:37 AM
146
I Should Be Cleaning Up said...

Wow, that is so cool you got to see all that! Thanks for the photo tour too! So jealous. And Franken Berry! I miss that cereal sooooo much! (there are no decent sweet cereals in Australia, where I live, though I am Canadian). We manage to find Count Chocula when we go home for a visit though.

September 1, 2009 02:43 AM
147
Molly said...

I read your blog and Picky Palate. It is so funny that you 2 hooked up together. You both do a great job.

September 1, 2009 03:03 AM
148
Happy Cottage Quilter said...

What an absolutely amazing trip!

September 1, 2009 03:21 AM
149
SteamyKitchen said...

That prop room….

drool.

I WANT!

September 1, 2009 04:00 AM
150
Sunny said...

oh how cute!! thanks for the insider pictures, and thanks times 2 for links to new food blogs i can check out :)

http://www.sunnysideuprecipes.com

September 1, 2009 04:02 AM
151
Anonymous said...

How fun! It's looks like a great time. I loved your pictures from outside the factory – I used to see that view daily!

Liz

September 1, 2009 04:15 AM
152
Mandy said...

Thank you for such an amazing recap! What fun! I just got home from their Table Talk event–I would have loved to have gone last week and met my favorite fellow food bloggers in person. We were cooking in the test kitchens today but I was the only food blogger there!:) I think they need to bring you, Jenny, and I back, give us a list of ingredients, and just let us go wild. :)

September 1, 2009 05:58 AM
153
jenni benni said...

Id like to know when and where I can find that Cookie Crisp Sprinkle! or the gigantic box of Frankenberry! Im going to have to visit this place strickly for their cereal selection.

September 1, 2009 06:13 AM
154
Sashi said...

This is so cool! I'm from Minnesota and have never been there. Maybe I need to play tourist the next time I go home. :) Thank you for sharing this!

September 1, 2009 01:43 PM
155
Rachel said...

Thanks for sharing your trip with us it looks like so much fun and quite a learning experience!

September 1, 2009 02:14 PM
156
kmm0305 said...

My hubby had an offer to work for GM right out of college–can you beleive they even employ chemical engineers? He didn't end up working there but we did live in the Twin Cities for awhile. The Mall of America did have a General Mills "play area" for awhile–would've been about 10 years ago.

September 1, 2009 02:14 PM
157
Farmer Cindy said...

OH BAKERELLA, I am soooo jealous. What a fabulous trip! We're headed to the Minnesota State Fair this week and Yum! is on our agenda! I can hardly wait. Thanks for sharing!

September 1, 2009 02:35 PM
158
KAS said...

How very cool!! They'd have to roll me out of there after eating all those delicious samples.

September 1, 2009 03:08 PM
159
Kim said...

you are a hoot. I have a feeling we'd be good friends. Love your blog and all of your fun stories. You crack me up.

September 1, 2009 03:16 PM
160
161
Danna said...

I absolutely -loved- seeing these pictures. I just moved away from Minneapolis recently, and seeing all you're wonderful photographs was an amazing treat. I hope you really enjoyed your short visit there :)

September 1, 2009 04:37 PM
162
Amber said...

How fun! Looks like you had a fantastic trip! Oh, that prop room. I could spend hours in there looking at all the beautiful dishes and props! Those General Mills employees look like lucky ones. Their campus is phenomenal.

September 1, 2009 05:39 PM
163
Lindsey said...

Looks like you had a great time! I FINALLY decided after browsing your blog FOREVER, to comment. I used to drive by GM all of the time on the way to work! I didn't realize all of that was packed into that place!

September 1, 2009 06:37 PM
164
The Mommy-Files said...

I was glad to meet you! I had so much fun and hope to see you again in the future :)

http://www.themommy-files.com/

September 1, 2009 07:04 PM
165
Carey said...

I'm so glad you enjoyed your visit! If my husband didn't work for Target Corporation (also headquartered in Minneapolis), he'd probably want to work for General Mills. We go through cereal like nobody's buisness!

September 1, 2009 07:38 PM
166
rollofquarters said...

WOW! Those are some awesome pictures. I'd love to visit the General Mills headquarters someday. There's a General Mills factory in downtown Buffalo and when you drive down there it often smells like Cheerios – it's pretty much my favorite part of going downtown!

September 1, 2009 08:06 PM
167
Lindalou said...

How wonderful for all of you to have such a great experience. It does sound like a great place to work. I'm so glad you got to enjoy and then to tell us all about it. Thanks.

Love you vacation photos! Really, especially the one blurry one as that's how most of mine turn out.

September 1, 2009 08:25 PM
168
Katie said...

You have one of my favorite blogs ever. I love your recipes, your photographs & your blogging. Keep up the good work! :)

September 1, 2009 08:47 PM
169
A little bit of our history - said...

I love love love reading your blog! I am such the baker too so its SO fun and enjoyable to see someone else enjoying it as much as myself! If we lived closer I would love to be your bestest friend! Thanks for sharing your trip. That looks amazing. Oh and I TOTALLY now wish I could work for GM. That sounds like a dream job!

September 1, 2009 08:59 PM
170
Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing – how fun was that?!? Glad you had a great time! Stefanie

September 1, 2009 09:02 PM
171
Bert | UPrinting.com said...

Minneapolis is a nice large city in the U.S Minnesota, the state capital known as Twin Cities. The city is abundantly rich in water with over twenty lakes and wetlands. the place was nice and sharing this place is a great experience.

September 1, 2009 09:52 PM
172
Shubha said...

awesome…looks like so much fun… this is the first time iam visiting ur blog and iam loving it

September 1, 2009 11:19 PM
173
Pieceful Bits said...

Thanks for sharing your speedy adventure. It does sound like a great place to visit and work!
(~~)
Julie

September 2, 2009 12:22 AM
174
Sue said...

What a wonderful experiance this must have been….Your a baking legend in the blog world…not surprised that they invited you…thanks for all the pictures…I felt like I was there….

September 2, 2009 01:02 AM
175
Ericka said...

So excited to see all your MN pictures! I live here and actually WORK at one of the many amazing Caribou Coffees (My boss thanks you for the ref.!) It was cool feeling so "at home" in your blog!

September 2, 2009 01:10 AM
176
Cake for Breakfast said...

You got to meet Lucky AND sit at a giant table made of pancakes?! What a great visit. Thanks for all the pictures!

September 2, 2009 02:02 AM
177
Paula Jennings said...

Wow! What a great trip. THe pictures are amazing.

September 2, 2009 03:15 AM
178
Stephanie said...

What wonderful pictures! I especially love those GIANT pancakes. How fun are those?

And I was so happy to see that shot of Rockin' Mama in your collection. I met her at BlogHer 2008…she is so nice!

stephanie@metropolitanmama.net

September 2, 2009 04:14 AM
179
Empress L said...

WOW!! What an awesome experience. SO COOL!

September 2, 2009 04:18 AM
180
Kira Leigh said...

I drive past the Mill City Museum pretty much every day, it's on my way home! It's sooooo pretty over there!!!

September 2, 2009 04:20 AM
181
Mel Hopes said...

How fun! I would love it and it would be a dream come true for me. I don't have the mixer but my mom in law has the toaster and it still looks and runs just like new!
We love Betty Crocker and my dd that is only 18 wanted an old 80's cook book for her birthday. Of course we found one for her and she was over the moon with it.

thanks for all the fun here on your blog. Love it!

September 2, 2009 04:29 AM
182
ko said...

how awesome!!! Looks like a really fun time!! :)

September 2, 2009 10:44 AM
183
Megan said...

Bakerella, you need a searh function! I love your blog, but I am looking for super hero cupake ideas. Can you point me in the right direction?

September 2, 2009 02:17 PM
184
Shir said...

Looks very cool =]
a friend of mine (Omri) sent me your blog like a week ago.
I read all of it, and I got addicted to it.
It's amazing! you're so creative! I really think you should write a book with all the reciepes and the pictures of your cooking-art ideas..
I really love your blog!

(and I'm only 13…)
Sorry for digging so!

shir_flora_winx@walla.com

September 2, 2009 02:24 PM
185
MommaMindy said...

When I read "trip photos" I wasn't sure I would make it through the post. But, I ENJOYED touring GM with you. Great shots, great detail. I'll be coming back to check out links. My favorite pic was the Cheerio nose ring. All teenagers should do that, so when you get tired of the look, you eat it, instead of leaving a hole in your nose. Thanks for sharing!

September 2, 2009 02:55 PM
186
Seanna Lea said...

That looks like a lot of fun, though part of me feels bad liking the look of the huge corporate kitchens, etc.

September 2, 2009 03:16 PM
187
Shiriously said...

How awesome!!! I'd be lying if I said I wasn't jealous!

September 2, 2009 03:34 PM
188
LilSis said...

OMG!! I know jealousy is not a good trait, but I can't help it. That trip looks like it was so much fun! Thanks for sharing such great photos!

Maybe one day, my sister and I will get to do something like that.

September 2, 2009 04:32 PM
189
Tiffany -n- Albert said...

Yum GF cereal! My mom totally had one of those orange Easy Bake Ovens and I used it when I was a kid. I loved it!

September 2, 2009 04:47 PM
190
Laur said...

I didnt know the general mills factory was here in minneapolis!! i totally want to apply there now!

September 2, 2009 08:56 PM
191
Cindy Alderton said...

OH…MI…GOD…squirrel underpants?! I would have given my husband's right arm (lol) to have gone…you are soooo lucky! You so deserve it! Glad it was such fun…

September 2, 2009 11:55 PM
192
PebbleCafe said...

Thanks for sharing!! Taking your photo tour was amazing. I can't imagine (but would like to know) what it was like to be there… IRL! Surreal, perhaps? I've recently started following your blog and I love it! I'm SO jealous of your trip. I'm not even an avid baker/cook and my heart was pounding looking at those kitchens and equipment! Wow.

September 2, 2009 11:59 PM
193
PebbleCafe said...

oh, btw, I had a Easy Bake Oven circa '72 :)

Can't wait to get one from my daughters.

September 3, 2009 12:01 AM
194
Janean said...

wow!
raspberry frosting?
want it.
got a recipe for it you want to share?

September 3, 2009 01:13 AM
195
Alexis (12 y.o. aspiring baker) said...

One word; AWESOME! Can't wait for more!

September 3, 2009 01:21 AM
196
The Cookie Girl said...

That was an awesome trip for you. how Cool! My fave pic was the squirell underpants. Too cute.
Thanks for sharing this with us.

September 3, 2009 01:36 AM
197
Anonymous said...

I say you had the best 24 hours EVER!!

September 3, 2009 02:09 AM
198
Anonymous said...

That was the biggest free advertising I've seen for General Mills.

September 3, 2009 02:31 AM
199
Anonymous said...

THAT LOOKS SO AWESOME!

(Sorry, but that just required all caps and you know it.)

September 3, 2009 02:32 AM
200
Rosie said...

Wow!! I feel like moving to MN now. LOL What a great trip. Thanks for sharing the pics.

September 3, 2009 04:04 AM
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