Aussie Funnies

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Now that I have most or our upcoming fall trip to Australia planned, I’ve been reading some more fun things…

It all started with my Aussie friend Wineaux friend Helen, who posted a link on Americans guessing the meaning of Aussie slang. I honestly only knew five of these. And I know I won’t remember the others.

I’ll be meeting up with some Aussie’s my friends Jen, Kim and I met in New Orleans back on New Year’s Eve 2002. They’ve been giving us some travel tips. I liked this one:

“AUSSIE SLANG:  Can only be taught over drinks at night.”

From that site, I found myself hopping to others…

And then started to roll on the floor laughing… (Well, not literally. We have hardwood floors.)

Australian’s Answer Americans’ Dumb Questions

Outback Steakhouse as Explained by a Real Australian

There’s so much to see and so little time. It’s hard to research a destination when you realize you can’t do it all. I mean, who could see the entire U.S. or even just scratch the surface in two weeks? We’re planning to do as much as we can without burning ourselves out. Hopefully, I’ve created some balance in our itinerary.

We can hardly wait.

Cheers~
Carrie

What I Learned from #100HappyDays

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As of May 1st, I decided to participate in the #100HappyDays Challenge

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71% of people who sign up and commit to the challenge don’t complete it, citing the reason is that they are too busy.

Are you really too busy being unhappy that you can’t come up with one thing each day that made you happy?

That statistic made me determined to complete the challenge. I was already writing in a gratitude journal. For this challenge, all I had to do is photograph one moment each day that made me happy and post it to either Facebook, Instagram or Twitter.

What I was really excited to do was fill up my Gratitude App with photos since it was looking a little light in March and April.

But there are a few interesting things I did not expect with #100Happy Days.

On the Photo Aspect:

  • Sometimes, even if you had a great day, when getting ready for bed, you realize that you forgot to take any photos. Does that mean you fail? I’d often take photos of my pooches and post them the next morning. They always make me smile anyway. Is that a cop out for not looking deeper?
  • Some wonderful things in life can’t be captured in a photo – like the way the breeze feels on your skin, or the high you got from a run. So then I’d share a photo of something outdoorsy or a sweaty selfie – which isn’t really interpretive of the real sentiment.
  • This exercise reinforces the power of visualization.
  • You realize that you now have a little piece of each day of your life for 100 consecutive days. That’s kind of cool.

 

On the Public Aspect:

  • Making your #100HappyDays public is difficult. People may start to think you are narcissistic or are image crafting. That’s not the point of the challenge.
  • People will make fun of you.
  • The one who makes fun of you the most may even be your spouse.
  • I now see that you can do this challenge privately instead of publicly. I didn’t think doing it publicly would be an issue; but I’ve learned that this kind of thing is more personal to me.
  • For this reason, I’ll stick to my gratitude journal; but Imay continue to collect a photo a day as a collage for the year!

 The Happiness Aspect:

  • I went through a period of summertime blues during #100HappyDays. I think I would have been worse off without the challenge.
  • On those days, I really had to dig deep to find something that I wanted to capture on photo.
  • This is a great practice for anyone who doesn’t already practice gratitude or who needs to get out of a slump.
  • Some may have found my #100HappyDays posts annoying, but what I find more annoying are complaining posts on FB. You know, those people who never have anything good to say and are just fishing for something.
  • If you tend to be a Debbie Downer or find yourself posting negativity, force to edit yourself and deliberately post something positive. You find that it’ll help you feel more positive.

I’m glad I participated in #100HappyDays. Yes, I’d recommend it or some other way, whether public or private to document your gratitude. Here are some resources for you:

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Food

There’s not much cookin’ going on this week!

Dinners:

  • Monday – Golf League – perhaps dinner afterward at The Happy Gnome
  • Tuesday - Dinner at my friend Kim’s place
  • Wednesday - Andouille Sausage with Red Beans and Rice and a side salad
  • Thursday – Leftovers
  • FridayShrimp with Zucchini & Tomatoes
  • Saturday - My friend Stacy will be in town. I haven’t decided how we’ll dine quite yet!
  • Sunday – TBD

Lunch:

Breakfasts:

Fitness

  • Monday – Golf
  • Tuesday Walk 1 hour OR Run 1 mile
  • Wednesday – Walk 1 hour OR Run 1 mile
  • Thursday – Run 1 mile in the am
  • Friday – Walk 1 hour OR Run 1 mile
  • Saturday – Walk 1 hour OR Run 1 mile
  • Sunday – Walk 1 hour OR Run 1 mile

Do you keep a gratitude journal or take photos to chronicle your daily life?

How do you do it?

Do you post publicly or keep things private?

Cheers~
Carrie

What they did *after* their summer vacation…

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Sophie & Shamrock Saturday

Last week, I shared what Sophie & Sham did on their Summer Vacation. But what did they do when it was all over? I think they were a wee bit tired…

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Then came the long drive home…

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I had never seen Sophie fall asleep in her water dish before…

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Happy Saturday!

Cheers~
Carrie

 

Fantasy Draft Friday – 2014

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Yesterday, I gave some tips links on how to soak up every last bit of summer in the Twin Cities.

After summer is gone, fall means…

FOOTBALL!

And although I’ll talk about football briefly, the real purpose of this Fantasy Draft post is to pick my favorite BEERS! Click here to read about my 2013 Fantasy Draft Six-Pack.

But first, I need to announce that I’m especially excited for football season this year because I am finally a…

 

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Yes, that’s right. I put my name on The Waiting List 20 years ago and I now have season tickets – for the Gold Package. For those of you who don’t know, the Gold Package consists of three games. These tickets date back to the days when The Packers played three games a year at Milwaukee County Stadium and the remaining games were played in Green Bay. If I wanted to pass on the three-game (Gold) package, I could keep my name on the waiting list for the Green package, which is for the rest of the games. The wait for that? Estimated at another 17 to 20 years.

Living in Minnesota, I’ll think I’ll take what I can get!

As much as I love Green Bay football, I have to tell you that my Fantasy Draft (beer) choices for 2014, will not be served at Lambeau Field.

What, you mean that they don’t cater to MOI?!!!

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Rules for Fantasy Draft 2014:

1) No repeat beers from last year. (Although I still love all of those!)

2) No repeat breweries within the same six-pack. For example, even if I am in love with two beers from say, Sam Adams, I can only include one.

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Fantasy Draft 2014

J.K.’s Scrumpy Farmhouse Organic Hard Cider (MI)

So, cider isn’t exactly the same as beer; but I’m putting it in my six-pack anyway! I’ve been meaning to tell you alphoto 1(2)l about this cider for probably a year.

It is my favorite cider of all time.

It takes like the yummy non-filtered (non-alcoholic) ciders you get right at an orchard. It’s tasty and perfect. I’ve tried other “farmhouse” style hard ciders since, thinking it was just the type I liked. But I was wrong.

Nothing else comes close.

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Dangerous Man Hazelnut Porter (MN)photo 1(1)

Sorry, you can’t get this beer anywhere but the taproom. So if you are in the Twin Cities, it’s important that you make a pilgrimage. I’m not even sure if it’s on tap all of the time because they brew everything in small batches. But I’ve never had anything like it.Tthe aromas of hazelnut alone are transcending. It smells like they have been toasted. And the flavor? Just as rewarding.

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New Belgium Coconut Curry Hefeweisen (CO)photo 3(1)

I normally don’t even like New Belgium’s beers. The exception was when I discovered their Cocoa Molé a couple of years ago at the Happy Gnome.

Well, they did it again.

New Belgium came up with something unique and delicious. We discovered the Coconut Curry Hefeweisen at Devil’s Advocate about a week ago. I was really surprised when my wheat-beer-despising husband ordered it. In fact, he’s not even a curry fan. But he was intrigued. And he loved it. I took a sip… and I stole it. He had to order his own.

Rob didn’t get anything but coconut; but there is a hint of heat on the finish, which is what I feel is what a good curry will do. This beer might sound kind of strange,;but it’s very rewarding and much better than I had expected. I want one while I’m writing this. It’s a specialty beer that appears to be bottled, but I haven’t done any research to see if we can get it anywhere else.

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Horny Goat Chocolate Peanut Butter Porter (WI)photo 2(1)

Here’s another brewery which I’ve never found outstanding…  But when Rob picked up this beer,  it wasn’t the brewery that turned me off. It was the name/description. I mean, come on, a Chocolate Peanut Butter Porter. I personally, had never seen peanut butter done in a beer before. And it actually sounded kind of disgusting to me.

But I tried it anyway…

And they nailed it.

Seriously. I stole one from Rob’s six-pack. And he smiled. Trust me, give this one a go.

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Dragon’s Milk Reserve with Toasted Chilies (MI)photo 2

You’ve probably read enough about my love of Bourbon Barrel Beers. And Dragon’s Milk is no exception. But when Rob saw this one at Blue Max in Burnsville, he thought of me. And he bought it as a surprise. It’s kind of like Dragon’s Milk meets the Cocoa Molé I was mentioning above. Have you had one of those chocolate bars with chilies in them? This is like that.

But better.

It’s Beer.

It’s Bourbon Barrel Beer.

It’s Dragon’s Milk.

With a spicy finish.

love. Love. LOVE.

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Central Waters Brewer’s Reserve Bourbon Barrel Stout (WI)

I couldn’t leave this one out. I’m still stuck in my love of Bourbon Barrel Beers.

And this is my favorite beer of all time.CW - BB Stout

I promised it to my dad for Father’s Day; but I can’t find it now. My local MGM is no longer carrying it. I can settle for the Bourbon Barrel Barleywine, which I love 99.9% as much. (I did a side by side tasting!) But I’m sure that my faves are just not around this time of year. I wanted to talk to Central Waters at the Canterbury Beer Fest. But they didn’t show up.

Seriously.

I searched the festival over several times. They were a no-show. {Insert Sad Face here.} I need to take a serious roadtrip to their taproom in Amherst, Wisconsin. They have many more Brewer’s Reserve beers that I’d like to try… Well, if they are available. I could become a stalker. Anyone want to join me?

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Coming over to my house?

Pick up any one of these beers and you’ll win me over. ;-)

Cheers~
Carrie

Summer – Soaking Up Every Last Minute!

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I’d love to say that I’m taking my own advice this summer.

But I had a bit of a standstill – the summertime blues, if you will. I’m not sure what that even means. I just know that I was a little down and knew I shouldn’t be. I became angry with myself because I knew I was wasting away the summer! It was a vicious cycle.

So, now, as my friends in education talk about going back to school, I realize that summer will end before I know it. It’s time to soak up every last minute.

I had been collecting links to share with you at the beginning of summer. I was attempting to create the…

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Well, better late than never!

But first, you have to read Why Summers are The Best in Minnesota.

Now here are a few more things to do in MSP before the snow falls…

  • Minneapolis Patios – I love sitting outdoors and having a cocktail, a meal or conversation with friends. Get a list of the best ones here.
  • Twin Cities Food Truck Guide – Food Truck fare doesn’t have to be greasy. Look around for some unique, gourmet fare without the gourmet prices.
  • Outdoor Movies – Many cities play outdoor movies throughout the summer. Here is a list of those in Minneapolis, put together by Thrillist. Try to catch one of the last few!
  • Taproom Tours by Bike – I had envisioned taking a Nice Ride bike around Minneapolis exploring this summer; but I don’t think time will permit at this point. At least I have this list for next year!
  • Irish Fair – This is a free event that happens in St. Paul every year – this weekend! I am looking forward to watching a little hurling and seeing one of our favorite bands, Gaelic Storm.
  • The Great Minnesota Get Together - And lastly, we have the big event that signals the end of summer for nearly all Minnesotans: The Minnesota State Fair. Here’s a look at the new foods you can expect “on a stick” this year.

Do you have an end of the summer ritual?

How do you plan to soak up the remaining bits of summer?

Cheers~
Carrie

The Tale of Three San Marzano Sauces – Part II

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Part I tells the story of how we came about these San Marzano sauces.

Now what did we think of them?!

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First, let’s talk price.

When I finally found San Marzano sauces in the store, they were an impulse purchase. But I knew that it would be a fun experiment and that they wouldn’t go to waste. The first one I spotted was the most expensive and I was a little reluctant to purchase it.

From left to right in the picture above, here is what I spent at my local Cub Foods:

Silver Palate San Marzano Blend Marinara$3.99
Mezzetta Napa Valley Bistro Homemade Style Marinara$5.49
Mario Batali Marinara Pasta Sauce- $7.49

Yes, you read that correctly. I paid $7.49 for jarred marinara. I’m used to paying $1 – $2 for my favorite high-sodium, high-sugar sauce when it’s on sale. This one was going to have to blow me away.

In full disclosure of our assessment, we didn’t eat these sauces side-by-side. I made Spaghetti with Meat Sauce once per week, trying a new sauce each week. Whether we liked them or not could depend so much on the day!

Sometimes we I do make zoodles or spaghetti squash in place of the pasta when we enjoy these dishes. But for the purposes of comparing, I used angel hair pasta and ground beef with each of these three sauces.

I decided that we were to start with the least expensive sauce first and work our way up. My logic was that if we tried the most expensive one first and loved it so much, we would be tainted by it and wouldn’t be able to appreciate the cheaper ones.

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So first up…

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The Silver Palate makes many versions of their San Marzano sauce. Some add basil, others garlic… I decided to start off with the basic, knowing we could try the other versions later.

What they boast: photo 5(2)

Okay, so it’s not full-on San Marzano that we have going on here… But I’m sure that the blending helps reduce the cost.

Ingredients:

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I love that these ingredients are natural. They are real food, ingredients I recognize and can pronounce. I found the pear concentrate to be an interesting substitute for the sugar you find in a lot of jarred marinara sauces.

Nutrition Facts:

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Already, the 3 grams of sugar and 360 mg of sodium together are a huge improvement over my regular favorite with 10 g and and 590 mg respectively.

Flavor:

I liked it. I’d get it again. It didn’t have as much San Marzano flavor, obviously, as when I make my meatless San Marzano Pasta. But I still liked my old standby better. Rob, on the other hand, loved it and said he’d prefer this pasta sauce over our my fave Ragu Parmesan & Romano Marinara.

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Next up:

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I’m not sure what prompted me to pick up this jar! You’ll see that no where on the front of the label does it indicate the sauce is made with San Marzano tomatoes. But I did find it on the back of the jar, as shown below.

What they boast:

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But something they don’t seem to talk about is that there is one key ingredient that makes them stand out from the rest…

Ingredients:

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Not just any red wine added, not just a Cabernet Sauvignon added, but a Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, which is known in the wine world to be of high quality.

I like the fact that they use ingredients all local to the region, so you get the impression that it’s fresh at the source, perhaps when it’s jarred.  Again, all “natural” ingredients that are real foods and that I can pronounce are here.

Nutrition Facts:

Also shown in the photo above. The 3 grams of sugar is much better than my sauce’s 10 grams. And the 490 mg of sodium puts it almost in the middle of Silver Palate’s sauce and mine.

Flavor:

Mezetta was our least favorite. It was good, but not as good as the first one we tried. Nor was it worth it for $5.49 for a jar. Maybe the higher quality ingredients merit the higher price. But both of us said we’d revert back to our not-so-healthy Ragu in a heartbeat.

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And Lastly…

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I had high expectations for this sauce. I mean, C’mon! It’s Mario Batali!

What he boasts:

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Mmm… San Marzano tomatoes. Mmmm… fresh garlic.

Speaking of ingredients:

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Again, all natural, real foods that I can pronounce. Three for three on that one.

Nutrition Facts:

Well, now let’s compare:

Sugar
My Old Standby (Ragu Parmesan Romano) – 10 g
Silver Palate – 3 g
Mezzetta – 3 g
Mario Batali – 3 g

It’s more apparent than ever that there is way too much sugar in my regular sauce!

Sodium
My Regular – 590 mg
Silver Palate – 360 mg
Mezetta – 490 mg
Mario Batali – 490 mg

Flavor:

Mario Batali has made a good sauce here. $7.49 good? I don’t think so. I must admit that I did like the slivers of garlic. But I only tasted that flavor when I actually got a chunk. It did give me the idea that I should add slivers of fresh garlic to my own sauce! YES!

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Final Notes:

  • The best value of the three is definitely the Silver Palate and *not* because it was the cheapest. It was our favorite, too! We will be getting it again and trying the other varieties. To boot, the sugar and sodium are significantly lower than my old standby and the lowest of the three San Marzano sauces we tried.
  • We’d buy the other two on sale – but they would have to be GOOD sale.
  • Thank you to Mario for inspiring me to add slivers of garlic. I know it sounds obvious. I do sometimes add minced garlic to the olive oil before I brown the ground beef. But fresh slivers of garlic simmering in the sauce are an even better idea.
  • I think I’ll have to make my own sauces to get a better San Marzano flavor up front… And I will be trying to do that soon. Then I can control the sugar and the sodium, too!

Here are the next homemade marinara sauces on my list to make over the coming weeks:

Six Minute Marinara Sauce by Lisa at Snack-Girl
Roasted Vegetable Marinara by Biz at My Bizzy Kitchen
Slow Cooker Marinara Sauce by Kath at In the Kitchen with Kath
Crockpot Pasta Sauce with Sausage by Gina at Skinnytaste {Thanks, Racheal!}

Do you have any others to share?

Cheers~
Carrie