Falling in Love with Fall

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It’s been a beautiful fall. I love the view from our backyard.

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The past couple of years we’ve had a short to non-existent fall season here. It would go from summer to winter in about a week with no chance for the leaves to change color properly. It made the winters even more long and unbearable. But this year has been an exceptional year for color changing!

Shamrock told us that he and Sophie wanted to go for a walk and enjoy the foliage, too.

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We obliged. It is Sophie & Shamrock Saturday, after all!

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And today was the perfect, cool, football-weather morning to take the dogs for a walk.

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Only these photos don’t even do the true colors justice.

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Soon, all of these leave will have fallen…

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…And it will become colder than in the movie Frozen. I’m feeling grateful for every moment of fall because I’m not like Elsa. The cold really does bother me. But I still refuse to wear a winter coat until November.

Happy Fall!

Cheers~
Carrie

 

The Blue Mountains

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We had an extra day in Sydney to take a nice little day trip. I had planned a few guided tours throughout our stay in Australia, but our trip to the Blue Mountains was one I wanted to play be ear. Ultimately, we followed this gal’s advice and decided on a DIY trip. It’s only a two-hour train ride from Sydney Central Station to Katoomba. Then the hop-on, hop-off Explorer Bus provided easy transportation throughout the region. That may sound touristy, but it didn’t matter. Because, they do it right here.

The Blue Mountains were a barrier to the Australian interior for European settlers in Sydney. Although native Aborigines lived here for thousands of years prior, the mountains were not officially crossed by Europeans until 1813. You can only imagine what that meant for the incredible hikes and views we experienced here!

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By now, you probably have learned of my almost debilitating, irrational fear of heights. So during our hikes, I was doing a lot of focusing on putting my next foot in front of me. No worries, though! I did stop from time to time to take in all of the beauty and breathe in the fresh mountain air. In many areas, though, the routes were narrow with no railings to line the drop off cliffs. That is why you get a photo where there actually is a railing! I felt comfortable enough to take one here.

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See those cables? That is for a cable car that crosses one of the valleys. You aren’t going to get me to do that! Instead, we just hiked and spent the day at our own pace. It was wonderful and peaceful. But I will remember one thing. When an Aussie says that a trail is a “gentle stroll,” it’s not the same as my definition. A gentle stroll doesn’t get my heart rate up, nor vary greatly in elevation. They are a fit bunch over there! I even passed a few elderly people who took all the steps and made it up the winding hills. Impressive!

But it was also a very chilly day. It’s much cooler {duh!} in the mountains than in Sydney. Unfortunately, Rob refused to bring anything but shorts on our trip to Australia. I think he was happy that he brought along his Michigan pullover!

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So what makes the mountains appear blue? That blue haze is a reflection of the sunlight off of the millions of droplets of oil released by the eucalyptus trees.

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We could ride the bus all day , going around as many times and stopping at the 29 stops as much as we pleased. But we finally stopped for a late lunch in the town of Leura. It felt good to get out of the chilly air. Rob ordered a chai for a little warmth; but I skipped the coffee because I was just so thirsty. I had about 18 glasses of water instead.

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This cute little place was called the Red Door Cafe. I ordered a sandwich that I didn’t really like. Rob, having eaten his first {very filling!} Aussie Meat Pie that morning, decided to just have a little dessert – a Caramel Slice. I didn’t get a photo. I was too busy sucking down water. Besides, how was I to know that this was an Australian delight with which we’d fall in love?! But you can click here for a photo and here for a recipe.

Do I dare try to make it? That could be dangerous! In any case, why haven’t I seen these in the States? It seems like a simplistic dessert that’s very similar to some of the bars we make here in the Midwest. But with caramel? Yes, please!

Where have you been all my life, Caramel Slice? Funny thing, though, is that I read in an in-flight magazine from Sydney to Melbourne that “The Caramel Slice is soooo 2012.”

What food have you loved on vacation that you’ve tried to replicate back at home?

Other posts on our Australia trip:

The One Thing I Didn’t Need to Bring to Australia
The Wattle and Bush Tucker
Scenes from Sydney
A Morning at Bond-Eye

Cheers~
Carrie

 

A Morning at Bond-Eye

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This title is meant to help you to pronounce the famed beach of Sydney:

Bondi Beach

I would have pronounced it Bond-ee. I mean, especially when Aussies tend to shorten words and make them cute by adding an “ie” or a “y.” For example:

Australian = Aussie (a given)
barbecue = barbie (you already knew this one, too!!)
mosquito = mozzie
football = footie/footy
breakfast = brekkie
sunglasses = sunnies

Adorable, no?!

But now get those out of your head because Bondi Beach is pronounced Bond-eye Beach!

What a beautiful day we had the morning we took the train and bus to Bondi. A nice gentleman on the bus noticed Rob’s Michigan hat and started a conversation. He was accompanying his daughter to school. That year, he had just returned to his home near Bondi Beach after years of living in Japan. He recommended that we pass the Bondi Beach bus stop and get off just one further. That way, we could walk back to the beach and get a beautiful view.

And so we did.061

It truly was a beautiful walk.

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Listening to the waves pound on the rocks was so peaceful.

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For part of the way, there was a bit of a trail to follow along to the beach.

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With great viewing points.

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Then, a view of the beach.  067

But the trail and this handrail didn’t last for long!

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Once we turned the corner around the building in the photo below, we were climbing the rocks on the shore!

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I put away my camera, not only to keep it safe, but also to just enjoy the rest of the hike along the rocks. It was a bit slippery, but I enjoyed every step. There was a separate little roped off area where dogs were swimming. We stopped to watch for a while. And then, this:

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We walked along the beach. The water was cold! Then we sat on the boardwalk and watched the surfers. I’m guessing most were newbies since the waves weren’t too big. We watched runners jog past. How jealous we were to have such a beautiful place to run! And we counted pupper dogs, giving them names that sounded appropriate. My brother and I started this fun, silly game when we went on a trip to NYC together back in 2004.

Then we went for coffee.

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It was time for me to try a long black, which is the Aussie slang for an Americano, my coffee shop beverage of choice. It was a bit chilly that day, so it was perfect to sit out in the sun and sip a cuppa {more Aussie slang} with the view of the beach in the distance and the smell of the sea in the air. Truthfully, though, this coffee made me jittery. I may have already had one flat white earlier that day… ;-)

It’s surprising that I never grew up near water; because it’s by the sea where I always feel the most content and happy. Or maybe it’s just being out in nature without a care in the world? In any case, these were happy moments that have become happy memories.

Where do you feel most content?

Read more about our trip to Australia here:

The One Thing I Didn’t Need to Bring to Australia

The Wattle and Bush Tucker

Scenes from Sydney

Cheers~
Carrie

 

 

The Best Wine Bar in Minneapolis

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Happy Wine Wednesday!

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Let’s get right to it. In June, I met up with a Wineaux friend I hadn’t seen in a while. When we were trying to decide where to go, I somehow remembered reading about a wine bar that was deemed “The Best” in Minneapolis. I think I remembered Terzo Vino Bar  because I heard about it from more than one source. It was even cited as one of the “Hottest Wine Bars Across the Country.” Who better to try out a wine bar with than a fellow wine lover?

What I love about Terzo is that not only they do take reservations, but they also “reserve” half of their tables for walk-ins. Anyone wanting to enjoy a glass of wine and some nibbles should be able to do it on a whim, not require a reservation! I love that.

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While waiting for Jaime, I sipped on a glass of Prosecco. I always love to start with a little bubbly when it’s offered by the glass. It was not served in a flute, but a regular wine glass, which may becoming the norm these days. While I’m not sure it’s actually the case, it made me feel like I was getting more vino!

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As I sipped, I perused their menu of small plates to get some ideas for dinner. I always like to check out a restaurant’s menu online before I arrive, but Terzo only posts a sample menu. Their menu can change daily based on what’s fresh, available and in season. That’s another thing I love!

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Then I looked over the wine list. It’s all Italian and very extensive! It’s also not listed online. But Terzo does boast a 1000-bottle cellar and around 40 wines by the glass on any given day. I like to think I know a thing or two about wine; but this list made my head spin! There was so much that was new and unfamiliar to me. It’s another reason why I love wine. There is always something new to learn, try and taste! Here are just a few pages of the list:

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There was also a list of beers that I knew would please my husband. And at this point, this was the first time I found my beloved local Indeed LSD Honey Ale on a restaurant menu! {I later found it on tap at Red Cow!}

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When Jaime arrived, she was just as overwhelmed as me by the wine list. Since I had the chance to overhear the servers tending to other guests while I was waiting, I knew how knowledgeable they’d be. They answered difficult questions about wines on the list and used descriptors that I wouldn’t have even thought to use before! I was impressed.

We chose a bottle at our price point and asked our server, who probably could have passed as Ryan Gosling’s brother, for some advice based on our usual preferences. Jaime and I tend to like big, bold reds best. Ryan’s brother recommended a wine just around $40. Of course, I thought I took a photo of the label, but Jaime’s beautiful mug is as close as we’ll get. ;-)

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I believe it was a Super Tuscan called Lagone Aia Vecchia. And if I remember correctly, it was a blend of cabernet, merlot and sangiovese.

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Honestly, it is the best wine I’ve had in a restaurant at this price point! I am generally disappointed when spending that much money on a bottle when dining because it usually means I’ve chosen something something mediocre, sweet or without character. But, this time, our server nailed it.

We decided to order as we went, sharing plates. It was perfect! And it was something that’s not always easy to get Rob to do with me. But one thing Rob would like, is the placement of the silverware. He doesn’t like his touching the table. He always moves them to his napkin. But look at this!

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We started with the trio of bruschetta, which was just divine:

{bruschetta trio}
tomato & egg yolk, truffle mushroom,
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I didn’t get photos of everything because I was too busy sipping wine and catching up with Miss Jaime! We did enjoy another small plate of asparagus with burrata, though. You know they had me at burrata.

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And finally, we split an entree. When it comes to steak, I prefer a medium-rare filet. But I was feeling all adventurous, so I agreed to share the flat iron steak cooked to Jaime’s (less rare) liking. The steak was exquisite and I was surprised how much I loved it. It would be really difficult not to order that next time!

Our entire shared meal seemed seamless. Because the kitchen knew we were sharing everything, each dish came out with the food cut at a nice angle for easy splitting. It didn’t ruin the presentation nor did we have to massacre the beautiful dishes ourselves.

Of course, we couldn’t help but end with dessert. I took no notes, so who knows what flavors these were back in June. But who can go wrong with chocolate! All I remember is that we loved it. Terzo 17

So is this the Best Wine Bar in Minneapolis? I would have to say…

Absolutely, YES!

No, it doesn’t have the variety of wines from all around the world. But then again, by specializing in one area, they can focus on doing it right. And they do. The staff is well-trained and the I felt absolutely spoiled. Jaime and I spent way more money than we had expected to; but we had no complaints about the food, wine, nor service. In fact, it was perfect.

Terzo is also where I chose for my birthday dinner this year. You’ll have to wait to hear all about that Next Wine Wednesday.

What is the best wine bar you’ve been to?

Cheers~
Carrie

 

Scenes from Sydney

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What I love about blogging is that my travels can become a virtual scrapbook. I tried scrapbooking once. You know, the kind where you crop photos and insert special backgrounds, captions and shapes into a real, hand-held book?

That wasn’t for me. In fact, it totally stressed me out. Trying to come up with a layout, decide which photos to use and not to use… And then there was the fear I would have too many photos leftover or not enough pages!

When I blog, I can write about whatever I want, whenever I want, about as much or as little as I want to share. Plus, the best is that I can post… in any order I want! And Kat taught me, that it’s even okay to write about Travels Past. {Hello, Ireland! I still have more I wanted to write!}

But what I want to do more than anything, is get out as many of my trip thoughts and memories into words onto these pages before they start to fade. So here are some scenes from Sydney!

Sydney Opera House

Sydney Opera House

After a four-hour flight to L.A. followed by a 15-hour flight to Sydney, I knew we had to hit the ground running and put ourselves on local time. The only trouble: It was only 6:30 a.m. in Sydney. I did get more sleep on the flight over than I had expected. (I fell asleep every time I tried to watch a movie!) But our goal was to make it through until at least 8pm that night.

Upon arrival, we had so much adrenaline and thought, “This isn’t that bad!” Still, the airport felt like chaos to us and Rob and I were trying very hard to be patient with each other. For that reason, we decided not to go with the local public transportation to get to our hotel, but took a taxi instead (approximately $47 – ouch.) By the end of our stay, we learned how easy and less expensive AirLink (train to airport) is. Note to self for next time!

Upon arrival to our hotel {we stayed at the Meriton Service Apartments – Kent Street}, we hadn’t anticipated that our room would be ready. We figured we’d just drop our bags and be on our way. But we were in luck. Our studio apartment was available. I made this accommodation choice based on price. Circular Quay/The Rocks area was too expensive for our 17-day trip budget. The Trip Advisor reviews were great and the extra discount they offered made it affordable. The location was ideal – just a block away from the train station and two stops away from Circular Quay. And the fact that these were serviced “apartments” meant our amenities included kitchen and laundry!

I guess you could say that we even had a view of the sea:

Sydney - Hotel View

We got settled, promising each other while unpacking that we would not lie down! We came all this way and we couldn’t waste this day nor risk the chance of being stuck in the wrong time zone due to jet lag.

Instead we tried to follow this advice by getting fresh air and sun and followed this suggestion on what to see in Sydney if you only have 48 hours. We were in no hurry; but I’ve always found that getting an overview of a city is a good way to get a feel for everything and decide on what you truly want to focus for the rest of your stay. Besides, I liked the idea of staying outside to keep the fresh air moving through our lungs. It was a beautiful, cool spring day. Remember, the seasons are the opposite in the Southern Hemisphere!

I don’t know why I was so confused about public transportation in Sydney. I’ve been to many big cities before and navigated them just fine. Actually, I do know what confused me. It’s the fact that they called what other cities call the metro, subway, tram, light rail, etc… They called, wait for it – THE TRAIN. Whenever I read, “the train,” I kept thinking it meant we had to go long distances or outside the city.

Such was not the case in Sydney.

We took the train from our hotel just two stops to Circular Quay. And the moment you descend the train at that stop, you see the beautiful Sydney Harbour Bridge. It is breathtaking!

Sydney Harbour Bridge

Sydney Harbour Bridge

Sydneysiders also call this landmark “The Coathanger.” You can climb this bridge, if you desire. But the hefty $250 – $350 price tag and my extreme fear of heights saved us some money, kept us on the ground.

At this point, we still had a long day ahead of us. We opted to get a couple of coffees. It was time to try out a Flat White! I love that the coffee sizes are much smaller and cuter in Australia than back in the States. We do tend to Super Size everything.

Flat Whites, we miss you!

Flat Whites, we miss you!

I am normally a strong coffee girl. Give me an espresso {called a short black in Aussie lingo} or an Americano {a long black} any day. But there is just something about the Flat White. It’s like a latte – but better. It’s creamier and for whatever reason, the milk doesn’t make my stomach hurt like a cafe mocha does. I enjoyed a flat white most days of our trip.

At Circular Quay, when looking out on the Harbour, you’ll see the bridge to your left and the Opera House to your right. We took the advice to walk clockwise around the Opera House to the Royal Botanical Gardens. There is a beautiful path along the water leading you around the building.

Sydney Opera House Walk

I thought, when I saw the Opera House, I would think, “Oh. There it is.” And be on my way. It’s a well-known, iconic building that I thought identifying it would be enough. But I was in awe. It was so exquisite! Designed by Danish architect Jørn Utzon, building commenced in 1959 and was completed in 1973.

Sometimes I forget how much I admire architecture until I’m on vacation. Although all I brought was my little iPhone 4, I couldn’t get enough of photographing it.

Sydney Opera House - Detail

Isn’t it beautiful? It was a perfect day for a run, along the harbour with the Opera House right there. Look at the beautiful blue sky!

Sydney Opera House - Sails

In fact, in the photo below, the purpose was to capture the Sydney Harbour Bridge reflecting in the glass of the lower level of the Opera House. But I’m secretly pleased that I snapped a runner in the background.

Sydney Harbour Bridge Reflecting off Opera House

To be honest, while there, I didn’t even think about touring the interior. I’m sure it’s beautiful, too. I guess there is always next time. The cost per adult at the time of this writing is about $37 per adult. Maybe a cocktail at the bar? That’ll be on the list for next time, too.

I couldn’t get enough of the Opera House on our ferry back from Manly a couple of days later either. I kept taking photos at every angle. I was still awestruck in a way I never thought I would be.

Sydney Opera House from Ferry 3

There is nothing like it. Maybe it’s the symbolism I see in the design. I don’t know if it was meant to be interpreted this way, but the building kind of reminds me of the sea, as if they are sails on the water. Or… even… shark fins!

Sydney Opera House from Ferry 5

Which is where I must confess my ignorance. While researching our trip, I learned that I really knew very little about Australian geogrpahy before our travels. I pictured the Sydney Opera House along he harbour with the Great Barrier Reef in the water right in front of it! HA! Yes, really. Silly me. Little did I know at the timethat Australia is about the size of the United States. And if I were in, say, South Carolina, I’d have to go to New York to get to the reef. And we did. Don’t worry, I didn’t get all the way Australia without visiting the GBR! But that’s for another post…

Back to Sydney…

One of the highlights of stay in Sydney was the Royal Botanical Gardens.  We only saw a small part of them, but we could spend days there. The unique floral, fauna and wildlife were all so new to us. Upon entry, we heard the song of a bird we had never heard before. And then they swooped down at us. We hung around checking those out first. Later, we learned, these were magpies. And we should be a little more careful! They can take an eye out!

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We also walked through Hyde Park, and before we knew it, we were back to the street that led to our hotel! In retrospect, we should not have walked 8 miles that first day. {We could have still enjoyed the fresh air and sunshine sitting on a ferry in the harbour.}

Because by 5pm, we had a bite to eat at the 3 Wise Monkeys Pub near our hotel and were in bed by 6pm. Okay, so we *almost* made it to 8pm.

How do you combat jet lag?

What is your favorite way to spend a first day in a new city?

More posts on our Australia trip:

The One Thing I Didn’t Need to Bring to Australia

The Wattle and Bush Tucker

Cheers~
Carrie

Black Bean “Pasta”

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Rob and I picked up a new item at Costco last week:

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Just look at all the protein in these babies!

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I love black beans, so I’m very curious about these. They have great reviews, too! Of course, a Mexican-style dish makes the most sense to me. A red curry sauce is also suggested on their website. I’ll try that when I’m cooking just for me. But I am also considered making a light garlic cream sauce and just adding some veggies. I’m planning to try this “pasta” out next week. How would you use these?

But as for this week:

planning

Food

Dinners:

Lunch:

  • Leftovers
  • Snacks – apples, nuts or string cheese and dark chocolate

Breakfasts:

Fitness

  • Monday – Walk 1 hour OR Run 1 mile OR HIIT Run/Walk OR 30 min on recumbent bike.
  • Tuesday Walk 1 hour OR Run 1 mile OR HIIT Run/Walk OR 30 min on recumbent bike.
  • Wednesday – Walk 1 hour OR Run 1 mile OR HIIT Run/Walk OR 30 min on recumbent bike.
  • Thursday – Walk 1 hour OR Run 1 mile OR HIIT Run/Walk OR 30 min on recumbent bike.
  • Friday – REST
  • Saturday – Walk 1 hour OR Run 1 mile OR HIIT Run/Walk OR 30 min on recumbent bike.
  • Sunday – REST

So my questions this week:

What is your favorite bone-in chicken thigh recipe?

How would you use the black bean spaghetti I bought?

Cheers~
Carrie

A Jersey Boy

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Sophie & Shamrock Saturday

Ever since the pooches received their last BarkBox, there is one toy with which Shamrock has been obsessed:

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That BarkBox was Game Day themed. And boy does Shamrock love that jersey! I love the fact that it is green for our little Shamrock. and also that it has a “B” on it. Bugaboo is our other little nickname for Sham.

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It’s just adorable how he chews at it so carefully. One Sunday morning, we were getting geared up to watch The Pack on TV. Rob turned on a pre-game show. Shamrock came trotting in with his Jersey and started nibbling! It seems he always pulls it out when we’ve got football on. I know it’s purely coincidental. But we love it just the same.

But remember, that’s his jersey. So don’t touch it!

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Have a great football-filled weekend!

Cheers~
Carrie