Category Archives: Travel

3 Gifts I gave in 2016 (and why regifting might be okay!)

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I’ve been pretty overwhelmed with gift lists this year! But as in years past, I wanted to share a few of the gifts I gave last holiday season, in hopes of helping inspire you with your own ideas. Since I found the time for this post a little late, those ideas might be a little last-minute anyway!

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Cookbooks

If you’ve been following this blog the past year, you’ll know I’ve been obsessed with cookbooks! I like checking them out from the library and then if I read one of real value, I find a used copy at {referral links –>>} paperbackwap or thriftbooks to add to my collection. Here the specific cookbooks I gave at gifts last year:

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Charter Fishing Trip

The gift of time is one of my favorite gifts to give. Even though Green Bay is only 4 hours away, it’s really hard to get my parents to come visit us in the Twin Cities. Also, my husband has been wanting to fish with my dad ever since they met and it had not yet happened. I decided to make both things happen!

I created a voucher for a Charter Fishing Trip for the four of us in the Duluth this summer. I let them pick the weekend and gave some options on charter companies and said we’d cover the charter and two-night accommodations. We stayed at The Suites Hotel in a two bedroom suite because the parking lot backs up onto the marina and all we had to do was walk outside to the boat at 5:30am.

My parents – Duluth Lake Superior Lakewalk, June 2017

My dad has been on plenty of fishing trips like these; but I have not. So I don’t think the trip was as special to him as it was to me in a fishing sense; but I think he really loved spending the time with us! Even though it was June, it was COLD out on the water. Locals joke that they only have one month of summer per year – August. Looking back on this photo, I can’t get over how happy I look!

The actual fishing wasn’t exactly what I expected, but we took turns reeling in the fish each time one bit. We made memories!!!

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My dad ended up with the last one and the biggest so far of the season of that charter company. The captain was proud!

Here is the video of him reeling it in. It took a long time. This two-minute video feels long, but it really took about 20 minutes or so to reel that ^ big guy in! If you want to fast forward, it’s about at 1:38 where the good stuff starts happening… you’ll hear from all the swearing at the end! HA!

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And this is one of my fave photos of the trip, with my parents looking at each other, laughing:

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Regifting: Why I think it’s Okay!

I am not anti-regifting. Truth be told, if an item you are given (or purchased) isn’t quite the right fit for you, someone else may get so much more joy out of it! But I’m not talking about your great aunt’s fruitcake or a sweater you hate…

I have two real big rules about re-gifting.

#1 – It must be something that if you won’t use or enjoy that you know that the recipient will.

EXAMPLE: Rob was obsessed with wanting to kayak one year, but didn’t want to buy all of the equipment. He did oodles of research and purchased a blow up kayak similar to this one. The review that sold him: some guy packed it as luggage for his trip to Europe. However, Rob blew it up all of once when we were up at his parents’ lake place, but never put it in the water. Almost two years went by when he realized who could use it more: my brother’s family! They go up north to our cousin’s cottage on the lake every summer. It was in like new condition since it had never been used. Last summer, Rob received a text with a picture of our nephew in it:

#2  – It must not be the *only* gift they receive. You should also give another gift.

For me, this is sort of like a backup. Before regifting, I like to be sure that it’s something the recipient will love. But in case my intuition is completely off, I won’t feel like I completely bombed.

EXAMPLE: You may want to give someone something that is a family heirloom or tradition or something that you once loved, but no longer use. When I was a kid, my mom found an old lava lamp and set it up in my bedroom. I loved the soothing aqua-colored “lava” pooling around when I’d turn it on at night. In retrospect, it was meditative. When we moved, that lamp somehow got lost. So Santa bought me a new one for Christmas, this time with green “lava” because I liked all things Kermit-the-Frog. When starting it up, I liked to call the first little lava balls Kermy Turds. So clever, I know. Recently, I had rediscovered that lava lamp when my parents delivered all of my stuff that I’d left back at their house since college.

My nephew is a HUGE Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles fan and his favorite color is green. I decided he’d love to have my lamp! He did seem to love it when he opened it on Christmas last year. But recently when I asked about it, his mom said he hasn’t set it up nor turned it on because he is afraid of breaking it! (I may have to change that the next time I’m in town. 😉 ) But my point is here that this was not his only gift last year. I didn’t want that to be his only gift in case he didn’t like or use it.

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If you regift, what are your rules?

What are your tips for last-minute gifts?

Want more unique gift-giving ideas? Here are a few of my posts from past years:

Looking for more ideas? Try these links. Some are older, but I still think they have great ideas:

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Happy Holidays!
Carrie

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Shamrock Gets Loon-y!

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It’s truly wonderful to enjoy the lake where Rob’s parents live when it is not a holiday weekend and the crowds are gone. We were there for the week after Memorial Day this year.

I call this one Sunlight Dancing on the Water:

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We took out the neighbor’s paddle boat a few times. Rob would fish, where I would help net, read, or just relax and pedal. A couple of times, though, we opted to bring the pooches. The dogs really like fishing and since Rob likes to just catch and release, he lets each dog sniff and give the fish a quick kiss before throwing them back in. It really is sweet. As much as Benny loved to fish, too, we really couldn’t do this often with him as he would bark the whole time!

We went into a little cove of the lake where a loon resided. As we pedaled in he didn’t move away from us at all. In fact, he came a bit closer to us. At one point, I can’t say he was more than 15 feet away. I was really nervous about this because Shamrock is such a bird dog. Was he going to jump in?!

 

It wasn’t long after that that Shamrock’s urge got the better of him and he did jump into the water.

“Do something!?” I cried. Shamrock had jumped off the paddle boat on Rob’s side and was swimming towards the loon.I had noticed how long and sharp the loon’s beak was after a good amount of time watching him up close. I could just imagine a sweet little loon pecking Sham’s eyeballs out.

“What do you want me to do?” Rob exclaimed back. I don’t know what I expected. For him to dive in? He had a fishing pole in his hand, equipped with a hook. We were seated low in the paddle boat. Sophie was also on board. The image in my head was a movie-made dive. But if he were to do that, it wouldn’t be quite as pretty!

“Come here Sham,” Rob said calmly. I probably rolled my eyes. Sham never listened when he was on the hunt. It’s why we always keep him on a leash unless he is the confines of our fenced-in-yard. If he were to chase something anywhere else, he’d never come back.

The loon did not move. He was not intimidated by dog paddling noisily his way.

But Rob kept repeating himself calmly.

About halfway to the loon, Sham turned around and swam back. I have no idea why! At Rob’s request? Did he get halfway there and then wonder what he was actually going to do? Was it that he realized he could not touch the bottom like he can when he swims near the shore? Was he getting tired? But for whatever reason, we are grateful our wet Bugaboo returned to us unharmed.

It’s always a happy day at the lake, even on land when Rob likes play “chase the bobber”. (There is no hook on the line for this game, of course!)

Ahhh… summer!

Happy 4th of July weekend!

Cheers~
Carrie

Family in Town {Last Year!}

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I wrote most of this post last August, but never published it!  I changed nothing, but added the end… Enjoy!

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Written 8/31/16…

I have been anxiety-ridden for about the past month. I always thought I dealt fairly well with change, but apparently not! Luckily, my mom came to visit me for a week. Having family in town distracted me from thinking (or feeling frozen) too much.

You know your mom loves you when she comes to visit you for a week, without a car, even when you have to work!

Why did she not have a car? Because the first weekend, my brother and Co. dropped her off. We had a lovely time, but unfortunately, I didn’t get any photos of the usual stuff – like playing poker or taking our annual trip to Burger Jones.

However, for some reason we decided to capture the moment my brother introduced all of his home brews! I find the expressions in these photos funny, so I thought I’d share them with you:

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My brother has a decade+ long obsession with duct tape. That’s why labeling his bottles with such is so fitting! I was quite impressed by his brews. We are looking forward to trying more in the future.

While our dogs both have really taken to all four of the kids, for some reason, Sham usually will end up hanging with Max.
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The kids had their usual swimming and MOA time, but we had a bit of adult time, too. We didn’t take JR on an afternoon-long brewery tour like we did for his birthday that one time, but we did introduce him to the one not too far from us that had finally arrived south of the the river – Nutmeg. Let me tell you, they have really upped their game since the first time I posted. There are new brewers that craft some exceptional beers in the smallest room possible. The food is exceptional… and there are even cocktails on the menu now.

This photo of her cocktail and a Nutmeg brew is courtesy of my brother’s wife, D. I like how she got the photo of Rob’s and my noses almost touching!

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My mom really likes those keg lights hanging from the ceiling^^. And we have to say, dessert there is divine, too. But there is a total disagreement on which dessert is better, the Porter Brownie Sundae or the Amber Toffee Cake.

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The reason I never finished that post was that I had more to say. I often try to put too much into one post and then it never gets published! I need to remember to break things up. What I wanted to add was more of what happened that week with my mom!

For example, on a beautiful afternoon, we took her to Nicollet Mall to enjoy some of our favorites: such as a Cheese Toastie on the rooftop of Brit’s Pub while watching Lawn Bowling, a pint of cider or a Big Ginger at The Local and these Brie Curds with Blueberry Ketchup at The News Room:

It was such a lovely day that day (I remember it well!) that we took a little walk to a hip outdoor patio to which Rob and I had not yet been. I’ll leave that one for another post. 😉

Better late then never, right?

What photos have brought back wonderful memories to you lately?

Cheers~
Carrie

 

At the Lake…

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Sophie & Shamrock Saturday

When we are visiting Rob’s parents, it never fails to amaze me how attentive Sham is when Rob is fishing off the dock.

But I wish I just got some better photos for those times when Rob has caught one because our pooches reactions are priceless.

This will have to do for now until I can capture it better!

After getting the fish unhooked, Rob took it back to the water to release. Both dogs jumped in the water. We have two happy, happy fisher dogs!

Happy Saturday!
Carrie

5 for Friday: St. Patrick’s Day Edition!

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Taking a break from the books this week since it’s St. Paddy’s Day! I’m not Irish, but sometimes I celebrate like I am. 🙂

Here are 5 of my St. Paddy’s Day Faves:

  1. Food:

    • Creamy Reuben Soup – I made this for the first time on Wednesday. My husband devoured nearly 3 bowls of it! (For the record, I loved it, too.) Okay, so Reubens are not technically Irish, but the corned beef and sauerkraut (cabbage), makes me feel like Reubens kind of are…  Besides, a local bar always makes a version that Rob always dreams of this time of year. I wanted to see if I could do it justice. The verdict? This one might be better. Make it no! Side Note: I never really had a Reuben sandwich until I met Rob. He and his parents always ordered them when we ate out!
    • Corned Beef and Cabbage – Truth be told, this is not a traditional Irish dish either! It’s more Irish-American. This was our go-to recipe every year, a few years back. I don’t think I’ll be making it again, though. The Soup has won out for eternity.
    • Irish Bread – I think Irish Soda Bread might be Irish-American, too. I don’t remember ever having that when I was in Ireland.I do miss their brown bread, though! Maybe I’ll have to try whip up a batch of that next year. Anyone have a fave recipe?
  2. Drinks:

    • Guinness – People think that Guinness is such a heavy beer because it is dark and maybe also because of the foamy head. While it may be heavier than the lager you are drinking, Guinness really isn’t as think or full-bodied as you may think it is. There are several stouts that have much more flavor and richness than Guinness. So give it a try! Sometimes, I’ll drink a Guinness when I want something lighter – it has so fewer calories than many other beers! Plus, there are so many concoctions you can make, including the Black Velvet in this post.
    • Whiskey – I’m not much of a whiskey drinker, but my husband and friend Jen tend to like Johnny Jump Ups (a shot of whiskey in cider). But we did do a tasting while in Ireland. So much fun!
    • Irish Sangria – Want something a little nontraditional and fit for the beautiful weather we are supposed to have this weekend? Try the Irish Sangria in my Sangria post!
  3. Entertainment:

    • Irish Music – You can’t easily find trad in the U.S. but when you do, especially on this special day, it’s wonderful. We love the music at St. Paul’s FREE Irish Fair every August. And we go to see the non-traditional, but always fun Gaelic Storm whenever they are in town!
  4. Memories:

    • My friend Jen and I started a tradition when we backpacked Europe after college to find an Irish Pub in every country. My husband and I carry on this tradition to this day whenever we travel like we did here, here, herehere, here and here.
    • Almost two of those 10 weeks backpacking in Europe backpacking were spent in Ireland. I was most at peace in Dingle. I still remember that day and the calm I felt on the boat while in search of a the view of Fungie the dolphin. Although, hanging with my friend Colm in Dublin and Dundalk was wicked fun!
    • Then we took a family trip to Ireland with Rob’s parents in 2012. Here’s a link to my last post about that wonderful trip. If you scroll down to the bottom of that post, you’ve got a link to all of my posts about that trip on the bottom. We were chauffeured around The Isle by Ray with Walk with Me and made some friends with locals in Dublin. {Hi Ross!} We do need to plan a trip back. {Sigh.}| I haven’t seen the south yet!
  5. Lastly:

    • Our very own Shamrock:

 

Happy St. Paddy’s Day!

What is your favorite thing about this holiday?

Cheers~
Carrie

5 Incredible Experiences in the Twin Cities

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Not too long ago my wonderful Wineaux friend Katie, started a blog called Zen Life and Travel. Like me, she’s passionate about travel. She blogs about how to do so more often by accumulating points and miles and by living through experiences instead of things. She has lots of great tips that got me back to accumulating more miles so that we can go back to Australia next year!

I recently wrote a guest post for her blog on 5 Incredible Experiences in the Twin Cities.

Check it out. While there, be sure to sign up for Katie’s weekly newsletter for more tips and tricks!

Name one thing you recommend out-of-town guests to do when they visit.

Cheers~
Carrie

 

Quebec City: Observations & Next Time

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As a little endcap to our Quebec City scrapbook, I’d like to make mention of a few miscellaneous things we did, a few observations I made and a few notes for ourselves on what we’d do next time.

Not until I started writing this post did I realize that in our three nights in Quebec City, we popped into three Irish pubs! While it is the norm for us to find an Irish pub whenever we travel, our multiple stops in Quebec City were unintentional! In fact, none of them were planned. They just happened to be in our path when timing, hunger or an inability to make a decision rose…

Irish Pub #1

First up is Pub Claddagh. Here, we decided to try an Irish-style Poutine:

I loved the concept of having an Irish-style version in an Irish Pub in Quebec City. In fact, we found out that nearly every bar and restaurant has their own take on poutine. It’s probably why Rob didn’t order it as often as he thought he would.

Irish English Pub #2

On another occasion, we were just stopping for a drink. This was at Pub Saint-Alexandre, which I come to find out now is technically English Pub.

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There is a Pub Chez Murphy’s now next door; but I just had the impression they were one in the same. We also got some fries to snack on here. {Can you see why I got so sick of fries!?} They weren’t very good anyway. But it was also very close to the touristy area, so I probably wouldn’t ever eat here again. Or if I did, I’d go with their cheese plate, which hails cheeses only from Quebec. I wasn’t too hungry at the time; otherwise, you know that would have been my choice!

Burgers

Across the street was a restaurant called Les Trois Garçons which we noticed and were later recommended for burgers by an employee at Korrigane Brasserie. We learned that, especially in the touristy area, no one wanted you to walk in and try to find a seat at the bar. They had to seat you. It was a little annoying; but I had to realize it was part culture, part an attempt at crowd control.

I wasn’t too keen on going for burgers {more fries!} while we were in Quebec City; but it was on a night that we couldn’t make a decision and just needed to stop walking. The burgers were okay, but nothing you’d have to make a stop for. In fact, I did take photos, but they aren’t blog worthy.

Italian

Because of Rob’s obsessive love of Italian food {and my love for him}, we stopped on two separate occasions for Italian. Italian food in Quebec City? Yup. Both were good. One had great service. The other did not. Another observation: Service when you sit at the bar in Quebec is not at all like that in the U.S. Sometimes there is not a set bartender. Sometimes that bartender gets all the drinks and also has all the tables on the terrasse. So you don’t get a lot of interaction.

Irish Pub #3

Our last impromptu Irish Pub stop was probably our favorite of the three: Pub Saint-Patrick. We stopped here for a nightcap after one of our Italian dinners. They had such an extensive craft beer list! And I, not wanting anything too heavy after our Italian dinner, went with a cider instead…

IMG_7220Rob chose an absolutely amazing beer:

The Vache Folle {crazy cow!} Imperial Milk Stout is a high-alcohol creamy-goodness wonder. It was a perfect dessert!

Coffee

I wish we’d have found a better cafe for breakfast coffee and croissants. Our hotel offered them; but you had to let them know the night before. We popped into Café Paillard one morning, as I had it written down as a recommendation; but it was more a chain type of place with absolutely no character. I was unimpressed.

However, what I do like are the espresso machines found behind nearly every bar!

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This is often the case in Europe, but rare in the U.S. I would just love this option, especially after a heavy meal and drinks or when I am designated as sober cab!

Hockey

I believe the whole world knows of the Canadians’ love of hockey. I thought I understood since I currently live in Minnesota, which is known in the U.S. as the “State of Hockey.” However, I did not. Keep in mind that we were in Quebec in July. Hockey news was displayed on every T.V. no matter where we went! The biggest news at the time: the trade of Canadiennes’ P.K. Subban. There was quite the uproar!

Calèches:

I know that the horse-drawn carriages, known as calèches in this quaint little town are supposed to offer a piece of history and a touch of romance to the visitor’s experience. You will also find these in the old part of town in Montreal. I read a few articles about them before our trip and I’ll have to agree. They are not exactly the most humane thing. I did see one driver having trouble “controlling” his horse and was beating him furiously, while the troubled tourists held on while their carriage went back and forth in every direction as the horse tried to evade each whip. NOT COOL.

Next Time:

I was really trying to be super relaxed about this trip and go with the flow. With a list of recommendations in hand, I thought we’d pick restaurants and things to do based on where we were at any give point in time. I regret this. There was too much indecisiveness on both our parts and it was just a little too relaxed. I also relied on my phone too much for maps and information when wi-fi wasn’t always readily available. I had a hard time keeping a charge on my phone more so than I ever had before.

So next time, I think we’d:

  • Enjoy Quebec City in the fall.
  • Get another hotdog at Inox.
  • Enjoy a cheese plate at the Chateau Frontenac with good wine or cocktails – worth the splurge!
  • Get more adventurous and try more traditional Quebecois foods like at Aux Anciens Canadiens.
  • Get a queue de castor (beaver tail) in Lower Town.
  • Book reservations at L’affaire est Ketchup – a popular restaurant that you need to have rez for at least several weeks in advance!
  • Eat less fries!
  • Try any, if not all, of the desserts at Pub du Parvis.
  • Wander the Parc de l’Esplanade or Plaines d’Abraham and perhaps take a picnic.
  • Go to the Le Cercle Bar or Bar la Nankasi for music.
  • Or any of the places I listed at the end of this post.

We made our way to the train station for our 3 and 1/2-hour train ride to Montreal.

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The train ride was a much different experience from those I’ve had in Europe. There are actual car attendants that come around with food and drinks (for purchase). I felt more like we were on a flight.

I try not to have not to regret not doing something on my travels, but prefer to make notes for next time. That way, we learn from our mistakes and have some must-dos should we return!

What have you regretted when traveling?

My next post will be on Montreal, but until then, here are our other posts on QC, if you’d like to catch up!

Cheers~
Carrie