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travel – carnival cruise

ah yes… finally… my long long overdue post about my fabulous cruise in the caribbean.

so, back in May, myself and 7 of my coworkers had the pleasure of being hosted on the Carnival Breeze for a 6 night cruise from Miami and visiting Key West, Grand Cayman and Cozumel.

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here she was, as viewed from the Miami port before we embarked.  she’s a big girl and beautiful, shiny and new.

this was my view… deck 2 outside cabin.  we had this fabulous little window well that i used many afternoons to sit in and read my book while enjoying the gorgeous caribbean water… there’s nothing like that colour…

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the ports were fantastic… we rode bikes in key west… i did the stingray city excursion in grand cayman (so cool!) and in cozumel we did a catamaran boat cruise with snorkeling and beers & guacamole.

my main challenge on this cruise was to keep active and to try to restrain myself around the food…
there was a Guy Fieri’s burger joint on the ship and I managed to restrict myself to only 1 burger.  which was a miracle, because that was a damn fine burger.  my boss ate 7.  so basically i was the only one showing restraint.

my main temptation was the blue iguana taco bar… they made the tortillas fresh right infront of you and then you got to load up your tacos as you liked and there was even a hot sauce carousel that included my all time favourite hot sauce; a honey habenero.
i could never decide between the pork or chicken taco, so obviously i ordered one of each… there was also a fish option, but it was breaded and deep fried, so i said no to that.

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*drool* makes me hungry just thinking about it…

i also did well in the breakfast department… i’m not a huge breakfast guy, but i did love that i could have my bagel and smoked salmon whenever i saw fit…

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and then one day, i splurged on the huevos rancheros…
oh man, it was good.  three kinds of salsa… and these little hush puppies on the side… yup.  that was a winner.

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and because the best part of cruise ship life is having no limit to what you order, we also got a breakfast mac & cheese for the table… which was garnished with fried chicken and bacon.  hells to the yes.
there was 3 of us digging in to that and it was still too rich to finish.

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so there’s a little snapshot into how damn easy it is to indulge on a ship.
there were a few nights i definitely went overboard… i ate 3 lobster tails one night.  why not?  they’re free and i was still hungry.  there were nights filled with beer until 3am… (couple of those nights infact)…
but i balanced everything out with 4 trips to the gym (which was REALLY nice BTW) and tons of walking.  while you’re onboard a ship, you’re constantly walking from one end of it to another… and in port, with bike rides and swimming excursions, we kept moving.

and at the end of everything, i’m quite pleased that i didn’t gain a single pound.  so that is a total win to me.

carnival really wowed me with their ship, facilities, service and food.  i’d definitely go on the breeze again!

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travel: shamelessly in love with austin.

on my last vacation i discovered something.
i discovered that austin, texas is perhaps one of the greatest places i’ve ever visited.
and while oodles of people told me “you’ll love austin…”, i was still surprised that not only did i love austin, but i LOVED austin.
in fact, one drunken evening, i called my husband and told him “fuck vegas, all our vacations are to austin from now on!”

this city.
it’s the fucking best.
its pure rock and roll, the nicest people and the best food.
if it was in canada, i’d have moved there already.

so… the original draw to austin wasn’t the city itself, it was this festival.

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and this was incredible.  it was amazingly run, clean, efficient… just surpassed all expectations.
i’ve been to a lot of large scale events and this was hands down the best run.
i can not say enough good things about the management of ACL festival.

their food options were out of control… some of austin’s best restaurants and food trucks representing.  none with a lineup longer than 10 minutes even in the peak of dinner rush.

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the beer hall… and it’s important to note that this is a beer HALL, not a beer GARDEN.
because in the great land of america, you get to be a big kid and you can take your beer wherever you damn well please.
and they sold 20 different craft & local beers throughout the festival.
the main beer hall was over 20,000 square feet, again, with no line longer than 10 minutes even in the heat of the day.

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besides the festival, we did some shopping and eating at south congress… which was very cool and we spent a good couple of hours and some decent money in the little funky shops…

we also did the requisite tourist activity and visited the gorgeous capital building…

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and on our food tour we hit some really cool places and noticed that austin loves its infused booze.
and bar worth its salt was infusing their own liquor and some of the brews were wild.
some spicy, some insane and others complete genius…

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the craziest one we tried was the franklin’s brisket infused bourbon.  it was salty, beefy and smoky.  truly one of the most inspired and unique tastes i’ve encountered.

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but this… this is what i came for.
my beloved silversun pickups played on saturday and fucking owned it.
i had a spot right up front and took a million pictures…
the played three of my all time favourites.
they played 10 songs total, which i can’t complain about…
and they declared it to be their last performance until the new album comes out next year.
it was fucking worth every penny i spent.  i’d do it again in a heartbeat.

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in fact…
i already know i’ll be back next year.
thanks for the super awesome fun times austin!

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travel: los angeles recap

i guess one would say that we survived LA.
although the jury is still out on my liver making it out alive.

but here’s your brief photojournal.  and sorry, but if you’re following me on instagram, you’ve already seen all these.

if you squint and look reeeeeal close you’ll see the hollywood sign in the centre of this first picture.  and that is the most we saw of it, lol.  (from the plane)

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we made it to our lovely hotel in hollywood without much incident… it was a great location and super cute.  i definitely recommend the grafton.
friendly staff, nice rooms and we adored the pool.

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our first whole day there we kicked it to universal studios to ride some rides and have the fun!

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the last time i was there was many moons ago… probably like 15 years ago, so basically besides the bones, the whole place was different.

we had a rad time and were very happy we went first thing in the morning when it opened.  we rode the simpsons ride, transformers, the mummy and jurassic park before there were any lines at all.

the simpsons ride was SO COOL.  definitely my favourite thing there.

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after a hot sweaty day in the california sunshine, we had another very important stop to make…

hot dogs!  (obviously)

only a block away from our hotel was Carney’s, which is hailed as the best hot dog in LA.  and it did not disappoint.
we went with the classic carney’s dog which had chili, cheese, mustard, onions and tomato on it.  we added the insanely hot peppers on top and i had mine without onions.
it was a frigging delight.  hands down the best dog i’ve had to date.
and can’t you tell how excited the husband is?  he looks like a boy on christmas, lol.

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one of the things that always makes me excited is checking out venues in other cities.  we didn’t make it into a show, but wow was it ever neat to see so many legendary places in person.

the whiskey, the viper room, the troubadour, the roxy… it felt like every block we turned had another amazing spot for me to gawk at.
next time, i most definitely have to see a show.

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as i mentioned, the whole point of the trip was to see our dear friends get hitched and the wedding and all the partying that accompanied it was top notch.

the wedding itself, absolute perfection and getting to know so many super cool people was just a blast.  those LA people have the most hilarious stories.

on our last day we had the pleasure of enjoying a gorgeous pool in bel air and it was a wonderful end to a great trip.

and we agreed that we need to visit LA more often.

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travel: los angeles

tomorrow the husband and i are off to los angeles for the weekend to see our friends get married.
we’re pretty excited about the wedding, obviously, but also for the chance to explore LA a bit.  neither of us have every really been there.  while we’ve both visited the city briefly as children and the surrounding area of anaheim, we have not spent a lot of time in la/hollywood proper and are looking forward to getting to experience the city.

we’re staying on sunset in hollywood at a hotel suggested by the happy couple…

which has an adorable pool that i plan on floating my hangovers away in…

because you probably know by now that i’m a water girl and love my pools/lakes/oceans.  it’s necessary for wherever i stay.

the only real thing we have planned is that on saturday we’re going to hit universal studios hollywood.  i REALLY want to ride some rides and i haven’t been to universal hollywood since i was about 16 years old, so it has changed a lot.
and while i’m super bummed that the back to the future ride no longer exists, i’m pretty stoked to take a whirl on the simpsons ride.

are we absolutely insane for visiting a theme park on the last saturday on a long weekend of the summer?  probably.
but the wedding is sunday and monday is for hangovers and a bel air pool party apparently… and tuesday we go home, so this is the only chance.

either way, we figure we’ll go first thing when they open, ride some rides, see some cool stuff and head home when we get tired of crowds, likely around 3pm or so… and then probably spend the afternoon poolside, go for dinner and head to bed early, since this wedding may be the biggest liver challenge i’ve faced to date.

so if anyone has any la suggestions, please tweet them to me or comment here… we’ve done zero planning for this trip and are kind of flying by the seat of our pants, so guidance is always welcome.

have a great long weekend friends!  see you in september!

food & travel: austin, texas

well… it feels like its been forever since cass & i booked our trip to austin… but finally the countdown is at under 2 months and we’re starting to get VERY excited.

my right hand (wo)man found an amazing blog called Fed Man Walking that we’ve spent a few hours drooling over and dreaming up all the delights that we’re going to try while we’re there…

we’ve mapped out most of the places that we’re planning on visiting and made some guestimates as to what we can walk to and what will be bus or taxi…

and we’ve got a loose itinerary.

we arrive on wednesday and will have had a looooong day of travel with an early morning start, so we’ll probably just check in, chill out, go for a swim and wander the immediate area around the hotel.

thursday we’ll be bright eyed and bushy tailed and plan on a morning run/walk and some solid city exploring, some pool swimming, relaxing ect
then we’re very stoked to be seeing The Book of Mormon that night!

friday is when we really get going… we’ll be up early for our pre-ACL food tour with Austin Eats Food Tours.

Get your ACL festival morning started right!  Experience Franklin BBQ (no line), Torchy’s breakfast tacos, Blue Ox BBQ, Sugar Circus Bakery and Hops and Grain Brew prior to arriving to the festival!
What’s included:  breakfast taco, brisket, sausage, turkey, pork tenderloin, pulled pork, 3 local craft beers, dessert & drop off at the festival!

and then the main event… off to ACL festival!  we have poured over the schedule, highlighted our picks and have formulated a plan of attack.
on friday we’ll end the night with depeche mode.  after the festival… who know where austin will take us…

saturday will hopefully treat us with a bit of a sleep in…  maybe a morning swim… and then off to ACL fest for silversun pickups at 4pm! ❤  ❤ ❤
after the daytime shows are over at ACL fest, we’re heading down to Emo’s to check out the late night show with franz ferdinand and smith westerns which should keep us in just the right amount of trouble all night 😉

sunday is our gospel brunch date at stubb’s bbq!
then we’re off to the last day of ACL fest with the closing performance from lionel richie.  yup.  after the festival, who know?  we may have to crash from exhaustion or we might have it in us to rock austin for one last night…

monday we head home at 3pm, so we’ll still have the morning to have one last exploration and shopping endevour before we start the journey home.

ya, i’d better book that tuesday off work for sleep and recovery.  just typing all that exhausted me, lol.

46 days to go…

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fabulous las vegas: including bon apetit vegas uncorkd 2013

you might not know if from my lack of posts, but the 2013 vegas crew did indeed survive our adventure.
i also answered the question – is 6 nights in vegas too long? with a resounding NO.  i was not ready to come home and could have lounged poolside for another week easily.

and once again, i headed to vegas with a to-do/to-see list that was a mile long and really only got through a handful of things.
but i did have an excellent time.

when we checked in at the cosmopolitan, the lovely lady at the desk asked if it was our first time.  we told her it was my 7th trip to vegas, but our first time staying at the cosmopolitan.  she leaned over the desk and whispered “you’ll never stay anywhere else again”.
and by george,i think she was right.

the cosmopolitan was top notch from start to finish.  excellent service, beautiful rooms with incredible pools and terrific restaurants.  i have zero complaints about our stay there. and yes, i’ll be back.

our room was over 1000 square feet with 2 bathrooms and a giant patio overlooking the bellagio fountains.  i pretty much never wanted to move out.  it was gorgeous.

(here’s our patio view)

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and a shot of the living room when we were about to check out… le sigh…

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anyways, like most things in life, pictures don’t do it justice, but lets suffice to say it was pretty kickass.

but, more than anything, in las vegas, we come to eat and drink.
and the bon apetit vegas uncorkd was a strong lure for us…
we decided to do two events, the grand tasting and the bellagio block party.  both were very cool and very different.  the grand tasting was a totally mind blowing experience.  celebrity chefs everywhere, throngs of people loaded up with pork belly and short rib and fine liquor flowing very freely.

here’s my partners in crime and i on the red carpet on arrival.

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it’s kind of hard to see and describe, but all the food is poolside in an outer ring and then the liquor was on the inner ring, hugging the pool.  lovely setting.

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this was the most i saw of gordon ramsay all night… he wasn’t exactly hanging out making conversation…

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no big deal… just bobby flay serving food for mesa grill…

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i don’t even know which restaurant this cookie came from, but it had a syringe of chocolate ganache with it and it was a delight.

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i resisted the urge to take pictures of my food and just experience the event instead.  by now, i know that no photo can replicate being there and tasting it, so i’ll just tell you that we enjoyed to the max and kept the camera in my purse pretty much the whole night.  this was an event, not a photo op. and i stand by that decision.

the next night was the bellagio block party… and it was fun!  much more relaxed than the grand tasting and much smaller, in both size and guests.  the food portions were also bigger, as instead of 200 restaurants, you only had about 30 to try from, so you got a bit more of an appetizer vs an amuse bouche.

here’s my crew (minus my husband who left to get a beer) at the block party.

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and then under the bellagio hidden driveway sign…

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yup.  fun times!

anyways… fill in the blanks with food, sun, pool, drinks and laughing… and that was vegas!  definitely always more fun with wicked people.

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travel & food: Vegas Uncork’d

this year’s trip to fabulous las vegas coincides with bon apetit’s vegas uncork’d festival.
and by coincides, I mean we totally planned it that way.

moonbeam, my husband and I have for years discussed hitting this event.
lets face it, it’s a massive food & drink event with celebrity chefs and its in a totally rad place that is super fun to visit. sooooo… it was fated to happen sooner or later.
and this is our year baby.
kinda.

we started with huge plans of hitting multiple events… but then reality bitch slapped us.
these events are not cheap. like, not even remotely close to cheap.
in order to do a couple events a day, we’d be into this for a couple grand each. and it’s just not happening this year.
so we made some tough decisions and committed to two events.

we’ll be at the grand tasting on the friday night at ceasars palace and then the following night at the bellagio for the block party. both sound super fun and will be stuffed full of food & drinks.
and we’re pretty excited about it all.

as usual, this trip to vegas is including a number of our nearest and dearest for super fun party times.
now, this sort of thing isn’t up everyone’s alley, but a couple pals have decided they’re into the block party (because who doesn’t like hanging out at the bellagio and stuffing your face while getting boozy?) and I’m excited to put on some fancy duds and get all prettied up for this.
none of us are “clubbing” people and so we pretty much never end up doing a “fancy” vegas night when we’re there… I might even wear heels.*
(*i am totally not wearing heels. terrible idea)

overall, we’re treating this like a test year to check out the events and see how we feel about how they’re run and if we feel its worth the money and then maybe next year we’ll go a little bigger for the uncork’d.

at the very worst, they’re 2.5 hours each of our vegas time and we can rendezvous with the others after since going out at 10pm in vegas is like going out at 7pm at home, lol.
so there’s not much to lose when you look at it that way. (except the thousand dollars on my visa – yikes)

anyways, we’re all very excited and I’m just calling it now that if I find out mike symon is anywhere near me, I might go full fangirl. just sayin’.

naturally I’ll do my best to blog and instagram and tweet as much as I can and fill all you in on all the details and happenings!

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