Our spontaneous trip to Monterey and Carmel

Trip-with-Lexus-headerWe had some of our Canadian friends come down to visit us a few weekends ago. I gotta tell you. I love it when visitors come to stay at our place — I enjoy hosting friends and family, plus our home looks really awesome for a few weeks there after — dusting is completed, the floors freshly washed, it’s all around a nice feeling.

Blue-skies

OlympiansOlympians lined up. Who can spot Kara Goucher?

While I had the Lexus NX200t to review for the week, we decided to join our Canadian friends as they drove south to Carmel + Monterey for the weekend. Their plan was to run a half marathon, and then finish their drive back down to SoCal to visit more friends.

Walk-to-LexusMy husband and I loaded up the Lexus Nx200t, with Alfie in tow (including his crate for him to sleep in at night) and made the drive down to Carmel-By-The-Sea, where we hunkered down at our favourite place, Hofsas House — you guys know that place all too well by now I’m sure, as this was my third visit to warm and welcoming Hofsas (see our 2 day honeymoon + girls weekend trip!).Hofsas-roof

Hofsas-Street

Feet-and-AlfieHofsas-view

Alfie-in-CarmelOur room at Hofsas House this time, ended up having its own private balcony. It was excellent to have breakfast out there, overlooking the ocean in the distance, and it wasn’t too chilly either. A perfect time of year to pop down for a visit.

Can you tell Alfie was demanding satisfaction here in this photo? He’s getting a bit more bold lately, scratching your arm for attention or belly rubs and won’t stop until you give in. Mr. Bossy Boots is his new nick name you guys…I think it fits :) Hofsas-balcony

Minutes before registration to sign up for the the Big Sur Half Marathon closed, my husband casually decided he too was going to run the race with our 2 Canadian buddies. WHAT? I mean, how can you just do that without even training? Although, his everyday workout routine pretty much consists of hours and hours of exercise (whether it be biking or running) so I suppose that means he’s always in tip-top running shape for a half marathon the very next day.

However, I had made plans for us to have supper at The Grill (where we had our supper on our 2 day honeymoon just the previous year!), and I wasn’t about to cancel because he decided to sign up for a half marathon (many people prefer to have a bland carb loading meal before a race like that). But we dined at the busy Grill and had a delicious warm meal with dessert to boot.The-Grill

BigSur-HalfHe doesn’t like me posting many photos of him, so unfortunately no photos of him running the race were captured by me. But let me tell you how fast his lil’ legs can go. He not only bet his half marathon time (sub 1:20), but he came in with the Olympians. I literally screamed when I saw him, it was unexpected especially with our large supper the previous night.

After the half marathon was over, the runners all went back to their hotels, showered and got ready for checking out of the hotel + lunch. Monterey-walkHi Jenny!

Since we had Alfie, we needed a dog-friendly place (which isn’t difficult to find because I feel like Monterey and Carmel (basically all of California) is the epitome of dog-friendly places, including restaurants).Carmel-Monterey

The 6 of us ate at this cute hipster spot called Wild Plum. A few of us got sandwiches, the rest got big ol’ yummy breakfasts. I always choose a sandwich over breakfast. How about you?Lunch-in-Monterey

After we said our good-bye’s to our Canadian buddies, we wanted to take advantage of having the rest of the afternoon free, and not drive back up to South Bay just yet. So we ended up aimlessly driving the renowned, beautiful Highway 1 coast until I think we got to Big Sur. I haven’t got a clue because the bridges all looked the same. I’m sure we were close to it. Right? :)Alfie-me-lookout

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I’m pleasantly surprised with the fuel efficiency of the luxury Lexus Nx200t, eats up about the same amount of gas as my little Mazda 3 hatch. Not to mention the Lexus’ gorgeous red interior. I made sure to drive the vehicle every single day the week I had it. Even took it to San Francisco on my last day, just to visit a new-to-me coffee shop. One thing that stuck out to me with the Lexus, is that when it’s in reverse, it of course has the rear back up camera — BUT — the camera shows you the wheel rotation. I don’t usually like to use back-up cameras (because I only have the car a week and don’t want to get used to it), but you bectcha bottom dollar I used it this time, it was too cool.

Lexus-NX200tFsportI even convinced a dude on Twitter to get the Nx20ot over another vehicle he was looking at, which I thought was kinda neat. I mentioned to him a few key things I thought were pretty spiffy looking. The front of the Lexus has a mean-lookin’ grill on the front of it, so it isn’t too “girly” looking. The cargo space in the back is limiting, so if you’re looking for a family car to store a bunch of kids hockey gear or suitcases, perhaps it’s not for you. Though, a fun and fast lil’ vehicle to drive with hip hugging seats. It’s not even that outrageous in pricing, considering it is luxury. This model is $43.3k. I definitely thought the MRSP would be higher.

Hanging-out-window

Many thanks to Lexus for the car to review for the week, Hofsas House for providing a warm welcomed stay, and to The Grill for the wonderful grub. 

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Weekend vibes + dirty diapers

Comin’ atcha for a weekend recap, on a Tuesday.

So, this morning I ended up putting on a pair of jeans, socks, a long sleeved top, and then my new Superdry hoody overtop. My husband looks over at me and says “all those layers?!“. Clearly I’ve become accustomed to the weather here in California and I hate that! I cant get over the fact that I am putting on two layers of long sleeves at 18°C (64°F – I had to google that one, because I’m forever thinking in Celcius and probably always will). So yes, I am wearing a lot of layers and can you believe I have downfilled slippers on and my fingers are cold?

Here’s the sight of me right now, as  you read this, what I am wearing right now. Ridiculous! This weather is like St. John’s summertime. Am I right?slippers-and-hoody

Getting back to the weekend recap, I wanted to tell you another funny story about babysitting. You guys probably already know that my neighbour and I, with our two small dogs, and her little-big baby, walk around our housing complex almost every night, and sometimes multiple times per day when she was on maternity leave. I filmed a YouTube video telling you about that time I was changing his diaper when he was just weeks old. The little feller was – not even kidding you – laughing at ME, changing HIS diaper. Because I could tell he had no idea what I was doing.

Well folks, I looked after (the now 7 month old) baby once again. This time, it was for a couple of hours and the little guy was at my house. Baby and I chilled out for the entire day as my neighbours … guess what?…. MOVED OUT of their apartment. Shame on them for not being my neighbour any more, haha. I gotta give them credit, they picked a house 3 miles from ours, so at least we can still visit one another without technically driving to a completely different city. I’m still sad about it though.

baby legThe little guy is more interactive and fun to be around now, because he can sit up, clap, laugh… and boy oh boy even though he can’t crawl yet he can still move around the room! Guess that’s why you can never leave babies unattended. I’m happy my neighbour although my husband and I not being parents yet, still trust us to leave their baby with us. A humble brag, but I think it’s because I have a lot of patience, plus I’ve been around the lil’ fart since my neighbour announced her pregnancy to me.

When she dropped off her baby, she told me he already had a dirty diaper cleaned once already. Awesome — no dirty diapers while he’s over at my house.

BARMP.

WRONG.

During that same hour she dropped him off, he had a stinky surprise. In my head I ask myself: How long do I let him toot for? How do I know he’s “done”? Oh, trust me you guys— you will know. And forewarning, open the windows before changing the diaper. And because he is a boy, you need to be careful while changing him: pee can launch far. I had to text my neighbour after everything was done, apologizing for the amount of wet wipes I used.

I think the baby does this on purpose, because he knows I don’t know what I’m at. He knows he’ll get a kick out of me. He laughed the entire time too, silly fella. Preparing me for motherhood, I swear. Luckily the hours flew by, as I fed him three times, with a nap (for him) in between the gigs and the reels.

By the time my neighbours had finished moving their everything’s into their new spot, it was only mid-afternoon and like I stated the time flew, but it crawled at the same time. I was ready to crack out the wine and cheese as soon as he left haha! wine-glass-cheersI’ve been waiting to use my fancy new cheeseboard (it’s the Lyna Marble and Wood Cheese Dome from O.co), and Sunday night was it. It was a wine and cheese for two — so the multiple wine bottles in the background were just for props to make the cheeseboard look nice. Hey, bloggers gotta blog.

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I had saved two macaron’s from an event I went to earlier last week and the cheese was from The Cheese Shop in Carmel-by-the-Sea, when we went the weekend prior, on a spontaneous trip to Monterey + Carmel + Big Sur. Blog post for that coming soon too by the way.

Cheeseboard-from-OverstockIsn’t it the fanciest cheeseboard you laid your eyes on lately? I kinda want to put apples or lemons in it for the time being when I’m not using it for its purpose. I keep it out on the kitchen island at all times. I also think it’d be fantastic for doing flat-lays for beauty product shots with some sprigs of pine surrounding it. Right?!

What did you guys get up to this past weekend?

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la Balena, Carmel

Dog-friendlyCarmel will forever be treasured as one of our favourite vacations. Although too short for our liking, we will most likely return as it’s so close to where we live. Excursions to Point Lobos, and the Carmel State Beach, to walks through the city of Carmel. It’s all so hard to capture into words, but instead it made memories in our minds, especially the restaurant I’m about to talk about with you today.

Anna and Emanuele Bartolini opened la Balena, one of Carmel-by-the-Sea’s newest and most première restaurants. We were invited to try a chef’s choice lunch platter on our last day in Carmel, and being the dog-friendly town we took Alfie in tow. Our experience at la Balena was the best way to end our two day honeymoon.

la Balena offers Italian comfort food in an upscale way. Have cravings for hand-crafted pasta or slow-cooked meat? Dine here for a highly curated selection of plates, and simply ingredients — yet exquisite flavours and tastes from your good ol’ hearty classics to something new. la Balena is not so uppity that you’re greeted with fancy white table clothes, but rather a laid back atmosphere where you can simply chill out for hours on end, catching up with loved ones on their beautiful patio out front, their modern seating inside with benches, or on the back, feeling as if you’re in someone’s back yard.

la-Balena-menuTucked away from the side walk on Junipero between 5th and 6th, a quiet Italian restaurant which serves both lunch and supper. However, you won’t find the same lunch menu twice. la Balena is a spot where I can return to for another amazing 2 hour meals with my husband, or family and friends. I applaud the restaurant for creating such a diverse selection of food to choose from. We had quite the fine dining experience at lunch on our last day in Carmel with the chef surprising us with dishes throughout our lunch.

Me-sitting-at-la-BalenaWe sat outside since we had Alfie with us, but we overlooked a wonderful array of a beautiful fountain, shrubbery with gorgeous bright pink foliage with seating under the awning to sneak away from the sunshine. Seating inside the restaurant is comfortable and modern with a subdued entrance yet welcoming ambiance. The seating on the booths that lined the side wall looked comfortable. Towards the back, you could also sit in a garden nook at the base of a massive tree, and if you get chilly — there is a portable large stand-up heater.

Emanuele greeted us and gave us a brief history of how he started out. Originally from Florence, he lived in New York City for a number of years, then recently he and his wife Anna moved to Carmel and opened la Balena two years ago. Emanuele mentioned to us that their kitchen at la Balena is purposely small with two small coolers, one for meat and one for vegetables. They are reliant on locating the freshest, most local and almost always organic ingredients from smaller farms around the area. The plates range in price from $6 to $21 for appetizers or lunch. I’m unaware of the prices on the supper menu.

la-Balena-breadUpon sitting us at a table for two, out came some of the best bread I’ve ever had. I have a thing for good bread. We have been to two places in Carmel alone, that has fantastic bread. I could live off it if I could. It was served on a wooden platter with a small bowl of oil for dipping.

The chef had surprised us with sampler dishes. Emanuele asked us if we had any food restrictions to which we replied onions. After he disappeared into the kitchen, we noticed that there was octopus on the menu. Having never eaten it before it was something we were a bit worrisome in receiving and not enjoying. The Guy whispered to me that if we did in fact receive the octopus to try, we must eat it. “Pretend you’re on an episode of Fear Factor, we mustn’t disappoint!” He definitely made me laugh with that statement, but nerves came over me as each dish came out, thankfully each plate could have pleased anyone and we were happy with everything.

La-Balena-CarmelTwo appetizers started us off, first being the Cavolfiore Fritto which had cauliflower, pine nuts, currants, chilli and bread crumbs.

La-Balena-cauliflowerThis was a standout dish for me. We eat a lot of cauliflower at home, but preparing it with the encrusted bread crumbs gave it a nice crunch, it really added something to the otherwise traditional side to a main course. With fun punches of colour this appetizer was served warm, which added to the fall festive feel to the dish. Though a little oily than I’d rather, I’d still order this one again in heartbeat.

Delicata-la-BalenaAlong with the Cavolfiore Fritto came the Delicata which was a fresh zesty salad mixed with warm chicories, delicata squash, apple, pancetta, pecorino and mustard vinaigrette. It had a nice surprise of bacon.

La-Balena-LasagnetteThe primary meal we shared together was the lasagnette, a rustic bolognese besciamella and parmesan. It had hints of spice in the meat, yet the lasagnette was delicate and light.

Ali-di-Pollo_la-Balena Once again we were served two platters upon finishing up the lasagnette. The Ali di Pollo is a rice crusted fogline farm chicken wings with anchovy aioli, something I was quite unfamiliar with, and a little hesitant to try. It wasn’t fish as I had imagined the aioli to be, but it was rather creamy garlic/tartar flavour to it. The chicken wings were light, flaky and pure fall off the bone goodness.

frittata-la-BalenaThe Frittata with wild mushrooms, kale, potato and pcorino was The Guys favourite out of the 6 items we were served to try out. It was quite eggy for my liking, but that’s what you get for a frittata. On the other hand, The Guy described this one as his favourite dish of the lot.

Lemon-Tartufo-la-BalenaLastly, we refreshed and cleansed our palettes with an incredibly light and beautifully presented Lemon Tartufo. It is an Italian ice-cream dessert which originates from Calabria, southern Italy. Typically, it’s composed of flavoured ice cream often with a frozen fruit or fruit syrup in the center. I can confidently add that I could polish this entire dessert myself — however, we split it. The crunchy shell added to the perfect amount of sweet for a light and icy cool treat.

If you visit la Balena, be prepared to make a reservation and truly experience an authentic Florentine style meal, complete with a memorable culinary adventure with your loved ones.

la Balena cucina toscana

Junipero between 5th & 6th
Carmel-by-the-sea, CA
831.250.6295

To learn more visitwww.labalenacarmel.com

Reservations recommended. Lunch: Thursday – Sunday 11:30am – 3:30pm /// Dinner:  Tuesday – Sunday 5 – 10pm

Our meal was hosted by la Balena, however the opinions in the blog post are 100% my own.

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