2014 year end reflection

scott-nancy2014 was a complete game-changer on so many levels. Starting off the year, my husband and I had been married for a little less than 48 hours, and were planning our move across North America from little ol’ university town of Waterloo Ontario, to smack dab into Silicon Valley, Amurica.

Never in my wildest dreams, had I ever thought about, or even imagined that I would be living in the United States, let alone breathtaking Northern California. Nevertheless, I must say 2014 was the best year yet — although it went by in such a blur I cannot believe we moved down here 11 months ago. We’re no longer newly weds, and we’re no longer new to being in California! Crazy!

My main goals when moving to the USA was to push my introverted self out of my comfort zone and say yes to more things, speak up to strangers and meet new friends (check, and check!), and overall embrace the change. It wasn’t scary to move down to California if we’re going to be honest. Especially easy since we moved during a Canadian winter. I wasn’t overly fond of living in Ontario, because I was stuck in a rut. I didn’t have many friends, and I certainty didn’t like the place we lived. We were already a 4 hour flight away from family, what’s another 6 added on top of that?

Okay okay, before I get all mushy let me walk you through all last year had to offer, shall we?

surpriseJanuary was full of panic and packing. It was when we came back to work, told our bosses we would be leaving our amazing wonderful jobs to pick up and move to the USA. I still miss my co-workers so much. I continue to e-mail all 30 of the staff on a weekly basis (every Thursday as a matter of fact), to keep them updated. I’m not sure if everyone is on board with my random ramblings, but for the most part a lot of them seem to be enjoying the updates. We skype, we BBM video, and we chat as though I am still part of their team. I loved that I was completely caught off guard by my going away/wedding/surprise party thrown by some of my co-workers, while I was at the mall with Aimster (who just so happened to be my bosses daughter and my co-worker).

imageFebruary was the time we took the swift 3 day drive from Canada to California in our 17 foot u-haul with my little Mazda on top of a trailer attached to the u-haul. I’m surprised we weren’t pulled over and asked for a truckers drivers license. That thing was a beast to drive, and so scary — I definitely white knuckled driving that monster. I looked back on my archives and it looks as though I blogged just the once. Guess that goes to show how busy we were driving across the continent, looking for places to live, and having our internet hooked up. Luckily we found a spot in no time, thanks to Jessica a hundred times over for helping us out from driving me to all kinds of apartments to me leeching off her internet to find apartments to look at. Couldn’t have done it without her help. By the way, can you not get over how amazing California looks in February?!

MonksMarch was another fun month. I got the chance to have a complete makeover at the Valley Fair Mall in Santa Clara at MAKE UP FOR EVER which was pretty sweet. I walked around Santa Row a lot, checking out all the stores readily available just waiting for me to whip out my pocket book. Man, the shopping is excellent here. We drove out to Lake Tahoe for a day trip so The Guy could get in some last minute cross country skiing done before the season ended. I had enough of the snow at this point, I wasn’t about to get on a set of ski’s especially after leaving the wretched cold winter up north. I was ready for some sun! So I got some at Capitola Beach when our friends from Ontario came down to visit their in-laws. My old co-op student from my previous job in Ontario was in San Francisco on a work term, so I visited him for a day and we were treated like celebrities, it was fantastic.

Golden-Gate-JumpApril I stepped out of my comfort zone as Ellen, a blog reader e-mailed me out of the blue one day mentioning she had been reading my blog for some time, but has never left a comment. She is also a climber, and suggested we meet up some time for a climb at the local rock gym. Of course I’m going to say YES. It was awesome, and I hope to continue to climb with her again this year! Our first Easter in California was a success, and pret-tee delicious if you ask me, gotta say… I’m a great cook ;) This was also the month my blog received a complete overhaul and re-branding, I love how it turned out. April was pretty memorable because Jessica took me out to see the Golden Gate Bridge for the first time in my life!

birthday-bannerMay ah my birth month, where even my local pizza place delivered me a heart-shaped pizza for my birthday, sweet. I got a membership to the local rock climbing gym and climbed more with Ellen. On Mother’s Day The Guy and I went to the Golden Gate Bridge to take some photos so I could make some Thank You cards to send out to our wedding guests. Not only that, I got to eat breakfast at the Ritz Carlton in Half Moon Bay!

June I bought a pretty sweet gym bag and bouldered a V4 for the first time in years, pretty happy about that. I visited Google for the first time, that place is so fun! I swore during yoga class. My husbands younger sister came by (and the older one came in July as their trips overlapped). The Guy and I finally have a grown-up bedroom, with a headboard and all. Now we just need to upgrade our bed from a double to a king.

BlogHer-BloggersJuly is when I went to my first BlogParty in San Francisco and met so many awesome Bay Area blogging buddies. I also attended the BlogHer conference where I spotted Khloe Kardashian in person, kinda fun. My two sister-in-law’s (husband’s sisters) came down for a visit and we totally bonded, froze are buns off in San Francisco on the Fourth of July, and had a laugh, it was amazing having them both here. I cannot wait until they both come down again, hopefully SOON!

BlogHer14-Day2-005August was a slow month in the blogging world. Jessica and I teamed up and hosted a giveaway together, and I posted the outfit photos (here too)that she took of me at the blogging conference. Total fav. Then there was a whole whack of talkin’ and reviewing of some Dior products. Nothing much to report in August, really!

Swimming-IMTahoe-2014September The Guy made his featured appearance on the blog and starting reviewing running shoes. I was back to Newfoundland for most of August and a little bit of September. I still haven’t recapped our non-wedding wedding reception that we flew back for, in August. I didn’t take many photos from the day, so there isn’t much to look at really. But I did take you around to the little fishing place called Petty Harbour, and then showed you the most easterly point in North America, Cape Spear. I blogged about going to the annual Flatrock Festival (climbing fest) too. The Guy was going for his 6th Ironman in September, out in Lake Tahoe but it ended up being cancelled due to smoke from forest fires, and we came face-to-face with a bear at our hotel. Scary stuff.

Alfie-shower-cap-1October onto my husband’s birth month. For his birthday I surprised him with a two day honeymoon to the romantic village of Carmel, an hour or so south of us. The views from Point Lobos had to be my favourite spot of our trip. October is when I introduced Pomeranian Friday’s to the blog, which seems to be a huge hit with the readers. Glad you’re enjoying Alfie as much as we are!

Bloggers-at-UniqloNovember was a fun month because not only did I received a ton of lip glosses to play with courtesy of bareMinerals, I attended a pretty fun event for the grand opening of Uniqlo in the Milpitas mall. I also started exploring coffee shops, which I’ll continue to do as a feature throughout 2015. The Guy, Alfie and I hit the trails one afternoon, and then I showed you what my “uniform” looks like on weekends. Then I did a flashback to the summer where I  talked you through beautiful Conception Harbour, Newfoundland.

napkins2December is my favourite month of the year! For our first American thanksgiving (although in November but blogged about in December) we hosted our first dinner guests, ever ever!  We invited our Canadian friends to join us as I cooked us a feast! I attended a really cool event in San Francisco and received the utmost royal treatment getting there. I ended up taking my hair dye woes into my own hands and doing an at-home dye-job, how did it go? In December we hosted some more family and friends, and after they left I showed you how I like to unwind after a long day. I visited another great coffee shop! December was pretty awesome, we got to fly home again to be with our family. Although arriving later than expected with many airline troubles, we still enjoyed our time in Newfoundland.

If you’ve read this far, thank you! That’s the end of my 2014 recap. I’m feelin’ good about you, year 2015. I sure am.

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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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Wine Walk Tour, Carmel

Wine-Walk-Tour-headerIf you love wine, you are in for a treat when you visit Carmel-by-the-Sea. With 12 wine tasting rooms all within walking distance of one another, you can have your pick of four 1oz pours at your choice of any 9 of the 12 tasting rooms on the Wine Walk Tour.

Wine-Tasting

Us-in-Wine-Tasting-Room

De-Tierra-Vineyards

Viszla-in-Wine-Tasting-Room

De-Tierra-menu

De-Tierra-wine-glass

Flights-of-wineThe Guy and I were lucky to experience the Carmel Wine Walk Tour that Carrie from Hofsas House provided to us. From the 12 wine tasting rooms around you can sample local estate-grown still and sparkling wines. The wine passport is convenient for us, as it doesn’t expire. Since we are so close to Carmel, we can go on the self-guided wine walk tours for many weekends to come. Each ticket allows for a flight of wine, while you sip and mingle either with the locals already hanging out or visitors doing exactly what we were doing, trying out the different wines available.

De Tierra was our first stop and we spent a long time there, since the wine connoisseur was so welcoming and the guests who were there sampling were chatting with us. There, I realized I wasn’t a pinot noir fan from the start, but rather a fan of the smooth merlot which was much easier to get down. The Guy on the other hand liked the more spicier wines with a little smokey flavour to it, it was one of the pinot noir’s.

We admit, we’re not huge drinkers, and we know little about wine. All my knowledge of wine comes from simply knowing that my Father makes both red and white wines that are known to please a diverse palette. However we knew it was going to be a good night when we met up with a couple who were not too far from our new home, they brought their Vizsla pup to the wine tasting with them. Jamieson, an awesome and appropriate name don’t you think?

If you do find a wine you enjoy on the tour, you can purchase it and bring it with you to one of the participating restaurants and have the corkage fee waived.

Participating wine tasting rooms include: Caraccioli Cellars, Figge Cellars, Galante Vineyards, Vino Napoli, Silvestri Vineyards, Dawn’s Dream Winery, Scheid Vineyards, Manzoni Cellars, Blair Estate, Shale Canyon, Wrath Wines, and De Tierra Vineyards.

Carmel Wine Walk by-the-Sea
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To learn more visitwww.carmelwinewalk.org

Wine Walk Passports were provided to us at no fee. All opinions are my own.

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