Thursday, July 28, 2011

Canadian Artisans Bed and Breakfast

Here it begins. Some of our favorite times as a couple are while we are on vacation and we prefer to stay at bed and breakfasts whenever possible. We enjoy them because each comes with a unique experience. However we have a hard time remembering the details of each place so when we plan our next vacation or are asked by friends where we would recommend it can be hard to dig up the details. Therefore we are going to record the places we are staying for selfish reasons, we need a memory aid. Each place has four scored parts with additional comments added if we feel like it. The four parts are: room, breakfast, hosts, extras. We will keep it simple with 1 = crap and 10 = better than a bag of cash.

The first B and B we stayed at was on our honeymoon so I'm biased on this one. The house is tucked back into a wooded area on the edge of Canmore. It was a great place that I would love to return to. The only small thing was the cost was more than any other B and B we have ever stayed at which I believe is primarily due to location.

Room - 9
We stayed in the Treehouse suite. The room was great size and came with an even better view.

Breakfast - 6
This part I remember as actually being a bit bland. The homemade granola was a little too healthy tasting and the rest was forgettable

Hosts - 8
They were interesting to talk to, helpful but also gave us space.

Extras - 10
This is the part that really made this place. They had a steam shower in the room which was amazing, the room had a mini fridge and sink so we could keep our food there and they had a decent movie collection which is a fun extra.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

late installments, part 2: april 28

i had't had a real vacation since july when jon, chris, sarah and i went to jon's friends' cabin for a few days. and since i'd been REALLY missing my sanity, and jon had been really missing my sanity, too, so we jumped at the chance to go camping with our friends liz and john at the end of april. we went west to wyalusing where the mississippi and wisconsin rivers come together just for an overnight on friday, but it was so worth it. if you're reading this and need a vacation, go to wyalusing. now.

john had a gig saturday night, so we all grudgingly packed up our tents and settled in for the not quite 2 hour ride home that afternoon. since liz and john were driving, jon and i napped on and off in the backseat, leaving us with not nearly enough energy to make dinner, but with just enough to wisely make saturday night our date night.

as you may have guessed, jon's been doing all the planning lately. this is because i've been too stressed out lately to take on the planning, so my date nights become the ones where i cry because i'm too stressed out and planning has pushed me over the edge. my loving fiance has graciously taken it upon himself to brainstorm ideas and ease the burden for the time being. he's so great. but i digress ...

anyway, since it was up to him, he chose casa de lara.

i NEVER would have chosen casa de lara.

this is because i once went with an old boyfriend to the one on state street and vowed i would never return - not because of the memories of the boy (though i'm sure that doesn't help casa de lara's case), but because of the memories of the lighting. all i see when i think of that place is nasty florescent pink lighting, sleezy men dressed like miami vice's don johnson, and old, tired mexican food that appears to have been sitting under a heat lamp for over 24 hours.

to be fair, the only thing that rings absolutely true of the place is the florescent pink lighting, but florescent pink lighting equates with all those things i listed above, and, therefore, warmly invites those images into my memory. so why would i want to go back?

because i love jon.

"you just need to try it again," he'd been saying for the past few months. so i agreed finally.

"but only to the one on fish hatchery," i stubbornly insisted. "i am NOT going to the one on state street."

so we went to the one on fish hatch. because jon loves me.

i admit it. casa de lara is not all awful. in fact, it was pretty good. the night was just chilly enough where we chose not to sit outside on the patio (though they've got great outdoor seating). they've got about 3 different "rooms" plus the outside seating, so there's plenty of room for lots of people. the lighting and the decorations are pretty dang colorful, and much classier than the horrid, 80s themed state street branch. the chips & salsa keep coming, and that's always a plus. our meals were pleasantly large, but not memorable. i suppose it is what it is, but i wouldn't consider this any adobo grill.

i can't remember what i got to eat, but i did love my margarita. they do that well, i confess. so even if the food isn't memorable, that doesn't mean it wasn't tasty. i found myself enjoying my time there so much, i nominated it as a contender for our rehearsal dinner after we finished our meal. i suppose i'll have to go back casa de lara and consider it again.

wow, i never thought i'd hear myself say that.

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april 23rd late installment

so monday, april 23rd was scheduled to be an uber-relaxing, take your time waking up, totally chill out kind of day. but when i got a call from jon early in the morning that my brother-in-law had left a voicemail on his phone, sharing that he was at the hospital with my sister, the day took a turn for what any thinking person would consider "crazy."

so my sister was okay, just a bad stomach virus that made her feel something akin to contractions. but while we were visiting her at st.mary's, i got a call from our realtor who informed us that the offer we'd put in for a house had been joined by two other offers ... so to her office we'd have to go to counter our own offer.

the whole day was go-go-go, so by the time we hit late afternoon, i was desperate to get my life in order, and jon was desperate for a run. and by the time he got back to my house, it was nearly 8 pm, and neither of us were ready for an official date night (read: what's nearby?).

thank god famous dave's is so close to my house. bbq it was. we love bbq, and you can't go wrong with the baked beans or the firecracker green beans or the hot applesauce or the cornbread on the side. i was particularly pleased with my beer, berghoff's hefe-weizen blend (i think ... jon's not around right now to tell me i'm wrong, but it was light and citrusy, so i'm going to say it was a hefe regardless of being right or wrong). i never drink berghoff, but the waiter was so enthused, i couldn't pass it up. turns out he was rightly enthused. it was so fresh, so crisp, so citrusy, i'd take it over a blue moon any day. check it out when you hit up famous dave's next.

we spent the good part of the evening there, talking through our day, discussing the possibility of losing this house we'd been so excited about, and just enjoying comfort food on a day that necessitated it. we left full and happy. thanks, famous dave's.

and that was it for date night. we might have considered a movie ... if we hadn't received a call at 10:30 pm from our realtor, congratulating us on becoming homeowners.

turns out the day ended even crazier than it began :)

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Monday, April 30, 2007

funny man's performance follows state street stroll

monday, april 16th

the evening jon planned revolved around an event i had brought to his attention weeks ago. one of our favorite authors and npr guests, david sedaris, was in town and reading at the orpheum. besides the fact that sedaris is one of the greatest storytellers i've ever heard, he's got this voice that serves as the icing on the cake. weeks prior to the show, we visited the orpheum (tickets are always cheaper at the box office than online), jon purchased our $30+ tickets which assigned us a seat in the front row of the balcony. we were pretty jazzed.

when the 16th finally rolled around, we took a walk up past the orpheum and landed at myles teddywedger's cornish pasty (that's a mouthful). i'd never had a pasty and never really intended on it (i'd also never said the name right, so maybe that was the turnoff in and of itself), but jon insisted it was time i break into this little world, and i'm glad i did.

it's one of the cheapest meals downtown - and meal, yes, is the correct word to use. we split a ground beef pasty with vegetables and i couldn't even dare to finish my portion of it. although lacking any particular smack of spice, it was salted enough to leave a taste lingering, but it gave off a vibe that this little meal could actually be healthy (i actually have no concept of the nutrional value in one of these little pasties, so don't trust me). but to split a pasty, some sodas, and a bench up at the capitol on a gorgeous night? unbeatable.

after dinner, we were craving something sweet and the night's perfect spring temps called for the first outdoor icecream of the season. and where else could we stop but the chocolate shoppe? (well, okay, there are plenty of places to stop, but the line at ben & jerry's was ridiculously long, and i think cold stone creamery is ridiculously overpriced) i ordered the espresso fudge & jon got something (c'mon, it's been two weeks! how am i supposed to remember?). delicious. we devoured them happily and arrived at the orphem with 10 minutes to spare.

and how was sedaris? hilarious. i don't know if i can do a write-up justice so long after the actual event, but i encourage you to pick up "me talk pretty one day" or any one of his other books. or just tune in to this american life - he's more or less a regular.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

new and old

One of the hard things about trying to enjoy all that Madison has to offer is deciding if you want to try something new or stick with what works. This past Monday we went with both and.

We headed over toward the Willy street neighborhood where we dream of owning a home if only it were closer to work and we could actually afford that area. It is amazing the cost of homes in an area with such a hippie feel ... ah, to be a rich hippie. So instead of lusting over what we can not have, we headed over to Monty’s Blue Plate to get some food we could have.

Neither of us had been there since our college days but we both arrived with fond memories and high expectations. Monty’s seems perfect as a neighborhood or high school date hangout. The décor and sounds of a busy diner give off a comfortable, come as you are feel. So far so good.

We quickly ordered our food; Mary got the chicken in a pie and I asked for the salmon cakes. The service was friendly although the server seemed a bit stretched by the number of tables he had to cover. When the food arrived, our "A" experience dropped a couple of letter grades. The food was luke-warm and tasted as though it had been sitting under a heating lamp for far too long. It was a race to get it down before it became too cold. The gravy over the chicken in a pie overwhelmed the dish and the rice with the salmon cakes was crunchy, from either sitting out too long or being undercooked.

We were especially bummed by the less than stellar food since our memories recalled something much better. Besides, word of mouth about this place has always been good. Still, despite the disappointing meal, we decided to have dessert there since we couldn’t think of anything else close by and pie is hard to pass up. We ordered a slice of the pecan pie and a cup of coffee - both of both were better than dinner.

We then headed over to The Weary Traveler which has become one of our favorite places. Upon entering we were reminded why we love this place: good beer selection, great lighting and good service. For the remainder of the night we worked our way through a pitcher of Bell’s Oberon and played Rummikub. (For $100 dollars please leave a comment on how to correctly pronounce this game.)

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Monday, April 09, 2007

bbq & bball

i think when you've committed yourself to writing up your date nights on a public blog, you have the potential of overwhelming yourself with a need to do something uber-creative for the sake of your audience (be it all 3 or 30 of you who read this). thankfully, we love each other more than we love you (though we think you're all very lovely people), so we are learning to choose dates that are right for us.

and that's just what we did last monday.

as usual, we wiped ourselves out last weekend, visiting family in eau claire, traveling up to the twin cities for a good friend's wedding, and driving back in time for work early sunday morning. so by monday, we were ready to take it easy.

date night started with a walk out to the washington hotel coffee room located on lakeside right off lake monona. we had intended to just grab coffee at cargo coffee since it's so close to my house, but for god-only-knows-why, cargo closes at a ridiculously early hour so we extended our walk for a few blocks.

neither of us is washington hotel coffee room's biggest fan. for a few reasons: 1) it's eerily quiet making conversation frowned upon, 2) we're not knitters, so we just really don't belong, and 3) if you're gonna order a sandwich, subway's really got better bang for the buck. but if you're a lakeside fibers junkie, this is the place for you. but as i said, not being knitters, we knew better than to overstay our welcome (feeling awkward anyway just daring to converse with each other in this sanctuary of silence), so we took our coffees and enjoyed the short walk back to my house.

ah yes, date night at my house. and it was excellent.

jon is the king of the BBQ, so he entertained me with a full meal including his signature fall-off-the-bone ribs. YUM. i am a very lucky woman, and will be a very lucky wife :)

the meal was an appetizer to the night's main event (though i really believe the main event proved itself to be quite unsatisfying in comparison): the ncaa men's basketball championship, florida vs. ohio state.

honestly, with wisconsin out, a girl's gotta cheer for the remaining big ten team, and oden had been growing me. and tell me who in good conscience can route for florida? really.

but we all know how the game turned out. and we all saw noah make a fool of himself on national tv. and we all wondered if florida is really concerned with turning out articulate, thoughtful, intelligent adults or if we ought to encourage high schools to scrap scholastics and focus all their energies on training a handful of potential athletes to compete for scholarships to schools who will fail to prepare their students for careers actually beneficial to the real world. okay, maybe i just wondered that.

i digress. i love college basketball. and i love ribs. and i love coffee. so here's to jon: well done, babe. good date night.

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Tuesday, April 03, 2007

old enough?

Let me begin this week’s post with some humble advice. For those of you out there engaged or about to be engaged or for that matter ever plan on getting engaged allow me to highly recommend a short engagement. There are a number of reasons for this but as it relates to this blog I recommend this course of action because planning a wedding will HIGHLY affect your day off.

After a tiring morning and afternoon of looking at potential reception sites it was time to turn the corner and have fun. We headed over to Greenbush Bar on Regent St. We had just been there a few days ago with other members of my family only to find out that since they are a bar everyone in the party needs to either be your child, spouse or over 21. The annoying thing that night was that they first seated us and then a few minutes later asked to see our ids so we had to leave and ended up heading to Nam’s down the street for a great meal.

On Monday night we sat down without a problem next to a family with little kids and a young college couple and ordered a couple of beers. We tried to drown out all wedding conversation with a plate of garlic cheese bread that was good and would have been amazing if the marinara sauce would have not been cold and then came our garlic, pepperoni and green pepper pizza. Overall all the food and drinks were good but the service was lacking and the prior experience left me with a B- impression of Greenbush BAR.

(wrong barriques)
After dinner we headed over to Barriques on Monroe St. for a couple of loaded drinks and the chance to just sit back read, write and talk. The place was busy compared to many of our Monday night experiences and for good reason. It is a great place to get a drink with friends whether your prefer tea, coffee, beer or wine. Or you can plug into an ipod and read. Mary and I stayed there till close and thus ended another night of exploring a couple Madison’s many options.

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Saturday, March 24, 2007

out of hibernation

if you were working this past monday the 19th, i have only one word for you ....


monday was drop-dead gorgeous. that morning, jon's youngest sister, joanna, (who was in town for her spring break) went out to breakfast with me at the sunroom cafe, where we chowed down on breakfast burritos and spinach & feta omelettes before strolling up and down our vibrant little state street. we eventually made our way over to jon's place on the west side to pick him up and return back to central madison for a leisurely, long walk in the arborteum.

it was so gorgeous out that we made time to lay down in the grass and absorb the rays on our pasty white legs and arms. it was the kind of day that makes you love living in wisconsin, where you appreciate the seasons, and get to feel what it's like to actually fall in love with a day.

at about 3, i dropped joanna off at jon's other sister's apartment on campus, stopped at home to grab my hiking boots and a warmer jacket, and raced over to jon's house.

there's no time to waste when you're heading to devil's lake.

man, i love devil's lake. i love warm days and hiking and lakes and conversation while walking. and our "date afternoon" was all of that. so after driving 40 minutes to get out there and buying a wisconsin state park season pass, we were ready for a solid afternoon of outdoor activity.

there were a handful of other hikers at devil's lake (yet another reason i love having mondays off), so we rarely had to stop to let someone pass or move too quickly from a scenic overlook if other hikers approached. the lake made things cool at the bottom of the hill, where patches of snow remained in stubborn obstinence to the early spring heat. but up top, even my long sleeved tee was much too warm of an option. and that's pretty sweet considering it's still march and all (of course, we've recently seen al gore's "an inconvenient truth" so it feels wrong to enjoy the early spring too much now).

after our hike, we drove to prairie du sac for dinner at the blue spoon creamery cafe. as the site says, the blue spoon was named after the traditional blue spoons used at culver's and is a concept developed by the co-founders of, duh, culver's restaurants.
it's a nice little spot in the main drag of town, seated on the wisconsin river - kind of like an upscale culver's. jon had been there before, and says "as a one-hit wonder, i like it." so when the waitress told us they were planning on franchising out to middleton, we questioned how successful they'd really be.
i mean, i liked the lighting upstairs, but i enjoyed the view of the river WAY more. they've got a great outdoor seating area there which is going to be impossible to duplicate out in middleton. and the food was nothing to write home about, but was decent and a tad more adventurous than culver's. my tuscan grilled cheese was a little lacking (and was quickly cold) earning it a C+, but jon's bbq sandwich special deserved a solid B. still, the tiramisu gelato at the end made up for my sad sandwich and i left feeling quite rewarded for my day's hike ...

i'm very curious as to how they'll really do in middleton, so keep your eyes peeled for it and let us know what you think when you hit it up.

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