Anniversary in Mauritius

Right around this time last year, Mauritius almost beat out Cape Town as our October Eid trip, and although we have never once regretted our choice to go to South Africa instead, both Barr and I always wistfully thought about the island of Mauritius.

Image via WorldAtlas.com

Armed with some Starwood points (and the celebratory excuse of our wedding anniversary), we decided to take the plunge and book a (direct!) flight from Perth to Mauritius. {The direct flight from Perth thing is a big deal – and all within 8 hours!}

Mauritius60

Mauritius is an independent island republic of about 1.2M people, and boasts an incredible multiethnic, multilingual, and multicultural population: French, Creole and English are the primary languages known and spoken and you see every house of worship on the same city block, which is pretty neat.

Of course tourism plays a big role in Mauritius’ economy, with plenty of serene resorts, crystal clear waters, and year-round temperate weather. It’s also a huge kite-surfing mecca. While we didn’t get an opportunity to learn kite-surfing this time around, that’s one of the next things on our bucket list! There was plenty of beach time, kayaking, hiking, and just general relaxing.

Pardon the photo-heavy post, but the shots tell the story of the trip! :) Until next time…

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The Queen’s Birthday

I’m baaaaaaack!! We returned to Perth yesterday morning from a week long trip to Mauritius – it was a bit last minute, but it was a vacation that had been on our bucket list for awhile now, and when the timing worked out, we jumped on the chance. More on that journey later in the week once I wade through the pictures…

Mauritius was paradise

Mauritius was paradise

In the meantime, we have a public holiday here in Perth today! What is the occasion, you may ask? The Queen’s “Official” Birthday.

Hey girl. Happy Birthday, officially!

When I first heard about this public holiday, I was a tad confused as I thought that her birthday was celebrated in the UK in June at the Trooping of the Color (although anyone that is a weirdo that loves the royals like me knows her actual day of birth is in April..duh); however, the Commonwealth countries hold the annual celebrations at a date/season that best coincides with their good weather. June is fall/winter for Perth, so Western Australia holds off until September. September 29, 2014 to be exact!

I get HOW many pieces of cake??

To that end, Western Australia is unique in their birthday timing compared to the rest of Australia. Every Australian state except Western Australia holds the public holiday on the second Monday in June because here in WA we have Western Australia Day on the first Monday in June, so as to not jam pack June (and to align with school holidays here as well as the Perth Royal show – their version of the state fair), Perth and the surrounds ring in the Queen’s birthday on the last Monday in September. There are also some random WA city exceptions.

So there you go! <3 any excuse to discuss the British royal family ;) Until next time…

Spring in Perth

Last week it didn’t really seem like spring here in Perth. Lame. But what a difference a week makes!

Perth CBD from King's Park

Perth CBD from King’s Park

Cottesloe Beach

Cottesloe Beach

Temperatures have upped all the way to 25/26C (that’s ~78F), with the forecast for this weekend slated to be 32C (91F)! While I don’t miss the oppressive Houston or Dubai summers (or late springs/early falls for that matter), I did miss warm weather and continual sun – what can I say? I must suffer from seasonal depression disorder ;)

I am so thrilled with this sudden shift in temps and sunshine that I took advantage of it this week and spent lots of time outside in two of my favorite Perth outdoor spots: King’s Park (larger than NYC’s Central Park!) and Cottesloe Beach.

King’s Park

King's Park, Perth

King’s Park, Perth

Police on horseback

Police on horseback

Spectacular spring day

Spectacular spring day

One of the floral displays

One of the floral displays

ANZAC Memorial

ANZAC Memorial

A portion of downtown Perth from the park

A portion of downtown Perth from the park

Cottesloe Beach: I love this beach! Clearly it has the turquoise waters and fine white sand :) but I think the forestry (Norfolk Island pines, primarily) and pathways that line the beach on the back make this a special spot.

Cottesloe

Cottesloe

The Cottesloe Pylon

The Cottesloe Pylon

The Indiana Teahouse is a building you’ll see featured prominently in photos of “Cott” (I put this in quotation marks because although a lot of people call Cottesloe “Cott”, I don’t think I’m cool enough to do that yet); the Indiana Teahouse was built in 1910 as an ice cream parlor. Now it’s a little restaurant spot right on the beach.

"Cott" and the Indiana Teahouse

“Cott” and the Indiana Tea House – you can really see those pines that line the beach

Indiana Teahouse building

Indiana Tea House building (and a few sunbathers – they were brave because even though it was sunny, it wasn’t exactly bikini weather!)

Thank you for indulging me with [landscape] photo overload…the scenery was just too good to pass up!

Have great weekends, y’all – and until next time….

Margaret River: Whale Watching

Y’all, I mentioned it before, but I have a whale phobia (officially called cetaphobia); this is defined as an “irrational fear”, and yes, I know it is 100% irrational as whales are gentle and don’t hurt/kill people. (Although, am I the only one who read Moby Dick?!) ;) Don’t try to tell me this – I already know. I’m just frightened of their sheer size.

This doesn’t alarm anyone?

OMG (via totallyuselesstrivia.com)

I would literally have a panic attack (via strangevehicles.com)

This is not photoshopped (via sapeople.com)

Searching for these photos will now give me nightmares. Back to happier pictures. Here was the weather for our trip:

Geographe Bay

Geographe Bay

But moving on.

Despite my (irrational) fear, we went whale watching to cap off our weekend in Margaret River. I booked us a two hour, afternoon whale watching experience on Geographe Bay with Naturaliste Charters in hopes (?) of seeing humpback whales migrate down to Antarctica for summer feeding.

You can see Geographe Bay all the way over on the West Coast (via AustralianTraveller.com)

It didn’t take long before we saw plenty of whales! The captain told us to keep a lookout for the blow hole, which would spray up lots of water and indicate where the whales were swimming.

See?

See?

We saw a handful of the whales breach, but they were pretty far out in the distance, so I didn’t manage to capture any of those moments – although it was pretty incredible, I even have to admit.

Waving hi!

Waving hi!

Coming up for some air

Coming up for some air

We even saw some dolphins racing the boat:

MargaretRiver030So, while it would not be an excursion that I would have selected, it was a pretty incredible and unique experience; an ideal way to cap off Barr’s birthday weekend. Until next time…

Happy birthday, Barr!

Happy birthday, Barr!

Margaret River: Golf, Wine, ‘Roos & Views

We drove down to Margaret River on Friday afternoon, arriving just after sunset.  The trip was broken up into two hotels since we booked a tad late, and Friday night’s accommodation was the Rosewood Guesthouse – a charming B&B right in the village of Margaret River. There were even some other Americans staying there! It’s so rare to find tourists from the USA, given the long flights, but y’all: it’s worth it, trust me. :)

Saturday morning, which was Barr’s actual birthday, the birthday boy had his B&B special waffle (much better than any breakfast I could have prepared!), and then embarked on his annual tradition of birthday golf.

Birthday waffles at the Rosewood Guesthouse

Birthday waffles (and cereal, of course!) at the Rosewood Guesthouse – nom nom nom

I met him on the back nine and loved all the kangaroos that lounged around the course – they were everywhere, and we could literally be within five feet of them without them stirring or moving an inch.

This one is like me on the golf course: always in the bunker

This one is like me on the golf course: always in the bunker

Love this shot Barr caught

Love this shot Barr caught – it’s like they posed for him!

After the birthday golf, we headed to some wineries. Given its Mediterrean-esque climate, the Margaret River wine region is known for their Sauvignon Blanc Semillon and Cabernet Sauvignon wines.

Our first stop was Leeuwin Estate – it was really busy there, but the pourer was so congenial and took a lot of time to walk through their different vintages.

Leeuwin Estate tasting room and restaurant

From Leeuwin Estate, we drove back up north to Vasse Felix for lunch. We’d heard their food rivaled their wine, and we weren’t disappointed – one of the best meals I’ve had in Australia so far!

Our view from lunch at Vasse Felix

Our view from lunch at Vasse Felix – the weather was *literally* picture perfect!

Onward from Vasse Felix! Just a few minutes beyond, we made a quick stop at the Cape Lodge. We stayed at this breathtaking boutique hotel when we came down to Margaret River in 2007 (most of the pictures from yesterday’s post were from our time at the hotel). Anyhoo, we thought it would be fun to make a pit stop and reminisce!

Our Cape Lodge pit stop

Our Cape Lodge pit stop

Cape Lodge

Cape Lodge grounds

We then headed to our Saturday night accommodation, which was near Dunsborough: the Pullman Bunker Bay Resort. I don’t know what I was anticipating, but it wasn’t this:

Cape Naturaliste, near Margaret River

Cape Naturaliste, near Margaret River

The hotel was comprised of individual villas, all tucked into the greenery, with partial ocean views. There was even a heated pool which overlooked the water as well. And just a quick walk down from our room was this:

The beach on the Pullman resort

The beach on the Pullman resort

and this:

A lone surfer

A lone surfer

And around the corner from the resort, you got views like this:

I mean..

I mean..

and this:

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Cape Naturaliste, WA

and this:

So many different shades of blue :)

So many different shades of blue as the waves roll in

We really lucked out with the weather and our stays – beautiful all around!

The birthday boy taking it all in

The birthday boy taking it all in

Sunday was our whale watching day – eeek! …Stay tuned. Until next time…

Birthday weekend cuddles

Birthday weekend cuddles – he’s the best

Cheers to Margaret River: Throwing it Back

Last year, for reasons beyond our control, I was unable to be with Barr on his birthday – and it was a big one: the big 3-0! (I actually think I was probably more upset about it than he was…he’s pretty easy going like that :) ). Given this, I wanted to make sure 30 2.0 was special for him!

Having just returned home from our marathon trip to the states, we didn’t really get our act together in time to plan another plane trip, so I decided a road trip down to Margaret River would be a birthday excursion; only a three hour drive, pretty much one road the entire way, Margaret River is gorgeous wine country right along the coast of southwest Australia.

See Margaret River on the little cape/point southwest of Perth? (image via Busselton Golf Club)

Barr, my parents, my sister, and I actually visited Margaret River back in the day (Christmas 2007, to be exact). Here are some most excellent throwbacks:

Baby faces (aka "fuller" faces)

Baby faces (aka “fuller” faces) at 20 and 24, respectively

Anna, my mom, me, and Barr on the beaches of Margaret River

Anna, my mom, me, and Barr on one of the beaches of Margaret River

The Simpsons do Margaret River

The Simpsons do Margaret River

Christmas dinner 2007 at the Cape Lodge

Christmas dinner 2007 at the Cape Lodge

I’ll share our golf, vino, and beach adventures in Margaret River (circa last weekend) tomorrow – hint: get ready for some kangaroo pics!

And then…drumroll please…we went whale watching on Sunday (if you know me, you know that whales terrify me – this is a real thing called cetaphobia); and although I won’t be swimming with the whales anytime soon (or ever), it was pretty incredible. So get ready for some reviews, memories, birthday celebrations, and picture overload over the next two days :D Until next time…

Bourbon Spiced Cupcakes

What do you make for the person who doesn’t like your traditional sweets, or, heaven forbid (!): birthday cake!? If you have someone in you life that is like my husband (who would sooner have a bowl of fruit to a buttercream frosted, chocolate cake…weirdo), I have a different recipe for you.

Let it be known this is me…not Barr ;)

Trying to steer clear of  something overly sweet, I baked a spice [cup]cake, with a splash of bourbon (for a Kentucky boy, of course!), topped with cinnamon dusted cream cheese frosting – a bit of an adult twist on a fall classic. Although Barr’s September birthday doesn’t fall into an autumn birthday this year (how weird is that? His birthday is in spring this year), the nutmeg, cinnamon, and star anise in these cupcakes definitely stir up fall-type tastes and feelings…almost makes me yearn for falling leaves, Halloween, and football season. Ill take the warmer temperatures and blooming spring though – no complaints here!

The finished product!

The finished product!

So without further ado, here’s the recipe as adapted from the Maker’s Mark site. Enjoy!

Recipe makes 1 dozen cupcakes

Cupcakes – yields 1 dozen

1/4 cup your favorite bourbon

1 cup all purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1 star anise

8 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature

1 cup brown sugar

2 eggs

1/2 cup maple syrup

1/4 cup milk

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F and line a cupcake tin with cupcake liners. Sift all dry ingredients together: flour, baking powder, salt, baking soda, cinnamon, star anise, and nutmeg. Put aside for later use.

2. Cream the butter and brown sugar. Beat until light and fluffy.

3. Add the eggs one at a time, scraping down the bowl after each addition and beating well.

4. Add the syrup and mix well.

5. Alternate adding the dry ingredients and milk to the batter.

6. Add the bourbon, stirring well with a spatula. Fill the cupcake liners almost to the top and bake in the oven for 30-35 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean.

7. Allow the cupcakes to cool completely before frosting. Sprinkle frosted cupcakes with a bit of cinnamon, if desired.

Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting – yields ~2 cups

1-1/2 cups cream cheese (12 ounces), softened

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

2 cups powdered sugar

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon salt

1. In a large bowl or stand mixer, beat the softened cream cheese well, using a wooden spoon or paddle attachment.

2. Add the softened butter. Continue to beat until well mixed in with the cream cheese.

3. Add the powdered sugar, cinnamon and salt. Beat until well incorporated.

Until next time…