oh my bagels

there’s nothing better than a good icebreaker, and one of my favorites (albeit a little weird/maybe morbid) is to ask folks what their last meal would be if they could choose. you’ll learn a little bit about someone and, more than likely, foster further conversation around food, which is typically a pretty safe topic.

my answer has always been and, unless my tastes change dramatically between now and whenever, will always be a bagel with cream cheese. that’s it, kelsey? that’s all you would want? yes, no questions asked, no second thoughts, no regrets. equal parts cream cheese and bagel, sliced and toasted, that’s all i need.

as a self-proclaimed bagel and cream cheese superfan, i always welcome the opportunity to indulge this craving, and i think phillip and i have uncovered two spots in town that really have just set the bar high. part of me is glad they’re both a 20-minute drive away; otherwise, i’d need to be working out way more to burn off all these dense calories.

first up is the bagel hole in cumming. they’re a no-fuss, we-have-bagels-and-cream-cheese kind of place. i will say they do have fun flavors and also serve lunch, but their bagel and spread selection is fair, and the folks are friendly. they also have homemade bagel chips that i highly recommend! this place gets points for having an egg bagel (which has become my all-time favorite) and teaching me what a bialy is (our recommendation is to get it toasted with butter, simple and delicious). oh, and their coffee is fantastic.

next up is bb’s bagels, a spot known and loved by many. i think i heard about them on the local news (like i do so many places we try), and i can confidently say phillip is glad i recommended we check it out. this place has the diner vibes at 100 with a huge menu that will be sure to satisfy everyone in your party. the staff were very friendly when we went, and the portions made the drive well worth it. the bagels were wonderful and the strawberry spread scrumptious, and the sausage links were mouthwatering (and are flown in from new york, from what i hear). whenever the line is out the door (like it was when we went to bb’s), that’s usually a good sign. i’d say you can’t go wrong here!

do you have a favorite bagel place in town? what would your last meal be if you could choose? i need a new spot to try!

The Adventures of Kiwi Kyle | Part 2

It’s time for the sequel, and let’s hope it’s better than the original!  With two weeks in the books, I’ve been able to explore Christchurch and the surrounding area.  First, a quick history lesson before we delve into my adventures.

Christchurch is actually the oldest established city in New Zealand, being founded in 1856.  The best parallel I can draw for a city in the States is where I was raised – Birmingham, AL!  Is Christchurch as glamorous as being on-site in Dallas or Chicago?  Unfortunately not, but I can easily see it being a great place to raise a family.  The next biggest highlight after being the oldest city is one of tragedy, I hate to say.  In 2010 and 2012, the city suffered a devastating series of earthquakes.  Some of the older buildings just were not equipped to handle that kind of natural disaster and have been demolished.

Such is the case for the first landmark I visited, the Christchurch Cathedral.  You’ll have to Google the cathedral to see it in its heyday, but you can tell how beautiful it was by what is left.  I can picture the Gothic Revival architecture and stained-glass windows even in its present state.  Right next to the cathedral is the Citizens’ War Memorial, which didn’t incur near the level of damage as the cathedral but is blockaded due to it being so close to the cathedral.  Each year hundreds come to this Memorial to celebrate and honor the Anzac Day service (New Zealand’s Memorial Day).

Switching gears to something more uplifting, I took a hike along Taylor’s Mistake, a beach and bay about 30 minutes southeast of Christchurch proper.  As you’ll see in the pictures, this hike was no mistake, but how in the world did it get that name?  That name comes from the master of a vessel running into the beach area during the night, thinking he was somewhere else.

Aside from the great views and four legged friends I ran into, the hills above the beach were fortified with two machine gun posts to guard a coastal defense battery.  The machine gun posts were built in response to a perceived threat of invasion by the Japanese after the attack on Pearl Harbor, and the gun pits are still there today!

mexico – day 2

sleeping in was an obvious choice friday morning, so much so that my dad and i missed breakfast!  cousin ali was parading up and down the corridor shouting our names.  “uncle milo!  kels!”

“here we are!” dad shouted.  everyone piled into the room, demanding we get ourselves ready, for ensenada awaited!  it was our one and only stop aboard the carnival imagination, and the time had come.

across the walkway we trooped to my first steps on foreign soil.  fireworks went off, and crowds cheered upon my arrival!  okay, that is not at all true.  it was much less of a production, but it was still exciting.  and i didn’t even have to awkwardly avoid the photographers, for they were swarming the families around us.

a quick pit stop and then we were aboard the bus and headed for town.  the tour guide dazzled us with tales of local shopping, horseback riding, sightseeing, and delicious eating.  our group, though?  we were headed straight to hussong’s for drinks.

around since 1892, hussong’s once was, and still is, the watering hole of choice when my father and his friends come down here.  we showed ourselves in, and i think milo was a bit taken aback.  hussong’s had seen better crowds in its hey day, but that didn’t deter us from staying.  i think their bartenders were glad to have our company!

several dos equis came our way with limes and salt, and we cheered our first drinks in mexico.  as we worked through beers two and three, i took in this local establishment.  very local, very mom and pop.  famous faces lined the walls, and you could tell this place is where people once flocked.

right as we were leaving an hour or so later, i noticed the place was actually starting to fill up with more patrons.  look at this trend we started!

we figured we had just enough time left in the afternoon to visit one more spot.  we turned right out of hussong’s and walked the grueling 100 feet to pull together some tables on the patio at papas & beer.  we had passed this place along our stroll into town, and it was already rowdy.  rowdy is what it still was, too!  the music was blasting, folks were being pulled up on stage for shots of jose cuervo, and people were just everywhere.

although the scene did not look much like one we would normally keep, we decided we could join in the fun.  buckets of dos equis (yes, more dos equis!) were ordered for the group, and then uncle craig grabbed the attention of a local street chef.  uncle craig had raved about his guacamole, and whenever something is made tableside just for you, you know you cannot go wrong.

the avocados were ripe, the lime gave it a lovely and citrusy zest, and the little bit of spice was the perfect kick.  two orders for the tables, please!

as the beer flowed, our dancing feet could not sit still.  it wasn’t long before we were all up out of our chairs, grooving along to the music.  they thankfully had a decent mix between new stuff and old, so even milo and uncle craig joined in on the fun.  we were posted up at papas & beer for a couple of hours and then made our way back through town to the ship.  thanks, ensenada, for an afternoon of fun!

we boarded the ship again, and although we had done nothing strenuous that day, we all decided that a quick rest before dinner would be just fine.  after checking out the exclusive adult deck at the stern of the ship, milo and i freshened up and headed upstairs to the bar for some pre-dinner drinks.  the theme for the evening was golden oldies night.  now, none of us may have really been in gold, and our outfits were not exactly “oldies” inspired, but you know, we cleaned up quite nicely that night!  everyone looked sharp and polished, and i was proud to be seen with these fine-looking folks.

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dinner that night was highly anticipated because our waiter alex had told us the evening before that lobster tails and lamb shank were on the menu tonight.  how fabulous!  it should come as no surprise to anyone that we all ordered at least one lobster tail that night, some of us even two.  a couple diners commented that the tails were a little on the small side, but considering the amounts of food we were getting with the appetizers and desserts, i was fine with a more modest portion.

was it the best lobster tail i’d ever eaten?  no, but i do not eat lobster frequently at all, so i savored that rich and buttery dish as much as i could.  we were all a bit more lively this evening since we’d been relaxing all day, and some of us decided to keep the party going afterwards.  brian was ready to check out the poker scene, so we headed over to the casino.

i’m not much of a gambler, except when i’m playing craps with my dad, so i was the perfect onlooker that evening.  i cheered shawn on as he played the dollar slots and then applauded as brian did some work at the texas hold ’em table.  watching people gamble is entertaining for only so long, though, so kate and i retired for the day around midnight.  goodnight, to all!