Monday, December 7, 2009

Catching Up

Well, it's been awhile. The last month has been filled with work, Christmas shopping, vacation planning and holiday decorating. Now that I'm in Seattle for work again and have less to distract me in the evenings, I can think about all that has been happening.

The biggest accomplishment...and a really exciting one, at that we found a villa to rent in Tuscany! I spent a lot of time a couple of different weekends researching places to stay. And after I had narrowed it down to about 5 different choices, Nate picked the winner in about 10 minutes. Go figure.

We'll be traveling to Italy the end of April and are staying for 2 full weeks. The first 3 days will be spent in Rome, where we're staying at a Marriott and cashing in some hotel points. Yay for a free stay! Then we're traveling to Tuscany for a week, which is where the villa comes in. We'll be staying less than a mile from Radda in Chianti in Central Tuscany. The town of Radda sounds quaint and homey and the central location will put us in a good spot for venturing out and exploring (we'll have a rental car for the week in Tuscany). The villa itself is somewhat basic, but perfect for a home base. We plan on visiting a lot of wineries and trying local cuisine, but we do have the option of cooking in if we so choose, as the villa has a gas stove. There's also a pool, but since we'll be there in late April, it won't be available yet. The most ironic thing, based on the fact that Nate loves to cook, is that the villa is owned by a local chef. Maybe that's why Nate picked this place?

You can read more about it and see the gorgeous pictures of the local countryside at this website: The villa is named La Casanova. How romantic... And at less than $1000/week, it's pretty affordable too.


At the end of our trip, we're planning to spend a few days in Florence. I've looked into lodging for our stay there and that is the final decision we need to make as far as booking a room. Once we're through with that, I can move on to figuring out WHAT we're going to do/see while we're there! I hope to accomplish a lot of that over Christmas break.

Speaking of trips, we're also planning a trip for late March to take a jaunt down to Florida. We're going to visit our friends Kevin and Deanna and we'll be taking in a couple of Cardinals spring training games. I'm almost as excited about that as I am Italy...but not quite.

Well, I think I'll end there for now. I need to go out and grab some dinner. Until next time...


Thursday, November 5, 2009

Nashville, in Clif Notes

I'm finally getting around to telling you about our Nashville experience, so instead of a detailed play-by-play I will give you the quick and dirty version instead. You probably get tired of reading my long ramblings anyway.

Let's start with the highlight of the trip for Nate. It wasn't in the original fact, we didn't even know it existed until we saw it on a brochure after we'd arrived...but we traveled to the hole-in-the-wall Cooter's Place, the Dukes of Hazzard Museum and Shop. Nate was a huge fan of the show growing up, so he was thrilled. Thrilled, I tell you.


I mean, look at the happiness radiating from this guy. And the highlight, he got his picture taken with the General Lee.



The Country Music Hall of Fame (CMHF) was a must see for me. The museum is very well put together and they have a great audio tour for those of us (me) who don't like to read everything in a museum. There are great exhibits and amazing sights.



The highlight of our CMHF tour was seeing and stepping foot into Studio B. It's amazing the history of this place and how simple things were back then. Definitely splurge on the Studio B tour if you're ever in Nashville. By the way, the multi-colored lights we installed by Elvis as he needed the right "mood lighting" to sing.


We, of course, spent a ton of time on Broadway (a.k.a. Honky Tonk Row). One is really exposed to the music scene here via all the numerous tiny little bars.


There is always a band playing at any point during the day at any bar you walk into. There were bands during the day...


...and bands at night.


We really had a great time chilling and taking in the tunes. And Nate was in hog heaven when he got his picture with the cute lead singer of one of the bands (she's the second one...wink, wink).



Another must do Nashville attraction is seeing a show at the Grand Ole Opry. It really is unique. It's the longest running radio show and the logistics during and between each segment are totally old school. There is the announcer who sounds like the voice of God, the church like feel, the opportunity to see many country music legends, and a wide variety of musical styles expressed in those four walls.



Finally, my favorite experience of the trip happened outside of Nashville in a little town called Lynchburg. What's so famous about Lynchburg? Let me give you a clue.


The Jack Daniels visitor center was beautifully maintained and on gorgeous grounds.


It was super interesting to learn about everything that goes into the process to make Jack Daniels. They make their own barrels and charcoal and the mellowing process for the whiskey is unbelievable.


The distillery has its own volunteer fire department, just in case the 75,000 barrels stored per barrel house spring a leak and go up in flames.


We got to see Jack's house and again the gorgeous grounds.



Afterward, we traveled to the Barbeque Hill Lodge for lunch.



And then we experienced downtown Lynchburg first hand by foot.


We throughly enjoyed our trip...experiencing different types of music, goofing off, learning about whiskey, learning about country music, and just taking in the scene. We fit right in, don't we?



And a parting comment. For those of you that like country music, or, well any type of music for that matter, this comment rings true.


If you're a music lover, pack your cowboy boots and go to Nashville! It's a rarely talked about gem.


Sunday, October 25, 2009

Photo of the Day


[Summer Squash Pizza with Goat Cheese and Walnuts]
Recipe here


Thursday, October 22, 2009

Wedding Cake, Revisited

Several people have asked how the wedding cake was, so I'll cut straight to the chase with the final verdict: it was pretty GOOD! I was honestly expecting to take one bite and toss the rest. But here's the whole story...

Both my and my husband's parents were in town last weekend. We thought it would be fun to defrost the wedding cake while they were all here, so they could partake in the tasting fun as well! Especially since Nate's parents didn't actually get any cake on our wedding day due to their unexpected ER visit.

We had a nice fondue dinner planned with meat, cheese and dessert fondue, with the wedding cake to top it off. We defrosted the cake slowly in the refrigerator by taking it out of the freezer a day prior to when we wanted to eat it. The cake itself was quadruple wrapped in plastic wrap, placed in a Ziploc bag and then put into a box, which had been in our freezer for the past year.

Peering into the box, it looked pretty good. But I wasn't getting my hopes up. I was thinking, "At least we're having some amazing fondue that will make up for crappy cake." Finally the time came to unwrap and cut the cake. Here's a shot after we had cut off several pieces.


Overall it looks decent, right? Well, it WAS! My only complaints were that the top layer was a little drier than the bottom layer, which makes sense since it was on the top and more exposed. Also, because of the thawing, the bottom of the bottom layer got a little soggy. But the buttercream icing was still very tasty and not overly sugary after the year in the freezer. You can see a little more of the texture in this close up shot.


While we were re-living the wedding, we broke out our last bottle of wine left over from the wedding and had that with our meal and dessert as well. I had to get a shot of our wedding remnants, displayed below. (Thanks Mom for holding the flowers in the background!).


So, definitely a successful cake tasting in my opinion. I enjoyed it so much I actually saved a few pieces so I could devour a little more this week. Nate doesn't eat cake at all, so it was left to me! It was kind of sad to throw half of it away, but I certainly don't need to eat all that cake myself.

I'm not sure if it was the technique used to wrap and store the cake that made it editable or the fact that my lady who baked the cake had a trick for making it extra moist, but I was surprised. Year old white wedding cake with buttercream frosting? YUM!!


Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The (Sun)Rise and Fall

When I returned home from the gym this morning, it happened to be just the time the sun was starting to come up. The sky had a few clouds that had turned a gorgeours pinky orange and the sun wasn't yet peeking over the horizon. So what did I do? Rushed inside to grab my camera and snap a few pictures! I think they really capture the beautiful images I was seeing with my own two eyes.




And while we're talking about pictures, here are a few I snapped over the weekend of our maple trees and mums. The colors are so vibrant right now.

First the trees. The oranges and reds are to die for.






The mums I planted for the fall season are just bursting with color. The only thing we're missing is a pumpkin!






My favorites are the oranges, of course. And you get extra points if you can spot the bug!



Happy Fall everyone (my favorite time of year)!



Saturday, October 17, 2009

First Anniversary

Our first wedding anniversary was spent northwestern style in the lovely city of Seattle. They say when its sunny in Seattle, there's no better place to be. And lucky for us, although fall was in the air and it was a little chilly, it was sunny the entire time!

We had a very fun, relaxed weekend. We chose Pike's Market as the place to meet our friends Jennifer and Dan. I snapped this shot of one of the flower stands. They had gorgeous bouquets...some as cheap as $5. If we ever happen to move to Seattle and are near the market, I will have fresh flowers all the time.


Our Saturday was spent at a local bar watching the Notre Dame vs. Washington football game. It was a very exciting game indeed! We were able to see Jennifer & Dan's new house right off of Alki Beach and had dinner at a local spot where we had clam chowder and fish and chips. Yum.

On Sunday, I got to check another baseball stadium off of my list, as we went to Safeco Field to watch the Mariners play their last game of the season. Nate scored Terrace Club seats from a scalper, which had an enclosed indoor area where the food and drink stands were. The perfect place to go when you needed to warm up!



We were lucky enough to see what was probably Ken Griffey Jr's last game. He received standing ovations from the fans every time he came up to bat. On his final at bat, all the fans were cheering "One More Year" as he took his last swing. He got a hit up the middle, a great way to end a career. The fans went crazy and Griffey came out for a curtain call. It was really wonderful to experience.


Nate took me around the park and showed me all the great vantage points. They actually have fan level viewing of the dugouts. It's really cool to be able to see the pitchers warm up and it's an entirely different perspective of the field.




The Mariners ended up winning the game too!


For our anniversary dinner, we had one of the most extravigant meals we've had as a couple. We dined at Spring Hill in West Seattle. Nate had found the restaurant in one of his Food & Wine magazines and it really lived up to the hype - and expense!

Their menu was interesting, as they didn't divide things by courses, but instead by the type of food (e.g. pasta, vegetables, fish, etc.). They also had many tapa-style dishes (small plates), as well as items with an MC next to them, meaning main course.

Nate and I shared many plates and it was all phenomenal. One of my favorites, which I sadly did not get a picture of, was the roasted chanterelles. They were served with grits, parmesan and a bath cooked egg. Heaven in a bowl! The scallops were another of my favorites and they were served with a green-tomato gribiche and tokyo turnips. Don't they look divine?


By far Nate's favorite was the duck egg yolk raviolo, with green sauce, duck ham, and garlic chips. It was one expensive piece of pasta, but so worth it...


Thinking back over the last year, it really is amazing how quickly our first anniversary arrived. It was a year with many fun times, good experiences and life moments that brought us closer together. I'm looking forward to many more years! And what could be more romantic then the skyline of Seattle at night. Just beautiful!


And although we're a little tardy, we'll be trying a piece of our frozen wedding cake tonight to finish out our first year together. Will it be one bite and then in the trash? Stay tuned for an update...


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