The 52 Project: October 6

_DSC7284^^ This past weekend we celebrated our fifth (and final that we can actually attend) wedding celebration. This one was for my freshman college roommate, and it was held at Sleepy Hollow Country Club in Tarrytown, NY. Although the day started out gloomy and rainy, by the time we all made it back to the Country Club for the outdoor cocktail hour and photos, the skies had cleared and the sun was glorious. It turned out to be a beautiful day! Congrats to Carla & Ryan — we love you guys!

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One Final Morning in Albuquerque

Hi friends,

So yesterday was my last day in Albuquerque.

Sigh.

It really was an amazing, educational and exciting trip. Between the gorgeous scenery, delicious food, tasty drinks and fun activities, I’m not sure if I could say exactly what my favorite part of the trip was — I just know that it was all pretty spectacular.

For my last morning in New Mexico, the Albuquerque Convention & Visitor’s Bureau had set me up with an appointment at Los Poblanos Historic Inn & Organic Farm.  I would be having breakfast with Nancy, their director of hospitality and sustainability, but my itinerary mentioned that I might want to show up a bit early so I could take in the “beautiful grounds”.

Ummm — they weren’t kidding when they said beautiful. Before getting to the photos, let me share a little bit about the Inn and farm, in general. The land where the Inn & farm are currently located was originally inhabited by the Anasazi (ancient pueblo Indians) in the 14th century, and in 1716 it was made part of the Elena Gallegos land grant. The original rach was owned by Ambrosio and Juan Cristobal Armijo, but it was reassembled by Albert and Ruth Simms in the 1930s. Today the Ranch encompasses 25 acres, which includes both the Inn and a working farm.  The area still features many important works of art and craftsmanship from back in the day, including John Gaw Meem (who was widely considered New Mexico’s greatest 20th century architect), Walter Gilbert (one of the only Albuquerque artists to have worked at Los Poblanos) and Laura Gilpin (one of the most important photographers of the Southwest). The Greely Garden was created by Rose Greely, a pioneer female landscape architect and designer of the 1932 formal Spanish-style gardens at Los Poblanos.

In addition to the beautiful land and artwork, the restaurant menu changes daily, and always features fresh ingredients right off the farm including eggs, honey, fruits and vegetables from the fields.

 

_DSC7146^^ The lavender fields weren’t in bloom right now, but how amazing are they?

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_DSC7182^^ We had these fresh figs with our breakfast. And while of course the figs I ate in Calabria that were grown on my family farm will always be No. 1 … I must say these were a seriously close second.

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_DSC7210^^ Although it was cold the morning I ate breakfast here, in warmer-weather months this portico is open to the Inn guests for them to eat their meals outside.

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_DSC7213^^ Organic is the name of the game here, and Nancy, who I ate breakfast with, does a great job at making sure they Inn stays as up-to-date as possible with the newest and best sustainable, organic practices.

_DSC7216^^ This library. To. Die. For.

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_DSC7223^^ The kitchen is a masterpiece, as well.

_DSC7224^^  Here is the chef, preparing meat for that day’s meal. All of the meat is either locally grown or raised right on the farm.

_DSC7230^^ The Farm Shop is a must-visit if you’re in the area. I learned about the different types of lavender (and got to smell them both) and tasted real balsamic vinegar — not that crap you buy in the store. Holy crap, friends — I don’t think I’ll ever feel the same way about the fake, store-bought kind again!

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_DSC7236^^ Gorgeous lavender bundles! If only I weren’t flying home!

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And that, my friends, was it. Spending my last morning on the farm was a fantastic way to end the trip with a bang. And while I would highly recommend doing any one (or all!) of the things that were on my itinerary, if you do decide to visit Albuquerque (and you should!), there is so much else to explore … the possibilities are endless.

Thanks again so much to the Albuquerque Convention & Visitors Bureau — you sure weren’t kidding when you said Albuquerque has a lot to offer!

Bis bald, friends — I’ll see you soon!

Hot Air Balloon Rides, Corn Mazes, Farms and Food in Albuquerque

Welcome to my second day in Albuquerque, my friends, wherein I woke up supremely early to do something that I was in my heart of hearts really hoping I would get to do while I was here — a hot air balloon ride!

I rode with the Rainbow Ryders, and it was everything I had hoped it would be and (so much) more. Despite the fact that I was woefully unprepared for the frigid morning air (wear sweaters and coats and closed-toe shoes and scarves if you’re lucky enough to go on a ride!), the weather warmed up pretty quickly, especially since we were standing right under blasting fire for an hour once we started on our way …

_DSC6871^^ Have I mentioned yet that it’s almost Balloon Fiesta here in Albuquerque, wherein hundreds of thousands of people flock to the city to watch the world’s largest (I can’t back that up, but seems like it should be!) hot air balloon show? Anyway, the field where all of this will take place is where we all go to set up the balloons.

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_DSC6892^^ Ours was the first of our whole group to head into the air. What can I say — we’re overachievers ;)

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_DSC6906^^ These balloons get up to 10,000 feet above sea level …

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After the ride, we toasted with mimosas and muffins back in the Balloon Fiesta field, and they even gave us these cute certificates to take home. It was a truly Albuquerque-ian thing to do, and I’m so glad I got the chance.

After the ride (which starts at 6:15, but the way), I had a little time before my lunch meeting, so I took up one of the suggestions from the Albuquerque Convention & Visitor’s Bureau (who invited me out here, if you’ll remember) and visited Wagner’s Farmland Experience. Even the road out to the farm is picturesque, with little fruit stops and restaurants on the way, and the farm itself had some pretty spectacular views.

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_DSC7045^^ Who doesn’t love a good petting zoo?

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_DSC7054^^ The 2014 corn maze is up at Wagner’s right now and I thought … “What the heck? It can’t be that hard, right?” WRONG. I am seriously directionally challenged, my friends. Lucky for me a group of elementary school kids were tackling the maze and I followed them out of the thing. (Not without lots of confused looks and questions, though.) And a big shout out to my husband for trying to help me find the way out of the maze, from all the way back in Manhattan, using Google maps :) I’m not sure if that’s cool or creepy …

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_DSC7065^^ The end of the maze led you out to a cute little pumpkin patch.

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So, once that adventure was over, it was back into the car to head to lunch at El Pinto, a spectacular New Mexican restaurant with an amazing outdoor garden and eating area (and even more amazing tequila, as I would come to find out).

_DSC7069^^ The house Margherita is anything but ordinary.

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_DSC7085^^ Look at that bar, my friends! They’ve got 160 types of tequila here!

_DSC7089^^ They even bottle personal tequila for patrons who can purchase it at the restaurant and keep it there for any time they come in.

_DSC7095^^ Oh, and by the way, a warehouse in the back makes 25,000 cans of salsa each day to distribute. This is their special version specifically for Balloon Fiesta weekend.

_DSC7097^^ And here was my tequila tasting. All in a day’s work, friends, all in a day’s work.

_DSC7104^^ After lunch I was taken to the back to see the warehouse and the garden, where the restaurant is starting to try to grown some of the foods that they’ll later prepare.

_DSC7110^^ Dessert was the restaurant’s version of a tiramisu, called Levante. It’s made with biscochitos, the traditional New Mexican cookie (they were declared so by the New Mexico Legislature in 1989, and were first introduced to Mexico by Spanish settlers who brought the recipe from Spain). This dessert was every bit as decadent as it looks, my friends.

After lunch I had stops at two breweries. The first was the Red Door Brewing Company, which actually just opened its doors about three weeks ago. Their cider was actually my favorite drink (that and the milk stout), and it actually has the highest alcohol content, as well. (Boy do I know how to pick ‘em.) Since it was early when I got there (around 1:30), there weren’t too many other people around yet, but three cyclists came in about 15 minutes before I had to leave, and it was really great talking to them. One of the two men in the group was with the traveling tour of Wicked, which is in town now, and the two others were taking him around on their own, self-made Breaking Bad bike tour(Ummm, here’s where I admit that I’ve never watched the show. Sorry Albuquerque! Before I come back I promise to give it a go!)

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After Red Door I moved on to a brewery staple here in Albuquerque — Marble Brewery. This place had a nice patio outside where they bring live performers, too.

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While I’d love to say that I kept going strong after Marble Brewery, the truth is, friends, that this gal needed a little nap. Unfortunately that means that I’ll probably not get to make it out to the Nob Hill area of the city, which is disappointing. But I still have one more fun activity planned for tomorrow, so that leaves me with a bit of something to look forward to after what can only be described as an amazing, entertaining trip.

Dinner Wednesday night, by the way, was at Mas, the tapas restaurant right inside my hotel, and I was given a tour of the hotel as well, which turned out to be especially important since apparently I was seriously missing out on so many amazing facts about this place.

But let’s start with dinner. Hot gouda apple bake w/ crostini, patatas bravas (crispy fried potatoes w/spicy mayo), bruschetta de la boca (toasted bread w/ mushroom-manchego cream, fried egg & truffle oil) and grilled artichokes w/spanish goat cheese, orange zest and mint.

And those were our appetizers.

Dinner for me was the classic veggie paella – and absolutely everything was to. die. for.

And now a bit more about this amazing hotel. The hotel has been around since 1939, when Conrad Hilton completed it as his first New Mexican hotel for $700,000. At the time, it was the tallest building in New Mexico, and the first in all of New Mexico to have air conditioning.

In 1984 the building was placed on the National register of Historic Places, and after being purchased a few additional times, it was finally sold to Gary Goodman in 2005 and promptly shut down for four years for $30 million-worth of renovations. Despite the renovations, though, a lot of the original existing structure runs throughout the hotel, still.

_DSC7121^^ While Goodman originally envisioned this room directly across from the restaurant to be open as a sort of nightclub to the general public, he quickly realized that the general public didn’t necessarily mesh well with the upscale clientele staying at the hotel, and so now only private, ticketed events happen here.

_DSC7124^^ I know this isn’t the greatest photo, but please stick with me here. So one of the hotel staff currently working at Andaluz actually has worked at this hotel ever since it first opened its doors. When Goodman purchased the hotel in ’05, he turned to this staffer to learn more about what the place was like back in its heyday. During one of these conversations, he learned about a mural — this mural– that had been painted on one of the main walls as you enter the hotel and that had since been painted over. So he commissioned an artist to recreate the original painting from old photos. This is exactly as the photo was back when the hotel first opened, with the one small exception of the third figure’s ankle, which is slightly off the ground. The artist did this to leave his mark on his work, but otherwise the painting is an exact replica.

_DSC7126^^ These casbahs can be rented out and hotel guests can have dinner and drinks in them privately.

_DSC7128^^ So this wooden structure — which is actually much larger than this photo lets on — was originally commissioned to hang in the elevators, but didn’t pass fire code. So the panels were quickly removed and sent to the basement, where they spent many years until they were moved up to the main lobby for all to enjoy.

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_DSC7130^^ So I know this might seem like a mistaken photo of the floor, but it’s actually seriously cool! So back in the days when the hotel first opened, the reception area used to be where the casbahs are now situated. The bellman would stand in this one spot, because he had the perfect vantage point to see guests coming in from both entrances. And for this reason alone, that very spot is actually worn out in certain spots, and when you stand on it, you can feel the dipping where the bellman’s standing has worn out the tile. That’s pretty incredible, is it not?

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^^ The library is definitely one of my favorite rooms.
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^^ And this is Ibiza, the 2nd floor, outdoor rooftop bar for the hotel.

Which brings me to one final note about this awesome hotel – it’s sustainability. From their solar heated water systems and compost system to the building’s seriously advanced energy management system (the rooms literally use sensors to detect when a person is in the room or not and uses that to determine when lights/heat/air should be on and off), Andaluz is one of the greenest spots in Albuquerque hands down.

Alright friends — well that’s been the bulk of my trip, for sure. I head back to good ole’ NYC tomorrow after a quick pit stop at one more place. It’s been a whirlwind, but it’s been so much fun. It’s been real, Albuquerque … and I have a definite feeling you’ll be seeing me again some day!

Bis bald, friends!

Tramways, Breweries, Rattlesnakes and More in Albuquerque

Hi friends,

So these past few days have been a whirlwind, but I wanted to try to get stuff down as it’s happening, so I’ll do my best to get through this post (even though my eyes are drooping as I type — so please forgive any typos!). The good people at the Albuquerque Convention & Visitors Bureau so kindly invited me out to New Mexico for a press trip, which of course I happily accepted. I flew out early Monday morning and arrived around 5 p.m. Monday evening.

And I’ve been on the go ever since.

So of course I have about 1,000 photos to share, and I figured the best way to go about this (at least the first two-days’ worth) is to explain via photo what I’ve done so far on my trip. For starters, I’m staying at Hotel Andaluz, which is located conveniently in downtown Albuquerque and is so stunningly modern and wonderful I can’t stand it. I’ll be having dinner at the restaurant here tomorrow night, too, so I’ll be sure to share how that goes.

Anyway, on to a bit of what I’ve seen so far. Hold on to your hats kids — it’s been a wild two days!

Continue reading

A Day Trip to Phoenicia and Otter Falls

This past Sunday, Chris took me on a little day trip to Phoenicia, New York [which is about an hour away from where my mom lives in Newburgh] and then to Otter Falls, where he and a bunch of his friends run a relay every year.

But first, we stopped for pancakes at Sweet Sue’s Restaurant, which has a 24 Zagat rating for food and a seriously slammin’ menu of pancake options.

_DSC5808^^ Gotta love a town that puts on a rubber duckie race.
(And clearly reuses the sign year after year — so economical!)

_DSC5809^^ That’s a pretty spectacular backdrop for the Phoenicia Pharmacy, if I do say so myself.

_DSC5810^^ Cute little, awesome Sweet Sue’s Restaurant.

_DSC5811^^ Holy pancake menu!

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_DSC5814^^ These were my — wait for it — carrot. cake. pancakes.
With cream cheese sauce. ‘Nuff said.

_DSC5815^^ Chris went the savory route and got fresh corn cakes — equally delish.

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_DSC5819^^ As of 2014, Phoenicia was home to 299 residents. I seriously love that.

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_DSC5822^^ Mystery spot indeed.

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_DSC5829^^ This eagle originated in Grand Central.
Here’s how it ended up in Phoenicia.

After loading up on pancakes, we headed to Otter Falls, which is about a 20-minute drive from Phoenicia. Here’s what the Hudson Valley Visit Vortex has to say about this swimming hole:

Located on state land, a small, but adventurous, side trail leads to the spectacular falls cascading down about 30 feet to a large deep basin measuring about 20 to 30 feet in diameter with a center depth between 6 and 8 feet. With recent rains it should be like a giant, cold-water Jacuzzi, say the locals. Otter Falls is only about a half-mile from the popular Giant Ledge trail parking area, making it an excellent stop after a hot, sweaty hike. Sundown, lat=42.0314, lon=-74.4201

Directions: From I-87, get off at Exit 19, Kingston exit, RT 28. Go northwest on RT 28 about 25 miles to Phoenicia. Then:To get here from RT 28 in Phoenicia: Continue west on Rt 28 through Shandaken to Big Indian. Turn south (left) on RT 47 (set odometer) and go about 6.6 miles to a telephone pole with mile post #167 1/2 on it. Other things to look for are the state land signs (the yellow ones with the DEC logo). This state land is the only State land on the west side of Route 47 in Big Indian Valley. (If you come to the “hairpin turn”, an extremely sharp right hand turn, on RT 47, you have gone about .5 mile too far.)

To find it after you park, you walk along the highway and search for the tree with the 111A 167 1/2 numbers on it [which was my ‘Photo of the Day’ photo from yesterday]. It’s a pretty fun, secluded little spot — definitely worth checking out.

_DSC5840^^ It’s only about 500 meters from the highway to the waterfall so,
you know, my kind of hike!

_DSC5842^^ Ooooohhhh — pretty!

_DSC5858^^ I kept this photo because that black and white blur at the bottom right of the photo is a butterfly that was buzzing all around me. I snapped this one shot quickly, not hopeful to actually capture the little booger, and this is what I got. I kinda love it.

_DSC5859^^ We played around in the water leading into the waterfall for a bit.
And when I say “we”, I mean “Chris”.

 And that’s about it, ya’ll! I’d highly recommend a trip to the water hole on a hot summer day — nothing beats it.

Bis bald, friends!

Paddling in the Potomac

Morning friends! Exactly one week and one day ago (aka last Monday), I hopped on a Tripper bus out of the city headed to Arlington, Virginia (a suburb of the D.C. area).

Here’s a little tip from a bus rider know-it-all: If you’re on a bus (or in a car or any other form of automotive transportation) out of the city heading through the Holland Tunnel, be sure to sit on the right-hand side, because you’ll be privy to this beauty of a view:

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Anyway, as I mentioned in a post last week, when this particular friend and I get together, we generally do a whole lot of nothing. (Which is actually quite wonderful, as I’m sure most of you know.) I mean sure we eat and drink and chat and binge watch shoes (last week she introduced me to Revenge … why have I not been watching this all my life?), but there’s generally very little by way of activity, other than a walk here and there.

Last week, though, we got creative. On the heels of our very active trip to Marathon Key at the beginning of April, we were eager to try one activity in particular all over again in a new spot — kayaking.

So we headed into Old Town Alexandria (which is about the cutest little place you’ll ever go) and down to the Belle Haven Park and Marina, where we took a double-person kayak out on the Potomac River.

Let me tell you friends — it was something splendid, for sure.

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3In_Harbour^^ The water was pretty muddy after the torrential downpour we had the two days prior,
but it was still pretty splendid all the same.

4Kayak_View^^I have to admit that this kayak adventure was harder for me, for some reason,
and I may not have been a ton of help when it came to rowing. Thanks for taking the lead, Lisa!

5Log_Turtles^^ We saw so, so, so many turtles on this trip!

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8Mischief_View^^ We may have ventured off the beaten trail into a tiny little area secluded by trees.
So peaceful.

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So Lisa and I have pretty much decided this is our thing. Hopefully when she comes to visit me here in the city we’ll take some kayaks out on the Hudson as well. It’s always fun to have an activity to look forward to on a trip.

My time with Lisa was so fun, but it also went by so fast, and before I knew it I was back on a 2:30 bus on Saturday afternoon headed back to the city. After being dropped off near Penn Station around 7:30, I grabbed a ticket on the Long Island Railroad and headed back out, this time to meet up with Chris to spend the night in Long Island prior to his running the Long Island Marathon Sunday morning. My dad met us out there in the morning to watch, and we walked a grand total of 10 MILES around the course to catch Chris running at three different spots.

Oh, and Chris did pretty well, too ;) I mean, he broke his own personal record with a race time of 2:49:26!

I could not be more proud of him.

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Bis bald, friends! Warmer weather is headed our way, and I hope everyone is getting excited for whatever plans you’ve concocted for the summer …

 

Our Final Days of Spring Break 2014: Denver, Colorado

Denver. Ah, Denver. Our third and final stop on our short little tour of Colorado.

You see, we’ve heard lots of amazing things about this city. We have a handful of friends and family members who live here, and they just seem to love, love, love, love, love it.

Like … really, they love it a lot.

So we had high expectations, to say the least.

We started our tour of Denver with a quick drive around the city to familiarize ourselves with it. We drove through Cheeseman Park (so cute!), and stopped off in the Capitol Hill area to take in a few of the more touristy aspects …

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Photo 3^^ Cheesy tourist photos — they’re kind of a must … am I right?!

After hanging around on our own for a while, we met up Thursday evening with my brother-in-law’s sister and her fiancee. (Did ya catch that?) Anyway, Rachel and Steve have lived in Denver for a bunch of years now, and they are two of those people I mentioned before who just love, love love it there ;)

They took us to the Vine Street Pub & Brewery for dinner, which was super chill and relaxed. We went outside with beers from the bar and watched people playing Cornhole while we waited for our table … it was that relaxed.

And that was about it for Thursday, since we didn’t get into Denver until around 1 anyway. Friday, however, we had quite the touristy day. We woke up early so that we could head out to the Red Rocks Amphitheater, which was simply stunning.

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Photo 5^^ We were shocked  at how much exercising went on here!
Seriously, people everywhere running up and down the stairs,
jumping the rocks, running every single row … fascinating!
I guess if you have to work out, you can’t have a
better backdrop then at Red Rocks, right?

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Red Rocks was about an hour outside of Denver, and we spent a couple hours there just taking it all in. So by the time we made it back into the city, we were starving!

Thank God for Mexican food when you’re starving … am I right?! And  Rio Grande in the LoDo section did not disappoint.

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We sat outside under umbrellas in the 70-degree weather (hello, summer!), eating our burritos and drinking our margaritas. [A word to the wise: Watch it on the margaritas here. A single drink contains 3.5 shots of tequila! That’s why they have a three drink maximum on the margs, particularly. We should know, we asked ;)]

After lunch I headed across the street to buy an outrageously expensive tee from Patagonia (I was desperate! I hadn’t read the weather beforehand and was wearing two long-sleeved shirts … and I was sweltering!), and then we caught the free 16th Street MallRide shuttle over to Commons Park, where we hopped on bikes from the Denver Bike Share program and rode over the South Platte River to the section of Denver known as The Highlands.

And oh my goodness did we love it here, my friends! And it wasn’t just because of Little Man Ice Cream (although that did help a lot ….)

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This whole area had a very relaxed, young, happening atmosphere. It was very cool, to say the least.

So after scarfing down some ice cream (don’t ask me how I did that after eating a ton of Mexican for lunch … I have a superhuman stomach, this is for certain), we hopped back on our bikes and rode as fast as possible back to the LoDo section to meet up with Chris’s old boss for drinks at Freshcraft before heading off to the Washington Park section of Denver to meet up with our cousin and her husband and baby.

Sheesh we really crammed a lot into one full day, didn’t we!?

Anyway, Courtney and Charlie’s place was adorable, and they were so lovely to get a babysitter for the evening so that they could come back out with us for dinner at the Ale House and a couple of brewskies afterwards at Denver Beer Co. (Which, by the way, might have been my favorite brewery of all the ones we visited. It was late when we arrived — in fact we stayed until closing at midnight — but the big garage doors that make up the front of the place were thrown open from the warmer weather earlier in the day, and everyone was hanging out on picnic tables with their dogs. Very fun.)

And that, as they say, was that, my friends. It was a lot  to do in one day, but I’m really glad that we got to fit in as much as we did on Friday. I wasn’t convinced that we had seen everything Denver had to offer on Thursday (I mean that’s a stupid thing to even write, because of course we didn’t. It’s impossible to see everything any city has to offer in one day), but Friday gave me a better look at the Denver that I had heard so much about.

And that I really, truly, look forward to going back to.

Okay friends, so I’m off again next week — wahoo! This time I’ll be heading to Washington, D.C. to spend the week with a friend for her birthday. This is the friend I went to Florida with, and the one who when I visit we generally hang out and do nothing but eat and drink and chat. (Except for when she has me crafting like crazy for her sister’s baby shower)  — but this time we’ve promised each other that we will get out and about into the city to actually do something historical. Or fun. Or both.

But we’ll just have to wait to see how that goes ;)

Bis bald, friends!

 

 

Spring Break Day 3: Breckenridge, Colorado

On our third day into our trip to Colorado last week, we loaded back into the car in Boulder and headed on the two hour ride to Breckenridge. (Thank you for always saying that you would drive, Brian! I absolutely did not love driving that tank of a car we got from the rental place!)

Anyway, the road into Breckenridge is a long, windy, at times hazardous one, and we’ve been told by the locals that during peak seasons, the traffic can get pretty backed up.

Which makes sense, because Breckenridge is amazing! Simply put — it’s gorgeous. And quaint. And if you love snowboarding or skiing (which both Chris and my sister’s boyfriend do), then there’s almost nowhere better for that.

We checked into our hotel —the DoubleTree by Hilton … I love how they give you warm cookies when you check in! — and immediately turned the humidifier on in our room.

So a note about Breckenridge — it’s high up in the air, friends. At 9,600 feet above sea level, lots of people (my sister included) tend to get altitude sickness here. You may get a headache or feel lightheaded. It could be difficult for you to catch your breathe, you might feel like you’re breathing through a straw or your mouth and nose could get dry. Steph’s altitude sickness wasn’t too bad (just general tiredness and a headache), so that was lucky, and none of the rest of us seemed to feel it at all, which is great, because I was worried. Chris and I are heading off to climb Machu Picchu in the fall, so I was using this as a sort of test for how I might do in those high altitudes.

So far so good, friends. Phew!

Anyway, as the boys headed to the mountains (they could ski there directly from our hotel!), Steph and I hit up the outdoor hot tub at the hotel, then headed into the town (there was a free shuttle service both to and from our hotel as well, although it really wasn’t all that much of a walk to get into town, anyway), for lunch and a little shopping.

01^^ So cute — and look at those mountains in the distance!

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03A^^ Meanwhile, the boys were here …

03B^^ Gorgeous views.

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While in town Steph and I stumbled into one store in particular with a salesman who I can really truly only describe as curmudgeon-ey. He was an older gentleman — perhaps in his late 70s, early 80s — and when we told him we were from New York (he asked!), he proceeded to regale us with stories about how you can die from altitude sickness within 24 hours, and how the local doctor recommends drinking 8 ounces of water every hour, and how we really, really needed to be careful because it’s actually quite scary ….

Thanks, Mr. Curmudgeon. We didn’t actually ask you for that info … but thanks for sharing?

Anyway, it was pretty much right after that store that Steph decided she had had enough of the town and wanted to head back to the hotel to rest.

Coincidence? I think maybe not ;)

Anyway, I was happy to oblige. So off we went, back in the free shuttle (same driver. He was a young kid just out of college who had spent a semester traveling around Africa and his first winter break as a college graduate working the slopes at Breckenridge. His next plan was to move to Florida for the summer and get his license to work as a deckhand. Nice life, buddy!) to the hotel, where we chilled in the swampy, humidifed air until the boys came back. (With beers, of course!)

That night we headed back into the town to the Breckenridge Brewery, sans Stephanie, for dinner and drinks. The brewery was very chill, totally relaxed, and exactly as we had by now come to expect from the plethora of Colorado breweries.

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We didn’t hang out too long in town after dinner, since Steph was back at the hotel, but we did manage to talk the little one into coming back down to the hot tubs to hang out with us for the evening, which turned out to be quite lovely.

An outdoor hot tub. The setting sun. Some Colorado beer and your hubby. It’s a pretty happy scene — am I right?!

The next morning we were checking out to make the approximately 90 minute drive to Denver, but first we headed to the Blue Moose Restaurant for breakfast. (And Bloody Mary’s and coffee, of course!)

And that, my friends, was our Breckenridge experience. It was short, but oh so very sweet! (For those of us who didn’t feel sick, of course. I think it’s safe to say Steph may never be going back …)

Tomorrow it’s on to Denver, my friends! Bis bald!

 

A Spring Break Trip to Boulder

Hi friends,

So … we’re back! Last week Chris, my sister, her boyfriend and myself all took off on Spirit airlines (hold onto your hats, friends, because I plan to write an article about the notoriously low-rated airline and link to it here!) to head to Denver. Our itinerary for the week included trips to Boulder, Breckenridge and Denver. This was a particularly important trip, my friends, because Chris and I are planning a potential move to Colorado in the winter — but we had yet to actually visit the great state.

So you see — important!

Anyway, we were contemplating both Boulder and Denver as potential new cities for us, and Breckenridge was thrown in there so the boys could ski/snowboard for a day. We hit up Boulder first so that we would end the trip back in Denver, where we would be flying out of on Saturday.

I think probably the best way for me to tackle this trip is to take it by city — so Boulder today, Breckenridge tomorrow and Denver the next.

So Boulder first it is!  After landing at the Denver airport and being conned into upgrading our rental car to an SUV (well maybe not so much conned — having the sturdier car to drive in the mountains to Breckenridge turned out to be not so much of a bad thing …), we hit the road for our 50 minute drive to Boulder.

Boulder is …. so many things. It’s beautiful and open and entertaining and relaxing. It’s a lot of things all rolled into one — it’s just not a place that Chris and I can necessarily see ourselves living just yet. So as much as we liked it, I think it’s safe to say Boulder was ruled out as a place for us to take up residence in a few months.

Here’s a bit of what we did …

1^^ The Twisted Pine Brewery is an absolute must if you’re in Boulder.
For as many breweries as we ended up visiting, Chris and I both say
this was our favorite. We got the sampler for starters, which had so many
amazing beers for tasting. The food was pretty fantastic, as well.

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3^^ Yummmm … beer!

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Okay ya’ll — here’s where we have to discuss the big ole’ elephant in the room, and that elephant, my friends, is marijuana. So as anyone who’s from the U.S. and doesn’t live under a rock will know, weed is now completely legal in the state of Colorado. This is of course infinitely amazing to some, completely annoying to others, and neither here nor there to even more. Whether or not it’s amazing, annoying or neither here nor there to me wasn’t really the point (although I guess if I were forced to pick a category, I’d have to go with neither here nor there …), because I’m pretty intrigued by it. Like, how does it work? What’s it like to buy a drug that has always been illegal, legally? How much does it cost? How do they sell it? What kind of people go to these stores?

I had to know! So … we found one.

The experience of buying weed is, I guess I would have to say, a bit weird. For this particular store, we walked into the front room and were greeted by “security.” (I use the term “security” loosely and with quotation marks because these guys were so friendly and chill, I can’t imagine them ever actually getting security-ish about anything …). So we showed our IDs (you do at least have to be 21, after all), and headed into the small room where the weed was kept. There were, for lack of a better term, salesmen behind the counters whose job it was to point you in the right direction. How much were you interested in smoking? What type of weed were you interested in smoking? When was the last time you smoked, and how much do you think you could handle?

Completely and totally intriguing.

5A^^ Weed in the form of edibles. I still can’t get over it.

Our entire experience lasted maybe 15 minutes, and we were out of there. We went in. We saw.

I’ve had enough ;)

That night we drove downtown to check out the Downtown Boulder area and the Pearl Street Mall, which was very adorable. We ate at West End Tavern under heat lamps in their upstairs, lofted area. It was super cute, and very tasty — I’d very much recommend it.

After a long day of traveling we were pretty exhausted, so we went to bed early so we could rise early for our  amazing hike of the Flatirons Vista Loop.

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The trail was amazing. Obviously very scenic, not too difficult and only somewhat muddied from the recent snow. I’m really glad we did it, though. After the hike we headed over to the Boulder Beer brewery, where we shared an appetizer and drank what turned out to be $1.50 beers.

ONE DOLLAR AND FIFTY CENTS, PEOPLE! I’m not sure you can get gum for that much in the city, anymore.

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We ended our last night in Boulder with another trip to the downtown area (to include the amazing Boulder Bookstore where I purchased two recent releases for less than $20!) for dinner and then drinks and Yahtzee at West Flanders Brewery.12

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13B^^ Yahtzee!!

And that was about it for our Boulder experience, my friends. Breweries, hikes and weed. I’d say that’s a pretty good summary ;)

The next morning we were off bright and early to Breckenridge, and I’ll update you all about that tomorrow.

Bis bald, friends!

P.S. In case anyone was wondering, we stayed at the La Quinta Inn that was actually in Louisville, Colorado, about a 10 minute drive from Boulder. The price was infinitely cheaper than anything we found directly in Boulder, though, so if you don’t mind doing a little driving, I would highly recommend it.

 

Jupiter and Marathon Key

Well friends, I’m back from what can only be described as an epic girlfriend’s trip. Although it did take both myself and my friend Lisa a couple days to unwind from a few recent projects that we only justbarely turned in before we left for Florida, once we did relax, it was resplendent.

The fact that I was gone for 10 days means that I can’t really go through every single detail of the trip, but I did want to bring up a few important points, the first being about where Lisa’s parents live:

  • My friend’s parents live in Jupiter, Florida, which is where we spent Thursday through Sunday at the beginning of our trip, as well as Saturday and Sunday at the end. If you happen to find yourself in Jupiter ever, you must visit Castaways (aka the Square Grouper Tiki Bar), Dune Dog Cafe and Guanabanas. [If you drive your boat to Guanabanas and dock it there, you get a 10% discount. Lisa’s dad would have wanted me to tell you that ;)]

1^^ Gorgeous flowers in the Gerry’s backyard.

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3^^ How amazing is this? These are the mangroves that you walk through in
Lisa’s parent’s backyard to get to where their boat is docked.

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5^^ I could have ridden around on that boat all day, just checking out the gorgeous houses.

6^^ The sand bar.

6A^^ Lisa’s parents took us to Dune Dog’s on our first night,
and Lisa taught me the proper way to crack crabs. Thanks, Lise!

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6D^^ The famous Jupiter lighthouse.

6E^^ Oh my goodness you guys. Lisa’s dad works on the Everglades Restoration,
so he’s big into the environment. Lucky for me, because I’m pretty much obsessed with animals
and the environment. I loved hearing from him about all the work they’re doing, as well as visiting the
Loggerhead Marinelife Center and turtle rehab hospital. All the sea turtles this organization has
rescued — or that people have rescued and brought there — are swimming around
in their own tanks in the Center as they rehabilitate. How. Adorable. Are. They??

6F^^ I also made my first visit to a Bubba Gump’s Shrimp Co. on this trip — wahoo!
This particular Bubba Gump’s was right on the water and had live music.
We ordered every single appetizer on the menu and fancy Mojitos. Not too shabby.

Anyway, after checking out the amazingness of Jupiter for a few days, Lisa and I hopped into her mom’s car and headed down South to our second stop — Marathon Key.

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So this particular Key, my friends, is unlike Key West (if that’s your only experience with the Keys, as was mine). This Key is much, much more … well, low key. Lisa’s parents have owned this particular timeshare at Hawks Nest in Marathon since before Lisa was even born, and Lisa’s whole family has been visiting her entire life. The 7-mile bridge is only a handful of feet from Hawks Nest (cars can no longer drive on the old bridge — which is right next to the newly constructed bridge — so it’s only for walkers and bikers. The old bridge where you can walk is actually only a little over 2 miles in distance each way, so about a 4-mile round trip.), and Lisa and I walked that almost every day. We saw sharks and dolphins and manta rays and starfish and tarpon … it was just one of the most amazing things ….

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8^^ Where we plopped ourselves every single day after our bridge walk. Hello, ocean!

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8B^^ I posted this little guy yesterday as my photo of the week, but how cute is he!?
He came up and swam with this group of children for over an hour,
letting them rub his belly and feed him fresh water from a hose.

8C^^ Did I mention it was my birthday while we were there? Ugh, I’m old ;)
But my sweet, sweet husband made me feel better about being old
by sending me a letter and necklace while I was away, as well as flowers
and he treated us to breakfast on my birthday, as well.
That’s some hubby, I have!

8D^^ Birthday flowers.

8E^^ Beers with a view. (That’s the 7-mile bridge in the background …)

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8G^^ Iguanas were everywhere! We went kayaking through the mangroves
on my birthday (which was insanely awesome!) and our tour guide told us
that she had grown up in Marathon, but that the iguanas had really
become prolific lately, most likely due to people getting them as pets
and then releasing them in the wild once they get too big.

8H^^ Bloody Mary’s at the Sunset Grille & Raw Bar right next to Hawks Nest on our last full day.
We won’t go into detail in terms of how many of these we had …

8I^^ Iguana crossing.

8J^^ Cheeky French Toast on my birthday. Thanks husband!

8K^^ Lisa made shrimp boil for dinner on my birthday. Ummm … it’s my new favorite thing!

8L^^And she made this delicious dessert with homemade whipped cream.
I’m seriously one spoiled lady …

8M^^ Lisa and I took a liking to swinging in the hammocks in the
late afternoon. This was our view.

8N^^ Fried Key Lime Pie at Burdine’s Waterfront on our last full day.
It was every bit as delicious as it looks.

8O^^ We took in the spectacular sunset on our last night and caught
this man paddle boarding with his water-loving pup.
So cute!

8P^^Making pic stitch’s of our time together may have become a theme ;)

After spending seven days in Marathon, I think it’s safe to say all of our cares had melted away. Despite all our relaxation, though, we managed to fit a lot in as well, with the bridge walks and kayaking — we even made it to Key West one night to visit friends and have dinner at Blue Heaven. We left Saturday to drive back to Lisa’s parents’ place in Jupiter, where we once again took advantage of the fabulous weather to take one more long boat ride.

8Q^^ This was an actual hot dog/hamburger stand in the middle of the water. Genius.

8R^^ Ahhh! We saw so many alligators on Saturday’s boat ride! It was crazy!

Saturday night we watched True Lies with Lisa’s parents, since the second to last scene in that movie actually takes place on the 7-mile bridge. So that’s pretty cool.

And that was about it, my friends — our girlfriend’s getaway in a nutshell. We head off to Colorado this upcoming Monday — Boulder, Breckenridge and Denver — with my sister and her bf, so that should be absolutely amazing, as well.

Bis bald, friends! Let me leave you with these awesome moments of beautifulness ….

 

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Marathon Key … Tomorrow!

Hiya friends,

Things here have been a bit … hectic! We were in Pennsylvania this past weekend for our nephew’s first birthday party, which was so cute and fun :

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Rory2^^Photographers who can wrangle kids into taking awesome, synchronized photos deserve a medal.

Rory3^^ But the mayhem is fun, too ;)

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Rory5^^ The best we could do ;)

Until Sunday night when my whole family started to drop like flies as we one-by-one contracted pretty much the same stomach bug.

Yuck.

Anyway, we’re moving on from that, because thank goodness I’m better for tomorrow, when I fly out to Marathon Key! I’ll be gone for 10 whole blissful days (yahoo!), and my best friend and I plan to do nothing but lay in the sun, go out on the boat, snorkel and drink tasty drinks the entire time, with maybe a little hiking thrown in here and there.

I’ll be back in early April (holy cow, April!) to update you on the happenings in Marathon Key. Until then, bis bald, my friends!

Vacation on the Horizon …

Hi friends,

So winter is apparently determined to drag on. And on. And on and on and on. I mean …. I’m just about getting a little sick of it. In my mind, if it’s not going to snow (don’t be mad at me, I’m know you’re all sick of the snow, too!), then there’s just no point in having cold weather.

The point is — thanks goodness I’m headed to the Keys next week with my best friend! If you’ll recall, I was in Key West a couple years back with my lovely sisters

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This time I’ll be heading to Marathon Key, which I’m super excited to check out. Then, only one short week after getting back from Florida, Chris and I will head to Colorado (Boulder, Breckenridge and Denver) with my sister and her boyfriend to check everything out.

Ah, the thrill of upcoming travel. It really does give us something to look forward to, doesn’t it?

Bis bald, friends!

 

An Anniversary Trip to Saratoga Springs, New York

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Hey friends,

This past weekend Chris and I borrowed the little Matrix that we’re planning to buy off my parents and took her for a spin up to Saratoga Springs.  The whole idea for this trip came out of a deal for a Saratoga hotel on TripAdvisor that then led to me the Saratoga Arms hotel. (It’s ranked as the No. 1 hotel in Saratoga on TripAdvisor.)

Anyway, we’ll get to that later.

I had done some research on Saratoga ahead of time, and last weekend in Vermont my cousin recommended a couple places to us as well. (She lives in Albany, which is a hop, skip and a jump away from Saratoga.)

I think I should preface this post by saying that we had a deluge of snow the day before we drove to Saratoga, and pretty much every place looks magical in a snowy winter wonderland … am I right? Even without the snow, though, I know I would have fallen in love with Saratoga. The downtown area was so charming (and of course it was still decorated for Christmas with twinkling white lights and red bows everywhere … that certainly didn’t hurt it), the people were so friendly and every place we went had really great food and drink.

Our first stop was a recommendation of my cousin’s — Ravenous, for their crepes and Pommes Frittes. They come with all different kinds of dipping sauces. We tried the Aioli, Cajun Spicy Mayo and Mango Chutney. Seriously delicious.

photo 1^^ My warm apple cider with orange wasn’t too shabby, either.

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After stuffing our faces, we decided to check out the town for a bit before checking into our hotel.

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photo 10c^^ This hotel was closed for repairs, but I thought it was just so beautiful.

After our little introduction to the town we headed to the hotel.

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So about the hotel. I feel like I should start by saying — it was perfectly lovely. Seriously, very lovely — charming even. I mean look at those cute horse wreathes that greet you at the front door! The building is kept locked at all times, and the friendly innkeeper lets you in when you arrive. There’s a warm fireplace and classic, historic decorations — everything about this place is cute and cozy and nice.

I just have a small but. The thing is — we paid a lot for our room. Like … a lot. (It was $300 after taxes, and that was the lowest priced King room available.) And for some reason I had convinced myself that I booked a room with a jacuzzi tub, and you know how when you think you’ve done something, and get your hopes all up for it — well I just really wanted that jacuzzi tub! And I mean, the room was fine, people. Honestly, it was quite nice. Perfectly pleasant. Very well looked after. I guess I was just … expecting more. What can I say. I’ve spent a lot of time in a lot of hotels up to this point in my life, and I’ve spent a wide range of money on those hotels. All I’m saying is … besides location (and the seriously scrumptious breakfast that’s included in the morning!), I’m just not quite sure this place was worth the price. That’s all.

But moving on! Despite the disappointment of not having a jacuzzi (!), we still had a whole night ahead of us. Our first night stop would be to The Wine Bar — another of my cousin’s recommendations. A huge plus of Saratoga Arms — all of our stops were within walking distance, even though it was about 0 degrees outside!

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We sat by the fire and the white lights twinkled and our waitress was lovely. And we ordered the warm olive appetizer and Chris a Manhattan and me a glass of white wine. Then we both ordered another glass of wine — red this time– and here my friends is where I’ll share a little something with you. It was here at The Wine Bar in Saratoga Springs, New York, that I had — ready for it? — the best wine of my life. I mean … seriously! This friggin’ wine was so. amazingly. delicous. Even Chris was jealous. I had the waitress give me my menu back so I could write down exactly what it was, which was a Santa Julia Malbec from Argentina/Menoza. It also was organic, which I honestly think might have made a difference.

If you are in Saratoga and find yourself at The Wine Bar (which you should … thanks for the recommendation Alyssa!), you must, must, must try this wine! You’ll thank me later, I promise.

Anyway, after warming up with wine, we headed back out into the cold to our dinner reservations at Mouzon House. Here’s where I have to give Saratoga Arms another big shout out — about two days before we were meant to arrive I received a welcome email from them with parking instructions, town and weather information, as well as a list of local restaurants that they recommended, Mouzon House being one of them. They even called and made the reservation for us. (Am I being a hotel snob about this place? Probably. The more I write about it the more charming I feel like it was.)

Anyway, the Mouzon House. Another massive, humongous hit!

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photo 18^^We were a tad early for our reservation, so we sat at the bar and ordered some drinks first. Our bartender told us she was also a realtor, and she had helped her friend purchase the restaurant. The building had formerly belonged to the Mouzon family, and the woman who they bought the house from was the first African American woman to graduate from the local community college. She said the fact that they wanted to keep the family name in the name of the restaurant was a big reason why she thinks they were given the deal in the first place. The majority of the house had been left as is — even the rooms upstairs were still in bedroom form. Oh, and there was a ghost. The ghost was a friendly ghost, Mrs. Bartender told us, but she didn’t even have to say that .. Chris and I have a feeling about these things, and we already knew.

photo 19^^ Somehow the restaurant knew it was our one year anniversary — I guess the hotel told them when they called?Anyway, they gave us our creme brûlée with a candle in it, and that was super cute.

For dinner I ordered the vegetarian jambalaya, and Chris had the steak. We also ordered the asparagus appetizer and another bottle of wine, and everything was to die for. Perhaps even more amazing, though, was the fact that the couple sitting directly across from us was celebrating their 56th wedding anniversary — and they could not have been cuter. At one point I looked over and the woman was fixing her husband’s shirt. When they left he helped her put her coat on.

If only Chris and I can get that lucky to be as in love as day one at our 56th anniversary.

So at this point in the evening, I had also wanted to check out the 9 Maple Ave. jazz bar, but unfortunately all the wine I had already consumed started to make me feel like the warm hotel was calling my name, so we called it a night.

The next morning we were up early though. Breakfast is served between 8 and 10 in the dining room, and it’s a sit down, order type of breakfast. I got the oatmeal (remember I wasn’t feeling well!), and Chris had the chef’s special mushroom omelet which, in his words, was “the best omelet I ever had in my life.”

Okay fine — so Saratoga Arms was quite lovely, I get it. It’s just that when you’re spending that much money, you might as well splurge an extra $50-$60 and get a room with a jacuzzi or a fireplace. That’s just my opinion. Noted for next time.

After breakfast we packed up and checked out, and headed back into the town to check out a couple of other stores we had seen the day before. We even ended up finding an old vintage New York City map for $6 — the best find!

I also wanted to check back on this house we had passed when trying to find the parking garage for the hotel. I mean … check this place out …

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Our googling has yet to turn up what this place actually is. Is it someone’s home? Is it a business? Whatever it is, I envision this will be what my next home looks like. That’s reasonable … right?

And that, my friends, was Saratoga. It was the perfect little getaway for an anniversary weekend, and I cannot wait to get back there at some point to explore in warmer weather!

Bis bald, my friends! Only only month until Iceland — I simply cannot wait!

The Year 2013: A Review

Hi friends,

Well it’s that time of year again — the one where everyone takes a couple minutes to take stock of how the past 12 months have gone? This year has been a particularly important one for myself and Chris. It was our first year of married life. It was a year spent celebrating our marriage around the world with family and friends. It was a year that we made some pretty big decisions about our future (not yet shared here!), and one that had a lot of amazing traveling in it …

February
In February we took an amazing weekend trip to Tarrytown for our first Valentine’s Day as a married couple, where I had one of my absolute favorite meals of this entire year.

Groundviews

snowyfield

Irvington

my dessert

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March
In March I took a relaxing trip to visit my best friend in D.C., where we practiced wedding makeup for Chris and my upcoming wedding party in April.

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Walk1

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April
April was a holy-cow-of-a-month for us! First, I turned 30 (ah!), and we celebrated with a gorgeous hike up Breakneck Ridge with friends.

Thanks for going along with my crazy idea, gang!

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Holy rock climbing!

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Then Chris’s parents came for a visit, and we all took a trip to London so that Chris could run the 5th race in his World Marathon series.

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Geared up!

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We also celebrated our marriage at Magnanini Winery in upstate NY with friends and family in April, but I didn’t blog about that because I didn’t have photos for a long time. I have them now, though! Here are some of my faves.

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June
In June we celebrated our wedding in Jersey with some close friends and family. Here are some of my favorite shots from that party:

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July
In July we took a trip out to Charlotte, N.C. and Arizona to visit an old, old friend of mine.

^^Bloody Mary's in Charlotte on our pit stop to Phoenix.

^^Man and wilderness.

^^Cheers to you, Arizona!

^^Bye-bye Sedona. It's been real.

^^Canyon Breeze views.

^^Sedona hike--unbelievable.

^^Catching up with the person who is probably my oldest friend.

^^Shrimp tacos=heavenly.

August
In August I took another trip back down to D.C. for a “sprinkle” baby celebration …

^^The beginning stages of lemon bars. Can you say yum?!

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^^ Blueberry Crumble for the dessert bar.

^^We also made these to-die-for apple crumble bar with cinnamon. The sign in the back was a piece of corkboard that Lisa painted with chalkboard paint and strung some twine across. People wrote notes on little cards and placed them on the twin for Alison and her new baby boy.

and we visited what has now become our new favorite upstate winery — Warwick Valley Winery.

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Glasses

Summer Happenings
I feel like I should take a moment to pay homage to all of the activities we took part in this summer that were right here in New York City, like seeing Shakespeare in the Park, hosting my nephew’s very first trip to NYC, riding bikes through the park, seeing the NY Philharmonic in the park (are you sensing a “park” theme?!), checking out the Met, going for a sail from Pier 25 on the west side and strolling around DUMBO, Brooklyn … to name a few.

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^^ I seriously forgot how many hills there are in Central Park. I had to take a break about 3/4 of the way through.

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^^Stolen from Istagram, thank you very much.

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^^ So -- what's the theme? Can ya tell? Hint: I'm wearing a red wig!

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^^ Freshman year JMU roommates -- go Dukes!

September
September was another busy month for us. First we took the ferry out to Governor’s Island to go exploring.

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^^ Carousel ahead!

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We also headed to St. Augustine, Florida for the Gentleman of the Road Mumford & Sons tour for Chris’s Super Secret 30th Birthday Trip … (also talked about here)

^^View from the Beachcomber. Not too shabby.

^^Chris with the Castillo de San Marcos fort in the background.

^^Check out all the wrist tags we needed! Shuttle. Concert. Drinks. Boat. Check!

^^This last photo was actually from Saturday night's show when Mumford was playing and it was lightning in the background. But we'll get to that ...

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October
We headed to Australia (also here) at the end of September and into October to celebrate our wedding with Chris’s side of the family, as well as to take a honeymoon trip to The Great Barrier Reef.

^^What bride gets to wear her wedding dress three times? This one, that's who!

^^ Mom and baby. Man I'll never stop loving it when I see these guys!

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^^ The Sydney Harbour's a real beaut - isn't she?

November
I headed to the suburbs of Philly in November to visit an old friend and her family, and we took a trip out to the Philadelphia Zoo while I was there …

^^ I was about to delete this photo of the Clown Fish because I had better ones, until I saw the Fish Photo Bomb.

^^ This little guy is a Red Panda, and she'll be making an appearance in my children's book very soon!

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^^ Rhino!

and we celebrated Thanksgiving in both Newburgh and New Jersey.

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December
This month we surprised my stepdad with a Super Secret weekend trip to Syracuse, his alma mater, for his 50th birthday.

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And we took a Christmas trip to Stowe, Vermont with some family

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And that about sums up 2013, friends! On the docket for 2014 so far is …

  • A trip to Saratoga Springs the first weekend in January to celebrate our one year anniversary. I’m particularly excited about the hotel where we’ll be staying — Saratoga Arms it’s gotten amazing reviews.
  • Iceland in February!
  • Denver in April with my sister and her boyfriend
  • A trip out to Cape Cod for a friend’s wedding (not to mention lots of other friends’ weddings scattered throughout the year!)
  • A potential 1.5-3 month trip in South America at the end of the year. Lots more on this to come.

Bis bald, friends! And may your new year be filled with fun travels, great friends and awesome experiences!

A Snowy Christmas Celebration in Stowe, Vermont

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Hi friends,

Holy cow tomorrow is New Year’s Eve.
Holy cow tomorrow is the very last day in 2013.
Holy cow as of tomorrow Chris and I will have been married for one. whole. year!

Just … that’s a whole lotta holy cows!

So Chris and I had a lovely, action-packed holiday week last  week, and the fun will continue this week with some anniversary activities. But last week …. let’s see. We spent Christmas eve into Christmas morning in New Jersey with family, then hopped to upstate New York to spend the rest of Christmas with my mom and stepdad, and drove the day after Christmas to meet up with my aunt, uncle, two cousins and cousin’s boyfriend for a little extra Christmas celebrating in Stowe, Vermont. My aunt had booked the place for us as our Christmas gift, and we stayed in a Stoneybrook cabin with a fireplace, huge kitchen and gorgeous views.

photo 2^^ The view from the back porch of our bedroom on Friday morning, after it had snowed all night.

My sister and her boyfriend, my uncle and Chris and I were excited to head up to the mountain to ski/snowboard. I would be taking another snowboarding lesson (I think after this time I finally got it down!), while the others went off and did their “we’re already good at this” thing.

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Unfortunately we arrived too late on Friday for me to catch the lesson. (Word to the wise for any of you snow bunnies who might want to take a lesson at Stowe — they start at 10 a.m. on Fridays — maybe every day but I can’t say for sure — and they go for an hour and a half in the morning, then break and meet up again at 1 for another hour. And they’re expensive! With my gear rental and the group lesson, I ended up paying around $230. Ouch … but worth it!)

Anyway, since I wouldn’t be snowboarding on Friday, I did this instead:

photo 6^^Found the bar …

photo 7^^Had an extremely delicious Bloody Mary while I waited for everyone to meet me for lunch.

Saturday was different, though, my friends — Saturday I actually took a lesson! And let me tell you — by the end of it I wasn’t half bad ;) It ended up being a private lesson when no one else showed up for the class, so that’s always a good thing.

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Of course I never left the beginner’s hill but hey — I need to leave something to aspire to, right?

Saturday night we headed into town to the Vermont Ale House, which had awesome beers, amazing music and tables made of chalkboard so you could draw on them. It was pretty much the best.

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We left yesterday to make the drive back to the city (in a snow and rainstorm, no less!), but Chris still got in a half day of snowboarding, I took a hike with my uncle and cousin’s boyfriend on the trails right near our cabin and Steph and I checked out a bit of the town.

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Final Photo

I think it’s safe to say Stowe was a major success, and that we’d all love more than anything to make this trip an annual thing.

Bis bald, friends! I seriously cannot believe that tomorrow will be my lost blog of 2013. Time really does fly when you’re having fun …

 

My Second Super Secret Birthday Trip of 2013 — Complete!

Hi friends,
So this past weekend myself and Chris, my mom, sister and her boyfriend, my uncle, aunt and cousin, all surprised my stepdad for his 50th birthday with a trip to Syracuse (his alma mater) for a basketball game.
It was a pretty amazing trip — if I do say so myself! And while I’m not totally convinced that Robert didn’t see much of the surprise coming, at the end of the day we all had an amazing time, so that’s really all that matters, right?

photo 1^^ Surprise! We’re kidnapping you and taking you to Syracuse!
At least he had already dressed for the part ;)

photo 2^^ We couldn’t take our pooch Ranger with us,
but he supported the cause.

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photo 6^^ Shenanigans will most definitely ensue when my mother is drinking!

photo 7^^ Awwwwwww!

photo 8^^ Auntie M and my cousin Nikki. Two amazing ladies.

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photo 12^^ I think Robert was excited about our awesome seats (thank you StubHub!)

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photo 14^^ The big 5-0!

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Oh, and in case anyone was wondering, we also won the game ;)

We visited Faegan’s Pub afterwards, which was fun, and we stayed at The Parkview Hotel, which was a seriously short cab ride to the Carrier Dome, and a very good price (plus free breakfast!).

Surprise birthday celebrations are pretty much the best.

Anyway, up and coming this week:

We’re off to Vermont the day after Christmas for some snowboarding, and we’ll be heading to Iceland in February, which I seriously cannot wait for.

‘Tis the season for dreams, wishes and plans, my friends!

Bis bald!

The Inspirational Animals of My Travels

As I sit here working on a passion project of mine — which, to be fair, I’ve been working on for the better part of a year now — I realized that I’ve up until this time passed up a perfectly lovely opportunity to give thanks to all the inspirational animals I’ve come across in my travels. These animals have been so much fun to meet and learn about, and I’m so grateful to them for being a part of the learning process that is traveling.

So without further ado, please meet some of my favorite animals I’ve met on my journeys:

Shawn_the_Koala^^ This is Shawn the Koala from the Koala Park Zoo in Sydney.
He’s the animal that started my whole project idea.

Shawn_talks^^ Can’t you tell he’s just whispering amazing ideas in my direction!

Kookaburra_Bird^^ This is a replica of a Kookaburra bird in the
Museum of Natural History. They’re known for their good-natured,
hysterical laugh, which can sound a lot like a human’s.

Red_Panda^^ This is a red panda — let’s call her Jia. This photo is from the
Philadelphia Zoo, which is sort of cheating because my real
inspiration came from the red pandas at the Central Park Zoo.
This was a better photo, though.

Pigeons_London^^ These are pigeons. And while yes, these pigeons are in London,
let’s be honest — the real inspirational pigeons live right here in
good ole’ NYC.

Chasing_Pigeons^^If we’re being even more honest, my true obsession with pigeons began
when I was a toddler and my parents lost me in the Piazza San Marco
in Venice because I was chasing them. That’s why I took this
dorky photo when we were back there in 2012.

What inspires you when you travel?

Bis bald, friends!

In the News: A Deadly Metro North Accident

^^Views from the Metro North train from Grand Central to Poughkeepsie^^Views from the Metro North train from Grand Central to Poughkeepsie

I’ve taken the Metro North Hudson Line train from Grand Central to Beacon and back more times than I could ever hope to count. This train takes me from my home in New York City to birthdays, Thanksgivings, Christmases and much more at my mom’s house in upstate NY. I was on it last Tuesday, actually, as I traveled home for the Thanksgiving holiday.

Yesterday, the 5:54 a.m. train from Poughkeepsie flew off its tracks in the Bronx, killing four people and injuring dozens more. It’s the first time in the history of Metro-North that a passenger was killed in a crash.

Today, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo is saying that it appeared that the train was traveling too fast as it hit a curve in the tracks, which likely caused it to tip over.

When things like this happen, it only makes sense to look for something — anything — to blame. A faulty break. An err in conductor judgement. An electrical issue. As someone who travels via mass transit practically daily — whether it’s on a train, subway, bus or plane — I try hard to never think about what could go wrong. Of course buses have crashed. Trains have derailed. Planes have gone down. As a mass transit traveler, you’re putting your life in the hands of someone else every single time you step on that train, bus, subway, etc.

And sometimes, accidents happen.

My heart and prayers go out to all the victims and their families. In life, we don’t get to pick  when our time is up. I can only hope that for those who lost their lives, they were able to spend a truly fantastic holiday with everyone they loved the most over Thanksgiving.

The Philadelphia Zoo With Some Friends

Hi friends,

This past weekend I visited an old friend of mine (and her adorable almost-2-year-old son) at her home in the suburbs outside of Philly. Every single time I visit a friend’s house in the ‘burbs, I’m always struck by two things:

  1. They seem so much more grown up than I am
  2. really enjoy seeing nature out my back window!

No. 2 is the reason I kept taking photos like this of said friend’s backyard:

^^ Ahhhh, nature.

^^ Ahhhh, nature.

Anyway, between taking backyard photos we managed to do a lot of other things this past weekend, like head to the park, play a lot with the adorable Oliver, eat dinner out in Wayne and, my favorite, head over to the Philadelphia Zoo.

According to the Zoo’s site, more than 1,300 animals live there, including many rare and endangered species. The Philly Zoo was also America’s first zoo, established on March 21, 1859. It took another 15 years, though — thanks so the Civil War — for the zoo to actually open.

Here’s a bit of what we saw:

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^^ The zoo had this cool tunnel system running around above the grounds that the monkeys could wander through.

^^ The zoo had this cool tunnel system running around above the grounds that the monkeys could wander through.

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^^ This little gator guy was in this position the whole time we were in the area.

^^ This little gator guy was in this position the whole time we were in the area.

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^^ Little Sebastian, anyone ;)

^^ Little Sebastian, anyone ;)

^^ I was about to delete this photo of the Clown Fish because I had better ones, until I saw the Fish Photo Bomb.

^^ I was about to delete this photo of the Clown Fish because I had better ones, until I saw the Fish Photo Bomb.

^^ The fish tank was a serious highlight. So beautiful!

^^ The fish tank was a serious highlight. So beautiful!

^^ Rhino!

^^ Rhino!

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^^ This little guy is a Red Panda, and she'll be making an appearance in my children's book very soon!

^^ This little guy is a Red Panda, and she’ll be making an appearance in my children’s book very soon!

^^ Chillin'

^^ Chillin’

^^ This was the Momma monkey, who did have a baby strapped to her chest, although it's hard to see in this photo.

^^ This was the Momma monkey, who did have a baby strapped to her chest, although it’s hard to see in this photo.

^^ This is the dad and son. They were wrestling the whole time, which was pretty adorable.

^^ This is the dad and son. They were wrestling the whole time, which was pretty adorable.

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And in other news, Chris and I booked our flights to Denver in April with my sister and her boyfriend — we’re so excited to check it out! So far the itinerary includes Boulder and Breckinridge and Denver, with one or two other potential areas thrown in there somewhere.

Can’t wait!

P.S. I feel obliged to say that these photos were all taken with my new iPhone 5C — not too shabby!

Pumpkins Galore!

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^^ Pumpkins, pumpkins everywhere!

If you guys are anything like me, you’re akin to a kid in a candy store the second the calendar hits October 1. Who doesn’t love the crisp fall air, the changing leaves, an extra hour of sleep, carving pumpkins, pumpkin spice latte, pumpkin pie, pumpkin … anything!?

Which is why I’m ecstatic that my sister dragged the family to The Great Jack O’Lantern Blaze at the Van Cortlandt Manor upstate. I cannot tell a lie — at first I was dubious. I didn’t actually believe that walking around and looking at some carved, lit pumpkins could be cool.

I can now admit that I was way wrong.

This exhibit features over 5,000 individually hand-carved pumpkins made into pretty much everything you can imagine.

Combine that with pumpkin and cider donuts and hot apple cider — which they also had — and you’ve pretty much got my perfect fall evening.

It’s hard to take photos of carved, lit pumpkins. In the dark. On your iPhone. But I gave it a whirl. Here’s some of what we saw last weekend ….

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^^The great wall of pumpkins

^^The great wall of pumpkins

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^^Pumpkin flower fields

^^Pumpkin flower fields

^^ I think these ridiculously adorable pumpkin monsters were my fave

^^ I think these ridiculously adorable pumpkin monsters were my fave

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^^ This creepy pumpkin-in-the-box would snap out every couple of minutes. Suuupppperrrrr creepy!

^^ This creepy pumpkin-in-the-box would snap out every couple of minutes. Suuupppperrrrr creepy!

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^^ A thoroughly impressive dragon made of pumpkins.

^^ A thoroughly impressive dragon made of pumpkins.

^^ Ditto with the dinosaurs!

^^ Ditto with the dinosaurs!

The exhibit runs for another two weeks — but good luck getting tickets, because they’re pretty much sold out. Next year, however, if you happen to be in the area during the time it’s running, I would highly recommend checking it out!

On the way back into the city early the following morning (to help my friend shop for a wedding dress … she found one!), I snapped this picture from the train:

^^ Hudson River views

^^ Hudson River views

Sheesh I love this time of year. I mean … come on now.

It’s also worth mentioning that on Sunday we watched Chris’s uncle run the New York City marathon (he came all the way from Australia to run) …. and he got a five-minute PR! Way to go, Matt!

Bis bald, friends! Hope everyone is making the most of these gorgeous fall days while we have ‘em!

Back in the Borough: A Couple of Hot Spots

Hey friends!

Hope everyone had a fabulous weekend. I didn’t get the memo that we were celebrating Halloween before it happens this year … silly me! Costumes were out and about this weekend! So fun!

We had a busy one ourselves. On Friday we continued celebrating the 30 years of Chris’s life with friends down at Ace Bar in the East Village.

 

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A second to make some comments about this bar. While it’s not exactly right in the heart of the craziness that is the East Village, if you’re walking here, you’ll most likely be walking through the craziness that is the East Village, which can be really fun, especially on a Friday night. Some things you just might see:

  • A really old man smoking a pipe while leaning against a tree
  • A man with a cat on a leash who is climbing up a tree
  • Throngs and throngs and throngs of people standing outside of some dumpling shop or another, just waiting to get their hands on some late-night delicious drunk food

It’s really a hoot.

Ace Bar itself is cool too, with its pool tables and Skeeball machines, darts, pinball and other game. Needless to say, lots of fun was had by all.

On Saturday my sister and her boyfriend came for a visit with their new kitten (squeee!), and we took them to Merrion Square, a bar that is literally one block away. At MS you get a free burger (or veggie burger!) with any full-priced drink, and free wings with a full-price pitcher of beer. They’re all about the games here, as well, with more pool, Skeeball machines and Duck Hunter. Plus they have 16 beers on tap, 58 types in bottles and 24 can varieties — so you know, you’re covered there as well.

Sunday we spent mostly in Central Park with Chris’s uncle, who is back in town to run the New York City Marathon this upcoming Sunday. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, the New York City marathon ranks seriously high on my list of favorite days in this city. There’s this feeling that everyone in the entire city is rooting for someone (or everyone!), and the crowd is so excited and happy. If you don’t need to maneuver yourself around the city by car on the day of the race, it’s really something that’s amazing to be a part of.

And that about takes us into November friends. Can you even begin to believe that? I’m off to Van Cortlandt Manor in the Hudson Valley this weekend with my family for The Great Jack O’Lantern Blaze, then back to the city to watch a friend try on wedding dresses (another squeeee!) and for the marathon on Sunday.

Bis bald, my friends! Happy fall!

St. Augustine Follow-Up

Hi guys,

Since I ran out of photo space on the blog when I was trying to post about Chris’s birthday trip to St. Augustine, I feel like I somewhat short-changed the update. I wanted to just add a couple more photos here from our time spent in Florida a few weekends ago, and to give another big shout-out to Mike’s Yacht of Fun, which we did the Saturday we were there. That whole experience on the yacht really helped make our trip …

^^ You don’t have to be 12 to enjoy a good handstand on the beach.

^^ Bros.

^^ Mike’s yacht of fun. Seriously. Lots of fun.

^^ Manatee! I mean honestly, look how close we were!

^^ Pulling up to the Conch House for lunch.

^^ LOVE the Conch House. It’s right on the water.The food is tasty and on Sundays they have live jazz music and a great bar.

^^ Lunchtime views.

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^^ Moustaches were put  up all around the city to match the "Gentlemen of the Road'" theme.

^^ Moustaches were put up all around the city to match the “Gentlemen of the Road'” theme.

^^ And another.

^^ And another.

^^ And another. (If you look reallllyyy hard you can see it!)

^^ And another. (If you look reallllyyy hard you can see it!)

^^ One more.

^^ One more.

^^Last one. Sorry -- I love a good moustache.

^^Last one. Sorry — I love a good moustache.

^^ John Fogerty of CCR stepped in when Fun. backed out last minute. He was really, truly great.

^^ John Fogerty of CCR stepped in when Fun. backed out last minute. He was really, truly great.

^^ The grounds.

^^ The grounds.

^^ Stage view.

^^ Stage view.

^^ Hey Mumford. How's it shakin'?

^^ Hey Mumford. How’s it shakin’?

^^ A little lightening in the background made things pretty scenic.

^^ A little lightening in the background made things pretty scenic.

^^ After the concert we met up with Jon and Rachel and our newfound friends -- Mike of Mike's Yaht of Fun's son and his girlfriend. He proceeded to buy us shots of Absinthe, which was fun to watch the bartender make, but kind of gross to drink. Tastes like black licorice. Ick.

^^ After the concert we met up with Jon and Rachel and our newfound friends — Mike’s (of Mike’s Yacht of Fun) son and his girlfriend. He proceeded to buy us shots of Absinthe, which was fun to watch the bartender make, but kind of gross to drink. Tastes like black licorice. Ick.

Okay friends, now I’m done with my St. Augustine updates. Thank you for bearing with me.

Have a great weekend! Bis bald!

Australia … Tomorrow!

Hi friends,

So unfortunately it looks like updating this site isn’t going to make it to the top of my list of things to do before we head off to Australia TOMORROW! Bummer. At any rate, to seriously super quickly sum up our Saturday in St. Augustine for Chris’s birthday ….

  • We rented Mike’s Yacht of Fun, complete with boat driver Mike and his lovely wife, for the day Saturday. We drank some beer and ate some snacks, went swimming, saw some manatees, had lunch at The Conch House, and just had an amazing time in general. We also met Mike’s son when he rode out on his jet ski to meet us when we were swimming, and he suggested that we all meet up later that night, after the concert, which we did. And it was amazing.
  • The concert on Saturday was great! Mumford was totally amazing, and at the last minute the band Fun backed out, so John Fogerty of Creedence Clearwater Revival fame stepped in and was. awesome! He played a couple songs with Mumford and Sons, as well, and it was really just a very good festival — I would highly recommend it for next year!
  • After the concert we met up with Riley (Mike’s son) and Jon and Rachel at a bar and ate delicious fried pickles and fried green tomatoes, and drank A LOT of drinks. (Which may or may not have included Absinthe. It did include Absinthe. It was gross, because I hate black licorice, but it was fun to watch them melt sugar over the top!)

Anyway, I really wish I could have posted photos from the concert and our day sailing (we got SO CLOSE to the manatees!), but maybe after I update I will, and I wanted to get this last post up before we leave.

So that’s it, friends! Tomorrow we’re off for two weeks to Australia for our fourth and final wedding celebration, not to mention our honeymoon at the Great Barrier Reef …. awahooo!!!

In the meantime, I’ll also be reading this NY Times piece about spending 36 hours in Reykjavik, Iceland, in preparation for our trip there in February.

Okay, bis bald, friends! Wish us a safe (and short!) flight, and I’ll be back with updates (and photos!) soon!

xo,

WW