Tuesday, October 28, 2014

A New York City Weekend

The weekend before last, we retreated to New York City for our anniversary. I'd been begging and pleading Hubs for a few years now to attend the New York Wine & Food Festival which is put on every year by the Food Network. Well, it just so happened that this year our anniversary landed on the same weekend as the festival so it was a nice excuse to celebrate and do something fun and different. And bless my Husband to agree to go to NYC so I could attend - because, lets be honest, I'm sure there were 100 other things he would have rather done.

Hubs took Friday off and we took the bus up to NYC on Friday afternoon. We checked into our hotel and got ready for dinner.

We met one of my BFFs and her husband for dinner Friday night at Estela - DELISH food. Everything we ate was amazing!

Saturday morning was our anniversary. We got up and grabbed a quick breakfast before heading out to the festival event.

There were literally over 100 events throughout the weekend to choose from but we decided to go with the Chopped Best Bloody Mary Brunch, sponsored by Absolut and hosted by ALL the celebrity chefs who judge Chopped (one of our favorite FN shows). You should know I'm a Food Network NERD. I mean, I would much rather meet my favorite celebrity chefs than actual movie stars. People I respect, look up to, whose food I've cooked, restaurants I've eaten at and whose recipes I love. Needless to say, I was in total fangirl heaven.

There were dozens of bartenders from all over the country who were competing for "the Best Bloody Mary"... We got to sample ALL the Bloody Marys, plus delicious food from several well-known chefs and restaurants all over NY. The Bloody Mary I'm holding in the picture won "Best Dressed" - it was garnished with (are you ready?) Three garlic stuffed olives, a piece of Okra, a piece of pepperoncini, a pickle, a jalepeno, a lime wedge, a lemon wedge, a beef stick, a spear of asparagus and a piece of baby corn. I called it "liquid lunch."

And then there was that moment that all the Chopped judges came on stage and I nearly started crying.

During the tasting portion, the chefs were just walking around eating and drinking with the guests and we were able to go up and talk to them, take pictures, etc. I made a beeline for Iron Chef Geoffrey Zakarian... one of my all time favorite culinary idols. The man is a genius, let's leave it at that. Not only was I able to talk to and hug him, but I got what might be my favorite selfie of all time because another Chef, Marc Murphy, photobombed it.

Are you a loser if a selfie with a celebrity chef makes your life? Probably. I'm ok with that.

We also got photos with Chef Scott Conant and Iron Chef Alex Guarnaschelli. 

Ted Allen making rounds behind our table.

Bloody Selfies ;)

So yea. Most amazing experience ever. After the event we walked around Central Park a bit and enjoyed the beautiful weather.

Then we went back to our hotel and got ready for the most delish dinner at STK New York.

Dress was rented, obviously. 

After our amazing dinner of steak, broccolini and the creamiest, butteriest mashed potatoes ever... we went to see Aladdin on Broadway! My dream come true. 

Hubs got front row tickets! And the show was AMAZING. Or, Genie-us, I should say ;) I think I had my jaw on the floor the entire first 20 minutes. Incredible. Broadway does NOT disappoint!

Sunday we slept in and then went to Ess-a-bagel for yummy bagels. We waited 40 minutes in line, apparently this place is pretty popular! Then we walked around some more, took in Rockefeller Center and a few other main attractions before heading on our bus to head home. 

Overall, a great, memorable weekend! NYC is really not that far from us... 4.5, maybe 5 hours at most. And we don't appreciate that and enjoy it nearly enough! Hopefully we'll be back sooner than later :)

Friday, October 17, 2014

When I Tell You I Love You...

I remember the first night you told me you loved me. It was over eleven years ago but it feels like it was yesterday. Through a shaky and almost tearful breath, I said "I love you, too." And at the time, that I love you meant something different than it does today. At the time, it meant - be with me. Stay with me. We're serious now. I think about you all the time.

A few years later, it meant I love your company. You make me feel good. I trust you. And then it became, I want to see you everyday. Let's spend our lives together.

Then we got married and we threw around "I Love Yous" like we were teenagers. Saying it every morning, throughout the day, and every night. It meant everything from "have a great day" to "I miss you" to "I can't wait to see you" and then, to "let's start a family."

And we still throw around our I Love Yous. It's become second nature. The end of every phone call. Teasingly when we want something. Gratefully when we get what we want. Accompanying every goodnight kiss...

But what does it mean now? When I tell you I Love You, do you know that it also means all of the other things that I don't say enough? Do you know that it means Thank You, for everything that you do for our family? Or how it means my heart swells watching you play with our children. It means you are an amazing father to our kids. It means the thought of you makes me smile, even when you don't know it. It means you still make my heart ache with love in the best way. When I tell you I Love You, it still means I long for your hugs and kisses at the end of each and every day. That I've never felt more comfortable than I do wrapped in your arms. Do you know that it means about two hundred times more than the moment those words first left my mouth?

The past 6 years have flown by and they've been everything from incredible and amazing to hard and testing. The constant factor is that you've never left my side and with you as my partner, I know we can do anything. Here's to the next 50 years and hoping I don't have to spend a single one of them without you. Happy Anniversary, babe. I Love You.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Halloween Festivities

When I was in 7th grade, I had a TRAUMATIC experience. I threw a Halloween party... and not a single person came. It was hands down one of the worst days of my life. As if middle school isn't hard enough! It just so happened the party was the night before Halloween and I assume people were busy (or just didn't like me... whatever) but it's definitely one of those moments that crushed my little 12-year old soul.

It's shocking that even since then, that my love for Halloween hasn't dissipated but rather grown ten fold and now that I have kids, even more so. And in recent years, we've developed the tradition of throwing a casual pumpkin carving party with fun food, festive drinks, and good friends.

Ever since we've been married, I've thrown several parties, gatherings and get-togethers and each one teaches me something new about myself and also tests my relationship with my husband. Kidding. Kind of. It's taken me a while to hone my party management so that I can get everything done quickly and efficiently without loosing my mind. I have learned that I pretty much become a monster under pressure, I always make too much food, and I end up waiting until the last minute to do everything so that when my guests arrive I'm usually in the shower with a handful of dirty dishes in my sink.

Well we had our annual pumpkin carving this weekend and, thank goodness, it went off without a hitch. I think a huge part of that was that I strategically created an easy, kid-friendly, stress-free menu. Everything was cooked in the oven (which means ZERO dirty pots and throw-away foil containers for the win), and not only that but almost everything was prepped ahead of time AND could be served at room temperature.

The day before the party, Ariana and I filled little goodie treat bags for our guests stuffed with our favorite candies. I also made the cupcakes the day before (Funfetti, obvi) and just frosted them the morning of. The party was at 3 so I kept a menu of heavy appetizers and snacks.

 Chicken wings were marinated the day before and Hubs just threw them on the grill once people started arriving and I also prepped everything for jalepeno poppers and chili dip that morning and just popped them in the oven 20 minutes before the party started. Swedish meatballs went in the slow cooker early that morning as well. Everything was warmed and ready to go by 3!

When it comes to throwing parties like this, I am all about the details. Little things that are SO easy to do but make a big difference as far as decor and ambiance. I created these little food tags for each of our menu items using my Silhouette in no time and they were a cute, fun little way to spice up this Halloween party. 

I also had snacks laid out for the kids and a pile of Halloween books for the babies/toddlers to read!

And of course, candy corn EVERYWHERE.

 And what would a Halloween-themed party be without festive drinks and pumpkin beers?

Then everyone's bellies were full and it was time to carve/paint pumpkins. The kiddies got to paint their pumpkins with washable finger paint and alas, I didn't get a picture of that because my children took it upon themselves to paint their hands, face, and each other's hair. Not only are they terrible pumpkin painters, but I also learned I suck at carving.

Another quick Silhouette label! I'm telling you, I'm obsessed with that thing!!

Truth be told, I purchased a lot of our Halloween decor and party details (cupcake toppers, koozies, mini Halloween pails) after Halloween last year! Easy and great way to stock up on the things you want but don't feel like paying top dollar for.

And that is how we began celebrating my favorite holiday. Two more weeks of Halloween fun going on in this house! I envision one day having (hopefully) a large enough house for a REAL Halloween-style costume and dinner party. I'm pretty sure that will be a little more intense to throw together than this though so for now I'll stick to my easy casual pumpkin carving soiree. ;)

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Because Who Doesn't Love A Frosty?

When I say "have a Frosty" I don't need to tell you anything else. You immediately know what I mean, right? Of course you do. Because Frostys (Frosties?!) have become a household name in this country. As they should be. A refreshing sip of the sweet, cold treat immediately brings me back to sitting around after high school and dipping fries into my chocolate shake. Because, that was the cool thing to do back then, don'tcha know?

Wendy's® has always been one step ahead of the other fast food chains for many reasons (spicy chicken nuggets being #2, no judgies), but a very close winner is for their efforts in trying to help better the lives of fostered and adopted children everywhere. Did you know that for 22 years, Wendy's® has supported foster care adoption? And with over 100,000 fostered children awaiting adoption in this country, I have to applaud Wendy's® for creating the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption®.

Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption® believes that they have a responsibility to be the voice of foster care adoption, so that every child finds a family. As founder Dave Thomas said, “These children are not someone else’s responsibility. They are our responsibility.” The DTFA exists to find homes for children who are waiting to be adopted from foster care in North America. Thanks to Wendy’s® consumers and the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption®, 4,000+ children have found adoptive families. That alone brings me chills and warms my heart at the same time.

I think anyone who plans to adopt or foster a child is taking on an amazing task and I applaud and bow down to you for your efforts. It's such a selfless act and one of the most honorable things I believe that anyone can do. If you aren't in a position to be able to adopt or foster a child, you can still help and be a part of the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption®. This month, swing by your local Wendy's and pick up a Frostys Halloween Coupon book for just $1.

Ninety cents of every $1 Halloween Coupon Book sold between September 13 – October 31, 2014 will benefit the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption®. Coupons are valid for use: November 1, 2014 through February 1, 2015.

I picked up two of these cute books and plan to use them as party favors for the kid's little friends who are coming by for our annual pumpkin carving party this weekend!

I found these cute little treat bags to fill with a coupon for TWO free Jr. Frostys and maybe some little candy treats. I might or might not also save a few to use as bribery or for good behavior awards for my own kids! Such a fun, affordable and festive treat. Not to mention, this year, Wendy’s® aims to give $10 million to The Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption®

And if that isn't reason enough... like I said, who doesn't love a Frosty?

I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls Collective and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Maybe I Should Be A Terrible Mother

The other day I had a revelation. Maybe, if I was a really awful mother, my kids would behave better.

Maybe if I got fast food for them every single night, they would actually finish their dinners in one sitting. Surely fries and nuggets would go straight down the hatch as opposed to me bribing and distracting and tricking them over and over AND OVER again to eat the herb roasted chicken I marinated overnight and wild rice I prepared from scratch.

Maybe I shouldn't want to spend the day doing fun, memorable things with them. Maybe if I didn't constantly take them to the park or the pumpkin patch or a museum, then they wouldn't run off like wild banshees (or, you know, "explore") every time my back was turned. Maybe our only outings should be the grocery store or Target or the mall where I can quite literally buckle them down so they can't go anywhere and my voice won't be sore shouting their names and "RED LIGHT!" And "IM GOING TO COUNT TO THREE!!!" incessantly.

Maybe if I just sat them on the couch in front of triple feature Disney movies everyday, they would just remain in one place and stay out of trouble. At the moment that sounds like a little slice of heaven compared to them taking out and playing with every single toy we own in a 15 minute period and THEN (after leaving our entire living area in shambles, of course) clawing at my legs or drawing on the walls or getting into something they really shouldn't be getting into. And I'm SURE a movie would save my sanity 10x more than our daily afternoon walks where my goals are to get them to 1) stay out of oncoming traffic and 2) not to lick the neighbors cat. Trust when I say neither of these are an easy task.

Maybe I shouldn't have the bright idea to sit outside on our deck during a beautiful late afternoon to do puzzles and play doh and blow bubbles. Where the puzzle pieces get tossed around and stepped on and play doh gets eaten and stuck on their hair and clothes and the bubbles get knocked over and then they're fighting over which color wand they want and one is trying to drink bubble juice and the other is crying because their bubble got popped..... Note to self: maybe puzzles or fake bubbles on the tablet or my iPhone would have a much easier clean-up.

So maybe if I was a terrible mother who didn't care what my kids ate, or didn't want to make fond memories, or didn't mind them watching 6+ hours of TV all day I would have well behaved, stone-faced kids who ate all their food, sat on the couch, and didn't want to play outside or go to the park or run through a pumpkin patch shrieking with glee.

But... that would be so boring. ;)

Friday, October 3, 2014

Falling for Fall

Oh, Fall. How I heart you. It’s a tough decision to pinpoint what I love most - the fashion? The cool, crisp air? The bold colors? Football Sundays? Pumpkin everything? I can’t choose and I don’t want to. Everything about it just my favorite. 

We have already been trying to live up to Fall as much as we can. We have already hit up the pumpkin patch twice, outfitted our porch will all sorts of Fall-y paraphernalia and decorated our home with witches, ghosts, and black cats. Halloween Pajamas are in full effect, we have had at least one Hocus Pocus viewing and my kids have pretty much memorized Room on the Broom by now. 

I know, I know. It's barely October and everyone and their mother is all about fall right now so I'm certain I'm not the first person to write such a post. But I can say with certainty that I wait all year for October and so when it's finally here, I can't help but just be sublimely happy by all the fall things. It's absolutely, without a doubt, my favorite time of year. And it seems that as though every year it gets even more magical. The foliage, the festive food, the cozy sweaters, hot coffee on a cool morning. What about its not to love?! I can't think of a thing. 

So, hi Fall. I've missed you.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

A Weekend Getaway // Birthday Surprise

PHEW! YOU GUYS. I cannot believe I just came off from keeping one of the biggest/longest secrets I’ve ever kept from someone who knows ALL my secrets. I am NOT a good secret keeper so this is a huge breakthrough for me ;)

One of my closest friends, Sarah, turned 30 over the weekend and her friends had planned a huge Masquerade Ball for the big event. Well, Sarah lives in San Francisco and I was starting a new job and tickets aren’t exactly cheap… oh, and I have two kids. So the probability of me going to Sarah’s birthday (even though she’s been not-so-subtly dropping hints that I hadn’t been out to visit her in 5+ years…. hehehe, love you, Sae!) was slim to none. 

But then, one day a couple months ago, the stars aligned. My project got pushed back (AGAIN), my husband and parents were able to watch the kids Fri - Sunday and I miraculously found a round trip ticket from Washington, D.C. to San Francisco for the cheapest cost of pretty much any flight I've ever booked. Done and done. 

And… the best part? I didn’t tell Sarah. I wanted my arrival to be her biggest birthday surprise.

You should know that I talk to Sarah almost every day. It’s rare that we go 2+ days without so much as text and we have lengthy phone conversations at least 3x a week. (Don’t ask me about what, I couldn’t even tell you). Not to mention, she’s one of my oldest friends so I knew keeping this secret wouldn’t be easy. I apologized profusely that I wouldn’t be able to make it, didn’t tell her my project got pushed back, and she of course understood. 

AND, in an even more amazing turn of events - Sarah’s other close girlfriend Lisa was able to get out of a commitment she had last minute and booked a ticket to come to San Fran, too! We decided to surprise her together since our flights arrived 15 minutes apart from each other… talk about fate. 

The days leading up to the big surprise were some of the longest of my LIFE! I couldn’t WAIT to see Sarah’s face when Lisa and I showed up on her doorstep together. I had rented a dress for the occasion, packed my cutest travel outfits, bought the most adorable Masquerade Mask, and was just waiting with baited breath for the day to arrive. There were countless times I talked to Sarah and had to literally cover my mouth from blurting out, “I’M COMING TO YOUR BIRTHDAY PARTY!!!!!!!” But I didn’t!

Finally the day came. The plane ride was excruciating! Could NOT wait to get there. 

Lisa and I ended up going to her apartment to change while she was at a bar with friends. Then we very oh so casually walked up to the table and I said, "Hey, mind if we join you?" She totally did one of those leap out of her chair/cover her mouth/scream at the same time things. It was great! Here we are right after surprising her.

The next morning was her actual birthday and we spent it getting pampered at the spa - manis, pedis and massages while chatting and catching up and sipping champagne. So much fun.

Then Sarah went to get the most amazing blow out at Dry Bar while Lisa and I napped/started getting ready for the evening!

 Rent the Runway - "Last Call Dress" by BCBGMaxazaria

 Sarah's Dress is also Rent the Runway - "Aileen Dress" by Slate & Willow

Sunday was spent being completely touristy. I hadn't been to San Fran in years, and not since Sarah moved there so she pulled out all the stops and we spent all day touring around the city and hitting all the major landmarks.

You can see Alcatraz in the distance!


 Driving across the Golden Gate Bridge

 The Painted Ladies

And of course, Clam Chowder in a Sour Dough bread bowl from Boudin's!

The weekend was so much fun - a great break and getaway for me and I know Sarah had a memorable 30th. And a huge shout out to my main squeeze for holding down the fort while I was gone and being way too cool about me having a girls weekend at the other end of the country. ;)