Thursday, March 22, 2018

Great Wolf Lodge (Part III)

This trip marks the 3rd time we have taken the girls to Great Wolf Lodge! (you can read all about our first experience here) We always have the best time here and Charlie asks all year if we can go back.  This is one tradition I do not see us stopping!

Can we take a moment a see the differences between 2017 & 2018.  I just can't...

Last year was nice because Leni just sat in the shallow end or would let us carry her everywhere.  But this year was so much more fun and easier because Leni could run around wherever she wanted.  She did a great job on the slides too!

Charlie is our little fish and could hang out in water all day.  Last year she wanted to go down the big slides nonstop.  This year she wanted to hang out in the wave pool (sans life jacket) and practice swimming.  This was almost as fun for me because I love seeing her practice swimming.  Reminds me so much of myself because I loved water as a child as well (Derek did not!)

We ended the evening at the same restaurant we always do with good friends.  We enjoyed their spicy jalapeño margaritas and the girls enjoyed story time.

Love taking our girls here!  We highly recommend if you get a chance :)

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Wine Country- Part II

Popping back in here to chat about our wine country (part II) travels.  A couple people mentioned they wanted itinerary suggestions and I love blogging/journaling about our travels, so I decided to do a post!

We made it!  One good thing about flying across the country is the time leave early and you get there so early!

First thing on the!  Derek and I have never had In-N-Out Burger so we knew we wanted to give it a try.  We stood in line forever even though it was 2:00pm.  The burger was amazing.  The fries were pretty crappy but I wished I would have gotten 2 of the burgers. Delish!

We drove straight to a winery to try and maximize time on our trip.  We were staying in Sonoma County the first night so the first stop was a winery called Repris.

We heard outstanding reviews of the tours here.  It was a very windy day so the ATV tour lasted only 15 minutes.  One of the things we love about going to Wine Country in Feb/March is we are usually the only ones on the tours.  Talk about personalized service!

The fun thing about this tour was all the tastings were blind.  We were given a glass of wine and then asked what we tasted and our thoughts on the varietal.  This is Derek and my most favorite thing to do!

A wine that shocked me here was tasting an amazing Malbec.  We took that one home with us :)  Overall, the wines are pretty expensive here along with the tasting fee (which is not waived with a wine purchase).  Because of this, I'm not sure if it would warrant a stop here unless you were specifically after their wines.  The service is excellent though and the views were gorgeous.

That evening we went to dinner at Willi's Seafood & Raw Bar.  I high highly suggest this place!  First of all, the town of Healdsburg is adorable and second of all, we love the concept.  All the seafood you could want in one place.  And the oysters, oh my GOODNESS, the oysters.  Best oysters I've ever had in my life is always in California.  We even get Blue Points here and they don't taste like the Blue Points (that are "fresh") here.  So delicious.

PS- we saw a couple of Food Network celebrities in our hotel and I freaked out.  We love them!

Next morning, we were up bright and bourbon hunt :)  My husband is a huge bourbon lover and thought Californians would not be as into bourbon as Kentucky/Ohio people.  He was right.  He found a lot of good stuff and took home a rare bottle.

Now on to wine!  Our first stop was Iron Horse.  We were most excited to try this place.  They were known for their sparklings but I was excited to try their Pinot's.  The Sparklings were so freaking good that we joined their wine club...for Sparkling Wine!!!  We are almost exclusive red wine drinkers so this is a huge deal for us.  And this is also our first wine club.

Anyway, the view is amazing and the atmosphere is so incredibly chill.  We went to Shramsberg last time, which was a fantastic tour!  However, it was very hoity-toity, our sparkling wines are the best, etc. etc.  This place is the complete opposite!  Great wines!!  Highly suggest this stop.

We headed over to Rodney Strong next.  We had a Tasting Dinner with Derek's parents back in 2016 so it was on our list to make a stop.  Truthfully, Derek and I do smaller, more intimate, wine tastings/tours so this place didn't make me super excited because it is larger.  The experience was exactly what I expected (no personalization) but the wines are sooooo good.  And it was fun to revisit.

The last stop of the day was Calluna.  This was another stop I heard amazing things.  The view was absolutely incredible and the tasting was held at the house of the owners.  I was a little disappointed only because the owners were out of town for the day.  Complete disclosure, the owner was amazing and warned me they may be out of town and even checked in with me the night before.  I think the experience would have been even more amazing if they were there to do the tasting.

We got to walk the grounds and try 2 of their wines.  The tasting is free and HIGHLY suggest this stop if you are in the Sonoma County area.

We got in our car and headed over to Yountville.  We checked in to our hotel and went straight to Wine Country Connection, our favorite wine shop ever!  We stayed in touch with the owners and love getting their help on wine throughout the year.  We knew we wanted to head back here to chat and try amazing wines.  I think we may have tried FIFTEEN wines that evening...yeah, no comment :)

Next morning we started at Silver Oak because, duh, it's Silver Oak :)  (this was the only repeat winery/tasting room from our previous trip that we went to) Possibly the best wines (in my opinion).  We did a blind taste tasting here as well and Derek and I were able to name the 3 which was pretty exciting.

We headed over to Freemark Abbey next.  This was on our list the first time we went to California but we couldn't squeeze it in so we were very excited to give this a try.  We did their cabernet comparative tasting.

If you like cabernet's, I think this is a must-stop for you.  The history here is insane.  The tasting was great and you learned so much about the different cabernets you were tasting.  Some of your tasting fee is waived here with bottle purchase, which is always a plus!

Next (which definitely should have been lunch at this point, ha!), we headed over to Elizabeth Spencer.  Oh my goodness, possibly the most fun and best stop the whole trip.  We did the blind tasting (seeing a theme here) and had a blast.  It was just Derek and I trying 4 different wines.  The wines were large pours (not tasting pours...oh my!) and were 100% varietals to make things easier on us.  We actually did really well!  We were able to try a couple other of their wines (a rose which is ah-mazing!) and by then we were pretty much crawling out of there lol.

We headed over to Rutherford Grill to grab lunch before our final tasting.  Our last stop was Hall wine.  We did the ridiculously expensive and over-the-top appellation testing.  I don't think we've ever been disappointed by an experience in Napa/Sonoma, but we were not impressed at all!  First of all, I'm not really sure why they emphasize appellation here.  We really didn't talk much about that.  Yes, everything is so gorgeous and the cave is amazing (seriously!).  But the wines were texturally unappealing (to me) which is so surprising.  These are very notable in Napa.  I would not suggest this stop unfortunately.

That evening, we did the tasting at The Restaurant at Meadowood.  We were lucky enough to do The French Laundry our first time in the Napa Valley.  We wanted to try the other 3 Michelin star rated restaurant.  The meal was fine but the service was exemplary!

And that pretty much wraps up our trip!  I think the next time we go, we will be bringing friends with us!

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Every Kiss Begins....

Cars have the best lighting for selfies!  Am I right?!  Anyway, now that we've addressed that :) let's address that lip color.  We've all heard of LipSense but have you ever tried?  The lovely Kelsey over at Every Kiss Begins with Kels (clever name huh!) sent me a few products to try out.  I tried LipSense before and from the first application, I feel in love with this product!  You put the color on in the morning and it lasts all day (literally!!) and never comes off on your cups or more importantly, on those little babies you are kissing all day!

Kelsey surprised me with Apple Cider (which has been on my list since the beginning) and Orchid Gloss.  As you can see from the below picture, the good & bad thing with lip colors is they look different on everybody.

This color went a little more pink/melon-y on me than I'm used to.  I usually go more for the browns/maroons.  Although this is more of a natural color, initially, the color threw me off a little bit. However, the more I wear it, the more I'm getting used to it!  Regardless of the color, the formula is the same...amazing :)  You seal the color with their gloss which is designed to heal your lips from the inside out.  Honestly, if you ask anybody that knows me, they will tell you I apply chapstick 1,347 times per day.  However, after starting to wear LipSense daily, I'm not using all!!!  I do reapply the gloss throughout the day if I feel a little dry (mostly after eating) but I don't feel the need to use chapstick anymore.

Here is the fun thing about LipSense- you can layer with different colors!  So, if you have 2 tubes, you can get tons of options and colors!  I cannot wait to play around with apple cider and find a good combination.

This picture is 12 hours after the application....still on!!!  Love it.

Something else fun I got to try is the ShadowSense from SeneGence skin care line.  This is a creme to powder formula for eyes.  This specific color (sandstone pearl shimmer) would be an excellent base.  It is lighter and more shimmery than I usually wear (I try to save my shimmer for the highlighter around my cheeks so therefore try to avoid more shimmer around my eye).  But, I used it by itself to see if it had the waterproof/smudge proof that the lips have.  It stayed allllll day as well!

I cannot say enough great things about this company!  How fun is it to wear color every day and only need to apply once?!  I just ordered a bold red....can't wait to rock that!  More information and all things LipSense can be found from the wonderful Kelsey | Facebook | IG!!

Friday, April 28, 2017

Leni- 11 Months

Clothes- 18 months.  Everything up until this point has been Charlie's old clothes.  I finally had to order some new clothes for Miss Leni because our warm-weather clothes were slim pickings!

Health- Ah, just a nice relief this month.  Everybody was healthy and free of sickness

Diet- Last month of formula and bottles, yay!!  We are still doing 4 bottles.  She never really finishes a bottle, so we will be decreasing the milk a little bit next month.  She is definitely enjoying real food rather than the milk.  And this month, 2 teeth made their way at the same time.  We can't wait until she gets some more so we can feed her more food.  So far, she really likes everything we eat (except sweet potatoes!).

Crying- happy happy girl all the time!  She especially loves her big sissy!

Sleep- Same thing here with no changes.  2 naps a day (9:30 and 1:00) and sleep around 7:15pm.  I can tell she is beginning to start the transition to 1 nap.  Her second nap is rarely the full 2 hours.  But she stays up there just talking and playing away so while this keeps up, we will definitely keep the 2 naps.

Likes- protein, raspberries (her and Charlie go through a whole container at each meal!), and rough-housing with sissy and daddy

Disklikes- being hungry!  Now that we've moved until more solid foods, Leni lets you know when she is ready for her meal or snack.  

Milestones- Crawling got so fast this month.  Leni is also able to go from a sitting position to standing up all by herself with no assistance.  We know those first steps will be any day now!  I took the push toy outside and Leni walked herself all the way around the cul-de-sac.

This month also brought a lot more babbling/talking.  No other words (she did say "water" (wawa) for Charlie and I) but we hear a lot from Leni all day.

Other Thoughts- How in the world are we at 11 months!!  I cannot believe we are planning the first birthday.  This is such a fun age and we love all the giggles and love we get from you every day.  Any time somebody is down on the floor, you love going to them and crawling all over them (especially your sister!).  We know you will be walking at some point in the next month.  I can just tell you will not be my cautious one.  We love to see and are amazed by your determination.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Wine Country- Part IV

Whew, last vacation post!  We jammed so much in over the four days and learned so much that there was no way I could squeeze everything into 1 or 2 posts.  Thanks for following along :)

So, last thing to do in Napa before heading to San Francisco was the hot air balloon ride.  Derek is afraid of heights.  However, this has been on my bucket list forever.  I knew if I ever got to Napa Valley, I would do the hot air balloon ride.  Derek reluctantly said fine and wanted to make my dreams come true (ha!, I added that last part in there).

Anyway, I woke up in a panic in the middle of the night about this stupid balloon ride.  I was wondering what I got ourselves into...

Derek woke up fine and all ready for it.  I was a nervous wreck.  I'm not sure if I was playing off of Derek or what.  I'm not scared of heights...or really anything like this!  I had no idea what my deal was.  Maybe it is because I'm a mom now and doing things that could potentially risk my life sends me into over-driver.  I'll never know!  Anyway, I was ready to get this show on the road...and we had to wait around for the perfect lift off moment.  Like SIXTY MINUTES of waiting around.  I'm being over dramatic, I know.

Something crazy about the balloon...the basket is NOT that high!!  Seriously, like a little higher than my waist.  So no straps or anything and you are right up against the edge.

All this crazy nervous energy aside, the ride was extremely calm and peaceful.  You are not experiencing any wind or anything.  I finally got up the nerve to get my camera and phone out to take some pictures and video.

I could tell Derek was very uncomfortable the entire ride.  Later to find out, he was focusing on coming up with a game plan on how to save us if we fell out lol.  Needless to say, we were so glad when we hit land (extremely soft landing) and would never be doing that again.  Thanks Derek for taking one for the team and getting something crossed off my bucket list!

Now we sadly had to check out of our beautiful hotel.  BUT, we were headed to San Francisco!

Derek and I are the least touristy people you will ever find.  We explore new places through their food and restaurants.  We never go to museums or really even monuments to see things.  We try our best to get a taste of their culture by staying away from the tourist spots and going where the locals go.  Who knows if we do a good job at this, but we have fun trying!

We had zero plans when getting to San Francisco.  This is never a good idea with Derek and myself.  We function better with plans.  We got in an Uber and asked where to go.  We ended up at Fisherman's Wharf....if you are following, this is the exact place we didn't want to be.  We had no idea what to do!  We grabbed some street tacos from a cool restaurant in the financial district and went back to the hotel to take a nap.  When in doubt what to do...take a nap :)

Derek did some research and we ended up at a super cool, very industrial, small bar, Benjamin Cooper.  This was an absolute gem!  First, the entrance is rather secret, which is pretty cool.  Second, Derek and I had the best oysters we have ever had!  They are known for their specialty cocktails but serve fresh oysters...and man, were they good!  We contemplated staying there for dinner and just eating oysters.

This was the best find because we could chat with the bartenders (usually the best for suggestions!) of where to grab dinner.  He suggested Liholiho, a "hip Hawaiian, Indian, and Chinese eatery" that was just named best new restaurant in the city!  Even though we got there at 5:00, reservations were all full for the evening.  However, there were 2 spots left at a communal table that we jumped all over!

We enjoyed the pork tongue steam buns, hopper shrimp, and wagyu rib-eye.  We ended our trip with an amazing meal!!

We were so ready to get home to our girls..honestly, we wished we were on a plane home that last day.  But they were in such good hands thanks to Derek's parents!

Until next time, Wine Country!


Friday, March 31, 2017

Wine Country- Part III

Even though we were in bed by 8, we woke up tired...and a little hung over :)  I went to our hotel's breakfast and enjoyed an omelet and coffee (my vacation splurge) while Derek stayed in bed.  We all know Derek loves to have a good time...we also all know, Derek can't hang with the big kids the next day.  Luckily, he pulled himself together for our day of tastings.  

We started out at Silver Oak.

We did not have any experience with Silver Oak.  However, oakville is known as the best cabernets in the world.  The day before we were able to do some tastings at Groth, which is also in Oakville.  However, two main differences: 1) Silver Oak grows their grapes offsite (on a hillside) and also uses American Oak barrels to age their wine.  Silver Oak is also super expensive...probably the main reason we have never tried it, ha!  BUT, it is known as one of the best cabernets so I knew I wanted to make a stop in their tasting room.  AND, they are one of the only ones open at 9am, so I thought it made sense to get in as much tasting as possible, right?!

I was honestly worried about starting out our day with an oakville cab (the not-so-great tasting experience at Groth the day before had me nervous); however, the tasting here was so fantastic.  I can't even begin to explain how great these cabernets were.  So incredibly drinkable even though they were very young.  The hostess was awful (the worst of the entire trip), but the wine made up for it.  And because Derek was enjoying coffee while I was tasting, we had to purchase a bottle so he could someday try this amazing wine!

Fun Fact- Silver Oak only does cabernet.  And really only two types, one from Napa Valley and one from Alexander Valley (Sonoma county).  You can really tell how beneficial it is to concentrate all your efforts with their outstanding wine.  Surprisingly, I preferred the Alexander Valley.

Next up was Cakebread Cellars

We chose this stop because we heard amazing things about their tours.  We tried this wine once on a long layover at an airport.  Again, this wine is a splurge, but we wanted to check out their tour and try their wines again.

We arrived early because Silver Oak's hostess was so awful. Cakebread did not skip a beat and took us on a private tour.  I have to say that this place had wonderful whites.  As you can probably tell, we are red wine drinkers; however, I was thinking about purchasing a white here.  So delicious!

Because they also have tours and events that feature food, Cakebread has their own garden.  One fun things we tried was an oyster plant.  It literally tastes like an oyster on a half shell.

We learned a lot here while on our tour.  We also learned a good bit about tasting wine and how to characterize....something I want to get better at!

Next stop was Mustard's Grill

Again, another fantastic spot!  We tried their butternut soup, famous pork chop, and seafood tostada.  The food was absolutely delicious and hit the spot.

The next stop was Lewis Cellars.

We have never tried their wines.  In fact, not a lot of people (tourist) have even had tastings here because this is not a public winery.  We were asked how we got in by the locals...we had no idea this place was so exclusive!  We looked up the top wine of 2016 and Lewis Cellars had the #1 wine (according to Wine Spectator).  I called the winery and they said they could do a tasting for us on the day we were available.  Even though we had never tried their wines, we were very excited!

The tasting was very intimate.  We were able to try a handful of different wines and ask a lot of questions.  It was probably one of our shortest tastings and while the wine was not our favorite, we were glad we made the stop.  We purchased a bottle and cannot wait to age it and try it down the road.

Our last and final stop was Del Dotto in Napa.  This was the furthest we traveled down the valley.  We heard amazing things about this tour.  It is a complete cave tasting tour...meaning, you taste the wine straight out of the barrels the whole time.

It was a lot of fun but not exactly what I was expecting.  All the locals and reviews we read beforehand mentioned how much they give you for the tastings.  I was very careful and poured out my first 3 tastings after trying it because I was trying to pace myself.  However, there were only 2 more after that.  SO, I don't know if we came at the wrong time or what, but we certainly had more pours at other locations.  The wine was very good.  There was one other couple there from Chicago that we had a lot of fun talking with.  This was probably the least memorable tasting we had...not sure if it was because of the last stop or what.

Our tastings were all done for our trip.  Overall, I'm extremely happy with the ones we chose.  I cannot wait to go back and try all new ones!

That evening, we made a quick stop over at our favorite new wine shop, Wine Country Connection.  We wanted to meet the other partner, the master sommelier.  I have a newfound obsession with sommeliers and I wanted to pick his brain!

Fun Fact- In order to become a master sommelier, the last test you must identify 4 out of 6 wines in the vintage, varietal (varieties), country, region/appellation, and quality.  Talk about impossible!!

Ah, our last dinner reservations were at The French Laundry.  We consider ourselves SO lucky to eat here!

We tried to make reservations before arriving and were put on the wait list.  After doing some reading, it is close to impossible to get reservations.  A good method is to have 4-5 people calling at the same time on the day reservations open to increase your chances of getting a hold of a reservation specialist.  That day (Tuesday), we received a phone call, we got in!  Derek and I were pretty giddy the rest of the day.  We couldn't wait to go and experience the meal!

We enjoyed:
1) Oyster and Pearls (Sabayon of pearl tapioca with island creek oysters an white sturgeon caviar)
2) Garden Kohlrabi Salad (Winter radishes, K&J orchards asian pears, brokaw avocado mousse and cilantro leaves)
3) Sautéed Fillet of Mediterranean John Dory (Slow roasted garden lettuces and black winter truffle emulsion)
4) Wild Scottish Langoustine Boudin (Toasted brioche, preserve meyer lemon, glazed cauliflower and creamy lobster broth)
5) Bread and Butter (Bitter cocoa laminated brioche and Diane St. Clair's animal farm butter)
6) Four Story Hill Farm Poularde (Hobbs' bacon, caramelized cipollini onions and braised garden collard greens)
7) Herb Roasted Elysian Fields Farm Lamb (Dark raisin marmalade, pearl onions, celery root confit, bitter lettuces and pinot noir sauce)
8) Gougere & Assortment of Desserts (fruit, ice cream, chocolate and candies)

Oh my goodness, we enjoyed ourselves!  The food was over-the-top ah-mazing.  We asked so many questions about the dishes.  They would explain it when the food came out and after trying it, we would get a flavor that was surprising or we didn't hear about when they first told us about the dish.  Loved this experience and I realize it will probably be a once in a lifetime :)