Saturday, February 28, 2009

The Big D

I had to go to Dallas for a few days for work and as my plane was landing I started to wonder how many times I have actually been to Dallas. Lutes wedding, Reitz wedding, Koch wedding, McCollum wedding, Fuquay wedding, Girl's Weekend in river country, visiting Em and Brad, and I am sure there are more that are slipping my mind right now. Needless to say, I know Dallas pretty well and while I can't say that it is my favorite city, it is home to some of my favorite people!Brooke and Lee were gracious enough to open their super hyggeligt home to me! What does hyggeligt mean? It is the Danish word for "cozy," but not cozy like a sweater, cozy as in an atmosphere and a vibe. Danes strive for hygge, and all the hard work that Brooke and Lee put into their house certainly hit the nail on the head! Hygge extends beyond just the setting you are in, but also includes the conversations and interactions you have with the people you are with, and I for one certainly cannot think of two more hyggeligt people than my host and hostess!Before dinner, Missy came over for a quick visit as she had to get home for puppy training with her adorable new pup Rusty. From there, Brooke and I went to meet Lee at The Screendoor for dinner. This is a new place in Dallas and I highly recommend it. It specializes Southern cooking and the menu is split into "Then" and "Now" - we stuck mostly to the "Then" menu which featured more traditional low country cookin'.

Everything was fabulous. Before our starters were brought out we were served warm breads that were absolutely incredible. Lee and I got salads, while Brooke got sweet potato bisque (which did not photograph well!). And for our main courses, we had shrimp and grits, fried chicken with mac&cheese, and fried catfish. All washed down with some excellent Elizabeth Rose Pinot Noir.

Tak for i aften Brooke and Lee. Det var rigtig hyggeligt! (Thanks for the evening Brooke and Lee. It was truly "hyggeligt".

Friday, February 20, 2009

Dear Xander...

....it was so fun getting to meet you and visit your parents last weekend! The last time I saw them, you were still in your mom's tummy and I have been watching you grow up on your famous chair. ...even if you don't really like to sit still for pictures anymore.Congratulations on making it to the big 20lb mark and getting to ride forward in the car for the first time! Lots of new sights to see. One of my most favorite things about you is how excited you get exploring the great big world around you and squealing "ooohhhh" with delight at all the new sights!
Uncle Richard's skiing helmet was a little too big for you, but at the rate your noggin is growing it should be a perfect fit by next season!

While you stayed home with Uncle Mark, your parents, Aunt Katy, and I headed over to Keystone for a day on the slopes! It was a gorgeous day - couldn't have been better!And you will soon learn that there is no better way to relax after a day on the slopes than a hot tub enjoying the beautiful view of the mountains.I'm so glad that you liked the bath toys I brought you, it sure was fun to play with them!

Thanks for dropping me off at the airport and for playing along with your mom and I when we were acting so silly during the car ride!
video


You are a funny dude Xander - Come visit me in Chicago soon!

video

Dear Brooks...

....what a treat to get to meet you on your 3wk birthday!!! That was a lot earlier than when I got to meet your buddy Xander. I love how your mom painted your fun downstairs - I hear you gotta watch out for her when she's got a paintbrush in her hand!

You've got a pretty photogenic family, even Arnie and Dirk are great posers! I loved getting to cuddle with you in your chair...now as I watch you grow up on that chair, I'll always think back to you being so tiny in my arms.
Check out that great photo craft board that is above your chair...great Mom-praneur idea for your Mom and Aunt Em...they've already been thinking about business names, but I think they need your help!
While your Dad was helping you celebrate your very first President's Day, your Mom and I went to Bonnie Brae ice cream for a tasty treat!

I hope to see you soon Girl's Weekend here we come!!!

Nature's Goodness

On Saturday morning we headed to the Santa Barbara Farmer's Market. I love farmer's markets and could not have been happier wandering through the aisles of fresh produce, cheeses, flowers, and herbs. My favorite booth was the honey booth where they sold tiny swizzle sticks for a quarter each - mmmm! How great would it be if this was my basket for my very own weekend trip to the market? Then we were off to Tupelo Junction Cafe. It was such a cute place and the food was amazing!
No trip to Santa Barbara is complete without a visit to wine country, so we were off to the Santa Ynez Valley. First stop Firestone. Next stop Curtis - where they had some great artwork...and vino!
We met a little storm on the way back that created a really beautiful skyline.
We stopped for appetizers...and maybe I had another glass of wine...at the Los Olivos Cafe. I highly recommend the Baked Brie with Honey Roasted Hazelnuts in Cinnamon Puff Pastry with Port Syrup.
Thanks for a fabulous weekend LB! Hope to be back soon!!!

Like Mexico in my Mouth....

For my second weekend in California, LB (otherwise known as Laura, a good friend I met in DC) came down to Long Beach on Friday afternoon and whisked me away to the paradise she now calls home, Santa Barbara. It rained on and off and our drive up the coast, but we were greeted with a full rainbow upon arriving in SB...coincidence? I don't think so!
First stop was Westmont Country Club...oops, I mean Westmont College. LB was polite enough to ask if I wanted to see the campus she spent her college days at, just a warning to anyone in a car with me near Winston-Salem - you will be touring Wake Forest! Despite being ravaged by the recent fire damage, the campus is breathtaking. Lots of lush gardens, wooded areas, and it was nestled up in the hills. Then we headed home, dropped off my bags, picked up LB's roomie Hilary, and headed to the Boathouse which is right on the ocean at Hendry's Beach.
We got fun drinks (Honeycomb Mojito, Acia Martini, and Cuban Martini)), but the highlight was definitely the Southwest Cigarillos. As Hilary so aptly put it - "It's like Mexico in your mouth!"
Then it was off to the Hungry Cat. I've been hearing about this place for awhile and it definitely did not disappoint. From the fun & knowledgeable staff, to the "star sightings" (Andrew Firestone), to the delicious dinners we enjoyed:
the pug burger - bacon, avocado and blue cheese
chorizo and braised clams, sofrito, shell beans and toast
seared bigeye tuna, braised pork belly, israeli cous cous, roasted apple, cauliflower
The last stop of the night was Chris's birthday party where LB's friends has made a very unique cake.
To work off our Hungry Cat meals, we played a heated match of ping pong - Midwest vs West. Sadly the West won :(

It certainly was an action packed half day in Santa Barbara! Can't wait for day two....

Monday, February 16, 2009

Legs!

Not only did I get to see Leslie while I was out in California, but I had dinner with another Demon Deacon...and my Delta Sketch "little sister" Allegra! Allegra has completed her Doctorate in Psychology and is now practicing in Pasadena/LA so she drove down one night to meet me for dinner.
Poor Allegra had to battle a torrential downpour which is basically the equivalent of a blizzard for Californians. But, we had a great dinner at the Yardhouse. Great to see you Legs!

Escaping to the Sunshine

As many can tell you, I am pretty good at extending work trips into personal trips and I wasted no time in doing that in my new job. I had to head out to Long Beach for a 1.5 day meeting, which I extended into 10days in Southern California - not bad especially when I was escaping the cold early Feb weather in Chicago. It wasn't over a week of play as I did work the whole week in Long Beach, however I flew out the Friday before and headed down to San Diego to see my good friend and traveling buddy Leslie!

She drove up to the Long Beach airport on Friday night to pick me up and on the way down to San Diego we stopped a fun, oceanside restaurant for happy hour margs and fish tacos - yum!

After a lazy Saturday morning, Leslie had a baby shower to go to. Though I was graciously invited, I decided to skip out and enjoy the beautiful day (not too hard of a decision). I walked about 6/7 miles to mission beach and camped out on a grassy hill in the sunshine until Leslie came and picked me up.
Next up - Mexican for dinner! Is there really another choice in San Diego?

We followed that by going to see Slumdog Millionaire and enjoying some frozen yogurt.
Sunday was a delicious brunch followed by the STA Superbowl party. From there, I headed back up to Long Beach ready for a week of work after such a fun and relaxing weekend. Thanks Les!

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Happy Birthday Dad!

I think this year was one of my Dad’s best in recent memory. We had just gotten a lot of fresh new snow, so Kelly and I headed up to Wisconsin where we met my parent’s and our family friend Rich to enjoy the winter wonderland. My mom cross country skied while the rest of us took the sleds (i.e. snowmobiles) out en route to a bar to have lunch at. The trails were great and the weather was good.

On a side note, as I had just gotten back from Honduras only 5 days before, I think I was perhaps the only one in the bar with a tan!

Saturday, February 14, 2009

No Dust on my Passport!

I’ll be the first to admit that I am a little neurotic about my passport. It is honestly one of my most prized possessions – not the actual passport itself, but all the great memories it holds. I love to flip through the pages and remember the trips, the people I met, and the beautiful scenes from all the travel I have been fortunate to do in the past 10 years. I get anxious when I have to turn my passport in to process Visas and I am procrastinating a bit on my 10yr renewal process because I have a fear that they will not return my old passport.
All that being said, when I returned to Chicago around Thanksgiving there were no travel plans in the works that would require my trusty passport – a strange concept to me after the past two years of being out of the country at least once a month. Well, I quickly rectified that by planning a spur of the moment New Year’s trip to Honduras! Daron was doing a medical mission for a few weeks in mainland Honduras, and I decided to join him on his vacation to Roatan (an island on the northern coast of Honduras) for a few days.
After a few delayed planes and a ferry debacle, we finally made it to the island paradise of Roatan. I highly highly recommend Roatan - it is a relaxed island atmosphere, if relatively cheap, has amazingly fresh seafood, and super friendly people who are bilingual in Spanish and English (due to a heavy Pirate concentration back in the day.) In addition to all that the snorkeling and scuba are amazing because Roatan is situated on 3 Techtronic plates.
I even got Scuba certified - loved it, new hobby! I didn't have an underwater camera, so no scuba shots, but below was a great snorkeling spot!And all too soon it was back to the mainland to head home...

Friday, February 13, 2009

Shaw's

For the past few year's my family has had the tradition of having dinner at Shaw's Crab House on Christmas Eve and then heading to 4th Presbyterian for the service. (Yes, I am blogging about xmas in mid-feb...at least I am catching up!)
Kel and Mom enjoying drinks at the bar...
Dad enjoying an sampler with oysters from both coasts...courtesy of his mexican senoritas (aka, Kel's friends who gave him a gift certificate to Shaw's).
YUM - Crabs! Interior of 4th Pres.