Monday, October 27, 2014

That Time I Met Donnie and Jenny

Honestly, for the amount of bad blog pitches I get in my inbox in a day -

"Review and give away this set of hair bows!"  (I have boys.)

"Review this baby product!"  (I no longer have baby boys.)

"Write about this in exchange for a link!  Write about that in exchange for...nothing!  Tell your network to like our FB page!  Tweet out our information!"  (Ummmm, no.)

Every once in a while (the ratio is about 90% bad; 10% decent), something good comes my way.  Sometimes it's trips.  Sometimes it's getting to try good stuff.  And sometimes it's meeting famous people (three times!)

This was one of those times.

Especially because my entire family watches Wahlburgers and we are jonesing to hit up their burger joint in Hingham (but man, it's quite a hike from where we live in MA).

So this was an event for Canon - the PIXMA Pro City Senses interactive gallery.  In Boston.  My Sis (a die-hard NKOTB fan back in the day) and I made the trek into the city.



Touted as a "sensory photo exhibition", we were led through a series of stations that shared the featured photographers' visions of Boston through smell (barley/hops), hearing (a train station), taste (clam chowdah!) and touch (cobblestone).

My Sis and me 

Other fab Boston bloggers in attendance:  Lori, Nicole, Robin and Annmarie

And then we all eagerly awaited the arrival of the guest of honor - none other than Boston's own Donnie Wahlberg:

Dang, he's dapper.  And cute.  And funny.

 That'd be me:  front row, denim jacket, obnoxiously holding up cell phone.  Yup.

But newlywed Donnie wasn't alone.  Seems he brought his lovely new wife Jenny McCarthy as well! 

Jenny was super gracious and funny and gorgeous, not minding for a second the women who were flocking to her husband.  I totally liked that about her.  We had a moment.

Selfie that my new BFF Jenny took with my phone.

Blogging, man.  Some days it's a drag.  Some days/weeks my site languishes and I have to brush off the cobwebs.  Some days my inbox is chock full of annoying e-mails from clueless PR reps wasting my time.  But then there's stuff like this.  And all is right with my world again.


Wednesday, October 08, 2014

Navigating Napa: Top 5 Winery Recommendations


First of all, let me preface this by saying that if you're going to Napa, you really can't go wrong when it comes to winery tours and tastings.  All of them are unique.  Each place has their own character and flair.  There's really nothing NOT to like.  All you really need to tour is a car, a map, and a listing of wineries that don't require appointments.  And a designated driver, of course.

 The circled wineries are the ones we visited during our 5 days.  
There were, um, a lot.

[Aside:  We only went to the wineries that didn't require appointments.  I'm not sure what the difference is, but if you're not into planning and scheduling every moment, then this option is for you.  There are a TON of wineries that you can just walk right in and do a tasting.]

Oooh, and another tip:  If you are with a group of people, you don't have to each buy a tasting flight!  We figured out pretty quickly that most staff will let you split a tasting, thus saving on your cost...and your tipsiness.  You're welcome.

1.  Sterling Vineyards:   This was one that had been recommended to us, as it's unique because there's an aeriel tram that takes you up a hill to the winery.  The wine wasn't that great (pretty mediocre), but the location and scenery and experience are well worth it.  This one was also a little off the beaten path.



Who knew?

2.  William Hill Estate Winery:  Funnily enough,  I had a glass of this chardonnay with my Mom the night before we left for our trip!  And then I had much more some at the resort the day we arrived.  AND THEN we discovered it was right down the street!  So this was a must-see.  It was worth the visit.  We actually meant to go back there, buy a bottle of wine, and sit outside.  It was gorgeous.  Their chardonnay is my new favorite.

 
 

3.  Darioush:  This was another winery we found randomly and decided to stop.  Of all the (many) wineries we saw, this one was, by far, the most gorgeous and ornate and breathtaking.  It was simply palatial.  My chintzy pictures don't do it justice.



4.  Raymond Vineyards:  This one was the funkiest of the bunch.  Very artsy and modern and COOL.  (Although my husband wasn't a big fan of their reds.)  We had fun taking pictures at this one.




5.  Artesa:  This was one that had been recommended to me more than once.  It was another one off the beaten path, but oh so worth the trip.  With gorgeous 360 degree panoramic views and a pretty cool gift shop, I would definitely recommend seeing this place.  (Disclaimer:  I didn't have any of their wine because by that day, I was all wined-out.  True story.)



All in all, it was definitely a fabulous trip and I'm happy to help others out (as they helped me) with vacation planning to Napa!  Now when can I go back?!



Tuesday, October 07, 2014

Navigating Napa: Restaurant Recommendations


It honestly seems like all we did in Napa was eat and drink.  Needless to say, I have LOTS of restaurant recommendations for you!  I'll narrow the food choices down to the ones that stood out for me.

1. Auberge du Soleil:  Based on a recommendation at one of the wineries, we stopped at this restaurant for lunch (without a reservation, but it was around 2pm) and had food and drinks on the terrace.  It was AH-MAY-ZING.  Especially the view.  We ate in the bar & bistro part of the restaurant, which was less pricier and less fancy than the restaurant part.  *imagine gorgeous food picture here since I didn't take one I'm not a food blogger*


2.  Market:  This was another lunchtime stop.  We dined there on a Saturday with a party of 10 and had made a reservation, so we got right in.  This restaurant is in downtown St. Helena, which is a super cute area with shops and restaurants and a laid-back California vibe.  I had their "famous" mac&cheese (diet?  what diet?) and it was spectacular. *imagine gorgeous food picture here since I didn't take one I'm not a food blogger*

3.  Cole's Chop House:  This was one of those late night dinners with clients that was good, but regretful.  Good because the meal was superb, but regretful because an 8pm reservation on West Coast time means my body thinks its 11pm and I'm eating a huDge meal.  Ack.  This was a typical fancy steakhouse sort of place, equivalent to a Fleming's or a Morton's or a Ruth's Chris.  You can't go wrong.  And their strawberry lemondrop martini with a sugar rim was delish (but heartburn-y later).  *imagine gorgeous food picture here since I didn't take one I'm not a food blogger*

4.  Pacific Blues:  Located in downtown Yountville in the V Marketplace area, this restaurant was one we actually visited twice - once for lunch and once for drinks.  The menu was California basic fare, but the atmosphere and outdoor patio was great for people-watching and that whole area is bustling. *imagine gorgeous food picture here since I didn't take one I'm not a food blogger*



5.  Jefferson Cafe:  Based on a tip from the hotel staff, we went to this local diner (in a strip mall) (behind a car wash) for breakfast almost every.single.day.  It was THAT good.  Their mammoth breakfast burrito was a sight to see, and everything else we tried was also very very good.  Highly recommend this place off the beaten path. *And, you guessed it, imagine gorgeous food picture here since I didn't take one I'm not a food blogger*

Sunday, October 05, 2014

THIRTEEN

I can't believe we officially have a TEENAGER in the Trenches.

Son, it seems like just yesterday you made us parents for the very first time.


But you made it easy for us, with your mellow nature and laid-back attitude.   (Those big blue eyes!  That white-blonde hair!)


You became an awesome big brother.  A leader.  An example. 


Your Dad and I love your quick wit and your smooth sarcasm.  We love how you memorize funny movie lines.  We admire your dedication to sports.  We respect your quirks (you get that from Dad).



We are here to guide you as you continue on this path towards adulthood.  Being a teenager can be scary.  You will have to make tough choices--about friendships, about girls, about doing the right thing, about being kind to others.  We have faith in you.




Every once in a while, I glance over at you and see a flash of the man you will someday be.  Older, wiser, hairier, manlier.  Sometimes that essence of who you will become gets captured in a picture and I find myself breathless, knowing that someday (sooner than I would like), you will be that Grown Up Man.  Son, I see the Grown Up you in these pictures:



Just know, buddy, as you hit this milestone of officially being a teenager today, that Dad and I couldn't be prouder of the person you are.  Keep on leaping.

We love you.

(*sob*)




Wednesday, October 01, 2014

Navigating Napa--Our Lodging

Less than 2 weeks ago, Hubby and I were lucky to be able to spend 6 days and 5 nights in Napa, California for his annual conference.  And uh, there was no way (in hell) that he was gonna go without me.  You guys, it was AWE.SOME.

We had gotten a tip to fly into Oakland instead of San Francisco, as the airport traffic and highway traffic are easier to navigate out of Oakland.  This turned out to be a great decision, and one that I would recommend.  We heard horror stories from other conference-goers who got stuck in 3 hours of nightmare traffic trying to get to Napa from San Fran.  Yuck.  For us, it was smooth sailing.  It took a little over an hour once we were in our rental car to get to Napa.

We stayed at the Silverado Resort and Spa, which was practically right on the wine trail.  As in, there were wineries within walking distance.

There was a lot of maintenance, construction and beautification work going on while we were there, because they are getting ready to host a PGA Tour event.

Not on the PGA tour

We had our very own junior suite, complete with mini kitchen, fireplace, and patio.  Some of the units on the grounds at Silverado are individually owned condos, so you never know what room decor or layout you will get when you book.

The setup of the condos reminded us of our first apartment together in South Carolina.  Awwww!

 Tres romantique - him on his phone and me on mine...while the football game is on.

And our room was right next door to one of the pools!  This is what I did after my body was like THERE WILL BE NO MORE WINE FOR YOU

We were not in the downtown area (that drive took about 10-15 minutes) but for wine-consumption purposes, it was a perfect location.  The Silverado Trail was one street over!

Even before we left Napa, I was already (in my head) planning our trip back.  Perhaps in 5 years, for our 20 year anniversary?  But then Hubby reminded me that our boyz will be 18, 16 and 15 then.  OMG.

I'm so so so so lucky to have wonderful parents who came and stayed with the boyz while we were gone.  They did homework/packed lunches/made dinners/helped study for tests/football practices/football game/baseball doubleheader/groceries/laundry/taught them how to play rummy all with their usual humor and grace and LOVE.  

 My parents win

Think I can book them now for our trip to Napa in 2019? Heh.


Tuesday, September 16, 2014

What I'm Loving - Fall 2014 Edition

1.  Binge-watching.  Ever since I discovered Orange is the New Black and House of Cards on Netflix, I am now a BIG FAN of binge-watching shows instead of waiting to see them week-to-week.  I devoured Breaking Bad and am now completely HOOKED on Scandal.  You definitely catch more of a show's nuances by watching straight through.  Huck is creepy; Quinn is annoying; Jake is hot but scary; and Olivia is laughably pregnant and it's so obvious they're trying to hide it during all of Season 3.  I love the dialog they give Melly and I can't decide whether President Fitz is hot or not. 

2.  Juice cleansing.  I already told you about the juice cleanse I did, but I just wanted to give a few more details.  You guys, I totally didn't mind doing it for 3 days.  I felt so much better afterwards.  Way less bloated.  The juices came in refrigerated packaging and are numbered 1-6, so there's no thought involved.  There were no flavors that I couldn't drink.  Some were more "interesting" than others (think spicy!) but all of them were absolutely drinkable and dare I say, filling.  I would definitely recommend and I would definitely like to do it again.  I have a coupon code:  JUS4FRIENDS to save you 15% off your online order at Jus by Julie.

3.  Gold bangle.  I am a new fan of this store called C.Wonder.  A blogger I read had taken a picture of her new bangle from here, and I instantly fell in love with it...and bought one for myself...and a friend.

4.  Monday night soccer.  I miss my soccer days of yore.  You know, when my thighs didn't rub, my feathered hair was Aqua-netted stiff, and I could run for days without getting winded.  Playing in an age 30+ indoor womens' soccer league gives me (faint) whiffs of those glory days.  It's good company (our team is super fun), good competition, and good exercise.  (If you count huffing and puffing for two 25-minute halves as exercise.  Which I totally do.)  Oh, and there's beer after.  And sometimes before.  Plus, my Sis and I play together.  We totally bicker (good-naturedly) on the field. 

5.  Good book.  It had been way too long since a book totally captured my attention.  (See binge-watching above.)  I wasn't expecting it from this book, so I was definitely caught off guard by just HOW SAD GOOD it truly was.  Warning:  read with tissues.  Related:  I totally love Goodreads!  I have no idea what I did before I had a place to keep all my must-read lists.  Oh yes I do, I kept lists on scrap paper that I constantly lost.  That was fun.  Got a good book recommendation for me??

6.  Football.  Oh yes, it's that time of year again!  But dare I say, this has been the easiest fall that we've had in years.  Middle and Baby are both playing on the same Pop Warner team, and Hubby is one of the coaches.  Eldest is taking this year off from football and is playing fall baseball.  All I have to do is show up for baseball games on Saturdays (every Saturday is usually a home doubleheader) and one football game on Sunday.  So nice!  That is, until it gets frigid out and they're still playing football in November... 
Brother helping brother.

7.  Easy appetizer.  Greek dip.  Quick and easy and delish and will get you rave reviews.  You will need:  a container of hummus (I like the Tribe extra smooth classic); a container of taboule salad (I use Cedar's brand); a container of crumbled feta cheese; chopped cucumber; chopped tomato; and a small can of sliced black olives.  I always serve it in a disposable 8x8 pan.  Spread hummus in bottom, then taboule, then feta.  Add chopped cukes, tomatoes and olives and sprinkle more feta.  Best served with pita chips.  (I use either Stacy's or Town House.)

Happy Fall!  What are you enjoying this season?

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