The Little Things: Fun in Florida

Just got back from visiting my sister Melissa in Florida. I loved the palm trees, the sunshine, the warm breeze, and being by the water.  I also loved the quality time with two of my sisters, their significant others, and Mike.

Inspired by Julie’s 50 Days of the Little Things, I’ve been thinking about simple things that make me smile for a while now.  Here’s the list of things the little things that made me happy this weekend:

  • painted nails
  • my husband’s sense of humor
  • long conversations with my sisters
  • mini-blueberry muffins with crumb topping
  • cuddling with the dogs
  • Newsies (did you hear it’s on Broadway now?!)
  • my SELF magazine subscription and how it always arrives just in time for my travels
  • holding hands
  • fresh orange juice
  • walking and talking with Melissa’s girlfriend
  • an afternoon nap

I’d love to know:

What little things made your weekend?

Weekend in Chicago: the end

Our first day in Chicago was filled with Chicago food and exploration.  I spent day two wandering around the city by myself, shopping, eating, and going to yoga while Mike was at a conference.

After my day exploring, Mike and I were headed to a nice dinner.  We walked from the hotel to Hub 51 for dinner.  Hub 51 was recommended to us by a friend of a friend as a restaurant with “a wide variety of high-quality food, great atmosphere.” That description is spot on.

There was a bit of a wait when we got there so we put our name in for a table and got a high-top table at the bar to have a drink and an appetizer while we waited.  Of course, we could’ve had our entire meal at this table but we wanted to stretch our night out as long as possible.

We started with a glass of white wine (me) and a rum and coke (Mike) and the hummus.

When we moved to our table we continued with more drinks, though I didn’t need a cocktail after my glass of wine (I’m such a light-weight). Mike had another rum and coke and I had a pomegranate mojito.  LOVE mojitos.  We both do.  We thought about having one as our signature drink at our wedding.  But I digress…

The menu was great, so many things to choose from and a wide-variety of options.  I thought the veggie burger sounded delicious, and the tacos looked and smelled amazing. Since we weren’t very hungry (and they gave the dessert menu with the regular menu), we decided to go light with some sushi.  Mike chose the spicy shrimp and king crab roll and I chose the garden roll (beets with sushi, yes please!).

I know, right?!  How good does that look?  The table next to us ooed when it came out, saying it looked amazing (and then commenting on how I was taking a picture of it…)

And then came the dessert.  Even though our server said we could share a dessert, we each got our own.  Mike had a brownie sundae.  And I had the chocolate pie (it was meant to be after I got the pear/apple/cran pie instead of the chocolate earlier in the day). When I asked the waitress about the chocolate pie, she said it was her favorite dessert on the menu, that I had to “smores” it and that she’d add some extras for me.  Look at this:

Oh. My. God.  This was so good.  On the side: snickers pieces and hot fudge.  YUM!

After dinner we just made our way back to the hotel.  Mike’s conference started at 8 am the next day.

Sunday morning, I went back to Argo Tea with my heart set on a lemon-poppy muffin and some quality writing/blogging time.  I was not inspired to write at all, so I made some notes for future posts, listened to Seinfeld’s Halloween bit, and packed it in after just an hour (maybe less).

I walked back to the hotel, changed into comfy clothes, took my leftover pie out of the mini-fridge, got in bed and watched the end of Casper on ABC family.  Though I felt like I should be out exploring the city, the Art Institute, or shopping, I gave myself time to just veg. It was really nice.

When the movie ended, I wandered a bit and made my way to the Gap.  I tried on a bunch of pants in hopes of finding a pair of skinny jeans but to no avail. Does anyone else have a problem with the top of skinny jeans?  Gap Curvy jeans fit. me. perfectly.  But the skinny jeans are just so so tight and the top.  I want to take the waist and pull it out a lot.  But I did find the best yoga pants ever (early b-day present, remember?).

Then I had to head back to the hotel to meet Mike and check out before lunch.

We seriously considered going back to Hub-51 for lunch (I still had the veggie burger and tacos on the brain) but we felt kinda awkward going back like 12 hours later.  Luckily we passed EATT on the way to Hub-51.

We took a look at the menu and when I saw gorgonzola on the list of toppings for create your own burger, I was like yep, let’s do it.

And then we sat down to order and I fully read the menu.  When I read the words “pretzel bun” I knew we’d made the right choice.  I had a burger with gorgonzola and caramelized onions.  The server asked if I wanted a side salad and I was like that’s exactly what I need actually.  I was so glad he suggested it. And then it came out and I was even more glad.

The salad wasn’t anything fancy but it was really light and nice.  And with that burger I needed it. Look at the pretzel bun:

This was a great meal to cap off a weekend of good food.

What a great weekend in a great city.  I highly recommend Chicago if you’re looking for a weekend away.

Weekend in Chicago: day 1

Hope you had a good weekend!  I’ve finally finished writing about our trip to Chicago.  There will be three posts today recapping our trip.

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We had an awesome weekend in Chicago.

We flew in Thursday after work and had a full day together before Mike’s conference started on Saturday morning.

Our trip started off on the right foot with a great breakfast at Yolk.

Yolk was recommended to us by the hotel’s concierge and was just my kind of breakfast place. Look at that menu.

I had the special pumpkin french toast and Mike had the special skillet. Everything was delicious. Look at that cream cheese swirl in the french toast.

After breakfast we walked over to Navy Pier to get tickets for the architecture boat tour.  The next tour was at 10:45 so we had about a half-hour to walk around Navy Pier.

The boat tour was so well done.  The guide was really knowledgable about Chicago history and architecture, and really passionate about it.  And he kept it entertaining. This was a great first activity, we got a history of the city and he pointed out buildings of interest that we may want to explore on foot.

I love the river in the center of the city. And the fact that it sits right on a lake too…amazing.

After the boat tour we went on the ferris wheel at Navy Pier.

(Ignore the cat actress in the photo above.  She totally creeped Mike out.)

Then it was on to lunch.  Of course we had to get a Chicago hot-dog. Mike asked the tour guide for a good place.  He said any place that has the Vienna Beef logo on their sign and recommended a place about 5 minutes away.  This wasn’t anything fancy. But it got the job done.

Chicago hot dog: all beef dog, tomato, mustard, pickle, onion, relish, and these spicy little peppers.

Mike wanted to see Union Station so we headed there after lunch.  There was a bus stop right outside the hot dog place and the bus went right near Union Station so we hopped on the bus, quick 10 mins or less ride and walked the rest of the way to Union Station.  There really wasn’t much to see at Union Station but we did see a sign for historic and legendary Route-66.

Then we walked to Millenium Park and saw the Bean.  I’m not sure the pictures do it justice but it’s a pretty neat thing.

After a nap, we walked to Lou Malnati’s for some Chicago deep-dish pizza. We got wrapped up chatting on walk and went a little out of way.  But we didn’t mind because it was a nice night and we were enjoying our conversation. Luckily there wasn’t much of a wait when we got there at 6:30–I think they said 25 mins.  We were expecting 45 or more.  So that was wonderful.  But even better was that they give you a menu when you put your name in and allow you to pre-order your pizza so you don’t have to wait 35-45 mins after you sit down for the pizza to come out.

There was a little bit of debate about what we’d order.  I was hoping for some type of veggie but Mike had a vision for this pizza.  He had seen a lot of TV shows about Chicago pizza and in every one the pizzas had sausage.  I suggested we add some veggies but then thought “you know what, he’s been so looking forward to this, and it’s totally his thing, so I’ll just let him get exactly what he’s been envisioning and let that be that.”  He was glad I did and then I was glad I did because it made him so happy. And he thanked me for going along with what he wanted to order.

I didn’t love the pizza.  I thought it was kind of bland and needed salt. I don’t love provolone cheese so that may have played a part too. But Mike was like a kid in a candy store. He absolutely loved it. He took the leftovers for breakfast the next day.

After dinner we went to Harry Caray‘s to grab a beer and watch the beginning of the World Series. Obviously, this wouldn’t be my first choice activity but I was glad we did it because it’s totally Mike’s kind of thing.  We were standing in the bar and Mike was telling me a story he’d heard on TV recently about a player from the Chicago cubs that was shunned after a missed ball and a reporter from ESPN that was assigned to find out what became of him.   He really came alive telling this story and as I listened I thought to myself “I love him like this.  This is Mike.  And he is so handsome right now.”

Our first day in Chicago was a wonderful day.

Check back at 1pm to see how I spent my day in Chicago while Mike was working on Saturday!

a night at stone manor

as a wedding gift, my girlfriends gave mike and me a night at a bed and breakfast in virginia wine country. i picked mike up from the airport on sunday afternoon and we headed to stone manor bed and breakfast for a night of relaxation and catching up.  from reagan national airport, it was just a short hour and 20 minute drive into the rolling hills of northern virginia.  it’s always so nice to get out of the city for a bit, there’s something about seeing grass and trees as you drive.  it feels free.

we arrived at stone manor around 2:30, a half-hour before check-in, but were warmly welcomed by owners spencer and beth.

spencer took us right into the kitchen, offered us a glass of wine and took us on a tour of stone manor. spencer bought the house in 1986 and shortly after he met his “sweetheart” beth, they began transforming the house into the manor it is today.

our room, the manor suite, was the last stop on our tour.  after we put our things down and spent some time looking around, we settled in for a much needed afternoon nap. boy was the bed comfortable: soft but firm and those pillows! ah, it was so warm and cozy, perfect for a cold, rainy october afternoon. after our nap, we chose a movie, the pelican brief, from the dvd collection and got back in bed to watch a bit.  after about 45 mins (remember i’m not a movie person), it was time for a break.

mike went to read in the library and i followed shortly after looking for the wireless password. i heard some people in the kitchen and went to ask for the password.  beth was there with another guest and offered some homemade bread and hummus, followed by another glass of wine.  i stayed chatting for a bit and soon enough it was time for dinner.

at spencer and beth’s recommendation, mike and i headed to magnolia’s at the mill in purcellville, just a short 15 minute drive away. i wanted to stop and take pictures of the beautiful tree covered mountains in the distance and the chimney smoke billowing through the trees but it was raining so i just looked intently out the window. our meal was absolutely delicious (check back at 4pm for a post about dinner) and we drove back to stone manor with full bellies.

we took a relaxing bath in the huge jacuzzi tub using the bath salts beth made just for us. as i sit under blankets in our drafty apartment, i wish i was back in the warmth of the bath.  the warm water and scent of the lavender in bath salts was so calming.  we both commented how relaxed our muscles felt when we got out.  after the bath, mike watched the phillies and i blogged for a while.  though our stay was coming to an end as we went to bed for the night, we still had breakfast ahead of us in the morning.

a six course breakfast was served in the morning. the first course, pineapple and cheese grits was served in a martini glass. it sounds weird but was actually pretty good.  as beth said “anything with a pound of butter and ritz crackers has to be good.” juice was a blend of orange, pomegranate, and blueberry.  another guest proclaimed “this is the best juice i’ve ever had” and i might have to agree. it was so sweet but light and refreshing all at the same time.  next up was “the comfort food of the breakfast world, think of it as macaroni and cheese,” beth said. it was two kinds of potatoes, 3 or 4 types of cheese, heavy cream, and eggs. then we had sweet onion, sweet pepper, and cheese in a puff pastry. i know you’re wondering how we managed to fit anymore in at this point, but we did. you would’ve found a way to fit these in too: corn griddle cakes (beth’s great grandmother’s recipe), two types of homemade sausage–pork sausage with and chicken sausage with mango and habanero pepper, and rancher’s style thick cut bacon. finally to end the meal was a chocolate peanut butter muffin. this was an amazing meal made with love.

we had such a nice time at stone manor bed and breakfast. if you’re looking for rest and relaxation, i definitely recommend a night (or two).

thanks, girls!

go on our honeymoon!

at almost exactly this time six months ago, we quit agonizing over where to go on our honeymoon and impulsively made one of the best decisions of our lives.  we decided to go here:

we had the most amazing honeymoon here.  it was a complete escape from the real world, romantic, relaxing, energizing.  we booked it through living social escapes and guess what?  it’s back!  

if you need a honeymoon or just an adventure and a total escape, buy this deal and go!  you will not be sorry!

or you could buy this deal and come visit me 🙂