Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Girls+Jay Weekend August 2010!!

This weekend Mike headed to an Roast for an old buddy as part of the other guys' wedding festivities, so my Mom took the opportunity to come up for the weekend. And she brought my sister and niece with her! Jay was in town so all the siblings got to hang out with Mom and little Gracie. It was an awesome weekend.

Friday they got there around 8. Katie had forgotten her and Gracie's suitcases at home! Luckily Katie could wear my clothes, but Gracie is not so lucky. So we headed to Target for some Gracie duds before eating a pizza with the fam and then going to bed.

Saturday Grace woke up bright and early and immediately set about making friends with Milly. This included feeding Milly multiple chicken liver treats (those little discs that are spread about on the floor around her).

Then we headed to the Lincoln Park Zoo, which has no fee to get in! She thought the monkeys were pretty cool!
But the cows were definitely the coolest!
After some lunch and quick naps, the fam headed down to the Millennium Park. We got in a picture of us with the bean. I love this pic!
Gracie took a few "pictures" herself with her play pink camera. Jay proclaimed "I've got doubles!" and we all laughed that Gracie wouldn't even know what that meant when she got to be our age.
Then we headed to the big fountains with the faces for some toddler and Jay play time in the water.
Gracie was digging it to say the least. We didn't think she would get into the water fully, but the water that spits out of the faces' mouths gradually tapers off at the end and she was under it when it happened once. So she got unintentionally soaked. After that she was all about running through the water!
I've just got to say - these fountains are a GREAT thing to hit up with little kids. They love them, and besides paying to park, they are free. After fountain time, Gracie was DTS, as Jay says (Down To Snuggle). Look how moody-Abercrombie-model Jay looks in this shot!
Katie went out with some girlfriends from college, so Jay and Mom and I got sushi and stayed in that night. The next day we went to Bakin' & Eggs for brunch. So tasty. Gracie really loved my eggs from my Southern Comfort bowl, and powered through a ton of them.

Once we got home she wanted something sweet so I gave her a plastic cup with some Captain Crunch in it. Milly figured out begging with Grace is a million times more productive than begging from adults.
Oh, and this is what happened when we asked Gracie to give the doggy kisses and Milly was too far away. Milly got pulled a little closer by the ear. Poor Milly!
I think Milly had fun chasing Gracie around, as did I. But she was a little more glad to see Gracie go than I was. I had so much fun with Mom, Katie and Gracie here, and it was good to have all three siblings in one place for so long! I wish we all lived in the same place!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Napa, Day 3

Everyone was pretty slow-going on Saturday morning after the events of Friday, but we got up and made it to our first appointment at Honig. Honig is also a small winery and are very ecologically conscious - they had several displays about their energy use and environmentally conscious winemaking practices. Very cool, in my crunchy hippy opinion. While were there we made friends with a group of vacationers from New York that were hilarious (Major Accents) and our server was from Iowa, so we talked some Big Ten fun for awhile. We sat outside in the courtyard, which was pretty well sized and so cute.
After that we headed to another smaller family-owned winery called Arger Martucci. We were literally wine-tasting in someone's backyard. I want this to be MY backyard. Our server was very diminuative and sweet, and we tasted all kinds of yummies.
After this tasting, we were all hungry and were a stone's throw from Gott's Roadside (formerly Taylor's Automatic Refresher) in St Helena. We got there just in time, as we only had to wait in line for about 15 minutes. Once our people got to the front, the line wrapped around the entire yard and had to be closer to 45 minutes long! This place is a fancy (and pricey) hot dog/hamburger stand but it is SO AWESOME. I got a chocolate milkshake that was to-die-for and also scored a chili dog and some onion rings. I totally couldn't eat it all. They do have more sophisticated dishes like an ahi tuna sandwich or fish tacos (which Meghan got). Jay got a double cheeseburger that was as big as his head.
My chocolate shake. So YUMMY.
After Gott's, we stopped by an Olive Oil store, which was pretty cool, then headed to Del Dotto. Around this time, Kimmy was a little broken. I bet she didn't think she could have too much wine, right?
Before a tour, I took a pic with my little brudder, Jay!
Del Dotto's thing is that they give you a tour with some wine background (here the tour guide shows the various types of toasting that they give barrels by firing the inside of them. This affects the "oakiness" level that you taste). Then they lead you into the wine caves and let people taste directly the barrel (well they use a fief.... I think that is what it was called.... to take it from the barrel and put into your glasses).
The wines are pretty good but they are pricey. The first location has a wine cave that is over a hundred years old and you can still see the pickax marks in it. The new location is opulently (to say the least - some might argue the word is more "gaudily") appointed with Italian marble and is Over The Top decorated (complete with Italian opera music in the background). Everyone we talked to in the region called it "Del Blotto" because everyone gets so wasted there. We ended up tasting 11 different types of wine, but the whole tour only took about an hour and the group DEFINITELY wasn't wasted! We did the tour in the old location on our honeymoon and it was way more of a party. We had a nice dinner planned for that night though, so no one minded too much. I doubt it was really worth the $50 tasting fee though, like the other location was. Regardless, I think everyone liked the wines (they only do reds and our group was a fan of the BIG reds!).

After that we headed home to get ready for dinner at Cole's Chophouse. Mike and I had eaten there on our honeymoon and it was super tasty, so we definitely wanted to try it again. Plus everyone we'd talked to over our three days in Napa said it was the best steak in the valley, so that was also encouraging. Dinner lasted almost three hours and was a pretty hefty bill, but was totally worth it. I loved loved the hash browns, my lobster tail, and especially the desserts. If you like steak, this is definitely a great place to hit up in Napa. Plus it's in the downtown area which is SUPER cute!

Well, that's it, that's our time in Napa. It was another amazing vacation and I think it secures a spot in my list of Happy Places. I would move there in a second.


Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Napa, Day 2

The name of the game Thursday was to see a ton of wineries, so we packed sandwiches in the morning and headed off to our first winery appointment at 10:15 AM at Cakebread. Brett and Meghan had wanted to hit up this place the last time they were in Napa but never made it. It was such a gorgeous property.
We tasted some whites and some reds and Mike and I decided on a bottle of Cabernet to bring back to Chicago with us. It was so yummy. We got in another group shot as well!
After Cakebread, we headed to Rubicon. We belong to the wine club there, and so do Brett and Meghan so we got a complimentary tour and wine tasting. This place is GORGEOUS and massive and has a long history.

Our tour guide, who was a mix of all the Golden Girls.
On our tour, Jay found an olive tree and picked an olive. He said it was the most disgusting thing he's ever tasted.
After the tour, we had our wine-tasting in the members-only lounge. It was so cool! We love it at Rubicon, and we were the only ones in the members lounge. It was huge and really nice and our serving guy was really friendly and outgoing. We spent alot of time just chatting it up with him and quickly killed the baskets of bread and cheese he brought out for us.
We spent so much time at Rubicon that we were 35 minutes late for our next tasting, at VineCliff. They had set up the tasting in their wine cave, which was a really cool experience.

This is a small boutique winery, and the experience was really personal and fun. Below is a pic of their wine cave from the outside. So cool.
A pic of VineCliff's main sales room... love the ivy.
After Vinecliff, we headed to Mumm Napa. Mike and I didn't have time to hang out there on our honeymoon, so I was excited for this one. We scarfed our sandwiches in the car before heading in, then settled on ordered two bottles of champagne for the table instead of assorted wine flights (it was much cheaper, and we'd had a lot of Mumm bubblies before).
And got some more pics....
After Mumm I think everyone was ready to call it a day but I insisted upon visiting one of my favorites quickly before they closed - St Supery. We used to belong to their wine club and their wines are featured on my favorite TV show How I Met Your Mother.

No pictures from St Supery, but Meghan ended up joining the wine club and everyone had a good tasting. Some guy came up to our server and asked if he could pay for the couple standing next to him down the way. Mike was like "Where is that guy standing? I am going to go hang out with him!" It was funny... everyone laughed and the guy goes "I'm not that generous!" Hilarious.

After the last of five (FIVE! Holy cow!) wineries for the day we headed to the grocery store for things to grill for dinner. I'd like to say that dinner was amazing, but since I fell asleep at 8PM I missed the whole thing. Oops.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Napa, Day 1

We only had three full days in Napa, so I ran the preliminary plan by Meghan and Kim on the way to Napa on Wednesay night: I knew Meg loved Domaine Carneros (the quintessential vacation spot that we fell in love with on our honeymoon) and that Kim liked bubbly so I figured we could head there first thing in the AM on Thursday and plot our Napa strategy over morning bubbly. I brought our Frommers book, a list of wineries that Jessica recommended, another long listing that Brett and Meghan have honed over the years, and another booklet we got from the rental car place to aide in our planning.

Our host/server at Domaine was, of course, awesome. The place really knows how to cater to their customers/guests. As he delivered our champagne flights, we asked him to recommend some wineries. Actually, I said, "If you could only go to three wineries in Napa, where would you go?" He brought out this amazing wine weekly magazine with an AWESOME map in it and immediately made 5-6 recommendations. The guy was SO excited about the locations, and several overlapped with Jessica's, so I knew we had to hit those for sure.

In addition, his recommendations overlapped nicely with my sub-plan - to pick a smaller area of Napa and really explore it. The area is so big, with hundreds of wineries throughout Napa and Sonoma that you can spend much of your time just driving around the region instead of hitting wineries. I wanted to cut down on the driving/traffic time and maximize the winery time. And since most of the recommendations we gathered kept us in the Rutherford/Stag's Leap regions, that dovetailed very nicely with my thoughts on reducing time cursing in traffic!

Here is the group after plotting out our strategy and some bubbly. The weather, as is typical during this part of the year in Napa, was idyllic.

After Domaine Carneros, we hit a couple of the Domaine guy's recommendations. The first was Robert Sinsky, where they had food pairings with the the wine. We were under the impression that this would be a lunch-type event. Instead there were 4 pours of wine with tiny little servings of food. As an example, the first food pairing was HALF a mini-quiche. What the heck? Why would you make a mini-quiche and cut it in half?! The food pairings were super yum though - the other ones were herb-roasted almonds, olives, and then a cheesy roll thing. The wine was good but our server seemed a bit uninterested. She was nice, but nothing great!

After Robert Sinsky we headed to Silverado Vineyards with the intention of hopefully finding some lunch. Unfortunately, they didn't have a deli but they pointed us toward the Oakville Grocery. We had a wine tasting flight at Silverado before heading off to lunch.
And took some pics! The views from Silverado were amazing!!
At Oakville Grocery we all got sandwiches except for Brett and Meghan. They got a wheel of goat cheese, a big baguette and some pepperoni/salami meat sticks. They looked super yummy!
After our late lunch we had time for one more winery, so we headed to Goosecross. They had these cool wine bottles dipped in chocolate!
We got in another group shot!
Goosecross is a really small, family-owned winery. The ambiance was pretty nice and everyone was pretty friendly. Plus the guy comped our tastings because Jessica recommended the place!
Tasting room had barrels stacked up to the ceiling.
After Goosecross we headed home for some nap and chill time before our 8:30 reservations at Bottega. I totally didn't take any pics at Bottega but it was amazing - definitely an experience! I would highly recommend. They gave us a huge table in the front of the restaurant and we felt like rock stars. :)

Friday, August 20, 2010

Poker Night

Hubs had the boys over for poker night last night. I guess it was a pretty rocking party (I wouldn't know, I went to bed at 9:30PM!), because he went to bed to this...
(This pic even misses most of the kitchen, which was covered in paper plates, pizza boxes, soiled glasses and other dishes....)

But woke up to this!

Man, our magic cleaning fairy is great. It must be nice to have a wife :)

Now I just need to vacuum the top of the poker table and help Mike put it away. It has lots of boy crumbs on it :)

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Happy August 11th!!

Three years ago today, Hubs and I tied the knot. As Hubs would say "Longest three years of my life!" I kid, I kid!!He's my best friend, my everything. Not to get to lovey dovey, but I can't imagine my life without him.

Also, today is Milly's birthday! Happy second birthday baby dog! No birthday party this year, dog. Last year was just an excuse to have my friends over for sangria. This year Mom and Dad are jetting off to Napa. Have fun with Aunt Amy!
This is what she looks like when I pick her up from daycare... falling asleep sitting up. God bless daycare.

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Tame update

Things are a bit tame around these parts right now. We leave for Napa a week from tomorrow, so that is exciting... until then, here is what's going on:
  • We had a nice chill weekend here in the Chi last weekend. Saw inception, dropped by a birthday party, ran errands, BBQd with my brother and his fiance, hit up a bridal shower and street festival. Wow that sounds like a lot for a chill weekend. Such is city life.
  • Mike's parents were up the weekend before. We headed out on Mike's Uncle's sailboat and also hit up Fat Willy's Rib Shack. Both were divine.
  • Heading to the Cubs game tonight if weather cooperates. Until then I will be sporting my bright pink Hunter wellies
  • I am attending a bachelorette party in Madison, WI this weekend. I've never been there, so I'm looking forward to it. I'm also looking forward to consuming fried cheese curds. I don't know that I've had them since I rolled off the audit I did in Racine, WI. Back then, every day I would come back to the Marriott and get room service cheese curds. So freaking good.
  • Milly is smelly. We're holding off on a beagle bath until this weekend so she is nice and clean for my friend Amy who is watching her while we are in Napa.
  • I am especially enjoying Captain Crunch right now. For some reason the green berries don't ruin the generic version like they do the actual name-brand version. Yum.
Hmmm.... what else? I don't know. I am a crapola blogger lately!

Have a good week peeps!!