Monday, April 25, 2011

In which I go to Savannah

If there is a "most charming city in the US" list out there somewhere I'm guessing Savannah, Georgia is right at the top. I had the pleasure of spending a girls weekend there earlier this month with Meredith, Marianne and Chanel. I can't say enough good things about this trip...though I will spend next several paragraphs trying to do just that.

We arrived Friday night in Atlanta where Meredith picked us up and brought us to her house for the night. I wish I had taken a picture of her house because it's beyond lovely. Everywhere you look there is something beautiful--a picture, a little gathering of birds, books. It just looks so...Meredith. Upon arrival, Scott had prepared a little snack for us--Pizza, wings, fried mushrooms, fried pickes, and fries. You know, just a little midnight snack before hitting the road bright and early the next day! When we left at 6:00 am, Scott had also procured donuts and "piggies" (cheese stuffed sausage encased in a fluffy roll) for breakfast. Is he rad or what?

We had a great little road trip to Savannah the next day and arrived in time to have a fabulous brunch of hazelnut french toast, crab cakes eggs benedict, and cheese grits. Then we walked around the oak-lined streets enjoying the sites and fabulous weather. Speaking of weather, it was a balmy 75 degrees the whole weekend. It was paradise.

The whole city is filled with Oak trees that are hundreds of years old. They are covered in Spanish moss, creating this very ancient and cozy effect. 5 points for charming.

We visited the city's oldest cemetery which dates back to the 1700's. It's fascinating and unlike any other cemetery I've ever seen, it's actually a park where people stroll along, have a picnic, and enjoy the grounds.

That night we dined at Paula Deen's restaurant, "Lady and Sons" which lived up to it's reputation. I had a chimichurri-rubbed steak with mushroom risotto and glazed carrots, along of course with piping hot hoe-cakes and fresh lemonade. And for dessert, banana pudding and pecan pie. Jealous yet? You should be. I want to smack myself just writing about it. Also, I might be drooling a little bit. After dinner we went on horse-drawn carriage ghost tour. Spooky! It was just spooky enough to make my hair stand on end a time or two, but not scary enough to leave me completely creeped out. Savannah is the most haunted city in America--did you know that? One of many things you learn on a ghost tour.

The next day we had brunch on a Riverboat cruise. The setting was perfect for having an excellent time with my girls.

Following the riverboat cruise we shopped around the river front before heading out to the lighthouse at Tybee island and dinner at Uncle Bubbas

The dinner at Uncle Bubba's was probably my favorite meal of the trip because I made peace with some of my seafood issues: Namely oysters and shrimp. You see, shrimp and I haven't been on the best of terms since getting some wicked food poisoning 5 years ago on the eve of Bennett's first birthday after eating some bad shrimp. I haven't been able to eat it since. It wasn't until the magic of Uncle Bubba's crab-stuffed bacon-wrapped shrimp that I have finally forgiven shrimp for what it did to me. It was a very happy reunion. And as for oysters...well I've just always steered clear of them. They look like giant, slimy boogers. And why in the world would I want to eat that?! But I was convinced by Ryan, the ever helpful employee of the gift shop that I would not be sorry if I tried the chargrilled oysters. He was right! The only thing I was sorry about was that I didn't order two plates of them. Seriously, where have chargrilled oysters been all my life?! Apparently I like to use question marks and exclamation points at the end of all my sentences?!

The next morning we got in line for lunch. Let me explain: Mrs. Wilkes is a famous, albeit tiny little restaurant that is only open for lunch Monday through Friday-- and they don't take reservations. So the line wraps around the block everyday of the week with people waiting patiently to get a chance to taste the famous southern comfort food. We waited two hours before finally being seated. Once inside you are seated at tables of ten and are served family style a whole assortment of food. You don't get to order--they just bring dish after dish of all sorts of delights like: pulled pork, fried chicken, collard greens, creamed corn, mashed potatoes, cabbage etc. It was worth the wait. Once you finish your meal, you bus your own dishes to the kitchen and then pay cash only on your way out! Here's a picture of our grub:

While waiting in line I found myself a very fancy hat. If you want to find me this summer, I'll be the one wearing the obnoxiously large red hat.

Other highlights included a trolley tour of the city, a tour of the Andrew Lowe home, and finding some incredible little shops with lots of treasures like a vintage birdhouse and delicious tangerine balsamic vinegar and blood orange olive oil.

We ended the trip with a visit to St. John's cathedral, which was built because the huge Irish Catholic population that helped settle Savannah. It's beautiful, and looks like it belongs somewhere in Europe.

I'll leave you with a few more pictures of some of the cool buildings in Savannah and the suggestion that you put Savannah on your bucket list of places to visit before you die. Oh, and in case you were concerned about my caloric intake during this trip, I'm happy to report that my heart is still beating, and I didn't gain a single pound. It's nothing short of a miracle.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Pasatiempo de Tejon

El Tejon in Battle Mode

El Tejon here - I have been thinking recently regarding my hobbies.  Since having kids, I think my personal hobby priorities have changed ... I prefer/choose to spend most of my non-work time with my Frau and rugrats trying to create some fun family memories.  Hopefully not all of these ‘memories’ will involve me saying “you better stop crying and start having a fun time” when the videos are played back, but I’m sure someone will edit those before they go on wedding videos. This past weekend we went to watch a kids theater company perform Sleeping Beauty in Chicago.  It was one of those where they have the kids yell and scream and call it participation, but it was a good time.  A weekend or 2 ago I took the kids to one of those BouncyTownVille-U-Up Stations and it was awesome.  I am just glad that there were a lot of kids there and the volume was turned up to 11, because I am pretty sure Oliver did not stop screaming at me the entire time (out of joy mostly).  He also made me carry him up 20+ foot slides about 1,000,000 times, so I'm writing that day down in the workout journal.  Both the bouncy town and play were worth about 12 points each on the good parents scoreboard, so I’m going back downstairs to play some Halo.  Before I go, back to my thinking and what I have come up with regarding hobbies (in no particular order):

Drink the Kool Aid - you know you want to
CrossFit - I used to be more active and do a lot of running, lifting, sports, stuff.  But since all my medical issues, leaving the Air Force, getting a MBA, buying a business, starting a new business, having 4 kids, etc., I have a lot of excuses.  I have run 3 marathons, but the last was in 2006!  I enjoy ultimate Frisbee, but there aren’t any local pick-up games that I can find.  I love an annual Turkey Bowl and summer church softball games, but those only happen once in awhile.  I really enjoy snowboarding, but contrary to popular belief, it’s hard to enjoy GOOD snowboarding in Illinois or the Midwest.  (stop giving me dirty looks Michigan, when you can produce 2 feet of heaven-sent powder come talk to me).  Crossfit fills this void as it is a great workout that is always changing, it is competitive whether it be against yourself or others, it is scalable to whatever your fitness level, and I can do it at 6 am and not miss work or the kids.  I highly recommend it to anyone, no matter what your fitness background is.  It helps you relive the glory days without all of the glory day-reliving-associated injuries.    

This Family is going to make it
Technology – Yes, I love technology…always and forever.  I really have one requirement of owning my own company: besides that I make enough money to keep food on the table, pay the mortgage, clothe the neckedness and all the other trivial things like that, I want the latest and greatest nerd toys.  I think it goes back to my childhood and not being allowed to have any pets besides a fish, but I digress.  I counted the other day, and I am pretty sure that I have had a total of 25ish iPods and iPhones pass thru my grubby little fingers since 2003.  Currently we have in our house 2 32gb iPhone 4s, 1 16gb iPhone 3Gs, 1 8gb iPod touch, 2 8gb 4th gen nanos, 1 120gb iPod classic and 1 60gb video iPod.  So what happened to all the rest of them you ask?  That brings me to my next hobby…
CraigsList – I love to buy and sell stuff.  Reyna says I am a swashbuckler, but I swear I can’t read minds so I don’t know why she keeps bringing that up.  But still, I enjoy buying and selling things.  And usually, I sell things for the same price or more than I bought it for originally – it’s a talent that should not be buried nor hidden under a bushel.  My addiction used to be filled thru a fillable Rx of eBay and PayPal, but it has been replaced today by CraigsList.  So simple, so comforting, so heart warming.  I actually created a simple CraigsList-esque bulletin board online program while at the Air Force Academy in 2001 for an e-commerce class.  Was it so that I could show off my awesome Frontpage programming skills?  Was it in order to get an A and bring up my dismal GPA?  Was it to create a forum to help eradicate homelessness in Iceland?  No dummy, I just had some extra gear that I wanted to sell so I could buy some newer gear.   
Church – Is that a hobby?  It takes up a lot of my time, especially as the Young Men’s Presidente, but I love doing this more than any other church calling, so put it on the board as hobby.  Besides, calling it a hobby makes it less of a job.  If I could get out of a few Sunday morning meetings, it would be even awesomererer.

Being a Ninja – this goes without saying.  Really, it goes without saying.  First rule of being a ninja is…

Sunday, April 10, 2011

In which I finally throw away the best pants ever

Once upon a time, I found a pair of pants at TJMaxx. They were perfection. A lovely grey color in lightweight fleece. Long enough for my 5'11" self in a flattering(ish) slightly flared leg. Just the right amount of stretch in the waist so they stayed up, but not so tight as to give me muffin top every time I gained a billion pounds. They fit me when I was pregnant, when I was postpartum, when I was still just fat, and when I was finally back to pre-pregnancy weight. We were together for 8 years. And then things started falling apart. Literally.

I've been encouraged by Chanel and Seth for months to, "let them go". I was promised that they would be taken to a pants-farm, where pants run free for the rest of their days. I resisted--arguing they still had good wear left in them. Until I was faced with that sad truth that there was no actual crotch left in them. And as useful as crotchless fleece pants might seem, I realized the time had come to part ways. So last week I packed them up, and sent them to the pant farm. Good bye pants. Sniff Sniff.

In which Oliver takes the law into his own hands

Friday, April 8, 2011

In which Bennett turns 6

You know the kind of post I'm about to write. The one where I talk about how it's my kid's birthday, and how he is getting older, and how great he is and all that jazz. I'm just saying.... you've been warned.

6 years ago Bennett was born. It was Easter Sunday when I was induced with him. I remember having a lovely Easter dinner with our dear friends, the Kopps, and then leaving their house to go to the hospital and saying, "Bye! We're going to have a baby now!" I had no clue what I was about to get into. In the moments before he actually emerged I thought, "I'm about to be someone's mother. I'm going to have a son." I couldn't have known what that would mean a few minutes later, nor in the weeks, months and years to come.

When the nurse came to take Bennett to get circumcised the day after he was born, I took that opportunity to take my first hot shower (I didn't realize then what a rare commodity that would become). At some point while I was showering the nurse returned Bennett to my room. I didn't know that was the case until I heard him crying. My head was covered in shampoo and I was a big, wet, slippery mess...but without a moment's hesitation I flew out of that shower to get my baby. I realized in that moment that I had it! The motherly instinct I didn't know I had. I stood there in all my soggy, soapy-eyed, naked glory and held that sweet baby and knew that I would love him forever.

He amazed me from that day forward, and continues to do so. It's still sometimes hard to believe that he is my son, and that I am his mother. He is the guinea pig of my parenting, the leader of the pack, the blazer of the trail, and the child that made us a family. I am so glad he's mine. Being Bennett's mom rocks.

So to celebrate turning 6 we hosted a bowling party for his friends that included cosmic bowling, glow necklaces, pizza, cupcakes and arcade games. Pretty much fool-proof fun.

I have Michelle Browning to thank for designing the cupcake picks. I took the picture, and she did the rest. They make me so happy. We used this image on the goody bags and thank you cards too.

For his actual birthday Bennett requested the following food.

Breakfast: Waffle Dogs (a breakfast sausage dipped in waffle batter then deep-fried and sprinkled with powdered sugar and dipped into maple syrup. You have not lived until you've eaten one.)

Lunch: McDonalds. Which for the record he didn't actually eat, but had a great time at the playland with his siblings and his friend, Gabe the babe.

Dinner: Indian food (chicken korma, beef coconut curry, basmati rice and naan bread)

Cake: Double Chocolate Mousse Torte. Ok, he didn't choose that. I did. But the kid will eat anything and I was dying to make it. Holy cats it's good....

My top 6 favorite things about Bennett are:

1. His toothless smile. I will be kind of sad when his front tooth finally grows back in.
2. His adventurous spirit: He will try anything-- any food, any experience, any new thing.
3. His snuggledyness: He's always up for a hug, a kiss, a snuggle, a hand holding
4. His responsible nature: He takes any task seriously, and rarely needs to be reminded twice
5. His capacity for learning: He loves to learn new things, and retains information like a sponge
6. His love of family: He enjoys nothing more than being with his family. Me too.

In which Reyna and Seth go to New Mexico

New Mexico: Better than regular Mexico! That was the destination of a recent trip Seth and I took to visit Timmy and Sara as they opened their new dental practice called Neighborhood Smiles of Albuquerque. Timmy is officially a dentist. In his own practice. And wears a fancy dentist jacket all day. It was fantastic to see him in action.

We spent a few days hanging out, seeing the sites and enjoying their fine company. One of the things we saw was a teeny tiny chapel that houses a mysterious stairwell.Here's the story:

Long ago some nuns had this church built and realized they didn't have access to the choir loft 22 ft above them (kind of dumb planning, no?). They consulted with some builder types who didn't have any ideas on how to build a staircase without taking up most of the space in the already small chapel.
So they prayed for 9 days for someone to help them, and after the 9 days a man arrived on a donkey with a bag of tools looking for work.

It took him 6 months to construct a staircase that is 20’ tall and has no center support. It's made of an apparently extinct wood species, and it was constructed with only square wooden pegs without glue or nails. It confounds architects, engineers and master craftsmen--no one can figure out how it was built, or how it stands. The man who built it disappeared without every saying who he was, or taking payment. Eerie, right!?

The railing was added like a hundred years later when they finally realized that going up a flight of stairs with three- 360 degree turns and no handrail was not nearly as freaky as coming down a flight of stairs with three- 360 degree turns with no handrail

Don't these two make a fine looking pair? I'm pretty sure they wish they could quit each other.

Sara and I are sporting hats that fall more in the category of "Retired-in-Florida" than "Cowboy". It's Grandpa-chic.

And this is Miss Lily. She is betrothed to Oliver. The secret to arranging a marriage for your children is to make them think it was their we're planting the seeds early!

This is Dirk. Dirk is...well.....special. Let's put it this way. He's lucky he's cute. Which may sound mean, but I say the same thing of my children on a regular basis.

Among the other highlights of the trip were life-changing nutella brownies Sara made that I pine for constantly since having them. And crazy-good turkey burgers Timmy made. I didn't even know turkey burgers could be that good. You can't be surprised that I include food as some of the highlights. Food is memories you can taste. I just made that up. Is that profound? Or stupid? It's bound to be one of the two. Either way, you should fly to Albuquerque just to eat the breakfast burrito I had at the airport. And then you should go get your teeth cleaned by Dr. Bueno at Neighborhood Smiles. You will be glad you did.