My parents and I had the best time in Sonoma Valley over the weekend. I wish I could pack another suitcase and go back there for a week or more, but I'll have to wait for the wedding in August to see it again.
We left Chicago on Friday morning and returned 48 hours later. Although it wasn't a lot of time, we fit in three tastings (one with the caterer and two cake tastings), a tour of our hotel where our guests will be staying, picking out all of the flowers with our florist, a hair and makeup trial, tasting wines for the wedding at our venue, looking for tuxes, a meeting with the rabbi, two delicious dinners, and a terrific lunch on the bay in Oakland. We didn't waste any time!
I'm not sharing pictures from all of my visits for obvious reasons: I have to keep some secrets about the wedding! I will show you a lot of pictures of food, though! Is that different from any other post?
Park Avenue Catering
On Friday, we met with our wedding planner at Park Avenue Catering
. They will be doing all of the food for our wedding, with the exception of the wedding cake. My dad really wanted to take the reins on the food throughout the planning process, so he chose this caterer and picked the menu. We tried some very creative dishes that I can't wait to display on my wedding day. I know that our guests will love them! The one dish that we're definitely going to change is the mahi mahi. We wanted a more flavorful fish, so we're going with something else. Doesn't it look gorgeous, though?
They gave us chocolates at the end of our tasting. Although we got full portions of everything, I made sure not to stuff my face. I still had room for them. I can't remember exactly what they were, but I tasted superb chocolate and raspberry and ate two of them. I would have had more, but there was nothing left on the plate. How sad.
We heard great reviews about Park Avenue Catering, and our visit with them confirmed those reviews even more. The staff was incredibly friendly, and our tasting was spectacular. I'm thrilled that we're going to have good food at our wedding!
Hilton Sonoma Valley
After our meeting with the florist, we drove to our hotel, checked in, and met with one of the events coordinators for a tour of the hotel. We liked the pictures that we saw of the property online, but we were even happier when we saw the Nectar Lounge where the after-party will be on the night of the wedding. We'll have our own space in a stunning outdoor area (with heating lamps) that's elevated above the city of Santa Rosa. It's gorgeous at night with all of the lights. We can also go inside in case it rains. That wouldn't be a problem, because the lounge and restaurant is also very nice.
My parents and I stayed in adjoining rooms; theirs had one king bed and mine had two queens. Both of the rooms were very spacious. For my friends who want to fit four in a room, you will have no problems!
I loved the way that they folded our towels.
I also used toilet paper instead of kleenex, because I didn't want to dissemble this flower:
While we were meeting in the main lobby and talking about brunch options for the day after the wedding, I saw that they were setting up a complimentary wine and cheese tasting. It was a bliss reminder that we were staying in Wine Country.
Of course, I hit the cheese-and-crackers table a few times before dinner. I also had a glass of red wine.
For those who are coming in August, don't forget to book your room!
The link is on the wedding page.
If you watch a lot of Diners, Drive-ins and Dives
or love Guy Fieri as much as my parents and I do, then you might know about Guy's first restaurant: Johnny Garlic's
. The original location is about five minutes away from our hotel, so we really wanted to try it.
I loved it the second that I walked in the door, because it was anything but a "snooty" restaurant. The bar was in my face, T-shirts hung all over the walls, and a friendly hostess smiled and asked how she could help us. It reminded me of a family-friendly restaurant, but it also wasn't tacky. I could see Guy's personality in everything.
Our sever took a while to greet us, but everything went smoothly once we put in our drink orders. Wine in wine country? Yes please! The servers brought out our wine in that little jug below (one jug per glass), and then they poured it into our glass. How cute.
We got some of Guy's focaccia bread to share, which was outstanding. It was light and fluffy in the middle and had grilled onions on the outside. We dipped it in olive oil and balsamic vinegar.
My dad and I both got the veggie burgers for our main meal. As you see, Guy does not want us to go hungry. We chose garlic fries for our side. They tasted wonderful, but I have to warn you that I had garlic breath for 12 hours. I brushed my teeth twice, scrubbed my tongue with the toothbrush, chewed gum and ate mints. It wasn't until I had two cups of coffee the next morning that it went away. Johnny Garlic's does not take their garlic lightly!
There's a chance that people who come to the wedding will get to experience Johnny Garlic's if they are there the night before it. We don't know for sure, but it's looking better than worse. We loved the restaurant and the staff, so we'll see. If there's one thing that I do promise, it's that we not will serve the garlic fries!
I wholeheartedly love St. Patrick's Day, although I haven't celebrated it since I was in college. What a shame!
I spent Friday night at my friend Andi's apartment in the city so that I could be up and ready at a reasonable time to begin the festivities.
We knew that we needed a hearty breakfast, so we went grocery shopping the night before. We got fruit salad and pomegranate seeds.
We also got the ingredients for eggs with spinach and cheese.
Of course, we also had Irish oatmeal!
One of my favorite parts of St. Patrick's Day is getting decked out in green. I planned on wearing my Ireland sweatshirt, but it was actually too hot for it!
Sorry, but from what I recall, it's not supposed to be 80 degrees in the middle of March (26.7 degrees Celsius). I'm not complaining, but winter in Chicago is usually much colder than this! This weather along with the festivities was the recipe for a perfect day.
Our friends Julie and Nicole came over, and then we went to our first destination: a party with a balcony and a keg!
There's Jessie and David!
Nicole and Andi
Me with Julie!
Jessie and Jen
We stayed there for a while and then went to Moe's Cantina
in River North. If you read my blog, you know that I go there a lot.
Below, there's Nicole and Andi catching a cab!
We were prepared to wait in line for a good 15 minutes. I walked to the end of the line to hold a spot for the rest of the girls, and then Nicole grabbed me and told me to come to the front. They told me to give the bouncer my ID, and we all waltzed into the bar. I was really confused about what happened. It turned out that Andi asked the bouncer where the "girl's line" was, and they let all of us go to the front. Just like the weather, I won't complain about that either. If we get special treatment for being a group of girls, so be it.
As usual, Moe's was a blast. After a few drinks, Nicole and I were singing and dancing to musical medleys from a singing/dancing troupe we were in when we were in middle school. Yes, we actually were dancing in this picture.
I got this picture below from the balcony. I feel especially proud to share this photo, because it shows that Chicagoans know how to celebrate St Patty's Day!
We headed out to some bars further north after that, then we got dinner. I went to bed soon after that and woke up feeling refreshed before 9 am. That's one of the bonuses of day drinking: you usually go to bed earlier since it's very hard to stay up until the wee small hours of the morning.
Here's another fun fact about Chicago (the first fun fact is that Chicago celebrates St Patrick's Day in style thanks to their MASSIVE Irish population): we dye our river green! I didn't see it yesterday, but I saw a lot of pictures! Look it up if you don't believe me.
Okay, time for bed! 'Till next time, friends!
Last week was an absolute whirlwind of dinners and birthdays. As I mentioned last time
, the beginning of March is full of birthdays in my family. We had a lovely dinner on my dad's birthday last Sunday, and then I went to Cooper's Hawk
with my parents for my mom's birthday on Tuesday night. Cooper's Hawk is one of my favorite restaurants in the the Chicagoland area. I've talked about it here
, and here
As always, we started with their pretzel bread. (Sorry in advance for taking pictures with the iPhone. I should know better than that!)
We drank our wine from a decanter.
We ordered caprese-style flat bread to share.
For my main meal, I ordered the buffalo chicken sliders. I know that fried chicken smothered in buffalo sauce and ranch dressing isn't the healthiest decision, but there is usually no stopping me once I decide that I want buffalo chicken. Plus, sliders are adorable.
Each of my parents got a complimentary dessert with chocolate-covered strawberries, a truffle, whipped cream, assorted chocolate-less berries, a piece of chocolate that said "Happy Birthday", and some raspberry sauce. I helped them eat it.
My mom also ran 20 miles on the treadmill at her health club on the morning of her 60th birthday. No big deal!
Now, here is the great news. I just found out that I was accepted into University of Illinois at Chicago's Masters in Nutrition program. Remember when I first revealed my goals
last year? As long as I pass the remainder of my prerequisite courses, I am all set to start in August! I've been celebrating by eating and drinking a whole bunch of crap. That will have to stop soon. I not only have to practice what I will preach someday, but I also have a wedding in a few months! How crazy!
Hi friends! I was trying very hard to blog yesterday, but I couldn't get my host site to work. Every other site was working on my computer except for Weebly, and I eventually just had to give up.
I've been having lots of fun since recovering from my gum surgery
(I got the rest of my stitches out on Friday and can now eat whatever I want) thanks to the arrival of my friend Irene and family birthdays. Irene is going to graduate school in Boston, and she's on a break this week. She got into Chicago at 7 pm and was dropped off straight at our friend Andi's apartment to hang out with us. That's how much she loves us.
We boogied down at Old Town Social
. Cold weather
+ no standing in line
= happy me!
Andi, me, Kate, Irene
Our friend JJ from high school and college also met us there. I thought that he was living in New York, but he moved back to Chicago a few months ago for law school. I was so surprised and happy to see him. Here's a fun fact: we "dated" for a few weeks in sixth grade. I think he met me once (we went to separate junior highs) and then asked me to be his girlfriend in an e-mail. We went on two dates that involved his dad picking me up and dropping us off at the movie theater. He bought me popcorn, and I apparently hogged it all. It wasn't really working out, so one of us "dumped" the other. I honestly can't remember who did it.
Andi and JJ
Shelly made Irene laugh very hard
I drove back to the suburbs yesterday morning so that I could get lots of homework done before going to dinner for the March Birthday Club. I call it the March Birthday Club, because my mom, dad and grandma almost have the same exact birthdays. Funnily enough, the same situation exists in Alastair's family. I talked about here
We went to Wildfire, which is always good without fail. We started with bread rolls and butter (not pictured), and then we all got chopped salads. Their signature salad comes with chicken, avocado, tomatoes, blue cheese, scallions, corn, tortilla strips and lime vinaigrette already mixed into the salad. I always request my dressing on the side, but this salad was very lightly dressed. It was perfect.
I haven't been to Wildfire in years, but I used to always order the Cedar Planked Salmon with brown sugar glaze. I knew I would enjoy it this time too, so I ordered that. At our table, it was pretty much all salmon and steaks.
You can choose whatever side you want with your main dish, so I went all out with the cheddar double stuffed potato. I think it was four times the size of a regular baked potato.
Since we had three birthdays at the table, we also had a lot of dessert! I had a few bites of the chocolate cake with the ice cream.
My meal also was a wonderful lunch today. I wasn't willing to throw away more than half of my potato last night!
My Friday Leg Routine
Last night's meal is indeed not the best way to get toned legs. With a combination of moves from P90X and other exercises that I know from experience, I made my favorite leg workout yet. This is what I do on Fridays:
Normal squats (toes pointed forward) with weights
Sumo squats (wider stance, toes pointed out) with weights
Alternating curtsy squats
60-second wall sit
Balance lunge with foot on chair
Walking lunges with weights
Side lunges with weights
Back lunges with weights
Calf raises with weights (feet facing out/forward/in)
Side leg lift on floor
90-degree leg lift on floor
The crab (lie on side, bend knees at 90 degrees, keep toes together and lift knee to work inner thighs)
Leg circles on side
Get on hands and knees, straighten one leg and pulse up using glutes
Same routine as above, but bend knee so that the heel is facing the ceiling. You will feel it in your glutes.
Let me know if you need better explanations of these. If I was really good, I'd be posting pictures of myself doing them (but I'm not always that good!).