Tag Archives: blessed

Right out of a movie

I’m going to give all credit to Carley on this one. She researched and booked the world’s most incredible brunch at Auberge du Soleil in Napa Valley.

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Let’s just say, this isn’t your standard 3-Michelin star restaurant. This place is, quite honestly, a friggin’ Swiss Family Robinson-style experience, complete with servers that have timed deliveries and round-table speeches to introduce each individual plate.

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Our brunch took place outdoors on the wraparound deck overlooking California’s Napa Valley. I was half expecting to have chimpanzees swing onto our shoulders during the dessert course.

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This is one of those, when in Rome, experiences – we all ordered a cocktail and cheers’ed to ending this first couple’s trip with a bang.

Bloody mary’s and mimosas all around! Of course, they were ordered using the table iPad in front of us.

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The brunch menu looked a little like this.  You choose a drink, a beginning, a sustenance, and a dessert.

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By memory, Brett and I shared the half dozen oysters, the cow’s milk burrata with grilled radicchio, a Maine lobster omelet, a Kurobuto pork chop, and two fantastic desserts from this menu.

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I know for sure we choose the Chocolate Peanut Butter one, and I couldn’t guess what the second one was. Let’s just say they both rocked our socks off. Finish up with a little cappuccino and we are ready to see that bill, server!

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Somewhere along the lines of $700 and vacation, we didn’t care what this meal cost. Once in a lifetime, eating on a beautifully exotic deck overlooking Napa, with some of the best friends life could give us.

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We took one more pano picture and all piled into the cars. Windows down, wind whipping our hair all over the place. We took the scenic route home. Along the rolling vineyards of Napa, promising ourselves we’ll be back some day.

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We stopped at the nearby grocery store on the way to Oliviera, to pick up dinner supplies (I know, we just had brunch… but we didn’t want to have to drive again once we got home.) We taste-tested some frosting, picked up some grilling materials and a quinoa salad or two – then we headed back.

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The rest of our last full day in paradise was spent laughing, listening to music, jumping in the hot tub, grilling and playing Cards Against Humanity.

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Without going into the details of our sad goodbyes the next morning, let’s just say this trip was a terrific first couple’s trip – one we won’t soon forget.

Where will the next one take us? Locations we have thrown around : Hawaii, Colorado Backcountry, to the coast of North Carolina…

The world really is our oyster. And traveling in groups allows for a more exotic lodging experience since we’re splitting it 8+ ways…

Thank you for a truly memorable trip : Carley & AJ, Katie & Scott, Molly & Chris, and the best traveler I know and love, Brett

Until next time,
e

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Round two!

We wake up with barely a hangover. Win! Refuel with a little morning java and enjoy our patio before getting ready for the day and more importantly, before our limo arrives.

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Since we already had a mug of coffee down the hatch. We figured it’s time to get the party started.… poppin’ bottles.  Before you get worried about our alcohol intake, please remember, the whole point of renting a limo for this trip was the sole fact that we planned to be inebriated.  As classy and sophisticated as we could… but definitely not sober.
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Our first stop is one that we highly recommend for those visiting the Sonoma area.
St. Francis Winery & Vineyard. We scheduled their Food & Wine Pairing experience for 11am on a Friday afternoon filled with sunshine and cool breezes.  This vineyard is built on some beautiful landscape (aren’t they all?) A very popular place for people to get married.  Gorgeous mountains in the background.
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The pairing took place inside a lovely structure, the doors open to the fresh air outside.  There were two tables positioned half-circle style with the seating on the outside of the curves.  The wine experts walked through and around as they introduced each pairing.
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Each place setting had a leather-bound portfolio with the menu details & a notepad to write tasting notes in.  I vaguely remember doodling hilarious stick figure pictures and Bob Marley quotes on mine… at one point during the experience, Brett looks over and exclaims, “My feet feel like cotton!”  He is entirely enjoying himself, on top of the dosage of DayQuil (for his head cold) taken 30 minutes prior.  It’s amazing what a little vino and a little acetaminophen will do to ignite the senses!
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To be honest, I don’t even remember what all we had {so zoom in on this picture & read it!}  Nevertheless,  it’s true when they say pairing wine with a specific food enhances the flavors, it really works!  The whole experience was a delight. Something we would do again in a heart beat.
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Back in the limo we go.  The next stop, Ledson Winery and Vineyards. Originally, it was being built as a home, with 17 acres of Merlot planted on the grounds.  But as the structure was built, and the public became more interested, they ended up turning it into a vineyard and tasting room.  (well played Ledson clan!)  The structure is built with a French Normady-esque style, 16,000 square feet of woodwork and marble staircases.  Never missing the opportunity for a photo op, we enjoyed the front garden area with beautiful white roses and fountains.
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Their tasting room had wood floors and a beautiful bar area.  We sidled up and started to learn about their vines.  Little breadsticks were my saving grace as we sipped and sipped some more.
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After the tasting, we bought a bottle and went out back on their patio.  Some of us took naps in the sun : star-fished on the ground & loving life {cough, Carley}.  We toasted to friendship & love, as we looked at the rows of vines grown there.  What a neat place to have a summer party or a murder mystery dinner!
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A pretty spectacular roundup of the troops and we’re onto the next one!  Benziger Family Winery for the win!  This next one is a little blurry for me.  Understandably so; three vineyards in and I’m reaching my limits.
We made a pit stop potty break upon arrival (extremely necessary says the girl with the squirrel-sized bladder).  Then we hop on an extended golf cart for a tour of the vineyards.  Our tour guide explained the wine-making process at their location and the background story of the family that built Benziger into what it is today.
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I’ll be honest, a lot of what he said went in one ear and out the other.  We stopped along the tour at a little wooden hut and cracked open a white bottle of wine.  He served it to us in logo-etched wine glasses – nice touch.
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Cool little place.  Gorgeous farm animals to fertilize the soil.  Fluffy, mop-headed cows and little baby goats.  Ten points to Gryffindor for the golf cart ride, as I was not about hiking all over those poo-filled rows of vines.
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The middle of the tour took us into the wine caves where, guess what we did?… had some more vino.  It’s a lot of traveling small distances and then drinking wine.  Rinse & repeat.
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There was a really neat room deep into the cave that we all grabbed a spot at.  It felt very Knights of the Roundtable-esque, with tapestries hanging on the wall and unique art pieces.
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In the wine cave, I got in trouble for trying to snag some more breadsticks, but, please, this was a girl looking after herself!  Atleast some part of my mind knew I needed water and food.  Stat.
We circled around the vineyards on the golf carf and finished the tour in their Main Bar / Tasting Room.  I couldn’t tell you what took place in that space.  The next thing I remember is getting into the limo and somehow making it home in one piece.
Now, THAT was a tour of Sonoma.
Dinner plans were supposed to involve a bacon-infused local hotspot called Zazu, but we couldn’t make it happen.  We grabbed a variety of chicken breasts and brats at the grocery store to grill-out instead.  And it rocked our socks off.
Oh yeah, and we drank water, lots of water.
xo,
e
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all my ladies

A syncing of photos from the iPhone to the Air reminded me I had a story I wanted to post.  Over Christmas holiday, I was reunited with my five close girlfriends from high school.  Most of them attend our annual girl’s trip.  We had a 2-hour time span where our schedules would overlap and we could spend some time connecting.  It was decided, a midweek brunch at The Kenwood.  Fresh snow had fallen and we stomped our way into this beautifully-decorated dining spot.

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Plaid wall paper, horse hooks for your coat and mismatched framed art with vintage lamps.

In true Minnesotan form, we wore “your-car-might-get-stuck-in-the-snow-and-you-have-to-walk” boots of all kinds.  A staple in any Midwestern girl’s wardrobe.

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The great part about this group is, we can be literally ANYWHERE and fully appreciate the time we spend together.  We will laugh on the side of the street in Vancouver.  Bundle up in white bathrobes and be morally supportive of the tallest girl singing “Bohemian Rhapsody” to a half-empty room on a cruise ship.  Enjoy a day drinking shopping spree in downtown Chicago.  We can be anywhere, at any time, and enjoy every moment of it.

In true fashion, brunch was spectacular.  We dined on a handful of delicious plates, I had an Omelette Florentine and we all toasted to friendship and forward momentum.

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And what happens after we dine + cheers?  We laugh and pass around Carla’s beautiful wedding ring (does AJ know this is a tradition?) as we talk about the future and everything we are looking forward to.

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These ladies make me whole again.  Cheers to a new year and another year of being blessed with these girlfriends.

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Carla (Florida), Molls (Minn), Meg (Colorado), Rach (Georgia), Kates (Arizona), and me

So incredibly happy,

xo

Listening to.

Sipping on.

Dreaming about.

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Heading home

Our last morning in Vancouver!  We showered and scrambled to get all of our clothes into our suitcases.  All that Lululemon took up some extra space we weren’t expecting.  Some Sitting on the Lid to Zip took place.  Finally, we were off.  Wheeling our heavy rollers down the streets of Vancouver once more.  It’s nice the train station wasn’t more than a quarter mile from home base.
We boarded and snuggled into our seats.  Part of the trip was giggling, the other part was playing our card game.  It felt like Harry Potter… the train taking us through the green forests of Canada thru the US border.  I hope’d there’d be a candy cart like in the movie series… but no luck.  We found our way to the food car and grabbed breakfast : bagels and coffee
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I didn’t take pics when we arrived in Seattle because I was too busy hugging my best girlfriends.  We departed the train and those with flights leaving caught the tram from downtown Seattle to Sea-Tac International Airport.  Kates and I had the latest flights out so we spent the afternoon downtown.
Downtown Seattle was bustling with activity.  We had a taste testing (i.e. hydrating) stop at DRY Soda whose headquarters are in Seattle.
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We found a tiny paper store on a corner called de Medici Ming – French for..?
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We weren’t supposed to take pictures, but of course I took one. A wall of wrapping paper, unique cards… we both got a journal and chatted with the little lady who hand wrote our receipts.
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We watched some music acts at Pike’s Place and sent a SnapChat to the ladies at the airport.  Filling them in on our adventures thus far.
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We grabbed sandwiches and seaweed wrapped rice rolls from Michou before we headed back in the direction of the tram.

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One more selife to complete the adventure.  The last two standing.  Waiting on the tram platform to take us to SeaTac.

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I’m going to miss Vancouver, Seattle, and all of the adventures we had.  Each girl’s trip weekend brings new conversation, memory making, and new culinary discoveries.

I’m going to miss getting coffee-to-go and dancing in the streets.  Giggling and taking the sights in.  Dayshopping in Gastown and sampling pastries at Nelson the Seagull.  Dining at The Lamplighter … Vancouver, it’s been real.

Seattle, you’re beautiful
Until next girl’s trip, two-thousand and fourteen…
xo
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Scottsdale : Monday

We slept in as long as we could before we had to get rolling.  Carley was the first flight out and we wanted to catch breakfast at Arcadia Farms first.  This sweet cafe is right out of Little House on the Prairie.  Wood floor, red doors, cute art on the wall.  It felt like going to a grandma’s house who knew how to interior decorate properly.

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photo 1-1In typical best friend’s fashion, we each ordered a Kir Royal to toast our remarkably great weekend.  While we recapped and perused the menu, our waitress dropped off a small plate of mini scones to nibble on.

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This was one of those spots where anything you ordered off the menu would be amazing.  I debated between the Fresh Berry Crepes and the Breakfast Panini.  The panini won: scrambled egg with rosemary ham and smoked mozzarella on a baguette.

photo 3-3Next, we had to hustle to make Carley’s departure time… never a dull moment!  Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport is a city in itself, tons of terminals, north side, south side, ramps and overpasses.  Katie is a ninja navigating that space!

After dropping Carley off, we decided against our better judgment to a little hiking on Camelback Mountain in the 115 degree heat.  Plenty of water, working cell phones, crazy sports bra straps and sunglasses – we set off.  It got hotter and hotter as we climbed and pretty soon we made the executive decision that we were sweating faster than we could replenish with water, and that a descent was the best option.

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The rest of my afternoon, I dipped in the pool and packed up all of my things.  We stopped off at Sprinkles to pick up some goodies for the folks at home and I found my way to my gate.

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More than one time this weekend – Carley and I promised we would be back again next year for another long weekend in the hot box.  There’s nothing like 4 days with your best friends to really refocus on what’s important in life.  Friendships, memories, laughter, and not taking ourselves too seriously.

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Until next time AZ,

xo

 

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Scottsdale: Saturday

Good morning sweat box! We woke up and got our daily caffeine fix at Village Coffe Roastery. Dirty Iced Chais and a pistachio muffin. Both of which we’d all vouch for. There was a small shelf for the locals to store their coffee mugs (kinda like beer mugs being kept in lockers in beer halls of Germany). Cool location, great coffee, definitely gave us some energy! photo 1photo 2photo 3 Next up : SPIN! One of the first times I visited Scottsdale – Kates exposed me to this exercise phenomenon called Spin. But down here, they do it WAY differently than I’ve been used to. The room is black, blacklights, concert-volume mixed pop music, and everyone is 110% balls to the wall. You leave dripping with sweat, feeling like you just scaled a mountain and conquered world peace after 60-minutes. We took spin at the Madison Improvement Club. Screen Shot 2013-06-30 at 10.32.51 PM It’s a swanky spin/yoga boutique with a modern health cafe on the inside. You even have the option to preorder your food before your class so it’s ready and waiting for you to inhale afterwards. Yesterday was Orange Theory and today was Spin… let’s just say our thighs and quads were on FIRE. Like literally on fire. The music was excellent, the instructor faced us and called people out over the eardrum blasting noise to “sprint! sprint! spring!” At the end of the class, on a normal, non-Hell temperature day, they open up the front wall to a gorgeous view of Camelback Mountain. We were thankful they kept the doors closed this time around. photo 1 copy 2photo 3 copy 2 photo 2 copy 2photo 4 copyphoto 5photo Our refueling took place at a great place in Old Town Scottsdale called Chop Shop. Are you getting the theme of a Scottsdale visit? Workout, REALLY hard, and eat at REALLY awesome restaurants! Cardio, fuel. Spin, brunch. It’s a cycle (ha!) and we love it! At Chop Shop I had the Zen Bowl: scrambled eggs, spinach, mushrooms, onions, white cheddar and brown rice. Ah-may-zing. We dined outside under the misters and gradually live was returned to our legs. photo 1 copyphoto 2 copy photo 3 copyphoto 4
After refueling, we ran a few errands. Katie dropped her iPhone and completely shattered the screen. Is this a sign she’s on it too much? 😉

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It was time for a dip in the pool. Two hours of pool to be exact. After we cooled down, we showered, made a few drinks for the road and headed to Fashion Square Mall to get the heck out of the heat. The drinks were not, in fact, for the road but instead for a little adventurous shopping. We had a few dressing room dance parties, and enjoyed the latest in POS checkout technology. #nerd

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Something that lights my heart on fire when I’m with these girls is we always make friends where we go.  One stop at Fashion Square was to LUSH Fresh Handmade Cosmetics.  The moment we walked in, we were greeted by a young man who inquired what brought us in.  He told us about himself, how he’s a ballet dancer, and recommended tons of products to us!  I told him I really wanted to get a great facial mask and also something to tame down my insane long locks in this heat.  He recommended, and I purchased, Mask of Magnaminty and Sea Spray for my hair.  The whole place is well done with a beautiful font and the way they display their products.  The masks look like they’re displayed at a salad bar on ice.  The large wedges of soaps reminded me of the enormous wheels of Gouda cheese in Amsterdam.  I fell in love with Lush today after I read their We Believe statement.

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After we exhausted all that Fashion Square had, we drove to Scottsdale Quarter to continue our night. A stop at the Apple Store allowed us to get Kate’s a new iPhone and also allowed a little time for Carley to change the backgrounds of multiple devices to showcase a really hot picture of Hugh Jackman.

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Dinner took place at True Food.  Another Scottsdale staple – incredibly healthy, organic spot.  You can order anything and everything on the menu and be 110% satisfied.

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I always get the Chicken Chopped Salad.  There’s something about the way the manchego cheese, marcona almonds and jicama mixes together that it takes me to my happy place every time.  We split the Vegetable Crudités starter – it was like a wonderful garden on ice with fabulous dipping sauces.  Really cool presentation – we were impressed.

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Katie is friends with a manager and she brought us these delicious honeydew melon vodka cocktails (which we of course, cheers’ed).  The back end of the restaurant near the outdoor restroom held this garden, sink washing station that caught my eye in the setting sun.  Love True Food, always have, always will.

photo 2-1photo 2-2The end of the evening brought us to a 3-story Restoration Hardware, because let’s be honest, you know there’s going to be some good stuff in there.  I only fell in love with 75% of the store.  Carley tried out many chairs and we decided this one most resembles her walk-on role in Game of Thrones and thus she had to buy it ($15,000 later….).

photo 3-2As we walked up the flight of stairs, I marveled at these hanging chandeliers inside of bird cages, hung by thick shipyard rope.  I need a big house, with tall ceilings, so I can properly hang them. #wishfulthinking

photo 1-2We made friends with the gentleman that greeted us at the entrance, named Brian.  He took us on the Grande’ Tour of the store and priced out different couches we laid on.  We, of course, knew at this time they were out of our price range but we laughed and he enjoyed chatting with us.  He looked up prices on his iPad and we walked through all the different rooms, quickly falling in love with every duvet and medieval spoon we found.  We bid Brian a good evening, bought a few little trinkets, and made a swift stop at It’Sugar candy shop for some pineapple gummi bears and chocolate covered oreos.

The evening ended with another hilarious round of Cards Against Humanity.

Loving this adventure,

xo

 

Listening to.

 

 

 

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Scottsdale: Friday

Carley got in Thursday late night – we spent the evening hours giggling and catching up.  On Friday morning, we woke super early to catch Katie’s favorite Orange Theory class at 6:45 with Jesse.  I can see the attraction, he was HILARIOUS.  Think Will & Grace + muscles + fabulous smile + high-energy fitness.  It was somewhere between the second circuit and the side planks when Carley leaned over and said something along the lines of, “You two are insane for liking this.”  Needless to say, we were extremely sweaty, spent and ready for some refueling.

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Breakfast took place at Daily Dose.  We settled on Micheladas.  Served as a iced glass of lime juice, a Mexican beer, and a small carafe of tomato juice.  Kind of like a beer-garita or sorts.  We weren’t entirely impressed.  Decisions couldn’t be made on what to order, as everything looked good in our deliriously hungry and sore state of mind, so we decided to share the Banana Bread French Toast, The Hangover Sandwich and the Breakfast Nachos.  All of which were delicious and most of which we brought home as leftovers.

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After our refuel session, we grabbed a few supplies at Costco.  A weekend with your girlfriends requires a few staples.  For example, large glass bottles of vodka.  The one on the right was purchased, we plan to empty it.

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As we walked around Carley began to feel the muscle burn that Orange Theory brings.  She spent a bit of time lounging in agony.  At Costco… and at home.

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We hightailed it home, changed into swimsuits, made a cocktail and beelined for the pool.  There wasn’t any laying in the sun, there was strictly underwater lounging… it was hot enough to fry an egg on the sidewalk.  Later into the evening, Scott treated us to Oregano’s.  We needed to get out of the apartment as the AC isn’t working properly and we were going slightly stir-crazy.  It worked out well because a trip to Arizona is.not.complete without dining at Oregano’s.  We shared the Vino Bambino salad (UNREAL) – and Uncle Ray’s Sausage & ‘Shrooms pizza.  Entire confection.  Totally satisfied.

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After dinner, it was time to doodle in Paper by FiftyThree and laugh at the good fortune of having close friends.

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Sleeplessly sweating,

xo

Dreaming of.

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Next Chapter Vineyard


photo 1-2 photo 1 photo 2-2 photo 3-1 photo 3-2 photo 3 photo 4-1 photo 5-1 wine dog photo 4 wine photo 2 wine photo 5We have found an excellent little vineyard.  Next Chapter Vineyard in New Prague, MN ran a LivingSocial a few months back.  We choose a weekend for the Vine Pruning Experience.  This vineyard was a super small family operation out in the middle of nowhere.  We took a road trip and fell in love with every aspect.  The tool shed turned wine-tasting space.  The wall of mismatched odds and ends that Tim, the owner, uses for his wine creating.  The beautiful German Shepard puppy that followed us around everywhere, and of course, the delicious wine!

We spent a few hours in the early morning all bundled up with our pruning sheers.  Tim showed us how to properly prune the vines for optimal growth.  It was an almost therapeutic movement, row by row, moving so much that our freezing bodies were soon warm and comfortable.  We drank mulled wine as we worked and enjoyed the winter silence around us.

After we pruned for what seemed like hours, we had a lunch in the large tool shed.  There were about 6 large barrels, some of which used to be filled with Jack Daniels, filled with fermenting wine.  We drank red wine and white, straight from the barrel as well as from wine bottles.  Tim was charismatic and happily shared his thoughts on the wine industry and how Next Chapter Vineyard came to be.  He explained how vines don’t really show for the first four years.  There are four or five years of nothing but picking weeds – hearing that almost made my small dream of one day having my own vineyard, sour.  Instant gratification doesn’t work too well in this industry, eh?  The best comes to those who wait.

It was refreshing to hear Tim talk about the crazy world of wine and how there is such a snobbery, pretentious air around it.  He spoke about the wine spectator and the judging of different wines, where sometimes a glass of two buck chuck wins over a glass of $200 wine.  I agree with him that it’s very much so a scam.  It was such a fun experience to bullshit with him in this giant shed where the wine he has created over the years sits fermenting.  We’re all drinking wine.  He’s opening new bottles.  He’s explaining the process, the bottling process, his thoughts on wine in general.  He’s wearing a one-piece winter getup as his baby German Shepard is curled up as his feet.

Many glasses of wine later, after length conversation and laughter, a lot of the other LivingSocial voucher-holders parted.  They had other things they wanted to get done.  The four of us stayed back and soaked (literally) the experience in.  At one point, Timothy thanked us for coming and that was the end of our LivingSocial adventure.  He went back out to the vines to keep pruning.  We decided to clean up the lunch mess the dozen or so left behind and then we filled up our cups with some more of that delicious wine and headed out to the vineyard to find him.  He helped us trim some vine pieces to bring home and plant on our own land.  What a great experience – and we all got to take 2 bottles home with us!

In September they have what’s called a harvest, where the grapes are picked and the great stomp happens.  We hope to be a part of it and to stomp grapes classier than this lady does.

Wine does the heart good,
xo

Listening to this.

Sipping on this.
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and then there was one

My silent grandma passed away this morning.

Slowly she went from talking (albeit quietly) and then no words… and then no eating… and silence. My grandpa has been such a lover through this whole journey. He didn’t want her to stay in the hospital. He wanted to be the one to care for her and feed her at home. It was straight out of The Notebook. If I have any wish for myself, it’s that I end up with someone that is willing to take care of me until the very end. Until the absolute last breath.

I don’t know how he will start to rebuild a life for himself as an individual, being able to take time to go fishing like he used to… and leave the apartment for longer than a quick errand. He has earned a long walk in the park, to ponder and breathe deeply while missing the love of his life.

If there is anything I’ve learned about the situation with Grandma Rosie these past few months, it’s that you absolutely must say what you want to say, and have those conversations you are scared to have, before it’s too late. Who knows when someone will lose their voice? When they cannot respond or express how they are feeling? Communication is so important, and I’ve learned that now. I get it.

Share your thoughts and feelings with your loved ones, before you no longer can.

Cheers to Rosie,
xo

Listening to.
Adding to the wish list.
Munching on.

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