Tuesday, December 8, 2015

november books

It's time to talk books again. To be honest, once Thanksgiving week hit, my audiobook reading went to nothing in favor of Christmas music. However, when I listen to music, I start tuning it out and get consumed with thoughts and to-do lists. When I listen to books, I pay attention to the story and it's a nice break from reality. So, as much as I love having Michael Buble on repeat, it may be time to find some new audiobooks. December is my busiest time of year at work so I can use all of the mental break time I can get!

As always, those with an (A) were enjoyed as audiobooks.

Sorta Like a Rockstar - I loved Matthew Quick's voice in Love May Fail but his YA books don't quite do it for me. This one was written in an extremely annoying way (with words like "sucka" and thoughts ending with "True? True.") and I almost gave up, but I'm glad I stuck with it. It's a completely unrealistic story about a quirky teenage girl and how the people around her help her through a difficult time. It was like watching a Disney movie - the emotion hit in all the right places and I found myself goofy grinning and satisfied with how it all ended.

(A) We Were Liars - If I tell you anything about how this book ends, it will totally ruin it. The characters are hard to care about and the story meanders quite a bit, but it gets huge bonus points for totally surprising me with how it ended. I can't say that I loved it but it held my attention and I liked that I never saw it coming (if you've read it, did you? Was it well done, or did I just not pay attention?)

Landline - This is the third Rainbow Rowell book I've read and the one I liked best so far - probably because it was about adults. It made me romanticize my early years with Andrew and how so much of the time we spent getting to know each other was on the phone. The background of the main character being a TV writer was a fun change of pace from every female main character being a baker/florist/reporter, though it didn't add much to the story. For me, this was a solid, light read. Not lifechanging in any way, but enjoyable.

(A) Dad Is Fat - I mean Jim Gaffigan's stand-up is hilarious, but I have had his second book, Food: A Love Story on my shelf since last Christmas, and I don't like his show, so maybe picking up this book wasn't the best idea. I have come to the realization that I don't always love books of essays. I felt like a lot of these reached no interesting or logical conclusions. A lot of it was repetitive (2/3 of the way into the book, he could have stopped reminding the reader that he has five kids), but I did enjoy the tone. I felt like Gaffigan has a realistic outlook on his children: he loves them wholeheartedly and they are a blessing, but they're also exhausting, expensive, and sometimes annoying. I enjoyed that the audiobook was read by him and I did suggest this to a pregnant coworker, but it isn't a must-read for most.

Why Not Me? - It's everything one might expect in a second book from Mindy Kaling. It's like reading a blog post of someone you admire and whose stories are always interesting. It was entertaining but neither deep nor gossipy and the anecdotes didn't really stay with me from chapter to chapter, but I still enjoyed it.

A Window Opens - Definitely chick lit, though I appreciated that this wasn't about the pursuit of a man and rather the story of a woman trying to juggle her marriage, kids, job, and taking care of her parents. It was fluffy and an easy read, but I liked the book talk and some of the ideas in her fictional workplace.

Did Not Finish -

Paper Towns - I mean the guy wrote The Fault in Our Stars and Paper Towns was made into a movie so I wasn't expecting to hate it, but I kind of did. I didn't care about the characters at all. Why was the main guy going in search of his spoiled neighbor who hadn't given him the time of day in years? I didn't care to find out. Did it get any better?

Pieces of My Mother: A Memoir - This book was supposed to be about a woman who is trying to understand why her dying mother left her as a child and her trying to be a better mother because of it. I listened to nearly 1/3 of the book and it was filled with overly-detailed anecdotes about the girl's childhood that did nothing for the story, at least so far. I wanted to know more about the mother and it just took too long to get there, so I gave up.

Furiously Happy - The Bloggess' Knock Knock M*therf*cker post made me cry laugh. She used to live in Houston. I really liked her first book. This one, though, was just too rambly for me. Maybe my tastes have changed too much since I read her first book, or maybe too much of this was at least tangentially discussed on her Twitter (I'm not a regular blog reader anymore), but this one wasn't for me and I kept dozing off and losing my place. That said, people with mental illness seem to love it and find it really relatable, so I'm sure it's just me.

My favorites for the month were Landline and Sorta Like a Rockstar for totally different reasons. As always, linking up with Steph and Jana and super excited for work to calm down so I can find lots of books to add to my Kindle for upcoming holiday travel and family time.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

stuff that's worth your money

Fact: I hate shopping. I wish I loved it, but I find it time-consuming and torturous. That said, I feel like I've done a lot of it lately. I get so many great gift/treat yo self ideas from other people's blog posts that I wanted to share what I've been spending money on (or have been gifted) lately because 'tis the season, to shop for others or add to your own wishlist.

(No links are affiliate because I'm not that fancy.)

No idea why some of these came out blurry but at least I tried. Pics are all from the links below.

Planners: Bloggers love planners, am I right? Last year I scoured Target in early January for a Sugar Paper planner and I have loved it ever since. I got the weekly/monthly view for 2015, which is set up just like the Erin Condren life planner (without the extra sections in the back). The month tabs are laminated and the cover is plastic coated. Mine lives on my desk at work and is still pristine, but I can't comment on the wear-and-tear it would face from being carted around for a year. This year, I decided to try out the Signature planner. It looks like a moleskine notebook with an elastic closure (except it's cardboard). The layout has the days of the week on the right and pre-printed areas on the left for goals and people to call/email and things to do. Since I think in terms of what I need to do each week, I thought this might be a nice change. I hope it works for me.

Left: The Erin Condren-esque layout of my 2015 weekly/monthly planner | Right: 2016's planner. The headings are top three, to do, don't forget, to call, to email, to buy, and then this week's goal along the bottom. Both have similar monthly layouts and the 2016 planner is slightly larger overall than 2015's.

Gifts: Williams Sonoma Hot Chocolate is always a favorite. It's pricier than the standard stuff, but it's rich and amazing and just feels like the holidays to me. I just wish temps would stay cool enough in Houston to partake! My friend Sarah got me an adult coloring book for my birthday and I'm a convert. It's nice to do something with my hands while the TV is on in the background. Ulta also got me a great birthday gift - a Bare Minerals Mauveloss Moxie lipgloss in Birthday Babe. I'm typically afraid of lip color and this is slightly outside my comfort zone but still dark enough to tell I'm wearing something. I got a coupon for it for being a member of Ulta's club and it's normally $18. I don't think this color is available for purchase, but it's pretty close to the Rebel shade.

Basics: I'm really not a makeup person, but I got the Maybelline Nudes Palette for super cheap on Amazon and I love it. It has directions on the back for how to layer which shadows and it matches everything. I finally tried chewy.com and got these cat toys for Bauer because they were $2 and had amazing reviews. He hates toys unless he's destroying them - he won't even chase a laser pointer - but he loves these and will stand beside whatever piece of furniture he has lost one under until I get it out for him. I also loved how fast and easy chewy.com was - highly recommend.

Treat Yo Self: Lately I've had great luck finding tops at Charming Charlie. The sizes seem consistent, the store layout is easy, and it's never crowded. I got these Kendra Scott earrings that seem to magically change colors depending on the top I'm wearing and I've gotten tons of compliments. I also finally made my way to Lush and got a few bath bombs for the second time ever. I'm ready for a nice, de-stressing bath once the holidays get too crazy.

So! All of that said - anything of your own you would like to add? I still have tons of shopping to do for others and I need all of the help I can get!

Linking up with Joey and Kristin!

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

california, here we come: the day we did a lot

On our fourth day of vacation, Andrew planned for us to travel north to Calistoga. While planning, he did a great job of keeping us in the same general area so we didn't have to spend much time in the car. We read horror stories of bumper to bumper traffic, but we never really saw much, likely because we spent most of our time in Napa during the week.

We went to Redd Wood for breakfast, which was down the street from our hotel. It was highly acclaimed, but the breakfast was nothing special. I had lemon ricotta pancakes and Andrew had an omelet - both were good, but neither were amazing. It was nice to sit outside, though, as the weather was pretty and there were a lot of locals and vacationers walking by.

Our first winery of the day was one of the prettiest we visited - Chateau Montelena. Its claim to fame is putting Napa Valley wines on the map during the Judgement of Paris in 1976. The Chateau itself was built into the mountain and was surrounded by Japanese-looking gardens and waterways. We were able to see huge crates full of grapes in front of the chateau, too. In the tasting room, the amount of attention was great. We were able to share a tasting and learn a good amount of the winery's history. We opted out of the full tour, but we were able to walk ourselves around the grounds and take pictures at our own pace. It was one of my favorites just to see.

 Chinese gardens, the Chateau, grapes ready to be processed (the tanks were huge), and views.

After that, we went to Frank Family Vineyards. The property was pretty, but the tasting room was kind of plain and felt very commercialized. There were different levels of tastings, and we opted to share one. We were shown to a room with the person leading the tasting and an older couple who was already about halfway through their tasting. We could tell that the employee had already established that the older couple was very well-off, and while he was nice to us, we were a little more of an afterthought. However, he let them taste a new Frank Family wine not normally included in the tasting called The Patriarch which just came out (and was $225 a bottle) and out of obligation, he let us try it, too. I didn't appreciate the other aspects of service, though, as I felt like he was saying he knew we didn't have the same means as the other couple (we don't. They were splitting the shipment between their various homes, but I didn't need him to remind me!). It was just awkward. We still ended up purchasing a few bottles of wine, though (but not The Patriarch!).

A subtle, homey tasting room with old winemaking equipment and vineyards outside. I needed a picture of the Patriarch since we didn't get any of our own.

My aunt and uncle went to Napa last year and kept telling me about the gondola ride at Sterling Vineyards, so I had to go. Sterling wines are available in grocery stores, so we visited here just for the gondola and the scenery. Unfortunately, all of that is included with the cost of the tasting and keeping a glass, so we couldn't share the fee and had to pay for wine we didn't really want. I loved the views of the gondola up the mountain. The views from the mountaintop facility were lovely, too. The set-up was nice in that there were four samples you could get at your own pace as you went through the facility. It was interesting to see the giant barrels used for mass produced wines compared to the smaller barrels we saw at other wineries the day before. The views and the experience were great if you need a short break from drinking, but don't plan to fall in love with Sterling wines.

The gondola | The bell on the tower on top of the mountain | These barrels were at least thirty feet tall - you could see the difference between large and small wineries here | more views, including Andrew not enjoying his wine despite the fantastic patio.

We had time before our next winery appointment, so we looked for somewhere to have lunch and of course Andrew found a barbecue place. Nothing else sounded good, and I wasn't very hungry after our large breakfast anyway, so I was willing to give in. After all, I owed him from the gondola ride. California barbecue was, in a word, disgusting. At least this was. It was covered in sauce and chewy. The potato salad was undercooked. At least, Buster's BBQ in Calistoga was. Avoid it! We also had time to walk around downtown Calistoga, which was really cute, though I didn't have time to really stop and look at much.

I loved how every roadside looked like a postcard. There were a few of these huge signs on the highways so I had to stop at one! (Can you see me on the left?)

To get a break from all of the reds, Andrew made an appointment at Schramsberg Winery, known for its sparkling wines (my favorite). This was a small group cave tour by appointment only. This cave was mostly hand dug and is the largest in Napa Valley. The inside was dark and covered with moss and only a limited amount of electricity was run inside. It was our tour guide's first time giving a tour, which I think affected our visit, but he talked about the winery's origins and how making sparkling wine differs from making stills. Inside the cave, a large table with two candelabras was set up for our tasting. It was a far different experience from anything else we did, and the sheer number of bottles inside the cave was neat to see. Availability at Schramsberg is limited and reservations are apparently increasingly difficult to get, so they require that each person pay a tasting fee and don't discount it for purchasing wine.

I liked the tasting area of the cave tour. If you look to the side of the wall of wine, you can see all of the natural moss inside the cave.

We had heard great things about Castello di Amarosa, a castle-like winery that was supposed to be beautiful. It is not known for having great wine. We were hoping to stop in and purchase a glass each and walk around, but the only option was to pay $25 per person for a tasting to get inside the castle, and we opted out of it. After going to Sterling just for a look around, we didn't want to do that again. I did take photos of the outside, though, as it was really pretty.

We got back into Yountville around 5pm and went to V Marketplace, next to our hotel. It has shops that sell everything from toys to chocolates to souvenirs, but of course it closed at 5:30, so I didn't get to look at too much. We also went to the Hill Family Tasting Room that was in walking distance and had a great experience. We were able to share a tasting and got to hear stories about the Hill family. They had all kinds of sports memorabilia in the tasting room as well as a surfboard and guitar stained with red wine and fun little vases and gifts to buy. There was a huge replica of a chair from The Voice that I had to sit in, too. It was a great place to check out.

Andrew wanted to drive back in to Napa for dinner at a place called Oenotri. Reservations are definitely needed at this place as the wait was over an hour. We decided to walk down the street back to Oxbow Public Market so Andrew could have some pre-dinner oysters (he loved them that much) and we could do some window shopping. Dinner at Oenotri was good and I loved our table in the window so we could people watch. They are known for their charcuterie, which was good, and I had a smoked salmon pasta dish, which I had never seen before. It was a good meal, but not great. I'm glad we found something to do during the long wait! After dinner, we went back to Yountville and our hotel for a good night's sleep before our last day of vacation.

The lighting was awful for pictures. Food was good at the time but mostly forgettable now.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

from the metaphorical cutting room floor

Confession: Last night, I wanted something to blog about so I went to my drafts folder. I thought I maybe had ten posts in there, three of which mostly need pictures, so I didn't expect to find much. I was shocked when I saw 55... That means 55 times that I have stared at the screen, had a fleeting thought, and then quit. What a waste of time!

Some of those posts will likely never see the light of day. I have one about being "dumped" as a friend and another about a sticky work situation... but others just never got finished, or, their very contents stump me. Some examples:

- Things I bought that are awesome that aren't expensive: I got as far as Not Your Mother's dry shampoo and Payless Dexflex flats (seriously, love those shoes for the price).

- My Christmas House - explanations of some of my favorite Christmas decor (maybe I'll do that this year. Does anyone care?)

- A post called "Walking Your Dog is Hard" with all of the anxiety about neighbor interaction I used to feel about walking my dog. A year later, and I still feel it.

- Blog Your Unpopular Opinion, Volume Two which includes my disdain for Starbucks cup instagrams (especially now. Yes, they're red. Cool, I guess?), hashtags in blog posts, and the words Fri-yay, spirit animal, and adulting. You guys, I like English and slang is okay sometimes but can we just chill a little?

- A post with random facts about me dated 9/11/14 where I say Napa is my dream vacation. On 9/19/15, I got to go there. I love having a blog for keeping memories like this.

- Five Things I Wish People Would Agree On. Impossible! That one sounds like it could cause some disagreement. Maybe it's better no one has seen it.

- Other assorted titles like "Ways my husband failed at childhood," "I know you disagree but cats are awesome," "How to make people hate you at graduation," and "You took a blogging break - now what?" (I wish I had some insight on that last one... I wonder what I was going to say?)

The only thing that I'm really confessing here is that my intentions on blogging are better than my follow-through, but I wanted to support Kathy and Nadine with their link-up so let's pretend that this works. So, help a slacker out - if any of these posts should happen, let me know!

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

october books

After last month's reading slump, I'm happy with this month's progress, even though it didn't include anything amazing. Here's to hoping your luck was better than mine - I need some new recs!

Anything with an (A) means it was enjoyed as an audiobook when I wasn't listening to Gilmore Guys or This American Life podcasts...

The Last Time We Say Goodbye -  I need to stop reading books about dead teenagers because they're all running together. An eighteen year old girl is trying to get her life back in order after her parents get a divorce and her younger brother commits suicide. The way it was written - in journal entries and the present day - was a nice change, but a lot of the characters felt stereotypical. There was nothing inherently wrong with the book, but for me, it wasn't a must read.

(A) Forever, Interrupted - This book was half sad and depressing and half meetcute with a perfect man, but I liked it anyway. A woman's husband dies less than two weeks after they got married and before they can tell each other's families about their relationship. The story jumps back and forth between their meeting and relationship and the aftermath and getting to know the husband's mother. I found Elsie, the wife, mostly likeable and the book made me wonder how I would behave in a similar situation. It was a super easy read and one of my favorites of the month.

Bittersweet - This book went on way too long and it took a while to go somewhere. I felt like a lot of what happened was ancillary and when something happened to advance the plot, it was discussed between characters in a page or two and then we moved on. I kept reading because the main character alludes to something in her past that isn't revealed until the end of the book, so I would say the story was intriguing enough, but it wasn't very satisfying in the end. (Recommended by my library's Book Hunters program).

(A) The One & Only - Emily Giffin's books are all over blogland and since it was available as an audiobook, I thought I would give it a try. First, the book is read by someone doing a ridiculous Texas accent, which I can't fully hold against the author, but it was annoying. Second, the Texas stereotypes in the book like a man constantly referring to a grown woman as "girl" and some stupid line about how every Texan knows that barbecued ribs can solve any problem (um, what?) drove me nuts. It's like the author watched Friday Night Lights and thought she wanted to set a book in Dillon. And without spoiling too much, there's a super icky romantic storyline that I just couldn't get on board with.

Beautiful Ruins - I don't think I knew enough about this book to fully appreciate it until I was too far into it to have paid attention to the details I needed for full enjoyment. Does that even make sense? I think I would love this book on a reread. Here's what you need to know: this is a story told in a non-linear way with various narrators, including a 20-year-old Italian man in 1962 and a present day young woman working in Hollywood. The root of the action is the fictitious behind-the-scenes drama that went on while filming the movie Cleopatra in the 60s. It had its share of real world drama, but this book tells a story of what could have been. There's romance, people making poor decisions, and over-the-top characters. It all wraps up nicely at the end, too. I would recommend this one for a quick read, maybe on a plane. (Also recommended by Book Hunters).

(A) Inside the O'Briens - I was worried that this book would be too dark and sad, but after a month of fluff and clunkers, I was ready to dive in. This book is heartbreaking. It makes you wonder why you read it, because it will only make you sad, but knowing that real-life people are dealing with this just made me want to know more about the awfulness that is Huntington's Disease. The author's ability to weave a story and realistically explain the effects of a terrible disease kept me interested the whole time. I get what the author did with the ending and the point she was trying to make - and I mean, do we really want to watch these characters we had grown to like suffer? - but the open-endedness of it didn't leave me satisfied. I still liked the book overall, though.

DNF - The Spool of Blue Thread - This was also recommended to me by my library's Book Hunters program. It started slow, and I consulted Goodreads to see if it was worth sticking it out, and basically read that nothing ever happened and all it did was tell you about the characters. I had other books waiting for me, so I let it go.

I'm currently reading Matthew Quick's Sorta Like a Rockstar which is written in annoying, teenage girl prose but I'm mostly biding my time with it since I'm next to borrow several books at the library, including Furiously Happy and Why Not Me?.

Thanks as always to Steph and Jana for hosting the link-up - I give it tons of credit for helping me with my goal of finishing 70 books this year!

Monday, October 26, 2015

an early golden birthday for me

When I was a kid, I remembered someone talking about their Golden Birthday. They were 10 on the 10th or something like that. I thought that by the time mine rolled around - 31 on the 31st - I would be too old to care.

Well, younger me, you were way wrong. Ever since last year, I've looked forward to my upcoming golden birthday. I may have gone so far as to ask my husband for a surprise party. And, thankfully for me, he (and a friend!) listened.

I had plans with Miranda and Sarah to go to dinner at Dolce Vita on Saturday night. Normally, we have brunch or lunch but our plans changed a few days ago and I just went with it. The weather reports had been saying all week that Hurricane Patricia was going to dump a ton of rain on Houston over the weekend, and on Friday morning when I learned that the school I work for was worried about flooding, I texted my friends to see if we needed to change plans. Unknown to me, I started a whole domino effect of changed plans.

Saturday morning, Andrew and I had fun things planned like taking the cat to the vet and an allergy shot. After that, we were going to go somewhere "in Houston" (i.e., outside of our suburb) for lunch and then I would go have dinner with my friends. No one had definitively cancelled so I thought we were all crossing our fingers and hoping our dinner would work out. Between errands, I did think it was weird that Andrew decided to take a shower and change from shorts and a t-shirt to jeans and a polo shirt, but it didn't tip me off. Luckily for me, all of my grungy t-shirts were dirty so I was dressed more decently than usual on a Saturday - had Andrew tried to tell me what to wear, I would have really gotten suspicious. We were on our way to what I assumed was lunch when I got a text from Sarah canceling for that night because her baby was running a fever. It was no big deal, since it had been raining steadily all day, and I was nervous about driving home that night anyway. Andrew was excited about this as he claimed that hearing me talk about Dolce Vita made him hungry for it, so he said we should go to lunch there. Now, we both like Dolce Vita but it isn't in our regular rotation. It was definitely weird that he was suddenly so insistent on going there. But, I like pizza, so I wasn't going to complain.

We got to Dolce Vita and Andrew was really distracted by his phone. We walked in and were shown to a table for two. Andrew immediately got up and headed down a hallway, presumably to the bathroom, but didn't say anything. He came back with a weird look on his face and said there was someone in there. He looked uncomfortable for a few seconds, and then said there was a pretty bar upstairs and we should see if we could sit at it.

Ump what? Since when did he care? We were just eating pizza, and then going to Half Price Books and to buy coffee. We didn't need anything special. That's when I realized he had to be up to something. He talked to a waitress who then came to our table and said something like "Oh, you're supposed to sit somewhere else" and then they led me upstairs to a big table and five of my favorite people yelling "Surprise!"

And in that moment, I was just happy. Happy that my husband cared and listened. Happy that my friends had braved the nasty weather to come have lunch with me for my birthday (a week early, because a Halloween birthday is nice in theory but sucks in logistics). They were all planning to be there for a birthday dinner, but decided to move it to lunch so everyone could get home safely and before the worst part of the weather hit, and because of the move, a few people couldn't come. Sarah and Tig offered to bring decorations and had the cutest gold accents, complete with gold rings and tiaras, to highlight my golden birthday wishes. And there were wine cocktails and pizza and presents. Such a fun afternoon!

It pays to be friends with bloggers because they take great pictures before everyone arrives. They had great ideas - gold doilies for coasters, gold paper straws glittery gold Ls, and even a table runner. Also, my blurry surprised face is pretty dorky but definitely genuine.

A pear pizza with arugula, a margherita pizza, and chocolate cake with hazelnut ice cream for dessert. There was more food, but I was too excited to take pictures! 

 The ladies of the party (thanks to Miranda's husband George for taking that pic [since he's a blogger husband, he's a pro!] | a selfie with my blog friends | Andrew and me in coordinating crowns!

It was so fun for my friends to converge - from high school, work, and blog life - for a few hours. Surprise parties seem like something out of a movie, or something that happens to other people. A few years ago, I never would have thought I would have enough people to make up anything resembling a surprise party. I've said it so many times, but simply having people in your life to share it with is worth more than some people realize. I was so overwhelmed with wanting to talk to everyone and oohing and aahing over things that I couldn't even make myself read the menu. It was just exciting for me and I was so, so grateful for all of them and for my husband for coordinating everyone and making it happen, and then rearranging everything due to the weather. We may not have gotten to visit my favorite bar like he had originally planned, but we can do that another time. A golden birthday only happens once, but I wouldn't be opposed to another surprise party next year...

Friday, October 23, 2015

goings on: october

I haven't written a post that isn't about books or a trip recap in three weeks and as I texted my BBQ Wife friend Amber yesterday, I need me some blog post therapy. I can't guarantee it will be short.

- So my dog Duncan had a lump on his leg and so his paranoid mama (that would be me) took him to the vet to be told it was probably nothing, but as it grew, so did my anxiety, and we had it removed. Several hundred dollars later, we were given the less-than-awesome news that the lump was cancerous BUT they removed it with clear margins. It's the yucky cancer that spreads that we lost our sweet Jake to over four years ago. No connection, just crappy luck (and increased paranoia). We're going to get Duncan's bloodwork done every six months moving forward and keep an eye on the area of the lump, but there's really nothing else to do. He's happy and eating and seems fine for now, but any positive puppy vibes that you want to send our way are appreciated. Fingers and paws crossed all stays well, though.

- A few months ago, my coveted kitchen wall shelf met its untimely demise and took all of my favorite collectibles with it.The broken shelf laid on its side for far too long until one weekend, when my husband suggested a stop at an antique mall. I shifted my focus from a wall shelf (what we had) to a corner cabinet (that I thought would fit) and actually found a cabinet narrow enough to go on the same wall where the old shelf fell, which is a bonus because the chair rail got messed up in the accident and the new cabinet covers it up. The pale green has really grown on me, it matches my chairs perfectly, and it's the perfect "collected eclectic" look for our house. Oh, and bonus points to Andrew for spotting it and making me buy it on the spot. Now I just need to find fun things to fill it.

- I just read a book called Forever, Interrupted which is a little chick-lit-esque for my usual taste, but I really liked anyway. In the book, the main character's husband died after they had been married less than two weeks and her best friend comes in and basically peels her off of the bathroom floor and helps her function as a grieving newlywed widow. It made me wonder, if I was ever in a heart wrenching situation, who would be the friend pulling me up? And who could I be that friend for? I don't know that that question has an answer for me right now. I think a friend that sits through a crisis with you has to come with a lot of history that I just don't have with anyone. Perhaps that can be a friendship goal for me. Friendship is an ongoing theme in my life and something I think about more than the average person so trying to be better at that is something I'm always wondering about.

- Our friends came to Houston a few weeks ago and we had lots of fun playing Head's Up (no one listens when I tell them it will be awesome. It's always awesome.), going to breweries, eating ice cream, visiting the We Heart Houston sign, eating at Coltivare, and watching our respective baseball teams play one another. Oh, and just reconnecting after five years. I think a trip to Kansas needs to happen for Andrew and me at some point.

- Other fun lately: I went to a craft fair with my friend and her friends for the second year in a row. Maybe in another year, I'll feel like I can call them my friends, too? Either way, it was nice to be included. Bre came all the way out to my side of Houston for my favorite breakfast tacos and record shopping. The record store had a sign on it that said "back in 15" for an hour and we got tired of waiting, so that was a bummer, but now at least she has a good reason to come all the way back to my area for more tacos.

Duncan on surgery day | my charcuterie spread for Head's Up night with friends (I was very proud) | Ice Cream Stop #2 with our friends at Cloud 10 - the maple butter was amazing | Group pic at Coltivare | Breakfast tacos with Bre for #AustinInHumble | My new cabinet - the glass has been removed and the inside is a dark blue-green that matches the kitchen chairs.

- I deactivated Facebook. I was looking at it far too often and I found it kind of annoying. Plus, a lot of people post the same stuff on Facebook that's also on their instagram (me included) and a lot was repetitive or political or just plain ridiculous. It probably isn't forever but it works for now.

- The Gilmore Girls Revival: Let me first say that of course I will watch it pretty much the first second I can. With that said... and knowing that I'm a huge fan... I'm not sure how I feel about it. A few more escapades in Stars Hollow sounds great, sure, but it will be so definite. The way the finale ended, Luke and Lorelei were left wide open. Rory was just growing up. I know the finale's tone wasn't the best, but the way it wrapped up worked for me and I've had seven years to accept it. Going back for a few more hours has a chance of being like watching a favorite childhood movie as an adult - not as good as you remembered, and it can tarnish all of your previous memories. All of that said, bring on my favorite townies and please don't make Emily a completely depressed widow - I need more of her judgey one liners in my life!

That's enough of that. Maybe once a month, since I like to blog about once a week, I'll do a general documenting, goings on post. And maybe one day, I'll finish talking about California...

Monday, October 19, 2015

california, here we come: five wineries in a day

On our first full day in Napa, we had big winery plans. But first, we needed breakfast. The aforementioned famed Thomas Keller has a bakery in Yountville called Bouchon Bakery that also has locations in Vegas and NYC (and that we have visited and loved), so that was the obvious choice. I got a savory scone, knowing I would have many opportunities for sweets later in the day, and it wasn't that good. Note to all: Keller's sweet treats are where you really get a payoff. Live and learn. We took a walk after breakfast and came across the garden for Keller's restaurants. It was huge! It was cool to see where food we had eaten the night before was grown. It's directly across the street from the French Laundry, and on another nighttime walk, it looked like patrons were taken out there for a quick tour. Dinner at the French Laundry would easily cost $700 so I will add it to my yet-to-be-made bucket list as we clearly skipped it on this trip.

The garden looking to my left and right (should have taken a panoramic) and then the French Laundry on the other side of the street.

Our first stop that day was Domaine Chandon, close to our hotel. Chandon sparking wines are easily found in stores throughout the US, but Andrew went there on his last visit and remembered it well. This is a large, commercial winery. It has beautiful views and an interesting art collection, but since we shared a tasting, the service was less than stellar. We got a glass at a time and walked around the tasting room and surrounding grounds taking pictures. It was probably one of my least favorite places to visit since I didn't learn anything and can get so many of their wines at home.

Next, we went to V. Sattui Winery and almost accidentally crashed a wedding. V. Sattui encourages picnicking (which requires a permit in Napa!) and had a large deli-type counter for you to buy food, lots of olive oils and cheeses, and a ton of souvenirs. The tasting area was a huge, U-shaped bar and the guy who helped us was super attentive, even though we shared a tasting (and he was nice enough to give us extras to try). There were a few white options as well as a fortified dessert wine and some reds we liked, so we ended up buying half a case to have shipped home.

Our third stop of the day was Prager Family Winery. This one was off the beaten path a little. Napa Valley is known for its Cabernet and Chardonnay for the most part. Prager specializes in ports, or dessert wines. We pulled up to what looked like someone's house and walked in. We saw lots of wine barrels and a counter. Further along in the space, there was a room like a dining room in a house with a ceiling fan and a bar with a sink and a mini-fridge but the walls and ceiling were covered with dollar bills with different messages on them. I kept thinking of Arrested Development and how the money was in the banana stand. We called out and a guy came out to help us. We shared a tasting (again) and we got to keep the glass. The tasting room's soundtrack went from Pink Floyd to Counting Crows and another couple came in as the man working told us about how Prager was truly a family business and offered us some of the sugared pecans that his mom still makes for them to sell. Ports aren't my favorite but I really liked this unique experience. We bought a bottle to bring home and our total ended in a 9, giving us $1 in change, so I of course had to add a dollar to the huge collection. If you ever go, look for the LM <3 AM dollar in the ceiling of the doorway!

These pics are of a wall, the ceiling, and the opposite wall | The yellow arrow is pointing to our dollar

Three wineries before 1pm had me feeling a little off, so I was happy we had plans to visit Gott's Roadside for a big lunch. There are a few locations in Napa Valley. The one we went to was like a roadside stand, but much bigger. All seating was outside, behind the restaurant. My burger was good, though not really memorable, and I liked that it was fast and convenient. I also loved their ketchup.

We had a cave tour scheduled at Failla Winery later in the afternoon. The attention to detail there really made the trip. There was a sign welcoming us and the other party as soon as we walked into the vintage farmhouse which was covered with all kinds of books and knick-knacks. After a welcome glass of wine, we were led outside for a quick explanation of what all the tanks and equipment were for. We actually saw a team hand sorting grapes that had just been harvested into a large vat of dry ice. There were six people along a short conveyor belt pulling out grapes that were too green as well as any twigs, bugs, or anything else that didn't look good (like Lucy at the chocolate factory, but more capable). We also saw the concrete eggs that they were aging some wines in, which was different than the stainless steel and wooden barrels we had seen everywhere else. Failla's cave was different from the one the day before in that it was manmade and all concrete. There were overhead lights and it was like being in a room, not a cave. Barrels lined the wall to age wine, but there was a lounge-type area with couches and the farmhouse table we were shown to for our tasting. We were with a group of four women on a girls' trip, so we mostly all just chatted with our tour guide in between glasses of wine. I was still feeling bad, so I didn't enjoy this one as much as I should have, but we still found wines we wanted to send home. The tastings were charged per person and you couldn't share, but one fee was waived for every two bottles purchased. We bought two to have shipped home and the women we were with bought so many that our guide waived both of our fees, which made the tasting experience free.

Left to right, top to bottom: A tasting area inside the cave | barrels aging in the cave | the farmhouse shelves | a welcome sign | our tasting inside the cave, complete with personalized order form | another aging area with a random Beatles poster | a farm table outside.

Scenes from production and the concrete aging eggs.

The final tour of the day was at Signorello Estate. This winery was by appointment only and it was on the pricier side, but it had great reviews and was one of my favorites. The estate sits up on a mountain, and has an amazing infinity pool. I don't like the water, but I would love to be in that pool with Napa Valley behind me. There were two employees and the two of us for the first part of the tasting, so the individual attention was fantastic. Our tasting came with an antipasti plate, so we were told which meat or cheese to eat with each wine, which I loved. The person who led our tasting was a sommelier at restaurants in San Francisco, so he had lots to share about winemaking and food and drink in the area in general. We did get to go outside and take a peek at the winemaking equipment, but they weren't currently in production, so there wasn't much to see. We fell in love with a wine that we will likely save for our 10th anniversary there and got a few other bottles to bring home, too. Signorello was one of my favorite stops of the entire trip.

 The infinity pool from afar and the view from closer to it as well as views from other spots on the property. It was beautiful!

After lots of wine and driving around, we were both tired when we headed back to the hotel. As much fun as another Thomas Keller restaurant would have been - Ad Lib, his temporary pop-up - we thought we would be too tired to enjoy it. So, we cancelled our reservation, I took a nap, and then we walked to Bistro Jeanty in Yountville for something simpler. The food was good and it wasn't too expensive compared to other restaurants in the area, but I wouldn't recommend it as a destination. You can't beat the location, though. Lesson learned: five wineries in a day is about all I can handle.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

california, here we come: sonoma, thomas keller, and a train

I'm slowly but surely posting about my trip to San Francisco and Napa Valley...

After leaving San Francisco, our first stop was Fremont Diner, which was recommended to us by Justin Yu, a James Beard nominated chef at Oxheart, a Houston favorite. When someone who can cook like that tells you where to go, you go there. The wait was 45 minutes, but we had some time so we decided to wait it out. We shared a Mexican chocolate shake while we waited, and it was great - not too rich with just enough cinnamon. And filling. By the time we got a table, we weren't that hungry so we shared a smoked pastrami sandwich with potato salad (the only pic I took was after we had started eating, so I'll spare you). The food was good and I wish we had either had more time or been hungrier, but we had a schedule to stick to!

The trailer was in the back seating area (top right) so you could order shakes, beer, or wine while you waited. I loved it - it felt like Austin!

After lunch, we went from Sonoma Valley over to Napa. Our first winery stop was Domaine Carneros, known for being pretty and having sparkling wines. I'm not usually a red wine drinker, so Andrew tried to add in as many sparkling stops as he could while he was planning the trip. On this trip, I learned that every winery and tasting experience is different. I think that noting what the experience was like is important because it really affected how I perceived each place, especially once I had many different places to compare. We only did a tasting at Domaine Carneros. We were shown to a table and given a menu, like you would be at a restaurant. Since we were full, we just shared a tasting. The waiter brought out a laminated sheet and four glasses and poured generous portions of the corresponding wine in each glass - easy. He checked on us a few times and answered questions, but wasn't terribly informative. When we were finished, we walked around the tasting room's deck and took a few photos of the gorgeous surroundings, but there wasn't much else to do. On to the next!

 The tasting room on the top of a mountain | hills, vines, and blue skies | the tasting | proof that Andrew enjoyed himself (honestly? He was drinking water in this pic.)

Oxbow Public Market came up a lot in Andrew's research. It's a large marketplace with restaurants, a bakery, a coffee shop, a produce market, and small shops. We stopped in to check out the shops and because Hog Island Oyster Depot inside of it is known for having fantastic oysters. I can't really get on board with raw oysters, but I will eat them cooked. Andrew did a tasting of the raw and found a variety he fell in love with. I had some that were grilled and they were delicious. Of course I can't remember what they were, but brown sugar was involved and though it sounds strange, it was great. We checked out the small shops and Andrew had to bring something home from the store that sold nothing but bitters.

From the front of the market looking back | all those tiny bottles are different flavors of bitters | Hog Island, raw and cooked.

When planning this trip, Andrew kept mentioning cave tours and I wanted to go in any that we could. Something about a cave sounds magical and interesting, right? Our first cave tour was at Del Dotto in Napa. Reservations were required and we had to each pay for a tasting. The cave was hand dug before Prohibition began and was much smaller than I expected it to be. This tasting was a barrel tasting, which was a unique experience. The tour guide had a rounded glass tube called a wine thief that she used to take wine straight from the barrel and pour into our glasses. All of the wines were red, but there were a few I enjoyed. We got to taste the same wine - same grapes from the same place, aged the same amount of time - but from barrels made from wood from different countries side by side and the difference was so interesting to me. Did you know that a barrel of wine is about 300 bottles? It seems much smaller to me.

The lines on the cave are from chisels. It was dark inside but I felt like the candlelight setting on my camera was pretty true to the way the cave was lit.

By this time, it was late afternoon so we went to our hotel, the Napa Valley Railway Inn. Andrew chose it for the location - in downtown Yountville  - and because it was a cheaper option. Nearby hotels were as high as $850 per night and I am all about treating yourself on vacation, but that's a little crazy. The Inn is mostly made of rail cars converted into hotel rooms, which sounds cute and cozy. The room we got, though, was a permanent building adjacent to the office area. There was no quaint rail car feel inside. A window AC unit ran the whole time, there wasn't enough light, and the bathroom was tiny - a shower stall and a sink with no room on the edge to put anything. We never saw a hotel employee the entire time - our keys were left in a mailbox outside the office - so it was a different experience. The place gets five stars for price and location, but two stars for the actual accommodations. If we had either been there for a shorter amount of time or if there was more to do in the evenings in the area, it wouldn't have mattered as much, but the hotel was the only "eh" spot on an otherwise stellar trip.

Standing outside of our room and facing all of the railcar rooms | our room was the top window. This is the view from the parking lot. It looks really quaint but wasn't as cute inside!

Speaking of location, Michelin-starred chef Thomas Keller has multiple restaurants in Yountville, all on the same street, and all on the same street as our hotel. We had dinner plans at Ad Hoc, Keller's mid-priced restaurant that has one menu a night, take it or leave it. Andrew had hoped for his notorious fried chicken, but no such luck. The meal was great anyway. We had a caesar salad (with anchovies, which I ate. I no longer fear them), grilled BBQ hanger steak with quinoa and tomatoes, a cheese course, and sundaes with housemade strawberry sauce, butterscotch, chocolate sauce, toasted pecans, and whipped cream since they always serve sundaes on Sundays. I loved the meal, especially the entree when I was able to get a little bit of everything in each bite. The mustard with the cheese course was a little strong, but the sundaes were a fun and unexpected touch in that kind of environment.

Caesar salad | steak | cheese plate | sundae toppings | sundae

Other than restaurants and one bar for the locals, there was really nothing to do each night after dinner. So, after our fantastic dinner at an acclaimed restaurant, we went back to our sad, sad room. It kept us from getting used to feeling too fancy. Who wants to open a sports bar or something like that for tourist with me in Yountville?

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

september books

I already mentioned that this was a slow month for me, book-wise, due to being sick and on vacation and a book I just didn't love, but I still have a few things to say.

All the Bright Places - I wanted to love this book. Honesty, I completely forgot that I read it and since I didn't write my book post as I finished each book like I normally do, I can't remember exactly why I didn't like it. I liked the premise and the characters were likable enough, even though teenagers in books tend to be whiny jerks. I feel like it might be helpful to a teenager in a similar situation, and I did like parts of it, but I guess I didn't like how we were in Theo's head throughout the book until suddenly... we weren't. It's hard to explain, especially because I kind of can't remember, but I mostly liked this one until the end.

(A) The Good Girl - This is yet another book that has been compared to Gone Girl. The (adult) daughter of a judge is kidnapped by a man and taken to a remote cabin in the woods. The story is told from the points of view of her mother, her kidnapper, and the lead detective trying to solve her case and jumps from before the kidnapping, her time in the cabin, and then what happens after the crime is solved. The thing I liked about Gone Girl is that the twist was so surprising, and we got to see the effects of it. Without giving too much away, I want to say that isn't so with this book; a twist is revealed in the last few pages and I was left with a few questions, so the resolution felt abrupt. This was the first book I've read from the list that my library's Book Hunters program suggested for me, and I think they did a good job nailing down my taste.

Who Do You Love - This is the book that (hopefully) ended my reading funk as I finished it over a weekend. If you've read the book One Day, this is similar in that it's the story of two people told little by little over the passage of time. It's a love story, but I really appreciated the author's attention to detail in bringing up things that actually happened during the years being referenced. Again, its ending came abruptly. I would have loved a short epilogue that told me a little more about what happened after the last page. This isn't a work of great literature, but the story and characters kept me interested.

Did Not Finish:

Does This Beach Make Me Look Fat? True Stories and Confessions - Several people recommended this to me, but I hated it. HATED. It's short stories, all mostly about nothing, and not tied together at all. I found the tone grating. If this appeared in the newspaper once a week (which, I think it does), it would have been fine, but a book full of stories with no point wasn't for me. I found myself not wanting to read at night, so I blame this one for my slump!

Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Life and Love from Dear Sugar - This is a collection of advice, some of which was previously posted online. Sugar is actually Cheryl Strayed (the lady who wrote Wild) and her advice is very no nonsense and drawn from her real life experiences. Some of the passages were beautifully written. Some of the questions and situations didn't apply to me, so I skimmed them. With this one, time mostly ran out and I couldn't finish it. Maybe one day, I'll pick it up again.

Silver Linings Playbook - In the book, Pat is super annoying and doesn't seem like Bradley Cooper. I still have this one, but I doubt I'll go back to it, which is a bummer because I have loved other Matthew Quick books.

I'm even more excited for this link-up and hoping to find an audiobook that will really draw me in. Thanks as always to Steph and Jana and happy one year of Show Us Your Books! I think I speak for lots of people when I say please keep it up!

Friday, October 2, 2015

california, here we come: san francisco

Our great California trip has come and gone. Don't you hate how vacation takes forever to get here and then is over so fast? I feel like we crammed a lot into a few days though, so of course I will have to write about it in painstaking detail so I never forget a thing. You've been warned. I'll bold the best stuff in case you want to skim.

We left early on Saturday morning so we could spend the late afternoon and evening in San Francisco. We flew into Oakland because it was a lot cheaper, but traffic to get into San Francisco was pretty crazy (an hour and 20 minutes to go about 25 miles, I believe). We stayed at the Marriott Marquis San Francisco and I think they must have my job listed next to my Rewards number because we were immediately upgraded to a junior suite at check-in. It had a sitting area with a TV and then another TV by the bed and ample counter space in case we wanted to bring some food or wine to the room. The TV system wasn't working right and I mentioned it at check-out since I couldn't just check out through the TV and they took $100 off our bill. Fantastic service. The hotel's location was also great - plenty of shopping (though they were chains) and dining nearby and close enough so that we could take the BART (subway) to our first stop of the afternoon. The only drawback was that the offsite parking was hard to access (and valet was twice the price!) but we made it work.

After checking into the hotel, we went to Tartine Bakery, known for their bread that comes out of the oven daily at 4:30. We arrived around 4:45, and there was a line. Fortunately, it moved fast. Since carrying a baguette around the city didn't sound very appealing, we settled on a croissant and a lemon tart. I loved how pretty the tart was, and it had a tart lemon flavor and a sweet crust. The cream on top wasn't too sweet but added just enough to take some of the sourness away. Plain croissants aren't really my thing, but this one was very buttery and flaky.

 Trying to be artsy with my fancy camera while waiting in line | lemon tart | croissant | pastry counter

After that, we went two blocks to Dandelion Chocolate, a dessert spot I was dying to try. They do different kinds of dessert flights. When I asked the woman who took our order about them, she said the brownie bite flight was the only thing they currently had, so I ordered it: three different brownie bites made from chocolate from different parts of the world. The idea behind it and the presentation were great; the brownies themselves, not so much. One I downright didn't care for (too molasses-y) and the other two were just okay. Andrew ordered a s'more bite and the chocolate was too rich, the marshmallow too large, and the graham crust delicious, but there wasn't enough of it. As we were eating our treats, they put out a Chef's Dessert Tasting that I would have loved to try (and that the cashier could have told me was on its way) but it was too late. I was bummed! Andrew planned for us to try two more places - Craftsman and the Wolves for coffee and Bi-Rite Creamery for ice cream - but I was already full and knew we had dinner soon, so I was ready to move on to something with less food.

Sign, s'more, and brownie bite flight (Guatemala was the best and Papua New Guinea was the worst!)

I had to do at least one touristy thing in San Francisco, so we went to Fisherman's Wharf. It has all of your typical tourist stuff, including chain restaurants, overpriced souvenirs, and tons of people, but I'm glad we went. I would have loved to visit Alcatraz if we had more time and I really enjoyed the sea lions. They were just hanging out and "talking" to each other for the tourists. The views over the water were also lovely - there's nothing like that in my part of Texas!

The island looking thing is Alcatraz - I wish we had time to visit!

So many sea lions!

We had dinner reservations at a place called The Progress, which was nominated for a James Beard Award and has all the buzz of a place we would want to go to on our one night in town. I loved the idea behind it - it's a set price per person and you can choose six plates off of the menu to share (or five plates and you each get your own dessert). You get a pencil and you bubble in your choices, scantron-style. We arrived early and had cocktails and they were excellent (I can't get enough citrus-y gin drinks lately). A plate of snacks arrived first - they were not on the menu, so they were a total surprise. The first bite was a piece of grapefruit (which I normally hate) with cardamom and it was so incredibly good. It sounds so simple, and it probably was, but the flavors together were so unexpectedly fantastic that I wanted to order a bowl full for dessert. I also surprisingly really liked the whole anchovy (another thing I normally hate) and the shishito peppers. Everything on the plate was really, really good, with the exception of the grape thing. The stuff underneath it was gritty and I felt like I was eating dirt. As far as dinner went, the meal was great. The restaurant is hard to describe but we had some cheese fritters with corn and tomatoes that I loved and some potato-sauerkraut dumplings with plum preserves that the waitress recommended that were fantastic (the waitstaff will rarely ever steer you wrong!). We skipped dessert, though I wish I had saved room. I loved The Progress.

Snacks | Melon soup with albacore | Mt. Tam cheese fritters with corn and tomato | Potato-horseradish dumplings with plum preserves | Lamb merguez with octopus and squid | Charcuterie salad with fried pig ears

We tried to check out the hotel's 39th floor bar, but it was too crowded so we called it a night pretty early. The next day, we made a stop at the Full House house since it was close to our breakfast destination. The house is just a regular house in a neighborhood with other houses that look very similar. The owners have to hate it. I didn't see any space for the basement recording studio or Uncle Jesse's apartment. We had breakfast at B. Patisserie, a bakery that smelled like heaven. Andrew wanted the kouign amann, which they are known for, so we got both a plain and a chocolate. I ordered the banana chocolate almond croissant because it sounded incredible. And it was. Far denser than a traditional croissant, but with very pronounced flavors and a little lightness in the center to keep you from feeling like you ate a cake. I would have gladly ordered another, but I knew there was more food in my future.

The amazing croissant is on the right | I loved all the little public parklets outside of so many restaurants - we had breakfast at this one | The Full House house, with a fresh coat of paint.

After breakfast, we drove to Chinatown. There was a festival going on, so many streets were shut down in favor of booths. The set-up was just beginning, and we didn't have much time, so I got a Chinese money cat that I came for, found the famed Chinatown gateway, and we went on our way to Sonoma.

The weather was beautiful (though warmer than I expected), the architecture so different from what I'm used to, and the hills were quite a workout. I really loved San Francisco and would gladly spend more time there, but I'm definitely happy with my little taste of the city. We took the Golden Gate Bridge out of town and headed past Sausalito for Wine Country.

Views from the car window. Love those hillside houses!

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

goings on

I've been back from vacation for nearly a week and I don't have a single post to show for it. I uploaded all of my pictures to thislife.com (thanks for the rec, Kelli), but it's hard to get them from there and into picmonkey so I can make collages. I literally took nearly 1000 pictures and I'm lazy. I've written a few posts, so once I find a good way to edit pictures, hopefully they'll be posted. If you have any tips, send them my way. Regardless, I find myself missing a) writing down what's happening and b) blogging interaction. And I have stuff on my mind, so let's talk.

- I lost my reading groove. I had a few books back to back that I wasn't that into, and then I got sick and just wanted to sleep all the time, and then on vacation I just didn't feel like reading before bed like I normally do. I've been listening to lots of This American Life podcasts in the car. While some episodes take me a while to get into, I always end up lost in other people's stories. The one about The Land of Make Believe where a dad built a 24 foot ship in his backyard for his 12 kids to play on and ran it like a Navy ship was a recent favorite. I'm also listening to Gilmore Guys as I make my way through the show (again) (don't judge) but I get annoyed when their guest hates the show and then they start to seem bothered by it.

- We have friends coming to town next week which is a great excuse to do all of our favorite things in Houston! Andrew and David went to high school together and Mandy and I have gotten to know each other better through blogging. We haven't seen each other since their wedding five years ago so I'm excited to catch up and to force them to play Head's Up with me repeatedly and eat all my favorite things in the span of just a few days.

- Fall is allegedly coming. I decorated for it and have been trying to order hot coffee drinks. A Sweater Weather candle is burning every night. It's still in the 90s here. The weather man said that fall isn't coming just yet... dude, October starts on Friday... if not now, when?

- And now, what's been on my mind this week. If you follow me on snapchat or we're text friends, forgive the repeat, but I'm not over it. Last week, I heard that a friend of mine from high school passed away. A new school was built before my junior year, so I had to leave my friends behind and make new ones for my last two years of high school. I never really fit in, but there was a group of six of us who were in a lot of the same classes, were all kind of dorky, and got along. They were my group, and he was one of them. Post high school, I've kept in decent touch with one of the girls, and through her, our friend who is now gone. I saw him a few years ago and of course there was talk of having lunch, but neither of us ever made the call. He worked at a restaurant with two locations, one of which is near my office. Every time I went there, I thought of him and hoped he might be in for some reason. He was hilarious and smart and the fun guy in the group who got along with all the cliques in high school and one of the few people I would want to see should a high school reunion come to fruition. I always thought we would get closer when our mutual friend came to visit or if she moved back to Houston. He was fun to reminisce with and just a presence I took for granted. Even though he hasn't been a part of my daily life for over ten years, I am extremely saddened by his passing. His funeral was standing room only and full of great stories and memories of those who knew him (and, it served as a de facto high school reunion - I think he would approve). It just made me think about wasted time, and how I should call and text the people whose lives I want to be a part of. I shouldn't wait until someone is gone to let them know that they were a happy part of my life. I don't want my funeral to be full of people who haven't spoken to me much in the past ten years but could have. I want to make a better effort to reach out to people whose names just live in my phone or whose statuses just pop up on Facebook every so often. The night of the funeral, I texted my best friend from eighth grade and into college. She was in my wedding, but we drifted apart pretty soon after. It was nice catching up. She has a ton going on that she didn't post on Facebook and it was great to hear from her. A small step in the right direction. So, to my friend who passed, thank you for being my friend when I was weird and alone. Thank you for calling me The Hey Song Girl and The Awkward Silence Maker because at least you saw me when I felt invisible, weird habits and all. You'll be remembered every time I take the extra step toward someone I need to reach out to.

Anyway. That was sad. How about we end with some pics on my phone that I can actually get on here? And a promise for some California posts... soonish.

The French Laundry garden, which was down the street from our hotel in Yountville | Potato-horseradish dumplings with plum from The Progress in San Francisco | Hot air balloons in Yountville | the Napa equivalent of the Vegas sign.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

where i've been // where i'm going

I love three day weekends but I don't love the four day week. Trying to cram in an extra day's worth of work into fewer days leaves me feeling tired at the end of each day and ready for a two day weekend, which feels short compared to the previous weekend's extra day. Does that make sense?

So last week, I went to the Taylor Swift concert. I drank all the 1989 kool-aid and last year, when Andrew asked if I wanted tickets for her show (scheduled for October of this year and then moved to September since the Astros are actually a good team), I said no because almost 31 sounded way too old to attend this concert and what if I decided I hated her by then? But I didn't decide that, so I got tickets to the concert several weeks ago and majorly overpaid, but I didn't care because I was pumped.

Weeeeelllll... I mean, this is a very first world thing to say, but I realize how much amazing concert luck I have had in the past few years and sitting in the nosebleed seats just doesn't do it for me anymore. Don't get me wrong - Taylor put on a great show with tons of costume changes, great themes and dances, and everyone got to wear the light-up wristbands that moved in time with the music, but I just wasn't as into it as I normally am, and I think it's because of the seats. I could never really see her or anything else and instead had to look at the giant screen, which made me feel like I might as well be at home. People in the nosebleed seats don't have the same level of energy as you get when you're closer. Lesson learned - I'll buy ahead of time now. I also won't convince myself that Beyonce is going to be the special guest, only to be let down when it's Wiz Khalifa and they sing some depressing duet that just didn't do anything for me.

Anyway, so add a late night to a long week and I really didn't want to do anything this weekend. Both pets went to the vet and look to be in good heath, except Bauer is fat (but we knew that already). Duncan charms everyone he comes into contact with. It's pretty cute to watch. Andrew had his annual first day of football crab boil so I left the house because I hate the smell but came home when I started feeling bad. I noticed a tickly throat earlier in the day but ignored it - I thought that my performance of "Thinking Out Loud" in the car that morning just to annoy my husband had aggravated something - but when I suddenly felt beyond tired, I headed home and laid around all night. I woke up with a sore throat and stayed home from work Monday. Went to work Tuesday but started running a fever that afternoon. Went to the doctor who confirmed strep throat. Yuck. Stayed home Wednesday, of course. Now I have to get back to work Thursday and Friday since I'll be out next week since our California trip has finally arrived! I felt like a bit of a lush asking the pharmacist if I could drink while taking antibiotics, but when one is in wine country, one must drink as much wine as she wants.

Needless to say, I will be overgramming, tweeting, and checking in on swarm at every opportunity. Follow me somewhere if you want to virtually experience all of the food and drink along with me. Luckily for you, the calories won't count and it's free!