August Goals

1 August 2014

Holy moly, what a month! We celebrated John’s birthday, Natalie and Joe’s wedding, and then, to cap it off, our nephew was born earlier this week!!

I had to chuckle when I looked back at my July goals, because I said I was “keeping things simple to hopefully have a 100% success rate.” I clocked in at 80%, which I suppose is not so bad, but I feel like I actually got even more done last month than my list implies, so I’m pleased!

corn-fields

July goal recap:
Install a rain barrel. (It recently occurred to me we could buy one for less on Craiglist… have started the search.)
Finish taking house photos and post tour. (Photos are finished! Tour should go up next week!)
Finalize and print last third of household maintenance doc.
Clean out our “art storage room” – hang everything we like and organize/donate/sell/get rid of the rest.
Pick blueberries. (We tried several times, but farms were always closed or picked out!)
Celebrate John’s birthday! Among other things, we went to Bida Manda in Raleigh, and it was delicious!

August goals:
– Sort pile in small bedroom. (When we moved to NC we didn’t know how long we’d be here. Once it became clear we had moved for the long haul, I began sorting through my childhood bedroom on trips home, deciding what to keep and what to toss. The unsorted pile finally got small enough that it could be packed into several suitcases and boxes, which were trucked down by my parents and deposited rather unceremoniously in our spare bedroom last month. Now I need to make keep/sell/donate/toss piles and take action on them.)
– Plant a few hardy bananas against our backyard fence.
– Make a trip to the Ballard Designs outlet and possibly buy a bed, if the one we’re interested in is there.
– Get our summer dinner party on the calendar.
– Make plans for our two year anniversary!

Considering we’ll be in Maine for over a week this month and I have an additional work trip, I think that’s quite enough! I would love to take a peek at your monthly goals if you posted them!

Little adventurer baby shower

28 July 2014

The run-up to Natalie and Joe’s wedding was remarkably calm, from my perspective, but there was one aspect of the festivities that was a little nerve-wracking – my other sister-in-law’s due date, which was one week after the wedding! Today is our nephew’s official due date, but despite dancing up a storm at the reception he still hasn’t made an appearance. Though I’m not sure Marget would agree at this point, I’m glad I’m able to make a report of the shower in his mama’s honor before he arrives!

We held the shower in New York, where my sister-in-law lives. We went with a loose “adventurous little boy” theme, since that’s (loosely) the theme of the nursery. Here’s the invite I made to send to guests:

adventurer-baby-shower

colorful-baby-shower-invitation

I printed the invitations at FedEx, and sent them out in kraft envelopes from Paper Presentation I had on hand. I actually decided to list these as a download in my Etsy shop, so if you have a use for them, they’re right here!

We kept the decor fairly minimal: one of M’s friends made an adorable gingham garland, we arranged colorful yarrow into little tin buckets, and we displayed some adventurous books, pine cones, and wooden woodland animals. (They were part of my shower gift to Marget – maybe the start of a collection!) I also picked up a few tree trunk slices from A.C. Moore (easy to travel with!) for displaying food and made a special sign with nephew’s nickname.

adventurous-baby-shower

camping-baby-shower

To make the sign, I spraypainted a wooden craft store plaque white, then hot glued on twigs. Easy!

camping-shower-food

simple-shower-food

The favors were little muslin bags stamped with “Adventure is out there” and filled with trail mix! I used a self-inking stamp from RubberStamps.com and it worked beautifully on the fabric.

muslin-favor-bags

I really dislike most baby shower games, so we went simple and just had one activity aside from eating, socializing, and opening gifts: we painted blocks for the baby! The blocks were from A.C. Moore, and I picked up craft paint in the nursery accent colors and a multi-pack of brushes. It seemed to go over well; my brothers-in-law even picked up a brush to complete the set post-shower. As a side note, if you’re trying this and planning to have a really young child who might put them in his mouth play with them, I’d recommend adding a food-safe sealant after they’re dry.

painting-baby-shower-blocks

painting-wooden-blocks

wooden-baby-blocks

Now we just wait eagerly for news of our nephew’s arrival!!

California Dreaming: San Francisco

25 July 2014

When I thought about recording our California adventure on EFM, I considered beginning with the San Francisco portion, even though it was our last stop. Since it was probably our least favorite leg of the trip, I didn’t want to end with a downer, but in looking back at it, there’s so much good, too. There were also some valuable lessons learned, so here we go!

When last we left off we were driving west from the wild beauty of Yosemite. The drive to San Francisco took about four hours, and we arrived in the city just in time for lunch.

In our pre-trip research, we had unearthed a pile of places we were interested in eating, thanks to Oh Happy Day, Black*Eiffel, Pinterest, and our friend Sam. They included: Cotogna, Pizzeria Delfina, Bi-Rite, Tartine, the Ferry Building, Boulette’s Larder, Mama’s, Quince, Slanted Door, State Bird Provisions, and Dynamo Donuts. We knew, of course, that we wouldn’t have time to visit them all in two days, but at that point in our trip planning we were tired of making decisions and so decided to “play it by ear” in San Fran, food-wise.

One of John’s priorities while in SF was really good Chinese food. After some Googling in the car on our drive, we turned up Mission Chinese Food, in the Mission. Our lunch was delicious, and the menu was interesting and inventive. As an aside, though, Jordan makes the Mission seem really trendy and cute (which parts of it are), but if you, like me, already don’t love cities, it can read more as grimy and decrepit – just FYI.

After our late lunch we were a bit at loose ends. Like I said, we had brainstormed a list of things we were interested in doing or seeing in San Francisco, but, unlike the other legs of our trip, we hadn’t planned out exactly what we were going to do when. While that was fine for Yosemite, it didn’t work so well in San Francisco. We frequently got frustrated because we felt like we were taking up lots of time driving back and forth to different destinations, and only spending a few minutes at each. It felt very inefficient and a bit futile, especially compared to the wide open spaces of the rest of our road trip. Can you tell we’re not city people? :)

After a frustrating stint in rush hour traffic trying to visit the Cuyana show room only to get there but not find anywhere to park, we retreated to the Ferry Building to assuage our grumpiness with some delicious treats. Happily, the Ferry Building did not disappoint! I expected it to be larger and more overwhelming than it was, but it was really delightful.

ferry-building

We walked up and down the row a few times looking at the vendors and sampling things, then settled on treats from Miette – two macarons to split, a chocolate pot de creme (in the cutest little glass jar!) for me, and an ice cream sandwich for John.

miette-ferry-building

Fortified by sugar, we decided to brave the roads again to pay a visit to Coit Tower in the Telegraph neighborhood. We chose not to pay $7 each to ride an elevator to the top, but the views were still good from the bottom. It was SO windy up on the hill, and in the low 60′s! We didn’t stick around too long.

coit-tower

san-francisco-skyline

san-francisco-bridge

Our last stop before dinner was the Palace of Fine Arts in the Marina District. It is startlingly monumental, situated as it is in an otherwise upscale but normal neighborhood! (If you’re curious about the background, it was built in 1915 for the Panama-Pacific Exposition, inspired by Greek and Roman architecture.) We enjoyed looking around, but again, it was pretty windy and chilly.

palace-of-fine-arts

palace-of-fine-arts-lagoon

palace-of-fine-arts-san-francisco

That’s me in the mint pants!

marina-distict-san-francisco

We met up with my sister, who is in San Francisco for the summer, for dinner at Pizzeria Delfina (back in the Mission). We had been told horror stories about the wait, but we were seated immediately! The pizza was delicious, and the company, better :) We did not skip ice cream at Bi-Rite post-dinner across the street, even though we were shivering as we ate it. Not to be missed.

On Friday night we were lucky enough to stay with my mom’s best friend from college in Tiburon, which was a delightful change after all of our hotel stays from the past week! It was great to catch up with them briefly. We started our morning on Saturday with a hike in their neighborhood (Ring Mountain Open Space Preserve).

ring-mountain

Photo for the parents!

photo 4 copy

After cleaning up, we drove back into the city with Kim for lunch at Greens, near Fort Mason, right on the water. We met up with one of my good friends from college, and had the loveliest time! Greens was her pick, and I’d highly recommend it – everything was delicious, and vegetarian.

san-fran-oakland-bay-bridge

After lunch we drove back to the Ferry Building for another treat from Miette – Kim hadn’t tried it yet. This time we ate our sweets on the pier, with a lovely view of the Oakland Bay Bridge.

Our next destination was the Seward Street Slides! I had read about this hidden gem on (you guessed it) Oh Happy Day, and did a little more reconnaisance on Yelp. They are tucked away in a neighborhood, but there are signs that point the way:

seward-slides-san-francisco

A word of warning: they are serious about the 5pm closing time! We only got to go halfway down because a worker was there locking bars onto the midway point and bottom.

Our last stop before parting ways with Kim was Golden Gate Park. We scooted around to a few different spots, including the buffalos, but I think my favorite was this little stream that ran along beside the road. For some reason it completely captivated me – I pictured kids (okay, me) spending hours floating boats down it.

golden-gate-park

By far our favorite part of our stay in San Francisco, aside from seeing loved ones, was our last night. We stayed at Hotel Drisco, an independent, historic hotel nestled in the charming Pacific Heights neighborhood, on top of one of SF’s famous hills.

hotel-drisco

We checked in around 6pm, a little bedraggled, cold, and ready for dinner – except we didn’t have a reservation, and the places we called were all booked. We perked up when we were told that our room had been upgraded – hooray! In fact, the concierge was so nice that even though we had never used one’s services before, we asked if she might be able to help us with dinner. A few minutes later she had made provisional reservations at six restaurants within walking distance, and sent the menus to our rooms via bellhop to peruse. We called her with know our choice, and she canceled the others. I know I might sound a bit provincial, but it was amazing!!

baker-street-bistro

Our choice was Baker Street Bistro, and it was perfect. To get to it, we walked down a few blocks of ridiculously steep steps past some of the most gorgeous houses I’ve ever seen (a.k.a. my personal brand of bliss). The bistro was tiny, cozy, and adorable. I’ve never been to France, but it seemed very authentic (French accents on the waiters!), and our hearty meals were perfect for the chilly weather outside. We stayed for several hours, then braved the steep walk back up the hill to Hotel Drisco (we took it a bit more slowly than the trip down).

hotel-drisco-suite

Our suite was also perfectly cozy and charming. We loved all of the original period details, and all of the included amenities like a pillow menu, warm face towel at check-in, turn down treats, and more.

hotel-drisco-sitting-room

hotel-drisco-details

A true Continental breakfast is also included, and we enjoyed it on our last morning to the fullest! Scones with lemon curd and clotted cream, twelve types of breads, croissants and muffins, hot oatmeal, fruit, cereals and granola, yogurt, meats and cheeses, and smoked salmon and brie — all served in a charming, sunny dining room! Charming was the operative word here.

pacific-avenue-san-francisco

As we drove out of town to the airport the next morning, we had one last chance to admire all of the beautiful houses. Definitely a great way to remember San Francisco!

pacific-heights-houses

pacific-heights-neighborhood

pacific-heights-san-francisco

pink-pacific-heights-house

We chose to fly out of San Jose because it was cheaper, and the one hour drive to the airport was a snap. Though we tried on the flight home to choose favorites from the trip, it was nearly impossible – each stop was so good and special in its own way. I am SO glad we got to have this experience, and would highly encourage everyone to take a similar trip!! Thanks for following along!

airplane-sunset

Our California road trip:
Day one: Malibu, Ojai, Montecito
Day two: Santa Barbara, Montana de Oro, Cayucos
Day three: Cambria, San Simeon, Big Sur
Day four: Monterey and Carmel
Days five and six: Yosemite

Natalie and Joe are married!

22 July 2014

branford-house-wedding

My sister-in-law is married, and I have a new brother-in-law! Natalie and Joe’s wedding was this weekend, and it was truly marvelous. We had great weather, delicious food, so much good time with family, beautiful New England surroundings… some of my favorite things, and such an emotional high that coming back to real life is a bit difficult!

I mentioned on instagram that the groom’s aunt had pulled us aside in the dancing portion of the evening to tell us we looked like such a happy couple, and to remind us to enjoy each other. First of all, I was so touched by the unexpected kindness and generosity of her going out of her way to encourage us – always a great reminder to me as I go about my days and interact with people who might need encouragement of their own.

Second, her words have really been resonating with me over the last few days. When you find the one you love, don’t forget to enjoy each other. To the best of your ability, don’t hold grudges or get annoyed over little things or get so absorbed in what you’re doing that you ignore the person in front of you (speaking to myself here, mostly). As much as you can, just enjoy the time you’ve been given with him or her.

More photos to come, as the lovely and talented Meredith Perdue was on hand to capture the day’s festivities!

California Dreaming: Yosemite

11 July 2014

Our itinerary for day five looked like this:

– drive to Yosemite (about 3.5 hours)
– explore Yosemite
– stay overnight in Yosemite

As you can see, things for this portion of our trip weren’t planned out as intensely as other legs! John visited Yosemite in high school, so we figured we’d rely on his experience and play our days by ear, especially since activities in the great outdoors don’t require reservations.

Our first stop once we reached the park was Mariposa Grove, which is just inside the park boundaries. Mariposa Grove contains about 500 mature giant sequoias, thought to be the largest living things on Earth. The oldest may exceed 3,000 years in age!!

faithful-couple-sequoia

Since we arrived later in the day, we decided to do a shorter hike of just the lower grove, past the Fallen Monarch, the Bachelor & Three Graces, Faithful Couple, Clothespin, Tunnel Tree, and the Grizzly Giant. They were all very impressive, and we had fun amusing ourselves :)

mariposa-grove

grizzly-giant

giant-sequoia

yosemite-sequoias

After we completed the circuit, we hopped back into the car and drove about an hour and a half into the park proper. (I was surprised it took so long, but obviously Yosemite is massive!) Of course we stopped at Tunnel View to take in the awe-inspiring look at the valley floor:

tunnel-view

tunnel-view-selfie

Since we flew to California, we opted to stay in the tent cabins at Curry Village instead of camping in our own tent. Tent cabins consist of a wooden frame, floor, and door with canvas sides and roof. Ours had two cot-style beds that came with sheets, wool blankets, pillows, and towels. Each tent has a light, but no electrical outlets, telephones, televisions, or plumbing (there are five common bathrooms). Needless to stay, Camp Curry was not as luxurious as some of our other stops along the way, but we were prepared and ready to rough it! Besides, the natural grandeur of Half Dome and Glacier Point looming directly over the camp are luxury enough.

camp-curry-yosemite

The dining options in Camp Curry are pretty basic – we chose pizza the first night. It was chilly on the valley floor, and we both had a tough time sleeping because we were so cold. Apparently we weren’t the only ones, because when we tried to buy hand warmers the next day, they were sold out! The bathrooms were heated and the water was warm, so I may have stayed a bit longer than necessary in the shower :)

We did make it through the night, though, and woke up bright and early for a day of exploring! First, we took the free shuttle to the base of the Mist Trail, one of Yosemite’s signature hikes. The Mist Trail consists of a few segments. Many folks hike up to the bridge below Vernal Falls – about 1.5 miles – and then turn around. Others choose to hike to the top of Vernal Falls, which adds another mile. Finally, some choose to hike to the top of Nevada Falls, which adds another 3 miles, plus 5 miles back down via the John Muir Trail. When John previously visited with his family, he hiked to the top of Vernal but not Nevada, and so he was really hoping to complete the whole loop. I was a bit nervous, so we decided to play it by ear.

happy-isles

Happily, the views are spectacular no matter how far up you go!

mist-trail-river

We made it to the base of Vernal Falls without too much difficulty, so then it was on to the section of the Mist Trail that gives it its name. You really do get soaked, and the trail is pretty slippery and precarious at times! No hand rails for most of it.

slippery-mist-trail

rainbow-over-vernal-falls

climbing-vernal-falls

top-of-vernal-falls

top-of-vernal-falls-out-look

We still felt good after we reached the top of Vernal, so we decided to go all the way! The last three miles up to the top of Nevada actually were pleasantly doable – the trail dips in and out of the sun, so we didn’t get too hot, and we took lots of water and scenery-viewing breaks along the way. It was definitely worth it.

vernal-falls-river

hike-to-vernal-falls

This guy. Trying to give me a heart attack.

nevada-falls-outlook

This is as close as I wanted to get to the edge – and only flat on my stomach. I was still whimpering. In fact, just looking at this photo makes my palms sweaty.

top-of-nevada-falls

bridge-over-nevada-falls

After a snack break, it was back down to the parking lot via the John Muir Trail, which afforded beautiful views of Nevada Falls looking back.

nevada-falls

john-muir-trail

Our hike back down was otherwise pretty uneventful. After a quick lunch at Curry Village we headed back out to take a peek at Mirror Lake.

mirror-lake

Sick of camp food, we opted for dinner in the bar at the Ahwahanee, the luxury hotel in the park. On the drive over from camp, we saw one of the sweetest and most beautiful sights – deer bedding down for the night in an open, grassy field. All we could see was their little heads poking up above the tall grass!

yosemite-meadow

We then drove the hour up to Glacier Point to catch the sunset. It might sound kind of silly to drive an hour just for a view, but trust me, this one was worth it. I’ve never seen such a majestic panorama. Our world is such a beautiful place! Pictures absolutely cannot do it justice.

half-dome

half-dome-waterfall

After a warmer second’s night sleep, our last view on the drive out of the park was the beautiful Yosemite Falls. Someone commented on my instagram that it was “such an American view,” and I completely agree. Visiting Yosemite made me even more proud of our amazing country!

bridal-veil-falls

With that, we were on to our last stop: San Francisco!

Day one: Malibu, Ojai, Montecito
Day two: Santa Barbara, Montana de Oro, Cayucos
Day three: Cambria, San Simeon, Big Sur
Day four: Carmel and Monterey