Our Engagement Weekend in Wine Country (Saturday)

(If you missed Our Engagement Story or Our Engagement Weekend (Friday) check those posts out first)

On Saturday we continued our unofficial Food and Wine Tour of Sonoma County. Priorities of food and booze…hmmm. This is how we roll when we travel, what can I say?
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Since we knew we were going to be drinking wine for most of the day we made sure that we planned some serious fueling. :) We did an early + light breakfast at the Sunflower Caffe on the square, and while I was dying to try the lamb burger that we had seen them make when the restaurant was featured on Diner, Drive Ins and Dives (CHEEZY TOURIST ALERT! I AM NOT ASHAMED!) something about lamb burgers in the morning just wasn’t screaming my name. I opted for a giant cup of coffee, some pastry, and okay already — you busted me, some sangria.

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The whole time we were eating I just keep thinking — THIS IS MY FIANCE. FIAAAAAAAAAAAAANCEEEEEEEEEEEE. That is a weird word. But I was still happy to be saying it.
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Let’s call him my Beyonce instead, okay? Okay

Afterward we headed down the street to Train Town where I’m quite sure we were the only adults without children. It’s a place we both frequented growing up so we like to stop there occasionally when we are in town. It’s nostalgic and they have a short train ride that takes you on an “over the river and through the woods” route to a petting zoo. You guys, I feel like this is starting to make me sound like a total weirdo, but it’s really cute and we always get a kick out of going there.
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I promise we’re not here to steal your children. We’re just reliving our own childhood!

We hopped on a train, went over bridges and through tunnels and listened to kids screaming with glee.And then obviously I took a selfie with a goat when we got to the petting zoo, as you would. The llamas were not interested in being internet famous, so I guess we’ll have to try again with them next time.
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We bought a few souvenirs in the gift shop
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and then it was almost time for lunch! (More eating? But of course!)

We had lunch at the Sonoma Mission Inn and they may make the best fish tacos ever. I need a good fish taco recipe because when I make them at home they are always lackluster. Do you have one? Then you must share, please!

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So breakfast and fish tacos definitely had us prepared to wine taste and so we headed over to Napa and hit up a few wineries before heading over to our only actual tasting “appointment” of the day at Robert Mondavi. The grounds there are spectacular and my crappy iPhone photos just can’t do it justice, but I was just overwhelmed with how big and beautiful it is.
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We tried to take a few pictures and it didn’t matter from what angle, there was no way you can tell what a sprawl it is.
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We had an appointment in their Reserve Tasting Room that one of Garrett’s coworkers had hooked us up with and they gave us some crazy generous pours and pointed us out to the patio to enjoy our experience. What a lovely afternoon that was, I tell ya. That is the way to taste!
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Yep, there’s my Beyonce again. Isn’t he cute when he’s all relaxed without a care in the world?

We bought a few bottles (a special one to have on the anniversary of our engagement – heck, maybe with our Potatoes Colcannon haha – and then one to have on our first wedding anniversary.) What can I say, we are some sentimental saps.

We had a bit of time to kill before dinner and we just happened to be very close to the area where Garrett ran his leg of The Relay the year before. We decided to dork out in the parking lot where we had waited as a team and recreate one of the pictures from this post as a joke.

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I don’t know — it was funny to us at the time. It was probably the wine. :)

For dinner that night we decided to try a recommendation from our friend Megan and hit up Bounty Hunter Wine Bar + Smokin’ BBQ. The food was delightful and so were the wine + spirit pairings. We started off with the charcuterie tray and then split a BBQ Platter that was INSANE.
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If you are in Napa and happen to be with someone who would is impressed by meat, you NEED to take them there! STAT!

After that enormous slab-o-meat dinner we were sure we wouldn’t eat again for weeks.

Um…or until Sunday. :)

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Our Engagement Weekend in Wine Country (Friday)

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Thanks for all of your sweet comments on our engagement story yesterday. As I mentioned, our wine-country weekend hanging out with my cousins had just been a ruse to get me packed and ready so Garrett could treat me to what was probably one of our most memorable vacations yet. We were sad to say goodbye to Domaine Carneros, but so happy to have made a memory to celebrate there time and time again. Our next stop was getting into town to settle down into our weekend digs.

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Unbeknownst to me, Garrett had rented us a little cottage near downtown Sonoma where we’d be staying all weekend. It was at the end of a private road and we had our own little vineyard decorating the driveway. Isn’t that just the cutest? I was ready to pack my bags and move in for good!
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We had about an hour to relax, unpack, freshen up, have a glass of wine and then it was off to our dinner reservations at The Rutherford Grill in Napa. When Garrett initially mentioned that we had dinner reservations I was a little bit nervous. While we are both food enthusiasts, we aren’t big fancy-fine diners, you know what I mean? And the whole food and wine scene in Napa can be a little snooty in certain places, so I was a tiny bit apprehensive. But honestly, The Rutherford Grill was the perfect spot for us.
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It wasn’t AT ALL snooty, the food was on point and as you can imagine the wine list has some really great selections. Our waitress was so cute, and totally tolerated the two of us who were still in giggly OMG WE’RE ENGAGED mode. Garrett got prime rib, I ended up ordering the Hawaiian Ribeye and we both opted for Colcannon Potatoes. Have you ever had that kind of mashed potato? HOLY MOSES, they are the best potatoes I’ve ever eaten in my life. I think we may have to eat them every year on the anniversary of our engagement! (You think I’m kidding, but man they were THAT GOOD!)

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Hi, you’re having the Old 96er for dinner. :)

After dinner we headed back into Sonoma and went for a walk downtown in the historic town plaza. I’ve written about Sonoma pretty extensively on this blog — it’s a place I hold close to my heart. I have so many memories here with both of my parents after my grandma moved to wine country, so it felt really special that Garrett and I were enjoying such an exciting time in our relationship in that city. In some ways it felt like my grandma and my dad got to be privy to the whole thing. As we walked around the square I just couldn’t get over how perfect everything was. Of course right as I was looking off into the sunset thinking about what a romantic evening we were having a bunch of kids drove by in a Hyundai blasting the explicit version of “Rack City” so, you know — back to reality. :)

Right off the square there is a painting called the Valley of the Moon mural. My grandma would always take me over to it when I’d visit her growing up. Full disclosure: it’s right by an ice cream parlor, so you know — of course she loved art, but it was also her way of always saying “Yay, culture — now let’s go eat some ice cream!” :) Summers with grandma were the best, you know?

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Anyway, one of the fun memories I have as a kid was that hidden inside this mural of people, places and things related to the “Valley of the Moon” (as Sonoma is known), was a “Where’s Waldo” style couple — a bride and groom, listed under their wedding date — somewhere in the mural. As a kid it was always fun to race to see how quickly you could find it, and even though we’ve done it many times, of course that night Garrett and I had to take a minute and scope out the happy couple. (It’s in the bottom right hand region if you are ever in the area and want to find it.)

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Then, of course we had to head over and have some ice cream, duh. :)

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If you’ve been around this blog for any length of time, you already know that Garrett took great pleasure in ordering two scoops of bubble gum ice cream. (Gross!)

Afterward we grabbed a glarifee as a nightcap over at Swisshotel and then headed back to our cottage. I mean let’s be real — we literally couldn’t eat another bite! haha

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Garrett had a full day planned on Saturday and so we wanted to make sure we geared up for it.

Weekend Wedding + Attitude Adjustment

Thanks for the encouraging words Friday, y’all. Couple that with a productive (and celebratory) weekend and I feel like I’m getting my head back on straight!

I had Friday off from work and it was nice to just get some stuff done around the house and then officially start the weekend. Sarah and I enjoyed a little Happy Hour action over at de Vere’s Irish Pub. I like the vibe there and their fried pickles are always on point. We had closed out our tab when we overheard the bartender mention that the tacos of the day were Pork Belly. You know that is the secret password around here, right? OBVIOUSLY we had to immediately open a tab back up and order some. In the end, we were both convinced that those tacos were chicken, which was quite a sad situation for a pork belly enthusiast like myself, but the company and the libations were fantastic! And I guess I should have gone in with low expectations — I mean, tacos at an Irish bar?

The Black and Tans, on the other hand, were FABULOUS.

Saturday was a big day as wedding bells were ringing for my cousin Jim and his fiance Gina. Garrett, my mom and I packed up early and headed out for a day in Sonoma to watch them get hitched over at the Jack London Lodge. If you have been around here long, you know trips to Sonoma involve some customary food-related Traditions:

Glarifees at Swisshotel and Sandwiches and the Cheese Factory

(I explain the Glarifee here. Definitely worth a try if you are in the area!)

After that little indulgence, we headed over to the wedding which was, in a word: emotional. I am a crazy wedding cryer. I can be completely composed before the wedding but the second it starts it’s just WATERWORKS! I am surprised I don’t look like a raccoon in every photography I am in. I was so proud of my cousin Jim standing up there with his lovely bride and their ceremony and vows were personal and beautiful and you just couldn’t help but feel the love!

At the reception, my 10 year old cousin Olivia gave us a lesson in how to be fierce and my 2 year old cousin Chelsea schooled ALL OF US on the dance floor! Oh also, there were Samoa flavored cupcakes. No one can resist those! It was coconut cake FILLED with chocolate. Aaaaaah, delicious! A good time was had and memories were made, and that was just what I needed on Saturday.

Sunday I woke up and felt determined to get things back on track! My mom and I hit up the Farmers Market, I cooked some breakfast, prepped for the week and ran out to the garden to pick some zucchini.

Whoops!

Guess I negelected them for a a day or two. YIKES! Regardless, after a month of boozing it up and enjoy some crap food liberally, I’m ready to get things back on track. My fridge is stocked with healthy food and even though I have no idea What’s For Dinner beyond tonight (Uh, I was serious about Zucchini Boats), I’m getting there.

It’s a new week, a new month and I woke up this morning and consciously put on a new attitude. I’m ready to see how this all unfolds.

Day Trip: Sonoma

I have a new(ish) position at my job and it requires me to travel to Sonoma County somewhat regularly. I am not unhappy with this situation, as Sonoma is one of my FAVORITE PLACES EVER! Every time I’m in town I miss my grandma to pieces, but it does make me secretly happy that my cousin Jim and his fiance Gina live there now. It’s my own not-so-secret fantasy to live there someday. Hopefully that day will come sooner rather than later!

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I traveled with a coworker down there and we spent the entire time discussing cooking and menu planning and fun food and wine related excursions and I came home with a million and one ideas for more outings and day trips, including one to eat some Hog Island Oysters. That will definitely show up on the Summer Bucket List…..GAH! I’m so excited about that list. If Hog Island Oysters are good enough for Martha Stewart to rave about, then they are worth a trip, I think.

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We did a little bit of work and then we found ourselves needing to kill some time AND have lunch so we headed to the square in Sonoma for a little Vitamin D and some sustenance. We ended up at The Girl and The Fig and it was just as cute and delicious as you hear it is.

We started with a simple plate of heirloom radishes, garnished with grey salt and dipped in anchovy butter, and after my first bite I really could have just beat myself up right there for not planing my own radishes this year.

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I refrained so as not to shock all the linen-wearing Ladies who Lunch sitting nearby, but mark my words there will be a lot of radish eating in our house in the near future. I feel like Ina would be proud.

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After some hemming and hawing I settled on the Pork Belly Sandwich as my entree. You may recall I have a bit of a love affair with Pork Belly so that probably won’t come as a huge surprise, but it also did not disappoint.

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It showed up topped with a perfectly cooked friend egg on top and accompanied by frites with a delicious garlic chive aioli on the side. But if I’m being totally honest, what knocked my socks off the most?

The house made brioche.

You all, it was the kind of bread that dreams were made of. And when I cut into that egg yolk and it dripped down over the corners of the crusty pork and melted into the buttery brioche — FIREWORKS WENT OFF. I mean it was one helluva sandwich.

And besides being an awesome work day lunch, I feel like this meal even clarified my Food Philosophy even more. I get asked all the time if I will be Paleo forever, and the truth: Yeah, I think I will. It is the diet (NOUN, NOT A VERB) that makes me feel the best when I follow its framework. But will I never deviate? Of course not. I will. But when I eat something that doesn’t make me feel optimal (as yesterday’s lunch DID NOT, I was ready for a nap an hour later, had to pick up Emergency Caffeine for the ride home, after which I promptly skipped the gym and took an evening nap!) I want the experience to be worth it.

If I’m going to eat something that doesn’t make me feel great, it’s going to be Muther-effing House Made Brioche dripping in egg yolk and crispy pork on a Patio in Sonoma in the middle of the afternoon. It’s not going to be a Trader Joe’s Fat Free English Muffin, you know? FUHHHHGETTTABOUTIT.

So.

Awesome day trip. Check.
Successful day on the job. Check.
Beautiful Scenery. Check.
Amazing Meal. Check.
Great Conversation. Check.

All in a day’s work!

In Sonoma for work today. Not too shabby...

I Love These Ladies Like A Love Song, Baby

I think we can all agree that if one cannot find the energy to recap a weekend until a Wednesday, it was a very good weekend, yes?

A very good weekend, indeed!

As a consolation for the fact that I had to back out of The Blathering this year (WEEP!), I invited AndreAnna and Liz to come play for the weekend, and play we did!

AndreAnna arrived Thursday and I’m pretty sure we didn’t stop talking until we realized it had slowly turned into The Middle of the Night and if we wanted to actually make it through the next day, we needed to go to bed IMMEDIATELY.

Friday morning, you know we had to workout.
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AndreAnna was one of those people who made me feel like I could maybe, possible, hopefully, actually survive CrossFit — so the weekend could not go by without us actually busting out a WOD side by side. Fun times! In order to balance out the bad-assery of our morning we headed out to get manis and pedis and then OBVIOUSLY shopped until we dropped.

Friday night Liz rolled into town and we wasted no time — no passing go or collecting $200 — it was time for cocktails and some fireside chat!

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And some fireside double unders, which also go well with cocktails in case you are wondering. If you haven’t tried to jump rope a bit tipsy in flip flops, I dare say you haven’t lived. Also: I need one of these magic jump ropes STAT!

You would think this would be the point in the evening where Garrett would say to himself, “WHAT THE HELL IS HAPPENING IN MY HOUSE?” but honestly, I think he was a smitten kitten, and could not have been more entertained by the three of us goofing around. I mean AndreAnna kept him in stitches, and within about 5 seconds of meeting him Liz dropped some serious Formula One knowledge on him, so it is safe to say that Garrett ALSO loves them like a love song.

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Saturday we headed out to Sonoma in search of the quintessential California Combo of wine and cheese. I mean, it’s kind of a must, right? The plan was to grab some sandwiches at The Sonoma Cheese Factory but first we had to stop over at Swiss Hotel for some Glarifees.

(Thank you Gina for turning me on to these a few years ago — they have changed my life and I’m sure now AndreAnna and Liz would say the same!)

What the hell is a Glarifee? Imagine the best Irish Coffee you have ever had, but more foamy and delicious and ICED! And there you will have it. It is worth it, and if you are ever in the are, it is a MUST TRY. Trust me on this one.

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Of course we eventually got our sandwiches. I have like 5000 version of this same picture and every single time it tastes even BETTER than it looks. I’m not too much of a bread eater anymore, but there are just some things for which there are no substitute and a sandwich at the Sonoma Cheese Factory is one of them.

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Then it was off to Sebastiani Winery, and I’ll give you one guess as to what we did there.

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A quick stop for some “dinner” on the way home and we were ready to hit the town.

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(Why yes, this did end up proving to a be a poor choice for “dinner” prior to a night out, thanks for noticing. Rookie Mistake.)

Saturday night found us out at Faces, which I have to say after 10 years of living here in Sacramento is still the best place for a night out that includes cheezy pop, ridiculous rooms to dance in, strong drinks and hot gay men go-go dancing on the bars. We put on our fancy clothes and headed out to enjoy JUST THAT!

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Of course a few cocktails later we may not have looked quite so pulled together, but still having a blast!

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Sunday morning required A LOT of coffee, a greasy breakfast at Tower Cafe, and a good amount of time couching. I mean where else were we going to brainstorm theories of why Selena Gomez is so cute and Demi Lovato looks so bootsy, even though they are the same age? Deep thoughts, you know. WE HAD LOTS.

I think that was the best part of this weekend, looking back. It’s fun to be able to email and tweet and facebook and text, but there is nothing quite like sitting on your couch shoveling pizza in your mouth with no shame. Or booty shaking to Robyn in the living room. Or dropping blenders full of margaritas on the patio and being able to do little more than laugh hysterically.

These are the moments that you can’t have while sitting at a computer all day, and I feel so lucky that we got to have an entire weekend full!

These are my people.

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And this WAS my blender. RIP (HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAH!)

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And it was TOTALLY WORTH IT!

XO

The rest of the weekend photos are here if you’d like to have a look. Half naked go-go dancers is all I’m saying. HALF NAKED GO-GO DANCERS.

Weekend Recap, Because I Have NO IDEA What’s For Dinner This Week.

Many moons ago — you know, when I was in my early 20s — I used to have to be at work by 5am regularly. Being the socializer I was, I often went out the night before and somehow made it to work bright eyed and bushy tailed and ready to take on the day. This ability is no longer my reality.  In fact I packed so much into this weekend that when my alarm went off this morning I couldn’t figure out if my radio was playing music or if I had been hit by a truck and the sound I heard was angels singing.  Then I realized it was Bon Jovi on the radio and while it is many things, Wanted: Dead or Alive isn’t quite what I would call a Pearly Gate Anthem.  And my day began.
You all, I am TIRED.
I realize that all of you with adorable babies and multiple children are probably rolling your eyes and thinking Holly, you don’t know tired – so I won’t make this a post about trying to one up your fatigue. Instead I will show you some pictures and tell you some random things and we will call it a post for the sake of documentation, mmm kay?

For starters I spent the weekend checking a few more things off my summer bucket list  so you know despite my tiredness I am sublimely happy.  Friday my mom came out to visit for the weekend. She actually lives close by, but we both had similar errands to run and we were going to the same party on Saturday so we just made a weekend out of it. It was basically a girls weekend + Garrett.  You know he loved it.  
My mom can shop with the best of them, and Friday we did just that. After a crazy intense workout Friday morning, we headed out for most of the day to take care of business.  Taking care of business with my mom always involves at least one trip to Target where we A to Z every aisle in the store.  This is dangerous and while I love it, I do not recommend it if you are trying to save money.  My mom is a fantastic shopping enabler!  By the time we got home on Friday night we had just enough energy to have some dinner with Garrett, during which my mom got a long overdue lesson about the strategy of Formula One racing, we did a little prep work for the brunch I was hosting on Sunday, and then we all headed to sleep.
On Saturday morning we woke up early and I got to check my first item off the Summer Bucket List: Have a picnic in the Plaza in Sonoma.  My cousin Jim’s birthday was on Sunday so the bulk of my family met up in Sonoma at Sebastiani to eat and celebrate because that is how we roll.  Ok, truth be told we didn’t picnic in the Plaza, but my mom and I did get to see the plaza, because that was where we got sandwiches.  Qucik PSA: The ONLY proper sandwich choice when picnicking up in wine country is The Sonoma Cheese Factory.  They make the kind of sandwiches that God would make if heaven were a deli. Paleo diet be damned, when in Sonoma there must be sandwich consumption. I believe that is written in the epilogue of The Bible.
Then we headed over to have a picnic at a winery so I’m just going step in and call that close enough — CHECK!  I seriously LOVE chilling with my family.
There was lots of wine drinking and baby squeezing and joke-cracking that afternoon. It was a fun, yet too short, visit with my family. All the photos are here if you enjoy that business.
Unfortunately Garrett had to work and miss out on the Saturday afternoon fun which was a bummer, but when we got home he went all out and put together an impromptu scotch/whiskey/bourbon tasting for the three of us while I did a few more things to prep for my brunch.  I don’t even like any sort of brown liquor, quite frankly, but I highly recommend comparative tasting.  That’s probably the coffee/wine geek in me, but it was so much more fun to taste the differences between all the different types rather than just drink a glass of brown stuff.  My favorite at the end of the tasting?
Who knew?  Never thought I would enjoy scotch on purpose.
Saturday night Garrett suggested we bust out some old family movies and all watch them together and if you guessed that this melted my mama’s little heart, then you guessed correctly. That Garrett knows just how to get brownie points, so the 3 of us stayed up way too late laughing and reminiscing about old family stories. Also, about how awful the fashion was in the 90s. I turned off those videos with no clear understanding of what purpose the mock-turtleneck served, and with extreme wonder surrounding why people ever wore matching sweatsuits. Awful, really really awful.
Sunday morning again came too quick, and my mom headed out because she babysits my little cousin Chelsea on Sundays and Mondays. After a whirlwind of a weekend my mom was off to baby wrangle. It’s a good thing I made a huge pot of coffee because you can tell by the look on her face that this little chicky doesn’t want to sit still for long. My mom needed all the caffeine she could get:
After she took off, I checked another thing of the Bucket List: Have a dinner party in my backyard before it gets sweltering. Except I didn’t actually have dinner, I had a brunch, but I’m just going to call it complete anyway because Bobby Brown told me that was my prerogative. CHECK! Since Sacramento is always sweltering I thought my best bet for getting to eat outside was to do breakfast instead of dinner. Sarah, Elizabeth, Amy and Elisabeth came over and I would show you a picture of that lovely afternoon except I didn’t take a single one!  I think that is the sign of good conversation if you can get 5 women in a room who document their lives via blog and not a single one busts out a camera.  Either that, or they thought my tablecloth was ugly.  I’m going to hope for the former.  
We had lots of coffee, cocktails and food — so much food actually that I forgot to even serve the bacon I had cooked.  And no Garrett and I didn’t have bacon for dinner, why would you even think that?????  Actually we didn’t ONLY have bacon, there was also blueberry cake too.  We like to make sure we get in some fruit, you know?  
By the time evening rolled around I basically only had enough energy to play fashion police on the couch while watching my DVR.  For example — WHAT IS HAPPENING HERE:
After contemplating that I was obviously too exhausted to do much else besides go to bed.  And now we are back to the grind on a Monday.  How does that even happen?
How did you enjoy your weekend, peeps?

Ask And You Shall Receive

Wasn’t I just bitching that I wanted some inspirational resources about improving my writing?  I opened my Reader this morning and found this:  60 Tips to Improve Your Non Fiction Writing

I’ve been dying to get back to doing some yoga and today’s Deal Ticket and Living Social Deal were both Yoga-centric.  (Though neither really worked out for me, I thought it was kind of a coincidence!)

Lately I’ve been trying to sell Garrett on the idea of getting bikes.  Not fancy bikes, just fun bikes — we LOVE riding bikes yet we don’t actually own bikes and I just think that’s ridiculous, hence my prodding.  Today, I got an email from my old roommate that she is sending her old mountain bike up with her brother who is coming into town and he’s going to drop it off at my house!  Hooray for giving away stuff you aren’t using!  

Wanna join our bike gang?  We are pretty fierce?
(This picture is actually a picture from a biking wine tour with friends and family in Sonoma and while I’m doing some asking I’d just like to say right now, Universe, that I’d like another one of those, ok?)
I’ve been having a bit of wanderlust but bemoaning the fact that everything costs SO! MUCH! MONEY! but it turns out I have to do a bit of traveling for work and Garrett and I may turn that into a long weekend in Yosemite.  Also we are trying to plan sometime to go see his parents who live in New Mexico and all of a sudden it hit me — Southwest Roadtrip, maybe?  A car rental, overnights with friends, and some downtime with parentals sound like a pretty affordable getaway, no?  Plus I keep forgetting that I am going to Chicago in November!  Well, not really forgetting, but now that it’s getting closer it just seems so exciting!  Wanderlust, I will tame you.   
It feels so nice when things in life just align, you know?  Just wanted to take a minute to document my gratitude!
And of course brainstorm for some badass things to ask for — what do you wish the Universe would drop in your lap?

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