Butterfly kisses, and how I kind of sort of almost died in New Orleans…twice

I love Southwest. Even when I screw up my flight reservation, I can change it lickity split for a few extra bucks, a middle-of-the-night arrival time, and a “happy fun” layover in L.A. I also love that I can stalk their rates obsessively, buy when I think it’s super low, and then change my flight when the price drops even lower. All I have to do is use those remaining funds to fly somewhere else.

Southwest free drink coupons and a bloody Mary

I especially love that Southwest regularly sends me free drink coupons.

So, it was no surprise that when December rolled around, Brian and I had a few Southwest credits that were on the verge of expiration. “Where shall we go?” I probed. I suggested a cozy cabin somewhere in the northeast or a relaxing trip somewhere chill.

“How about New Orleans?” my introverted husband of nearly 3 months suggested. We planned a trip to coincide with our 3-month anniversary (if that were even a real thing) shortly before Christmas for funsies to New Orleans. A quick Friday to Sunday weekend of indulgence. We’d eat too much, drink too much, and come home ready to face the holidays.

Unfortunately, when you live in Chicago, the best-laid winter plans get shot down because Jack Frost is kind of an asshole.


Our flight was canceled early that morning, on account of the projected snowmageddon that never came.
Luckily, we were able to cancel the New Orleans hotel we booked through TripAdvisor. Southwest offered us the opportunity to reschedule our flight anytime in the two weeks that followed our planned trip for no extra cost, and we found a better price for the same hotel the week between Christmas and New Year’s Eve.

“Do you want to stay for New Year’s Eve?” the aforementioned introvert suggested…

“You would hate that, Brian. Even I would hate that. I did it once. Never. Again.”

So we planned to leave the Tuesday after Christmas on a 4-hour flight with a Kansas City layover.

Upon our noon-ish arrival, I was riding the Chrissy travel high, and Brian was…well…

Done. Checked out. “Sayonara, wife. You’re on your own.”

We ate some snacks, and then he went to the hotel for the rest of the evening where I’m pretty sure he slept for 18 hours. I wandered. I shopped. I ate more food. I hunted Pokemon.

Chargrilled Oysters

Sweet baby cheeses, these oysters, though.

I almost got abducted and died.

Well. Not really. But when a homeless-ish man walks up near you and yells in an attempt to scare the shit out of you, you feel like you might die. Even if you’re barely 15 feet off the main drag of Bourbon Street, just around the corner from your hotel. I started walking faster, while still trying to find an elusive Pokemon because priorities. I ran my hip right into a bicycle and could hear the man’s laughter echoing after me. I crossed the street, turned around, and walked right back to my hotel room faster than you can say Pikachu. I did not pass go. I did not collect $200.

St. Louis Cathedral from Jackson Square

When I was 19 and insane, I woke up at the crack of dawn and attended mass at the church after being out until 4 am the night before. Now, I’m content to snap a pic from Jackson Square.

The next day, Brian was up for a little bit more adventure. We ate breakfast, took a carriage tour through the French Quarter (which was actually super interesting), wandered the French Market, ate turtle soup and bananas foster at Brennan’s, and created our own special little NOLA bar crawl, eating and drinking from bar to bar to bar.

Brian and Chrissy posing by candlelight

Cozying up in the dark at Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop, which has no artificial light (except the Christmas twinkle lights, because Christmas).

We made our way from Bourbon Street to Frenchman Street and back again, consuming all the booze.

Drunk Brian holding a cup with his mouth.

I may have gotten Brian a smidge on the drunk side. This is a rare occurrence, so it was worth every second I was alone the next morning. Well…except when the homeless man almost stole my phone.

So when Brian wasn’t down for breakfast the next morning, I didn’t fault him. Again, I made my way out into the city on my own, wandering, eating, shopping, hunting Pokemon, hatching eggs, eating eggs…you know…me time.

I was headed to a restaurant I wanted to try, and as I walked up, the staff was shooing the homeless men away from their opening doors. I walked toward the main entrance just as one of the homeless men reached out to me and slapped my phone so hard, I thought it was a goner. I squealed and ran ahead, clutching my phone tight, the sound of laughter again trailing behind me. My heart was racing as I feared for my safety for only the second time that week. And this time, it was broad daylight in the middle of Jackson Square. Apparently, I’m not so good at traveling on my own.

Breakfast in New Orleans

Two biscuit halves topped with crawfish cakes, poached eggs, and crawfish etoufee…and a side of the cheesiest grits on the planet.

After breakfast, I went back to the hotel room and jumped on the bed to wake Brian up. I brought him a breakfast sandwich and told him it was time for adventure.

He was not in the mood for adventure.

So I took him to the bug museum. And all of a sudden his spirits were sky high. Yes. I did say bug museum. New Orleans, home of the Po’ Boy, Muffaletta, Hurricane, Hand Grenade and the best damn crawfish on the planet, is also home to a rather fancy insectarium where you can sample chocolate chirp cookies for free (Noooo thank you).

Personally, I found it a little disturbing, but I took solace knowing my museum tour would end with a trip through the butterfly garden. Plus, Brian was in heaven.


Two hours later, we finally made it to the butterfly garden, where everything was peaceful and serene until a gaggle of small children hurdled through the room, stepping on butterflies and wreaking havoc. Brian raced to the outer edge of the space, and I found the most interesting thing in the room. A pair of turtles…making sweet sweet love to one another.

I could tell you more about the trip, but nothing we did really tops two turtles banging.

Hey! Did you know you can buy my book on Amazon? 37 women wrote about the struggle for perfection, and I'm one of 'em. Go check it out!

How many passport applications is this going to take?

In just a couple of days, Brian and I are leaving for our European honeymoon. I’ve been obsessively Zulilying adorable dresses, checking the weather, and buying Disney pins on ebay in preparation.

Why yes, I did say Disney. Because one of our stops includes a couple nights in Disneyland Paris.

After our 2012 trip to Walt Disney World, Brian hasn’t been able to think of anything else. (I’m totally lying. He couldn’t care less. It’s all me.)

So we’re heading on a magical trip, partially inspired by my romance novel addiction when I was 15, in which I read one of those dime-a-dozen Harlequin Presents novels with the main characters honeymooning in Belgium and eating chocolate. Teenage Chrissy couldn’t think of anything better. Especially since adult Chrissy realized that Belgium and beer are close compadres.

Anywho…

When one travels internationally, one needs a damn passport.

Brian, being a cool AF dual citizen, has two valid passports. Me?

I had an expired passport from 2004 that I couldn’t find.

So I delayed.

And I waited.

And I procrastinated like it was my job.

Once we were 5 weeks from our trip, I hunted for, and found, my expired passport. The one I had paid extra to expedite 5 weeks before my trip to London.

It looked like I would be covering that cost again.

So I made my way to the post office, credit card in hand…where they told me I needed a check, five minutes before the passport office closed.

Not to worry, I had a backup plan.

I left, stopped home, picked up a check (and one of Brian’s special pens), and went to a post office that was open later.

It was there that I began diligently filling out the passport application. And it was there that I screwed up, and had to rewrite it. Twice.

Third time’s the charm, right? So I finished up the app and got in line. They told me I would have to wait as only one person was managing passport applications, and I patiently stood in the long queue. When my turn was finally up, the lady took one look at my application and sent me back with another. APPARENTLY, you’re supposed to use black ink pens only.

This is also apparently on the front of the form. Whoops!

So I went back and started the 4th application. Only to be deterred by another egregious error, in which I was forced to start over. Again.

How to fill out a passport application

5 applications later, and I was ready for my close up.

The woman took me to a back room of the post office to snap my pic. I had perfected the art of the non-smiling smile and the perfectly angled head tilt, for a snazzy photo opp.

Except that head tilting is against the rules. So much for the perfect selfie.

Finally, she took an acceptable picture, and I was ready to get this show on the road. She handed me an envelope and told me to mail it. She explained that with 5 weeks before my trip, I should still be fine without paying for expediting the passport (because it was a renewal for an existing passport).

I received it within two weeks. And I’m ready to go!

As we head off to Paris, Disneyland Paris, Ghent, and Brussels, I thought I’d leave you with a few animated favorites to stream on Netflix in honor of our little jaunt.

  • Anastasia – one of my favorite non-Disney flicks, partially set in Paris. Dimitri is, by far, the hottest of the animated male love interests. John Cusack lends his voice to this smooth talkin’ handsome con artist.
  • Tangled – this was one of the first Disney princess movies Brian and I watched for our Valentine’s tradition. I think it was VDay #2, but who’s counting?
  • The Princess & the Frog – this one doesn’t get enough good press. I really like Tiana and her sass, and I love the voodoo magic.
  • Enchanted – one of my absolute favorites. I adore everyone in the cast, and think it’s just one of the most funDisney movies with a billion nods to the princess flicks of old.
  • The Nightmare Before Christmas – if you haven’t seen my Sally nails or our Jack and Sally Skellington Costumes, you’re totally missing out.

Netflix Stream Team

As a member of the Stream Team, I publish montly posts sponsored by Netflix who gives me the ability to watch 24/7 streaming TV and write about it. I had a Netflix account long before I was a Stream Teamer, and all opinions expressed are entirely my own. 

Hey! Did you know you can buy my book on Amazon? 37 women wrote about the struggle for perfection, and I'm one of 'em. Go check it out!

Summer of Food, Drugs, and Travel: How I Spent My Summer “Vacation” in 500 Words or Less

The summer is coming to an end, the kids are going back to school, and all the fun things are happening that happen in the fall. (I see you, Pumpkin Spice everything, and I’ll take two.) I thought I’d write you a quick little ditty in honor of my summer. Don’t worry, I’m not going to try to put music or my voice to it. 

I kicked off summer, threw a birthday party, and celebrated my “29th.” Began the summer of pain and “fame.” My back was screaming, “Welcome to ’29 again,’ bitch.” Couldn’t get out of bed, sit comfortably or easily wipe my own ass. Worked from home, indulged in an overabundance of over-the-counter pain killers, and boarded a plane.

Landed in Baltimore, visited a breakfast nook, crammed 27 (or 5) bloggers into a small rental car, and traipsed to the quaint college campus we would call home for two days. People squee’d, hugged me, commanded me to yoga. Was loud, obnoxious, and confident. People still kinda liked me. Won a bunch of awesome shit, which sent me on a cool trajectory for the summer. Returned home to Brian, who wanted to bottle the energized Chrissy that came home, exhaustedly babbling about the amazing adventures of BlogU.

Lost my car in a flood. Cried. Roof leaked. Cried some more.

Made tasty snacks, drove to central Illinois with my parents, recorded them talking, and hung out with my family.

Raspberry picking in Michigan

Threw another party, drove to Michigan for an impromptu romantic getaway, dined on crazy delicious food-potato chip nachos, ribs, and bbq pork mac and cheese, returned to our fancy room for wine and Jacuzzi. Wandered the southwest corner of Michigan, antiqued, went to the beach, picked cherries and raspberries, drank wine, bought crappy cider, wore a bikini.

A photo posted by Quirky Chrissy (@quirkychrissy) on

Traipsed to Indiana, hopped on a boat, headed to the beach and got dizzy. Jumped in the lake, swam to solid ground, and watched everyone hang on the boat. Got back on the boat, drank some beer, and watched fireworks. Fourth of July happened, Ate some food and took third place in the three-legged race. Played some games, went to bed.

Red moon at the dock

Published on Huffington Post, went semi-viral, received a call from a radio producer. Listened to everyone’s first period stories.

Woke up with more back pain, screaming in agony. Went to doctor. Got on insane drugs. Jumped on another plane, landed in New York, hung out with blogger friends. More yoga demands, more squees, more friends, more booze, more food. All appetizers. Weird feminism. More winnings. Talked to Jenny McCarthy, met Hickory Farms, went to a rooftop bar, saw Aladdin, stayed too long, felt lonely, missed Brian.

Came home, snuggled Brian, acquired more drugs, experienced serious anxiety, met up with friends, had my palms read, was told I was lucky, got drunk, changed my website, felt lonely.

Bought a new car. Trekked to Indianapolis. Played games. Bought games. Ate food. Won more prizes. Came home, basement flooded, fixed air conditioner.

Eating in Michigan

Started physical therapy. Tried to yoga. Asked for a raise. Worried about job. Began an episode of vertigo (still going), took more drugs. Received a KitchenAid Mixer. Joined a weight loss competition.

As it turns out, my themes this summer were pain, drugs, travel, food and booze. I’m sure more happened, but I was lost in a haze of everything else. With the summer winding down, we don’t want anything else to go wrong, so we’ve started gearing up for TV season, and consequently just started Season 2 of 30 Rock on Netflix, where Liz Lemon also returned from her summer vacation. And can I just say how much I’m obsessing over 30 Rock right now? Do you KNOW how many things Liz Lemon and I have in common? Pretty much, like…everything. Also, the topical nature of 30 Rock from 2006 is surprisingly working really well in 2015. 

I'm obsessed with 30 Rock right now

135 episodes of THIS on Netflix right now. If I’m not writing, blame Liz Lemon.

How was your summer “vacation” did you get away? Stay at home? Do anything spectacular? Tell me everything!

Anyways, as usual, I wasn’t paid to write this post, but I was given a free Netflix subscription and a device on which to watch 30 Rock and other shows. 

Netflix Stream Team

Hey! Did you know you can buy my book on Amazon? 37 women wrote about the struggle for perfection, and I'm one of 'em. Go check it out!

Things I Did Last Night Instead of Writing

Last night, we arrived home late from our adventures in Indiana, where we played games late into the night, ran into the people we knew with more regularity than one would expect at a convention of more than 60,000 people, and did not run into Wil Wheaton. Again.

I can’t tell you quite how many times I bumped walked into people, displays, or walls because the tally was relatively high this year, but I did get hit on by the early twenties-ish guy that sells nerd robes and dresses (girls are in short supply at these things). I  also had the pleasure of lunching with the lovely Chris Dean yesterday, who made the trek to hang with us!

I was able to have lunch with Chris Dean of pixiecd while we were in Indy!

I had planned to get home, go to a party, and then come home and write. There’s something to be said about the best laid plans…

We got home a bit later than expected as I managed to win a badge for next year’s GenCon (my lucky streak has lasted most of the summer…I’m thinking I should buy a lottery ticket or head to the race track or something) and had to buy just one last game before we left…I’m  not going to lie, seeing people with huge stacks of games made me jealous as fuck, even though our stack was no small potatoes…

We picked up a few new games to add to our collection from GenCon this weekend.

This year’s spoils. Some free stuff, some cheap stuff, some AWESOME stuff.

And so we were too late to get to the party on time. I thought, Okay…I’ll pop the games, and then do a little writing. And Brian thought, okay…I’ll just do a little napping, and then eat some food. But before his nap he went to the basement to turn the water heater off vacation mode. And this is when our evening plans changed.

Uhh…Chrissy? We have a problem.

I’d heard this tone before…

And I started thinking of house emergencies we’ve had since purchasing the house, like the time the humidifier flooded our basement just a couple of weeks after moving into the house. Or the time our roof leaked into our master bathroom. Or the time water seeped into the basement. Homeownership. Ain’t it grand?

Like deja vu, we discovered that our air conditioner was leaking around the furnace area, which was exactly what happened when the humidifier flooded. Something was clogged and the water in the PVC pipe was producing a stead stream on the floor…where all my seashells, sand dollars, starfish, and urchin were collecting dust.

Now, I realize that I should have boxed that shit up months ago…but they were out of the way enough that they weren’t really bothering us…and so they ere soaked. All the time I had spent cleaning them and alcoholing them and drying them was wasted, as a light odor of dead seastuff wafted through the basement.

How to Temporarily Fix a Leaking Air Conditioner

After arriving at the house from a long weekend out of town, we came home to a leaking air conditioner and a flooded basement. This was our quick fix so we could turn the a/c back on and sleep at night.

 

 

Please note, I am NOT a professional. I’m an impatient humorist and an improvisor who believes that first world problems require immediate solutions…and this is just what we did so we could sleep without the humidity and allergens from the outside world suffocating us. We plan on actually fixing the problem this week.

Step 1. Turn off A/C.

Step 2. Let your boyfriend mop the floor because you really hate cleaning.

Step 3. Lay seashells in the large aluminium pans typically reserved for cooking gigantic feasts and spilling turkey grease all over new shirts.

Step 4. Decide on a quick fix so we don’t end up sleeping in the basement for the cool air.

Step 5. Head to Home Depot before they close(we had about a half hour window) and pick up a plumber’s snake(my question to Brian:
“Will this also pull my hair our of the shower drain?”
“Yep.”
“Get the long one.”), tubing, and duct tape (this is not to say that we didn’t alread have duct tape in our house…I just didn’t want to waste my mac and cheese Duck Tape on boring plumbing stuff).

Step 6. Decide cooking and eating in an unair-conditioned house would be a bad idea, and sit down in Qdoba instead.

Step 7. Return home and replace tiny plastic tube leading from air conditioner to PVC pipe with long tubes duct taped together that deposits trickles of water directly into drain and tape that shut to the wall.

Step 8. Turn A/C back on.
Step 9. Let your boyfriend finish mopping the floor.

Step 10. Use plumber’s snake to discover clogging PVC pipe.

Step 11. Check tubing before bed and upon waking up.

I finished the night by popping all 20 games and promos that we acquired this weekend, because nothing is more exciting than the smell of a freshly popped and organized game.

What house emergencies have you dealt with? How would you handle a major problem when your brain is fried from four days of intense usage(on our case, gaming)?

Hey! Did you know you can buy my book on Amazon? 37 women wrote about the struggle for perfection, and I'm one of 'em. Go check it out!

6 Ways to Keep Yourself Entertained on a Plane (That DON’T Involve Tapping Your Boyfriend on the Shoulder Asking “Are We There Yet?”)

I fucking love flying. Air travel makes me ridiculously happy. There’s some mix of “I’m going somewhere exciting or new or just somewhere ELSE” that makes it magical. And at the end of the trip it’s all: “I’m going to sleep in my own bed tonight!”

You can get almost anywhere in less than a day. At least anywhere I’ve been. Which is awesome. I’ve only flown on my own a few times, but Brian and I have been trying to travel somewhere twice a year for the last few years. Florida in the dead of winter and some place else in the summer or fall. It’s a good system. When we fly, I try to make it as easy to get on the plane as humanly possible. I used to try to bring an emergency set of everything in my carry on – toiletries, clean underwear, an outfit, etc. But now? I’m VERY selective as to what I bring on board. Of course, we almost always fly Southwest – where bags (two per person) fly free, so it’s pretty easy to check everything (including that empty suitcase to fill with seashells, wine, Christmas ornaments or other souvenir crap on the way back).

But even packing super light (did I ever tell you how much the TSA hates me? They MANHANDLED my cheese. Probably because of my letter to TSA.), I need to make sure that I have enough valid ways to entertain myself without bothering Brian TOO much. Because he does not love flying as much as I do. Something about people and lines and crowds or something.

Here are just a few ways that you can occupy your time on the flight.

6 Ways

How to entertain yourself on a plane full of people without being a jerk…mostly

Read

I mean…this one’s a given. But when you’re packing light, I highly recommend an e-reader. I was always against them until Brian insisted on buying me one. And I haven’t looked back. I can take FIFTY books on a plane with me…and my bag weighs less than it would with a single regular book. It’s fucking magical. Just be cautious, because the funnier the book, the more you’re likely to become a jerk and irritate all the people on the plane.

Watch a movie

In addition to the possibility of an in-flight movie…If you have some sort of tool that allows you to copy your DVDs to memory cards or tablets (I think that iTunes sells your favorite movies and TV shows too, but since I’m not really an Apple girl, I’ll have to assume maybe?), you can plan in advance and bring about a movie or two that you want to watch (I’ve watched Bridget Jones even though Helen Fielding is dead to me and some other beloved favorites). Just for the love of all things – WEAR EARBUDS.

Watch TV

Along the same lines as watching a movie, you can catch the newest released season on DVD of your favorite show (This last trip, Brian and I used an ear bud splitter to watch Person of Interest because we were binge watching to catch up to the current season). If you have Wi-Fi on the plane, you can Netflix Kimmy Schmidt or Grey’s Anatomy or Hulu Plus your current shows. Some flights even offer free (or paid) in-flight TV. Again, headphones are a necessity.

Play games

Whether you bring one of those fancy handheld gaming consoles (I haven’t had one since I got my Sega Game Gear in 1991), you carry on your travel version of Scrabble in order to whip your boyfriend/girlfriend/husband/wife’s ass, or you pay for the Wi-Fi to play some games on an iPhone casino or other games on your phone (Hello Simpson’s Tapped Out, I’m looking at you…even though I’m currently pissed at you, I still freakin’ love you), you can keep yourself entertained and occupied while enjoying that competitive thing you’ve got going for you. Of course, if you have the sound on while you’re playing these games, someone is going jump across the seat and wring your neck or throw your device. I’m just saying. I’ve thought about it. Several times. Turn the notification sounds off. No one wants to hear you rocking out to the Candy Crush greatest hits.

Snack

I don’t know about you, but I love a good snack pack. Brian and I have an excellent flying/packing system. I carry…well…almost nothing in my purse (a few bandaids, necessary drugs like Midol, Dramamine, Gas-X, Zantac, Pepto, and Sudafed to help us survive the airport time and 2-5 hour plane ride, and my travel pillow). And Brian carries the power cords, backup batteries and snacks in his backpack. It’s a really good system. I recommend trying it. So snacking is a great way to kill time. If you travel during dinner time and bring a meal on board, that’s a good 10-20 minutes of snacking depending on how fast you eat and what you grabbed at the airport. You could also play with your food – you know get like some animal crackers and play with them Ben Affleck style. Just remember if you’re sitting next to strangers that you don’t need to share. Especially when it comes to your crumbs. Be kind, my friends. Be kind.

Social Media/Blog/Internet Time Suck

You can live blog about the crazy lady on the plane or the kid that keeps kicking you…or continuously share on Facebook pictures of your kid’s first flight or humblebrag on Instagram how you can’t wait to be somewhere warm. People eat that shit up. You’ll have fun and so will I. Get lost down the internet rabbit hole and you’ll be at your destination in no time. Just you know…don’t BE the crazy lady or the mom that doesn’t tell her kid to stop kicking (you totally get full points for trying. I won’t judge. I was kicked on a plane once. They mom tried to keep the little guy at bay, but he fell asleep and apparently kicks in his sleep. She apologized several times and kept trying to move him. The effort was acknowledged and I was fine…albeit a little bruised.)

Okay blog friends, your turn. What do YOU do to occupy yourself when you travel? Even if you don’t fly – how do you keep yourself entertained on the train or in the car?

This post has been written in accordance with my disclosure policy

Disclosure

Hey! Did you know you can buy my book on Amazon? 37 women wrote about the struggle for perfection, and I'm one of 'em. Go check it out!

Holy Shitballs! I’m Off The List!

Remember when I thought I was on one of those TSA watch lists? After an unfortunate incident with a skunk, a dog, and a trip to Disneyworld, I thought flying was never going to be the same. I mean…I’m sure my letter to TSA stuffed delicately in my luggage wasn’t helpful. And the fact that EVERY TIME I fly from Fort Myers, I have a suitcase that smells like a salty combination of ocean, sea death, and bleach…But I mean, really…they went so far as to MANHANDLE my cheese.

Cheese

When ww were in Petaluma, we picked up a giant piece of Achadina Capricious. So. So. Soooo good.

We haven’t made it through a TSA line unscathed since 2012. Until last week.

Somehow, we were pulled magically through the pre-check lanes (because they weren’t busy) on BOTH legs of our trip. We don’t carry much on board these days (I carry a nook, a phone, a tablet and a pillow; Brian carries a phone, tablet, snacks and charging cords/batteries) thanks to flying Southwest and checking everything.

Did you know that you don’t have to take your shoes off in the fancy pants VIP lane? No walking around barefoot where every Tom, Dick, and Harry has stepped with their icky feet. It was magical.

So thank you, TSA. For recognizing that I’m just a girl who accidentally got skunked one time…and has a little packing OCD…and sometimes travels with recently bleached seashells and other stinky sea life.

Approved flyer - No More TSA problems

Blog friends, what issues do you deal with when you travel? What’s your favorite part about flying?

Hey! Did you know you can buy my book on Amazon? 37 women wrote about the struggle for perfection, and I'm one of 'em. Go check it out!

If We’re Going to Die, I Want to be Covered in Cheese.

Driving along the coast, just north or south of San Francisco is terrifying and breathtaking in the same moment. The varying drops off the side of the mountainous roads are steep. And I have a thing with vertigo and windy (as in wind a clock, not wind and sea; although I suppose that fits, as well) roads. But it’s also beautiful. The fog rolling in creates this amazing visual that is hard to describe and even harder to capture.

image

On our way up the California coast from San Francisco to Sonoma Valley, we took a long and curvy road up into the mountains (well, they looked like mountains to this Great Plains girl), & I was more than a little terrified. Brian was driving through the curves as if he had been doing it all his life (I suppose that’s the Irish coming out), when he told me that in Ireland, the hill roads were the same…ONLY NARROWER.

Um. I’m never going to Ireland. (I’m lying.)

We stopped when we discovered a space to pull off the road and snap a few pics for you. It was harder to do than I thought. The fog isn’t very accommodating in the world of photography. But I tried. For you.

image
Brian LOVES the mountains and the fog and the cool weather. (There’s that Irish thing again.)

image
I wasn’t terrified at this stop. It was quite neat, actually.

On our way down to San Jose, on the other hand…I freaked out a little when we stopped. And wouldn’t get out of the car.

So driving out of Sonoma, we took a seriously scenic route. We rolled down through San Francisco, and further into the woods. We thought we’d check out a state park south of San Jose. In that time, we ALMOST ran out of gas, drove in a giant circle, and couldn’t find any flipping redwoods. It was like a horror flick waiting to happen. We had to pull up to some random worker dudes on the road and ask for the nearest gas station. With a rental car on E.

The gas station was a little dive in the middle of the forest and I feared for things like kidnapping and murder (I saw The Vanishing one too many times as a kid). After we filled up, we passed the same workers…coming from the same direction we had before. 40 minutes later. (See. Giant circle.)

And the we started climbing up the hills again. Beautiful and scary. Epic.
image

At one point, I was trying to take pictures out the window, and Brian offered to stop to get better images. I was all about it. Until we stopped and I was about to get out of the car. I was a bit nervous, and Brian cracked a joke about not falling…and then he volunteered to go take pictures for me. I let him. I looked out from the safety of the parked car while fearing that my boyfriend would fall down with the keys in his pocket and I would be stranded and panicking about Brian. I have a bad habit of imagining the worst case scenario for every situation.

California View

One of Brian’s snaps. Is that not absolutely stunning?

 

We had picked up snacks and sandwiches for a little picnic lunch in the forest, and it was getting late for me. The hangry was creeping up on me quite rapidly, so I pulled out the Tostitos Mild Salsa Con Queso and tortilla chips. Brian warned me to not spill the cheese (like I would EVER consciously waste cheese like that.) I told him that the only way this cheese was going to spill was “if we were to fly off one of these cliffs. And quite frankly, if we’re going to die, I’d want to be covered in cheese.”

He realized I made a fair point and promised not to drive off any cliffs.

We finally arrived at the entrance of the state park, enjoyed lunch and were on our way. By then, we were both too exhausted to hike through the forest, and I had a party to get to a few hours later. So we rolled out. Even still, the drive continued in a frightening pattern. Instead of just curvy roads, we were now encountering those one-car-width roads PLUS curves PLUS steep inclines and declines.

Oh! And CHRISTMAS TREES!

Christmas is coming...

Christmas is coming…

Have you been to northern California? Or just driven through scary hilly roads? What’s the scariest road trip you’ve taken? Do you imagine worst case scenarios?

Hey! Did you know you can buy my book on Amazon? 37 women wrote about the struggle for perfection, and I'm one of 'em. Go check it out!

Wine-Paired Dinner at Seared Petaluma

I’ve been dreaming of wine and cheese lately. I’m not sure why, since I happen to have a pretty decent stockpile of both wine and cheese in my fridge. But it happens.

#PetalumaMade Wine Paired Dinner

 

Remember back in July when I was all over social media with some of my new blogging buddies telling you how fantastic Petaluma, California is? Well, I absolutely HAD to tell you about the wine-paired dinner that we had at Seared. It definitely hit the level of meal-amazingness that our Disney dinner at Cat Cora’s restaurant had.

After a day of boozing and wining through the Petaluma countryside, we made our way back to Seared, a fine dining establishment in downtown Petaluma for dinner. We were greeted by a lovely collection of Petaluma business owners, wine growers and farmers.

Seared Wine Paired Dinner

While the 5-course dinner itself was exquisite, the experience was what truly made this meal magnificent. Brian couldn’t stop bragging about how awesome it was that the chef came out and described each course in detail, followed by a short description of the wines by the wine owners and growers, and in one case, the farmer who raised the quail. It was the ultimate in dining style.

Grilled stone fruit soup

The first course was a stone fruit soup garnished with baby greens, creme fraiche made of Purple Haze (a lavender and fennel pollen chevre goat cheese from Cypress Grove), preserved lemon and black pepper. The flavors melded together perfectly for a phenomenal soup.

Grilled Stone Fruit Soup with Purple Haze Chevre Creme Fraiche

Paired with the soup was Lelarge-Pugeot Champagne, which was represented by the lovely Clémence Lelarge, whose family vineyard produces this delicious Champagne in France.

Heirloom Tomato and Cucumber Salad

This course was absolutely delightful and refreshing. Have I told you how much I love arugula? The cucumber was sliced thin, the tomatoes were amazing and the burrata complemented the salad perfectly.

Heirloom tomato and cucumber salad with arugula, burrata and basil vinaigrette

This was my favorite course of liquid joy, featuring the Fogline Vineyards 2013 Chardonnay with a lovely introduction presented by winemaker, Evan Pontoriero. This wine was sunshine in a bottle. Brian and I came home with a few bottles of this brightly flavored wine.

Crudo

This delicious raw dish featured a flavorful albacore and a unique combination of accouterments to create a delicate balance of complementary flavors. Brian (who, as you may remember, despises seafood) and the vegetarians all received a similar dish with a trumpet mushroom instead of the albacore. The culinary geniuses in the kitchen made every effort to accommodate our entire group and all their dietary restrictions.

Crudo with albacore, avocado puree, grapefruit, pickled fennel, breakfast radish and Fresno chili

 

This dish was paired with the La Cruz Vineyard Pinot Noir from Keller Estate, as introduced by the delightful Anna Keller, who I had the pleasure of sitting next to during dinner. I love a good pinot, and this wine was decadent and delicious.

Devil’s Gulch Quail

Our main course was this amazing quail, stuffed with a rib eye chorizo boudin surrounded by a smoked tomato broth and topped with spinach, pine nuts, and golden raisins. After the chef discussed the course, we were treated with a short presentation about the quail and Devil’s Gulch Ranch from owner, Mark Pasternak. As I gently tried not to make an ass of myself, eating the quail with a fork and knife, both Anna and Mark were found teasing me for not just picking it up and going to town like everyone else. I was pretty proud of myself and the fact that not once during this meal did I dribble, spill, spit or splash!

quail, stuffed with a rib eye chorizo boudin surrounded by a smoked tomato broth, spinach, pine nuts, and golden raisins

The quail was paired with that tasty Luma-Rouge from Corkscrew Wines that we sampled earlier in the day at Azari Vineyards. A perfect pairing for a fine meal!

Black Pepper Panna Cotta

I had never consumed panna cotta until this event. I didn’t even know what it was. Cake? Pie? Pastry? Jello? Pudding? It was its own magical sweet dish that made me want to pick up the plate and put tongue to remnants. But I refrained. Because I’m respectable.

Black pepper panna cotta with aztec chocolate and red wine-blackberry compote

 

The panna cotta was finished with Enriquez Vineyards Tempranillo, which was the happy ending of an amazing meal. Cecilia Enriquez, wine owner and maker briefly spoke about the wine, which we had the joy of tasting earlier in the day, and she thanked everyone for their participation in this wonderful trip that was her brain child.

One of the most amazing aspects of this meal was the introductions from the winemakers and owners (and the rancher who supplied the quail!) describing their wines and their stories. This was an experience that could not have been matched, and I can’t wait to visit my friends in Petaluma again soon.

Blog Friends, what’s the best meal you’ve ever had? Have you experienced a wine paired meal? Tell me about it!

 

 

Hey! Did you know you can buy my book on Amazon? 37 women wrote about the struggle for perfection, and I'm one of 'em. Go check it out!

Get Where You’re Getting With Curb

I participated in an Influencer Activation on behalf of Mom Central Consulting for Curb. I received a promotional code to facilitate my review and a promotional item to thank me for participating.

I love it when an app makes my life easier. I love it even more when it involves me not having to walk a mile in my shoes or anyone else’s.

Curb_RGB

In case you were unaware, I live in suburbia and work in downtown Chicago. The Loop. Smack dab in the middle of everything awesome. And about a mile away from the train that brings me in and out of this beautiful city.

Curb, formerly known as Taxi Magic, is a super useful app that helps you get a cab when you need it. I’ve been using Curb, and their network of more than 4,000 taxis in Chicago, for several weeks and I’m never looking back. The drivers are licensed, commercially insured and have all completed thorough background checks. That’s a program I can stand behind.

In the past, I would hope and pray a taxi would show up where I needed it, when I needed it, and more often than not, cabs driving by were already full with people (the perks of working two blocks away from one of the biggest Chicago tourist traps – Millennium Park). When I’m in a hurry, I want to know that a cab is going to be there when I need it. Especially if I’m trying to make a train. Cue Curb, where I can order a cab to pick me up now or plan for later! The process is simple and made my life so. much. easier.

App_Map

Recent occurrences when Curb has been a lifesaver or just plain convenient:

  • When my train was 30 minutes late getting into the city. I was only 15 minutes late for work.
  • When I left work just a few minutes late. (I have my walk time scheduled to a TEE. Any later, and I’m usually out of luck.)
  • When I met Brian for drinks in River North after work.
  • When Brian and I left the aforementioned bar and went to an event hosted by my website host. I love them.

I have yet to plan my next Curb adventure in advance, but I’m more of a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants kinda girl. As if you didn’t already know. You can get started with Curb, and as an added bonus for you, my lovely readers, you can get $15 dollars off your first ride! Just use the code: CurbMom14 To use this code, download the Curb app on your Android or iOS phone. Then, follow these instructions:

  • Open the Curb app
  • Tap the gear symbol in the top right corner
  • Tap “Promos and Credits” on the dropdown menu
  • Enter your code and tap the “enter” key on your keyboard
  • After entering the code, $15 will appear on your “Promos and Credits” screen.
  • Full details on using the Curb coupon code can be found here:http://bit.ly/1CnLGVc 

Do you take cabs anywhere? When? How do you call for cabs? Have you used Curb or as its previous name, TaxiMagic? Will you? Tell me all your secrets.

Hey! Did you know you can buy my book on Amazon? 37 women wrote about the struggle for perfection, and I'm one of 'em. Go check it out!

Things That Make You Go, Huh?

This summer, I came across one or two things that really made me scratch my head (no, it wasn’t lice). Today, I thought I’d compile a few of those images that have hung out in my head (and my camera’s photo storage).

Five Leaf Clover

I’m looking over…a five leaf clover?

I’m used to finding four leaf clovers in my parents’ front yard. There’s been a patch of them growing in the yard my entire life. But I don’t recall seeing too many five leaf clovers in my time. A rarity for me, definitely.

Giant Idaho Potato

And then there was the giant potato…

They SAY it’s a real potato. I don’t even know. But when Brian and I went to Irish Fest, this big hunk of carbohydrate was begging for a photo.

Pot tree?

Is this what I think it is?

Is this a thing? Are pot trees real? Because the parking lot of our California motel/hotel/lodge/whatever sure smelled like weed. And those leaves looked awfully ominous.

Pot tree?

Rollin’ with my homies…

When I head off to GenCon every year, I expect to encounter some strange sights. You might say I even plan for it.  But usually, I’m ready for it inside the convention hall and surrounding areas. I’m not expecting it before I even get to Indianapolis.

Dog in sunroof

This dog really made an impression on me.

As we were driving, I looked to my right and saw a dog. Holding court out the sunroof of a car driving approximately 70 mph. He reminded me of Marmaduke, in that I imagined cartoonish racing lines behind him.

Of course, once we made it to Indianapolis, our unique view of the world wasn’t a blank canvas. That shit was covered in sparkles.

Pink sparkle horseshoes

This bashful horse was either embarrassed because it was a boy horse or just playing coy.

Now, that’s a horse of a different color! If I were a horse, or had a horse, I’d totally want pink sparkle shoes. Who am I kidding. I totally want pink sparkle shoes now.

Pink sparkle horseshoes

Holy sparkly horseshoes, Batman!

I’d like to say that outside of the actual con, this was the extent of the strange…but we managed to see another amusing visual.

Angry birds and bad piggy cop car

Bad piggy?

Brian kept asking why there was an Angry Bird in the back of the cop car, so I explained to him that it was actually a bad piggy…I’m not sure if it was the cop’s own joke or a gag gift from a friend. Either way. Oy vey.

So tell me, Blog Friends, have you seen anything strange or bizarre lately? Have you e er found a four or five leaf clover? A giant potato? Sparkle horseshoes? Tell me your tales!

Hey! Did you know you can buy my book on Amazon? 37 women wrote about the struggle for perfection, and I'm one of 'em. Go check it out!