Sunday, July 31, 2011

Sunday, Sunday

I hope you all are having a good Sunday.  The weekends always go by so quickly...

Friday, I had a 1/2 day of work :-) YAY for summer hours! I went to Bar Method and then came home, walked Oliver & did a Turbo Fire 45 minute "EZ" video.  EZ is just as hard as a regular DVD fyi.  After my workout extravaganza, I took a nap with the pup and then got ready for a date night with LC.  I met him after work at a place called Plymouth.  They have an amazing bar rooftop bar & restaurant.  They had $5 pom-tinis ( I had 2, sooo good!).  I ate a burger & we shared an order of sweet potato fries :-) The weekends, I'm usually a little more casual with my diet...
On Saturday morning, I attended my first workout in the park event.  A friend and I attended Zumba in Millennium Park.  This is something that I've always wanted to do, but never have found the time to do.  I FINALLY made it and it was a blast!! I had so much fun dancing the morning away! I can't wait to go back :-) Which won't be for a few weeks.  It's seriously like a huge flash mob of dancers in the park.  We had tourists joining us for the dance fun!  I <3 Chicago in the summer.

LC and I have lived in our current apartment for over a year now.  It's a pretty nice apartment for where we are in the city and I was hesitant to put pictures on our walls and such because of the fact that I didn't want to to become too "attached" to this place (we've been back & forth about the city vs the Suburbs.)  I think we've finally come to a conclusion.  Anywho, I decided, because I know we're going to be here for a few years, to make our apartment a home.  So I spent the day decorating & rearranging. (pics to follow once it's complete).  I wanted to make our apartment feel more "lived-in".

Today, we spent our morning waiting for LC's dad to sail.  He's part of a sailing program where they race nationally.  But because there was no wind in the "Windy City" today, we sat around waiting for him to sail.  After we got him into the sailboat, we came home finished cleaning the apt, and went to Whole Foods to get our 1 month anniversary dinner.  We grilled steaks & ate some sides salads.  It was perfect :-)  We're getting ready to watch some True Blood now :-) We're only on Season 3 (Netflix) because we don't have HBO.  Tomorrow, I'm taking the day off to get a cyst removed :-/  My doc doesn't think it's anything serious but she just wants to be sure.  I'm a little nervous since it's the closest thing I've ever had to surgery!! Wish me luck!!! 

Thursday, July 28, 2011

1/2 Marathon (#3) Training

It's Friday eve :-) I hope you're enjoying your Thursday.  I'm very excited for this weekend because I'm staying put in Chicago and have plans of laying by the pool and reading, getting into trouble in the kitchen and buying some things off of our registry at a discounted price.  I can't wait!

Last Sunday, I stopped over at one my BFF's house because I had some stuff to give back to her that she borrowed me for the wedding.  It's always nice to see her and her hubby because they're such great people :-) Anyway, she was telling me that she was thinking about running the Lake Country 1/2 marathon on September 3rd (in 1/2 marathon training, that's right around the corner).  Up until my ankle injury, I haven't gone over 3 miles, so naturally, I was a bit hesitant.  But I gave it some more thought and told her that I'd do it with her.  I figured this would be the best way to get back on my running game.  So, we are fast fowarding to week 6 of 1/2 marathon training.  This should be interesting...

1/2 Marathon Training
Today called for 4 miles.  I ran this on Tuesday and everything went perfectly, with the exception of the humidity.  No falls, no ankle pain.  Today, I had to move it inside, because the sky was looking a little beastly this morning.  I was nervous to run on the treadmill because last time I did, it didn't feel comfortable for me.  This time I rocked it, but the only problem was boredom.  Not the greatest timing, but I hate the treadmill so this is fine for me.   

Along with running, I'm trying to do some strengthening & toning to keep from getting injured.  I was going to try and sneak in a Bar Method workout tonight, but I have so much stuff to do at home, I think I'll just stick to the Tone 30 from Turbofire.  That way, I can get in laundry & a workout :-)  

My Eats
Tonight for dinner I'm making salmon, asparagus & risotto :-) Definitely beats last night's dinner of a bagel thin and peanut butter (I wasn't feeling too good last night).  My new favorite breakfast has become a small container of greek yogurt mixed with some chopped up strawberries and topped with agave nectar along side a hardboiled egg.  I'm not sure why, but my appetite has been very minimal in the mornings, even after I workout.  Normally, I'm pretty hungry after a run so I'm not sure of what's up.  Maybe it's the heat? All I wanted after my AM run on Tuesday was a popsicle...

I'm off to do some turbofire & make dinner.  Enjoy the rest of your night :-)

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The Music behind the Party

Happy hump day! Thankfully, this week is just flying by for me.  I have a fun weekend planned :-)   On the fitness front, I got up and ran 4 miles yesterday morning, which was a success.  No ankle pain then and no ankle pain now.  It feels good to be back and confident that I will finish my third 1/2 marathon in September.  I'm down three lbs since we got home from our honeymoon :-) I also started Turbofire on Monday & I LOVE this workout! It doesn't even feel like you're working out and the music is pretty awesome.  Full review coming at a later date.  I've only done two of the DVDs.

Speaking of music, since I'm still obsessing over my wedding & anxiously waiting for my pics (about two more weeks!), I thought I'd write a little bit about our reception & our music selections.  This was one of our tougher choices since LC & I have a variety of tastes, but we made it work. 

Our First Dance-Stay With You, John Legend.  LC's one request for our first dance was no country.  This was a dilemma because all the songs that I had picked out were from the country genre.  We came to an agreement with this one, since we both like John Legend & the words were perfect for us.

Mom/Daughter Dance-I had the pleasure of dancing with my beautiful mother on my wedding day.  I let her pick the song, and was ecstatic when she chose, Mama's Song by Carrie Underwood.  I secretly hoped she would pick this song because one, I love Carrie Underwood & two, the song couldn't have been more fitting for our dance together.

Parents Dance-Not wanting to leave my step-dad out of the equation (or LC's mom), we decided to do a "parents dance".  I really wanted My Wish by Rascal Flatts & LC wanted anything but.  We were supposed to dance Somewhere Over the Rainbow, but at the very last minute, LC told the DJ to play Rascal Flatts :-)

Bouquet Toss-I wanted to stay away from all cliche songs, (ie. Single Ladies) so I decided to roll with Who's That Chick by Rhianna.  Definitely a fun dance song and a way to keep the party going.

Garter Toss-LC decided to go more classic, with Shook Me All Night Long, by ACDC.  It was a fun one and a good way to sneak in an oldie but goodie :-)

Now that our wedding day is almost a month gone, there are still certain things that stick out in my mind about it.  One being our reception and my mom & stepdad who danced the night away.  I've never seen them have so much fun in my life :-)  I can't wait to see what other fun memories our photographer captured.   

Monday, July 25, 2011

LC's Tough Mudder Recap + SIDI for the Week

Sorry this posting is a day late, but I hung out with my parents all day on their boat yesterday & the time just got away from me :-) It was a glorious way to end the weekend and I didn't want to leave.  We didn't get back to Chicago until after 9pm, and after sunning & swimming all afternoon, I was beat.  But not as beat as this guy...

Hubs had his tough mudder race on Saturday and he completed it like a champ :-) I'm not going to lie, I had my doubts about him finishing only because this race sounded so intense & the night before, we were laying in bed and I asked him when the last time was that he ran 10 miles.  He told me 8 or 9 years ago...EEK!   

We woke up EARLY Saturday morning to get ready and drive up to Devil's Head in WI.  We got on the road at 4:30 a.m. and guess what...there was a traffic jam!  At 4:30AM!!!! To be honest, I was not the least bit's Chicago.  But we later found out that the highways had standing water and there was a part of the highway that was closed all together.  Needless to say, we made in there just in time for LC to start his race.  

Pretty much, he had to complete run/walk/ crawl :-) 10 miles and complete 25 obstacles.  I tried to make it to as many obstacles as I could, but being a spectactor at these things are no joke.  One, I definitely wore the wrong kind of shoes.  My old school Adidas flip flops are shot :-(  And two, the maps were not helpful at all.  I pretty much just walked around, asked the people what obstacle # it was and waited for him to show up. (Tough mudder, get better maps and some guides out there to direct you on where to go.)

This was obstacle #10.  But the first one that I saw him at.  I was so happy to see him alive & not hurt.  And I'm pretty sure he was happy to see me :-) 

  (No thanks buddy, we'll save the hugs for later.)

Some of the obstacles included runnning through walls of fire (so mad that I missed this), climbing up a wall, carrying logs, jumping into pools of ice water, low crawling through barbed wire in the mud, and last but  running through yellow tenticles that had electrcity running through them.  Most people made it out of that unharmed, but hubs was not so lucky.  He got shocked with a BIG one and, therefore, fell into the mud.  This was the very last obstacle and why he looks so dirty compared to everyone else...

I think he's still feeling the effects of that shock!

After they finished the race, they got a beer, a clean t-shirt and those groovy sweatbands :-) Oh, and a facebook badge that says you complete Tough Mudder.  He keeps asking me to do it with him next year, but I told him the ONLY way he could get me to do it is if we get to do the one London or Syndey Australia ;-) If I'm going to put myself through that kind of punishment I want a sweet vacation out of it, or at least a medal :-)  The money went to a great cause & I was just so happy he finished successfully AND injury- free.

So below is this week's Say it Do It.  I saw one of my BFF's for a bit yesterday and she roped me into doing a 1/2 marathon with her.  It's her first one and I thought it would be nice if she had a buddy to run it with her.  Did I mention that it's over Labor Day weekend? 6 weeks to go, so I better get running! I also got my turbo fire DVDs in the mail.  So far I LOVE them.  They're so much fun :-)

Monday: Fire 30 + Stretch 10
Tuesday: Run 4 miles + Turbofire workout
Wednesday: Run 2 miles + Bar Method+ Volleyball playoffs!
Thursday: Run 4 miles + Turbofire
Friday: Turbofire workout
Saturday: 5k Race to Zumba in the Park :-)
Sunday: Yoga!

I'm off to the grocery store & to grill out with hubs.  Grilling has become our Monday ritual since it's his day off and the only day he gets to perfect his grilling skills this week ;-)

Saturday, July 23, 2011

My 7 Links!

Special thanks to Lindsey over at A Running Tale for tagging me in the 7 links post! As a fairly new blogger, I'm excited to play along :-)

Most Beautiful
So far my most "beautiful" post to date, has been a birthday tribute to my then fiance, 27.  I think it's the most beautiful because I put it all out there, he read it & got teary eyed.

Most Popular-My recent bar method review has hands down been my most popular post.  Thanks to a tweet by Bar Method and a facebook post, that one post got almost 500 views.  I love the Bar Method because it works!!

 Most controversial-My post about strippers @ bachelor parties. I knew LC would be having one, I didn't haven't a problem with it, but I knew some of the GF's of the guys did and I just wanted to see what everyone's opinions were.

Most Helpful-I'm going to go with my honeymoon recaps. Part 1-Arriving to San FranPart 2-Big Wineries & LodgingPart 3-Small Wineries & Restaurants. I want to go back to Napa!

Surprise Success-My wedding shower post! haha! I didn't think that many people cared :-) It was a bit long a huge picture overload, but I had so much to say & I didn't want to forget anything.

Not Enough Attention-When I decided to withdraw from the Chicago Marathon I thought more people would comment.  It was a big decision (and HUGE disapointment) for me and a lot of different factors went into it.  Spraining my ankle has almost been a blessing in disguise.  It has taught me A)listen to my body, it knows its limits B)Not take exercise or simple things such as walking for granted C)forced me to try different things besides running (I got turbofire in the mail yesterday! Trying it out tomorrow!!)

Most Proud Of- My first 1/2 marathon with my sister :-) Something I never thought I'd be able to do.  I miss you MissE Childs :-)

And now I pass the 7 links torch onto:

Okay, I'm off to bed...being a spectator at Tough Mudder is exhausting in itself!  I will be back tomorrow with an update of LC's race.  It will be a dirty one ;-)

Friday, July 22, 2011

Who's The Toughest of Them All?

Happy Friday! The weekend is finally here :-) LC & will be heading back to WI tomorrow for a fun-filled (for me anyway) Saturday & Sunday.

Back in December when LC was deployed, he sent me an e-mail with the subject line, "I found something fun for us to do!" I was immediately excited and thought it was a fun, tropical vacation to take (even though we had a wedding to pay for, wishful thinking). I opened up the e-mail and saw this video below:

This looks 10 times worse that basic training.  I responded back with, "What part of this looks fun for me?" He said that because I had run two 1/2 marathons last year, he thought that I'd be interested in doing this with him. I love you dear, but no thanks. So LC found some fellow Security Forces members to participate in the race with him and tomorrow morning we're driving up to Devil's Head WI so that he can do just that.  Tough Mudder is a very intense 10-12 mile obstacle course that was designed by the British Special Forces.  There's not a time goal, but just to finish the race is an accomplishment on its own.  On average, about 78% of participants actually complete the course.  I believe there's a tattoo & mohawk for the finisher, which LC will NOT be getting.  He also had to sign a death waiver for this race, that's how intense it is.  I'm hoping that the weather in WI tomorrow will be less hot and humid than it's been here in Chicago.  The money raised by the event goes to a wonderful cause, the Wounded Warrior Project

After the race, we'll be headed back to a town close to my parents house because LC has to go to a Yellow Ribbon conference on Sunday.  The conference is for those who have been deployed for a certain amount of time and it's about reintegrating back into society...even though he's been home since February, he still has to go.  I on the other hand will be spending the day on my parents boat (weather pending).  It seems like every time I go out on the lake with them, the clouds decide to come out.  I'm bad "boat luck", but we're going to take our chances anyhow.

Tonight, I have scheduled a 3 mile run & some yoga.  The yoga will for sure be happening because my hips are extremely sore from Bar Method & it's been forever since I've practiced it, but the 3 mile run might turn into something a little bit shorter or some elliptical action. 

Today's eats have been pretty good :-) I'm getting back on the "healthy/whole eating" track after our wonderful honeymoon.  I started my day off with a cup of iced coffee & 1/2 cup of almond milk along side a peach & a hard boiled egg.  My breakfasts haven't been anything great lately.  For some reason lately I don't have much of an appetite in the mornings and I can just get by with a smoothie or piece of fruit & something small.  For lunch today I tried a new place, Freshii.  They have a TON of options, including a DIY salad/wrap.  It took awhile to decide what I wanted, but I went with the vegan wrap w/goat cheese.  My wrap came undone, so I mostly just ate it as a salad and picked at the wheat tortilla.  It was very, very good!  

Have a good weekend!!! I'll be back at some point with a recap of LC's tough mudder race! What's the most extreme race/workout you've ever done? For me, the toughest race was my first 1/2 marathon in Chicago last August.  I was undertrained and way overheated!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

This Week I...

Found out that I actually do like cherries...alot!  Funny how your tastes change as you get older.

I discovered Instagram :-) Below is my Chipolte salad bowl from lunch today.  Get ready for lots of instagram pics in the near future.
Survived outdoor activities.  This heat in Chicago has been brutal. But I'm sure most of you know that.

Did two days of "two a days" back to back.  A first for me in awhile.
I ordered Turbofire in efforts to mix up my fitness routine.

Discovered a few new blogs to read :-) 


Attended Bar Method twice. Once more from last week. I'm slowly making progress :-)
Talked hubs into training for a 1/2 marathon with me.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Finding Motivation

I'm not going to lie.  The wedding planning process took a lot out of me.  While it was mostly fun & the day turned out perfectly, there were times when there were tears, it was very stressful and caused arguments between LC & I.  Since we've been married, we've been argument/tear/stress-free and very happy in love :-) 

But there's one thing that I'm missing: motivation to workout.  I wish I could say that I exhausted myself from all the working out that I did before the wedding, but that would be a big {fat} lie.  I did take a little bit of a break from The Bar Method, but I'm back to it this week.  I've been working out since I got married, but not the extent that I should be to continue losing weight and the motivation to actually get up and go is just not there.  

Before I got married, what motivated me to get up and workout was that BWD {beautiful, white, dress}.  I wanted to look and feel my best on my wedding day, and I did. But lately, when I don't feel like running, I have nothing to think about that gets me up and going.  Now I see how newlyweds gain weight their first year of marriage.

But I won't let that be me.  I'm mixing things up here at the casa.  I've recruited a running buddy: my husband.  Our goal is to run at least twice a week together and I've been toying around with the idea of signing up for a 1/2 marathon at the end of the October.  I've also ordered Turbo Fire from Beachbody because I've heard so many great things about it and it looks FUN! I was going to start the 60 day Insanity program {which I bought about a year ago}, but one of my bridesmaids had asked to borrow it so I'm going to let her try it out.  I also think it's time for some new workout apparel.  Maybe a trip to lululemon is in my near future :-) 

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Honeymoon Recap Pt. 3-Smaller Vineyards & Restaurants

Morning! I hope everyone's enjoying their day so far.  Last night was a somewhat productive night.  I got some grocery shopping done, Monday's workout completed, & the hubs made dinner.  Turkey burger w/ chipolte veganaise, and kale salad for me and a pork chop, kale salad and pasta salad for him.  We picked out meats at Whole Foods for him to grill & I picked out some salads for us to have.  

It was much too hot to have the oven on today.  It's been in the 90s here in Chicago.  I'm not going to complain because I love this weather.  BUT what I don't like is going into freezing cold A/C after being outside.  I always freeze to death inside during the summer time. 

So, here's the final part of our honeymoon recap.  It's an overview of the smaller wineries & the restaurants we went to.  Note to anyone looking to wine taste through Napa...5 wineries in one day? Far too many.  Here's a list of the smaller wineries we visited.  I liked the smaller vineyards because of the one on one attention & the fact that I won't be able to taste most of these wines anywhere else but Napa.  All the more reason to go back :-)
  • Rutherford Hill
  • Miner
  • Turnbull
  • Frog's Leap
  • Clos Du Val
  • Trefethen
We stumbled upon this one after our wine train tour.  It was hidden, set back from the road.  We did just the estate tasting for $10 and got to taste about 3 different wines.  It was a pretty winery, the wine was good but nothing to write home about.  They do have picnic areas available.    
This winery is located along Hwy 29. The tasting room was very quaint and this was the only winery that I saw, where they sold wine case carriers for the plane.  We already had two suitcases to bring home, otherwise I would've brought our wine home this way instead of shipping it.  They had a really good cab that we bought, and they waived our tasting fees.  The pleasures of the smaller wineries :-) 

 Right down the road from Rutherford Hill.  This winery came as a recommendation from a couple at Mumm.  I wish I could say more about this winery, but it was #5.  From what I can remember the wine was good, and we did buy a bottle. 

 Rutherford Hill
I LOVED this winery! A friendly host named Larry :-) He was very knowledgeable about his wine.  They had a decent malbec and was generous with his tastings.  We found a 2 for 1 tasting coupon that was valid from an iPhone App.  Next time we go to Napa, I'd like to do their cave tour.  
They also had a lovely picnic area.  LC and I shared a picnic.  I wish I had taken a picture of it because it was just so darn cute, but I was too hungry to think about it.  But here's the view from the picnic area. 
Clos du Val
Another fave of mine.  Good wine and friendly employees.  The inside of the tasting room had a very French feel to it.  I almost felt like we were wine tasting in France.  They take the time to sit there and talk to you about the wine, answer any questions and give you the history behind the wine.  We ended up with two bottles of their exclusive wine: Three Graces in red & white. Yummmmm! This is what their website says about the wine:
An artistic depiction of the mischievous daughters of Zeus, the Three Graces were known throughout ancient Greece for dancing, singing and being the life of Olympian parties.  Independent in mind, body and spirit and now an essential element of our soul, there simply could be no better representative of Clos Du Val than the Three Graces.

Frog's Leap
A very laid-back winery.  We got to sit out on their front porch and watch a few kids play bags.  It was the epitome of what summer time is.  We tasted about 4 wines, and they provided us with snacks :-) BONUS!  It was set up very much like Mumm in the fact that you had a "sever" bring you your wines, tell you about each one and then they were in the area if you had any questions. The grapes are organically grown & they don't use irrigation to water their grapes, just the environment.  You also get a free bottle of olive oil when you purchase wine.  Their olive oil is really good!! 

LC & I have zero bad things to say about the restaurants we went to.  At each restaurant we received great service, excellent food, and good wine.  Just a little FYI, all the restaurants in Napa allow you to bring your own wine, but they charge you a small corkage fee.  The only place where we bought our wine was to Bouchon.  We bought a bottle of white with us which we drank before our main courses and then I ordered a class of red to go with my steak.  
  • Calistoga Inn & Brewery
  • Bouchon
  • Ristorante Allegria
  • Gott's Roadside
  •  Press
  • Napa Valley Wine Train
Bouchon Bakery
We never went to the actual bakery but we did have it delivered every morning to our front doorstep.  It was the "official" bakery of The Cottages. Everything was so good, and they have amazing croissants with chocolate :-)
Calistoga Inn & Brewery
This was the first place we ate at when we arrived to Napa.  I made reservations to this place with LC in mind: I know that he wanted to have beer at least one of the days we were in Napa.  Calistoga Inn & Brewery makes their own beer, but the dinner menu is nothing like what we have here in the midwest.  It's definitely more upscale than your typical burgers & fries type of place.  We ate in their beer garden and enjoyed some brew & yummy food.  I had lamb & and I don't remember what LC had.

Gott's Roadside
Perfect lunchtime spot.  Located on Hwy 29.  Good burgers. Good strawberry milkshakes.  End of story.

Ristorante Allegria
This Italian restaurant is located in downtown Napa, which was about 15 minutes from where we were staying.  I'm really glad we went here because not only did they have the best mushroom ravioli I've ever had at a restaurant, but we got to see a part of Napa that we never would've otherwise seen.  They're was also a street fair going on, so it was fun to see what the locals do on a Thursday night.

The last place we ate dinner and definitely our fanciest.  I loved this place and want to go back like yesterday.  We had the nicest server, who recommended the best wine and side dishes.  We had lobster cocktail for an appetizer, steak for dinner, along with truffle mac & cheese (my mouth is watering just thinking about it) and sweet corn.  They also have gruyere cheese rolls.  I could've eaten a whole basket of these, they were pretty much the best combination ever. But I refrained. Why? I have no idea.  I will need to look up a recipe for these because I need them again. Very soon.  

A casual french bistro run by the famed Thomas Keller.  The restaurant is located in Yountville, which may be my new favorite small town.  I felt like I was in a classy town in up north WI. I made our reservations here because we couldn't get into The French Laundry so we figured this would be the next closest thing.  I had steak Frites, which was pretty amazing.  The food and service were both as good as we expected them to be and we decided that next year, we'll be dining at French Laundry for our one year anniversary :-) Can't wait! 

Napa Valley Wine Train
My sister got us a very generous gift certificate for The Napa Valley Wine train, so we decided to use it for a Friday lunch.  I would definitely recommend doing this.  It was a great way to see the valley from an elevation that you cannot get in a car.  It was absolutely gorgeous.  The food was fairly good too.  We had the lobster bisque and a beef tenderloin.  Wine, however, were not included in our train ticket price.  I would definitely do this again, but maybe go for dinner just to get a different experience.  

There you have it! Maria & LC's Napa Wine adventure :-) We're so happy that we went on a honeymoon right after the wedding.  I know some couples wait, but I don't know the meaning of that word :-) It was just nice to take a deep breath after the wedding was over and forget about everything.  Napa was a good choice for the type of honeymoon we wanted to have.  I think next time we go, we'll focus more on the outdoorsy type things that it has to offer.  I would love to visit the hotsprings in Calistoga or go kayaking in The Russian River. 

Monday, July 18, 2011

Say It, Do It + Weekend Recap

Happy Monday! I hope everyone had a fabulous weekend.  LC & I had the perfect summer weekend.  It's been a while since we've been in Chicago for a full weekend where he didn't have to work.  We took full advantage. 

Friday, we went to the Taste of River North.  I much prefer this than the taste of Chicago.  The crowd was much different and the environment was much more relaxed.  I sipped sangria, while LC drank beer.  We ate good food, walked around and listened to fun 80's music.  Perfect way to end the week. 

taco platter from Zocalo

Sangria + Summer = happiness

On Saturday, we got up early and ventured to Lincoln Park to go to the farmer's market.  We picked up some tasty produce, lovely flowers and I discovered that I do actually like cherries :-) As a kid, I hated them and that always stuck with me.  But now, as an adult, I decided to give them another try and I can't stop eating them.  Me gusta! After the farmer's market, I went home and got  into some trouble with my Kitchen-Aid mixer. LOVE this thing! It was a wedding gift from my grandparents and probably one of my favorite gifts.  I decided to make a first attempt at gluten-free/vegan chocoloate chip cookies.  I got the recipe from my cookbook, BabyCakes: Vegan, (Mostly) Gluten-Free, and (Mostly) Sugar-Free Recipes from New York's Most Talked-About Bakery.  Now, I don't have any known food allergies, but I do know that my body doesn't love dairy, so I'm trying to steer clear of it as much as possible...with the exception of cheese.  I love cheese.  These cookies turned out amazingly! Even LC thought they were good and had no idea that they were GF/Vegan.  I will definitely be making them again :-) I was surpised at how well they turned out because 1, gluten free baking can be trickery and 2 I can't remember the last time I baked from scratch.  The last time I baked anything was when LC was overseas and I sent him a care package (back in December).  And even those cookies were pre-made.  Oops!  Later that night, we met up with some friends and went out to celebrate a birthday.   

On Sunday, LC & I ended our weekend with a Cubs game :-) Pefect summer time activity!

Now on to talk about some fitness.  Since the wedding, I've been lacking major motivation to do anything really.  I did workout last week, but not to the extent I wanted to.  So I'm hopping back on the 'Say it Do it' train and posting my workouts for the week in hopes that I stick to it and find my motivation again.  

Monday: Treadmill or Elliptical + a Fitnessista ab workout
Tuesday: The Bar Method  woke up too late but did a bridal bootcamp dvd :-)
Wednesday: The Bar Method + Volleyball
Thursday: The Bar Method + 30 minutes on the elliptical with intervals
Friday: Run 3 miles
Saturday: Cheer on LC at his tough mudder race!!!  
Sunday: Maybe some turbofire? I ordered the DVDs today so hopefully they're be here!

I'll be back later to talk about the 3rd & (final) honeymoon recap.  Here's Part 1 & Part 2!

Friday, July 15, 2011

Napa Honeymoon Review Part 2: Lodging & The Big Wineries

Happy Friday! I'm so thankful that the weekend is finally here and we start summer hours at work (1/2 day Fridays) and most importantly, my husband comes home.  He's been working at the base this week, so it's just been me and Oliver.  Husband. I'm still not used to calling him that.  I joked with him that I'm just going to keep referring to him as my boyfriend (I didn't like the word "fiance" either) just to keep things spicy ;-) 

So today, I bring you part 2 of our honeymoon.  When I started looking for lodging in Napa, I knew that we (well, I) didn't want to stay at a standard hotel.  I wanted this to be a special experience so I started looking at bed and breakfasts.  Eh. Although they are quite charming, I just didn't like the fact that we would be sharing the house with other people.  I wanted something a bit more private.  BUT I did like the fact that they offered a prepared breakfast every morning.  The Cottages of Napa Valley offered a little bit of both: privacy & breakfast.  Kate, one of my favorite bloggers, had recommended this place to me.  I'm so glad that we ended up staying here.  It was perfect for what we were looking for.  There are 8 cottages on the ground and I swear, we were the only couple there.  It was so quiet and relaxing which is just what we were looking for.  And every morning, we had a little breakfast basket waiting on our front doorstep with baked goods from Bouchon bakery :-) (How I didn't gain any weight on this trip, I'll never know).       

The "living area" of our cottage.  I told LC that I could stay here all summer.  I absolutely loved it.

Little kitchenette area...

And a s'mores basket for our firepit right outside our front door. 

I would definitely stay here again.  We were greeted with a sparkling bottle of champagne, the cottage was spotless, we had so much privacy, and they even mailed back all the stuff that I forgot there.  Which ended up being quite a bit for me.  I almost usually never forget stuff at hotels.  If you're looking for a romantic place to stay in Napa, this is my suggestion.  We stayed during the week which is their "off-time" so we were able to get a 10% off discount.  They also gave us a military discount :-)  Now onto the important

The (BIG) Wineries 
I didn't want to spend a lot of time tasting wine that I knew we'd be able to find back home.  The one big winery that I knew that we both wanted to visit was Robert Mondavi.  Because this one was on both of our lists, I booked tickets in advance for their tour our first day there.

The big wineries we visited:
  • Robert Mondavi
  • Mumm
  • Beringer
  • Domaine*Chandon
Robert Mondavi-So many people told us that if we take one tour in Napa, it should be at Mondavi.  So, we followed their advice.  This was the first stop on the Maria & LC wine adventure.  Their grounds are beautiful.  Acres & acres of grapes waiting to be turned into wine.  We signed up for signature tour & tasting.  Our tour guide led us into a room and we started out by doing awkward group introductions and getting a little bit of history of the vineyard and Robert Mondavi himself.

Then he guided us through the whole process on how the grape gets from the vineyard and into my hands :-)   Below is a picture of the aging room.  Lots of wine getting ready to be consumed.
After the tour was over, we got to do the tasting of three wines.  One white, one blush, and one red.  This was the most helpful part of the tour because it actually taught us how to taste wine.  What you look for and smell for to determine whether or not it's actually a good wine.  When LC and I would order a bottle of wine at a restaurant, we would do the whole smelling thing because we felt like we had to, but we honestly had no idea what we were doing :-) Our tour guide was very knowledgable and funny.  We decided that one tour was enough because, more than likely, they would give us the same information.  So for the remainder of the trip we stuck to tastings.
Mumm-Ahhhh sparkling wine :-)  LC's not big into sparkling wine, but I wanted to visit at least one vineyard specializing in sparkling wine.  We ended up at two.  At Mumm, there is no tasting room.  It's set up very much like a restaurant where you can choose to sit outside or inside, choose your tasting selections and then sit and enjoy them.  The server will come over introduce the wines to you, and be around in case you have any questions.  LC and I sat and enjoyed our selections, talked with a few locals to get more recommendations, and looked over our travel books.  Overall, it was a pleasant experience.  We sat outside so that we could enjoy the scenery, but the day that we went it was scalding hot outside (like in the upper 90s which is very hot for Napa & for LC).  I'm sure the inside would've been just as enjoyable as it had floor to ceiling windows surrounding it.  And air conditioning.  
The portions aren't as big as they look.  These were mini glasses...

Domaine*Chandon- The second sparkling wine place we went to.  LOVED it! The grounds were gorgeous.  It was almost like being in the middle of a wooded park.  And I wanted to buy everything in their gift shop.  From cookbooks to decorative candleware, they had it all.  Also, they had free sparkling wine recipe cards set up through the gift shop.  I grabbed them all.  The person who did our tasting with us was the nicest lady and man, did she know her sparkling wines!  She walked us through the whole process of how sparkling wine is made vs. regular wine.  We got all the tour information without having to take the tour :-) She was so nice and generous with her pours that we joined their wine club.  Actually, what made us join their wine club was their Bubbles & Baseball event that was being held at a Wrigleyfield rooftop.  Soon after we signed up, we learned (online) that the event was sold out :-( Domaine definitely trumps Mumm when it comes to sparkling wine tastings.  I recommend this one hands down.  We also recieved little signature flutes and wine glasses, which was included with our tasting. 

Beringer-I really like the way Beringer was set up.  It was almost like a small campus.  The house shown below is where the giftshop and the reserve tastings were held.  They had two types of tastings: one where we could try wines that we could buy back home and another that were "reserve" wines, special releases & wine club member-type wines.  We decided to spend the extra money and do the reserve tasting.  It was worth the extra money.  Beringer was also another winery that wasn't stingy with their pours.  Or maybe we just had really good servers.  Anyway, we got to try about 4 or 5 wines from their menu.  We enjoyed our experience so much that LC & I also joined this wine club too :-) The grounds at Beringer are beautiful and very peaceful.  It was definitely one of my favorites out of the big wineries, because it didn't "feel" like a big winery.  The employees there were more personable than at Robert Mondavi.  Just our experience. 

That's it for now.  I'll be back to recap smaller wineries & good places to eat :-) I'm off to enjoy my Friday!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Honeymoon Review Part 1: Arriving to San Francisco

Good morning!  I was supposed to have this posting up last night, but due to a slow internet connection & the fact that I was exhausted from Bar Method, my 8 mile bike ride & volleyball, I decided to wait until my brain didn't feel like mush. So here it is.  Part one of our honeymoon.

We took the earliest flight out from O'Hare to SFO (6am, Yikes!).  I wanted to have enough time to spend at least an afternoon in San Francisco, since neither of us had ever been there.  After we arrived, we took the tram over to the car rental terminal and picked up this hot little number. 

Our ride for the week was a convertible Mustang in cherry red.  Hotness! The driver's not too bad either ;-)  After we left the airport we headed down to Fisherman's Wharf.  The one thing I wanted to do while in San Francisco was see the seals, but I received some terrible news once we got there; they're not likely to be there during the summer months!  With all the research that I did for this trip, you think that would've come up? Nope.  Travel research fail.  But I did luck out with these two lazy seals who looked pretty content with where they were.    
We walked around Fisherman's Wharf and ate at a Crepes restaurant.  FW is a complete tourist trap, but it was definitely on our "must do" list.  It reminded me of Chicago's Navy Pier but on a much bigger scale.  

The ONE thing that LC wanted to do on this trip was visit Alcatraz.  A few weeks before we left for SF, I started booking the things we wanted for sure wanted to do.  (Alcatraz, Robert Mondavi tour, restaurants were all reserved before we left).  I'm so glad that I did reserve our Alcatraz tour when I did because a week and a 1/2 before the date, the two earlier time slots were already booked, so we went with the 12pm tour.  We booked our tix through Alcatraz Cruises.  
The Ferry ride over to Alcatraz was a windy one.  If you go, I suggest bringing a jacket and judging by this picture...maybe some hairspray.  It took us about 15 minutes to get over to Alcatraz Island.  Once you're on the Island, ferrys come back about every 15 minutes or so to get people, so you can leave whenever you want to.  There's also a ferry schedule posted on the island.  When I read the website, I was under the impression that the whole tour lasted about 3 hours.  We were only there for about 2-2 1/2 hours including the ferry ride to and from.   

I was actually very surprised at how beautiful Alcatraz Island was.  From the outside, it's hard to imagine that it was a "super" prison.

Once we got inside & started our audio tour, it was a different story...

After our tour on Alcatraz, we got back in our little car, and explored the rest of San car.  We didn't want to spend our time walking everywhere.  One, San Fran is extremely hilly and two, we had an hour drive to Napa.

Here are some pics of San car.  I would really like to go back there and explore the city a bit more, but that would have to be a separate vacation because SF seems to have a lot to offer. 
Like street cars...

and Chinatown...

And the most "crookedest" street.  We drove down Lombard St. and I terrified.  That might be an overstatement, BUT I don't think I could ever live in SF because I hate driving on hills, so I would end up walking everywhere which in return might give me legs like Carrie Underwood' maybe relocating wouldn't be a bad idea ;-)

After we survived all those twists and turns, we looked at each other decided it was time to head to wine country.  But not without seeing the Golden Gate Bridge (which you actually take to get to Napa).  We got there just in time to see the fog roll in.  I've never seen fog so thick!  We went to the observation area and could not see anything.  It was hard to believe that there was even a bridge there.  So, we got back in the car and drove over it.   

*one of my fave shots :-) Definitely happy with the convertible!

And there it is!!! The best picture I got on the other side of the bridge.  Just another reason to go back for a visit.  Next stop? Napa! I'll be back tomorrow with a recap of lodging and most importantly, VINEYARDS!