Chattanooga Getaway

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Last weekend, we took a little family getaway to Chattanooga, TN. Believe it or not, I’ve never been there, despite the hundreds of¬†times we’ve driven through there on our way to and from Nashville over the years. Craig’s little sister had a softball tournament scheduled for the weekend, and we surprisingly had some free time, so we decided to make a trip up.

First off – why have we never made a point to go there before now?! It’s so easy to get to from Atlanta… it took us an hour and 45 minutes door to (Airbnb) door. And it’s such a pretty place once you get away from the interstate!

We got in town Thursday afternoon, and after checking out our adorable cottage-like rental house, we headed over to the Coolidge Park area. The park area is beautiful and pristine, and the location by the river couldn’t be nicer… but it was SO.SO.HOT. We almost immediately regretted the decision to put Leighton in the stroller to walk around, but we quickly found the antique carousel, and she and I thoroughly enjoyed our ride. We joked that she looked a little seasick when we got off, but I think she had fun.

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I got a ton of great restaurant recommendations before going on our trip, and one of the most popular suggestions was Taco Mamacita. Since it was near the park, we continued our walk and sweated our way to dinner. It’s located in a funny little shopping center that is obviously quite old (in a sort of cool, retro way), but there are a few great places sprinkled throughout. Dinner was delicious and super fast, which is greatly appreciated when dining with an impatient infant. I loved their California Club taco, and Craig raved about the Sloppy Jose (which included Fritos in the taco!). We wandered over to Milk & Honey for gelato, and Leighton was a HUGE fan of the couple tastes she got! I think we’ve created a monster.

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We spent Friday morning feeling like locals… early breakfast at Aretha Frankenstein’s for the thickest pancakes we’ve ever seen and then a long walk through the neighborhood while Leighton snoozed. Thank goodness we planned to spend the main part of the day at the aquarium so we could get out of the heat. The aquarium consists of two big buildings, one for “river journey” and one for “ocean journey.” It was a long outing for the little lady, but she was a pretty good (quite vocal) sport as we walked through the exhibits. I think our favorites were the butterfly room, stingray touch tank, funny penguins, and the multitude of jellyfish tanks.

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After leaving downtown, we took a little detour up to Lookout Mountain and walked/drove through some of the neighborhood streets admiring the view and the incredible mountaintop homes. I had no idea that an actual neighborhood would be that far up the mountain, and so many of the homes were absolutely amazing!

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We headed back downtown for a quick dinner at Lupi’s Pizza, which we really liked, and then drove straight back to Milk & Honey for more dessert. (So bad!) We also picked up some pastries for Saturday’s breakfast, including a homemade Nutella pop tart with sprinkles… talk about being right up my alley.

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Saturday was spent going back and forth to the softball fields for Craig’s sister’s 3 games. Despite the heat, Leighton was a trooper, and we got to see Cassie’s team win 2 of their games for the day. Go Music City Mustangs!

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Due to baby’s bedtime (which we pushed back a decent bit for vacation purposes), we spent each night hanging out on the front porch swing or the back patio drinking wine, talking about how much were obsessed with our baby, and trying not to be eaten alive by killer mosquitos. Aside from those pests, it was the perfect way to wind down and relax after being on the go all day.

By the way, this was our first experience with renting through Airbnb, and we were very pleased with the process and the home we chose! It was so nice to have a whole home (especially a kitchen!), porch, and yard to utilize while traveling with a baby. We took advantage of the walkable location and enjoyed exploring the neighborhood and picking out our favorite homes. A big plus was that the house was just a couple minutes’ drive from pretty much everything we wanted to do, and it felt like we were locals for the weekend. Never would have had that experience by staying at a downtown hotel! Whenever possible going forward, I think we’ll try to rent a home when we take Leighton with us on vacation. If you haven’t tried it yet, get $30 off your first booking!

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We had a lovely time in Chattanooga. We’ll just plan to come back next time in the fall so it’s not 100 degrees outside. ūüôā

travel:: Puerto Rican babymoon, part 2

Although we didn’t venture too far away from our hotel during this quick trip to Puerto Rico, I did enjoy being able to explore¬†the Condado Beach area. On one morning walk, we crossed the bridge heading over to Old San Juan and found part of this old fort, which is now closed to the public. We also saw a cute¬†little public beach right off the street, and it¬†included an outdoor gym, which we thought was a playground – haha. Maybe I’d be more inclined to work out if I got to do it on the actual beach?

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Panoramic view from our balcony::
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23 weeks and a few days — loving our Stella & Dot beach tunic for an expanding belly this season!
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Before dinner one night, we headed into Old San Juan to wander the streets and see the historic part of the city. I’d heard about these blue cobblestone streets, and they were so pretty in person!¬†From what I found online, they¬†were cast from iron slag, which is the waste from iron smelting, and were brought over in the 1700s. There’s your historical fun fact for the day.
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Old San Juan is apparently known for¬†its¬†feral cat population, which we noticed as soon as we started walking the streets of the historic area. They are not at all phased by people walking past them as they lie on the sidewalks or in doorways. We joke about the¬†neighborhood stray cat at home being a “street cat,” but these guys are serious. Coco would be terrified.
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No better way to bid ourselves adieu than with a¬†final meal at Ola¬†— and a giant breakfast buffet, at that. I would love to have my yogurt and granola served in those adorable, chilled glasses¬†every morning. Craig,¬†can you help me out with that?¬†
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We had the most wonderful visit to Puerto Rico, and I can’t recommend our hotel enough. Everyone we met was so friendly and hospitable, the food we had throughout our stay was delicious, and the views of the ocean were beautiful. It was the perfect way to unwind for a few days and enjoy each others’ company on our last real vacation as a couple before baby girl arrives this fall. Eeek!

travel:: Puerto Rican babymoon, part 1

We’re back from our babymoon/anniversary trip to San Juan, Puerto Rico and feeling rested and happy! We haven’t been on a trip by ourselves that pretty much only consisted of relaxing by the pool and being lazy since our honeymoon 6 years ago, and it was much-appreciated. I’d heard such great things about PR, and I can see why. The weather was perfect (cooler than Atlanta, if you can believe that), the locals are so incredibly friendly, and the Condado Vanderbilt Hotel was incredible — top notch service… probably the best we’ve ever received while traveling.

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The historic property just re-opened in December after a very large renovation, and every aspect of the hotel¬†is really nicely done. The view of the ocean from the lobby and lounge area is so inviting, and the moment¬†we arrived, we were handed glasses of champagne to enjoy while we waited on our room to be ready. (Don’t worry —¬†I only had a little.)

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We ended up eating lunch at Ola, the casual onsite restaurant, every day. We¬†tried something new each time; the fancy wood fired pizzas, Cuban sandwich, and brisket quesadilla were among our faves. And I loved their slate plates. ūüėČ
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This was our view for 3 days. There didn’t appear to be a lot of open beach along the coast, and¬†our hotel was situated right against the rocks. We had a beautiful, unobstructed view of the ocean crashing against the rocks from our beach chairs, as well as from the infinity pool. (Craig wouldn’t let me near the pool with my phone, so no photos…)
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Our oceanview room, while not directly facing the ocean, did still have a great view of the water — and about a 15′ balcony along one side. The other side of the room had a view of the harbor and bridge leading over to Old San Juan. I loved that all the windows in the room (and bathroom!) opened up… something I don’t think we’ve seen in most other hotels.¬†
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Dinner our first night was at a trendy oceanside restaurant, aptly named Oceano. We got a great seat on the deck right off the beach, and we loved our meal. I really enjoyed the grilled pineapple starter I had, and Craig’s pork and corn dish was one of our favorite meals of the trip.¬†
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We may or may not have then gone back to Ola at the hotel solely for the purpose of eating this amazing Chocolate Bread Pudding dessert (complete with coconut sorbet, salted caramel sauce, nuts, and caramel corn). And we went back again the next night, too. I’m a bad influence.¬†
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Stay tuned for the rest of our Puerto Rican babymoon!

travel:: Asheville, NC

Asheville, NC has been on our travel bucket list for years now. We finally had the excuse to visit last weekend for my college friend’s wedding, and we had a great time! It’s only a¬†3.5 hour drive from Atlanta, so it makes for an easy weekend getaway.¬†Here were some of our favorite spots around town!

Tupelo Honey Cafe:: This was my favorite meal during our trip. Because we were invited to wedding festivities both nights, we didn’t have the opportunity to eat dinner in Asheville, but we thoroughly enjoyed our other meals. We had a brief wait for lunch at Tupelo on Friday, and we had a celebrity sighting within 5 minutes of being there.¬†Jennifer Carpenter (Deb)¬†from the TV show¬†Dexter¬†was also waiting for a table with a couple ladies¬†– and she had the cutest baby belly!

Anyway, the food was worth a wait. We sat the bar and had great service, even though they were busy. I tried their homemade¬†rosemary peach lemonade, and we started with the Pecan-Crusted Goat Cheese appetizer. Also – they brought out hot biscuits with blueberry jam, and I was sort of wishing I could just have a plate of those as my meal. But I’m glad I didn’t, because I would have missed out on this (below) – the¬†Southern Fried Chicken BLT. So big, so crispy, and so delicious. And that mac n cheese… I’d like some right now. Craig also couldn’t get enough of their fried okra — he said it was some of the best he’s ever had.
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Downtown Asheville::
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Biscuit Head:: One of the best breakfasts we’ve had! The biscuits are literally almost the size of your head, and they don’t mess around with the number and variety of toppings for said biscuits. I ordered the Gravy Flight and got to choose 3 — I picked the Sausage, Fried Chicken, and Chicken Cheddar Chili gravies. We also hit up what I’d call the “jam bar” for honey, jams, spreads, and more. Craig got the Pulled Pork Biscuit Sandwich, and he ate every single bite. I’m not sure how he walked out of there. We’d both highly recommend visiting if you’re in the area — but be warned that the line gets long as the morning goes on. ūüôā
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French Broad Chocolate Lounge:: I had my eye on this place for an afternoon chocolate fix since I couldn’t partake in any of the beer tastings around town. We waited in a short line and ordered hot sipping chocolate and a milkshake made with Costa Rican chocolate and coconut milk to take with us as we walked through downtown. We also picked up a few treats to take home to Atlanta — a couple of ooey, gooey, dense chocolate and coconut macaroon brownies and the Chocolate Snickerdoodle, which we deemed one of the best cookies we’ve ever had.¬†
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Basilica of St. Lawrence
:: This is where our friends Anna and Joe had their wedding ceremony, and I found out that it’s rated one of the top attractions in Asheville. I had no idea that there were so few Basilicas in the U.S., so it was pretty neat to not only visit one, but attend a beautiful wedding ceremony and mass there. The tile work inside the building is so impressive, and the stained glass is equally as beautiful. ¬†
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The Biltmore Estate & Gardens:: It was a rainy, dreary morning when we visited on our way out of town, but it was so worth it! We bought tickets to tour the home and I’m so glad we decided to pay for the guided audio tour. Otherwise, we’d have been wandering around not knowing what we were looking at. The tour was really thorough and included so much interesting information about not only the estate, but the Vanderbilt family through the years. It’s incredible to think that they had the technology to create a call system throughout the house to “ring” the driver or wait staff by the press of a button. And they had a huge indoor pool — complete with underwater lighting! The furniture, fixtures, and even the flooring are so ornate and grand. It’s hard to imagine what it must have been like to live there so many decades ago!

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The gardens were also incredibly beautiful, even in the rain. We only had time to explore the Walled Garden and Conservatory areas, but just the walk over to them was stunning. The grounds were designed by famed landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted, who designed Central Park, so you can imagine the grandeur. Pops of pink, red, and purple were everywhere among the large expanse of green lawns. I wish we’d had more time to explore!¬†
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The grounds are so massive that on the way out, they make you drive through all of what seemed to be the “public” areas, which led us on a 20+ minute drive over to Antler Hill Village. I see what they did there, wanting us to spend more time onsite time eating and shopping, but we didn’t succumb to their tricky ways. I did enjoy the beautiful, wooded scenery on our way out, though. The Biltmore is a must-see if you’re in the Asheville area!

travel:: Napa, Day 3

For our final day in Napa, we had plans to visit 4 more wineries that we’d heard great things about. Our driver Denise, who I mentioned in my “Day 1” post, did not disappoint on our farewell tour of wine country.

Winery 1:: James Cole¬†Estate Winery turned out to be one of my favorites of the trip. We were the first to arrive that day, so it was quiet and we had the place to ourselves for a special little¬†tour of some of the back rooms where the wine is made and stored. The girl hosting our tasting was¬†very¬†knowledgeable about the history of the winery, which was impressive because she’d only been there since this summer. She and the other staff we met have a really great vibe and made it such a fun, laid back experience.

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James Cole is a husband and wife owned winery, and they actually live on the property just next to the tasting room area where we spent our morning. Their logo, which looks like a¬†Texas Longhorn from a distance, is actually modeled after a sculpture the owners bought (it’s showcased in their tasting room). It is¬†is of a man mid-dive, and I believe the title is “Aliento,” which is Spanish for “breath” (you’ll also see a bottle of their wine by the same name below). We were told that it represented their lives at the time when they took the plunge to move to Napa and begin their winery journey — taking a dive headfirst into a dream. Pretty neat story.
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All of the wines we tasted at James Cole were exceptional, but one really stood out — the Pinot Noir Icewine from Canada. Per the Napa Wine Project, this is a rare wine that is made in extremely small quantities. In order for it to be considered “icewine,” the grapes must be frozen for at least 3 nights in a row. The Brix (sugar level) is usually in the upper 30‚Äôs-low 40‚Äôs — which is very sweet. The wine is then aged in Acacia wood barrels which help to impart a honey spiciness into the wine. I’m not typically a fan of sweet wines, but all three of us let out a collective “oooh!” as soon as we tasted it. A rather small bottle¬†sells for a pretty penny due to the small production, but I’m excited to share it with my¬†family as a special treat this Christmas.
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Winery 2:: Regusci Winery¬†felt like we stepped away from the States and right into Tuscany. I loved the old world feel of the property, and while we didn’t have time that day, it would be fun to go back for a tour. We enjoyed 4 of their current wine selections, and even though I’m not much of a white wine drinker these days, their 2012 Chardonnay was incredibly smooth.¬†They also offered freshly made Arancini¬†Balls, which I could have eaten a dozen of.
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Lunch:: We stopped at¬†Oakville Grocery¬†for a picnic lunch, and it made for yet another memorable meal in Napa. Denise called ahead to order a charcuterie and cheese platter for us, and that was the way to do it. Oakville originally opened in 1881, and it was quite a pretty site inside — I could have stayed in there all afternoon looking at the various locally made olive oils, cheeses, spices, jams, and spreads.
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Meats, cheeses, the biggest loaf of focaccia bread ever, tasty beverages from an outdoor drink stand, and gorgeous weather. 
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Winery 3:: Silver Oak¬†Cellars¬†was not on our original itinerary, but we fit in a quick stop for our friend to buy a gift… and of course we needed to taste the wine while we were there. Yet again, this property was immaculate and picturesque.¬†It was far too busy and commercial-seeming for my taste, but then again, it was a Saturday, and we didn’t reserve a private tour. So I’d imagine there are probably better ways to visit Silver Oak for a more personal experience.¬†
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Winery 4:: Robert Biale¬†Vineyards¬†— home of the Black Chicken! Denise recommended this winery due to a couple of us loving Zins,¬†and it couldn’t have been a better experience as the last stop on our tour de wine.

So what is Black Chicken? Along with growing and selling their grapes, the Biale family also sold produce and eggs from the white chickens they had on their property. During Prohibition, Aldo Biale¬†began selling homemade wine, but because¬†his home phone was a ‚Äúparty line,”¬†customers would order his¬†secret wine with the¬†code name ‚ÄúBlack Chicken.‚ÄĚ And thus, a legend was born. We of course tried their 2012 Black Chicken Zin, which did not disappoint.¬†¬†
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Our wine tasting host was simply lovely — he was an older gentleman¬†who is a retired police officer turned wine lover, and he spent the entire hour-long tasting with us. We loved the personalized attention, and because we were sitting on their outdoor patio right next to the vineyard, he let us pull and eat grapes right off the vines. Let me tell you — those little seeded grapes are SO much better than the seedless ones from the grocery store!¬†
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To cap off the trip, we took a drive to downtown Napa to wander the Oxbow Public Market. I wish we’d had time to eat dinner there, because I wanted one of everything. I did try a miniature Kara’s Cupcake, which was to die for, and we bought some lovely local infused olive oils and balsamic vinegars from The Olive Press to take home.
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I¬†can’t say enough how wonderful, relaxing, fun, and much-needed this girls trip was. We even learned a lot about wine making, which I’ve realized is incredibly interesting. Wine country has such a laid back, appealing lifestyle¬†that makes for a truly incredible vacation from the hustle and bustle of real life. I can’t wait to bring Craig back, and once I do, I have a feeling this is going to become a go-to vacation spot whenever we have the luxury.

travel:: Napa, Day 2

To break up the trip a bit, we booked a day of bike rentals through Napa Valley Bike Tours, located in Yountville, the cutest town ever (btw, it’s pronounced “yahnt-ville”). We opted for the non-guided tour and chose what was deemed the “intermediate route” — Rutherford Loop, which was approx 17 miles in total.

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Winery 1:: Domaine Chandon — poppin’ bottles of champagne! We biked just down the street to this gorgeous property, and what better way to begin our day than with mimosas…without the OJ? Domaine¬†Chandon¬†is serene and beautiful — I felt like I was walking into a nature conservancy or botanical garden.
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We chose a sparkling wine tasting that included 3 glasses each, and we sat out on the tree-covered patio to “cheers” our fun day ahead.
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Winery 2:: St. Sup√©ry Estate Vineryards & Winery¬†was an pretty impromptu visit after missing our reservation at Cakebread Cellars due to a wrong turn and a few extra miles of biking. (oops!) As you can see below, the entrance is picture-perfect. The tasting room was pretty modern and quiet, and we once again enjoyed our tasting of 4 different wines out on the patio. According to their website, they are the largest family owned, sustainably farmed and estate produced winery in Napa Valley. I wish they would have offered more information and history on the winery itself during out visit, but perhaps that’s included with other offerings.
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Lunch:: La Luna Market & Taqueria¬†is legitimate, delicious, CHEAP Mexican food.¬†It’s located in the Rutherford area, and it was a great stop along our bike trail. Each of our lunches cost about $11-12, and we had enough food to feed a tiny, bike-riding army. I love how casual and “local” it felt. Just ordering at the counter in the middle of a convenience store… and the food was some of my favorite we had while in Napa. Giant carnitas quesadillas with heaping portions of guacamole and sour cream — our favorite Mexican restaurants could learn a thing or two from them about not charging an arm and a leg for condiments. Our picnic lunch made for a great break from biking. I just wish I could bike back over there now!
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Winery 3:: Plumpjack Winery¬†was our last stop along our biking adventure, and it was much-needed. Those “little” hills are no joke! This little place is neat in that it is tucked away in the middle of their vineyard, and the atmosphere is casual and inviting. I decided that I really enjoyed the smaller, family-owned wineries better than the crowded, more corporate-feel of some of the larger ones.
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We ended our day with happy hour at Pacific Blues Cafe in Yountville and a most delicious dinner at Celadon in downtown Napa (which was much larger than I’d envisioned). Our meal at Celadon was outstanding — from the¬†Macadamia nut crusted goat cheese with port-poached figs¬†to the¬†Endive and pear salad with blue cheese to our entrees. We were too stuffed for dessert, but I’m sure we wouldn’t have hated it.¬†¬†
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Biking through Napa for wine tastings was both a great and a bad¬†idea. The weather could not have been more beautiful, especially for November. It was 75ish degrees and sunny outside, and there was¬†a lovely breeze in our hair as we pedaled past¬†rolling hills of yellow grape leaves — and the sunset over the vineyards was something out of a movie. BUT — partaking in wine¬†tastings and then having to huff and puff it up and down hills on a bike¬†to the next winery is not the best¬†idea we’ve ever had.¬†It was a great way to see parts of Napa that I don’t think we’d have paid attention to while in a car, though, and I’m so glad we did it.

travel:: Napa, Day 1

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Oh Napa, how I love you. I just returned from a somewhat impromptu (for me, the eternal planner) trip to Napa Valley with two of my best girlfriends. It was a much-needed break after the¬†insane month of October where I juggled my full-time job along with the busiest month of the year for my photography business, as well as some other fun things mixed in. I think the consensus was that all three of us did not want to leave. We’re already dreaming of when we can return to wine country.

Upon the recommendation of a friend and her fiance who frequent the Napa/Sonoma area, we hired a driver¬†for 2 days. Her name is Denise, and I’d gladly recommend her to anyone traveling¬†there — she was amazing!! She really was so much more than a driver — she was more of a concierge. Denise¬†was completely invested in our trip and truly wanted to help us make the most of each day. Without her, we would have missed out on some great little wineries, places to eat, photo ops, and just a general good time.

Winery 1:: Our first stop of the trip was Raymond Vineyards, which was one our friend Ashley’s (also known as Cheese)¬†favorites on her first visit to Napa. The property is so pretty and even more interesting. Giant hanging frames make the best photo op outside, bronze sculptural hands hold wine bottles over the tasting bar, and there are several rooms to visit inside.

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The Corridor of Senses allows you to smell a variety of different scents and flavors that you might find in different wines — our favorites ranged from berries to pepper. Least favorite was definitely the truffle! Some other experiences include the Red Room, Crystal Cellar, and Rutherford Terroir Room (filled with 16 different soil samples from around Napa, which each contribute to differences in the grapes grown in those areas). Such a neat place to¬†introduce us to the Napa wine scene!
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Winery 2:: On our way to the next stop, Denise suggested we stop by Cairdean Estate, a relatively new vineyard and winery. Our host Deano was so much fun, and we loved that he talked to us about the wines in a very unpretentious way. Plus, we had the place all to ourselves, which was a treat! Cairdean is Scottish Gaelic for “friends,” which reflects their belief that wine is meant to be shared by¬†those held close to your heart…. that¬†couldn’t have been more fitting for our little traveling trio. Of the 5 wines we tasted,¬†I¬†loved their Rose and Zin the most. Read¬†more about this family-owned winery¬†here!
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Winery 3:: Ehlers Estate was on my friend Danielle’s list after having previously tasted one of their wines at a restaurant.This historic property dates back to 1886, and it has so much rustic charm. One of my favorite things we learned about Ehlers is the meaning behind both the heart in the “E” logo and the name of one of their wines, One Twenty¬†Over Eighty. As you might guess, the meaning is related to the heart.¬†100% of the proceeds from the sale of their¬†wines go directly to the Leducq Foundation, which was created to support international cardiovascular research.¬†
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Lunch:: Farmstead at Long Meadow Ranch, which turned out to be the dining highlight of our trip. The restaurant itself was rustic and gorgeous, and it was set on a beautiful property. We stuffed ourselves with a hot cheese and olive oil starter, as well as huge bacon cheeseburgers with home fries and the most delicious chicken and mac n cheese dish — and local wine, of course.¬†
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Winery 4:: The last stop of the day was¬†Del Dotto Vineyards in St. Helena. This particular location is modeled after a Venetian Estate, and it was quite grand… maybe a tad ostentatious. We were really excited about the cave tour and the large number of tastings¬†they’re known for; although it turned out to not be much of a “tour,” per se, it was still a fun experience. Aside from being in such a beautiful, candlelit cave, we really¬†enjoyed tasting and comparing wines that were aged in either American or French oak barrels — and the charcuterie and cheese platter at the end was a nice touch!¬†
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Dinner:: Bistro Don Giovanni in Napa. I adored this fall decor surrounding the steps at the entrance to the restaurant. How fun is that wine opener sculpture? The restaurant was quaint, but very lively and homey. A kitty cat even took up residence there and was being fed dinner as we left. We started with the most delicious, homemade ciabatta bread dipped in spicy olive oil and continued the meal with three different pasta dishes. I was far too full from our day of tastings to make a dent in my bolognese pasta, but what I did have hit the spot. 
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Day 1 in Napa couldn’t have been more perfect! Wine country in the fall is one of the most picturesque places I’ve ever seen. I can’t wait to share our adventures in biking and wining with you next!

kangaroos and gibbons and giraffes, oh my!

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I love a good zoo, so while on our trip to Nashville a couple weekends ago, this was our first stop. It was the most perfect weather for an outdoor activity, and we spent a few hours walking miles around the entire zoo.  First, we were greeted by these giant, cobalt blue parrots. So pretty!

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Meerkats! I love these little guys, but I hear they can be pretty mean.
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BATS!
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By far the coolest exhibit at the zoo — Kangaroo Kickabout! I couldn’t believe that they let people INTO the exhibit to walk around and pet the kangaroos. I would have stayed here for a long time if there hadn’t been so many little ones wanting their turns petting them… ūüėČ
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Lorikeet Landing was my other favorite attraction at the zoo. We paid $2 for a small cup of nectar to feed the birds, and they LOVED it! We had tons of birds all over us within a matter of seconds after we got the nectar, and it was so funny. If you’re not terrified of small birds zooming around you and landing on your head/shoulder/arm at any given moment, then it’s worth checking out.
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One neat¬†“extra” that this zoo features is the Grassmere Historic Home and Farm.¬†The historic home is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is supposedly the second oldest home still standing in Davidson County. ¬†We didn’t have time for a tour of the inside of the home, but we peeked in the¬†windows and wandered through the farm and gardens, as well as a small cemetery¬†behind the house. They have working stables that house horses, but they must have been on their lunch break when we visited.
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We loved our morning trip to the Nashville Zoo. If you’re in the area or plan to visit Music City, add this to your list.

vacay recap:: nashville

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Last week, we took a few days off work and headed¬†to Nashville for a mini vacation. Every time we’re up that way, we are usually visiting family and/or going to a football game, so we never get to do many of the “Nashville” things that so many others rave about. So we decided to take a long weekend trip to knock several things off our Nashville bucket list.¬† I took far too many photos (shocking!), so I’ll keep the words to a minimum and let you tag along via photos on our trip as “hometown tourists.”

On the itinerary:
1. Arrington Vineyards
2. Nashville Zoo
3. Country Music Hall of Fame
4. Dinner at Husk
5. Lunch at The Pharmacy Burger Parlor & Beer Garden
6. Olive & Sinclair Chocolate Co.
7. TN Brew Works
8. Hot chicken!

Arrington Vineyards::
We made a pit stop¬†at Arrington¬†on a windy, overcast afternoon, and it was one of my favorite things we did all weekend. Because it was a Thursday, the vineyard was fairly empty, so we grabbed the “Picnic Tasting” (4 samples of our choice with wine crackers) and headed out to a picnic table with a beautiful hilltop view. ¬†You can bring your own picnic or purchase cheese/crackers/sausage/chocolate truffles from them. We didn’t think ahead to bring our own snacks, so we bought a block of Gouda, some toast crackers, and a sampling of their specially-made truffles for an¬†impromptu happy hour. It was absolutely lovely, and I can’t wait to go back!

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Nashville Zoo::
We both voted the Zoo as our favorite place that we visited, and I’ll have a post devoted to our animal friends coming soon.

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Olive & Sinclair Chocolate Co.::
While I don’t consider this place quintessentially “Nashville” since it’s a newer company, we were excited to make our way over to their shop. We first tasted O & S chocolates and caramels at the Atlanta Food & Wine Festival earlier this year, and I just had to find their shop to get some more of their goodies. I love their Bourbon Nib Brittle, and¬†Duck Fat Caramels. Get on their website and order yo’self some. Or if you’re in Nashville, stop by their shop and you can take a tour of the factory!
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As usual, we ate our way around the city, including a home-cooked Mexican dinner with Craig’s family and a lunch out with his grandparents.

We had burgers and beers at The Pharmacy over in the East Nashville area. Such a fun little joint with lots of great outdoor seating, lots of burger and sausage options, and lots of beers on tap.
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Our favorite was dinner at Husk, which I wrote about here earlier this week.
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We got some of Nashville’s famous HOT chicken at Hattie B’s. We debated for a long time between Prince’s and HB’s, but this not as sketchy location won out, and I’m happy about that. The chicken was hot, but not on fire, the sides were OK, and the company we had at our picnic table was really nice. And while this choice is a bit more mainstream than Prince’s,¬†I didn’t have to worry about our safety¬†while I waited in line, which was a legitimate concern if we’d chosen the other option.

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And we got after-dinner cocktails at The Patterson House, which was quite fun. It’s definitely not a large group-type of place, but it’s perfect for a date night or outing with a couple of the girls. Lots of interesting options (Craig got the Bacon Old Fashion and I got the Champagne Cocktail), and the mixologists are really¬†good at what they do.
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We had a little extra time one afternoon, so we made a quick stop by Centennial Park to walk around The Parthenon. I didn’t see the need to pay for us to go inside, but I later learned that it serves as the city of Nashville’s art museum, which is pretty neat. Nonetheless, it was fun to walk around the outside and gawk at the size of the columns on the¬†full-scale replica of this Athens monument.
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Hatch Show Print::
This was particularly¬†fun for me to visit, given my degree in Printmaking. Hatch Show was the big “competition” to Yee-Haw Industries, the letterpress company I interned with in Knoxville at the end of college. Hatch Show has been around for decades and as you can see in the photo below, they make allll sorts of letterpress signage. Their studio is in the Country Music Hall of Fame building and is open to the public. Nobody was working in the studio over the weekend, but I’d have loved¬†to see the printmakers in action. I picked up a fun Tennessee-themed print to hang in our house. ūüôā
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Country Music Hall of Fame::
I bet you can’t guess who wanted to go here? ūüôā Just kidding — it was pretty neat to learn more about the history of the genre and see all sorts of country music memorabilia, including costumes, guitars, records, and even giant cars once owned by Elvis and the likes. The museum is humongous, and I’m sure if you stopped to read every bit of signage on display, you could spend all day there. And how about that purple wolf jacket below? I know what Craig’s getting for his birthday this year…

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Tennessee Brew Works::
After we were finished up with all of the touristy items on our list, we met up with our friend Danielle for a beer tasting and some football watching at Tennessee Brew Works. We love trying out new breweries, and I really liked that at this one, you can sit down restaurant-style and order either a flight of different beers or just choose your favorite brew to sip on. The Georgia/South Carolina game ended up being delayed quite a bit due to weather, so we made our way over to M. Street Tavern for the remainder of the night. Such a fun way to end our touristy trip through Music City! 
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a beach-y good time

Just in the nick of time, we made it to the beach before the end of summer. My all-time favorite place is St. Augustine, FL, as you may well know if you know me or have been reading here for long. We took several friends down for a long weekend at my grandmother’s beach house, which is where I grew up vacationing. Being there brings back so many wonderful memories of a lifetime of beach trips with family and friends, and I’m so happy we made it back again this year.

We went down mid-week so that we’d have time to hop over to Jacksonville to visit my grandmother. ¬†She treated us and my cousin to a lovely lunch at her country club, and then we headed back to the beach to soak up a couple hours in the sun. We got to eat at some of our favorite local restaurants and have drinks at the Tini Martini Bar, which has a fantastic view of sailboats and the Bridge of Lions – especially at sunset! The majority of our trip was spent laughing, lounging on the beach, and just enjoying the company of some of our dearest friends. Can’t go wrong with that combo.

I don’t think many more words are needed, but be prepared for a photo over-share of our beach-y good time!

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Yes, that is a SHARK that joined the beach party! We think he was about 4-5′ long and was less than 10 yards from the shore. He popped up a couple times one afternoon, and thankfully we never saw him again.
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Bridge of Lions in downtown St. Augustine
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This is the face I get when I’ve taken one too many photos.
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Dinner at our favorite spot, Columbia
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Castillo de San Marcos
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beautiful Flagler College downtown
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If only every morning could start with a walk on the beach…
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…and if only every evening could end with this view.
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Cap’s on the Water
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