Friday, February 28, 2014

Have a Wonderful Weekend!

Weekend 1 of "No-Travel March" starts tomorrow and S and I have grand plans to spend BOTH days this weekend sleeping in!  Other activities include my first trip to see (legal) drag racing, a free gumbo showdown in Market Square Park, and FINALLY watching the Dexter series finale with J and B, complete with some awesome Dexter themed cupcakes I've been planning to make for ages!  I'll be sure to take pictures to share next week.  In the meantime, here are some fun links I've been enjoying:

NASA announces 715 new planets discovered by the Kepler telescope!!!

Now that S and I are no longer sick, I'm dying to try this cocktail now that meyer lemons are popping up in the stores!

Have you seen the Huffpost article comparing historical timelines?  Some of it is mind boggling!

The countdown to the Cosmos premiere in on March 9 and 10 begins!  I'm so freaking excited!!!

I don't know when I'd have the opportunity, but I'm so curious to try out this food truck...

Food-wise I'm trying to go on another health kick (I'm watching my calories again), and so I'm eyeing recipes for Indian dahl with naan, meyer lemon roast chicken (yep, those lemons again...), and some whole wheat blueberry crumb muffins (made with yogurt) for a grab-and-go breakfast.

Paul Rudd and Jimmy Fallon have a lip sync battle - it's fantastic!!!

Incredible beach art.

(picture from here)

Monday, February 24, 2014

It's Been a Crazy Couple of Weeks

Sorry for falling off the blogging bandwagon for a couple of weeks there, but it's been crazy busy lately.  Two weekends ago S and I flew to Chicago for a long weekend with friends and family and to see the Chicago Car Show.  More on that in a bit, but that accounts for the lack of posting at the end of that week.  The following week (last week) I was on console at work, which makes for a busy week alone.  But on top of that I was super sick with a sinus infection and I had to spend $900 to get the A/C fixed on my car (and an extra $100 for a new battery on top of that).  Booo!  So between the crazy work schedule, leaving work early to go home and nap because my sinuses were killing me and I couldn't sleep through the night, and ferrying back and forth to get my car situation worked out there was NO time for an update.  This week I'll try better, I promise!

So back to the Chicago trip!  We flew in on Thursday night and took the El to my friend K and J's house in the city.  We stayed up chatting for a while, but S and I were exhausted and K and J were on baby-time so we didn't stay up too late.  The following morning we woke up, hung out with J and the baby (I gave him his first cheerios!) and then S and I headed out to do some exploring.  Our original plan to get lunch and then go to a museum was overthrown as soon as we reached our lunch destination: Eataly.  It is culinary heaven on earth - a full city block and 2 stories high it is filled with multiple restaurants, an Italian grocery store (5 aisles of pasta, 3 of olive oil....) as well as a coffee shop, a gelateria, a gourmet pastry display, and a birreria, which is basically a craft beer bar where we proceeded to spend 2 of the next 3 hours.  They have one in New York too, so if you get the opportunity to go - GO!

We headed back to the house with our goodies and then spent the afternoon cuddling and playing with the baby so J could get stuff done.  He is such a cutie!  Once K got home from work we all hung out for a little bit and then went out for a Valentine's Day double date at a local Chicago brewpub, Revolution.  Basically we spent our whole day drinking beer, which S was a HUGE fan of.  The baby got into it a bit too:

The following morning my parents came to meet us at K and J's house for brunch.  J whipped up french toast and roasted potatoes and my parents brought a (yolk free!) cinnamon coffee cake and fresh fruit. We sat around talking far longer than we probably should have, but we were having such a good time!  My mom was working awfully hard to get the baby to say his first word: gently..... gently.....   S and I then loaded our luggage into my parent's car and we headed up to McCormick Center for the Chicago Car Show (yeah, S was really enjoying this weekend trip....)
The Chicago Car Show is crazy big.  And S was like a kid in a candy store - super hyper, not knowing where to look first, and running around with a huge smile on his face.  We got to see the new Mustang, some really amazing concept cars, a few smaller SUVs that I'm mulling for my next car purchase, the new "affordable" Mercedes, some crazy expensive sports cars, and the cherry on top - the new Corvette Stingray and Z06.

It was a busy, full, exhausting day (we had to park like a mile from McCormick because there were so many people at the auto show..), but we all had a good time.  We had dinner out that night and then crashed hard.  The following morning we woke up to omelets (my dad is the best when it comes to weekend breakfasts), washed up, and then went out to a matinee with my parents.  We saw American Hustle finally and thought that the acting was indeed quite impressive.  I treated everyone to lunch at a Mongolian grill-type restaurant and then we headed home to help hang artwork, get our bags together, and head to the airport.  We had a really fantastic weekend!

That's it for travel for us for a little while now, though.  We're travel-ed out (not to mention broke after my car repair) and so we've declared March a travel-free month.  So here's hoping we actually manage to keep our weekends semi-open so we can enjoy sleeping in and chilling out at home before more craziness kicks in later this spring!

(top picture from here)

Friday, February 7, 2014

Germany Trip Part 7 - Munich

We woke up on our last morning in Salzburg to grey rainy skies.  We hurried to pack our stuff and K and I ran to get the car so we could actually drive it into the city (it was between 9 and 11 am when the roads are all open) and not have to haul our suitcases to the parking garage.  The weather put a major damper on our plans to see the Eagle's Nest (Hitler's old hideout), so we piled into the car and just headed straight up to Munich.  I got to drive this time and once I finally hit a dry stretch of road, I got the rental car up to 120 mph on the autobahn!!!  On our way to Munich we made a detour to Kloster Andechs, a monastery/beer hall out in the countryside that is known for having some of the best beer in Germany.  Can't pass that up!

By the time we reached the beer hall, the weather had cleared up a bit, however it was still pretty cold out and so the outdoor beer garden wasn't open.  We headed inside, grabbed some different beers, cheese dip, pretzels, and a pork knuckled and hunkered down inside.  It was delicious!  I was partial to the raddlers, the German version of a shandy in which they combine beer with lemonade.  After we'd completely stuffed ourselves on German food and beer we headed to our hotel and called it a night.  The next morning we woke up bright and early and hit the road for the last stop of our German Car Extravaganza - the BMW Museum.

I think we all liked the Mercedes Museum back in Stuttgart the best, but the BMW Museum was a close second.  It was arranged really well and also covered the evolution of the business/vehicles in response to what was happening in the world.  My favorite car was that green beauty from the 20's (drool) and S went crazy for the race cars.  There was a Rolls Royce Museum on the top floor as well (they'd been bought out by BMW) and the classy old school cars up there were pretty gorgeous as well.  I also found the only reference to a Wiedemann (it's a German surname) in the museum, a Doris Wiedemann who is a well-known German photo journalist that has explored the world on her BMW motorbikes.  The second to last photo above is me standing next to her bike and bio.
S had fun testing out the interiors of some of the newer models as well.  Not in our budget, babe...   We checked out the gift shop (eh) and then headed back into the downtown area of Munich to hit up the world famous Hofbrau House!  We got beers (I had another raddler) and lunch and admired the HUGE beer hall, complete with a live German band!

After lunch we explored in downtown Munich a bit and I fell in love!  It's such a quirky little city!  They have fantastic public transportation, there is a huge gothic cathedral with a life-size cuckoo clock that plays music and dances every hour, the stores are all housed inside of ancient buildings with awesome architecture, there was a huge farmers market in the park (I wish we'd had more time to explore it...) and there was a stunning, modern synagogue that alluded to the rebirth of the German Jewish population in Munich.  Apparently they're just finally getting back to their pre-holocaust levels...

Sadly, we had to end our explorations of Munich here since we had to get the car back to the rental facility on time.  I would definitely go back to Munich on anther Germany trip (perhaps to the northern half of the country?) and spend some more time there.  We dropped off our rental car and then walked to an interesting little restaurant near our hotel that S had scouted out before the trip - a little sushi restaurant/beer hall!  It was actually much smaller than we anticipated given that it was billed a beer "hall", and we were pretty much the only tourists in there (luckily our waitress had some minimal English skills!).  But the sushi was tasty and S got more German beer, so it was good!  We headed back to the hotel and packed up our stuff once again, this time in preparation for our train trip the following morning - up next, Prague!

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Germany Trip Part 6 - Salzburg, Austria, Day 2

Since we'd had a late night listening to Mozart and hiking up giant hills, we slept in a bit on our second day in Salzburg.  When we made it out the door, our mission was to explore the old town area, starting with the very building we had been sleeping in - Salzburg Fortress!  We took a tour that explained to us the history of the castle, including how it had been built up over time, the roll it played in religion, wars, and the success of Salzburg as a cultural center.  We walked all the way up to the highest point and got some great views of the city. There is also a rather extensive museum within the castle that we perused.  Really more than anything, the elaborate decor in some of the rooms really wow-ed me.

After exploring the castle we got some lunch at a restaurant on one of its balconies (what a view!) and then headed down into the old town to do some exploring.  The streets are all cobble stone and, as I explained earlier, don't allow motorized traffic after 11 am, so everyone is either walking, riding a bike, or taking a carriage ride.  All of the architecture is beautiful and old and the art is rather unique, not to mention that it's the home of Mozart - Salzburg really was a very cultured city.  We checked out the Salzburg Cathedral and explored the streets.
The sign next to us reads "One kiss in the 'love grotto' and your love will be everlasting"...

After this, we split up for a bit.  S went to check out the Augustiner Brau Kloster beer hall, a huge beer hall run by monks (S also picked up a soft pretzel while there and was basically in heaven), while K and I went to check out some more historic sites, namely the house that Mozart grew up in.  In hindsight, I think I would have preferred the beer hall with S since the house was basically just a museum filled with paintings that claimed to be of Mozart and his family, accompanied by lengthy explanations as to why they may or may not actually be Mozart.  Not what we expected.  Although it was lovely to explore the city further.  We followed up our explorations with dinner at a restaurant buried in the twisting streets of old town, admiring the views one last time from the castle, and then heading to bed.

Quite a beautiful view to end the day with!