A1A Beachfront Avenue

We went down recently to visit Amanda, Seba, and CJ for the weekend.  It was a great time and so nice to see them!

Little miss has really grown and is quite active but still very serious.  She makes you work for a laugh, but as her favorite aunt, I’m happy to oblige!
After seeing the movie Chef, I’ve been thinking a lot about a Cuban sandwich, so we went to a Cuban restaurant for dinner Friday night.  Unfortunately, the Cuban sandwich wasn’t my favorite, but it was a good dinner, even if I gave lots of blank stares when the waitress kept speaking to me in Spanish.

Saturday morning the boys played golf while the girls hung around the house, skyped with Mama and Daddy, and maybe even colored Elmo in our coloring books.  We met the guys for lunch next to the marina where we all proceeded to order the same fish sandwich and walk around the area afterwards.
We watched the Georgia game (thank goodness another win) and went to bed early because I won’t name names, but someone likes to wake up by crying well before the sun is up.

On Sunday, I wanted to go to Miami Beach since I had never been.
I was surprised that it was actually really nice, not as flashy as I would have thought.  The odd part to it was the people.  They dress differently/lack lots of clothing; it is definitely not the south.  If you like to roller blade, you’ll fit right in.
Mostly, it was pretty.  The art deco isn’t my style, but it is cool.

If you ignore the speedos, the beach is really nice too.
It was so, so good to spend a weekend with family in a land where it is always summer.  Thanks for having us!


California: and then we survived an earthquake

On Saturday, we drove all around Napa and Sonoma, making a few random stops along the way.

We picked up some breakfast at Bouchon Bakery with its line out the door

If I had opened my eyes, this would have been a cute picture
We were on a mission to find pistachio trees only to learn that they are grown a few hours away, but we did stumble upon some incredible views of the valley, none of which come close to being captured in pictures.
We walked through another vineyard
and ate lunch in downtown Sonoma, where the food was good but the shops were too speciality and expensive for me

We ventured back to downtown Napa for a little souvenir shopping and stumbled upon a big festival.

Mr. David and Mrs. Patty headed back to SF that night to fly out the next morning.  Based upon our wine tour guide’s recommendation, Jim and I opted for a nice dinner at Rutherford Grill.  Locals all bring their own wine to dinner since it’s cheaper and this restaurant didn’t have a corking fee.  We were fancy and went to a tasting at a local cellar before selecting our wine to bring to dinner.  (don’t worry mom, we took a cab)

We enjoyed our wine on the patio waiting for our table

Dinner was excellent and the grilled artichoke was my favorite part
Later that night, at about 3:30 in the morning, we woke up to the entire building shaking, lots of loud noise.  What I initially thought was a nightmare was in reality a 6.0 earthquake.

The earthquake lasted about 15 seconds and I was terrified.  I prayed that we would survive without the building crashing down on us.

Once the earthquake stopped, Jim tried to find the light only to not be able to find the lamp.  He eventually found his phone to use as light with the power out and the room pitch black.  I of course screamed to be careful for broken glass with the window.  We evacuated the hotel and talked to other travelers, Canadians and other non-Californians who also didn’t really know what to do after an earthquake.  That’s when I noticed this scratch on Jim’s face, who knows how he got it, maybe the lamp.
After an hour, we hoped the aftershocks were over and went back to bed.  I managed to fall back asleep only to be woken up by another jolt of an aftershock.

Once the sun came up, we surveyed the room and found the destruction
That’s the microwave, tv, drawers, and fridge all fallen over.
The air conditioner came out of the socket and both beds moved 6 inches off the wall.  The bedside table, with a granite top, had fallen over with my phone underneath.

Right after the quake, we noticed the floor was wet and I was worried that all of our wine had fallen but miraculously it was only the ice bucket.  The duck wine was safe and has now been renamed earthquake wine.

The hotel was built to code and the windows were fine.  We made it out mostly untouched other than Jim’s scrape and were very lucky.  The earthquake felt as if you were on a horrible old roller coaster jolting you back and forth, not something I want to experience again.

We tried to find breakfast but everything in Napa was closed.  With all the glass in grocery stores and restaurants, we had to drive out of town to find food.  The bummer was that friends of mine who now live in SF were coming up to go to wineries with us that afternoon and all of the wineries were closed for the day trying to clean up their damage.

So we headed to the coast.  On the way out there, we saw how dry California is.
We went to Point Reyes National Seashore hoping to see some good cliffs.  According to the map, it didn’t look like a far drive but it was continually just a little bit farther and farther around another mountain and I may not be the best navigator.  We eventually got there and put our toes in the ice cold water.  Gorgeous scenery!
We didn’t make it all the way to the lighthouse because that would have taken another hour on curvy roads, but we did see a bunch of organic dairy farms along the way out in the middle of nowhere.  Organic milk drinkers should be happy to know that their cows are enjoying a nice view of the Pacific while grazing.
I’m glad we made it to the coast, it was such a different landscape from what we had seen and the cliffs were beautiful.

We stopped off in downtown Napa to see the earthquake damage there since they have some older buildings.
This is right where the festival had been the day before, so thank goodness the earthquake came at night when everyone was home.  There was glass broken everywhere and streets that had buckled were getting repaired, but people were generally all ok.

All day, at breakfast or at the gas station, locals were talking about the earthquake.  They said it was the worst they had ever experienced.  We too, kept randomly saying, “I can’t believe that really happened.”

We checked into where Jim was staying for work for the week and it was not bad at all.  We called it our earthquake recovery plan.
and then I had to go home, unwillingly but happily back to a land without major earthquakes.

We had an incredible trip!  It was so fun and we had the best time together.

Plus, we still have our duck/earthquake wine to remember it by!


California: Napa

The drive to Napa was pretty (but cloudy and a little gloomy).  I thought Saulsalito looked like a place I’d want to visit next time.

We made it to our hotel in Napa (the city, in the county of Napa in the valley of Napa) and the wine tour picked us up at 10:30.

We’re not really wine people, but a good glass or two every once in a while is good.  But if you ever go to wine country, take Platypus Tours.  I can’t recommend them high enough.  I found them through trip advisor and with nearly 3500 reviews and an average rating of 5/5 stars, we were in good hands.

We were on a bus with 12 of us and our driver, Carl.  Carl is from Napa and talked to us about wine and the valley while driving us around.  He took us to small wineries and had scheduled private tours at 3 of the 4 wineries.  We were ready for a day of wine!

Our first stop was a winery that had only been open for a month, Dahl Vineyards in Yountville.  The owner of the winery lead the tasting for us.  He used to have a winery in Minnesota and moved to Napa a few years ago.  He had an unmatched passion for wine, he was so nice to all of us, and the setup was right out of a magazine.  We wished this tasting was last because we knew it couldn’t be topped.

They were just beginning to harvest the grapes, so we were allowed to try some.  They were much sweeter than I would have thought and quite tasty except lots of seeds.
Once we came out of the tasting, the clouds went away.  We learned that Napa is cloudy all morning and then before lunch, the sun comes out and it warms right up.  The weather was perfect.
 Then, we drove up farther north in the valley to St. Helena to Tudal Winery.
The tour provided lunch for us (as well as snacks on the bus) and we had a sophisticated picnic
We really liked this winery too.  The owner came out to speak to us, it was very laid back as they gave us the tour walking around the property.

We bought a bottle of wine here and when I got the trivia question right, I won a free bottle of wine too!

After lunch, we headed to Hagafen Winery further south.  We did not have a private tasting at this one, so we were mixed in with other tourists, and we all said we could have skipped this one.  By this point, we had been drinking a good bit of wine (and that includes pouring out a bunch) and there wasn’t anything special about this place.

Jim made a good point that at the other wineries, we didn’t get to pick what we tasted, so we tried what they thought is best, not what we know, but here, we tasted what sounded familiar to us.
Our last stop was Razi Winery tucked away off the road.  Like many of the wineries, it’s by appointment only.  Carl told us that Mr. Razi (for lack of remembering his name) is a quiet man but he makes very good wine.

I’m not sure if it was because we had already been to three wineries and were feeling quite good or if the wine was actually good (I think both), but we loved this wine.  When pouring one bottle, Mr. Razi said, “This wine goes especially well with gamey meat, duck in particular.”  Being duck hunters, Jim and Mr. David both got big eyes and sure enough, we left there with some duck wine.

We had a perfect day in Napa together.  Our group was fun and we went to all different but all extremely good wineries.  As Carl said, he should start a reality wine tour tv show, “strangers at 11, best friends by 5:00.”
The wine tour made our trip!  We loved it!  And now we have something to remember it by


A few things I learned about wine-

1. Only drink what you like.  Each winery told us to dump it if we didn’t like it.  They said don’t care what the ratings say or anything, just go off of what you think.  I wish I was that carefree to company if they don’t like my food.

2. The dryer the weather, the better the wine.  California is super dry and Napa hadn’t seen rain in 3 months.  While bad for most produce, the dryness makes the grapes concentrated and thus, better wine.

3. When you buy wine, turn it around and read the label.  “Produced and bottled by” means that the wine was made and bottled at that winery.  For example, Costco wine reads “cellared and bottled by” meaning that the grapes came from somewhere else but were then stored and bottled at the Napa winery.  While the name is the name, the wine in the bottle is not.

4. Red wine is better for you than white wine because as with other fruits and vegetables, the skin has all the nutrients and white wine is made without any skin from the grape.

5. Harvesting takes place from 3-7 in the morning.

6. Farm land in south Georgia costs about $2,000-$3,000 an acre.  In Napa, it goes from $400,000 to half a million an acre.  Thus, if you buy a bottle of wine with grapes from Napa, you cannot spend less than $30.

7. There’s a difference – vineyards grow grapes, while wineries make wine.

8. All of Napa Valley is protected wine country.  However, due to erosion, growing grapes on hillsides is not allowed unless you have been grandfathered in and those are lucky wineries.

9. Overnight, the movie “Sideways” ruined merlot.

California: A San Francisco Treat

Jim had a work trip in Napa for a week, so we went early to tour around and his parents joined us.  The trip was so fun, we had a great time!

–Thanks to Mrs. Patty, our resident ipad photographer, we have a ton of pictures and there is so much that I want to remember, so there are going to be lots of posts, sorry, but if you don’t read them, I’ll never know!

His parents left before us to visit farms south of San Francisco.  I had no idea that artichokes grow like this, so now you know too.

We flew into San Fran and met them at Fisherman’s Wharf and took a trolley from our hotel at Union Square (the trolley was as a super long wait) (after getting lunch of course, I like to eat)

then we hopped right on a boat tour of the Golden Gate Bridge.  (We got tickets in advance and they’re good for anytime that day, plus they have an AAA discount, AH, I know you’re reading this :)

We were 4 of probably 15 people on the boat tour.  We went under the Golden Gate and then around Alcatraz.  The sun was out and the sky was beautiful.  It made for great views!  It was my first time being to SF and seeing the bridge, it did not disappoint!
(my new favorite candid of Jimbo, caught beer handed)
The water is so blue and green, it is beautiful.  I would never have expected the land on the other side of the bridge to be so rocky but it was so pretty and if you have time, a neat park to visit so I’ve heard!
We saw the sea lions at Fisherman’s Wharf.  They were barking and playing a little king of the mountain.

and then we walked to Lombard Street where Jim kept saying, “let’s just go a little bit farther” and then somehow we walked up to the very top.
A tough and hot walk up the hill but maybe easier than driving it, and I’m glad we did it.The views were incredible
Jim’s brother David gave us a good recommendation for dinner at Sotto Mare.  If you have more than 2 people, they take reservations.  While you’re waiting for your table to be ready, you are poured a glass of wine or two in our case.  We didn’t object.
The guys split the cioppino, a SF dish with a bunch of seafood in a stew, which they loved.The ladies had fish and pasta.  It was all very good.  The owner walks around the restaurant talking to everyone.  It was a hole in the wall, we loved it.  
The next morning we woke up early (thank you eastern time zone) and made it to the Golden Gate Bridge Pavilion area to see a view of the bridge.

View of the cityAnd then we drove on the bridge off on our way to Napa commenting how if there was an earthquake, the bridge is probably the safest place to be!  (oh the foreshadowing here)

San Francisco was a neat city.  The views were what made it.  However, I don’t think it’s a town for me.  The people were quite unique.  Neat to visit and really glad we did, but I just couldn’t see myself spending lots of time there.  Napa on the other hand but I guess I would need to be a millionaire to afford it.

The rest of May + most of June 2014

I left off right before Memorial Day, so I’ll pick up there.

Jim and I headed down to Gulf Shores for the long weekend.  Neither of us had been, and we both loved it.  It’s a beach and boating community.  When you get tired of looking at this
there is this view of the bay
We had some great meals
an especially good one at Cobalt

We did a lot of reading (when I wasn’t eating) and catching up with some of his old friends

But the highlight for me was the fishing trip with his brother and sister-in-law.  We went through Zeke’s Landing and went out on a smaller center console boat.  I’ve done inshore fishing before, but this was actual cast your own line and wait.  We had to work for it, which I really enjoyed.  We went out into the Gulf and then around in the bay on a four hour tour.  It was so much fun!
David caught a flounder and Brady and Jim caught some stingrays and catfish and probably other stuff that I can’t remember.  I used all the muscles in my body to reel in this jack something fish, only to find out that we had to throw it back.

Somehow later I had the good fortune of catching this big boy under a dock in the bay.  I was informed it is a red fish.  (Lesson learned: it is ok to let the captain cast for you in the perfect spot)
We lucked out on beautiful weather all weekend, it was such a great time!  I’m ready to go back to Orange Beach or any beach for that matter!

The weekend after Memorial Day was an outing to Top Golf with my parents, which was a blast!  A little more of a clubbish feel than I would like, but it was a Friday night in suburbia and the party was hoppin.

On Saturday, Jamie, Kacina, and I (plus the little one in Kacina’s belly!!!!) headed to Callaway Gardens.  We talked, ate, hiked, talked, relaxed, talked, and just enjoyed each other’s company.

Callaway Gardens was so pretty and relaxing.  It was a treat to be with these two and we realized we have been friends for 9 years!

The weekend after that was a trip to Six Flags Saturday morning for my company summer picnic.  My friend Allison joined me, also known now as the daredevil.  It was HOT, but we got there early and made it to the front of almost every ride before the crowds go there.
It was a blast running around the park.  I only sat out one ride, but can you blame me?
I still love Superman, but Allison’s favorite is Goliath.  Her motto is “Arms up, eyes open!”

After an exhausting day, I headed to the Zac Brown Band concert that night.  I got tickets at the last minute, and other than having to be around high school kids who found a way to get alcohol, it was an excellent concert.  He played a lot of covers of some old country artists, which I loved, and his band is just full of great musicians.

Summer, I love you!

Augusta National

Last week was a great week for me.  On Tuesday, I went to the home opener for the Braves.  We lost the game but the tailgating was great and good to be back at the Ted.
Then, Thursday was the best day.  The best.

In fact, my coworkers have been asking, “so how was the Masters?”  My response, “Oh, you mean the best day of my life?  It was incredible.”

Did I go to the Masters this year?

Heck yes I did.

I have always dreamed of going to the Masters: Exhibit A and I enjoy the sport of golf: Exhibit B, but last Thursday Masters veteran Jim took me to the Masters (I’m so grateful!) and it was perfect.

Minus the fact that I was ornery on the drive up after leaving my phone at home.  Who me, ornery?  I know, it’s hard to believe.  And yes, I knew that I couldn’t take my phone onto the course but still, sometimes you just get mad at yourself and aren’t a good sport about it.

We made it to Augusta early Thursday morning, the first day of the tournament round and when we walked through the gates, it was like stepping into a whole different world.  I’d say Heaven on earth.

The grass was perfectly groomed.  The gravel was even painted green.  The beer was cheap.  The food was really good.  The azaleas were gorgeous though not fully in bloom.  The sun was shining with utterly perfect spring weather.  There were lines for the men’s bathroom but not the women’s (can I get a what, what).  (We’ll ignore the fact that somehow Jim still beat me out.)  The people who work there were so, so nice and friendly.  It was wonderful to just be us and the course, no checking of phones, no technology, just paying attention to golf, taking it all in, and of course quality time with Jimbo.  The whole environment at the National was excellent.

I was so happy.  We walked most of the course and saw so many golfers (including standing right next to Bubba when he teed off- being a short girl has its advantages when men let you stand in front of them).  We then retired to sitting on 16 for a while and then at 13 and 14 in the grandstand.  We saw Phil, Ernie, Freddie, Luke Donald, Bubba, Sergio, Adam Scott, Rory, just everyone.

Everything they say about the Masters being magical and unlike any other place is true.  I didn’t want to leave.  I’m so grateful that I had the privilege to go.  It really was a perfect day.

Yesterday when Bubba won and Adam Scott put the green jacket on him, I could have frozen that tv frame, just beautiful.  Then, Bubba, a true Dawg, celebrating his win at Waffle House, double win.

a recap of March 2014

March was a busy month (hence the lack of blogging) and started out on a high note with Eric and Terilyn’s wedding on the first day

and of course we took a horrible selfie in the 12 passenger van on the way to the wedding because why not?

then celebrated this tall drink of water’s birthday
along with all his ladies

The second weekend in March I headed to Savannah for Marissa’s bachelorette!  We had a fabulous time complete with a haunted bar crawl, lots of walking and eating around the beautiful city, a fair amount of drinking, and celebrating our girl.  And getting haunted by Marge, a Savannah ghost.

The weekend after that was a trip to Athens for Chris and Mandy’s wedding.

The next week was finals and all I’ll say is that I’m glad that’s over!  (until the next ones)

Then, it was great day of service at church which meant landscaping with this hardworking crew
The last weekend in March was a family weekend with all of my siblings coming to town (we missed you Seba and Chris!) along with this little peanut, so we took her to see the 12 million daffodils at Gibbs Gardens.

March was exhausting (and really cold) but very fun.  Here’s to you, April.