The Week That Was: September 25, 2015

Artist at work
Artist at work

I’m feeling especially TGIF today. Felt like a long week! The little artist above is very into crying over everything these days — not getting to press the button to close the garage door, wanting a cup of milk, forgetting to say her prayer at dinnertime and of course any time the TV gets turned OFF. There just isn’t enough wine sometimes..

On Monday, I witnessed something that really rattled me. Nora and I were leaving the grocery store and there was a bit of a commotion in the parking lot. A woman was running, zig zagging through the rows of parked cars. She honestly seemed a bit maniacal. I overheard someone  say something about forgetting where she parked, but she seemed awfully distraught to only be looking for a car. We’ve all been there, right? She finally found her car, which was parked in the same row as mine, and her frantic state was warranted: she had left her infant in the car. It was truly heartbreaking to witness. She was so upset, crying, and so was the baby when she pulled her out of the car. I overheard her telling two other women who jumped in to console her that she didn’t know how it happened, she just moved here from Colorado, has three other kids, got into the store and picked up a package of strawberries and quickly realized she didn’t have her baby. Clearly, it was an honest accident and it rattled her, too. I’m not sure what was more heartbreaking to witness — this poor mother who probably felt like the world’s worst parent in that very moment, or the total asshole parked next to me who, while getting into his car, shook his head and said, “what an idiot.” Admittedly, when I see similar stories on the news that usually don’t end so well, that’s my first reaction, too. I always think, how can you forget your kid? Well, I’ve seen it happen in real life and can only say thank god this woman remembered before it was too late.

On Wednesday, we were awakened at 2:30 a.m. by our smoke detectors going off — two of them. And then again at 5:20 a.m. Why don’t those batteries ever die at noon? Miraculously, Nora slept right through it.

Wednesday was also the first day of fall. In Austin, we had an “unseasonably warm” temperature of 95 degrees. More of the same yesterday. It’s a good thing I no longer like pumpkin spice lattes (regardless of the fact that they’re finally incorporating real pumpkin…), because it’s still iced everything these days (probably gonna have to try the toasted graham latte, though — how good does that sound?!).

We have a busy weekend. We’ll go to the acclaimed Pecan Street Festival for the first time tomorrow. And on Sunday, Nora will have a babysitter while KP and I go to brunch with two other adults. Yippee! A reward to end the lllooooonnnnnggggg week.

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Apple cake: before and after
Apple cake: before and after (don’t be a dunce like me and forget to turn it right-side-up before serving!)

I’m loving everything from Smitten Kitchen these days. Correction: I’ve always loved practically everything from Smitten Kitchen, but these days I’m actually making stuff. Case in point — this delicious apple cake that I made for Nora’s preschool dinner this week. Sadly, and thankfully, we have no leftovers sitting around at home, otherwise I’d fall off the Weight Watchers train hard. Repeat!

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I have a love/hate relationship with Starbucks, but even still, I’m pretty jazzed about the fact that I can now order and pay on my phone — from home, or wherever — and have my drink waiting when I get there.

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Yeah, sometimes I wonder if I want to walk away from this blog altogether, too…

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I find it kind of funny that KP insists on using men’s Dove shower gel. I use his Jack Black face wash, after all. But apparently it could be much, much worse.

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Now that we’re homeowners, I guess we should be concerned with things like fall home maintenance… luckily many don’t apply because we live in Texas, after all.

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In case you missed it, my favorite Irish boy band has a new album coming out next year. Yippee!

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George Ezra’s “Barcelona” is on repeat at our house these days. Love.

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Have a lovely weekend.

My 3 Favorite Wineries in Oregon’s Willamette Valley

Pinot Noir at Torii Mor

Pretty much the whole reason we chose to go to Oregon for our anniversary trip was wine. We went to Napa for our first anniversary and had a delicious time, but we’re more pinot people than anything else, so the Willamette Valley seemed like the perfect place to visit. And it was.

We tasted wine at seven or so wineries over the course of about two days which may seem like a little or a lot, depending, but it seemed just right to us. After all, we had to fit in ample nap time at our home away from home, the glorious Black Walnut Inn.

I like wine a lot, but a wine connoisseur I am not — nor is KP. We’re very much the types who know what we like but you definitely won’t find us waxing poetic about tannins, oxidation or balance. Maybe that’s why, near the end of our trip, I decided that everything tasted like cherries. Leggy, approachable cherries.

Here are my three favorite places where we sipped — and rarely spit — in Oregon’s Willamette Valley.

1. Anderson Family Vineyard

Our first stop was Anderson Family Vineyard in Newberg. It was highly recommended by our concierge at The Nines in Portland and he made the required reservation for us. We like these smaller vineyards that compel you to join their club — because you can’t really find the wines elsewhere. And I loved the Anderson family’s story; operating a vineyard was their lifelong dream and they’re living it. Cliff and Allison, the husband/wife duo behind Anderson Family Vineyards, are very hands-on; she conducted our tasting (and turned me back onto pinot gris!) and he was there, running around doing things a busy vintner does, I guess. Their wines — pinot noir, dijon chardonnay and pinot gris — were so good that of course we had to join the club. Now if only it would cool off in Austin, we’d get our first shipment…

This is the picturesque tasting room at Anderson Family Vineyard.
This is the picturesque tasting room at Anderson Family Vineyard.
And this is the unspoiled view...
And this is the unspoiled view…

2. Torii Mor Winery

One of the cool things about Black Walnut Inn is that they provided a list of their favorite local wineries, categorized in different ways. If memory serves, Torii Mor was classified as a “hidden gem” or the like. It was one of my favorite wineries we visited because it was so uniquely beautiful. Yes, every single winery we visited was picturesque; it’s hard not to be in that part of the world. But Torii Mor was really memorable — and the wine was amazing.

I love the story of this winery’s name. “Torii” refers to ornate gates often seen at the entrance of Japanese gardens. “Mor” means earth. Together, it is “beautiful gate to the earth.” There are “gates” like this all over the property.

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Torii Mor was probably the quietest, most peaceful tasting room experience we had while in Oregon. There is a small Japanese garden adjacent to the tasting room, and there’s a huge wrap-around deck on the back of the property which is nestled in the trees.

3. Archery Summit Winery

Archery Summit felt like the black label of all of the wineries we visited. Very high end. Very pricey club. Very exclusive feeling. We tasted several pinot noirs and I was on my best behavior.

This is what five years looks like.
This is what five years looks like.

Other Wineries We Visited

Erath Winery

Erath is pretty common. We’ve bought it at Whole Foods and HEB. It’s good pinot noir. But the tasting experience there compared to Anderson and some of the others felt a little more “corporate,” for lack of a better way of putting it. Less of a personal touch, more robotic. As one of our wino friends said, it’s the Mondavi of Willamette. Still, the wine was wonderful and the scenery even more so.

White Rose Estate

I don’t remember exactly how we stumbled upon White Rose. I think we went because it was close to Archery Summit, and we were more fly-by-the-seat-of-our-pants on this trip. If we visited a tasting room and there were others closeby, we checked them out, too, usually. The wine was fine, but my favorite part of White Rose was the cute little tasting room. It was this little log cabin-like building, and it was really dark and cozy inside.

White Rose Estate Tasting Room

There was lavender everywhere. Seriously, Willamette couldn’t be more picturesque if it tried.

White Rose Estate

Durant Vineyards

Durant Vineyards and Red Ridge Farms is also near White Rose and Archery Summit; I think that’s how we ended up in that area to begin with. Everyone in the area raved about the farm and the olive oil and we wanted to do some gift shopping and get some snacks, so that’s where we went. The tasting room wasn’t even on the agenda, but since we were already there, how could we not?

Red Ridge Farms is a really cool little place. It’s part nursery where I suppose locals go to buy plants and gardening stuff, part gift shop where you can do olive oil tastings (and buy olive oil in every variety imaginable) and buy luscious lavender lotions and bath salts, kitchen stuff, oh, and picnic accoutrements to pair with your wine tasting on their lawn.

Red Ridge Farms

They also have these amazing little ice-cream sandwiches. (He even let me have a bite.)

In his happy place

Seven of Hearts

Seven of Hearts was another, well we’re already here tasting. We went to Carlton to check out Republic of Jam (and I’m sorry, but calling that little shop a “tasting room” that has “flights” of sweet and savory bites is a bit of a stretch… we were told we could sample whatever jars of jam they had — in little cups) and Seven of Hearts has a tasting room just a few doors down, so in we went. Full disclosure: we went in so I could use the bathroom, and doing the tasting was my way to not feel guilty about that. Surprise, surprise… the joke was on us. Because we walked out with a case of wine headed our way.

I did a relatively good job of jotting down notes on all of the wines that I liked. Just now, I wanted to share which Seven of Hearts it was that sucked me in (because one of the whites was so good, I couldn’t resist… the 2013 Viognier & Roussanne?). But I have no idea where said notes are. See, a true wine connoisseur wouldn’t be so callous. Thank goodness we have some shipments coming so I can remember what it was that I liked so much.

By the end of our trip — I can’t believe I’m going to admit this — KP and I both needed a little bit of a wine break. You know those things you see on Pinterest about what to do with leftover wine? I always scoff. Who ever has leftover wine?! Well, after all wine all day for consecutive days, I needed to get some vodka in the mix, or something. And I can only take so much serious wine talk for so long. By our final day in the valley, everything was leggy and approachable as far as we were concerned.

The Week That Was: September 18, 2015

The Globetrotting Gal

I always feel so cliché when I lament how time is flying. But really, how did it already get to be mid-September? I pulled out my calendar to look at free weekends and realized they’re dwindling between now and the end of the year. And, thanks to Facebook’s “On This Day” feature, I was reminded that four years ago, I had already begun my Christmas shopping at this time. Time to get crackin’!

KP and I are having a date night this weekend. Sometimes we’re really good about having them regularly, and other times other things get in the way. Besides, our life is like a date everyday. HA. HA. HA. We’re going to Barley Swine, which is someplace I’ve wanted to check out before we even moved to Austin, and I’m glad we’re making it happen before they temporarily close to relocate.

Whatever you’re up to this weekend, enjoy!

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Ever since Champion seemingly discontinued my favorite running tank, I’ve been on a mission to find one that I like that isn’t racerback. What’s with all the racerbacks? My search is over. I’m not a Carrie Underwood fan, but she has an awesome seamless tank top and it’s super flattering.

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I tried Clinton Kelly’s Creamy Cauliflower Rice Pilaf this week and even my non-cauliflower fan husband liked it — sans raisins and added a bit of grated parm. A repeat for sure.

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Twofer with recipes this week! Tried this Weight Watchers grilled eggplant recipe last night. Another repeat!

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Some of these travel accessories would make great Christmas gifts. And forget travel. That red-eye wrap looks great for any day of the week!

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It was like Christmas for me this week. The Mindy Project is back and I got her new book, Why Not Me? which, as to be expected, has me in stitches.

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If you haven’t read Room yet, a) what’s wrong with you, and b) hurry up and read this page-turner before it hits theaters.

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I had a makeup refresher at Sephora last week. It was just what I wanted and needed. Sometimes we all need a refresh in one way or another.

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Have a lovely weekend!

The Week That Was: September 11, 2015

“Over-wined, overfed and oversized.” – my friend Jen

My sentiments exactly. After a delicious summer of overindulging, I’m not loving how my clothes fit these days. Hopped back on the Weight Watchers train last week. It’s the only thing that ever works for me. My problem is being disciplined on an ongoing basis. The never-ending battle continues…

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Note: I said I don’t like how my clothes fit. I could care less what the scale says.

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I know a few moms who could benefit from this list of wines that pair with kids’ crappy behavior (myself included!).

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This makes me want to go back to Oregon right now.

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Guilty of asking Nora how her day was, but she’s only two. These suggestions will no doubt be helpful for the teeth-pulling-to-get-her-to-talk years.

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Hallelujah! Mindy is back next week (and her book comes out, too)!

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In case you missed it yesterday, how beautiful was the rainbow over NYC? Never forget.

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Have a lovely weekend.

The Week That Was: September 4, 2015

Rain

It rained at our house on Tuesday night. That was the big excitement of the week. I think Nora forgot what it was. We all stood at the front door in awe of the super brief weather event. Then KP and Nora relocated to the backyard and she saw her very first rainbow — more excitement! Now, every day when she looks out our back windows she wants to see the rainbow…

The last unofficial weekend of summer is upon us, although it doesn’t feel like it living in Austin. We’ve got plenty of time left for outside fun and BBQs. That’s not bragging; I am actually very ready for fall and hate seeing all the cute fall layers that I can’t wear here any time soon.

Whether or not you’re unofficially bidding summer adieu this weekend… enjoy!

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A healthy chocolate peanut butter banana shake?! Yes, please.

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Guilty of losing my shit way too often. Vowing to take more of these three-second pauses.

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I had no idea Grant Achatz had a casual restaurant in the works… that and other bars and restaurants to check out this fall here.

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Do your good deed for the day. It’s so easy. #DrinkGoodDoGood.

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I like to think Nora is a pretty good airplane traveler, but I’m going to have to employ some of these tips for wheels up next month.

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Have a lovely holiday weekend!

Lessons My First Job Taught Me

With the new school year upon us and especially with my nephew starting his first year of college,  those days — and the ones spent job hunting thereafter — are top of mind. So it felt really timely when The Ladders recently approached me to share some anecdotes about my first job and lessons learned.

I’ve had a lot of jobs over the years, particularly if I count babysitting as a teen, gigs at various retailers in the mall and several roles in ecommerce, which is what I consider my background as that’s what I’ve done since I graduated college too many years ago to mention. Currently, I have the hardest but most rewarding job I’ve ever had — staying home with our two-year-old daughter, which I’ve been doing for about a year and a half. Recently, I became a part-time Stylist for Stitch Fix, too. One thing that I can say about every single job I’ve ever had is that it’s taught me something. If you’re not learning anymore, and/or you’re not being challenged, it’s probably time to move on to the next. Luckily for me, I don’t think our daughter is ever going to stop challenging me! Job security.

When I think about the job that best prepared me for my career, it was a summer internship for the U.S. government, which I started the summer after I graduated high school. To be fair, the job sort of fell into my lap; I didn’t search for it nor did I really have to interview. My sister works for the federal government, and two of my other sisters also had this type of job in the past, so I was lucky in that I just knew about it from them. So what does a summer intern for the government do? I worked at an Air Force base and I did a lot of general office tasks, my least favorite of which was filing and my most favorite of which was helping to coordinate travel for Air Force personnel in our office. It certainly wasn’t anything glamorous, and to be honest, the context of the job was totally irrelevant to me. But I liked the job. I worked there every single summer and some winter breaks until I graduated college.

It wasn’t the specific tasks I did that taught me any memorable lessons, but it was the environment that I worked in and the people whom I worked with who left an impression on me. My immediate supervisor was the administrative assistant, and the office ticked because of her. By working alongside her and others in the office, I learned basics that not everyone learns before they enter the work force — little things like how to carry yourself, how to communicate effectively, the importance of meeting deadlines and the like. Some of these things can’t be taught from a book, but learned by immersion and observing the behavior of others. There were also plenty of people in the office who opened my eyes in terms of how not to behave professionally.

My job as a summer intern set me up for success after college. I was comfortable and ready to step into the working world. I’m very proud of my career path and I don’t know that I would’ve gotten where I did without having that experience from the start.