Wednesday, December 19, 2012

2012 Recap

It was a very, very big year filled with so many wonderful memories! Some highlights:

#1 GETTING MARRIED TO MY BOO! Clearly the biggest and best thing that happened this year was tying the knot to my love of 10 years. Couldn't have imagined a better day and honeymoon. The showers, bachelorette party, girl's dinner and rehearsal dinner were absolutely wonderful too! Truly a fabulous celebration! So grateful for everyone's love and support during the whole engagement and wedding day.

#2 Ireland! Got to take an amazing trip with my mom all round Ireland! So many adventures and special memories! We went to Glendalough, Kilkenny, Cork, Limerick, Nenagh, Galway and hung with Ness and Kate in Dublin.

#3 Small Trips! Rob and I did an overnight in Saugatuk in the winter, Hunky Dory this summer, Wandawega in the fall, overnight in Grand Rapids for Beer Fest, a weekend at the Chalet, Urbana overnight and I had work trips to D.C., Denver, Atlanta, St. Louis and Orlando.

#4 BEST BIRTHDAY EVER Rob rented out a dive bar party room for my 28th birthday and we did it up dancing to all of my favorite old hip hop songs. It was very ridiculous, but so fun! Rob also took me to see Steve Martin at Ravinia. My girlfriends went to see Magic Mike with me and brought cupcakes and mimosas to enjoy during the flick - they're the best! I also got to grab dinner with my family in Greek Town. Truly, the best birthday yet.

#5 Weddings & Engagements We attended 1 wedding last winter, 2 this summer, 2 this fall, Rob had one while I was in Ireland and we have one next weekend. They have all been so different and great reflections of each couple. Several friends have recently gotten engaged too! So much love all around us!

#6 SERVICE I was able to go on my first Service Immersion Trip to Bladensburg, MD and stay with the Daughters of Charity and do a variety of different types of service with students. It was one of the most challenging things I've ever done and I'm looking forward to the opportunity to do it again this year. I've tried out several new volunteer projects through Chicago Cares this year and have added more service projects to our alumni calendar.

MISCELLANEOUS Lots of bulls games
Lots of new recipes
Lots of fitness
Lots of summer festivals (Mole, Maifest, Ribfest, Wells Street Art, Pitchfork, Oyster Fest, Retro on Roscoe)
Some foster kitties
We gained a beautiful niece, Sofie!
Weird stuff: race kart driving, turtle races, terrarium class, stay smooth roller skating party, snoop dog and bruce.

Such a great year filled with wonderful memories and special occasions!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Honeymoon Part 2

On Wednesday we left Charleston for Savannah. The drive wasn't long at all - just about 2 hours. We checked into our 1st hotel, The Marshall House which is Savannah's oldest hotel. We ofcourse got upgraded to a king size room because I dropped we were on our honeymoon. The room was really cool and they left us a sweet congrats note in our room too! It was right in the historic district in the heart of everything. First we walked to the Riverfront which we felt was incredibly touristy and cheesy and we also went to their City Market which was equally touristy. It was a beautiful day though so we were just happy to be outside. We sat in Chippewa Square which is where Forrest Gump was filmed and enjoyed some salt water taffies we grabbed at the market. We came across the founder of the Girl Scouts home which is apparently a really big deal to everyone there. Then we went to Angel's BBQ. It was featured on Man vs. Food for their voodoo sauce challenge. We did not do the challenge, but we enjoyed some bbq. They had a great selection of sauces, but the actual bbq was just alright. Later that day we went on a bike tour. This was my favorite thing we did in Savannah! Our tour guide, Dee was such a funny little guy - we loved it. There were only 4 of us on the tour so it was really personal. He did the off the beaten path version of his tour so we learned all about some of the random Savannah spots - like the tiniest cottage in the historic district and pointed out the historic house that has it's shutters on upside down. It was so beautiful out and so much fun. I'm so glad we did it. Later that night we got dinner at the Olde Pink House which is thought to be haunted (like everywhere else in Savannah) and is great for the traditional Southern experience. We weren't that hungry because we had stopped for a snack after the bike tour so we just shared some appetizers. I believe we had the pulled pork sliders, fried green tomato with a crab cake and maybe a salad?? I remember it being good, but not great. Rob was mad they didn't do anything special for us for our honeymoon, but at the very end they brought out a huge candle and a plate that said, "best wishes" in chocolate sauce and strawberries and cream. It was quite tasty and super sweet! I'm glad we were able to eat at this Savannah staple. The next day we went to Oatland Wildlife Center which is about 20 minutes outside of the city. It was another gorgeous day so we were glad to be spending the day outside. The center is set in woods with walking trails throughout and different exhibits. There really weren't a lot of animals there at all and 2 of the exhibits were closed so we were kind of laughing that we wouldn't end up seeing anything, but we did! We saw a cougar sunbathing, bobcats playing, fox taking naps, owls and bald eagles, some amphibians and deer hanging out. Then we came up to a lake. We looked over the deck railing and noticed that there were a zillion turtles and soon more swam up. It was crazy - we couldn't figure out what they were all doing there. Later we realized that they had food to feed them and they knew that when people came they would get fed! The best part was that we FINALLY saw a gator swimming around! We had wanted to see one at all of our wildlife stops and hadn't had any luck so we were really excited about that! After the Wildlife Center we drove a little bit further to Tybee Island for a dolphin cruise. We didn't really know what to expect, but it was just so sunny and gorgeous out we were just happy to be on the water. So basically they drive you out on the boat, tell you about 2 minutes worth of info on dolphins and the island and then just say "on the left, front of the boat right, center of the boat..." to tell you where there are dolphins and they were seriously EVERYWHERE. It was like where's waldo dolphin edition and so fun. They came up really close and we got to watch some playing together for a long time. Super silly, but definitely enjoyable. Afterwards we grabbed seats on the rooftop deck of the seafood shack next door and had a basket of fried shrimp with fries and hush puppies. I've never had fresher shrimp! Probably because it literally comes from their backyard! We went back to Savannah and drove through the famous Bonaventure Cemetery before checking into our new swanky hotel, The Mansion on Forsyth Park. I became acquainted with the Kessler Hotel Group when I hosted an event at one in Orlando and met the owner. When she told me they had property in Savannah I had to check it out and it turned out to be the swankiest spot in the whole city so we decided to do it up for our honeymoon. It is seriously the most outrageous place I've ever stayed, so so nice! She upgraded us to an executive level so we not only got a giant room, we also got complimentary breakfast and happy hour! So awesome! The room was larger than my studio apartment was and the bathroom was the size of our kitchen. We were so excited! It was in a different side of town so we were able to check out a new area across from the gorgeous Forsyth Park. That night we grabbed dinner at Alligator Soul which is known for their exotic meats. I wasn't impressed with their atmosphere and the server was horrible, but the food was actually good. I had a bacon wrapped steak with mashed potatoes and Rob had gator gumbo. They gave us mini pecan pies with a note saying congrats which was sweet but the pies weren't good. After that we went on a ghost tour. We were really excited for this and it was such a let down! Our tour guide was quite possibly the worst story teller on the planet. I'm assuming he had some sort of social disorder, but I can't be sure. It took him about 45 minutes to tell one story so after 3 of them we were dying and someone asked him how much longer it would be and he said another 90 minutes! The whole tour was supposed to be 90 minutes! So we ducked out when we were close to our hotel. We felt really bad for leaving but so many other people had and I couldn't suffer through anymore of this man's story telling!!! The next day we went to Mrs. Wilkes and waited in line for over an hour for lunch. It was definitely worth it! You walk in and the entire table is covered in southern side dishes and then they bring you endless amounts of fried chicken. I fell in love with lima beans on this trip. The mac and cheese was one of the bests we had too. Afterwards we couldn't move so we laid in the sun to digest before doing some sightseeing. We visited the Owen-Thomas House which is one of the only homes in the historic district with the slave quarters still in tact. Then we went to the Jepson Arts Center and the Telfair Academy which is an art museum in a big mansion. Then we laid out by the hotel's beautiful pool before going out for our final dinner at Local 11 Ten which was right down the street from our hotel. They had a super cool rooftop bar that we had a drink on before going downstairs for dinner. I'm pretty sure we weren't really hungry at all but we pushed through! We split their incredibly baked mac and cheese appetizer and I had the pork chop. I think Rob might have had the bison? It was my favorite meal in Savannah! The next morning we left for the airport and we were so good on time we had time to grab more chicken and waffles in Charleston because we passed it on the way!!! What a treat and what a great way to end the best week ever! Charleston definitely won in my book, but Savannah was really fantastic too. We were so lucky to have the weather we did and all of the special treatment. Truly the best week ever!

Monday, December 10, 2012

Honeymoon Part 1!

Our wonderful honeymoon seems so long ago and I know that I will leave out many details but overall it was delightful and truly the perfect week for us. We flew into Charleston the day after the wedding. Rob managed to get us an upgrade on our car rental by dropping that we were on our honeymoon. We were upgraded to a Toyota Corrolla which I thought was a hilarious upgrade. Rob planned everything we did in Charleston and I planned everything for Savannah. (Rob did a much better job than I did) The first thing I made Rob do was drive to CVS so I could buy fake eyelash remover because those suckers were killing me. Then we checked into our hotel. We stayed at the historic Francis Marion Hotel. It took great effort to remove those eyelashes and in the process I made my lids so swollen - but it felt great to have my regular lashes back. Then we walked around the city with a stop at their City Market which was fun to see before spending some time on the swings at the beautiful water front park. We also spent some time on the rooftop of a hotel enjoying the warm breeze, view of the water and some super delic crab dip and local craft beers. Then we went to dinner at McCrady's with a gift card our friends Val & Chris gave us. We opted for the 4 course meal and we even got an extra course thanks to Rob dropping that we were on our honeymoon. Everything was crazy delicious and it was a nice quiet setting for us. We both agreed that the bonus course of buttered rice with different herbs from their garden was the best part. The next day Rob had a big plan for us. We went and got fried chicken and waffles at the Early Bird Diner - it was incredible. They had this yummie mustard sauce that made it extra delicious. Then we went to the Drayton Plantation for a tour. We had some time to kill before the house tour so we did their marsh walk. We were basically the only people doing it so we got to explore and take lots of fun photos. It was a very cool environment. I loved all the Spanish moss and cypress trees. Then we did the house tour but we got bored so we snuck out early. We wanted to be able to go to Cypress Gardens which was a bit of a drive, but totally worth it. It's the place they filmed the rowboat scene in The Notebook. Does it get more romantic than that?! We took a rowboat ride through their black water swamp which was truly incredible. One of the coolest, most serene and beautiful things we've ever done together. They also had a mini zoo set up and a walking path around the swamp. It was one of my favorite parts of the whole trip! Then even though we weren't hungry, we stopped at Martha Lous for more fried chicken, lima beans & cornbread. I loved the fried chicken and lima beans! The place is a total shack, but well-known for it's tasty food. I'm so glad we were able to go and get some authentic southern cookin. Later on we grabbed a drink at Husk - the #1 restaurant in Charleston right now. They have a very cool bar next door and then we had dinner in the main house. It was a really cool vibe. They only use local ingredients and they have a big board that says where everything came from. Rob got us free sparkling cider when he told them we were on our honeymoon. We started with buffalo pig ears (which gave me a stomach ache, but Rob loved) and I can't really remember what else we ate, but it was good. We were so, so full from all the food though! We walked through a different part of the city to get back and we felt like we had the streets to ourselves. The next day we got massages that Rob had set up for us. My lady wouldn't stop talking about all of her ghost encounters - it was really funny. Rob's lady stayed quiet and thought that his massage was 90 minutes so he got 30 minutes extra! We grabbed lunch at Hominy Grill that day which is apparently a southern cuisine staple down there. They had boiled peanuts and it was my first time trying them. They were super tasty! We chowed down and then we went horseback riding! Rob had arranged for us to have a private tour. It was the most beautiful afternoon and the scenery was incredibly. I felt SO lucky in that moment - riding under the Spanish Moss with the sun shining through on my sweet horse, George. Our guide was so nice and an all around great person. Horseback riding probably ties with our rowboat ride for most amazing experience. When we got back to the city we grabbed a beer flight at a local brewery, grabbed gelato, went for a very long walk along the water and checking out all of the giant houses and rainbow row and the big beautiful parks before grabbing a pre-dinner drink at McCrady's. It was so gorgeous out - so much sunshine but not too hot. Then we went to Cru for dinner where we shared fried goat cheese with honey and nuts - YUM and I had the most amazing cheesy and poblano stuffed chicken. I loved the atmosphere there too. We really really fell in love with Charleston and I was sad to leave. It's a great city and so easy to relax there. I hope we can go back sometime!