Friday, May 29, 2009

St. Louis Trip Part 1

I apologize for the delayed post. It has been crazy getting back on schedule after a three day weekend. It didn’t help that Evan and I both have sore throats and stacks of work to get through by this weekend on top of getting our place ready for guests and Evan’s last minute trip back to Michigan. It is safe to say that we are a bit scattered this week. It is all worth it, because we had a wonderful trip to St. Louis last weekend. I posted our shots on Flickr if you are interested in pictures of my friends (not a whole lot of scenery shots).

Vin de Set
We had a delicious dinner on Friday night at a rooftop French restaurant called, Vin de Set. We got a bottle of Garnacha (red wine from Spain) and a delicious cheese platter. I can’t resist a gourmet cheese selection at a restaurant because I’m still learning about cheese and this is the best way to sample different types. Unfortunately, none of the cheeses impressed me enough to remember what types we had. Evan ordered a pasta dish and I had the steak special that was prepared in what tasted like a blue cheese on top of golden potatoes. I would definitely recommend this restaurant if you are looking for fine dining in a more casual atmosphere in St. Louis.

Schlafly Bottleworks
Day 2 in St. Louis we went to lunch at Schlafly Bottleworks, the largest locally owned brewery in St. Louis that just happened to be walking distance from our friends’ house. The Brewery was hosting a BBQ Pork Steak competition in the parking lot with live music, but we opted to eat inside because it was pretty hot on the pavement in the blazing sun. The brews were really good. I had their Hefeweizen. Evan and I both ordered the pulled pork sandwich, but I traded up my side for their Smoked Gouda Gratin, thinly sliced layered potatoes baked with a Gouda cream sauce. Heaven.

Anheuser Busch Brewery
We went from one brewery to the next so that we could tour the huge Anheuser Busch Brewery (not locally owned anymore, therefore the largest foreign owned brewery in St. Louis). I was hoping that this tour would be a little more “history of Budweiser and other Anheuser Brands” and less “this is why you should drink Budweiser”. I’m not a huge fan of Bud, but I am a fan of learning about brewing. It didn’t help that there was a group of 3 people who were clearly already drunk before the tour began that were talking through most of the lecture and being pretty annoying to everyone else on the tour. At the end of the tour, you get 2 free beers, so I guess that draws a drunk crowd. We only had time for one sample because we had to be at the Arch. I had a Shock Top, which tasted like a wheat beer, but I really don’t know anything else about it because it was never mentioned on the tour.

(I had to do this in two parts because I couldn't get it to format.)

St. Louis Trip Part 2

The Arch
I was totally fascinated by the Arch from the moment we landed in St. Louis. I was amazed that you can see it from almost anywhere in the city. St. Louis is a big city, but you could see it from the airport, from our friends’ house, from the rooftop restaurant and from downtown. It is really larger than life and I can’t think of any other monument that dominates a city like the Arch does. I was really excited to go up in it, and I’m glad that I did, but I would never do it again. If you’ve never been, it is truly an experience. The first thing that turned me off was that we had buy tickets for the 6:50pm lift off time, but ended up not getting up in the arch until well after 7:30. When it was finally our turn to go up, we lined up and watched a 3 minute video with bad sound quality that explained very little about the designer of the “Gateway to the West”. Maybe my attention span for the historical significance is much longer than the average visitor, but I was really hoping to learn something about the Arch during our visit. Finally, the little doors open to the “elevators” that take you up. It was more like sitting in a rattling washing machine that lifted sideways and abruptly adjusted up the inside of the Arch. If you are claustrophobic or afraid of heights, this tour is not for you, but at no time did they every mention that. I am neither of these two things and I was really uncomfortable. Once we got to the top, it was too much for me to handle. I looked out the window a couple of times, but felt really nervous because there were a million loud people and kids running wild in this small overlook area that literally looks straight down. I caught the next spin cycle down and ended up sitting with two older couples from South Dakota. It was an odd experience that I don’t need to repeat.

The Cardinals Game
Day 3 we had breakfast at our friends’ house and then headed to the Cardinals Game. It was a pretty hot day. Overcast, which I think helped, but we were all feeling pretty sticky. We had good seats, so we could see all the action. I had some peanuts and a soft pretzel. Evan bought an $8 beer and immediately spilled the whole thing, so had to get another one. I would guess we spent about $60 on food and drink at the game if not more. The game was against the Royals and unfortunately the Cardinals lost. The last inning was pretty exciting. We thought we might make a comeback and win, but alas they walked the best hitter. I’m not much of a baseball fan, but it was still a nice time.

Our Friends!!
The highlight of the trip was definitely spending time with our friends. Aaron and Leah, our hosts, shared their beautiful house with the three other couples plus one baby. Their place is beautiful. The paint and décor really made the place look great and feel homey. The space was perfect for hosting guests with lots of living space and nice large bedrooms. My friend Cheri surprised all of us who hadn’t seen her recently. She lost 62 pounds and looked absolutely fantastic! Her and her husband Justin got married in October, so we hadn’t seen them since their wedding. It was really great to get to spend time with baby Austin and of course his parents Nicole and Tommy. We had a lot of fun with them and were very impressed at their mommy-and-daddyness. Austin is 9 months old and unfortunately we have missed most of his little life, but we have also missed his parents becoming parents. We remember them as Nicole who never turns a happy hour invite and Tommy who was always up for a shot of tequila. Now they are diaper duty, baby bag, bottle toting parents of a baby. He is absolutely precious and a very easy to be around baby. No crying, just cute smiles and naps.

We had a great time just hanging out at the house, drinking beer, grilling outside and playing a few killer rounds of catch phrase. We always play boys against girls. The girls team is called the B**ches and the boys team is called the Dudes. For most of the games, I was the score keeper, aka Head B**ch. It was a lot of fun and of course the girls dominated. On our last night we went to dinner a local Italian Restaurant and had the waiter take a group photo. We plan to have more reunions and take a group photo each time. I’m sure more kids will get added to the group and it will be really fun to look back and laugh at our outfits and our hairstyles in a few years. Evan and I hope to host the next one on the east coast. Hopefully sooner than later.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Memorial Day Weekend

Evan and I are so excited for Memorial Day weekend this year! We never make big plans for 3 day holidays, but we have had a trip planned for Memorial Day since October of last year. We are getting on a plane and going to St. Louis! We are going to have a reunion with 3 other couples that became really good friends while we were living in Arkansas. Two of those couples are still in Arkansas and the last time we saw them was at the October wedding of Cheri and Justin. Our Arkansas neighbors, Aaron and Leah, moved back to St. Louis a couple weeks after we moved back to the east coast. The last couple, Tommy and Nicole had a baby boy who is also coming to the reunion, so it will be so fun to see how big he has gotten since last fall. I am so excited to see our friends and spend some time away! We already have plans to visit the Budweiser brewery, attend a Cardinals Game and stop by the Rib Festival! I’m sure we will squeeze in a trip to the Arch as well. I’ve never been to St. Louis, so I am ready to do it all.

Also, I just started a twitter, so I'll be posting updates if you can't wait until next week to find out about our trip.

Have a great weekend!!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

High School Arts

One of my best friends from high school, Jill, is the dance teacher at Annapolis High School. Jill and I danced together since we were 6 years old and some of my best life memories were when we danced together in our high school dance company. Two weekends ago, I went to her end of the year performance. She has done an amazing job working with her students and developing a dance program from nothing. Annapolis High School pulls from some of the low income neighborhoods in the area. It is not easy to get students involved in arts in any high school let alone in an area where the families can not always financially support extra curricular activities. She not only got students involved, but motivated them to excel and choreograph their own pieces in the performance. She has been there for four years and now has a company, junior company and dance classes during the school day. To me, the most amazing part of the performances was the end, when her group of seniors got to the microphone to say their goodbye. They thanked her for inspiring them and said that they will always remember what they had learned from her. She is really making an impact on those girls’ lives. She is just like our high school dance teacher who will always have a place in our memories of someone who inspired us to be more than what we were.

This past Saturday, I went back to Annapolis High School for the Drama Club’s Murder, Mystery Dinner Theatre. It was so great! The students worked the crowd, improvised their lines and had a super fun time. It was three hours long and they served a salad, hot dinner and dessert. The drama teacher, Eddie, also a good friend of Jill’s, did a spectacular job putting on a really fun show for the actors to play and for the audience to enjoy. Here is the description that was on the invite, so clever:

Rich (and slightly evil) hotel entrepreneur Ricardo Gough cordially invites you to the grand opening of the “Gough Hotel & Restaurant”. He promises you a night of food and fun, but after a murder happens nothing will ever be the same. Come join the colorful cast of characters in this musical interactive murder mystery– dinner theater show. Featuring songs from musicals and pop culture this show is sure to get you on your feet and dancing and begging to solve the whodunit of the night!!!!

When I was in high school, it would have been crazy to think about going to an arts event at Annapolis High School. That school had a really bad reputation for violence, drop outs and low rates of kids going on to advanced education. Now there are talks about it becoming a magnet school for the Arts and a big part of that must be from the success and great press they have received because of these two amazing teachers.

It is so important that we have arts in our schools. It completely changed my life and the lives of every person who performed on the Annapolis High School stage and in the Annapolis High School Cafeteria.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Shopping Spree

A couple weekends ago, I went on a shopping spree for a new spring/summer wardrobe. I was on the hunt for deals and I sure found them. I spent about $450 and got 5 dresses, a skirt, a cardigan, a pair of shoes, a belt, two headbands, a necklace, a shirt and new undies and bras. Impressive, right? I had some gift certificates and returned some things, which is how I got so much. Plus, all the stores have deals because of the “economy”. Who knew the economy would help my wardrobe. Banana Republic is always my go to store at the mall. I got a pale blue high waste pencil skirt on clearance for $50 and everything else I got was 30% off. My favorite purchase is this pair of fabulous wedges
I also picked up two adorable headbands and an orange cardigan. I am probably going back to get another cardigan in black. A nice black button up cardigan is a staple in every girl’s wardrobe. Another deal of the day was the dress and belt I got at The Limited. I never shop there, but this dress caught my eye in the window. Everything in the store was buy one item and get the other 50% off. Hello!

I found two adorable dresses at Express for $30 with one of those coupons they send in the mail. I got a dress from Bebe for $6 because I had a store credit from Christmas. I picked up a white v-neck undershirt and some delicates from Victoria Secret for nothing because I returned a bathing suit that was not going to work. I picked out a dress on clearance at Anthropologie and found a really pretty long necklace for almost nothing because I had a $100 Amex Gift Card from the holidays. I read somewhere that people have on average $100 in unused gift cards and store credits taking up space in their wallets. I sure got the bang for no bucks in many cases on my shopping trip. It was a lot of fun.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

The Front Row

We had such a blast last night at The Front Row event at Bethesda Row. They held a reception at the Redwood Restaurant, which is just beautiful. There was a really great group of people there, Jenn Mapp, CIBU Diva, Diane and Joan also from the Ratner Co., a beautifully dressed Betsy, from the Washington Post, a writer for Bethesda Magazine, Karen, Whitney Phelps and her friends who were really fun, two really friendly girls from One80 Salon in DC and a beautiful group of people dressed for a really fun night. I had a couple of the “Fierce” cocktails that were sparkling wine and cranberry liquor, just enough booze to make me talk too much.

The event coordinators at the restaurant and Barbara and Kristin who helped coordinate my brother’s participation were just fantastic. My mother doesn’t drive the Washington Beltway in rush hour traffic (and who can blame her), so they sent a car to pick her up so that she could attend. I would definitely recommend Barbara to coordinate your event/promotions if you ever do an event in the Bethesda/DC area. From the handful of times I’ve been to the Bethesda Row shopping center I would say that there were more people at this event then have been through Bethesda Row since it opened. They did an amazing job.

The fashion show after the reception was a lot of fun. All the stores donated items from their summer and upcoming fall selection. Salon Cielo did all the models hair. Way to go Cielo! After the runway show we stayed and had dinner at the Redwood Restaurant. I sampled all their cheeses, which were delish, and ordered the prociutto. After those cocktails I wasn’t ready for a full on dinner, so after the appetizers, I just had the French fries. They were awesome! My brother had a scallop dish that he really liked and my mother had the chicken. I know that the restaurant received some not so great reviews when they first opened, but our meal was fabulous and I would definitely go back.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Christian Siriano for VS Makeup

It is so nice having a brother who is a celebrity, especially when he sends free stuff! I have to say that he really takes care of me and mom and hooks us up with plenty of goodies. This fall, my brother is launching a line of cosmetics with Victoria Secret. This weekend, mom and I got his line in the mail! It is still surreal to see his name printed on packaging of things that I would buy in a store, but I guess I’ll get used to that in the coming months since his name is going to be all over the place. He has his line of shoes coming out for Payless in September, his clothes in Saks and other stores for fall, the VS cosmetic line in August and his book coming out. This kid is blowing up! It couldn’t happen to a more deserving and hard working person. I am so proud of my little bro and thrilled to wear his cosmetics. I can’t wait for someone to comment on my lip gloss shade and be able to respond with, “It’s my brother’s cosmetic line. Coming to a Victoria Secret store near you.”

Bethesda Row - The Front Row

I am so excited for this weekend. My little brother is coming home because he is doing an event in Bethesda this weekend called “The Front Row”. Friday evening he will be at the Bethesda Row shopping area for a fashion show and meet and greet. Bethesda Row is a really nice new shopping area that has a beautiful Salon Cielo. Salon Cielo is part of Ratner Companies where I work, so it is nice when work and life comes together and I have a reason to not drive home in rush hour on the beltway. If you are in town, we would love to see you there!

I had to throw in a family photo

Monday, May 4, 2009

Carpaccio Tuscan Kitchen

Two weekends ago, I went to dinner at a fairly new restaurant in Annapolis, Carpaccio Tuscan Kitchen and Wine Bar. It is a lovely spot at Park Place at the West Street Circle near the new Westin Hotel (where there used to be nothing). I love an upscale Italian restaurant and this place was just that. The restaurant décor is very modern chic and everything still seems very new. I didn’t have the Carpaccio that evening, but I did love my meal. I had Pappardelle Bolognese, extra wide egg pasta with a creamy Bolognese meat ragu. It was very good and beautifully presented on the plate.

I liked the meal so much that I took Evan there for lunch the very next day. At lunch we sat on the patio an overlooked the fountain. We split the Amalfi Brick Oven Pizza and a Carpaccio-like appetizer, Carpaccio di Prosciutto & Melone. The appetizer was very interesting. The cantelope was sliced in very thin cirlcles and drizzled with an orange infused olive oil which Evan loved, but I didn’t care much for. The Prosciutto was wrapped around tiny breadsticks (thinner than a pencil) that were sticking out of a thicker circle of melon. It was definitely interesting, but next time, I’ll have to get brave and try the real Carpaccio. I’ve never had it before, but with my sensitive stomach, I want to make sure I don’t have to go anywhere afterwards. I’m not scared about the raw meat, but anything too rich does me in and I have a feeling that raw filet minon could be pretty rich.

If you are ever in Annapolis, I would definitely recommend this little spot. Their website is pretty fabulous and has their full menu listed.

Batter Blaster

Evan picked up an amazing invention at the grocery store the other week. Batter Blaster! It is organic pancake mix that comes in a can like Reddi-wip. It is already mixed pancake batter, so you just pour in the pan and cook. The pancakes turned out light fluffy and amazing! I don’t know if we will ever go back to regular pancake mix. The package is really fun and I also like the whole branding of the Batter Blaster, like a spaceship blast off at breakfast. Their jingle is “Make a Better Breakfast Faster, Batter Blaster.” If you go to their site, you will hear it. It’s cute.

Just this weekend, Evan and I were at the liquor store and saw a guy wearing a Batter Blaster t-shirt and I just had to take his picture. He said that he worked at Whole Foods and the vendors give them t-shirts and other fun stuff. He said that the propellant for the “blast” isn’t nitrous oxide like a Reddi-wip can, he said it was fermented brown rice, or something like that. I looked at their website and one of the ingredients is Organic rice bran extract. Maybe that was what he was talking about. Either way, it is a pretty cool product and yes, the packaging can be recycled for all your greenies out there.

Sunday, May 3, 2009


I have been a Super Fan of the X Men movies, since the first one came out in 2000. This surprises some people that know me. I guess I must seem like a romantic comedy kind of girl. Not the case. My little brother collected X Men cards as a kid, so I knew some of the characters, and was absolutely in love with how all fit together on this team of heroes fighting against discrimination from regular humans. My favorite of the three X Men movies has to be X2. That is where we learned a lot about more about the ever mysterious Wolverine (everyone’s favorite hottie mutant.) This Friday, Evan took me on a date to see the new Wolverine movie. I absolutely loved it. I had heard that the movie got mixed reviews, but I was absolutely satisfied with a good mix of story and action with a little love story mixed right in. I also enjoyed a quick glimpse of a younger version of some characters that I love from X Men including Cyclops and the Professor. Hugh Jackman was great as always. He is, in my mind, Wolverine no matter what other role he is playing. I was pleasantly surprised by the performance of Liev Schreiber. I like Schreiber as an actor, but hadn’t seen him in a role like this. He usually plays a pretty tightly wound character, nothing like the evil brother of Wolverine. He almost stole the show and was truly terrifying. I almost hope that the next Origins X Men movie is based on his character, Sabertooth, Victor Creed. I feel like the Wolverine movie could have a sequel of it’s own. That might start to get complicated. A sequel to a prequel, can you even do that? Whether it is more Wolverine or the back story of the other characters, I am just hoping that the remaining X Men Origins movies are as good as this one. I plan to see them all.