Party Weekend

Last weekend was a party weekend! On Saturday the 30th, we went to an old co-worker-friend’s surprise birthday party! Frank was turning 50, and was totally in shock. It was also fun to see other old friends from those days when I was the intern dating the full time employee… those were the good old days ­čśë

Jameson mostly ate pineapple and pretzels with the salt scraped off of them, and played with another empty bubble container. (That was fun, walking into the house with all those people and emptying a brand new bubble container)

He was great for the most part, until the end. Then we commandeered a stroller from one of our friends for him to settle down a bit, and he was entertained by their daughter. They played the “dropsy” game over and over again. At least, Jameson did, and Abigail obliged!

Sunday we were excited to fry another turkey for a party at JP and Lisa’s house. Friends Rob and Christina came up from Florida for another visit, so we were very excited to get all the boys together again + the new lady miss Vivienne!

When we arrived, everyone was already there. At first, Jameson was extremely shy. I was surprised, since I assumed that since he was in daycare, he would naturally be more outgoing. But he has a definite stranger awareness now, and he didn’t remember our recent visit, or the activity scared him at first.

Within about 15 minutes, he was collecting toys to stack, and within the hour, he was playing with the other boys.

(Kitchens are full of good toys. I liked that JP and Lisa let Jonathan get into the cupboards like Brian and I do for Jameson at home. This totally occupied them for 15 minutes)

I will say that for a few small exceptions, Jameson is a very good toy sharer. And even though he was afraid of the baby, he gave her her toy back after she lost it and cried out, pointing at it.

A note: One of the most valuable lessons we took out of sign language class were learning that babies and toddlers don’t understand sharing. What they can understand is taking turns, and that is what we’ve emphasized (not using the work share) in dealing with Jameson sharing. And since he frequently changes his mind and moves onto something else, its very easy for him to give up his turn for a little while.

Here is Vivienne, showing off her two bottom teeth. She’s just couple couple months shy of one year old, can you believe it?! She loved the ball, and she also enjoyed hanging onto a little car. She’s a pro crawler now.

Well, there was a turkey being fried somewhere during this time but I only got the finished product:

Jameson sat nicely on the table for about ten seconds before he wanted to walk around and eat, so we brought him on our laps. He enjoyed the fried squash (yellow; if it was green, he didn’t want it).

Jonathan however ate at the table, and he very much enjoyed the turkey…

After dinner, Bobby and Jonathan soaked themselves in the sprinkler, but Jameson wanted nothing to do with it. I was disappointed, though it was kind of ironic since Jameson was the only one in a swimsuit.

Jameson was more interested in rocks, and the slide.

Jameson’s gotten very good at the slide. He can get his legs out from beneath him now without help, and goes down without hold anyone’s hand (most of the time). A recent daycare report said he went down the big spiral slide they have in the gym all by himself!

After everyone was dry and inside, we decided to take some group photos. Last time, the boys were happy enough to lay on the ground for our photo.

This time, we were simply impressed they were all sitting still, let alone smiling! Lisa was a brilliant attention- and smile-getting clown; she was fabulous.

I cranked my ISO way up for that shot so I could capture it in natural light; but I’m not too happy with the grain. Next time I’ll bring my flash for sure, but it still turned out great. Please note that last time, Jameson was the only one missing pants, but this time he was the only one with pants! One of these days, we’ll all the get the right pants memo.

And next time, we’ll be sure to get these shots with Vivienne in them too; unfortunately, they had to leave before we thought to get a group shot!

We followed the shots of the three together with the adults, but that was much less successful.

The ladies were better at it ­čśë

Also, I totally cheated for that smile. I tickled Jameson’s armpits. He’s ticklish there, and it works for a smile without fail most every time.

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San Francisco, Day 2

After Alcatraz, we decided to walk along Fisherman’s Wharf; there were a lot of places to stop for food. In fact, I’m pretty sure it’s mostly food, plus the Aquarium (we didn’t visit). It was full of activity when we were there, and later we walked along it at night which was another perspective.

My favorite part though was the Arcade Museum, Musee Mecanique, filled with coin-operated arcade and video games!

Brian and I got a few coins and played a couple games too. I played Ski Ball, which is my all time favorite game. I am only okay at it, but it is thrilling to hit the 50 slot! Brian played whack-a-mole, and with our last coin, we watched a French Execution.

The game play made us hungry, so we headed up to the famous food truck, The Codmother Fish and Chips.

We both got an order of fish tacos. Cabbage, a good sized piece of fish made fresh, and their signature sauce (I got mild, Brian got medium) in a basket. We shared some fries, and I was happy to see vinegar at the table because there is nothing like fresh fries with vinegar! It was excellent.

Following lunch, we walked up a few cable car stops then and hopped on, standing along the side.

We got off at Chinatown, which is the biggest Chinatown in any city in the US. I liked it even more than the one in NYC, but Brian said he preferred the “sketchiness” in NYC. It’s true, this Chinatown was not filled with knockoff brands or a whole lot of side alleys (or at least… it didn’t seem to be!).

We purchased a scarf for me there, because it was really chilly that day. With a jacket and scarf on, I was finally comfortable.

The day was really starting to clear up by this time, we even saw bright blue sky heading into downtown to catch the metro to our next stop, Buena Vista Park. The park was supposed to give us great views of the bridge, though I was more pleased with the views of the city proper.

To reach the park, we got off the metro, and then walked what felt like an entire mile, entirely, steeply uphill. At one point, there were steps in the sidewalk because it was so steep.

The views were nearly worth it.

Okay, afterwards we stopped for drinks, and then it was totally worth it.

We took a different way back down, onto Haight Street and the so-called “hippie” district. It may have been a little be eclectic, and I enjoyed the murals, but my favorite was this spot: Hobson’s Victorian Punch House.

That is three bowls of punch there, their house punches, made with rum and various fruit juices. It was really a rum bar, with over 100 types of rum available. My kind of place!

Brian had an Anchor Steam Ale (based in San Francisco, though we didn’t go) and Descheutes Mirror Pond Pale Ale.

And I had two of these.

But the day wasn’t over! Eventually we had to leave, and we made our way to Ghiradelli Square and the dock extending away from it, where I was happy to finally get some good photos of Golden Gate Bridge.

Oh yes, we did stop for some chocolate samples and a sundae as well.

What made the sundae was the crushed nuts, and the chocolate, I think. It was so good, we were barely hungry for dinner that night.

Speaking of, to get there, I was happy to walk off more of that sundae by walking down the windy, twisty Lombard Street.

I’m pretty sure it was mostly tourists driving down that street!

For dinner, we decided we wanted to sit outside at a small Italian restaurant, as it had finally warmed up enough to be comfortable. A lot of places had outdoor heating, though we eventually chose a place which did not (because we didn’t want to wait for a seat that had heating. If you can’t tell by all the places we made it to even after Alcatraz, all in ONE day, we walk fast and might be a touch impatient!).

We didn’t have reservations, but we checked Yelp for a good spot along Columbus Avenue, which had a lot of Italian restaurants along it. We selected Rose Pisolta and enjoyed a fabulous dinner; like the previous night’s tapas dinner, we were pleased with the portion sizes since we had consumed most of the day already.

I had an Italian Quarter Shrub cocktail (Abuelo 7 Year Rum, Fresh Orange Juice, Lemon Shrub, Agave Nectar). It was sweet, and not at all alcohol-tasting, reminding me of my favorite martini, a lemon drop)

For my meal, I enjoyed a Black Summer Truffle Ravioli with Yellow Corn Brodo.

Brian had the pasta with Lobster, Orange & Micro Basil. It had a very herbal scent and taste, but was very good. It was missing the substance though that my dish had, I think.

For our grand finale that evening, we walked along Fisherman’s Wharf again, and then went to Buena Vista Cafe, sat at the bar, and had a famous Irish Coffee.

Well, Brian had one two. I was completely full; I did try his though. The flavor is very intense.

It was a nice, relaxing end to our long and busy day! We were excited that we were able to do all of the items on our list for San Francisco, and I was excited to drive across the Golden Gate Bridge the next day and see the redwood forest!

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San Francisco, Day 1

Are you ready for experiencing 5 days in California with me? Okay okay, I was already there and back, but I’m excited to share the fun with you now!

In case you don’t guess by the photos, no, Jameson did not go with us. He stayed with Brian’s parents and had a really fabulous time. He ate really well, saw family at Brian’s cousin’s wedding shower, and terrorized Sasha. Just kidding. But we hear they had a lot of fun, and grandma had to go to bed early after that for nearly a week, she was so tired out!

The flight and jet lag weren’t too bad, aside from whole being up for some 20 hours in a row (maybe not literally, but close with the time change). We stayed at the Hilton in the Fisherman’s Wharf district. It wasn’t a fabulous hotel but decent, but it was free with points, and the location was ideal!

The first place we went was to get food, of course, so we walked a couple blocks (after walking too far one way, we turned around because we realized we had passed it) and stopped at Rogue Ales Public House. Rogue Ales served great burgers. So. Good.

For the record, I did drink a beer here too. When in Rome…! Brian had the Reserve Hop and Russian Imperial Stout, and I had the Trumer Pils

Our next stop was the cable cars. Here’s a tip we figured out after waiting in line for 40 minutes: You don’t have to wait in line. Buy your 1- or 3-day pass, and then walk up a few blocks. The cable cars will stop, and you can get on, though you may be standing on the outside, which is half the fun!

On the other hand, Brian and I got the prime seated spot on the cable car and I got a couple fun photos of myself!

It was pretty cold there right by the water; I was thankful for my hood covering my ears. Most of our time in San Francisco it was in the 50’s, which actually was perfect walking weather!

The cable car went up and down the steep hills of the city, and we rode it all the way to it’s end. Here we are passing Lombard Street; I have pictures of that windy street from better angles when we walked down it a day or so later.

At the end of the cable car line, we were ready to stop at a microbrewery on Brian’s list: 21st Amendment. It was a short hike there (we opted to walk where we could and avoided the bus, sticking with the metro and cable car during our stay).

21st Amendment had a large space. We sipped beers in the loft area. If you haven’t already gathered, there is a lot of eating and drinking on this trip.

Here Brian had the Gigantus IPA, and I had the Saison, which had the most lovely smell. It tasted good too. Brian said that it was one of the best Saison styles he had ever tried.

Here is Brian, looking at a map and scoping out the journey to our next stop, the Painted Ladies.

Contrary to what it may appear, we had a list of things we wanted to do, but no scheduled time frame in which to do them. We also didn’t commit to getting to do everything, because that is the way to make your vacation stressful! Instead, we were flexible with our time, our stops, and had a few key things planned out for our trip:

  1. Alcatraz (we had to book this one, so we scheduled it for the morning)
  2. Painted Ladies
  3. Seeing The Bridge
  4. Seeing Big Trees (Redwoods)
  5. A couple brewery stops (of which we hit all, and then some!)
  6. 2 Wineries we had scheduled (otherwise we just had a list of ones that would be good to stop at)
  7. A couple dinners schedule (not all!)

The key to our stress-free sightseeing vacation was to map everything to see where it was, so that we could make effective, efficient choices about where to go next, with few requirements.

Brian was really, very good about that. And it was the most stress-free sightseeing vacation I’ve ever had. The relatively frequent stops for drinks helped too.

I propped up my camera to take this photo of us by the Painted Ladies on a trash can. No hesitation. It was the perfect height!

Then it was time for another bar stop, of course!

We went to Toronado’s, which is famous for their beer list. Those are dried hops hanging above the list.

If Brian owned a bar, he said, it would be like this. For me, it reminded me of the winery we went to in Ohio, with collections gathering dust. It had such atmosphere.

We stayed awhile. I just looked back at my list, and it appears that Brian had 4 beers. I had one.

Brian started with a Russian River Pliny the Elder, which he has had before but loves; followed by Russian River Damnation, Firestone Walker Pale 31, and Drakes Drakonic. I had a Two Rivers Pomegranate (hard) Cider which was nice and sweet.

We were there long enough to take photos of the awesome bathroom.

Dinner that night was at Bocadillo’s, which we did make reservations for. It’s a smaller restaurant, serving tapas. We were able to stop at the hotel first to freshen up first.

Dinner was excellent; I am developing a fondness for tapas, since you can try so many different things. I’ve now had tapa dishes in Chicago, Vegas and San Francisco, and always been happy to try new dishes.

And for us, since we had been eating and drinking all day, it was perfect to just get a few dishes without overfilling ourselves.

Then we stopped at a fudge and taffy shop Z. Cioccolato‘s, and a pastry shop, for dessert. I had a butterfly cookie like my grandma used to make which I have never seen before in any store. It was a great, late end to our first day in San Francisco.

Up tomorrow: Alcatraz, Fisherman’s Wharf, Chinatown, Buena Vista Park, Lombard Street, and just a couple more shots of food and drinks!

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Brew at the Zoo

Another throw back from a couple weeks ago (shows you how behind I really am), we went to the zoo, without kids. Specifically because there was a beer tasting event going on!

We left Jameson with Aunt Melissa and went off to the zoo immediately after work. We usually don’t go out during the week (except for playing raquetball, which we haven’t done in ages… slackers), so this was a real treat for us. We were meeting JP and Lisa there.

After a long highway delay, we finally arrived nearly a half hour late. Oops! Luckily, there was plenty of drinks still to go around.

Basically, you got drink tickets for each place to taste in those very reasonably sized glasses, and then you could purchase a full cup if you wanted. After a few samples, we were having a good time.

Well heck, we were having a good time prior to that. We were without kids! On a week night!

(Lisa demonstrating her air guitar.)

There was one particular beer that Lisa and I both loved. This is surprising, since I’m not a big beer drinker. I can appreciate all the work that goes into it (I’ve seen it), and I can even appreciate the complexities of scents and flavors that are in them, but many times, I find beer tolerable rather than lovable.

Exception: Blonde Bombshell, by Indigo Imp Brewery.

Brian and JP also discovered a brewery they had never heard of, so it was a win for everyone! Breweries that attended included: Indigo Imp Brewery, Thirsty Dog Brewing Co., Ohio Brewing Co., Chardon BrewWorks & Eatery and Rocky River Brewing Co.

It wasn’t all drinking though. There was some snack food available, and we did walk around the zoo and see the animal exhibits. This zoo isn’t usually open that late, and typically we go during the day, so I was surprised to see that there were actually a good number of animals out, and active!

The red panda was my favorite; I’ve never seen one up that close before!

Because this is a smaller zoo, that is actually one of their draws — all their exhibits allow you to get much closer to the animals than you would at a larger zoo.

They also had workers out showing some of the smaller animals like snakes, and my other favorite, the sugar glider:

Once upon a time, prior to my chinchilla passing away and Jameson being born, I was set on getting a sugar glider as my next pet. I still think I’d consider it, when Jameson is old enough to help take care of it.

This zoo is also known for their aquarium exhibits. They have jellyfish and an octopus along with a lot of fish!

Then there was the giant caterpillar!

Obviously, not a real animal exhibit.

There’s the animal exhibit part! ^

I even got Brian and JP to pose together. This is one of the less awkward photos. I will spare the embarrassing one here.

I still can’t even believe they actually posed for the photo.

After the tremendous fun at the zoo which we all promised to return to soon, we went out to dinner at one of my favorite restaurants, Luigi’s. Really, I go for the salad. I think there is no other restaurant for which I’d say that. But here it’s true. Salad, smothered in cheese.

To friends, and good food and drink!

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Daddy Day

Last year, taking photos for Dad’s Day was much, much easier. He sat nice, even through 3 wardrobe and set changes. I had some funny outtakes, but it was nothing compared to this year.

I’m not joking when I say I barely had 3 usable photos (let alone, vertical ones to use in the frame we already purchased). The entire shoot went something like this:

He immediately threw every letter to the ground. I had mere moments to capture, unless he was completely distracted by a window or bubbles. Phew, I can’t wait until next year, next year he’ll sit still, right??

Along with this photo session, Brian got a memory box from Paper Coterie to store his ticket stubs, bumper stickers, and cards in. He had them in a plastic bag before, so this is quite a step up. There are photos of he and I, Jameson and Sasha on the box. It’s the 4th one I’ve ordered from them; I am very happy with the quality of the memory boxes!

He also got new fancy sunglasses. He’s now ready to drive in California! We’re very excited for our upcoming vacation.

We also enjoyed the gift of family on Father’s Day; Brian’s parents came over and sister and her boyfriend with his daughter who we got to meet for the very first time.

He may not look excited here, but I promise you that Aunt Melissa taught him how to put his legs up so she can push him around. He loves it!

While I was upstairs, wishing my own dad a very happy Father’s Day (he spent the day fixing their swing set in preparation for a visit with Jameson–and my own sister, haha), anyway meanwhile I hear loud laughter followed by wailing from Jameson.

Up comes Aunt Melissa, rescuing Jameson from whatever is happening downstairs. (Anyone watch How I Met Your Mother? I felt like The Blitz). Apparently, Sasha was dropping gobs of drool on Jameson’s head and arm, prompting the laughter which was loud enough to frighten him.

Grandma came over then and all was well!

Jameson’s current favorite toy is an empty bubble container. This weekend, he learned how to screw on and off the lid (as long as mom or dad doesn’t screw it on too tight!). He’s obsessed with it, and leaves the clear bubble stick everywhere for us to hunt down.

Our current new favorite game is “falling asleep” on the stairs. Grandma encouraged it, and it’s pretty hilarious until we are midway up the stairs going to bed and he decides he wants to play the game. (Okay, even then, it’s still pretty funny)

For appetizers, Brian (yes, he made his own Father’s Day dinner, but I did make him a fantastic breakfast casserole!) made bruschetta.

The main course was ribs hot dog for Jameson, potatoes and salad. We were excited to try Jameson at the dinner table for the first time, aside from our one disastrous attempt to eat at Red Robin. He did really well, and I think he enjoyed the novelty of it.

We did it again last night, and it seemed to encourage some better eating habits, at least for now.

It’s always a pleasure to eat in the dining room with family. And somehow the table always seems to get filled up with stuff within hours after the event. I don’t understand how that happens.

Jameson danced away in the living room to some Pink Floyd (dads were proud) and then it was time for dessert!

For dessert, berries (on top of angel food cake for the adults). Jameson enjoyed the berries a lot. He even signed “Thank You” a couple times. Why, you’re welcome, Jameson! We love you, and you’re one of the main reasons we get to celebrate!

Happy Father’s Day to all the best dads I know!

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Splash Pad

The weather is getting hot again: Sunday we were supposed to go to the zoo but it hit 90! So we hit the Splash Pad (free!) with JP, Lisa and Jonathan instead.

Since we were going to get wet, I opted not to bring my fancy camera and instead brought a new waterproof video/camera that Brian bought for my birthday.

I know, another camera? Is it really necessary? Brian but it refurbished though and for the splash pad, waterproof was necessary! The video worked decent: It was a surprise to see that the sound was picked up pretty well and the video was brighter than it appeared on screen when I was recording.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_W7aq6Q2L8E]

The still photos the camera took though weren’t too impressive. The camera couldn’t focus on anything close up, and the colors seemed a little washed out. Lisa’s iphone took better color, but mine had better focus (when it was properly in focus and not too close). It also had a slow reaction and saving time, so you couldn’t take consecutive shots without waiting for a little bit.

Jameson had a good time. He doesn’t like the sprinkler at home, so we were a little concerned that he would be terrified of an entire playground of sprinklers, but he did really well. He wanted to stay near us while he explored, but he was fascinated with all the kids around.

He even had a girlfriend for a moment when we first arrived. She wanted to take him around!

Jonathan also had a great time. He didn’t have any problem going off on his own (trailed by mom and dad), sitting on water, and trying to take the big kids’ toys!

Finally Jameson tripped over himself and had had enough of the splash pad. We toweled the boys off and headed back for a cookout!

JP made steak and chicken with a tzatziki sauce on the side, as well as vegetables and a gourmet style rice. We tried to have the boys eat at the picnic table which was hit or miss. Mostly miss.

They aren’t quite ready for that yet. Jameson wanted a whole mushroom rather than his halves, and then he wanted a whole piece of chicken (they were in big cubes since JP put them on kabobs), but he really only wanted to eat on dad’s lap, which happened again, my lap this time, just last night.

I think we need to get him a chair that will allow him to eat at the table with us and retire the high chair soon!

For dessert, we had a tasty but terrible-looking apple tart that I made.

The recipe calls for puff pastry dough, but Brian and I bought phyllo dough instead, which was not an adequate replacement.

It’s very easy to make: 2 granny smith apples, cored and cut into slices; 1 puff pastry dough, rolled out and sprinkled with 1/8 cup of sugar. Make a 1 inch border and poke fork holes in the middle all around. Put down apples, sprinkle with another 1/8 cup sugar. Bake at 425 for 20 minutes.

It tasted great, but we’ll try the correct dough next time. It was a touch hard to eat.

After dinner, we let the boys play (both sets: JP & Brian went off to brew beer). We were home by 9, and Jameson didn’t want to get up the next day. For once, we tired him out instead of the other way around!

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Birthday Man

This weekend was HOT and humid. We all got home a little early for Brian’s birthday on Friday and hung out outside.

(We are trying to teach Jameson now not to suck out all the gross water from his bath and water play toys and cups. Ewww. Here is Brian trying to show him how to properly play with these toys)

Anyway, for Brian’s birthday, I planned to make a dinner and breakfast for Brian through the weekend, but let me tell you how that went.

First, I was too lazy too tired to go out Friday evening, so I decided I’d go out on Saturday after our zoo trip. I went out on Saturday, spent too much money because I didn’t think ahead on what I needed so I had to get it all at the grocery store AND THEN I forgot flour.

Which, as it turns out, I didn’t need, because we had just enough flour.

So Brian goes out later for dog food (this is too heavy for me to pick up, FYI) and also picks up some flour.

I make him de-vein and peel his own shrimp, while I put Jameson to bed.

But, on the other hand, I did do a ridiculous amount of careful chopping for this really great Shrimp, Spinach and Orzo salad. It’s very good. Trust me.

But it doesn’t end here. I planning on making breakfast the next day, but as it turns out, whipped cream is not the same as whipping cream. Which I swear I knew, I swear.

Womp womp. Brian ran out to get his own whipping cream on Sunday on his Home Depot trip, and breakfast was postponed to Monday.

Monday, I made him this:

Blueberry Cream Biscuits with Blueberry Sauce. I found it in the Better Homes & Gardens magazine. It was so ridiculously easy, I feel terrible for our waistlines because I am certain I will make this again.

And Jameson loved the leftover blueberries.

Brian’s parents, on the other hand, had no difficulties putting out a fabulous spread for his birthday celebration on Sunday which consisted of pasta salad, potato salad, broccoli salad, squash, and the main course: fried turkey and potatoes.

Brian might have done a little cooking there though too, making some fried potatos.

 

I don’t think he minded. ­čśë

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Fizzy Wine

You may recall, Brian and I started making our very first wine kit at home together a few weeks ago. Now, we are finished with step 3, and nearly ready for racking and clarification.

While I was in Vegas, Brian moved our wine into the second stage fermentation jug.

Yes, we were classy and had it in our kitchen for a while.

The step was fairly easy for Brian to do without any help. But step3 was pretty lengthy.

To keep the wine cool and a consistent temperature, Brian wrapped the jug. Here it is with a couple beers he has going. (The middle one has aromatic hops I believe, I know it looks unappealing)

First we tested the wine, which should be at .992-.996 gravity reading to begin Step 3 (Clearing and Stabilizing). Our wine was at .991, but Brian said as long as it’s not higher, it’s okay.

Then we taste tested it too, since we already had it out. The grape juice was clearly a “wine” now, albeit a young and fizzy one.

We added a stabilizing agent, and then it was time to stir it in.

To do the stirring, Brian and his dad rigged up the stir stick attached to his drill.

This step is mostly about motion, stirring up the yeast and in the agent, and getting rid of CO2 in the wine; so, I took a quick video to show you how the stirring worked.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JGmp3fy9BSM]

Finally we added a clarifying agent, and then the real work began!

At this point, we need to get rid of the CO2 in the wine to eliminate fizziness. This part is called “degassing”. The test is drawing up more wine and shaking it in a tube. When you release your hand, there shouldn’t be any “pop”, or release of the gas under pressure.

We weren’t even close after a lot of drill-stirring. So Brian and his dad put their heads together.

After some Google searching, they came up with a vacuum pump system to eliminate the CO2. It worked!

It is a slightly risky move to be carefully watched so the wine jug doesn’t explode (we are using glass, so that would be a big and scary mess).

But all was well and a lot more bubbles rose up to the top! Soon we will be ready for Step 4

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May Showers

This week has been pretty rainy; in fact, so far it seems as though April and May switched months. April flowers bring May showers? Yes indeed!

My friend from work, Lauren, had a baby shower last Saturday, and I was honored that she asked me to take some photos!

I think my next focus, after I get the hang of shooting in manual, should be white balance. I don’t white balance in camera, which requires a lot more effort post-process.

Homemade candy on each table, and little bags of cherry-yogurt covered pretzels for favors. The whole shower was elegant and girly.

Appropriate because, obviously, the shower was for for a girl. Take that back, TWO girls. Lauren is having twins!

She is just in to her third trimester with twins, can you believe how small she still looks? She’s blessed with being tall with a long torso. She also works out. Yep, not jealous at all. Not at all.

Yes, that is a chocolate fountain. It’s a good thing I was dedicated to photo taking, or I would’ve eaten a whole lot more.

Also, she decorated her own cupcakes. A perfectionist at heart!

This watermelon was done based on a Pinterest find by her mother!

We played word un-scramble, which I did poorly at (that is my sheet there, and obviously had already given up on figuring out any more of them).

And we played baby bingo while she opened gifts, at which I am AWESOME. But I didn’t win, so not really that awesome. I thought I had my strategy down… oh well.

Here is her lovely friend, helping the day of with the games and gift record.

I have never seen such loot at a baby shower! It was wonderful to see all the people out supporting her with two of every outfit and blanket and diapers.

I got her the diaper caddy she registered for (which I had to dig for, by the way, this is a JJ Cole item and it is discontinued at Babies R Us).

I filled the diaper caddy with essentials, some things registered for (like nail clippers and aquaphor) and some things not (like security blankets, gas drops, medicine, and tooth brushes).

We wrote notes on each little thing. Like “Jameson helped shake these up for you” on the saline drops for her. Not that they needed shaken. And “Dye-free = stain free” on the ibuprofen we purchased. And my favorite: “Why did you register for this? You need a nosefrida” on the little nose suction bulb.

Because really, as gross as they are, nosefridas work so much better.

While Lauren continued to open gifts, this little gem was hamming it up for my camera.

Can you see that tooth there? Jameson wouldn’t have been so happy with that!

While she opened, we also had the opportunity to decorate onesies and bibs for the babies.

If prizes were given out for the winner of the onesie decorating though, Lauren’s sister would’ve won hands down with her onesie drawn like a bathing suit, both front and back!

Congratulations Lauren, we can’t wait to meet them!

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Vegas, Sans Baby

The weekend finally arrived! After all the months of planning, we all flew in to Vegas to celebrate Emma’s bachelorette party!

I may not have mentioned before, but this was my third visit to Vegas. The first was with Brian, and we toured a few days in Vegas and saw all the highlights, drove out to see the Hoover Dam, and to Arizona for my friend’s wedding. Brian had a blast driving through the dessert.

The second time though was with Emma and Jamie, and I was pregnant. Bummers.

So this time sans baby, it was wonderful to have the opportunity to do Vegas girl-style. We stayed up late, ate well, lounged well. Our itinerary looked much the same as it did at it’s formal invite stage, but I switched up a couple times for things:

Note: For breakfast and lunch, we didn’t really end up at the places I had initially recommended. We all pretty much did our own thing in various groups until the evenings when we all got together. It worked out perfectly!

Thursday

  • Arrivals
  • 11 am-3 pm – Check-in is 3pm, courtesy at 11am
  • 1:30 pm – Planned Lunch ~ Earl of Sandwich, Planet Hollywood (we didn’t end up making it here, but I heard it is so good!)
  • 2:30 pm – Actual Lunch ~ The Buffet, The Mirage (buffet right in our hotel, I needed immediate food gratification ha)
  • 7 pm – Dinner ~ Tao Restaurant, The Venetian
  • 10 pm – Haze Nightclub, Aria: Shannon, Jamie and Hilary

Friday

  • 9 am – Breakfast ~ Le Village Buffet, Paris
  • 11 am-1 pm mani & pedis ~ The Spa & Salon, Aria: Emma, Hilary and Jamie
  • 1 pm – Planned Lunch ~ BLT Burger, The Mirage (we ate here another day instead)
  • 2 pm – Actual Lunch ~ Julian Serrano, Aria
  • 5 pm – Dinner ~ Brand Restaurant, Monte Carlo
  • 7 pm – Le Reve-The Dream Show, The Wynn
  • 10 PM – 1Oak Nightclub, The Mirage (Cee-Lo performs!)

Saturday

  • 9 am – Breakfast ~ Blizz, The Mirage (I ate here, others ate elsewhere. I had a savory crepe and smoothie which were stellar!)
  • 12 pm – Planned Lunch ~ Mon Ami Gabi, Paris (we kind of skipped lunch)
  • 3:45 pm – Gondola Ride, The Venetian: Kristen, Hilary, Shannon; meanwhile Emma got her hair done at Aria!
  • 5:30 pm – Dinner ~ Olives Restaurant, Bellagio
  • 9:30 pm – Men of Sapphire Revue Show, Club
  • 11 pm – Planned ~ Haze Nightclub, Aria (we opted not to go, the show was entertaining)

Sunday

  • Departures
  • No planned activities, we did BLT Burger for an early lunch at The Mirage
  • We saw the Monet Art Gallery in Bellagio, which was fascinating
  • The girls left, and I laid by the beach for a while, shopped and walked.

The Mirage

Nice entryway and decent pool. We requested adjoining rooms, but they weren’t available, so they gave us rooms near each other. However, two of the girls who opted to stay to a room themselves had a smokey-smelling room. Overall, I felt like the ventilation in the hotel wasn’t as good as other places I’ve stayed. On the other hand, they did have a very nice pool, easily and quickly accessible to our rooms (which is why the bride wanted to stay there in the first place). Oh, and it’s reasonably central to a lot of the activities we did.

The Package

We booked with The LightGroup, and I would do so again absolutely. We got into two great clubs quickly with minimal fuss (where we needed to go at Aria was a little confusing, and 1Oak was exceptionally busy the night we were there so there was a little extra time/effort/convincing that went on). And no flip flops, ladies!

On the other hand, I am an excessive planner, so not knowing the details of every moment and exactly how to get in the clubs was tough for me (my instructions were to “call these people”). Overall, definitely worth the one dinner we had to pick. That’s it!

Oh, and I did have trouble momentarily when I booked our hotel through the LightGroup, they booked the wrong nights, which luckily I caught because I called the hotel directly to check. Because I’m an over-planner. That would’ve been a HUGE negative, so remember to always be your own advocate and all that good stuff.

The Food

Brand: This was a really great deal with the package! Decent food, lots of food provided actually, there was plenty.

Olives: Excellent olive tapenade to go with the starter breads. Excellent wine-by-the-glass list, in my humble opinion. I had the special which was a spaghetti and meatballs, and I enjoyed it a lot, though it was very traditional. Not as exotic as I expected with all the hype about this place, but very good food. Our service was less than stellar though.

Tao: Very good. We allowed the chef to pick three dishes for us to share. It was a good choice, to let the chef pick his favorites!! The ceiling was high and decorated; it had a great atmosphere.

Julian Serrano: Tapas are so fun! I love sharing small portion dishes, especially in Vegas where it felt like we were eating all the time. I am a big fan, so that I can try all kinds of new things. They have a house sangria, which was decent.

Blizz: I enjoyed my smoothie a lot; I went for another one the next day in lieu of a meal after all the girls left. The savory crepe was huge, I only ate half.

Jean-Philippe Patisserie: Creme Brulee gelato in Bellagio. SO GOOD. We also tried the nutella bar and eclair and were wowed.

BLT Burger: Okay service, excellent burger. The fries were great, in little cups. I’m glad we made it here for sure.

I wish we could’ve made it to Mon Ami Gabi, it’s still on my list to sit outside along the strip to have a meal there. Guess I’ll have to save it for next time!

The Spa

I can’t say enough good things about the salon portion of the spa at Aria. We were in massage chairs while they did our nails (must get a pedi for that but they can do the mani’s there too). We had champagne and great service. I wanted to go back the very next day, and Emma actually did, to get her hair done. It was truly relaxing, exactly what I needed. It was phenomenal!

The Shows

Le Reve is kind of like Cirque du Soleil, but not. Still acrobatics. But, just like when I saw Ka at MGM, I nodded off for a few seconds here and there. Show time is right at my down time after meals, sigh.

I loved that the theater was round and that we had great seats. We could see everything! When I called to place the order for those seats, the lady told me that the 6th row is her favorite. My favorite too! Not too low, not too high, a nice panoramic view of all the action.

Men of Sapphire. Classier than the one I went to Cleveland for my own bachelorette party for all of fifteen minute cause it was gross. Just gross. This club was classier in every way with nice seating, nicer men, better show. We enjoyed ourselves enough that we skipped going to Haze.

If I had to do it again: Only stay for two hours. After that, it gets un-classy real quick, just like the Cleveland place. Oh, and if you’re going to do do/buy someone a lap dance (just saying), do it early before the drinks start flowing, before they start cutting corners, and before you have been removed of all your cash!! Speaking of, bring some ones!

It was a fun experience, but I’m not in a hurry to go again.

The Clubs

Haze: Exactly what I envision a Vegas nightclub to be. Big screens, big music, crazy dancers. I wish we could’ve gone again and stayed longer. We got free drinks with our package, but got there too close to their expiration (which was midnight), so we rushed our drinks. If you do the package, come early, get your free drinks, enjoy yourself. Wish we had made it here just a touch earlier for sure.

1Oak: I wouldn’t go here again I think. Dance floor was small, lots of tables instead which of course you need table service for. There’s a little story here about how one of the girls decided to buy Emma table service. Which was awesome to say we’ve done since we all got to join in, but outrageously expensive. Just to give you an idea: table service is a two bottle minimum and bottles run $500 each at those clubs. Yikes! But we got a cool stamp out of it that took forever to come off our hands.

But 1Oak was happening that night since Cee-Lo was there, so, just to be there? awesome. Aside: Jamie and I got a better look at him when we saw him giving a press conference outside Caesar’s Palace earlier that day. Jamie even got to go up and snap a very close picture of him! She’s a fan, so it was very exciting for her.

Gondola Ride

We went on the outside ride instead of indoors, which was great because of the perfect weather, though it was a shorter ride than I expected! Our boater had a great voice and was entertaining. I got a lot of pictures. It’s so touristy… and so cool anyway!

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rssx5aGqx5k]

And those were the highlights, it was a great trip. I sent photos and some text messages to Brian, but actually didn’t call until Sunday after the girls all left. It was nice to get away from daily life and live like I was still in college. Well, better than college.

Meanwhile, Brian and Jameson had a great time. Jameson even had a sleep over with his friend! Almost sorry I missed it ­čÖé

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