Saturday, 11 October 2014

Scenes From Chicago

And I'm back after a little hiatus that involved gearing up for my sister's wedding and lots of fun weekends in the city and jetting off to Chicago for the weekend! Our visit to the Windy City had been in the works for a while before we went last month. We've been trying to branch out to more American cities we haven't visited (very American of us, right?) I'd always thought of Chicago as an intriguing city but hadn't heard much beyond the typical icons like deep dish pizza and terrible winters. Let me tell you, there is so much more to see! Plus we lucked out with our stay at Hotel Palomar in River North. Read on for a day by day guide of our tour de Chicago.
The first stop after our 4-hour flight & delicious to-go sandwiches from Xoco (get the Woodland Mushroom Torta), had to be the famous Bean. It really is a trip to look at....Jim spent a long time looking at it, taking pictures and getting artsy with photography. It's right in Millenium Park which is beautiful and reminds me of Central Park. I love seeing green amidst a sea of skyscrapers.
After the Bean, we walked over to the famous Art Institute of Chicago (the #1 museum in the world, according to TripAdvisor). For $20, you get access to the whole museum and it has some pretty fabulous paintings by Claude Monet and David Hockney.
I absolutely love that Chicago sign; so iconic. What's not pictured here is the rest of our day, which involved going to the Girl & the Goat for a late dinner. It's such a cozy spot, perfect for a date night. My fave dishes were the Mt. Lasen trout with Pumpkin Brandade, Fried Brussels Sprouts, Candied Pecans and Pomegranate plus the Johnny Applecheese Bread with Chili Cheddar Butter.  
The first stop on our second morning was Glazed + Infused, an awesome recommendation from our hotel concierge. Wow is all I can say about these incredibly fresh donuts. Jim went old fashioned and I had the vanilla glazed. Filling but worth it.
We'd signed up in advance for the Architectural Boat Tour  after literally every person we know recommended it once they found out we were headed to Chicago. It was definitely worth the $45 for a 1.5 hour ride. Our tour guide was so knowledgeable about the architecture and also the city heritage and developments. There's something about sitting back in your seat on a boat that's so relaxing. I highly recommend putting this at the top of your to-do list when you're in town.
Lunch was a flurry of Italian activity over at Eataly. There are several locations around the world and all feel like a really lovely Italian marketplace with everything from produce stands to a coffee bar to a craft beer bar and restaurants in between. My idea of food heaven.
This is the stunning view from the Willis (Sears) Tower, which used to be the tallest building in the world before the Burj Khalifa was built in 2004. We braved the crowds to make it to the top and luckily we had a perfect day to see a 360 degree view of the city.
Cubs fan for a day, I suppose (although my heart stays with the Giants!). Wrigley Stadium is old but full of character. They weren't playing when we were there but it was still fun to see. Not pictured was the earlier part of our day spent wandering around Wicker Park & Bucktown, where you can find some adorable shops, cafes and restaurants. We felt like locals and for a second, thought maybe we could live there (and then quickly came to our senses when we thought about the long winters).




Monday, 8 September 2014

Parisian Bridal Shower

With my sister's wedding less than two weeks away, I thought it was the perfect time to share the details from her Parisian-themed bridal shower. The planning was months in the making and involved lots of conversations with the bride-to-be, scouring Pinterest and ordering lots of decorations from Etsy and various craft stores. It was all worth it! The vision came together beautifully and my Mom and I couldn't have been happier with the way it turned out. Read on for the details...
We chose Cafe Sparrow in Aptos as the shower location since it's French and we wanted a Parisian theme. Paris holds a special spot in Myriah and Corey's hearts as they lived there for three months earlier this year while Corey was finishing up his MBA. The idea was to keep it Parisian chic but still casual and luckily, Cafe Sparrow already had so much charm and rustic French decor that we didn't have to do much to make it look fabulous. We used mason jars as vases for the small pink & white rose bouquets (from Trader Joe's) and the name cards were from Paper Source. The shower invitations were from Minted and we used their design to create the menu which we printed and mounted on pale pink card stock.
Since we were in a restaurant, the area for decorations & presents was small but just right. We used an over-sized mason jar from Target for a large bouquet of roses. The vintage Paris trunk my Mom picked up at a specialty store worked well for housing the thank you goodies for guests which were French Macarons from La Boulange. I placed them in clear cellophane bags and tied them with twine and 'Merci' merchandise tags from Etsy.
I always love using colorful straws at parties and opted for these pink & gold ones from BHLDN. I've become a little obsessed with BHLDN over the past year - they seriously have the best wedding decorations, gifts and clothing. My bridal shower gift to Myriah was actually these gorgeous Mr. & Mrs. hangers from the site that she and her fiance will use on their wedding day.
I'd spotted this Georgina white vintage chalkboard at Cost Plus almost a year ago and when we were planning the shower, I thought it would work perfectly as the welcome sign. 
It was actually kind of nice not having to prepare the food for the day. We pre-selected a menu that started with an assortment of French cheeses followed by several sandwiches & salads options and three dessert choices, including this fabulous chocolate Pot de Creme. How amazing does it look?
Here's the beautiful bride to be opening gifts. She looked absolutely glowing on the day. The shower truly is a sweet memory that we'll have forever. Congratulations, Myriah! 



Monday, 18 August 2014

Lucky Three in Santa Barbara

When we were living in London, I remember saying that one of the things we'd make sure to do when we moved back was visit Santa Barbara at least once a year. I'm happy to report that we stuck to that goal. With the beautiful Spanish architecture, sunny skies and beaches and endless shopping, t's the perfect place for a long weekend or a wedding, which is why we combined the two last month to celebrate our good friends'  wedding and our third anniversary. Hard to believe it's already been three years since we tied the knot…so much has happened and yet I know we have so much more ahead of us! It was lovely to soak it all in back where our love began. Along with visiting a few of the normal spots we go to like Tupelo Junction, Isla Vista and Montecito, we made an effort to check out some new spots this time around. The highlights were trekking to the top of the Santa Barbara Courthouse, visiting the Santa Barbara Mission, sunning ourselves at Butterfly Beach, coffee at French Press and a romantic dinner at The Lark. Can't wait for my next trip down in a few weeks!



Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Tomales Bay Picnic

It's been a while since I posted! Things have been very busy over here between weddings, birthdays and planning my sister's bachelorette (which was a huge success this weekend!). In between the festivities, Jim and I spent July 4th weekend at home and took advantage of having 'no plans' by spontaneously heading up the coast to Tomales Bay on a sunny Saturday. Since Cowgirl Creamery and the oyster farms are famous spots up there, we made sure to stop by both for some picnic fare. We got the Mt. Tam brie cheese wheel, homemade bread and a few salads at the Creamery and then headed over to Hog Island Oyster Company. The line ended up being incredibly long so instead of waiting, we drove down the road a little bit and set up a makeshift but romantic picnic on my bright Mexican blanket. It was so beautiful looking out at the bay and lush greenery. I keep learning that sometimes having no plans can be the most satisfying way to spend a summer day.





Wednesday, 11 June 2014

Wine Tasting in Carmel Valley

I'm not sure how or why, but I've never really spent much time in Carmel Valley. I've always stayed close to Carmel-by-the-Sea instead. Carmel Valley has so much offer from wineries and wedding venues to shopping and art galleries - it's such a great place to spend a weekend. As part of my getaway to Carmel for Mother's Day last month, we spent Sunday in the Valley for a bit of wine tasting & lunch. Our first stop was Cowgirl Winery - the cutest country tasting room located in a barn. It honestly made me want to put some cowboy boots on! The tasting room is nestled back from the street near a few other tasting rooms, with beautiful lush gardens. After your flights, you can pop down to Corkscrew Cafe for a thin crust pizza lunch in casual surroundings. It's got a great backyard feel with quirky touches like that cool wine bottle sculpture. Definitely worth a visit. 



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