Monday, October 29, 2012

Crazy weekend #4: Disneyland

Last weekend we was our final crazy weekend in October. And it sure was a doozy!

Friday night when Jim got off work, he and my mom and I piled into my car with our formal wear and a giant sack of healthy snacks and hit the road. Sevenish hours later, we pulled up to our hotel and couldn't fall into bed quick enough (with one exception: we stayed at the Doubletree and they have those yummy chocolate chip cookies? Yea, Mom and I had to eat ours before we slept).

The next morning we forwent arriving at the park when it opened in favor of sleeping a few more hours, which I ended up quite grateful for. More on that later.

We got to the park just after 10 a.m. and spent a few hours with BJ and Ashley before they went back to their hotel for naps (they DID arrive at the park when it opened).

You can tell my coffee hasn't hit me quite yet in this photo! I did love all the pumpkin decorations they had up for fall though. You can see Minnie Mouse in the background.


After lunch, Mom and Jim and I took off on our own and hit up our favorite rides: Peter Pan, Pirates of the Caribbean, Haunted Mansion (which had insanely long lines due to its new holiday makeover), and we got fast passes for Space Mountain and Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. Unfortunately, when we went to use our fast passes BOTH rides had just broken down. What the heck kind of bad luck is that? Not to mention, the rides I listed above are pretty much the only ones we got to ride. We didn't even get to California Adventure because there were SO many people. I haven't been to Disneyland in the past few years when it's been this packed.
It really rather put a damper on our day, and made me both thankful and regretful that we slept those extra hours. If we hadn't, I'd have been cranky as a hungry bear, but we'd also have had more time to go on rides in the morning. Oh, well. It is what it is.


I discovered one cool thing though: there's a boat with my name in Pirates of the Caribbean!


Cool, huh? No, we didn't get to ride in it. Our day wasn't that lucky.


After we waited for about half an hour for Space Mountain to get back up and running, we gave up and went back to the hotel to change for dinner.  BJ and Ashley picked us up a little early and we headed back to the park for Rome Valley Vineyards' annual winemaker's dinner at Club 33.


We rode the train from the main gate back to New Orleans Square


We took our annual photo by the door. (Don't you love how the humidity got to my hair? I look kind of creepy)


Last year's photo


I believe this was our second...third?..course. Lobster Bisque and Asparagus Baklava. So delicious!


Dessert!!! So yummy! And so sad I only got two bites. :(


BJ and Ashley. The girl peeking out from behind Ashley is Rachel, the manager (who was very cool, by the way). The guy is Matt. He was our server for my bachelorette party last year. And me and Mommy.


Bachelorette party: Matt's hiding in the back, third head from the right. He was quite a trooper that night! :)


So back to last weekend. Dinner was amazing. So many courses of delicious food, such good wine and a great group of people. Despite some hiccups during the day, the evening turned out really well. Ashley turned 21 a couple of days before, so we celebrated her birthday as well as the new wine from the vineyard. I wish someone had gotten a photo of it, but BJ actually presented me with a really nice framed copy of the new label which I helped design as well as helping name the wine.


We left the park well after closing. It's one of the coolest things. Picture this: it's dark. It's quiet. There are no people anywhere, except those who are cleaning and getting everything ready for the next day. Main Street is deserted. It's one of the most bizarre and fascinating things I've ever seen.


Once back to the hotel, we took another annual photo:


The four of us girls.


Last year's photo.


And one with Jim, because he's pretty important too. :)



The next morning we got up, met BJ and Ashley and some of their other friends for breakfast and then started our seven hour drive home.


The weekend was short and crazy and fun and exhausting and it made me soooo glad to stay home and veg (and pack!!) this past weekend.  Now we've got more craziness ahead as we get to the end of our escrow period just in time for the holiday madness to begin. I guess I'd better start working on controlling my stress because the end is nowhere in sight!


Have a great Monday!!!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Crazy weekend #3: Grape Stomping

I told you my October was going to be crammed full of crazy weekends. On the coattails of our anniversary, last weekend we ventured to Napa to our favorite winery's first annual grape stomping event.

Have you ever seen the movie Bottle Shock? If you like wine, I recommend you see it asap. It's about a 1976 blind tasting competition between French wines and California wines, which kind of sounds totally boring, but it's more about the time leading up to the competition. It centers around Chateau Montelena, a failing winery in the Napa Valley as well as a struggling immigrant, Gustavo Brambila who works the fields there.

[caption id="attachment_1118" align="aligncenter" width="420"] source[/caption]

Jim and I love this movie, so two years ago for his birthday, I surprised him with a trip to Napa to see Chateau Montelena as well as GustavoThrace, the winery that Gustavo Brambila eventually established with his business partner Thrace Bromberger.

Anyway, long story short, we loved GustavoThrace and we vowed to return as soon as we could.

Well, it's been two years and we just managed to find the time to do it. And only because they offered a living social deal for it (interestingly, the same day I found the one for Monterey). We were beyond excited and knew we had to do it.

And it hadn't changed a bit. At least in the good ways. The firs time we went down, we were treated more like family than customers. And upon meeting the rest of Gustavo's family, we learned that that's just the way they do things. They're not like most businesses that put money before any thing else. They put people first. Then wine. And the, because everyone's gotta eat, money.

But back to the event. It was their first annual, so everyone was new to the process. They decided to have a little fun with it instead of people just jumping in buckets and smushing grapes between their toes. When we arrived, we chose a colored bandana that identified which team we would be on. Over the course of our time there, we were to create a label for our new wine, which was a merlot and after the stomping was over, the labels were all judged and a winner chosen based on creativity, presentation and design.

And our group won! I wish I'd taken a photo of our label, but I did get one of all of our team with Gustavo.


And I got a few of the stomping itself.


Before stomping:



In the bucket:



After stomping:



It was actually quite chilly and the stems poked my feet. It was definitely an interesting new experience. I'd do it again. :)



Ok, I know I'm backed up...a whole weekend to be exact. But last weekend's post is comin up soon!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

One year down, the rest of our lives to go

I know, I know. I promised you a full report when we got back from our anniversary weekend, but things got a little crazy in the meantime. Jim gave us about half an hour to eat lunch when we got home from Monterey before we were off with our realtor looking at more houses. She had six lined up for us and boy were we striking out.

The first one was...weird. That's the best we could describe it. Not bad. Just weird. Like you walk in from the street to what is essentially the back yard, with a pool and a patio and a bbq area. We then walked around the other side of the house, looking for the front door, but all we found was a small patch or tan bark surrounding the walkway...we're talking a few feet from the fence to the house. The door was there, but it was...yea, weird. We went inside and into the first bedroom to the right. It had double closets, which was nice....but in the back of the second one was a door...to the next room, the den, basically. Weird, right? The kitchen was nice, good size. The living space was...big...and there was a little..sunroom? except there was no door, so it was more like a nook of windows...it was...yea, you guessed it. Weird. The master was small. Master bath was small. Overall, it wasn't bad. We didn't cross it off the list...not till later. But I'm getting there.

Next we saw two foreclosures on the other side of town, the side I don't want to be on. I gave it a chance. It struck out. What can I say? These houses were AWFUL. Completely trashed, needed so much work AND priced way too high for us to even consider.

There were two houses in Rocklin. One the owners accepted a cash offer pretty much as we were on our way there and the other one, it ended up they weren't ready to show it yet.

The last house we saw was in central Roseville, pretty much on the very edge between "I won't live there" and "I'll consider it for the right house." We drove up and I wasn't impressed yet. It is painted a pretty icky brown. But paint isn't permanent and it really isn't a huge deal to me. I just don't care that much. What I did love at first sight was the red door. I have always told Jim I want a red door...in the past we even joked about him buying me a red door for our future house. So this red door was promising.

Once inside we found ourselves facing a lovely open floor plan, three bedrooms, a beautifully updated kitchen (in the exact color scheme I would have chosen myself) a really cool little den with french doors and a cute little backyard, a tiny bit smaller than we were hoping for, but it'll do.

We put an offer in that night. They accepted the next morning. We had the contract by that afternoon and I was in the loan guy's office the next morning signing paperwork. That being said, we're in escrow! We just had the home inspection last night and there are no major problems. The house isn't falling down or rotting from the inside out, so we're moving forward. Appraisal should be next week and that's pretty much our last major hump. As long as it appraises at or above what we offered, we're moving forward!

So that's why I haven't posted about our anniversary yet. I haven't had time to sit down and edit photos, mostly. And my brain has been on overdrive. Anyway, better late than never right?

The actual date of our anniversary was Monday October 8th, so we decided to take a long weekend, starting in Santa Cruz for a night with Jim's grandparents.

Highlights of night one:

Hours of enjoyable conversation with the grandparents

Delicious dessert crepes at The Crepe Place (which won out over ice cream at Marianne's because Jim hates the crowd and The Crepe Place has an amazing outside garden patio area)

Rescuing a cat from under the house

Grandma's scalloped potatoes

In the morning, we started south for Monterey and stopped at one of Jim's favorite beaches, Seacliff State Beach.


Toward the end of World War I, when the country was facing steel shortages, this ship, as well as two others like it were built of cement, but weren't finished until the war ended. This ship, the Palo Alto, was towed here and settled into the bottom and became an amusement attraction with a dance floor, heated pool, cafe and other such concessions. The company that owned it went broke after two seasons and it was stripped and left to the seagulls. (source)


Its kind of sad, really.  It just sits there, half sunk and stinking like seals and seagull poop. We didn't stay long. Just long enough to take some photos before climbing back up the 150 steps (yes, I counted) to the parking lot.



Once back on the road, it took us close to an hour to get to Monterey. We settled into our room and walked down to the wharf.


You like my gettin all crazy with my saturation? I think it looks cool.


Ok, real time now. This was our view at dinner. Not too shabby, eh?



It just occurred to me that I didn't take any actual photos of the wharf. Oh, well. I did get this shot of Jim with our appetizer course before dinner (we had an hour before our dinner reservation and we were STARVED).



I know San Francisco is supposed to be The Man when it comes to clam chowder, but I'm not sure they've got Monterey beat. The next day we had another bread bowl from a different restaurant and we couldn't tell which was better they were both so dang delicious...and different.


And I did get this photo of me trying on a cool mask in a store.



That night we picked up a bottle of wine from a little boutique wine shop after chatting wine with the owner for like half an hour. He was cool, knew his local stuff. We also stopped at the chocolate shop along the way and grabbed some dessert to go with our wine.



Don't these look delish? Mine were the one with the jelly bean on top. It had peanut butter inside and the s'mores one with the graham crumbs on top. Jim's were peach and coconut...also in the photo above you can see my dark caramel marshmallow and Jim's key lime which were eaten before the photo below was taken.



The wine was so-so. A little dry for my taste, but it was drinkable.


The next day we went to the aquarium, Jim's favorite part of Monterey. We were a little early, so we went to look at the bay and finish our coffee.




Jim doesn't let me take many pictures of him...or us together for that matter. He gets so annoyed. So I'm going to post all four of them.


The first place we went was the penguins because they were being fed right as the aquarium was opening. This is my favorite shot. It's blurred because he's diving, but I love the spray of bubbles behind him and how just smooth he seems to be slicing through the water.



From there we went to check out a few other feedings, including the puffins. The one in the bottom left of the photo below was heading toward the door where the guy eventually came out with food. He sure knew where his meals came from!



My favorites are the jellies, I think. They're so pretty and so bright and colorful. I don't know, though. Seahorses are pretty dern cool too. They look so peaceful and serene...and also a bit mystical, like they might not exist outside of a fantasy or something.



The rest of the day we spent just sort of roaming around by the aquarium and resting. We got a couples massage, which I think is pretty overrated. There's not much special about simply being massaged in the same room. Although I'm not sure what else I expected. Then we had a relatively early dinner, followed by another trip to the chocolate shop.


Dinner was interesting. We bought a living social deal for the hotel, which included a room, a spa credit and a restaurant credit. Well the restaurant was Spanish inspired, so they served tapas, which I've had only once before and Jim's never had. It was interesting. And delicious and we would definitely do it again!


Grilled peaches with goat cheese and spinach and a tomato tart. I didn't get a photo before we devoured our first course: hardboiled egg with shrimp and something spicy, watermelon with feta and fig and goat cheese toasts. Oh man, I want some just writing about it!


Free "Happy Anniversary" chocolate cake with raspberry gelato!


After dinner was the most special, though. No! Not like that.


On the last evening of our honeymoon in Santorini, we shared a delicious bottle of wine and watched the sunset over the Aegean Sea.




For Jim's birthday last year, my mom bought (Read:imported) him a bottle and we decided to save it for our one year anniversary.



The next morning we left Monterey around 9:30, got home just after noon, ate lunch and met Kia to look at houses! And you know the rest.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

October madness: Train and House Hunting

Welcome to my life, October! My busiest month all year, I think.

I gave you a brief rundown of all the goings on of this month. Last weekend we saw Train in Reno with my youngest brother and his girlfriend and my mom. I wish I'd gotten some photos, but we were having such a dang fun time, I didn't even pull my phone out once to take one. My bro took some video. If you want to check it out, his ID is MrTacoBoat. My favorite part of the show was the mash up they did of  songs through the years. And there's a point in the Drops of Jupiter video where he moves his phone around and gets a shot of all of us. If you're into that kind of thing. For now, I guess the best I can do for you is this: both bros and I at my wedding.

[caption id="attachment_1075" align="aligncenter" width="737"] My youngest brother Dan is to my left. Matt is to my right. He's 3 years younger than me. (photo by Sarah Maren Photography)[/caption]

I love my bros. I got pretty lucky in that department. They're pretty awesome people and great brothers! This is actually one of my favorite pictures from our wedding...you know, that doesn't feature Jim and I.

Anyway, so today is Thursday, and Jim and I leave for Santa Cruz on Saturday morning where we will begin our one year anniversary celebration with Jim's grandma and her husband, Lutz (who is for all intents and purposes "grandpa" but we call him Lutz...I guess because he's not Jim's mom's dad? I dunno. But it works).

[caption id="attachment_1076" align="aligncenter" width="737"] The only photo our photographer got of the four of us. It's cute, but it's supposed to be a portrait. What the heck? (photo by Sarah Maren Photography)[/caption]

We are spending the night with them on Saturday before heading to Monterey for the rest of the weekend. I got a living social deal for a hotel there that included credit at the restaurant and the spa. We'll probably go to the aquarium, cruise around town, go to the beach, maybe check out Carmel for one day. Who knows. We don't have plans further than the dinner and spa reservations I made. We are exchanging gifts on Friday, I think, because we both bought things that were way too big to bring with us. I wish I could show you now what I got Jim. I'm SOOOOO excited about it. He's going to absolutely LOOOOOOVE it. I just know it.

Last week, we buttoned up the last of the crap we needed to do for our pre-approval for our home loan, so this past week, we've been looking at houses. The market in California, and specifically the area we are in, is insane. There are so few houses and so many buyers that there are often multiple offers on one house and bidding wars are pretty common from what our agent tells us.  It's a little discouraging for first time buyers, but not impossible, and we have a conventional loan, not a FHA, so we should be okay.

That being said, we found a house we love! I'm trying so hard not to get too excited because the likelihood of us getting the first house we put an offer on is pretty slim, I guess. But it's so cute. It's the perfect size and it has a really nice yard and it just needs some minor work...interior paint and carpet. The layout is great and there are some neat little unique features. The neighborhood is really nice, schools are great and there's a park just around the corner.  I think it would be a really great first home for us.

[caption id="attachment_1077" align="aligncenter" width="705"] Anyone else ever use the Snipping tool in Windows? This photo is from Google Maps. So freaking amazing.[/caption]

We saw it on Tuesday night, the day after it came on the market. Tonight we're going back to see it during daylight. I CAN'T live in a house that feels like a cave, so we need to see what kind of natural light it gets...and hopefully I can see that through the awful bright paint.  Our moms are coming along mostly because they're curious but also because we value their opinions. The seller isn't reviewing offers until Sunday, so tomorrow we're sitting down with our agent and putting together our offer. We're hoping people are scared off by the paint and also the mild smell that betrays the fact that the current owners have cats. And it's not updated. Our agent says the seller wants a family or a young couple ready to start a family, and we fit that bill perfectly!


We also looked at a different house on Tuesday. It's a bit different. It's brand new. Built in 2008 and its questionable as to whether its been lived in at all or not. It's technically zoned as a condo because it's in a development made up of six houses that all share the same driveway. They all have their own garage and their own yard. They're independent of each other, but they share a driveway. The one we liked faces out to the street, so it's not sharing a driveway like the others are. It has a very small yard, but the square footage is good and the layout is good and we'd be comfortable there. It's not a dream house. It's a first house. And it's priced $60,000 less than the one we are putting an offer on. The downside of this one...besides the small yard and close neighbors...is that it's currently tied up in a bankruptcy deal with the two houses next to it and a decision won't be made on the case until January. At that point, it might not even be for sale depending on the judge's decision. So this one is in the backup position at present.




[caption id="attachment_1078" align="aligncenter" width="718"] The one we are looking at is the one with the star. The one that google marked is also for sale, but it's smaller and just too cramped in the corner for our taste[/caption]

I'll keep you posted on our house hunting progress. It's so exciting! Cross your fingers for us that our offer will be accepted on Sunday! I'll try to post again before the weekend, but if not, I'll have a full recap when we get back!