Cusco!

Cusco was a beautiful city! Tucked in the mountains with fresh air and blue doors all around. Although our thighs definitely got a work out 🙂 We stayed at the top of a large hill and were definitely out of breath making the hike up while we adjusted to the altitude. Overall though, Cusco was a bit of a mixed bag for us since Dan and I both got pretty ill. We tried to make the best of it, but it’s never fun to be sick while traveling. Luckily our hotel was super comfortable! Cusco’s Hilton Garden Inn was nicer than most Hiltons and such a great price.

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We spent a lot of time just walking around and soaking things in. We did try alpaca, which was delicious and super lean, but avoided the guinea pigs roasted on a stick 😉 Cicciolina was certainly all it was hyped up to be- the menu in the bar area is tapas style, so we were able to try a bunch and loved it all. Marcela Batata was also killer! One day we toured around with a local and ate lunch in Sacred Valley at a woman’s home. The food was simple and delicious but  pretty sure that’s where I picked up the food poisoning… there were guinea pigs running around the dirt floor of the kitchen. Still considered it worth it to see just a tiny slice of life in the area. We also tried some homemade chicha from a road side chicheria, which is beer made out of corn. And of course, you’ve got to love the $10 massages and women holding baby “alpacas” hoping you’ll pay for a picture with them. They are actually lambs. Tricky! I also loved visiting Qorikancha- it was originally an Incan temple that the Spanish turned into a Catholic church.

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So glad we were able to spend several nights in this city. It really helped us adjust to the altitude as we prepared to hike to the Inca trail!

 

 

Houston Rodeo 2016

We got lucky and for the second year in a row, Dan was rewarded with suite tickets for the rodeo. So dang spoiled, and we know it.  It was a gorgeous Saturday, so we went early to walk around, see the animals and scope out the fried foods. We somehow resisted! Although we did get to check out the wine garden, which we hadn’t visited before. They sell it at cost, which means it’s all really reasonably priced. Then we headed inside NRG stadium for the actual rodeo and show. Turns out it was the finals, so we got to see all the events twice (and fully take advantage of the suite’s food & drinks). The winner of each category went home with $50,000! Not bad. Brad Paisley was the performer, and put on a great show- jumping out into the dirt, high-fiving fans, and stealing their phones to take videos. He’s also got some serious guitar skills! It was such a nice day and felt great to be in Houston, enjoying our city. And I always love seeing Dan in a hat and boots 😉

See last year’s rodeo here.

Great American Beer Fest

A few weeks ago, we were able to attend the Great American Beer Fest, thus fulfilling one one of Dan’s dreams. He’s been wanting to go for years and when he was able to score tickets, we were off to Denver with his dad and sister. Personally, I’d never pass up a chance to visit Denver because I love it so much. But the unlimited beer was a perk 🙂

The fest is held in Denver’s Convention Center, downtown, and there were almost 400 breweries in attendance. They had the booths divvied up by region, and had other activities going on as well, like a silent disco and karaoke. We had a blast chatting with brewers, checking out the booths of some of our favorite Texas breweries, and trying hundreds of different beers over 2 nights. Dan listens to a brewing podcast called “Brew Strong” regularly and got to try the guy from the podcast’s beer and meet his wife 🙂 Several booths even tapped special casks at certain points, so were able to try beer would never be able to get at home. Don’t worry, you are given a small glass and the pours are tiny! On the second night, Dan wore his Karbach shirt and was congratulated over and over again on their win for their Oktoberfest. So funny to hear him continuously say, “Oh it’s just a shirt, I don’t brew for them.”

Other than the fest, we drove out to Mt. Evams and climbed up to the peak, which I believe is the highest in Colorado? The air was thin, but it felt amazing. Plus the drive the out was just gorgeous. The yellow leaves were amazing, and something we don’t see much of in Houston. The best part was all the wild life! Definitely wasn’t expecting that. And since I forgot a sweatshirt, I had an excuse to run over to REI and finally buy a patagonia pullover 😀

We also got to have brunch at Root Down, which I’ve eaten at too many times considering I don’t live in Denver. Ugh, it’s just the best. They have a place in the airport, so we had it for dinner too!! We had plenty of time before our Sunday night flight, so we were able to check out the Denver Botanical Gardens, which were AMAZING! I would visit all the time if I lived there. It’s in such a cute neighborhood and every section is so well planned. Mini adventures around every corner.

It was such a fun and easy going trip. Now that Dan has been once, I have a feeling we will be going every year. I’m okay with that 🙂

Land of Beer and Beautiful Weather (at least sometimes…)- Portland!

Wow, I’m WAY behind. Work has been crazy between traveling (to Midland- most exciting city ever ;)) and us moving floors and just lots of projects. Trying to play catch up now! And this post deleted mid-writing so forgive me if it’s not very detailed, because I just got a little tired of it.

A few weekends ago, we flew up to Portland for a family visit. My brother-in-law grew up there and was our official tour guide! Considering I’m such a huge planner, you will be shocked to discover- I did no planning. NONE. I looked at one Thrillist article about Portland breweries and that was it. Weird for me, but also kind of nice to just go with the flow. The main point of visiting was to hang out with family anyways, so any activities were just extra.

Y’all, the weather was beyond unbelievable. Having visited in January, I know it wasn’t the norm, but man was it good. I swear, we’ve been the luckiest lately! First NYC, then Portland. Fingers crossed this continues. We spent the evenings just hanging on the back porch of Rob’s parent’s house, in their beautiful backyard, surrounded by raspberries bushes. Which I ate handfuls of. The summers there are like something out of a dream. Mostly because that could never be a reality in Houston. If we try to sit outside, we get covered in mosquitoes and start sweating within 3 minutes.

We got into town fairly early, so we headed to Portland Brewing Co. for dinner. They make Pyramid, if you’ve tried that! It was the first of many breweries. The fish and chips were great! Then after the kiddos went to bed, we walked over to Laurel Public House. They have a few locations in Portland. Heavy on IPA’s so not my favorite ever.

The next morning, we drove up to Mt. Hood to see some snow. They had a dry winter, so while there was snow, there was’t much. However, people were still skiing! We got to see Timberline Lodge, which was beautiful with really nice woodwork inside. This is where the exterior shots of the lodge in The Shining were filmed.

After that, we drove on to Hood River for lunch at Full Sail. Their Amber is one of the best and there was a nice view of the river. We also tried out Double Mountain Brewery. The service was fantastic and they had a Red Ale called the Engineer just for Dan 🙂 Plus, we hit a couple great fruit stands. The cherries… and blueberries… and everything, so yum and fresh. I could have spent days in Hood River.

To take a break from beer, we visited Cathedral Ridge Winery. The wine was great, but even better was sharing a bottle while laying in the grass and enjoying the scenery. Man, I really loved it.

On the way back into town, we stopped at Multnomah Falls. This is a can’t miss when in Oregon. Beautiful!

Saturday morning, we went to the Rhododendron Gardens which were stunning. The kids (and adults) loved feeding the ducks and geese. I was legitimately more scared of the geese than the babes were. I’m a huge chicken. But they were mean!!

We had lunch at Widmer Brothers. Their hefe is one of my all time favorites. The brewery scene is SO different in Portland. Pretty much all of them serve food and it’s actually very good. We spent the afternoon brewery hopping in the Pearl District.

Deschutes- Packed! But great. The actual brewery is in Bend, which we hope to visit sometime.
Fat Head’s- A crowd favorite. Lots of fun beers, like blueberry, which was surprisingly tasty and not at all syrupy. If you ever visit, try to branch out of the norm. Dan’s mom picked her flight, to the boy’s skepticism, and it ended up being the best. Tons of options!
10 Barrel Brewing- I liked the interior and the beer but it wasn’t super special.
Rogue- We sat on the patio and tried some pretty interesting beers. For example, Beard Beer, made from yeast in one of the brewer’s beards. Weird, yes. But it tasted good. They also have several local influences, like Marionberry and Voodoo Doughnut beer. Loved it.
Cascade- On the way back, we stopped here for their sour beers. And I’m sorry, but I’m just not a sour fan. Yuck. Not sure how this is becoming popular, but I guess some people like it!
Forewarning: Dan and I take a picture in front of every brewery we visit… it’s the only time he willingly takes photos with me so I take advantage.

That evening, we soaked up the weather while Rob grilled. We also had to soak up being around our niece and nephew!! We most likely won’t see them until November, and when you’re that age you change so much. I’m going to miss them so much. We’ll miss you too Rob & Jenny 😉 Ugh just look at these cute faces.

That night, we went out with Dan’s parents in Nob Hill (a bartender had told us it was cool), just because we could because we are kid-less. Gotta take advantage while we can! Will have to explore that neighborhood more the next time around.

Thanks Rob & family for showing us a great time in Portland! We truly had a blast and hope to visit again soon.

Memorial Day Weekend in the Hill Country

After a bridal shower in Houston, we were off for Memorial Day weekend! Barley was clearly stoked.


We got in fairly late Saturday night and met up with Dan’s parents at Cultures Bar. Pretty typical bar/grill with a good beer selection and ice cold mugs. Bonus points for icy mugs. Dan needed a cold one after how intensely he had to concentrate, driving through all the rain! Dan’s mom had made dinner reservations at The Nest, which was just divine. It’s in an adorable old home, a few blocks off Main Street with the perfect amount of lighting and the most affable servers. We had a French grandma who was a hoot! Not to mention the quality of the food, which all of us agreed was top notch. Dan and I both had seafood (scallops and shrimp) while his Dad had the filet and his mom tried the quail. We finished the night with a chocolate martini, because when you’re with Ann, chocolate is a requirement 🙂

We stopped by House Wine on the way back to the hotel and they let Barley come in and hang out. He loved it, of course.

  

Sunday morning, the sun came out and we were all surprised at what a beautiful day it was! Luckily, El Milagro has a charming patio with a fountain where we ate breakfast and enjoyed the weather. Note: only 1 breakfast taco is necessary. Barley mostly enjoyed chasing the birds and debating drinking the fountain water.

Later on, we met up with some of my best friends from home for lunch at Fredericksburg Herb Farm in their Farm Haus Bistro. The cutest, with a big garden in front! I was also shocked at how affordable it was too! The weekend was definitely full of good food at new places. You can stay in the most precious cottages on the farm too. Maybe next time 🙂

      

Afterwards, we just had to hit up some wineries… because when in Fredericksburg this is a must. First up was Hilmy Cellars. I had been wanting to go back because of the good wine, but mostly for the cute wine dogs 🙂 No sighting of them that day, but JB made friends with the rooster out on their gorgeous patio and we had a guinea sighting! A view of vineyards makes for excellent scenery.


    

Then we were on to Grape Creek to meet back up with Dan’s rents. They have been wine club members there for a while and I have to agree that it’s the most beautiful winery in Fredericksburg. Best to just buy a bottle (or 2) and sit and enjoy. The live music wasn’t too shabby either!

Barley’s face!! Derp.

        

We headed on to Johnson City that evening and had dinner at Pecan Street Brewing. Not that there are many other options in the small town, birthplace of LBJ with a population of 1,700. We were seated in the front and scarfed down our brick oven pizza. Then, I saw a sign in the back pointing to games & dancing! Through the door it was a totally different restaurant. Garage doors pulled up to let in the warm air, a big band playing country classics, and locals two-stepping across the dance floor. They also had a huge loft with pool tables, shuffleboard, and folding chairs galore. Even though the boys got fairly competitive at the shuffleboard table, it was a blast. Dan even swept me around the room while they played the last song of the night and it was the best. Just have to get a few beers in him to get him dancing 😉


The next morning we visited some re-sale/vintage shops where Joanna Gaines gets some of the things she uses on Fixer Upper! They were pretty awesome and I could definitely see the potential  of a lot of the pieces. My favorite was a wooden trough, but it was $300, which was a little expensive for a centerpiece. Dan’s mom was able to find some awesome doors to use as a countertop on their kitchen island, and gorgeous sliding barn doors! Successful trip for them!


What We’re Watching

true-detective

Fun fact: Dan and I toured the plantation this tree is at- Oak Alley.

Dan and I finished the first season of HBO’s True Detective this week. I know, I know, we are late to the game. We watched the whole season in a week, which I guess isn’t that terrible since it’s only 8 episodes. I didn’t understand the hype after the first episode, but it quickly drew me in. It was SO creepy but incredibly addicting and I’m really glad Dan isn’t out of town at all this week (hallelujah) because I would be scared of the dark if he was gone. GAH. Casting was perfect and of course I love Matthew McConaughey, because Texas. And just everything he’s been in lately.  I’m curious what spurred him to start taking more serious roles. He’s fantastic. Also- is the Louisiana bayou really that dangerous compared to the rest of the US?

And the casting for season 2?! Rachel McAdams?! Hooray 🙂 The teaser trailer doesn’t give much away, but I’m excited. Fingers crossed it’s just as good.

We also watched Somm this week! It’s a documentary on the process of becoming a master sommelier and follows a few guys studying for, and taking, the exam. We learned how to properly pronounce sommelier and can now sound that much fancier at nice restaurants 🙂 You actually get really nervous for the candidates, knowing how much time they’ve spent preparing! Dan has been studying to take the cicerone exam, which is similar to being a sommelier, but for beer instead of wine. He has passed the first level and has 2 to go. And is now wanting to become a sommelier as well. I’m hoping this doesn’t happen as it seems to take over your life, according to the documentary, and also seems incredibly expensive as you’re tasting expensive bottles of wine on a regular basis. Then spitting them out. Dan’s actual words: “I want to become the first master sommelier to study for the exam without a spit cup.” He’s weird. And has 1,000,000 interests. I like him.

FYI- we didn’t JUST watch HBO/ Netflix all week and the fence is coming along nicely 🙂

A Very Full-Bellied Weekend in NYC Part II

SATURDAY

We managed to get up a litttle bit earlier. Definitely needed my coffee so I had “coffee that doesn’t suck” as we made our way south to cross the Brooklyn Bridge. It was a fairly long walk from Kim’s all the way to Brooklyn, but the weather was so amazing, it felt like I was in heaven. And walking across the bridge is pretty awesome, even when crowded with fellow tourists. It’s such an iconic structure and when you look behind you as you cross, all of Manhattan is splayed out before you.

   

Once we got across, we grabbed a pizza from Juliana’s and headed down to the park under the bridge to have a picnic. Green grass + blue skies + views + pizza = oh yes. We walked along the coast (is it called that?) to get to the subway and they had soccer fields and basketball courts out on top of the piers. I can only imagine getting to play on that as a kid. The subway stops are a little farther apart in Brooklyn so we got to see some really cute neighborhoods as we walked, which I loved. Every time I’m in NYC, I pick another place I’d like to live and I think Dan and I decided on Brooklyn this trip. I wish we could have spent so much more time exploring.

   

  
Next stop was Brooklyn Brewery, because we can’t go anywhere without a brewery visit these days. The line was long and our throats were parched, but once we were inside with a cold one, all was right again. The tour here was also one of the best we’ve been on, with a lot of insight into the founders and why they started brewing, as well as their link to Brooklyn. I can only hear about how beer is made so many times. It was also interesting that the branding is by the same guy who did “I heart NY”.  Oh, and apparently NYC wins water quality awards? Drink from the tap people. I also found an IPA I liked!!! Hallelujah, my beer palate is finally developing. It was the Gold IPA and is only served at the brewery, so that’s a bummer. After the brewery, we grabbed a bite at Spritzenhaus, which was rocking. Great hot dogs and a huge beer selection.

 

      

Then it was time to head back into Manhattan for a show!! We had bought discounted tickets at TKTS that morning for Matilda and I couldn’t wait. It was SO GOOD. The kids in the show were so talented. The girl who played Matilda was only 8! We saw her on the street afterwards, walking with her parents 🙂 Too cute. It followed the movie fairly well, but obviously  not everything translates between a movie and the stage. It was also a musical, and that part was fantastic. We loved Miss Trunchbull the most- they actually cast a man and dressed him up like a woman and he was hilarious. So perfect because Miss Trunchbull is supposed to manly to begin with. We stopped by a low key bar, Tom & Jerry’s, while we waited for Kim, and then had another late dinner at Blue Ribbon’s Fried Chicken :/ It’s prettty embarrassing how much we ate over the weekend.

6th row!


    

SUNDAY

More good food- we brunched at Sarabeth’s Tribeca, which is just about the prettiest place ever. From the giant fresh flowers to the white everything, I loved it all. And the food was good too 🙂 To work it off, we rented bikes and did the loop around Central Park, which is about 7 miles. I love seeing all the nature in the middle of such a big city. The blooms were beautiful!


Ellie would have loved this 🙂

              

So sad to leave. Already dreaming of going back. I heart NY.