Tahoe, Tahoe, off to Cali we go

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MAN, Tahoe was good. It’s just amazingly gorgeous out there. I could have stayed forever and definitely wasn’t ready to head back home. What a way to end 4 out of 5 July weekends flying to opposite US coasts.

The trip started off pretty rough- our flight got cancelled 😦 Since there aren’t a ton of flights to Reno, we wouldn’t have gotten there until late the next day, so we finagled ourselves onto a flight to Oakland. Which got super delayed. We ended up leaving Houston at midnight, renting a car in Oakland, and driving over 3 hours to get to Tahoe. By the time we made it, it was 7 AM Texas time. Phew. Luckily, Dan is a saint and drove the whole way while I slept. Or maybe it was self preservation considering I don’t have the best vision in the dark 🙂 ANYWAY on to the actual fun stuff…

Once we arrived, everything was perfect! The whole weekend was super relaxed. Dan’s mom rented a beautiful cabin so we hung around a lot, playing pool, hot tubbing, and eating at the house. We even did Christmas dinner one night since my BIL was deployed over the holidays. So special! And of course, the nieces and nephew were so fun to play around with. Dan’s mom packed a bunch of water guns and they had a blast with them. We also went on a couple hikes, hung out at King’s Beach, and spent some time in Tahoe City eating ice cream and drinking beer at Tahoe Mountain Brewing Company. I so wish we could have stayed longer- silly vacation day limits 😉

While at King’s Beach, we attempted to play inflatable beer pong. Pretty hilarious considering how big the waves were!!

The adults snuck out for beer and ice cream 😀 I loved stopping for a glass of wine on Christy Hill’s patio- perfection.

These are all from our hike up to Stateline Fire Lookout. Supposed to be kid friendly, but they still had to be carried the whole way, ha! But how cute is Ellie in that scarf Rob brought back from Jordan?! I was also in awe of the size of the pine cones in this part of the world. I wanted to pack some in my suit case.

Still feel so lucky I married into such a great family!

Side note- kicking myself for forgetting to bring the nice camera. These iphone pictures don’t do it justice.

Skication: Breckenridge

We got back last week from a long weekend in Breckenridge, CO. We LOVE Colorado- I think everyone does. This was our 5th trip together, so obviously we’re into it ☺ (See Steamboat Springs ski trip, here.) It’s just so nice to actually be in cold weather for once. And see snow! Winter was nonexistent here in Houston, so it was refreshing. 

This trip was with Dan’s family- 2 parents, 2 sisters, 3 cute/crazy kiddos. We stayed in a condo right at the base of Peak 9. So convenient! And lots of snow right outside for the littles to play in. Sledding with them was beyond adorable. And seeing them on skis, even if that only lasted for a grand total of 20 minutes over 2 days. Ha. It was super relaxed, skiing during the day, hot tubing when we got back, then eating dinner on Main street most nights. The town is very charming, with Victorian houses, cute shops, and lots of twinkle lights. We also got to stop by a friend’s new shop in Breck- Woodland. It was filled with such a great selection of home decor/gift items.

FOOD & DRINK: One of my absolute favorite things about skiing is having a warm drink at the base of the mountain. This trip, it was at The Maggie and it delivered. Giampietro’s was SO worth the wait- I think there were only 6 or 7 tables in the whole place, so it took a little while. But I do have to say that it was the best calzone I’ve ever had. Empire Burger was also super tasty and kid friendly. Plus, Dan and I had to stop by Breckenridge Brewery for a couple beers. The wait at the bar was 4 people deep. I don’t know that we ever would have been served if not for a couple of kindly locals who knew the bartender and ordered for us! We also had a drink at Downstairs at Eric’s, which had a ton of awesome gaming systems. 

SKI REPORT: I skied THREE blacks! I may not have enjoyed it in the moment, but I felt super accomplished once I had finished the run. There should be an award for the slowest person down, and I should be the recipient. But at least I made it! I have an extremely patient and nice husband and father-in-law. Oh and I’m really into moguls- who would have thought that one? Unfortunately, Kim broke her shoulder Friday morning after hitting a patch of ice. Such a huge bummer.

Thanks to Dan’s fam for such a great trip! We need to work on the group picture thing!

Positano

I personally think that the Amalfi Coast is one of the most beautiful places in the world. So it was definitely on my list when planning this trip. Unfortunately, it’s kind of a pain in the butt to get to and we had already hit so many places. As excited as I was to return, Dan was starting to get pretty worn out from all our traveling around. This resulted in us taking it really easy while in Positano. As in, spend the whole day on a beach, never leave Positano, easy.

We actually stayed way up above Positano, in a B&B, in the teensy town of Nocelle- it’s where a lot of people hike the Path of the Gods and the views are stellar. No cars allowed, hence the donkeys as transport for goods! Even tough it’s very close to Positano, the bus ride down takes 30 minutes, is packed full without A/C, and only runs every hour or so. If you can, I would suggest staying in actual Positano, but we did meet an American couple who stays in Nocelle every year and love it. Personal preference I guess. We made it to dinner in Nocelle the first night just in time to eat dinner while watching the sun set.

The next day we took a boat over to Capri where we walked about, window shopping the ritzy stores, and took the funicular up to the highest point for some stellar views. I’m slightly terrified by heights, so I was apprehensive. Luckily it turned out to not be so bad and the view from the top was well worth it. While on the island, we took a taxi convertible with an awning over it- unique. On the way back to the Amalfi Coast, we stopped in a few places to swim which was unreal. The water is so blue! I didn’t want to go back on the boat. An amazing experience.

Our last day in Positano was the full day on the beach day 🙂 We hopped onto a small boat sitting at the dock and took it over to Arienzo Beach, a 5 minute ride down the coastline. As long as you eat at the restaurant, you don’t have to pay for a chair. The seafood was freshly caught out of the sea we swam in and the beers weren’t crazy expensive. It was a beyond perfect day.

We stayed down in Positano for dinner, with drinks at Franco’s Bar (which is amazing and felt so glam) and dinner at Bar Bruno. The patio is just a few tables along the sidewalk across the street from the restaurant, so servers have to run back and forth across the street!

Since we spoiled ourselves on the way to the coast with a private driver, we stuck with public transportation to make our way to Rome. Bus, walk a ways to wait for another bus (standing room only), train (no A/C), another train, then finally a bus to airbnb. It took all day and made me miss the rental car! But we had made it to one of my favorite cities, and our final stop of the trip, so all was good.

Cinque Terre

With Florence as our base, we took a day trip out to Cinque Terre, or “The Five Lands”. It’s 5 small, hillside, villages along the coast, in the middle of what is now a national park and UNESCO World Heritage site. We chose to use a tour company (Walkabout Florence) for the convenience of transportation- it’s about 2 hours from Florence. After planning every piece of our trip, it was nice to just have a tour guide and not worry about what train/bus to catch! We also really enjoyed hearing about the areas we drove through on the way out- past the mountains where Carrera marble comes from (the peaks looked like snow!) and through the region where they grow a lot of plants for the nurseries. I’d really been looking forward to this piece of the trip because neither of us had been and I’ve heard so many friends RAVE about it. So my expectations were incredibly high. Maybe just a little too high- while it was absolutely beautiful, the trail was packed and I just couldn’t get as into it as I thought I should be. I kept wanting to get off the path and just go swim in the blue waters with the Italians. Guess that’s the negative of going with a tour group, ha! Regardless, it was still an awesome day, our group had fun people, and the views were so picturesque! Plus, it was nice to get a good hike in considering the massive amounts of pasta and wine we’d been consuming. We did end up getting to jump into the crystal clear, cool, water in the middle of trek and that was my favorite part of the day. Talk about refreshing after being a sweaty mess.
The charter bus dropped us off in Manarola, the 2nd town and smallest village. From there we worked our way through towns 3-5 and ended back at town 1. We took a train to Corniglia where we ate lunch at Ristorante Cecio with stunning patio views and fresh seafood and pasta. It’s the only town that doesn’t directly touch the water. From there, we hiked 3.5 km in the hot sun to Vernazza where we swam. Dan jumped off the little cliff and I was impressed 🙂 Afterwards, we took another train to Monterosso, the largest town, where we had the best puff pastry stuffed with cheese. I also got to ogle the umbrellas I’d seen in all of Gray Malin’s Cinque Terre photos. Finally, we took a boat to Riomaggiore, which allowed us to see all the towns we had just visited from the water.

SO glad we got to visit, but I do think I would have fallen more in love had we actually stayed in one of the towns and gotten the full experience. Which is the case with most places in the world 🙂

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 🙂

Ciao!

“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.” – Marcel Proust

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Dan and I leave for Italy TONIGHT! It will be his first visit and it’s going to be awesome seeing everything with him by my side. Plus we’ll be celebrating our one year anniversary! I’m a little in shock that it’s here and also crazy excited to just be there already, relaxing and enjoying an extended vacation. We start the remodel almost as soon as we get home, so preparing for that and a 2 week trip has been a little stressful. Okay, a lot stressful. But definitely the good kind of stress, thinking of all the fun things coming up. And also my own fault… ☺ Dan knows we are going to Italy, and I think he knows which cities, but that’s about it. HA. Lots of surprises in store for him! I, on the other hand, have a big spreadsheet with a tab for each city with ideas on what to do. Type A at its’ best. Or worst if you hate plans? I promise to still be spontaneous and not let a spreadsheet dictate the entire trip. And we are way open to suggestions if you have any! SO if you’re curious, here’s the itinerary:

Houston>>Istanbul>>Venice>>Florence>>Cinque Terre>>Arezzo>>Amalfi Coast>>Rome>>Houston

I think Dan is most looking forward to Venice, and it’s a toss-up for me between just hanging in the middle of nowhere in Tuscany, and swimming in the Blue Grotto in Capri. 

Unfortunately, Dan twisted his ankle this week while playing basketball. It’s bruised all the way around and so, so swollen. It’s such terrible timing but he’s been trying to just keep it propped up with ice on it as much as possible. Fingers crossed it’ll be healed enough by the time we get there, but we may renting a Vespa in every city if not. Thus getting to live out my Lizzie McGuire dreams

And if you’re wondering about Barley, he’ll be staying with his grandparents out in Georgetown, enjoying time away from the city ☺ Big thanks to them for watching our favorite pup. I only cried a tiny bit after leaving him. Dan says to think of it as doggie summer camp.

Ciao for now!

**photos from the best Box family vaca in 2013**

The Boxes Take Music City

A couple of weeks ago, we went on a vacation with my family to Nashville! My mom has gotten really into genealogy, so they spent the week doing research in the area and visiting family, and Dan and I met up with them for a long weekend. And let me say, they don’t call it music city for nothing. Even some of the boutiques had bands playing! I liked to think of it as my personal serenade.

My parents rented a cute, old house for the week right off 12th South (which was an awesome neighborhood- more below) and it ended up being a few houses down from where my cousin lived when she first moved to Nashville! Small world- I love those coincidences.

We flew in Thursday night and feasted on Southern cooking at its’ finest at Monell’s. The whole meal is served family style, potentially sharing with others if your party isn’t large enough to fill the table! Plus, it was in a beautiful historic home- with a neon sign in the front window 😉

FRIDAY

Brunch at Marche! We waited almost an hour for a table, which was a little crazy for a Friday, but I’d say it was worth it. My savory crepes were delightful, the coffee just right, and my almond croissant too yummy (they were out of the chocolate croissants… why are they always out of the chocolate ones?!).

We peeked around East Nashville for a hot second and went into Woodland Wine Merchant, which was definitely the coolest liquor store I’ve ever been in (or “Purveyor of Uncommon Wine, Spirits & Beer” as they call it). The branding is crazy adorable, also.

Next up was a visit to The Hermitage, Andrew Jackson’s home. It has been incredibly well maintained and the grounds were beautiful. We did quite a bit of walking to see it all. The audio tour was also fantastic, and we all learned a lot listening to that.

  

My mom had read about a neat vintage shop (I guess that’s what you’d call it?!) called Old Made Good that we stopped at next. They take old items and put a twist on them- no photos allowed in the shop, but the floors were covered in pink glitter. My dad absolutely despises glitter (3 girls on drill team will do that to you) so it was funny to see his reaction. Some of the funniest pieces were old paintings with a surprise update added. It reminded me of this clip from The Last Man on Earth (does anyone watch that show other than Dan and I?!). Seriously couldn’t stop laughing for DAYS over this. Oh, and BUNNIES!

We ate dinner at The Pharmacy, which I could easily see myself hanging out at on a regular basis if I were a Nashvillian (?). Cold beer, perfectly shaded biergarten, and some seriously tasty burgers. I had the stroganoff burger and now my mouth is watering. Don’t you hate it when you find something so great and can’t get it anywhere else?? Not that I should be eating stroganoff burgers on the regular…

I just really adore this guy. I actually smile every time I see him smile.

That night, the young ones ventured down the street to check out some local joints. We tried The Flipside, Embers Ski Lodge, and 12 South Taproom & Grill. Dan hit it off with a man at the bar (who apparently is the head of a big music association and has an impressive resume) who recommended we go see some live music at Station Inn. This venue has been around forever and I’m SO glad we went. The band was very talented and I think most of them had been playing their entire lives. I especially loved the banjo player, who absolutely killed it.

SATURDAY

We had brunch at Pinewood Social which is the coolest concept. There is a swimming pool. At the restaurant. And a bowling ally. And just really neat places to hang out. I didn’t want to creep anyone out by taking a picture of the pool (and thus people in their swimwear), but it is just the most genius idea for hot climates. You can reserve lounge chairs and have all your drinks brought out to you, just like a country club. The design of the place was also AWESOME and I couldn’t stop looking at everything. Especially the stork wallpaper.


We shopped for a while before heading over Tennessee Brew Works, which was probably Dan’s favorite part of the trip (surprise, surprise). The layout of the space was great- double-decker patio and a plenty of tables upstairs, with plexiglass overlooking the brewery. Considering my love of basil, it’s no surprise that I really enjoyed their basil farmhouse ale. Dan, can you please make lots of beer with herbs?!

Our twins!!!

My mom planned the entire trip with pretty much no help (thanks mom :)), but my one contribution was picking dinner- Rolf & Daughters. Maaaybe one of my favorite restaurants I’ve been too. Is that too extreme? I loved everything about it. Rose? check. In an old warehouse with twinkly lights? check. Super fresh ingredients? check.

Considering we were in Nashville, we couldn’t miss out on visiting Broadway. However, visiting Broadway with an under 21-year-old is a little tricky. We did manage one spot where we somehow devoured curly fries… after our large dinner. Healthy. Tara, Dan, and I stuck around to hear some more music and check out Robert’s Western World before we headed home. Broadway was fairly similar to 6th street in Austin, with a country twist, and if you’re into bachelorette parties, it’s your spot! Glad we saw it, but not even close to my favorite part of Nashville.

 SUNDAY

We couldn’t leave with some Tennessee barbeque. I’m really picky about my beef (hello, Texas), so I generally order pork outside my home state. Edley’s is pretty famous in Nashville and definitely hit the spot.

We spent the afternoon touring another plantation- Belle Meade. If you get married here, you are lucky. It was gorgeous. The family history was also really interesting, as they were the premiere thoroughbred stud farm. Several famous race horses can trace their lineage back to horses owned by this family (think Seabiscuit and American Pharaoh). We also got to see one of my cousins and his adorable family! Unfortunately, no pics 😦

 Thanks mom & dad for a great trip!! I can officially add Nashville to my very short list of places I’d live outside TX.