In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths. ~ Proverbs 3:6

Friday, August 31, 2012

A Very Country Wedding.......


Along with my husband turning the big 3-0 this month, another big event for our family took place in the month of August.  On August, 11, Matt and I drove an hour south to watch my baby brother get married.


I only had my I-phone with me to take pictures, but I wanted to share of a few pics of their special day on my blog.


My mother, though very happy for him, had a hard time…..


….. watching her baby…..


….the youngest of eight, officially leave the nest and get out on his own.


It was a very country wedding filled with barns, hay bails, wagon wheels, lots of country music and cowboy d├ęcor.


Even the bride came in on a tractor….


….wearing a pair of cowgirl boots under her dress.  Her flower girls came down the aisle in cowgirl boots as well.


Instead of a unity candle, they stuck with their country theme and tied twain together.


And even the wine glasses were mason jars filled with sweet tea.


I understand that not everyone dreams of a country wedding.  Everyone is different, and that’s the beauty of it.  Some prefer church weddings.  Some prefer beach weddings.  Some prefer Vegas.  I think back to my own wedding that was in a garden and remember that I walked down the aisle barefoot.  The great thing about weddings is that they can be a beautiful reflection of the bride and groom, and my brother’s wedding reflected their personalities perfectly.  If you know someone planning a country wedding, I hope some of these ideas help.


I wish my brother and new sister-in-law the best of luck in their new lives together.

My Husband's 30th Birthday


The big 3-0….it’s a big deal for some!  Leaving your twenties is like saying goodbye to your younger years as you officially embark on a real grown up life!  For many, marriage, kids, a career and mortgage are all a part of our thirties.  It’s a good thing really…I don’t know why it seems so scary.

On August 4 of this year my handsome husband began this journey.  Although he tells me that he is still 29.  You see, my husband was adopted from Taiwan.  When he was twenty-five and buying his first home, he discovered that social security had the incorrect year of birth on the official SS document.  For that reason, he likes to think that he still has one more year left before the big 3-0, but let’s face it…..my mother-in-law would have known when she brought him home if he was a year younger than what he really is.  Sorry hun, but there’s no avoiding it…..you are 30!



Celebrating 30 can be a lot of fun.  Me, well I want to get away and go to Vegas when I turn 30.  We’ll see if that actually happens.  Pinterest has some great 30th birthday party ideas as well, but my husband is more of simple kind of guy.  A few weeks before his birthday, he sort of hinted that he wanted a surprise party.  Although he would never admit it, that’s the vibe I got from him.  I immediately began making arrangements to have a surprise party for him the week before his 30th birthday.  I wasn’t able to make a cake without him knowing about it, so my mother-in-law graciously picked up a cake for us before they got to our house.  As far as dinner goes, I stuck with a crock pot meal.  He had no idea how much food I was preparing, and it was easily prepared.  It ended up working out really well, because his brother was supposed to be coming up to help with house projects that weekend.  Matt thought he was going to spend the day working.  He had no idea that family was coming up to celebrate with him.  That explains the clothes that he is wearing in this picture.  Now you know what he looks like on a Saturday afternoon when we don’t go anywhere.  At least I got him to shower that morning, because he wasn’t even going to do that!



Matt may have been the reason for the party, but our niece, baby Anna, stole the show.  She was only a few old weeks here and is absolutely precious!




A week later, Matt and I celebrated his actual birthday together.  I told him that I had the entire day planned for him and that he would love it!   Because my husband is a lover of food, particularly Asian food, I planned an entire day around some of his favorite food!


We started our day off at TaiwanTea House.  It’s located on 82nd Street in-between Castleton and Keystone malls.  It was our first time trying this restaurant, and it was awesome!  I found it when researching places to take him for his birthday.  I ordered the family tofu with shrimp, while my husband ordered the general tso's chicken.  The food was really good.  Not at al like what you get from Americanized Chinese restaurants.  It was fresh and authentically Chinese with an American twist, if I can say that.  Each meal comes with the soup of the day and two crab rangoons.  We didn’t know that though, so we ordered a plate of crab rangoons as an appetizer.


I also tried the peach boba tea.  It was very good.  It tastes less like tea and more like a fruit drink.  We’ve been back a couple times since his birthday, and I have found that the coconut boba tea is my favorite.


Boba is little round, gummy like things in the bottom of the drink.  With a large straw they get sucked up with the tea and are chewed like candy.  Very unique to our American ways, but I quite enjoy it.



Ok, enough about our new favorite place to eat.  So after lunch, we did a little birthday shopping….


….and then headed to Shanghai Lil for dessert.


Yes, I said dessert.  Only my husband would enjoy dim sum for dessert.  He said that it wasn’t nearly as god as the dim sum he had in SF, but it’s the best you’re gonna get in Indianapolis.  Shanghai Lil is pricy, and if your trying get filled on a meal, be prepared to spend a lot money.  Because we just ate lunch, we didn’t order very much.  We ordered just enough for a snack….or I guess I should say dessert.
 

After lunch, shopping and dessert, we stopped and picked up our dinner and dessert for later.  We had a nice birthday nap before eating our dinner at home.  And of course dinner was none other than one of my husband’s favorite meals…..sushi. I had never even tried sushi until we started dating, but I have definitely grown to enjoy it right along with him.


Last meal of the day was birthday cake.  My husband is not big on sweets, but he really does enjoy Gigi’s Cupcakes, especially the lemon poppyseed and strawberry shortcake cupcakes.


Unfortunately, I dropped the box when getting out of the car, so they weren’t too pretty when we got home.


They still tasted great though.  My husband can have his fruity cupcakes, I’d much rather have the chocolate ones.  I ordered the classic red velvet and the white midnight magic.  Best food of the day if I do say so myself!
 


Overall, I’d say that my husband had a pretty good thirtieth birthday that suited him perfectly!


 
 

Avocado and Mozzarella Salad & Avocado and Corn Salad


Summer is just about over!  It’s hard to believe….I know!   I thought that I would share few recipes for your Labor Day weekend.  I recently found myself with an abundance of avocados and began searching the internet for easy avocado recipes.  I settled on the following recipes, and these are my variations of two simple summer salads.



 
AVOCADO & MOZZARELLA SALAD
 
2 -3  avocados (peeled and chopped)

one container of fresh mozzarella (drained and chopped)

1 container of cherry or grape tomatoes (halved)

a generous handful of fresh basil (coarsely chopped)

a small splash of balsamic vinaigrette (optional) 

a few drizzles of olive oil

 

Mix ingredients together.  Best when flavors merry in the refrigerator for a little while.  Not a dish that does well prepared too early, because avocados have the tendency to get mushy if not consumed quickly.  This salad is great served with toasted baguette.  Essentially, this recipe is just a twist on a basic caprese salad.  It really can't get any easier.


 
CORN & AVOCADO SALAD
 
2-3 avocados (peeled and chopped)

2 ears of corn (cooked and cut off the cob)

1 container of cherry or grape tomatoes (halved)

a handlfull of fresh cilantro (coarsely chopped)

the juice of one lime

a few splashes of olive oil

salt and pepper to taste

 

Mix ingredients together.  Best when flavors merry in the refrigerator for a little while.   Not a dish that does well prepared too early, because avocados have the tendency to get mushy if not consumed quickly.  Drained canned corn can be used if fresh corn is not availble.  Tomatoes can be any kind.  I actually used fresh garden tomatoes, because I was needing to use up a bunch that my mother-in-law gave us.  They were delicious in this dish. 
 
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Thursday, August 30, 2012

Budgeting for Our California Road Trip


 

            Well it’s finally here……the last post to this blog series about our California road trip.  The purpose of this final post is to briefly discuss the planning of our trip on a budget.  We started planning this trip in 2010, in order to come up with a general budget for such a trip.  We needed to know how much we needed to save, and we soon learned that airfare alone was going to be around $1,000.  Car rental was estimated to be $300-400.  We originally set the hotel budget at $100 a night for eight nights.  Then there is gas for the car, parking fees, meals and general spending money.  The bottom line is that our goal for this trip was to set a budget around $3,000 for everything.  If California wasn’t so far away, the cost of this trip would have easily been cut in half, because we wouldn’t have had to pay for flights or a rental car.  So when you think about it that way, $1,500 is not a bad price at all to experience a nine day, eight night road trip up the California coast.

 

            We went to the Pacific coast for the diverse scenery and culture it had to offer.  We knew we didn't need to spend a lot on STUFF to do on this trip.   For that reason, our budget breakdown was as follows:  $950 on airfare, $100 baggage fees, $350 on a rental car, $200 on gas, $1,200 on lodging (nights 1,2 and 6 were $100; nights 3-5 were $200; nights 7-8 were $150), $150 for parking and activity fees,  $250 for food and spending.   That put our actual budget around $3,200.

 

            Let me briefly talk about the spending that we do on our trips, because this may shock the average American.  We do not feel the need to spend money on theme parks, shopping or anything else we can do at home when we go on trips.  In fact, we don’t even by souvenirs like most people do.  Neither one of like clutter, so we certainly don’t come home with miscellaneous souvenirs to place around the house with no practical purpose or interior design purpose.  And we certainly don’t come back with a ridiculous amount of t-shirts that we’ll never wear again….except when we went to NYC, because who doesn’t go to New York and come home with at least one I HEART NYC t-shirt…..but that’s beside the point.  The bottom line is that the only thing we ever get when we travel to a new place is a magnet for our fridge (organized nice and neatly on the side of the fridge that no one can see of course, because it would drive me nuts having the front of the fridge covered in magnets.)  It’s sort of become our thing, and when I’m 80 I hope to have the side of our fridge full of magnets reminding me of our travels. And the best part is that magnets are small, clutter free and cheap!

 

            Now that you understand that we don’t just spend to spend, let’s move on the real part of our budget.  To some $3,000 may seem like a high number for a vacation, and to some that may seem impossibly low.  I think it just depends on the way people vacation.  We like to experience our vacations, and for us, that doesn’t have to cost a lot.  It didn’t cost us anything to walk the seal covered cliffs of La Jolla, watch the morning surfers of LA, stand in awe of the giant sequoias and hike to breathtaking views of Yosemite, leisurely walk the quaint town of Napa, drive down the Pacific Coast Highway making time to stop and take in the beauty of its rocky shores and beaches, walk among the giant red woods of Muir Woods, and than sightsee all the things the vibrant city of SF has to offer.  To us, that is EXPERIENCING our vacation!

 

            We also like to experience our vacation by where we stay when we are on vacation.  We do not like to stay in crapshoot hotels, so we spent a little more than we needed to on lodging.  However, I did my research first to make sure that I got the most bang for my buck when it came to this part of the budget.  I am proud to say that for $1000 we were able to spend four of our eight nights in four star hotels in each of the large cities we visited, one night in a romantic B&B in Napa,   two nights in a comfortable cabin in the woods of Yosemite and one night glamping in a canvassed tent under the stars of the Pacific coast.  To us that was EXPERIENCING our vacation!

 

            Lastly, we like to experience our vacation through food!  What can I say, we really like to enjoy food…REAL food…GOOD food…..food that we can’t get back home.  Even though we were on a road trip the only fast food we had our entire vacation was In-N-Out, and that was only because we couldn’t get it back home.  If you do your research, some of the best food is in the hole in the wall places that don’t cost a lot of money.  With the exception of three or four $50 meals for two, most of our meals cost between $10-20 for two, and groceries for two days in Yosemite only cost us $30.  When I look back at our receipts, I think that we did end up going a little over budget in this area of food, but if there was one area where we were ok going a little over budget, experiencing excellent California cuisine was a good enough excuse for us to do so.  Can you really go wrong with enjoying fresh sea food on a veranda that overlooks the cliffs La Jolla, relishing in the taste of insanely AWESOME fish tacos at Newport Beach, eating a romantic dinner at sunset on a secluded cove in Malibu, tasting the best prepared food California has to offer in Napa, stopping for fresh California pistachios at a fruit stand off the side of the road, being blown away by the down home food of a small town diner/airport, experiencing the best sushi in all of SF, dining in an authentic dim sum restaurant, indulging in the chocolaty goodness of Ghiradelli…twice in one day, being comforted by the warmth of a sourdough bread bowl filled with fresh clam chowder, biting into juicy fruit from the market on the pier and tearing into buttery crab caught fresh from the Pacific the same day.  That my friend is EXPERIENCING vacation!

 

            The bottom line is that when planning a vacation, set a realistic budget and research, plan and prepare yourself to STAY within that budget! It is possible friends!  It can be done!  Not all of our trips cost this much....thank goodness.  Most of our vacations are less than $1000, and romantic mini vacations can be as little as $300-500.   Even when we took our moms on a five day Carribbean cruise, all four of those our tickets only cost us $1000.  Do your research and stay within whatever your own BUDGET allows!  Always set a little bit of cushion within the budget, because unexpected things do happen.  For the most part, I’m happy to say that we stayed within our budget for this trip.  The only thing that we did outside of the budget was our hot air balloon ride in Napa, and the majority of that was paid for by a friend as a gift to us before we left. 

           

            You can read about our entire trip at the following links.  All of the places that we visited should be linked back in each of the post.  California was a blast, and I will cherish the memories that we made.  I’m so glad that we were able to pull this trip off early in our marriage before we have kids.  Definitely recommend this trip to anyone seeking a busy vacation filled with fun, food and adventure!  And on that note, this blog series is officially over! 
 
 
 
Day 3 Part 1 (LA)




 
 
 

California Raod Trip Day 8&9 - San Francisco









To read more about the planning of our California Road trip go here. To read about previous stops on our trip, click on the following links:

Day 3 Part 1 (LA)

 
California Road Trip Day Eight & Nine Itinerary



In preparation for day eight and nine, I had the following in a folder: an itinerary for the day, printed driving directions, copies of reservations for our restaurant and hotel, and all flight documents.



9:00 a.m. - wake up and get ready for our day
11:00. a.m. - walk to an early Lunch at Hang Ah Tea Room
12:00 p.m. - sightsee China Town
1:00 pm. - Walk to Lombard Street
1:30 p.m. - walk to Ghiradelli Square for dessert
2:oo p.m - walk to http://www.sftravel.com/fish.htmlfor sighseeing and clam chowdercheck
3:00 p.m. - walk to Pier 39 for sightseeing
5:00 p.m. - dinner at Crab House at Pier 39 
6:00 p.m. - walk back to the Hilton
7:00 p.m. - clean up for the eveing, pack our bags, and get a good night's sleep


6:00 a.m - wake up and get ready for the day
8:00 a.m - check out of hotel
8:30 a.m - drop off car at car rental
9:00 a.m. - check bags and go through security at San Francisco airport
11:05 a.m. - flight leaves SF
3:15 p.m. - flight connects in Houston
5:20 p.m. - flight leaves Houston
 11:15 p.m. - flight arrives in Indy
11:30 p.m. - have friend pick us up to go home
12:00 p.m. - home sweet home
 





A few pics of our day.....


San Francisco, home of the trolley….



….and the cable car.

Neither of which we actually rode, because our hotel was within walking distance to just about everything in SF.


It was the last city we visited on our road trip, and day eight of our trip started off right across the street from our hotel in China Town.




China Town is great place to get cheap souveniers, but we went to China Town primarily for one reason....lunch at Hang Ah Tea Room.  It's a little bit off the beaten path, and if I didn't do my research I would have never discovered it.


Definitely a hole in the wall kind of place, which is usually the best kind.  The prices were great….




….and the food was even better.

I had heard that the best dim sum in all of SF was here.  One bite and my husband agreed.



It was the cheapest meal we had on our entire trip, and my husband believes it is the best meal he’s had in his entire life.  He was in heaven with authentic Chinese food.

Me, well I stuck to my Americanized Chinese food…sweet and sour chicken.  Although, I will say that is the best sweet and sour chicken I’ve ever had.



After lunch we took a mile walk towards the water, passing by the well known hallmarks of SF, such as Washington Square Park…..


….beautiful row houses….


….. and Lombard Street.


Tourists surround Lombard Street just to get a picture in front of this infamous part of SF, and since I was a tourist I found myself doing just that.

After our long walk towards the water, we found ourselves stopping at Ghiradelli Square for the second time in 24 hours:) This place is a MUST when visiting SF!


I must say that the Nob Hill Chill might just be my favorite thing about SF!  Such chocolaty goodness!  I’m drooling just thinking about it!


The day only got better as we arrived at Fisherman’s Wharf.


Lot’s of free entertainment here….


….you don’t have to walk far to find all sorts of street acts.


But the best part of Fisherman’s Wharf was the fresh clam chowder in a warm sourdough bread bowl.


Clam chowder bowls are sold in just about all of the local stands in the area.  It was a great afternoon “snack” for us to share and only cost $7.  Can’t beat that:)


Fishermen were bringing in their catches as we were ordering our little snack, so I can’t even begin to tell you how fresh the food was.


Yep, chilly day by the water + a warm bread bowl with clam chowder = AWESOMENESS!  We can’t get it that fresh here in the Midwest.  Really wish we had something comparable, because I’m totally craving it now!


Not far from the clam chowder stand was the Boudin Bread Factory…


….where warm bread is baked and sold right before your eyes.  Between Ghiradelli chocolate and Boudin bread, SF was a great place for me to break my diet for a day.  Totally worth it for a day, but way too tempting if I lived there.




Just a short walk from Fisherman’s wharf is Pier 39…


…which is probably most know for the abundance of sea lions that lounge right by the pier….


….although we only saw two sea lions while we were there.  Apparently the sea lions go away in the middle of summer to mate.


We may have missed out on the sea lions, but Alcatraz didn’t go anywhere.  The famous prison is easily seen from the end of the pier.


Aside from shops and restaurants, the pier has live entertainment to offer….


….and a wonderful farmer’s market.







The market was definitely our favorite part of the pier.



I’ve never tasted such fresh, luscious juicy fruit in all my life!  Really wish we could get it that way here in Indy.


Since the majority of our day was spent indulging in food, we really finished our day well with fresh, buttery crab at the Crab House.


This guy was our last meal of the day!  Crab isn't cheap, so sharing one whole crab was the best way for us to go.




It was my first experience eating fresh crab.



A little too messy for me, but eating fresh crab is part of the SF experience.  It was a must try!


After stuffing ourselves, we called it a night and walked back to our hotel for the evening. Overall, San Francisco was packed with fun and food - two of our favorite things!!!  It was a great place to spend the last few days of our trip:)

After a wonderful night’s rest, we woke up the following morning and headed to the airport to catch an 11:00 flight out of California. 

We got through security with a little time to spare, and we couldn’t help but eat lunch at Boudin in the SF airport, where we purchased one last clam chowder bread bowl to share.  Not as fresh as Fisherman’s Wharf, but a great last meal to have on our California adventure!

Not as fresh as Fisherman's Wharf, but a great last meal to have on our California adventure!


Two flights later and we were back home.   We made it back to Indy around midnight and were welcomed with temps over 100 degrees.  I was really missing the cool California temps as soon as we stepped off the plane, but one thing is for sure....we were glad to sleep in our own bed after nine days of travel.  We love taking trips, but at the end of the day, there's no place like home;)