Pensacola

August 2012

 

Napa Valley

November 2012

 

Nashville

January 2013

 

Chicago

December 2011

 

St. Maarten

February 2011

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10 Years, 10 Friends, 10 Days: The Mothership

By | friends, guest posts, las vegas, links, memories, milestones, road trips, take me away, the malibu, the places you'll go, travel, what have you been doing for the last 10 years? | One Comment

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Guest post #4 is by my mom. I’m glad she took a little while to elaborate on the series of brief posts I wrote about our cross-country drives back in 2004 because it was the perfect opportunity to post a few more photos from back in the day when blogging pictures was pretty much nonexistent. =) Also, “Blinded by the light.” That is all.

My guest post is about a series of blog posts that Lisa made during January 2004 and April 2004. As I looked over Lisa’s blog, it occurred to me that the posts I should share are those that involved our travels. I love to travel and I hope I passed a little of that gene on to Lisa.

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In January 2004, Lisa decided she would move to Vegas to live with my brother, Frank, his wife, Kim, and their four kids (the little cousins). Of course, she would need her car, so the only way to get there was to drive. One small problem…Lisa didn’t want to drive alone. This began our cross country adventure.

NJ to Las Vegas — Day 1, Day 2, Day 3, Day 4, Day 5, Day 6 (February 2004)

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We decided we would take Route 40, so we set off making our first stop Blacksburg, VA, to meet up with a few of Lisa’s sorority sisters. We spent five days together encountering rain, snow and fog; we discovered Graceland is closed on Tuesdays and hiked down a canyon in Arizona.

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We shopped for western boots in Texas and travelled a bit of the famous Route 66, stopping at a car museum along the way. Watching the tumbleweeds occupied a lot of our day in New Mexico and Arizona, and finally, we drove over Hoover Dam – a sure sign that we were almost there.

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As it turned out, Lisa spent three months in Las Vegas and said it was time to come home. You know what that meant. Mommy had to drive Lisa and the Malibu back to Jersey.

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Las Vegas to NJ — Day 1, Day 2, Day 3, Day 4, Day 5 (April 2004)

Being one to take every advantage of a situation, I decided we would take a more northern route this time. It was spring so most of the snow in Colorado should be melted. We headed up to Utah and into Colorado. We made our first stop in Vail at the Vail Cascade Resort & Spa. The next day we set out for Pike’s Peak to ride the cog railroad, but the car was having a lot of trouble getting out of its own way at 9,000 feet. We were sure the Malibu was in need of repairs. We departed Vail and while we were doing 45 MPH down the highway, we watched the signs tick off the altitude telling us we were descending to a more oxygen rich atmosphere. We were so happy that the Malibu had enough oxygen to continue our journey.

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Driving along Route 70 in Kansas at night, we hit a piece of truck tire which prompted us to pull into the next gas station and check for leaks under the car. Back on the highway, a huge tumbleweed crossecd the highway and I was sure it was a cow! It was time to stop for the night. We made a short stop in St. Louis to ride the tram to the top of the Arch and took a boat ride on the Mississippi River.
I’m so glad Lisa took the time to document our travels every night. I just read each day’s account and it brought back all those memories.

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Although I have spent more wonderful days with Lisa than I can count, I would have to say that these ten days were among some of my favorites. I’m glad were able to zigzag through some of this country’s beautiful states together!

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Keep travelling, Lisa! It makes for wonderful blog posts! Congratulations on keeping us laughing for ten years! I love you!

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The Road Less Traveled

By | bethany beach, boats, delaware, dewey beach, life's a beach, lifestyle, music, road trips, summer, take me away, the places you'll go, travel | One Comment

I’ve been making the same trek up and down the Eastern Shore for going on nine years now (not to mention all the times my parents drove us up and down that route when I was a kid), and sometimes the drive gets a little redundant. Certain trips stand out more than others — crazy thunderstorms, timing the sunset perfectly at the bridge, a decent soundtrack — but rarely do I ever experience anything new on these little jaunts up and down the coast from VB to NJ and back. Lately, I’ve been taking the ferry (even though it takes a little longer) to break up the monotonous drive. It’s always the same old corn fields, farmer’s markets, run down abandoned houses, and gas station bathrooms.

But this time was a little different.

Of course, I was excited — I’ve got a whole week to relax by my parents’ pool up here, shop my face off, and enjoy the beautiful weather — but as usual, there was a six-hour drive in my way. I managed to snag a 7:45 reservation on the ferry out of Lewes, DE, which brightened my outlook a little — a sunset cruise to NJ for me and my Hyundai Tuscon.

I managed to escape work and VB a little earlier than anticipated, over and under the Chesapeake Bay and well on my way up the Delmarva Peninsula before rush hour*. (*That was sarcasm. There is no rush hour on the Eastern Shore. Only traffic lights.) I had plugged the route to Cape Henlopen Drive into my phone for directions (I still haven’t quite memorized the ferry route because I’ve traditionally gone the way of the Delaware Memorial Bridge), and when I stopped for coffee at the 13/113 fork, I noticed my ETA was well ahead of schedule. So, as I sipped on an icy sweet Dunkin’ decaf, I made the evening-altering decision to re-route and take the long way.

Now, you know me. I typically either refer to Delaware in one of two ways: (1) I think I’m so witty when I rhyme “The First State” with “The Worst State” or (2) I say, “[Whatever weird thing just happened on my drive] and Delaware is in my way.” It’s not that I have anything against Delaware as a state. I’ve just never had any reason to stop there, and so to me, it poses a geographical problem because it takes me two hours to drive through there, and I find it quite boring. (If you don’t understand what I’m talking about, look at a map of Delaware. It’s kind of long and skinny. And there’s not much going on there as far as scenery.)

Anyway, I sat in my car in the sweltering heat, condensation from the air conditioning dripping on my toe, and reviewed the re-routed directions. “Oh, Lighthouse Road?” I said out loud to myself. “That sounds promising. Sold.”

I turned east off the highway about 10 miles sooner than I normally would have. I rolled back the sunroof, put down the windows, and for close to an hour, I wound my way through these beautiful farms and corn fields, over picturesque creeks, and past signs advertising “New Construction: Beach Country Homes.” I could tell I was approaching the beach when the soil turned sandy, and pine trees towered above. The houses on either side of me stood on stilts, so I craned my neck looking for water or beaches, but for another 10 minutes I saw nothing. I made a right onto Garfield Highway, and a sign welcomed me to Bethany Beach. A giant totem pole and a little downtown area lie straight ahead, and then the beach.

I banked left onto Coastal Highway, still making my way north towards the ferry terminal. On my left stood beautiful beach houses in gated communities, glowing in the sun, which had just begun to turn golden over the Indian River Bay. Gorgeous. A bridge took me over an inlet, and then I was driving through Delaware Seashore State Park on a narrow spit of land bordered by sand dunes to the east and Rehoboth Bay to the west. A sign informed me “Turtles Crossing the Road Next 3 Miles”. Kite surfers skimmed the surface of the glittering water to my left. Then I coasted into Dewey Beach, where a mix of sun-kissed beachgoers littered the streets — some just coming off the sand and some freshly showered and dressed for dinner.

“Huh,” I thought to myself. “Parts of Delaware are awesome. Who knew?”

About 45 minutes later, I was boarding the ferry. I believe the Cape May-Lewes Ferry runs a fleet of three ships, and I never realized I’d only ever been on two of them before Friday night. As I stepped aboard the M/V Delaware, I was informed there was a bar(?) and a live band(?) on the top deck? What? Okay. Amazing. As we pushed away from the dock, I sat at the bar, amongst lots of friendly people, sipped an ice cold root beer (two hours left to drive after this), and watched the sun go down as the band struck up the first few chords of “Margaritaville.” Best. Ferry ride. Ever. 🙂

After I slurped down the last of my root beer, I moved to the front of the boat, where I found some lovely wooden lounge chairs, and settled in for a relaxing 40 minutes of reading (Red Right Return by John H. Cunningham borrowed from Amazon Prime on my Kindle). The moon glowed overhead and a warm breeze kept my bangs out of my face for a little while. 🙂

Two hours up the Parkway, and I had finally arrived at my destination. A bit more time in-transit than usual, but totally worth it.

MDW 2013

By | boats, holiday fun, life's a beach, lifestyle, memories, new jersey, photography, road trips, spring, style, summer, the places you'll go, travel, weather | 4 Comments

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Greetings from the Jersey Shore! I’m up here on a sort of half-vacation this week, spending time with my brother before he moves to Jacksonville and leaves for his first six-month deployment on the USS The Sullivans.

This is the first Memorial Day weekend I’ve spent in NJ since 2006. It’s actually been seven years to the day that I took this somewhat infamous photo of my favorite little boats in the Belmar Marina (above). I can’t remember exactly what we were doing or where we were going, but I ordered my dad to swerve off Rte. 35 into the marina parking lot, so I could snap some pictures of the sunset. It was a gorgeous night. I ran around taking as many photos as I possibly could and lucked out with this one. It’s been a favorite of mine ever since. It later served as a Christmas present for my dad, and it now hangs framed in my parents’ entryway with a little note on the mat:

Dad,
Thanks for stopping.
Love, Lisa

I got on the road as the sun was coming up yesterday morning. Mine was the only car in sight all the way across the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel, and I made such good time that I was able to catch the 9:15 ferry leaving Lewes, DE, rather than the 10:15 I’d been planning to take. I spent late morning sipping a Bloody Mary, catching up with some of my Virginia Beach friends in Sea Isle City. We had lunch of sauteed vegetables and braciole on the deck, followed by a stroll through some of Sea Isle’s poshest little boutiques and possibly the best French vanilla milkshake I’ve ever had.

I departed Sea Isle and made my way north to Atlantic City, where I spent an hour browsing the outlets and the Pier Shops at Caesar’s before I met my parents for dinner at the brand new Margaritaville entertainment complex at Resorts. Little did I know that the player’s card I signed up for three years ago would save me $5 on parking, which I promptly spent on Parrothead sunscreen in the gift shop. Not to worry, though. I kept my AC winning streak alive by scoring $55 from a Triple Diamond slot machine.

My plans for the rest of the week include some time at the spa, working from my parents’ patio, a day in NYC, catching up with friends and family, reading about seven magazines I haven’t had time to look at, and a graduation/bon voyage party for my brother Saturday night. Oh, and some shopping. (I may have already done a little of that.)

Anyway, I’m glad to be here. The weather’s not quite as summery as I remember last year’s was, but today was a perfect day to cook out, and it’s supposed to warm up this week. I hope everyone had a lovely Memorial Day weekend and took some time to remember those who have lost their lives serving our country.

48 Hours in Nashville

By | birthdays, boat drinks, lifestyle, nashville, partying like a rock star, restaurants, the places you'll go, travel, winter | 4 Comments

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My friends have sort of a love/hate relationship with my photography skills. They love the fact that I take all these wonderful photos when we’re together, but I’m pretty sure they all hate that it takes me four months to go through them, clean them up, edit them, share them and post them anywhere. Oops. =)

Back in January, we took a quick little weekend trip to Nashville to celebrate Tina’s 30th birthday. It was 48 hours of eating, drinking, singing, dancing, and exploring. It went a little something like this: We arrived, we checked in, we ate lunch, we drank whiskey, we had an amazing dinner, we bar hopped downtown. We woke up, we hit up the farmer’s market, we ate some kettle corn, we rented bicycles, we got lost (oops), we turned around, we rode through Printers Alley, we toured Ryman Auditorium, we bought some Hatch prints, we drank some a lot of margaritas, we went to Tootsie’s, things got a little fuzzy after that. We woke up again, we had an amazing breakfast, we checked out, we took a cab 16 miles out of the way to get ice cream (it was worth it), we peaced out.

Not the most descriptive travel post I’ve ever written, but I’m afraid people will stop posing for my photos if I keep procrastinating on this one. If I linked to anything above, I’m recommending you check it out. =)

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Pensacola Flashback

By | boat drinks, catch a wave, florida, food, life's a beach, lifestyle, memories, navy, pensacola, pineapples and palm trees, ruling at life, summer, take me away, the places you'll go, travel | 2 Comments

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What with Friday being National Margarita Day and all, I couldn’t help but take some time to finally go through my photos from last summer’s stay with my family at the Margaritaville Beach Hotel. I treated myself to first class seats on the two flights down (totally worth it), and set myself up for the most relaxing weekend I remember having all year. The real reason for our little reunion in Pensacola was to see my brother graduate A-School at Corry Station, but I’m not gonna lie — the salty, sandy days that followed were the highlight of our trip.

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Stephen’s graduation ceremony was early enough in the morning that we were able to spend a few hours exploring the National Naval Aviation Museum and the Pensacola Lighthouse before heading down to Pensacola Beach for a weekend of fun in the sun.

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Pensacola Beach is situated on the barrier island of Santa Rosa. It’s bordered to the south by the Gulf of Mexico, to the north by the Santa Rosa Sound and Pensacola Bay, and to the east and west by Gulf Islands National Seashore.

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It’s no secret that I’m a huge Jimmy Buffett fan, so there was no question about where we were going to stay. The Margaritaville Beach Hotel is gorgeous — stately, even. The decor is inspired by a combination of Jimmy’s music and the ocean, and the overall effect is unquestionably elegant.

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The rooms were decorated in hues of blues, teals and greens, and the bed was the most comfortable one I’ve ever slept on. Our balcony offered us a view of the turquoise Gulf and the softest, whitest sand I have ever seen.

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Once we unpacked, we immediately headed down to the beach for relaxing, relaxing, and more relaxing.

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I lost track of time in a hammock strung between two palm trees on the sand, which was, quite possibly, the best place I have ever spaced out.

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I collected seashells at the water’s edge — something I haven’t done in years.

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I spent an afternoon soaking up the shade on a teak lounger under an umbrella, reading my favorite magazines and catching up with my brother.

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And then I indulged in an oh-so-refreshing shower and these lovely Tocca products, compliments of the resort.

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There was also drinking, drinking, and more drinking. Margaritas by the pool…

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Mimosas at breakfast…

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Landshark in the water…

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Mudslides on the beach…

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Champagne with dinner…

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Boat drinks with my dad…

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A little water to recover…

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And, cheers. =) I think you get the point.

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Then there were the Gulf shrimp. So delicious. I think I ate shrimp with every meal I had in Pensacola.

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Colossal Shrimp Cocktail (above) and Wild American Shrimp & Grits (below) @ The Grand Marlin. The shrimp cocktail is self-explanatory, but the Wild American Shrimp & Grits consisted of chipotle seared shrimp and local boursin cheese grits surrounded by an andouille sausage tomato stew. Amazing with a bit of a kick to it.

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Lava Lava Shrimp @ Frank & Lola Love Pensacola Café. Shrimp breaded and fried then tossed with an Asian aioli sauce. So good.

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World Famous Grits À Ya Ya @ The Fish House. Spiced Gulf jumbo shrimp top a sauté of spinach, portobello mushrooms, applewood-smoked bacon, garlic, shallots,and cream over a heaping bed of smoked Gouda cheese grits. Incredible.

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Our balcony was the perfect place to watch a storm roll in…

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…and roll out. (After a quick nap.)

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We spent a drizzly evening walking along the Portofino Boardwalk. It was a bit deserted because of the weather, but seemed like it would have been bustling on a nicer night.

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After we checked out Sunday morning, we drove east (or maybe that was west?) through the Gulf Islands National Seashore.

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Despite the clouds and kicked-up breeze, it was actually a beautiful, warm day.

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We spent about an hour walking along an empty expanse of soft, white sand with hardly anyone else in sight.

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We snapped a bunch of photos here as our weekend on the Gulf drew to a close.

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These three particular shots (below) are a reminder that these pictures don’t even do it justice. =)

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There wasn’t anyone around to take a photo of the four of us, so I Photoshopped my brother and I into a photo of my parents (below) to give to my mom for Christmas. =)

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And that’s about it. Perfect long weekend.

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Hey, Dad…can we go back? Like tomorrow? =)

A Toast to Napa Valley

By | california, lifestyle, napa valley, travel, wine | 9 Comments

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Our trip within a trip to Napa Valley was full of sunshine and sparkling wine, and even though we squeezed in five wineries in two days, it felt anything but rushed. We probably could have done a bit more planning (we mostly played it by ear), and I would recommend that anyone visiting Napa on a weekend do so, but since we were there on a Monday and Tuesday after harvest, everything worked out perfectly.

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On an unseasonably warm 82-degree day, our first stop was Domaine Chandon in Yountville, where we sampled seven delightful sparkling wines in a gorgeous tasting room overlooking the vineyard. Our tasting was followed by a tour of the winery and a lesson in the méthode traditionelle — the same method used to craft champagne in France.

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I’ve toured a few wineries over the last few years (including Williamsburg Winery nearby), but none that produce sparkling wines. I loved learning about the types of grapes, the different fermentation methods, and the extra steps that go into crafting a quality champagne or sparkling wine. Making an educated choice next time I pop open a bottle will have me enjoying each sip that much more.

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Chandon’s were my favorites of all the wines I tasted on my trip. I particularly enjoyed the Brut Classic (above left), and the Sparkling Red (above right) was by far the most interesting wine I’ve ever had. But, I think my favorite was the Chandon Blanc de Noirs, whose name literally means “white from blacks”. This salmon-colored sparkling wine is made from Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier grapes and happens to be the designated bubbly for all White House receptions. I guess you can’t go wrong with that. =)

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Many of Chandon’s classic sparkling wines are available for purchase throughout the U.S., but others, such as the Sparkling Red and the reserve wines, are only available through the winery itself. Since vacations are a perfectly acceptable time to splurge (and New Year’s Eve is around the corner), I decided to join the wine club at Chandon. I wrote myself a note on the card that will accompany my first shipment. This is what it will say: “Cheers! This is why you go to work every day. =)”

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Next, we headed north to V. Sattui Winery in St. Helena, which my cousin recommended as a great place for lunch or a snack. V. Sattui is a smaller, family-owned winery whose on-premise deli featured the most spectacular cheese selection I have ever seen. =)

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The V. Sattui winery itself has existed in Napa Valley since the mid-1970s, but the family’s wine-making business has an interesting history dating back to 1882. Perhaps that explains the older, authentic and established feel of the winery.

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At V. Sattui, we picnicked near the vines, amidst the crew crushing grapes. We snacked on New Zealand sharp cheddar, Molinari hot salame, homemade Formaggio di Carciofo (artichoke cream cheese), broccoli salad, crackers, and a bottle of Sattui Family Red.

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By mid-afternoon (which felt more like late afternoon, since we had just set the clocks back the day before), the colors in Napa Valley were unbelievable. Every shade of green, yellow, orange, red, and purple blended together under hazy, golden rays of sunlight — these pictures don’t do it any justice at all.

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We left V. Sattui and headed east across the valley to Rutherford. Surrounded by mountains with the shadow of our rental car growing long in front of us, I said, “If only we knew of a decent place to watch the sun set…”

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For our third and final stop on Monday, we chose Mumm Napa — a scenic winery featuring more sparkling wines, a fine art photography exhibit, and a tasting patio that just happened to face west. =)

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Mumm Napa’s photography exhibit caught my eye when we first began planning this trip, mainly because they have 27 Ansel Adams original prints on loan from the family displayed in their gallery. While touring the gallery, I was also blown away by the absolutely stunning photography of Susan Friedman, whose portraits of horses were on display as part of a temporary exhibit called “Quatre Femmes Photographes.” (That exhibit will remain at Mumm Napa until March 3, 2013.)

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I also wanted to visit Mumm Napa because, well, let’s just say I’m in complete agreement with Mark Twain. =) These coasters were too cute. There were about six different ones, each with a different champagne-inspired quote.

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Once seated on the patio, we tasted six more sparklers at sunset, this time learning how subtle, yet noticeable differences in the taste and texture of sparkling wines can result simply from the length of time they age. The views at sunset were perfect, and the favorite we chose to purchase at Mumm Napa was the Cuvée M.

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After three wineries in one day, we checked into the Napa River Inn, a locally-owned, boutique hotel in Downtown Napa. We had grand plans to take a nap and head out to dinner, but after sinking into the most comfortable bed ever, I was ready to crash.

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We woke the next morning to breakfast in bed, compliments of Sweetie Pies Bakery next door — quiche and coffee for me, croissant sandwich and tea for my mom, and morning buns all around. What’s a morning bun, you ask? Yeah, I had no clue either, but it was delicious.

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We spent Tuesday morning exploring downtown Calistoga before heading to Sterling Vineyards just after lunch. My mom chose Sterling because she read about the stunning views from the solar-powered tram ride you take to the winery at the top of a mountain.

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Clearly, she forgot about my motion sickness, slight claustrophobia and panic attacks during our ride in a pod to the top of the St. Louis Arch when I said, “I don’t ever want to do anything like that again.” But, there I was, dangling from a cable in a tiny metal box that was about 95 million degrees in the blazing sunshine with nothing to hang on to… Luckily, there was a glass of pinot grigio in my hand less than three minutes after we left the base of the mountain. So, I suppose it was worth it — the wines and the views were sublime.

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At Sterling, we took a leisurely self-paced tour of the winery, receiving tastes of six different wines along the way. The cool thing about this winery is that it was built to cater to visitors. The Greek-inspired architecture and white stucco were beautiful and unexpected, and walkways and terraces offered brilliant views of Napa Valley in all directions. My mom (having recently traveled to London) took a particular interest in winery’s eight bells from London’s Church of St. Dunstans-in-the-East, whose tolling can be heard down through the valley on the quarter hour.

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And this is me procrastinating just a tad longer at the top to avoid getting back in the dangling tram car. =) (Note: Do not let my irrational fear of the tram prevent you from visiting this winery — it’s gorgeous!)

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Let’s take a little break from all this wine talk. Let’s talk about the Old Faithful Geyser of California. My mom convinced me to go see this geyser by falsifying information — she said it was 16 feet in diameter and would shoot champagne more than 30 yards into the sky! Actually, I’m kidding. She didn’t say that. She said they had Tennessee Fainting Goats, which they did, but unfortunately, they weren’t frightened enough the geyser (or me) to topple over for my entertainment.

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After we left the geyser, we took a long, winding drive over the mountains to Geyserville (which is about an hour from Downtown Napa) was to have dinner at the Francis Ford Coppola Winery. (Note: The geyser was not in Geyserville. The geyser was in Calistoga.) Our visit to the Coppola winery was another result of our lack of planning (I made the dinner reservations without looking at a map); however I’m extremely glad we went because it was one of my favorite parts of the trip.

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We arrived at the Coppola property around dusk. It was a little too early for our dinner reservation at RUSTIC, so we roamed around the property until the sun went down, and then we headed inside to browse the gift shop and the movie gallery. The winery holds a collection of fabulous Coppola movie memorabilia, including Don Corleone’s desk and the original script from The Godfather, costumes from Dracula, and model ships from Sofia Coppola’s film, Marie Antoinette.

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One of the best things about this trip’s schedule being shifted around (because of Hurricane Sandy) was the fact that we ended up in Napa Valley on a Tuesday because Tuesdays just happen to be A Tavola night at RUSTIC, which was our main reason for visiting.

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A tavola means “to the table” in Italian, and our meal worked like this: The waitstaff came around with serving dishes full of salads, appetizers, pastas, pizzas, meats, seafoods and desserts, and we chose what we wanted to eat. It kind of reminded me of tapas or dim sum, but with Italian food. We sampled at least 10 different dishes, all of which were completely different from anything on the normal RUSTIC menu. My absolute favorite dish was a braised short rib and blue cheese ravioli — amazing! The Francis Ford Coppola Winery produces more than 40 wines, but in keeping with the sparkling theme of our trip, I opted for the Sofia Blanc de Blancs with dinner.

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To top off the night, who showed up for a drink at the bar? None other than Francis himself! I’m not annoying enough to ask celebrities if I can get a picture taken with them, but I did have a chance to introduce myself, shake his hand, and tell him that his movies, his wines and his restaurant are excellent.

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And that’s about it. The next morning, we drove back down to enjoy our last day in San Francisco (which I’ll post about soon). Of course, once I returned home, I went straight to Total Wine to pick up all my favorites from the trip. I think I’ll have to plan a little champagne brunch soon to share them with my friends. =)

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I hope you enjoyed this post and were able to get some useful information out of it. I’d love to visit Napa again sometime. Have you been there? Do you have any favorite wineries I should add to my list for next time?

NJ Trip #1

By | life's a beach, lifestyle, new jersey, road trips, summer, take me away, the places you'll go, travel | 3 Comments

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Now that my first little string of vacations has ended, I’ve finally got some time to post about them. =) You already know I kicked off New Jersey Trip #1 with Suttonpalooza, so this pretty much sums up the rest.

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I made it a point to enjoy a few breakfasts featuring pork roll (a Jersey staple) at Amy’s Omelette House (above) and a little bakery/cafe in Atlantic Highlands (below).

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I spent lots of sunny, relaxing hours at the pool with my favorite magazines and my mom and dad.

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I wore a nautical dress (first photo of this post) to an impromptu rendezvous with my parents and their friends at the new 9th Ave Pier in Belmar.

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I spent an evening chasing the sunset around the marina in search of the perfect shot.

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My mom and I paid a morning visit to the Twin Lights

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…followed by an afternoon in the city…

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…where we ducked into La Maison du Chocolat to avoid a drizzle and split an eclair between shops on Madison Avenue…

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…and then indulged in just a few pastries more at Ferrara after dining al fresco in Little Italy.

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I sought some late afternoon shade in the old Casino with my best friend and her little girls on the boardwalk in Asbury Park.

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I picked up a few treasures along the way  — a classic striped top (St. James), madras shorts (Cape Madras via Brave New World), Saltwater Soap (Saipua via Warm), and starfish earrings from a boutique on the boardwalk. I bought my friend Tina a matching pair, too. =)

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I met my mom for lunch on the boards before I left to drive home. Nothing beats a cold Diet Coke in a shiny red cup on a sizzling afternoon.

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I raced the sunset down to the bridge. It was nothing short of perfect timing as I (literally) swerved off the road at the CBBT scenic overlook and launched myself out of the car to snap this shot just as the sun was dipping below the horizon.

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I stopped to revel in the last 20 minutes of my trip. After the sun went down, I rolled down the windows, sat back in the driver’s seat, stared out over the bay, and savored a cup of she-crab soup I picked up from The Great Machipongo Clam Shack.

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Vacation Season

By | take me away, the places you'll go, travel | 4 Comments

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It feels like I haven’t had much time off work in forever because I’ve been banking my vacation days for the last six months. Now there’s only about an hour left until I kick off a series of day trips, long weekends and vacations I’ve got planned for the second half of the year.

Today, I’ll be spending the afternoon and evening in the Outer Banks photographing my friend Hilary and her family, and even though it’ll only be a few hours, it’s a day trip I’ve been looking forward to for months.

Friday marks the first of my annual back-to-back trips to New Jersey, and I’ll be headed north for a week-long visit with my parents, my friend Stacey’s 30th birthday, and maybe even a whirlwind two-day road trip through New England with my mom.

New Jersey trip #2 is scheduled for the first weekend in August. J and I will drive up to hang out with my parents for my mom’s birthday weekend. We’ve got plans to see a play in NYC and tickets to see Jimmy Buffett in Atlantic City.

In mid-August, I’ll be flying down to Pensacola to see my brother’s “A” School graduation at Corry Station. Afterwards, my family and I will be spending the weekend at the Margaritaville Beach Hotel, which I’m assuming will involve lots of tequila, salt, and sunscreen. =)

September is off-limits as far as vacation days are concerned (because it’s the end of the Federal government’s fiscal year), but I’m hoping to squeeze in at least one overnight weekend trip to the Outer Banks while the weather is still nice.

J and I have a trip to Las Vegas in the works for October. We’ve got tickets (and amazing seats) to see Jimmy Buffett at the MGM Grand, and obviously, we’ll be staying at the Flamingo — home to the Margaritaville Casino. I’ve got high hopes for some quality pool time, shopping, dancing, dining, gambling and of course, winning lots of money while we’re there.

I’ll be flying to the Dominican Republic in November, where I’ll be photographing a friend’s wedding at Zoetry Agua Punta Cana. My mom is going to join me down there, and we’ll be spending five days at the resort. I’ve been looking forward to this trip since January — it’s the first contract I signed after starting my business, and I’m so excited for it to finally happen!

And…that brings us back to Thanksgiving and Christmas, which (as usual) means a few more trips to New Jersey.

It wasn’t easy making it through the first half of this year with only two days off, but somehow getting the next six months’ vacations down in writing makes it all seem worth it. =)

How about you? Got any exciting trips vacations planned for the rest of this year? I’d love to know where you’re going! Or, if you’ve been to any of the places I’m going, let me know if you have any recommendations for things to do and see!

Long Lost Scenes of Summer

By | memories, new jersey, ruling at life, take me away, the coastal chicster, travel | One Comment

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These long lost photos of my annual back-to-back Jersey trips this past summer bring back memories of steamy city days, breezy evenings on the water, night swimming with my best friend, a sunny afternoon on the boardwalk with J, shopping with my mom, and my grandma finally making it home from the hospital. It took me a little too long to go through the hundreds of photos I took, but I’m glad I finally got around to it. =)

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Hello, Chicago.

By | holiday fun, navy, ruling at life, take me away, travel | 2 Comments

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If you ever get the chance to visit Chicago, I say go for it. There’s lots to see and do — museums, architecture, shopping, and about a million restaurants and bars. Around Christmastime, Michigan Avenue seems like the laid back little cousin of NYC — chilly, festive, and lit up with the occasional flurry, but with wider sidewalks, less traffic, and much less risk of getting run down by a taxicab. Chicago seems a bit less expensive than most other big cities I’ve been to, and I’d be willing to bet there’s a ton of fun things to do there when the weather’s a bit warmer, too. The pizza’s excellent, and there’s not a bad steak within 60 miles. Oh, and that shiny bean sculpture at Millennium Park is pretty awesome, too. =)

I’ve been dying for a relaxing vacation, and while this wasn’t quite relaxing, it was certainly a fun, action-packed week full of some of my favorite things — hot coffee, taking pictures, long walks around the city, layers upon layers of plaid, cozy sweaters, sailors wearing those awesome white hats, and lots of shopping. The real reason for our trip was my brother’s Navy Boot Camp graduation, so congrats to Stephen, whose next stop is Pensacola for a year. Looks like I’ve got at least one excuse to get myself down to the Margaritaville Beach Hotel this spring..and I can finally squeeze in that relaxing vacation I’ve been waiting for. =)

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Highlights from St. Maarten

By | employment, partying like a rock star, pineapples and palm trees, ruling at life, take me away, travel, tropical islands | 11 Comments

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Let me preface these photos by saying that it’s pretty amazing to actually work for a company that appreciates and recognizes employees for working hard. Most companies only invite sales reps who’ve met their goals for the year on club trips, but my company goes above and beyond to reward support staff, management and star performers by letting us join them on these trips. (Which is just one of the reasons we’re listed as one of the best companies to work for in Virginia this year).

Last summer, I received the “Big Mike” award for my dedication to a monstrosity of a proposal I managed that we had just submitted, plus my contribution to our becoming ISO 9001:2008 certified in the spring, and my willingness to help anyone with just about anything at work (like streamlining the way our sales reps communicate with our warehouse personnel. As a result, I won this trip for two to St. Maarten — all expenses paid at the beautiful Westin Dawn Beach resort with an amazing group of people.

We’ve come a long way from pointless work days at TranSystems, wasting away the time and waiting for something exciting to happen. But, that’s besides the point. Let’s get to the good stuff. ADS Club Trip 2011. St. Maarten. A hundred of my favorite co-workers and our guests. Go.

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This crazy trip has got me feelin’: refreshed
And I’m singin’ along to: Mi Se La – Ralph Thamar

Planes, Bars and a Bowl of Cocoa Puffs

By | airplanes/airports, conversations, las vegas, partying like a rock star, ruling at life, travel | No Comments

Last night I landed around 11 and my aunt, Jimmy and I went to the Hard Rock Hotel and the Palms where we met up with the neighbors and some other people.

I met some cool people on the planes and at the bars yesterday. The guy on my first plane is probably around 45 years old, seemed very successful, had owned a business a long time ago in New Jersey and is currently working in D.C. or something. He told me all these crazy stories about his sisters and his nieces and the twisted paths they took to get to where they were today — one is a union president in Montclair, one is the executive editor of USA Today, one is a photographer, one works part time in Europe and another lives in Brooklyn and works in publishing in Manhattan. Oh, and his sister with a brain tumor manages a really nice restaurant in New York City.

The couple on my second plane was heading to Vegas on vacation. The guy works in shipping, so he shipped his motorcycle to Vegas so that he and his wife could drive it out to California and up and down the Pacific Coast Highway. They said they were staying at the Luxor, so I suggested they check out the House of Blues for breakfast. He said they would.

At the Hard Rock, some eccentric older gentleman with an accent and a mustache insisted on standing at the bar right in the middle of our group. He kept eavesdropping on my conversation with Aunt Kim and bought her a drink.

The guy we talked to at the Palms was middle-aged. He moved to Vegas 18 months ago because he is a builder. He has a 12-year old daughter, a house in L.A., a house here in Vegas, and he says “fuck” a lot — too much for someone his age. I pointed that out to him. While I was offering constructive criticism, I should have told him, “Say it, don’t spray it,” but I figured one communication tip per night would probably suffice. I forget his name, though.

Guy at bar: “So how do you know her?”

Lisa: “She’s my mom’s brother’s wife.”

Bartender: “She’s what?”

Lisa: “She’s my aunt.”

Bartender: “There you go. That’s much easier to understand.”

Lisa: “Right, but he already knew she was my aunt. I thought he wanted more specifics — like what side of the family. So, she’s my mom’s brother’s wife.”

Bartender: “Oh.”

Lisa: “As opposed to my mom’s sister or my dad’s sister or my dad’s brother’s wife — you see?”

Bartender: “You’re hurting me.”

Aunt Kim: “That was hilarious.”

Guy at bar: “I think I’m fucked up.”

After that exchange, Jimmy and I quoted some Napoleon Dynamite and then we headed out to pick up the Hummer from the valet. I drove it home. My aunt was a little tipsy, as she should have been — she just dropped my grandparents off at the airport yesterday after their week-long stay. My aunt said it was their fault she needed a drink. I told my mom that on the phone and she agreed that having my grandmother around for a week can be very “taxing.”

I’ve just finished a nutritional breakfast of Cocoa Puffs, and I think I’m ready to start the day. Peace out.

In love and afraid of commitment (not what you think)

By | california, travel | 5 Comments

I’m in love with San Diego. Southern California is absolutely beautiful. It’s perfect here. The weather is gorgeous, palm trees line the streets, the sun sets over the ocean, and the mountains and cliffs just east of the shores are amazing. I wish I were living here.

Has anyone noticed my decision-making dilemma? I can’t make a decision and stick with it for more than a week. Let us review just a few of the decisions I’ve made and failed to follow through with in the past year:

Move to San Diego
Move to Hawaii
Move back to Blacksburg
Stay in school for an extra year
Go to grad school for Communications
Go to grad school for an MBA
Work as a subsitute teacher in Wall for some extra cash
Wait tables in Wall while I search for a job
Pursue a career in the hospitality industry
Pursue a career in public relations
Visit Jamie in Florida
Apply to law school
Move to Richmond
Move back to southwestern Virginia to manage a Beamer’s
Work at Joe McAuliffe Training Systems

The only decisions I have managed to stick with are these:

Move home for the summer
Discontinue dating/escapades with boys
Apply to Navy Officer Candidate School
Visit Joelle in California

Here is the decision I am currently faced with:

Move to San Diego v. Move to Las Vegas

Since I am living on dwindling funds, I have to make a decision soon before I end up stuck in New Jersey working until I have enough saved up again to make the first month’s payment on an apartment somewhere.

Surely my decision-making skills have been daunted by the uncertainty stemming from my Navy application. Of course I am keeping my fingers crossed in the hopes that I get accepted, but the wait is driving me crazy. I know I want to get out of New Jersey, and I know I want to be somewhere warm. However, I have no idea how long I’ll be living wherever I go, how much stuff I should move with me, or what kind of job I should find when I get there.

This all started with my three-mile run at Newport Back Bay the other day, but it was our day-trip to San Diego yesterday that really tampered with my decision to move to Las Vegas. Who would want to go live in the desert when they could reside in a place so beautiful? Driving down the 405, seeing the Pacific Ocean on the right and the Santa Ana Mountains on the left was exhilarating. We spent the morning in Seaport Village walking in and out of quaint little shops along the San Diego Bay. The USS Midway had pulled into its new permanent location earlier yesterday morning (it’s being turned into a museum), and we were able to walk around it and take pictures. We had lunch at Buster’s Beach House, where I ordered the Hawaiian Rice Bowl and ate it with chopsticks.

Later, we crossed the bridge onto Coronado Island and took pictures of the San Diego skyline across the bay. We made our way up the coast to Point Loma to watch the sun set, and then headed up to Mission Beach and Pacific Beach for some shopping and dinner. It was an awesome day.

I spent part of today looking for roommates and jobs in San Diego. I know my flight home is on Tuesday, but I can postpone it for $25. There’s a car-rental place in Newport Beach, and I have enough clothes to get me through a few more days. I know I must sound crazy, but San Diego is a beautiful city – and the aircraft carriers in the bay definitely give it extra points in my book. Joelle and I watched the sun set last night from Point Loma. The vivid colors, the waves, the surfers, and the cliffs – it was unlike anything I’ve ever seen. Imagine doing that every night…

Leaving On A Jet Plane

By | airplanes/airports, travel | No Comments

Ok, it’s 4 a.m., I’m up, I’m dressed, I’m ready to go.

I finished up packing last night after watching an episode of “The O.C.” to get me pumped up for my five- to six-hour flight across the country. I caught up with Joelle for a few frantic minutes on the phone to make sure she remembered she’s gotta pick me up at 11:45 at the airport in Long Beach. I even got in a bit of quality time with Rob, who I haven’t seen in weeks, that involved him watching me pack. I think he was shocked by my ability to fit five days worth of clothing and shoes into two small Hawaiian-print Roxy bags – I was, too.

Since the trip up to JFK (the closest airport jetBlue flies out of) is never an easy one, I’ve opted to leave the house at 4:30 to make it in time for my 8:30 flight. Getting 2.5 hours of shuteye last night should make sleeping on the plane easier than usual.

Last, and most importantly, I remembered to bring my “Top Gun” soundtrack CD with me — excellent listening choice for take-off and mid-flight excitement.

Off to Orange County

By | airplanes/airports, california, travel | 2 Comments

I’m going to California tomorrow!  I’m flying out of JFK and landing in Long Beach at 11:45 am.  My cousin Joelle is picking me up, and I’ll be staying at her place in Santa Ana until Tuesday.  I am SO excited.  We’re going to go shopping in Hollywood (with what’s left of my dwindling savings), and we’re even going to drive down to San Diego this weekend!  SO exciting!

Kristy’s in California right now, too, so I’ll probably meet up with her tomorrow night for dinner while Joelle is at work.  We need to take a picture together so I can put it in my cute “Aloha” picture frame she gave me for Christmas.

I just decided to take this trip two weeks ago on Christmas Eve.  I got my plane tickets from jetBlue for $99 each way.  I’m SO excited.  I’ll even get to check off one of my New Year’s resolutions – put my feet in the Pacific Ocean. This is going to be the best spur-of-the-moment trip EVER!