Wednesday, August 31, 2011

German Bierfest

Last weekend we went to the 8th Annual German Bierfest in Woodruff Park, in downtown Atlanta. We had never been to this festival before, and it was much more our style than the Decatur festival we went to the weekend before.  My parents came in town to visit for the weekend so as an added bonus we got to hang out with them all weekend and they joined us at the beerfest.

We do not venture into downtown Atlanta very often (I could probably count on my two hands the number of times we've been downtown for non-work-related events), but we figured a beer festival was as good of a reason as we could find - besides an SEC Championship game, of course!

A few local restaurants were selling food there, so we got ourselves a few brats, wiener shnitzel, and a pretzel or two.  All the beer was included with the price of admission - $30 all you can drink? Sweet deal.  The thing I really like about all the beer festivals in Atlanta is that you get a small "tasting" souvenir glass. Mom even got a coozie to go with hers!

At first, the glass seems really small. But after 5 hours of day-drinking you are glad that it's a small glass. Plus, there isn't enough time for your beer to get warm. They had all our favorite German beers (except Hofbrauhaus, sadly) and several new ones that we will be hunting down at our nearby liquor store. There were also enough beer tents (21, I think) that the lines were never long.  We also got to hang out with several friends - girlfriends from Atlanta, old friends from UF, a few of my favorite co-workers from my old firm, and some of my softball teammates.  I think we were too busy drinking beer and catching up, because somehow I only managed to get a few pictures! Some of these are from mom and dad, you can always count on them to have at least one camera each.

Shara, Jenna, Christy & me

I will say that it's still too hot in August for outdoor beer festivals - and the few tents and tables/chairs they had available were not close to the beer tents. Based on weather alone we might pass on this one from now on.  But there was a slight breeze for a little while - it even blew away one of the beer tents!

This festival was pretty good as far as beer selection, but the Decatur Craft Beerfest in the fall is our absolute favorite (who's going with us??). We may have even skipped part of a Gator football game one year to go to the beerfest - that should tell you how awesome it is! :)

It was a great weekend and we had so much fun with my parents. Hopefully we should see them again during football season to hold us over until Christmas.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

How does your garden grow?

No, seriously. I want to know.

Because my "garden" does not grow.

Sadly I seem to have inherited my mom's black thumb instead of her mom's green thumb. My grandma would be so disappointed - or maybe she would at least help me out.

When I quit my old job and had a few weeks to myself, I decided to try planting some flowers. We have a small planter box next to the steps going up to our front door that I gave a slight makeover, since at the time it only had a thin layer of old dirt and an ugly collection of dead leaves. Our landlord does not seem to care about the small planter box and it apparently does not fit within the limited landscaping services included in our rent. So I bought a few supplies, some new dirt (it still kills me that you have to buy dirt), and some seeds - my biggest mistake. I originally wanted to get simple potted flowers that I could just take out of the pot and put in the planter box, water them, and voila! Beautiful flowers, minimal work! But of course when we do something, Bo wants to do the whole thing ourselves, from scratch. So I planted the seeds and watered them according to the instructions and after just a few days, I saw some green come through the dirt! Success! Over time, they got a little bigger and stayed green, flowers. Never. After a few months of watering all we had to show were a few measly green leaves. I get impatient when I try something with a good effort but don't see results, so I stopped caring about the unsuccessful flowers and eventually gave up. To hell with the flowers, let's get a dog instead (yes, we got Molly the next week!).

Well, Bo wouldn't have it. He was determined to revive the flowers, so they are now "his" plants - which is fine with me - Molly is "my" puppy. (And we call them plants since we have no proof of them actually being flowers.) Unfortunately Bo has been traveling for work a lot lately, and he left me responsible for watering the plants. Yep, you guessed it, I failed him and the plants are near death again.

sad plants

Every time Bo got home from a work trip he was so upset about his dying plants - but it just seems like a waste of time and water to me. I can't even remember what kind of flower I had picked out, but they were supposed to have already bloomed. If we are really bored one day we might give it a try again with some new flowers... though most likely of the potted variety.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Collar vs. Harness

Before we got Molly, I picked out a really cute collar for her. It was pretty, pale pink with grey polka dots. I loved it! Bo, however, hated it - it was too girly. Turns out, Molly hated it too. She scratched at it non-stop and shredded up all the pretty-ness.

So when she started to outgrow it after the first month or so, Bo demanded I get royal blue next time (for the Gators of course). Our vet recommended the "gentle leader" but Molly hated that too and I thought it looked stupid and muzzle-ish (even though it wasn't).  So we decided to try a harness instead, which still seemed kinda silly since she is soo small.  When I first put it on her, I felt like she was giving me a look that said "You are the most un-cool dog mom ever. I can't believe you are making me wear this. I look like a tool."  

After a few hours of trying to chew her way out of the harness, Molly gave up and realized it was there to stay. She got used to it after a couple days, and has been fine with it ever since. Bo and I like it a lot better than the collar - it's much easier when I go running with her, since I can redirect her whole body when she tries to smell every single thing we pass, and I think it's more comfortable for her since it doesn't pull on her neck or pinch her enormouse beagle ears. She's had it almost two months now, and the harness is a win-win so far. But of course, once she is full-grown (and more obedient on a leash) we'll probably get her a real Gator collar so she can be a true fan next football season.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Decatur BBQ, Blues and Bluegrass Festival

Lately we have been all over the place, so we are hardly ever at home - much less together. Three weekends in a row, one or both of us were out of town, and for the past three weeks Bo has been traveling for work. Last weekend was the first weekend both of us were home in Atlanta since mid-July.  It's been kinda crazy around here to say the least.

For once, we decided to have a low-key weekend at home with no plans at all. Ha! That didn't last long. As much as we like the idea of having nothing to do, we really just aren't very good at it. While we did spend most of last weekend watching movies, reading books, playing with Molly, and taking naps, we did manage to get out of the house Saturday afternoon. We decided to do something a little different, and went to the 11th Annual Decatur BBQ, Blues and Bluegrass Festival held at Harmony Park in Decatur. One of the things we love about living in Atlanta is that there are always several festivals going on every weekend, and we are bound to be interested in at least one of them.

The weather was great and the music was pretty good, though not our typical choice - we just wanted to check it out. The food was yummy (we love barbeque) but there weren't a ton of options. Our favorite local restaurant was there (Fox Brothers!) and we also tried some new ones that were really good. All the beer was by New Belgium, which we like, but we prefer to have more of a variety.  But more than anything, our biggest red flag should have been that children under the age of 10 got in for free. Which meant that this festival was more of the "young family oriented" type rather than the "all you can drink" type. Nothing wrong with that, we just aren't exactly in that phase of life yet, and we weren't quite expecting so many strollers and a Thomas the Engine train ride...

So, we had a good time at the festival and it was a very relaxing Saturday afternoon, but I don't think this is one we'll go back to for a while. We probably should have read more about it before we went. Oh well... live and learn. If and when we decide to go back, we'd bring Molly - it was very dog-friendly!, and we'd bring our own chairs and/or blanket so we don't have to sit on the grass.

I'm going to go out on a limb and say that the German Bierfest we're going to this coming weekend will be a little different. :) Those of you in Atlanta - let me know if you'll be there. Prost!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

A New Pin: Boston

A few years ago, Bo's sister, Dudley, got us a map of the world as our Christmas gift. It is one of our favorite presents ever! It says "The World Travels of Bo and Lisa" - with different colored pins and a legend showing the places you've been, favorite past vacation, next destination, and dream vacation. We don't use all of them - just the red pins for places we've been, and our rule is that both of us had to have been there (not necessarily together) before we can put in the pin. Our goal is to put at least one new pin in the map every year.

Last week, Bo was in Boston for work. I went with my family a while ago, but he had never been. So when he returned, we got to put in our first pin of the year for Massachusetts, now that we've both been there. I'm pretty sure my family trip was a LOT more fun than his work trip ;)  We do plan to go back together at some point down the road.

To be honest, this was by far the least exciting pin we've ever put in, since it was for work instead of a fun vacation. Since we've had the map, we have planned at least one vacation every year so that we can have an exciting pin to put in the map - any work pins are just bonus. We've been to a lot of places so far, but there is still a lot of empty space on the map. Our "places to go" list seems to only get longer - never shorter. But we'll have two more pins by the end of this year, and maybe more (depending where Bo gets sent for work)!

Monday, August 22, 2011

Anniversary Dinner: 2 years, 1 month

I am sure that to most people, being married for two years and one month is nothing to get too excited about. But as I've mentioned before, we look for any excuse for a celebration. A year ago, we started celebrating our monthly wedding anniversary with wine and a nice home-cooked meal, and using our fine china. We would have started this tradition sooner, but until last August we lived in a small apartment and our china was still in the original boxes it came in. When we received our wedding gifts, we knew we wouldn't be in that apartment much longer and figured there was no point in unpacking the china, have nowhere else to put it, and then just have to re-pack it again ourselves for the move. Then when we moved into our house last year, we bought a china cabinet to match the rest of our furniture. I will say, it was a lot of fun opening all our china - it was like we were seeing it for the first time all over again. And since we finally had somewhere nice to easily access our china, we started our anniversary tradition on the 11th of every month (give or take a few days when we are traveling). We usually have a lot going on and are all over the place, so we enjoy being able to sit down for a big fancy meal at home, recap on the previous month, and look forward to what's ahead in the next month.  Plus it's nice to actually use our china on a monthly basis - so many people suggested that we not even bother with registering for china because we'd never end up using it. Guess we showed them!

Last week, for our 2 year and 1 month (plus a couple of days since we were both traveling on the 11th) anniversary dinner, we had grilled parmesan-breaded scallops, with grilled tomatoes & mozzarella, and steamed broccoli.

We also finished our last bottle of Darioush Viognier ("the cab lover's white wine") that we brought back with us from Napa Valley earlier this summer. While we were there, we also signed up for a membership at Chandon, so I'm hoping our first delivery will be here before our next monthly anniversary since it's been stuck on a heat-controlled truck during the heat wave.

It was an awesome dinner and made it in our top favorite meals list. And it was a quick meal, so we will definitely be adding it to the regular weeknight dinner rotation. As we do during most meals, we spent half the time critiquing it and trying to think of ways to make it even better next time, and the rest of the time figuring out what we should make the following month. It's been a really fun tradition!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet

While I was in DC last weekend, I finished the book Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford.

The story is told by Henry, a Chinese American man, who recounts his childhood and his friendship with Keiko, a Japanese American girl, during World War II.  I thought it was a great read. I really enjoy reading about history when there is a personal story attached to it, like this one. Strangely enough, the day after I finished this book was the anniversary of the day Japan surrendered the war, and there were all kinds of news stories about the events I had just read about and the memorial I had just visited in DC.

This book was a selection by the book club that I joined a few months ago with my friend Kim, of which I had previously been a half-hearted member. The first book we read after I joined was The Tiger's Wife by Tea Obreht - and none of us liked it. It took me forever to get through it and I did not enjoy the story at all, so I was somewhat discouraged by the whole book club idea. But I've been on a roll lately and am trying to finish the next book in time for our meeting next week! Next up...Secret Daughter by Shilpi Somaya Gowda. After this meeting, we are joining forces with another group of friends who are starting a book club next month - hopefully I can keep up with it.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Mother-Daughter Trip: Washington, DC

Earlier this year, my sister Leslie went to Chicago during spring break, and my mom met up with her for part of the trip. Unfortunately I could not join them since I was dying a slow, painful death at work in the heart of busy season. I said, "no fair!" and demanded that I be included in their next vacation. We decided on Washington DC and picked one of the few weekends we were all free. So last Thursday through Monday we spent a long weekend in DC together. I was going to wait to do this post until I got all the pictures from them but decided that could be a while - so I'll just add them in later.

Mom and Leslie connected through Atlanta so we were on the same flight into DC, which made things really easy. Mom put us up in a gorgeous hotel that was within walking distance to just about everything we wanted to do (thanks again, Mom!). With her Hilton status, we got a great start to our trip with a free happy hour including appetizers. I fear the day I have to travel without flight and hotel status. I have officially been spoiled by it.

Right away we were out and about in the city. We had a general idea of what we wanted to do, but no real agenda or itinerary - which is exactly how I love to travel.  Our hotel was just a few blocks from the White House, so we started there and then headed to the Washington Monument, followed by dinner at J&G Steakhouse (the filet was delicious).

Leslie, Mom and I - at the White House

We discovered a fun bar right across the street from our hotel and had a few beers. There was a table full of guys next to us, who were all in the Marines together and hadn't seen each other in 23 years - they had some fun stories to keep us entertained.

Guess which one we took our mom to! ;)

Intensely reading the map

On Friday Leslie caught a stomach bug and spent most of the day in the hotel. :(  The weather was beautiful, so Mom and I decided to walk the city and do some sightseeing while Leslie rested. We spent all morning going to various memorials.

We started out at the Jefferson Memorial, which neither of us had been to during our past trips to DC.  Everyone was very quiet and respectful here, and it was so peaceful on the water with a nice view of the Washington Monument.

Next was the FDR Memorial - we were not too impressed.

Luckily, we didn't go out of our way for that one since it just happened to be on the way to the World War II Memorial, which we both really wanted to see since my grandpa (mom's dad) served in the war.  We thought they did a very good job with this memorial.  We liked it so much that we went back with Leslie on Sunday so she could also see it.

From there, we walked to the Lincoln Memorial.

We were very disappointed that the reflecting pool was under construction.

Not very reflective.

We then walked through the Vietnam Memorial (mom has those pictures). At that point we had walked all morning, it was getting hot out, and we were hungry. Leslie met us for lunch near our hotel at Potbelly's. It's a chain, which is generally against my restaurant rules (especially on vacation), but it was a first for us and they don't exist at home, so I made an exception.

We had tickets to the Holocaust Museum for that day, which was Leslie's request. She still wasn't feeling well so Mom and I headed down there and were able to give our tickets to a family of three who really appreciated being able to go since there were no more available tickets that day. Instead, we went to the Bureau of Engraving and Printing, which was right next door. It was a pretty neat tour. All the workers have slogans hanging near their workstations, and some of them were really funny. My favorite said something like "Just think how I feel. I just printed my lifetime salary in a matter of minutes." Sadly we weren't allowed to take any pictures inside.

From there, we walked to the Smithsonian National Museum of American History. My favorite was the exhibit of the Flag and the National Anthem. Nothing against this museum, but we just weren't into it. After walking around for a while, we looked at each other and said "let's get outta here". We decided to go get pedicures instead, which was absolutely wonderful. They were well deserved, too - when we got back from our trip, I went to (great website for runners) and put in the route we walked that day...7.5 miles in total. Yea, no wonder we were tired and our feet were killing us!

We went back to the hotel to check up on Leslie and take a nap. I probably could have slept through the night at that point, but I could tell mom was getting hungry. We had a lovely Italian dinner at Potenza, thankfully very close to the hotel - I don't think we could have walked much further at that point.

We walked past the White House again on the way back to the hotel, and I took this picture for Leslie. She really wanted a picture of the Washington Monument with the red lights blinking... it looks pretty creepy close-up if you ask me.

On Saturday, Leslie was back to normal so we let her decide what we did that day. We had a late brunch at Ici Urban Bistro, and then took the Metro to the Capitol Hill area. We spent all morning going to the Library of Congress, the Supreme Court, the Capitol Building, and the National Archives. Leslie has more pictures from the day but here are the few I managed to take.

Library of Congress

Supreme Court

Supreme Court

Capitol Building

Saturday afternoon we took the Metro to meet up with Jon, one of Leslie's friends from UF. He just moved to DC a few months ago, and oddly enough several other of their friends from UF happened to be in DC that weekend - total coincidence. Jon hosted an awesome Beer-B-Q at his house for all of us to see each other. We had plenty of appetizers, burgers, hot dogs, and beer - thanks, Jon, for a nice relaxing afternoon during our trip!

Leslie and Jon

It was also a great opportunity to use the really cute koozies mom brought us :)  Thanks Mom!


We took the metro back, but weren't quite ready for bed. So we went across the street to PJ Clarke's for some wine and a bite to eat. With all the walking we did that weekend I felt like I had earned a huge dessert, so I treated myself :)


On Sunday we went back to some of the memorials Leslie missed on Friday. Unfortunately the weather was not so nice and we got drenched, so it quickly became an "indoor" day until the weather cleared up again. We went to the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History in the morning, grabbed a quick lunch and then went to the Holocaust Museum in the afternoon. I know this will sound weird, but the Holocaust Museum was awesome. We spent about 3 hours there. Tickets are free but we got hours in advance online to ensure we'd be able to go, since they only give a limited amount each day. Part of the Museum does not require a ticket, so we went to those exhibits prior to our entrance time. Everything was really well done and it was just incredible reading some of the stories and seeing some of the horrific pictures. I'm not much of a museum person, but this is one of the few I'd be willing to go back to.

We ended the trip with dinner at Old Ebbit Grill and yet another walk past the White House.

It was a wonderful trip!!  Where to next? ;)