Wednesday, July 25, 2012

A Month of Traveling . . .

Ok, so this month is almost over and I feel like I haven't been home much, not that I am complaining. It's been a fantastic month and I have LOVED every minute of it (even all the laundry and waiting at the airports!).

We started the month by hosting our annual 4th of July party (photos "borrowed" from my mom's blog since I did not take any because I was busy eating and drinking hosting!).

This is a large bucket my sister made for me.
I absolutely love it (thanks again Jen!)!
We used it to hold a bunch of ice and our wine bottles.
The four oldest girls (2 are mine, two my sisters) jumping into the pool.
This is one of my favorite photos. I love that their
legs are all bent the same and they got so high.
Only took about 10 tries to get it though!
I adore not having to drive anywhere, we just watch the fireworks
from our pool - easy peasy!
The girls having fun with sparklers.
Isn't this cool?
The next day, my sister took my girls, my parents took the dog, and Rich and I had one day to clean up and get organized before we hopped on a plane to Sacramento. My hubby had to go there for work, so my ears perked up and I found my USAir $99 voucher and tagged along, not because of Sacramento (no offense capital city) but because Napa Valley is only about 45-60 minutes away!

We headed straight to one of the vineyards we were dying to try.
We had booked a tour but because Hertz (maybe they should steal
Avis's motto and "Try Harder" themselves!!), kept us in line for a full hour,
we missed our tour.
Luckily, it wasn't a big deal missing the tour at Stag's Leap. We ended up meeting one of the main sommeliers and he spent over 30 minutes with us going over our flights of wine. We even got to sample a 2006 S.L.V. Block 4 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon that is only available to it's Wine Club members - talk about a nice wine. You can really tell the difference between it and the $2 Buck Chuck at Trader Joe's!

Marcus at Hopper Creek. He personalized a bottle for us!
Hopper Creek is one of my favorite vineyards. They aren't pretentious, just a whole lot of fun! I have now been there twice and had a great time both of them. During the tasting, you get invited into the back where you sit looking at vineyards and sampling great wine at reasonable prices. Plus, the company of Dan, Marcus and Chili Dog are totally worth the trip!!

Not enough hands to hold all our bottles!
Hanging out at Chateau Montelena.
The setting here is beautiful. It's almost castle-like. The young man in charge of our wine flight however, was a bit pretentious and snotty (apparently dating the owner's daughter) but I quieted him down when he said there never, ever, never were any discounts at the Chateau for the tasting and I proceeded to pull one up on my iPhone on my app. Then I went on to share it with the couple next to me who downloaded it before their bill came! They do have nice wines though and since we bought a couple bottles, no tasting fees for either of us!

My hubby and I watched Bottle Shock before heading to Napa.
We highly recommend it. 
We had many great meals at some well-known restaurants starting with Press (fantastic steaks!).

Check out Suze Orman in the far right position in the back of the photo!
FYI - the lady she was with picked up the check!!
We also ate at Gott's Roadside Diner (fab burgers, garlic fries and blueberry milkshakes) and a really great pizza place across from Merryvale Winery (named has escaped me at the moment.).

Here's the cheese board I got at Merryvale.
It's made out of an old wine barrel lid.
I love that it has the original stamp from the cask makers.
This is the room at Merryvale I plan to have a party in someday!!
They were setting up for a wedding and the room literally took my breath away!
Isn't it stunning??

We also bought 2 cases of wine (which just arrived safely) and a map of Napa Valley that I need to get framed. The other vineyards we tasted at were Bell Vineyard (wines were ok but we didn't buy any, our tour guide was from Chicago but talked like a valley girl and it was so distracting and kept making us laugh!!); V. Sattui (very commercial but fun, we loved their Gamay Rouge and if I wasn't so stuffed from Gott's, their huge deli and cheese section would have done me in; the server was also serving several other groups so not much information about the wines but still a fun atmosphere), and I think that's it! We did buy a couple bottles of Two-buck Chuck's at Trader Joe's to compare (first one I opened was slightly acidic so not real sure about those.

All-in-all, it was a great trip and I can't go wait to go back to celebrate my sister's 40th birthday - with or without her!

Off to upload my Virgin Island photos but that is for another post!

Monday, July 16, 2012

Packing Made Easy . . .

Ok, I am not one of those moms who likes to pack for my kids. I think this is something they need to do for themselves and I advocate this! As a Girl Scout leader, I preach to the parents to let the girls pack for camping themselves, with supervision from a parent. This way, the girl knows what is packed and where it is.

So with that being said, my girls are now 10 (almost 11) and 14 and they have been packing for themselves for the past couple of years. What I have started to do with them is type up a packing list of exactly what our itinerary is (always subject to change), what we plan on doing, the weather and what they need. They are responsible for pulling the clothes they want. With my youngest, I have her lay out all the clothes she wants to bring and then we go over the list as we put them in the suitcase.

Here's an example of the trip we are leaving on tomorrow:

St. Thomas Packing List
(plan for 6 days/5 nights)

Day 1 – Fly to Miami (1:50 p.m.), dinner at airport in MIA, fly to St Thomas. 
Arrive 8:10 p.m.

Day 2 – Spend the day shopping in Charlotte-Amalie; evening at 
Marriott Resort/pool/beach. - HOT

Day 3 – St. Johns – Trunk Bay snorkeling/swimming/exploring - HOT

Day 4 – Tortuga – Cane Garden Bay snorkeling/swimming/exploring - HOT

Day 5 – Marriott Resort/pool/beach - HOT

Day 6 – Fly to Miami (9:10 a.m.), lunch at airport in MIA, fly to Tampa. 
Arrive 5:00 p.m.

Packing List
8 underwear                      I will pack toothpaste, toothbrushes, Chap-Stick,
bras                                   sunblock, and swim masks & snorkels
4 socks                              We will use shampoo/conditioner from hotels.
4 shorts
6 shirts
1-2 sundresses or cute short set (shopping in town, dinner out)
2 bathing suits
flip flops
2 pjs
beach cover-up
tennis shoes/walking shoes
make-up (Caitlin)
hair bands/head bands/brush
jewelry (please keep to a minimum)

Backpacks for Plane
cameras/batteries/chargers/memory disks

Here's an example of another one from a trip 2 years ago:

Mediterranean Cruise Packing List
(plan for 11 days/10 nights)

Day 1 - Airplane for 24 hours

Day 2 - Arrive in Venice, 53 F, rainy, spend the day & 1 night

Day 3 - Board ship, at sea, dinner on ship

Day 4 - Arrive Split, Croatia, 64 F, light rain, walking, dinner on ship

Day 5 - At sea, dinner on ship

Day 6 - Arrive Naples, Italy, 60 F, trip to Pompeii, lots of walking, 
dinner on ship

Day 7 - Arrive Rome, Italy, 60 F, train, lots of walking, dinner on ship

Day 8 - Arrive Livorno, Italy, 55 F, train, Florence/Pisa, LOTS of walking, 
dinner on ship

Day 9 - Arrive Toulon, France, 55 F, walking, dinner on ship

Day 10 & 11 - Arrive Barcelona, depart ship, check into hotel, walking, 
spend 2 nights, 55 F

Day 12 - Fly home – flight VERY early in the morning

Packing List
12 underwear                                I will pack toothpaste, toothbrushes, 
bras                                               Chap-Stick
12 socks                                        We will use shampoo/conditioner from hotels
4-5 pants                                        and cruise ship.
8 shirts
4-5 sweaters
1 heavy jacket
1 rain jacket
scarves/hat/1 set gloves
tennis shoes/walking shoes (all comfortable)
make-up (Caitlin)
hair bands/head bands/hair brush
jewelry (please keep to a minimum)
1 bathing suit 

cameras/batteries/chargers/memory disks
Blankie – if want (only 1 small stuffed animal)

This is pretty self-explanatory. I think this give my kids a little responsibility plus they like all the clothes they pack, not outfits I would have put together (that never flies anymore because I am old and I don't remember what it was like being a kid!). 

Well, I am off to pack for myself and then leaving tomorrow. Can't wait to tell you all about our trip but that will be for another post!

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Happy Birthday America!

Just a quick note to wish everyone a Happy 4th of July!! This past February,
my family and I decided to take a long weekend trip to Washington DC.
We had a great time and saw ALL the patriotic spots. The weather went from
lightly snowing one day to warm the next, but we survived!

This is on the rooftop of Charlie Palmer's Steakhouse.
The waiter took a liking to the girls and asked the general manager
to take us up there. He was fantastic and gave us time
to take all our photos! 
The wind on the other hand, was not as cooperative!
I still think these photos are so fun!!

So I hope you and your family have a happy and safe holiday. Eat lots of
burgers and potato salad and enjoy the day off!! Back to organizing tomorrow,
but that's for another post!

Monday, July 2, 2012

Inexpensive Homemade Gift Ideas . . .

Ok, so I am little behind in posting this because this is something I made back in May (truthfully, it slipped my mind). I needed a last minute gift for my Girl Scout troop parent volunteers. Having been a Girl Scout leader for the past 8 years (1 more to go!), I had run out of ideas for homemade gifts. Normally, the girls make the gifts but we also ran out of meetings so I was left to my own skills (ha, ha!) such as they are.  So I looked in my craft cabinet, found 4 tall glass cylinders and some Modge Podge, and got to work! 

I believe I got these from the Dollare Tree - the dollar store where the items actually cost only $1.
I printed out the GS Promise and Law on regular paper.
I had some old Mod Podge (yeah, look at the top of the jar!). I have used a version of
watering down glue for projects in the past and they have worked just as well as the Modge Podge - I just had it on hand and like saying Modge Podge. I tore strips of the poems and haphazardly started gluing them on. I did the top and then turned the jar over to do the rest.
Once all spots were covered, I put one more layer of Mod Modge all over the outside.
I didn't like the rough edges showing so I added the ribbon to the top and bottom.
Here's a close-up version of the finished project.
We filled them with daisies (sorry, no photo) and the moms loved them!
The next day, and still on a Mod Podge roll (no it wasn't the smell of the glue), I needed a gift for one of the days of Teacher Appreciation Week. Each day of the week, we are assigned items to bring in, this day being candy. I did not have time (or the forethought) to run to the Dollar Store so I had these canning jars. 
I found some poems about teachers and printed them out. 
Back to gluing!
Almost finished project - I decided, after taking the photo - of course, to add a ring of ribbon to the top and it gave it that finished look. We filled the jars with Hershey's Hugs and Kisses for a couple of the teachers who particularly loved them and Ghiradelli Dark Chocolate Squares for two who are on Weight Watchers (and added a note for how many Points in each square!). My daughter then wrote a note of thanks and we were good to go.
I think they look great - use your imagination for the ribbon!!

As I was making the gifts, I realized that they could be made for any occasion. You could use sheet music or lyrics for the piano teacher, scores and schedules for an athletic Coach, you get the idea.

Now back to organizing my craft room, but that's for another post!