Sunday, April 29, 2012

just for funsies.

Just before my trip to Virginia, my sister and I had the pleasure of a little fousin rendezvous as Elisa made a quick trip up to the DFW area on her week back in Texas. As she was one who introduced us to the glorious goodness that is Cavalli pizza (to which I will always owe her a great debt of gratitude), that was her restaurant of choice and we were all too happy to oblige.

We feasted on salad, pizza and a nutella calzone...yes, you read that right.  Pizza dough and nutella come together in a match made in heaven.  Of course, no fousin time is ever complete without a superfluous amount of picture-taking, because really, every single moment must be properly documented.

And then, things got a little cray-cray.  I'm pretty sure the next two pics are some of my all-time favorites.  Props to Michelle for capturing these freestyle moments on the patio of Cavallis while the staff and owner looked on with what I can only imagine was delight and awe at our talents.

And that's all I got. This post was just for funsies -- so I could document our night on my blog.

just the way you look tonight.

As a part of my dad's 60th birthday present, I got him a gift certificate to The Old Warsaw and an invitation for a date with me. The restaurant is of particular significance as he took our family there when I was about 10 or 11. We got all dressed up, had a limo pick us up, ate the fanciest dinner we had ever experienced and cruised around in the limo to end our night. It was the first time I was ever in a limo and definitely the first time I was in a shi-shi restaurant of that caliber. Suffice it to say, we felt like royalty and it is forever such a wonderful memory. While I can't say I hired a limo to serve as our transportation for the date, we still dressed up and treated it like the special occasion that it was.

My dad obliged (without my even asking) and joined me in a celebratory champagne toast to start the evening. He's a man after my own heart and I wouldn't choose another guy to cheers with. (He even obliged the numerous picture requests.)

We perused the menu for quite some time before deciding on appetizers which were a blue cheese and apple salad and a grilled portabella mushroom with goat cheese. After we demolished those, it was time with the customary palate-cleansing sorbet. Yes, that is correct. This is one of the two restaurants I have ever been to in my life that is still rockin' it old-school and serving the sorbet between courses - I love it!

I should note they had live music - a pianist and violinist which were just delightful. We were definitely their most enthusiastic audience members, clapping loudly after each song. As such, they took not just one, but two requests from us. On the initial go-round, I was trying to think of "Just the Way You Look Tonight," but instead botched my request and asked for "You Look Wonderful Tonight." Not to worry, though, because I do happen to really enjoy that Eric Clapton song and I finally got my correct request in later in the evening.

Anyway, after our palates were sufficiently cleased, we were served our entrees of braised pheasant (my choice) and chilean sea bass (his choice). They were both wonderful and we switched plates midway through.

We capped off our indulgent meal with the piece de resistance: chocolate souffle with a rich chocolate sauce. The souffle comes out piping hot and the server pours in the rich, thick chocolate ganache right into the center - holy cow. It is definitely the most memorable item from the meal I enjoyed there some 18 years ago. Sadly, I do not have a picture, but it is probably best this way as you might be tempted to lick the screen otherwise.

It was such a special time with my dad and I cannot thank him enough for being a wonderful date. I look forward to many more father-daughter outings in the future, but perhaps a bit more budget-friendly. How does pizza sound??? I know a great place...

team smith 2012

 A couple weekends ago, I, along with Kori and Jon's friends and family, participated in the 5-mile walk for March of Dimes.  This is the 2nd year we have marched in honor of Smith's life, but this year, Kori was pushing his healthy 1-year old baby brother along the route.  Things looked quite a bit different last year, as Kori was in the hospital having been on bed-rest for 2 months.  What a difference a year makes.

Once again, I was reminded of God's faithfulness and the overwhelming truth that He always has us, that He will never leave us or forsake us.  Gray's life is such a miracle, and that was never so apparent to me as when we were walking. was Smith's.  Even though he lived only a matter of days on this earth, his short life had a profound impact that reached far beyond the hospital that he never left.  His life was not in vain and had instrinsic purpose.  I praise God that I was able to be a witness during those days and I praise Him for the privilege to see the overwhelming joy of my dear friend Kori as she is such a beautiful mama with Gray - "though the sorrow may last for the night, His joy comes in the morning."

Monday, April 23, 2012

celebrating one miraculous year of life.

A couple weekends ago, I had the distinct privilege of celebrating Mr. Gray's first birthday. His life is such a precious miracle and a testament of God's grace, mercy and provision (and a beautiful testament of a mother's love as his mama, my dear friend Kori, had to spend weeks upon weeks in a sterile hospital room, confined to bed rest in order to preserve his life safe within her womb). I cannot believe he is already one and I cannot hardly stand how cute this little man has become.
Kori and Jon did a bang-up job executing the Mickey Mouse themed extravaganza and no detail was left untouched. Everything was so cute and I was blown away by all the creative ideas, but with the two of them, I suppose I shouldn't be too surprised.
After lunch and presents, it was time for the main event: the all important first bite of birthday cake. Per usual, Kori got an adorable cake from the Cake Stand and they did not disappoint in terms of design and flavor. Clearly, Gray takes after his mama as he went to town on that cake and took it down like a champ. The guests also went to town on that cake and I enjoyed it for several days after the party.
All in all, it was such a beautiful day as we got to celebrate the blessing of Gray's life. I so enjoyed getting to spend some time with this sweet boy and I look forward to seeing him grow up (just not too fast).

Monday, April 16, 2012

i shall miss your bright eyes and sweet smile smile.

If you are completely confused by the title of this post, you need to watch more romantic comedies. If you totally got it, congrats, you're in good company.

Anyway, as promised, here is a lightening speed wrap-up of my time on the east coast. After an absolutely glorious celebration of Christ's Resurrection on Sunday, we were ready for more toasting and more quality fousin bonding time. We were slightly slow on the draw in terms of getting our day started, but once we made it out the door, we drove through some beautiful countryside in search of our first destination of the day: Sunset Hills Vineyard.

This place was every bit as picturesque as it appears in these photos. However, I cannot say the same of the vino. The striped trio saddled up to the bar for our tasting and were promptly dismayed when we discovered the list of six tastings only contained two reds, with whites and sweets rounding out the selection...blast! E and I made the most of our tasting, but China opted out in favor of a glass 'o wine. When it was all said and done, I think she made the smart choice.

Our tasting was so lackluster that we rallied late in the game and took our party to the tried and true North Gate Vineyard. We had the place to ourselves and did a half tasting of four delightful reds. As much as I like to try new things, sometimes you just gotta stick with what ya know, word?

Tuesday (my departure day) came way too fast and I spent the first morning logged on at work, but once the clock struck 1:00, China and I headed out for my final adventure which was lunch and a walk around the city...but not just any city, our nation's capital. We took the time to stop and smell the roses (and the divine cupcakes at Red Velvet...I'm telling ya, if I could live in that bakery and smell that intoxicating aroma of fresh baked cupcakes and buttercream frosting 24-7, I would be a happy girl) before we dined on tapas at Jaleo.

After our late lunch, we had just enough time to snap the always-necessary photo opp in front of the capital building. I'm a big fan of China's portrait. To me, it looks like she is super-imposed onto the picture...and I just think she looks super cute as well.

As they say, "all good things must come to an end" and that phrase is never more painfully true than when I am headed home from a fun-filled fousin visit (or when a bottle of champagne is empty, but that's for another post). But they also say "better to have loved and lost than to never have loved at all" to which I will change and apply as "better to have visited and missed than to have never visited at all."

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Christ the Lord has risen today - Alleluia.

11 But Mary was standing outside the tomb weeping; and so, as she wept, she stooped and looked into the tomb; 12 and she *saw two angels in white sitting, one at the head and one at the feet, where the body of Jesus had been lying. 13 And they *said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She *said to them, “Because they have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid Him.” 14 When she had said this, she turned around and *saw Jesus standing there, and did not know that it was Jesus. 15 Jesus *said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” Supposing Him to be the gardener, she *said to Him, “Sir, if you have carried Him away, tell me where you have laid Him, and I will take Him away.” 16 Jesus *said to her, “Mary!” She turned and *said to Him in [a]Hebrew, “Rabboni!” (which means, Teacher). 17 Jesus *said to her, “Stop clinging to Me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to My brethren and say to them, ‘I ascend to My Father and your Father, and My God and your God.’” 18 Mary Magdalene *came, announcing to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord,” and that He had said these things to her.
John 20:11-18

My resurrection weekend was spent on the east coast in the company of some of my nearest and dearest. It is now the home of my fousins and while I miss them immensely, I do love that I've been able to see new places with my trips to visit them. My weekend started rather leisurely with an americano and hazelnut cookie sandwich at a local coffee shop and a rare siting of the Easter bunny.

We quickly kicked it into high gear with a massive marathon shopping spree where we hit up not one, but three grocery stores in search of all the necessary ingredients for the huge Easter dinner they were hosting the next evening.

We did manage to get a little down time before we headed to the Saturday night Easter Vigil service. As we walked up to the church, we were met with this jaw-dropping gem of a tree and of course, had to take pictures. Can you believe those lush pink blossoms? It overwhelms me even looking at the pictures now on my screen.

After a beautiful service, filled with the truths of the scripture and the hope that is our new life in Christ, we kept the joy and merriment going right on into celebration mode. It was past midnight and high-time to cheers with a little champagne toast and lots of chocolate (for the fousins).

Resurrection Sunday greeted us with sun and blue skies. We warmed up with a little Sandy Patti as we put on our Easter best and headed out the door for church. The line to get into church snaked around the entire building at all entrances. We belted out "Christ the Lord has Risen Today" with all our might and I think our voices might have been louder than the rest combined. I couldn't help but lift my voice and I really wanted to clap. It was tough, but I refrained.

Elisa and I took advantage of the car ride home to test out the flip view camera function on my phone.

Ed, Sophia and a very pregnant Lianna joined us for an Easter brunch of migas, muffins, cinnamon rolls and the ever-present, always dependable grapefruit mimosas. Lianna was looking radiant and it was such a gift to be able to see her just days before giving birth to a new life. How very appropriate it is to be welcoming new life right in the thick of spring. Obviously, life is always welcome, but I don't really think I had previously reflected on how very fitting it is to give birth around the time of Easter, when we all celebrate the gift of new life (rebirth) in Christ.

Since Sean had gifted each of the girls in the house a lovely bouquet of tulips and since we consistently feel the need to have adequate photo documentation of every single moment, we took the opportunity to have a little tulip photo shoot after our Easter brunch had concluded. I absolutely love tulips and there is nothing that screams spring more to me than bright bouquets of tulips, whether adorning the home in mismatched vases or lining the streets and neighborhoods in garden beds.

However, as positively lovely as those bouquets were, nothing could have prepared me for what I would like to call "Rachel and Elisa in Easter Wonderland." After doing some baking (key lime pie and homemade rum cake) in preparation for our grand Easter dinner, E and I decided to take a stroll down the floral-lined neighborhood streets of their quaint little suburb. I think this might be my most favorite thing I did my entire trip because what started as taking a short walk around the block quickly turned into a 2-hour photo shoot of magic, whimsy and glorious beauty. Forgive the veritable onslaught of pictures, but believe me when I tell you, I actually trimmed down to include only my favorites.

Once we were certain every angle was captured and every possible Kodak moment was snapped, we continued our journey up and down the streets bursting with vibrant blooms on every corner. Everywhere you looked, there was a new type of flower to beheld and a new color to marvel. I mean, would you get a load of that lamp post encased with a bounty of floral? How perfectly picturesque is that? It looks like it is straight out of a movie, of the fairytale variety. All the floral magnificence was almost too much for me to handle. It blew my mind and knocked my Easter socks right off.

We could have soaked in the beauty until the sun set, but unfortunately, after essentially pouring pollen all over our faces in an attempt to capture the perfect petal cascade pic, Elisa suffered a massive allergy attack of epic proportions and that is no exaggeration. We scurried our way back to the house, but I'm afraid the damage had been done and there was no turning back.

I would like to say that I went into dinner prep mode and working right alongside Chef China to prepare a gourment feast; however, that would be a lie. While I contributed with a fruit and cheese plate, a key lime pie and assisted in a rum cake with rum butter cream icing, I'm afriad that was the extent of my culinary contributions. China, on the other hand, worked fast and furiously prepared bacon-wrapped dates, roasted pork loin, cherry gravy, brussel sprouts w/bacon and chorizo cornbread stuffing. Add to that the guests' offerings of scalloped potatoes with leeks, roasted asparagus, two types of salads, grilled vegetables, homemade bread, spinach ravioli and probably a ton more that I cannot recall at this time. The place was packed, 18-deep but it was a wonderful Easter dinner full of life and love.

The day was easily one of my best Resurrection Sundays to date. I was surrounded by so many who were truly focused on the life of Christ, the way He humbled Himself and became a man -- I just cannot even begin to truly grasp the weight of that and the magnitude of the reality that He died for me. Oh glorious day, oh miraculous truth.

"But God demonstrates His own love toward us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us."
Romans 5:8

P.S. a wrap up of the rest of my trip is yet to come.