Monday, May 23, 2011

A Special Weekend In Baltimore

Since I've lived in New York, I've been quite blessed to be able to make the trip to Baltimore many times to visit my dear friends, Amanda and Jay. I've talked about Amanda a ton but I just have to reiterate how much I adore her and I have a very uniquely special friendship with Jay outside of her, too. The pair of them are so special to me and, with each year that goes by, our friendships continue to strengthen and grow. I just love them. A whole new chapter is about to begin for them as Amanda is less than a month away from having their first baby.

I made the trip to Baltimore this past weekend to be a part of her baby shower and it was such a fabulous visit. I took Friday off work and hopped on the 8:00am bus which proved to be awesome. I had zero issues which never ever ever happens to me when I take the bus. I actually got in 20 minutes early, in fact! That, my friends, is a very big treat. Amanda met me at the bus station and I just about died when she got out of the car. She's absolutely adorable with her baby belly and what's even better is that she's 100% the same Amanda, not an ounce different. I think a lot of women who are pregnant or moms already tend to change drastically and a lot of times that comes with excuses. It's well known that my three very best girl friends are all incredibly different from one another but they each possess one very rare quality - they choose to remain who they are, even in marriage and with children. It's my favorite part about about them and why I can call the three of them my best friends. Amanda is quick to say that she will "never say never" and that she realizes motherhood might make her different in a not so great way. However, the important thing is she's aware that it's a decision to change who you are. I look up to Erica greatly in this way because, even with two children, she makes time for the things that are important to her and doesn't make excuses. At any rate, it's refreshing. 

After Amanda picked me up, we went to meet Jay and his parents, Johnny and Kasey, and his sister, Greer, for lunch. I haven't seen Jay's parents in so long and I just adore them! It was wonderful catching up and then me, Amanda and Greer went to the salon to get nails done. We had a totally relaxed day, talked about everything under the sun, drank some delicious sparkling rose...just had a lovely day together. That evening, it was off to the Orioles game which was an absolute blast: 
I mean honestly, could Amanda be more adorable:
I must mention that coming to Baltimore means drinking plenty of Natty Boh, too. I feel so at home:
We made it an early night since we were all pretty beat and had a long day ahead for the shower on Saturday.  Amanda's sister-in-law, Nicole, threw the shower at her beautiful home in Leesburg about an hour away while all the guys went to play golf. The weather couldn't have been nicer and the day spent with my favorite people in Amanda's life was really special. I was overjoyed to share this time with everyone and I couldn't stop smiling as we celebrated the anticipation of baby Jack's arrival. What priceless time together:
Amanda's adorable mom who is more fun than some of my friends my age:
 My skillet:
The whole day passed way too fast and eventually we headed back to Baltimore. I got a couple of beers with Greer (seriously, two natty bohs were only $5 which always makes me question why the heck I live in NYC) while the guys showered and then it was off to dinner at Saute. It was such a nice end to a truly lovely day.

My bus was pretty early on Sunday and the goodbyes came way too fast. I loved my time with the Walther/Mulvihill families and it was the kind of visit that will make me smile for days after. I absolutely cannot wait to meet baby Jack this summer and I pray such blessing over this sweet family. I thank god all the time for the gift that Amanda and Jay are to me. June 22nd will be here in a blink and we'll welcome a very special baby boy to the world. :)

Thursday, May 19, 2011

The Magical Land Of Vermont

I work in an industry where money is not exactly the first thing people struggle with. Numbers fly around all the time that blow my mind yet it’s commonplace for certain people to spend ungodly sums on things I can’t even begin to entertain. As one might expect, a lot of that spending is on vacations in places of luxury. Places that I might wish and hope to one day save to go to but that realistically won’t (most likely) be able to. This past weekend, I was enormously blessed by stepping into that world for just a moment. I escaped to the beautiful mountains of Vermont and got to experience the exquisite, exclusive and stunning Twin Farms resort.
My brother was recently gifted with the opportunity of a weekend at Twin Farms through a work event. The gift was a farmhouse housing eight people for two nights. He chose to have our family spend the weekend with him there which was simply amazing. Though I’d scoured their site over and over, nothing could quite prepare me for how truly beautiful this place was. Allison and I flew into Burlington on Friday morning and arrived at the very same time mom and dad did from Atlanta. Twin Farms had a car waiting on us and it was off to the resort an hour and a half away. Michael, Wynn and her parents were already there and all of us were just so excited to see each other. As the van pulled into the property, there were acres and acres of land that was stunning. The only unfortunate part of our timing there is that their big snow had just melted so flowers were only just beginning to bloom. Trust me when I say that that is the only unfortunate part of anything about Twin Farms. When we went to check out our rooms, we were greeted with this lovely spread:
I’m not sure how to re-cap the weekend because it was one of those places that struck your heart and moved you. You can’t exactly “write” a feeling, you know? After we’d toured the farmhouse, we stepped out onto our private patio off the living room and the majesty of the mountains, the serenity of the lake, the true beauty of where I was standing overcame me a bit and I started to cry:
It was one of those feelings like god was just there among us in the trees, clouds, grass…everywhere. It was powerful. I honestly couldn’t believe this place was ours for the whole weekend. It was so exciting! Dad, in his sweet simplicity, was actually blown away by his very first pellegrino:
Ha! He's so cute. :) Once we all got over how joyously overwhelmed we were, we each decided to do our own thing. I got some vino and went to sit by the lake with Avis and Ed:
Around 4pm, we all went down to the main house for ‘tea time’ and enjoyed the most delicious mint tea (literally only fresh mint from their garden steeped in hot water), homemade tea sandwiches and cookies. The simplicity of sipping tea in front of a crackling fire is amazing in how wonderful it makes you feel. We visited for quite some time and then it was time to change for dinner. Is mom not the most adorable woman or what:
At Twin Farms, there is one seating for dinner. It is a five star resort and the food is taken very seriously. The dinners are five courses with wine pairings, all spaced out nicely, and it is a very special event. Obviously, this was my favorite part of the weekend. Breakfast and lunch are more casual but dinner is serious business. We were treated like kings and queens, drinking fantastic wine and dining on ingredients straight from their garden and farm three miles away. In efforts to keep this at a somewhat manageable length, I can’t really detail the food or I’d be here all day.
After dinner, we moseyed down to the pub where we played pool, danced and had such fun together:
They have an original Wurlitzer jukebox where we put on artists like Otis Redding and Ray Charles and sang right along. After all that, we went back to the farmhouse and me, Mom and Allison poured some more wine and sat outside with our feet in the hottub. It got very cold so it was just amazing to sit out there like that. I was blown away by how bright and clear the moon was, too. I’ve never lived in or been to an area where the sky is so clear and moon so bright that it casts full shadows and you can find your way as easily at night as you can during the day.

The entire night was one of the most special I’ve had. The cherry on top that I must note is that we all had fireplaces in our rooms (two of them!) so I was able to fall asleep to the glow and crackle of the fire with a light breeze from the cracked windows:
I think that might be what heaven is like.
Allison and I woke up super early on Saturday to go down to the gym before everyone else got up. When we came back to the farmhouse, everyone was already up and having coffee which was great. I actually grabbed a cup and went outside for some alone time. I wanted to clear my head and just have that time on my own to calm my recently crazed mind. I’ve been running on fumes lately and I can’t really explain what that 45 minutes or so of just ‘being’ and staring out at the mountains did for me. I really needed it.

Soon enough, we all gathered down at the main house for breakfast and man, were we in for a treat. Again, I reiterate that the food is ‘farm to table’ fresh and absolutely everything they make is done from scratch. Their specialty at breakfast is the soufflĂ© style pancakes that you can have done however you’d like. I chose to do lemon-blueberry and I’ve never ever had something like that in my life:
I could’ve eaten a house. The basket of pastries with homemade scones and muffins were absolutely to die for, also. We talked to our server, Rebecca, for a long time about their local farms and how they get all the ingredients that they do. They work closely with Les and Nova who are foragers that literally scour the woods and mountains for wild, fresh and local ingredients. They are amazing. We spoke to Rebecca for so long that eventually she invited us right into the kitchen where we met several of the chefs, one of whom I had a crush on. ;) They couldn't have been nicer or more welcoming. That was such a treat!

I went back to the house to shower and then spent the day riding bikes through town, stopping to see the cows along the way, reading by the fire...doing anything and everything I felt like doing. One of my favorite things was seeing how overwhelmed dad was with all he got to experience. Dad is such a simple man in the best of ways. It hardly takes anything to make him happy, just being with family really. I drank wine by the fire with him for a while and I just loved capturing a small part of that peaceful moment:
We had yet another unbelievable dinner later that evening that was fun getting fancy for. :) I wish I could do that all the time:
As long as this post is, I could really keep going for days. There are so many small details that made the weekend incredibly special and I wish I had the time to write about them all. I really must humbly say that I'm deeply grateful for being so blessed to experience not just Vermont but Vermont in a way that not many people of my means are able. I still feel giddy thinking of every single part of Twin Farms and I truly do hope I get to return at some point. I can really speak for each of us in saying we legitimately missed the staff and it took a few days to get back to normal after returning home. What a fabulous treat it was to go there and I vow to somehow get back to the magical land of Vermont and Twin Farms, soon. Thank you for sharing this gift with us, Michael. You are simply amazing.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Happy May, Happy Spring!

Spring was here in full bloom, no pun intended, this past weekend and it couldn't have been more appropriate to welcome in the month of May. I've decided to stop talking about how fast time passes and just do my best to make the most of each day even if they fly by. :P

I was thrilled over the weekend that my brother, Michael, came in town last minute for work. I'd originally had my long bike ride planned for Saturday and Hearth for Sunday but I was excited to postpone Hearth in order to spend the day with him. First off, Saturday could not have been more amazing for a ride. We did 60 miles and I enjoyed every minute of it. We actually stopped for lunch at this great park in a town called Pascack, NJ which was so pretty:
I'm just loving the vibrant colors of trees and flowers right now. We rode along the water a bit as well and I'm mad I didn't get a picture of one of the coral/pink trees I saw. It was stunning! Finally, Spring is sticking around for a bit for us to enjoy it!

On Sunday, I met Michael and Allison at Starbucks and we walked over to church. Tim Keller gave a great service, as usual, and afterward we took a nice walk along Park Avenue to show Michael the metal art that is just so beautiful:
We stopped a few times to look at other flowers and I'm just lucky that they plant my favorite tulips everywhere:
Tulips are such happy flowers. I love how they look like they're just reaching for the sun. They make me smile. :)

We had a lovely brunch at The National which I'd been wanting to try for a while and then we roamed all over Michael's old stomping grounds in the west village for the rest of the day:
There are so many memories there for Michael and it was really interesting seeing several places that had closed down even in just two years that he and Wynn have been in LA. One of his favorite bookstores had closed and turned into a trendy cafe which made him so sad. It's strange to re-visit something, either physically or emotionally, that you were once so tied to. It's a reminder that life keeps moving on whether you're a part of it or not. Then, you look at where you are now and there's joy in that, too. Life's a funny thing, isn't it? 

We stopped by Michael's two apartments and sat on one of his old stoops for a while watching people come and go:
Josh Brolin was one of those people and a) he's hot and 2) he's short. I was shocked. He's still smokin' in my book, though.

We rounded out the day back in our 'hood at Libertador for some caipirinhas and snacks, mmm: 
We talked for a long time there and it was just the perfect way to end such a great day together. Though the visit was short, it was quality. That's so special and I'm very thankful for that time together. Lucky for me, Vermont is less than two weeks away where I'll get yet another wonderful visit with Michael. :) I can't wait!