Saturday, November 10, 2012

We're on the Move!

Yes, you read that right...  The Keenan's are moving again!  No, Conor hasn't joined the military nor are we secretly members of a traveling circus...   But after only a year in Seattle, we are packing up our home and moving to Salt Lake City!  No, we aren't converting to the Mormon faith either...

Conor has accepted a position as Material Control Manager with his current company Hexcel.  This is a huge promotion for him!  I am so proud of him and all his hard work & achievements!!!  Unfortunately, this position is in Salt Lake City.  Neither of us are thrilled about the move as we love Seattle and our house here, but we both understand that this is the best decision for our family and for advancing Conor's career.

Everyone wants to know when exactly we'll be making the move, which is still a little bit up in the air.  Conor will start commuting weekly to SLC starting next Monday, while Liam & I split our time between Spokane & Seattle.  We are planning on putting our house on the market as soon as possible and begin looking for a house in SLC.  With the holiday season upon us, I don't want the pending move to inhibit any of my holiday plans!  I will certainly be decking the halls regardless of how much actual time either of us will be at our house.  As of right now, we think we'll officially be leaving Seattle in early January.

We shall see where life takes us, but we would love to eventually find our way back to the Pacific Northwest (or Spokane or Montana).  Being close to family is important to us.  In the mean time, we are looking at this opportunity as another great adventure.  Wish us luck and COME VISIT!` :-)

Friday, July 13, 2012

Happy Birthday America!

On Monday afternoon, my doctor gave me the okay to travel to Spirit Lake for the 4th of July!  Conor has been working long hours lately, so it was a much needed vacation.  When we arrived at my parents cabin, my dad had a tentative itinerary written down; oh, I am just like my father.  Conor & I helped add to it throughout our week, and then we completely gave up by the end.  I thought it would be fun to only post our schedule and some pictures to go along!  Things I learned after reviewing the itinerary: we do a lot of welcoming...  Enjoy the craziness that is the Simpson Family!

Tuesday - July 3
3:00-3:30  Keenan Family Welcome Ceremony (and toasts)

5:30-6:30 Darts Practice Rounds / Mojitos or Margaritas?

7:00  Dinner

8:30  Pregnancy & Birthing Update (Q & A with Conor)

Wednesday - July 4
All day intermittent jigsaw puzzling: Laura's choice

8:00  Lattes & Miller's Maple Bars / Gin Fizzes?

11:00-1:00 Spirit Lake 4th of July Parade

1:00-1:05 Optional Tour of Downtown Spirit Lake

1:05-2:00  Free Time: bikes, kayaks, badminton, etc.

2:00-4:00 Party Boat Ride with Ryan, Chelsea, Linnea, Miles, & baby Hadley

4:00 Uncle Tom's Arrival & Welcome

4:00-5:30 Spirit Lake Championship Dart Tournament & Beer & Mancave Bratwurst Sampling

6:30 Dinner

7:30-8:00  Boat Ride Prep

8:00 9:12 (sharp)  Business Casual Boat Ride / Fireworks & Fire on the dock!

*All times are subject to unexpected visits by Scaper*

Thursday - July 5
9:00 Breakfast at Annie's Country Kitchen

10:30  Lawn mowing, dock assessment, & puzzling

12:00  Exercise & Boat Ride Prep

1:00  Lunch & Booze Cruise

5:00  Uncle Tom / Courtney & Taylor Arrival for Post 4th of July Party - Conor to explain the circumstances surrounding the mysterious Simpson deck fire of last night

6:30 Pizza Dinner / Boci Ball (Conor won)

8:30 Fire in the Pit - S'mores

Friday - July 6
7:00 Conor flies with Uncle Tom

8:30  Maple Bars Banana Bread & Lattes

9:00  Dump Run  Emergency Dentist Appt

9:30  11:00  4 mile Trail Walk

12:00  Dump Run for boys / Grocery Store for girls

12:30 Gin Fizzes

1:30 Party Boating (boat tour of Spirit Lake)

4:00  Free Time

5:30  Tony & Cindy Higley for Cocktail Hour

7:00 Dinner (Beer Can Chicken)

8:00  S'mores (again...the pregnant lady is craving them)

9:00  Game of Scott's Choosing

Saturday - July 7

8:30  Round of Golf at Twin Lakes for the boys

9:00  Hayden Lake Farmer's Market for the girls

1:00  Ryan, Chelsea, Stephanie, John, & baby Hadley Welcoming

2:00 Party Boat Lake Tour

5:00  Downtown Spirit Lake Pub Crawl with Fried Pickles

7:30  Dinner (Flank Steak)

8:30 S'mores...again

9:00  A sampling of all alcoholic beverages begins

10:30  Pregnant lady hits the sheets...

11:00  Chaos (ie. walking on hot coals)

Sunday - July 8

9:00  Miller's Maple Bars & Omelet Bar courtesy of Conor

9:30  Nap Time (for babies & those with a hangover)

10:00  Shari's Farmer's Market

11:00 Pack up the Car

12:00  Keenan Send Off :'(

Thursday, May 31, 2012

May Foodie Penpal

It's time to share my package of goodies from my May Foodie Penpal! My box was sent to me
by Toni from

The Lean Green Bean

Toni sent me a box filled with snacks ready to eat.  Just like last month, I dug in right away. I have no idea how she stayed under the $15 limit...apparently she's quite the savvy grocery shopper!  Once again, I was horrible about taking pictures, I have this one of the whole stash.

First up was a package of farro.  It is an Italian wheat, which Toni said was great in soups & salads.  She enclosed a recipe as well, so I had an idea of how to use it.  I had never even heard of this before!  I am so excited to give it a try, but unfortunately haven't had time to make anything with it yet.  Conor & I have had a crazy busy schedule lately, so every dinner I made has been quick & simple.

The next item to catch my eye was whole wheat couscous from Trader Joe's.  I love couscous and never knew you could buy a whole wheat version, bonus!  I used this in a saffron couscous recipe that I make all the time.  It went perfectly with some blue cheese & mushroom stuffed burgers I made last week.

One of my favorite items was the Bear Naked Fit vanilla almond crunch granola.  As you all know, I've been a huge oats/granola kick lately, so this was perfect.  I really like the Bear Naked brand, but hadn't tried any of their Fit mixes.  This granola was very light & healthy.  I liked it, but the pregnant woman in me would still prefer a sweeter granola.  :-)

My absolute favorite item was the chocolate cookies from Tate's Bake Shop!  These were to die for!  Crispy little morsels of goodness.  Many of the cookies broke in the shipping process, which was alright by me because this way I had no idea how many cookies I was eating!  Conor & I devoured these in two nights, and I haven't stopped thinking about them since.
Ironically, I received another thing of Nutella To Go this month.  The people of New York must really love their nutella (Toni is from New York as was last month's penpal)!  I ate this treat in about two seconds.  Once again delicious and was just what my sweet tooth needed!

The rest of the box was filled with all sorts of little snacks.  Included were Aurora Natural Cranberry Health Mix, Lara Bars, a Kind bar, and Pop Corners (popped corn chips).   I loved having a bunch of new snacks on hand, because I am always hungry!  Plus they were easy to throw in my gym bag.

My penpal this month was a reader (not a blogger) so there will be no post from her.  Since I had no blog to check out, I had to guess on what I thought she might like.  I decided to send a few goodies that are all found in the Northwest, since she lives in New Mexico.  From Seattle: Tom Douglas rub with love & Snoqualmie Falls Pancake Mix.  From Spokane: Blue Cornbread Mix from Christs's Kitchen.

Here's what she said about my box in an email: "Got your box today! I just bought fresh blueberries and strawberries so tomorrow's breakfast might just be waffle n berries! I LOVE cornbread! I have been waiting to make a Paula Dean BBQ chicken and corn bread recipe so this is perfect ;) oh and my husband is from Spokane! We lived there for a bit when we were first married; small world! The salmon rub I think I'll use on fresh cut sweet potato wedges! The hubby doesn't eat ANY seafood at all but the ingredients in this seem to be just what I'd use on the wedges! Thanks again Laura. (I was secretly hoping you'd send chocolate cherries from Pike Street Market!) haha just kidding ;)"

I love Foodie Penpals, but unfortunately think I might need to take a break for a few months while I wait for Liam to arrive!

Here's some information about Foodie Penpals if anyone is interested:

-On the 5th of every month, you will receive your penpal pairing via email. It will be your responsibility to contact your penpal and get their mailing address and any other information you might need like allergies or dietary restrictions.
-You will have until the 15th of the month to put your box of goodies in the mail. On the last day of the month, you will post about the goodies you received from your penpal!
-The boxes are to be filled with fun foodie things, local food items or even homemade treats! The spending limit is $15. The box must also include something written. This can be anything from a note explaining what’s in the box, to a fun recipe…use your imagination!
-You are responsible for figuring out the best way to ship your items depending on their size and how fragile they are. (Don’t forget about flat rate boxes!)
-Foodie Penpals is open to blog readers as well as bloggers. If you’re a reader and you get paired with a blogger, you are to write a short guest post for your penpal to post on their blog about what you received. If two readers are paired together, neither needs to worry about writing a post for that month.
If you’re interested in participating for June, please CLICK HERE to fill out the participation form and read the terms and conditions. You will also find contact information on that page for the UK branch of Foodie Penpals if you’re a blogger across the pond.  You must submit your information by June 4th as pairings will be emailed on June 5th!

Monday, April 30, 2012

April Foodie Penpal

It's time to share my first treats from my Foodie Penpal!  My box was sent to me
by Jona from zee lemons.

The Lean Green Bean

Jona sent me the most amazing stash of snacks; I was very excited to dig in. She sent some orzo, tea, a nutella snack pack, and homemade granola (with the recipe). Yes, homemade. She’s good like that! Along with my box, Jona sent a very nice card. There is something to be said about receiving a handwritten card, and I just love receiving mail in general!

(I had planned on taking plenty of pictures of all the goodies, but of course failed at that...I need to get better about using my camera more often!)

The orzo was a local item (Jona is from Troy, New York).  It was Bon Vivant Orzo: wild mushroom, saffron, spinach, & cayenne flavored orzo from Flour City Pasta.  I was so excited to try this since I've only ever used a boring, plain orzo.  The flavors were incredible!  I could really taste the cayenne flavoring which added a nice kick.  Orzo is one of my favorite pastas, but I think it's frequently passed over.  Nice to see someone else has an appreciation for it.  I made this as part of the first dinner Conor & I had on our deck!  Hello warmer weather!

The tea was lavender earl grey from The Whistling Kettle.  I love all things lavender; it's as if Jona knew me! :-)  I have been savoring this tea and am already worried about running out!  Jona suggested I try it with steel cut oats if I was feeling adventurous.  Yes, please!  Does she know how many oats I've been consuming on a regular basis lately?!  I can't wait to try the two together here soon.

The nutella snack pack was was a surprising delight.  I know practically everybody loves nutella, but it's never really been my thing.  However, my pregnant hormones were raging and as soon as I saw the snack pack I knew that I needed to eat it immediately.  I just can't control myself sometimes.  I devoured the snack in a few minutes and was left completely satisfied.  Since this little treat, I have been thinking that I need a nutella & banana crepe...good thing the coffee shop just down the street will be able to help me with that.

The granola was probably my favorite item!  I loved that it was homemade and that she gave me the recipe.  I have always wanted to make my own granola, but never took the time to find a recipe I liked.  Well this one was perfect!  I was on a blueberry kick for awhile so this fit right in with my cravings.  Here is the recipe for those of you who are interested:

Dried Blueberry Granola
2 tbsp honey
2 tbsp coconut oil
1/4 cup maple syrup
2 tsp vanilla extract
3 cups old fashioned oats
1/2 cup shredded coconut
1/2 cup almonds
handful sunflower seeds
3/4 cup dried blueberries
*Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Heat wet ingredients on stove.  Mix dry (except blueberries) in a bowl.  Combine & bake 15-20 minutes.  Add blueberries & enjoy!

Sometimes I alter a recipe depending on what's in my pantry, and sometimes I add my own little touch.  I didn't have maple syrup or honey since I'm an agave nectar kind of girl so I just used 1/4 cup of agave as a substitute for both.  I also added 1 tsp of almond extract since I had it on hand, and I think it was an amazing addition!  The whole house smelled wonderful while it was baking!

Overall, I am so happy that I took part in Foodie Penpals, and I plan on doing it again! I definitely lucked out being paired up with Jona. She knows her stuff. Definitely take some time to check out her blog!

Also check out Adriana’s awesome blog at Foodie Be Fit.  I sent her a box this month, so hopefully she liked it!  I actually sent some similar items to what I received (tea & granola).  Too funny!

Here's some information about Foodie Penpals if anyone is interested:

-On the 5th of every month, you will receive your penpal pairing via email. It will be your responsibility to contact your penpal and get their mailing address and any other information you might need like allergies or dietary restrictions.
-You will have until the 15th of the month to put your box of goodies in the mail. On the last day of the month, you will post about the goodies you received from your penpal!
-The boxes are to be filled with fun foodie things, local food items or even homemade treats! The spending limit is $15. The box must also include something written. This can be anything from a note explaining what’s in the box, to a fun recipe…use your imagination!
-You are responsible for figuring out the best way to ship your items depending on their size and how fragile they are. (Don’t forget about flat rate boxes!)
-Foodie Penpals is open to blog readers as well as bloggers. If you’re a reader and you get paired with a blogger, you are to write a short guest post for your penpal to post on their blog about what you received. If two readers are paired together, neither needs to worry about writing a post for that month.
If you’re interested in participating for May, please CLICK HERE to fill out the participation form and read the terms and conditions. You will also find contact information on that page for the UK branch of Foodie Penpals if you’re a blogger across the pond!
You must submit your information by May 4th as pairings will be emailed on May 5th!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

A tree, hot dog stand, presents, & pickles!

In an effort to catch up on this blog, I'm putting all of December into one post.  The month absolutely flew by and seemed like a blur...

As per tradition, Conor & I got our Christmas tree the day after Thanksgiving.  However, this year there would be not trip to the pub for some cider beforehand.  :'(  Conor thought I was crazy for decorating our house for Christmas even though our movers were arriving on December 20th!  I thought HE was crazy for actually suggesting that I wouldn't be putting up any decorations!  However, I did agree to do no outdoor lights as a compromise.

I got to enjoy our tree and everything else I decorated (which is quite a bit) for a solid three weeks!  Well worth the effort.  The night we put up our tree I got an early Christmas/Congrats-on-being-pregnant gift...a heart rate monitor!  I was very excited to get this so I could continue to work out and not have to worry about my heart rate getting too high.

The first weekend in December, we flew to Spokane for my good friend Andy's wedding.  I have always thought winter weddings were gorgeous, so I was really excited for this one!  I took practically no pictures unfortunately.  I have been terrible about using my camera lately....I need to get better about this before our baby is here!  While being the designated driver isn't my ideal role at a wedding, I still had a wonderful time!  We weren't planning on sharing the news of my pregnancy with friends yet, since I was only 7 weeks along, but after Conor had a few drinks in him the cat was out of the bag!  The highlight of the night was the hot dog stand right outside of the wedding reception!  What a fabulous idea.  Who doesn't love a late night hot dog?!

Back in Arizona, we said goodbye to friends and prepared for our big move.  Although the movers came before Christmas, Conor & I still had to fly back to AZ after the holidays to drive his car and our cats to Seattle.  It was such a busy month, with hardly any time to relax.  However, Christmas is my absolute favorite time of year, and I made sure we enjoyed it!  This year we went the MT to spend Christmas with the Keenans.  It was a short visit, but I had such a great time experiencing all of their traditions with them.  Christmas Eve we went to Church and then had oyster stew with the whole family.  The next morning was stockings & cinnamon rolls followed up later in the day with more presents and a prime rib dinner.  Later into the evening we all had Wii "Just Dance" tournament...and I would just like to say that, yes, I won!!!  Not sure if it was my amazing moves or the fact that I was one of the few people that wasn't a couple glasses of wine deep!  We will never know...

The next morning, we got up super early and were on the road to Spokane was our second half of Christmas!  Unfortunately, my brother Ryan was really sick and missed out on the festivities this year.  It was a fun day filled with brunch (virgin mimosas for the pregnant gals), presents, many competitive games of Foosball & pool, and another delicious prime rib dinner!  This year my mom gave all of us girls (Shalan, Chelsea, & I) and Pandora bracelet with a baby carriage charm for all our little ones on the way!  Such a special gift that I absolutely love.  I have since added to it with a house (when we finally moved in) and a blue glass bead (when we found out Baby K was a boy).  This Christmas was all about baby and next year will be crazy when are the three wee ones crawling around!

New Year's Eve was spent at Spirit Lake.  We went to our favorite bar (of the three choices) The White Horse Saloon.  I was happy because they have the most amazing fried pickles ever!e!!  Seriously, they are the best.  I find myself thinking about those pickles all the time.  While everyone else was enjoying their drinks, I probably housed a whole order of pickles by myself!  Before the bar got too crazy, we headed back to my parents cabin where we played games and watched the ball drop.  I even stayed up til midnight, which at this point in my pregnancy was quite the accomplishment!

Hello 2012!  This is going to be such an exciting year.  Hopefully I will get better about blogging and taking pictures!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Eating for Two

This Thanksgiving was quite a bit different for me, since I didn't get to enjoy my usual mimosa, bloody mary, & wine!  However, Conor & I had a lot to be thankful for this year!  For me, the holiday starts on Wednesday (Prep Day) when I get all my grocery shopping done with every other woman cooking Thanksgiving dinner.  The busyness of the grocery stores is all part of the fun!  The rest of the day is spent brining my turkey (makes it so much more moist) and making pumpkin chiffon pie (my absolute favorite).  When Conor gets home from work that evening, he helps with the rest of the prep cooking so there's not as much to do the next day!

We started our morning with the second annual Thanksgiving Day Walk!  The weather was nice as usual, and it was great to get some exercising in before the big feast!  It's crazy to think that next year, we will be pushing a stroller during our walk...

Conor is a master in the kitchen; he litterally had the stuffing made and the turkey in the oven all while I was taking a shower and getting ready for the day!  We realized we were so prepared this year that we had a ton of down time to relax and watch some football.  This isn't nearly as fun without the morning cocktails, but I survived.  That afternoon, we went to the movie theater (as per tradition) and saw Arthur Christmas.  It was too cute and got me very excited for the holidays!

Our meal was excellent as always and such a fun evening to kick off the holiday season!  I couldn't help but thinking this is our last Thanksgiving as a family of two.  Next year, we'll be adding some steamed sweet potatoes to the menu! :-)

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Let's Buy a House!

A week after we returned from Europe, we flew up to Seattle in search of a place to live.  Originally, we weren't supposed to move until March, so we were in no hurry to figure out our housing situation until after the holidays.  However, right before we left for Europe we got the oh so wonderful news that we could move sooner!  I could not been happier but was also a little stressed out about how much we needed to do before the move!

Conor had business up in Everett during our trip to Seattle, so I got to spend some quality time with my friend Mikael!  She took me to Black Bottle, an awesome wine bar in Bellevue!  Almost as great as Purple...but let's be honest, nothing is better than Purple!  Later that night, we had a blast playing Dance Central and drinking some vodka gimlets.  I can't wait for more nights like these!  In fact, we had so much fun that I convinced Mikael to call in sick to work that following morning!  The next day Conor met up with us for lunch on Capital Hill and then happy hour & dinner in South Lake Union.  Our college friend, Jamie, joined us along with Mikael's boyfriend Arza. 

On Friday I met with Shanna, our realtor, to look at some houses while Conor was at work.  Conor & I had pretty much decided that we wanted to live in West Seattle.  Neither Conor nor I had spent much time in the area, but we liked the proximity to his work (about a 25 minute commute) and to downtown Seattle (10 minutes).  It's a great neighborhood and very family friendly! :-)  Being so close to Alki beach is another plus.  Shanna & I looked at about 15 was exhausting!  There was one house I loved and few others that were okay.  I wanted to buy a house so bad, but Conor was still on the fence about the whole thing.  I was really just hoping that he was going to fall in love with the same one I did. It was technically an older home but had been completely re-done, updated, and modernized by a really cool local company, Green Canopy Homes, who have a strong focus on energy efficiency and a modern style that just fits Conor and I so well.

I had the evening to butter Conor up about how wonderful this house was before he would see it the next day.  I'm sure I talked his ear off the whole drive to Bellevue where we met up with my friend Gretchen!  She moved to Seattle right when I left for Delaware, so I rarely got to see her.  It's so nice to be moving back to city where we already have friends!  Gretchen took us to the 520 Bar & Grill where we chatted it up over a couple glasses of wine.  We might have bored Conor a little bit with all the girl talk, but he was just happy to be done with work for the weekend and to have a beer and a scotch in front of him! 

We spent Saturday looking at more houses, and I finally got to show Conor my favorite!  He had really liked what he saw on the MLS listing, and loved it in person. Just as much, if not even more, than I did!  While standing in the living room he exclaimed, "Oh man, I'm really going to buy a house aren't I?!..."  It was such a big decision, and we had so much of our future up in the air in the coming years, so we decided to call it a day on the house hunting and sleep on it.  We drove around West Seattle at night to see the neighborhood more and make sure things looked safe.  Then we went to Buddha Ruska, a Thai restaurant very close to our potential future home and had a great meal.  By the end of dinner, we were getting closer to sorting out all the details in our head and deciding what our next move would be. We were still strongly considering renting, at least for a short time while we got re-settled in Seattle, but found that the rental market was so strong in Seattle that it was darn near impossible to find a place that we felt we could be comfortable in for anywhere near what we felt was a reasonable price. Not to mention that that there was next to nothing worth checking out in the areas that we wanted to live... You see where this is heading... ;0)

Sunday we grabbed some bagels and coffee and decided that it was time to meet up with Shanna, put in an offer on the house we loved, and hop on the plane back to Arizona.  That next week Conor buried himself in paperwork, the internet, and spreadsheets trying to learn and calculate everything under the sun with respect to buying a house, shopping for home loans, and budgeting out our next few years . We worked through a few rounds of counter offers back and forth before finally coming to an agreement that we were comfortable with.  The closing date was set for December 21st, and we were moving to Seattle on January 3rd so, needless to say, our timeline to get this deal done was pretty tight... Fortunately, we had the best realtor and loan officer and they immediately got to work in setting everything up for closing. After flying around like crazy for a couple days getting paperwork signed, notarized, and overnighted back to Seattle, not to mention another week of business in France and Italy for Conor... We finally had a chance to sit down and toast to our new adventures as homeowners!  To top everything off, we got the wonderful news that I was pregnant that same week!  There's nothing like hitting a couple of milestones all at once!

We couldn't be happier with the house, the location, the neighbors, and getting to know Seattle again! Although the house was so fresh, new and ready for us to move in when we first arrived, we have made some great progress in making it our own by doing some painting, trading out some of our furniture to better fit the house, and adding some additional features for storage and such.  Once we get a little more settled, I will post lots of pictures!  For those of you who are in Seattle or close by, we will definitely be throwing a big housewarming party at some point to stay tuned! And then maybe another one... just in case it's too cold or rainy to break in the awesome deck and take in the view! Or we'll surely find some other excuse to party! :-)

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

At Least the Wine Was Good

Our European Vacation: Part III
We arrived in Paris exhausted and hungry for some American food!  In
stead of trying to navigate public transportation, we jumped in the first cab that would speak (some) English and drove straight to our hotel.  We dropped our bags and went in search of a juicy hamburger.  Lunch was outrageously expensive, but worth the comfort of some familiar food.  Conor was pretty excited about his double yolk egg!

Conor was going to be very busy with work most of our time in France, so we took advantage of the little time we had together.  Our first night we took a long walk towards the Eiffel Tower and had dinner outside at a cute little restaurant just a block from the tower.  Neither Conor nor I spoke any French which made for an interesting Paris experience.  We still tried, with the 3 or so words we could say... But many of the people we encountered the first couple of days were unwilling to speak English to us and were quite rude about it.  Going out to eat was difficult at times with the language barrier.  However, most of the meals were tasty and the wine was always delicious!  I can't complain about that! Conor had stories when he returned from a few days on business, of all the crazy foods he had tried. But I stuck to what I felt comfortable with... After dinner, we finished the walk to the Eiffel tower right and arrived right as the lights were pretty!

The next three days Conor travelled around France for work while I stayed in Paris.  I'm embarrassed to say, I did not do much during this time.  I was very frustrated with trying to navigate the metro system and was finding it impossible to communicate with anyone French.  Each day I would go for a walk and attempt to take in the culture but it was a rainy couple of days so that didn't work out so well.  Instead, I caught up on some much needed sleep and anxiously waited for Conor to return.  I did find one very friendly crepe stand guy, which was a breath of fresh air....'til I realized that I really don't' like crepes all the much...  Needless to say, I ate a lot of frosted flakes those couple of days, oh well!

My favorite thing in Paris was the Basilique du Sacre-Coeur.  It is a beautiful church set up on a hill with fantastic views.  The neighborhood surrounding the church has lots of character and, from what we were told, is where many of the famous artists from Paris worked and lived. The streets and square were filled with artists painting and displaying their art. We spent quite a bit of time roaming the streets and oogling all the local art.  We wanted to purchase a few things;however, we decided it would be so hard to travel back to the states with a large painting.  Unfortunately, we walked away empty handed.

Next on our list of sights to see was Notre Dame.  I had really been looking forward to seeing it, even though we had visited many churches over the past three weeks at this point.  I have to say I was fairly underwhelmed and maybe even a little disappointed.  It was still a great experience to be at such a historical site, but it was nothing like I had expected.  Maybe that Disney movie gave me the wrong impression....

Already a bit worn down by the time we got there, we felt very ready to be home by the end of the week in Paris.  Our first big trip to Europe was a crazy and amazing adventure. Surely a time that we will always remember with great memories.  We can't wait to go back and continue exploring.  I think next time we would love to visit Ireland, maybe even bring the golf clubs!

Next up: A couple holidays, the move to Seattle, and our new house!

Friday, January 20, 2012

Dinner with Baffetto

Wow, life got so busy these past two months!  The news of Baby K, the holidays, and our move to Seattle have really derailed my blogging.  Now that we are somewhat settled in our new house, I'm getting back to the blog.  I'm going to do a few quick "catch-up" posts if my pregnancy brain can recall what we've done since October.  I'm also starting a seperate blog for Baby K where everyone can follow my ever growing bump and all other things baby.  Stay tuned...  In the meantime, back to Italy:

Unfortunately we only had 2 days to spend in Rome, so we were determined to get in as many activites as possible!  My friend, Abby Hall, recommended a bed & breakfast to us that we ended up just loving!  We stayed at Gulliver's Lodge, which was just a short walk from the train station.  The owner was so sweet and provided us with maps, restaurant recommendations, and more!  Our first tourist site of the day: The Vatican.

Since it was late October, the Vatican wasn't too busy and we didn't have to wait in line at all!  Here we got super touristy and downloaded some Rick Steve's audio tours!  This ended up being an excellent decision since we weren't doing any guided tours.  We learned so much more than we ever would have picked up on our own.  It was especially helpful in the Sistine Chapel, which was my favorite part of the Vatican.  It was also amazing to see the Pieta in St. Peter's Basilica! Inside, we also saw some interesting glass tombs with dead, preserved popes... right before we ate no & creepy all at the same time! We finished up our audio tour and made our way out, mission acomplished. Thanks for the fun & witty facts Rick Steves!

After lots of walking, we were more than ready for a big meal!  We went to this small restaurant close to our B & B that the owner recommended.  It was my favorite meal of the whole trip!  The place wasn't expensive so we each ordered a 4 course meal, mmm.  Antipasti, tortellini soup, fettucine carbanara, & tiramisu...and every bite was amazing!  The 2 liter carafe of wine wasn't as incredible...but for 10 Euro I loved it!  Just when things couldn't get better, we informed that the restaurant's credit card machine is broken and they are only accepting cash...we had none.   Talk about awkward!  So Conor goes on a long trek to find a cash machine while I wait in the restaurant alone...and all the wine was gone!  They was some rioting in Rome a few days before we arrived, so the only ATM close by that he could find was completely bashed in and not working.  Conor returned with no money and tried to explain that we would have to bring it to them tomorrow.  The owner was pretty nice about the whole thing, although quite distrought that his machine wasn't working, and let us leave with our tab unpaid.  But of course we returned the next day to pay our debt, for which he was very grateful!

The next day we planned on going to the Colosseum and the Forum, but unfortunately the Colosseum was closed for the day.  Such a big bummer, I was really looking forward to it.  Instead we spent more time with Rick Steves in the Forum.  I absolutely loved  our time there; the sun was shining and there was so much to see!  We found a great vantage point inside the Forum to get a good look at the Colosseum as well.  There we listened to more of Mr. Steves' wonderful facts and tried to imagine what it looked like inside.  After all the hours we logged listening to Rick, I realize now that I find his voice quite soothing. He could probably put me to sleep!

We continued our sightseeing into the evening as we walked to dinner.  Our stop at the Pantheon was perfect timing as it wasn't too crowded.  Conor's brother Kyle lived in Rome for three months and had some awesome suggestions!  Dinner was at a pizza place called Baffetto's, and it was the best pizza I had while in Italy! Wish I could have some right now... Even though we arrived soon after the restaurant opened, the place was already packed.  There is absolutely no place to wait inside, so instead a line forms around the block.  We braved the chilly temperatures while waiting for a table.  Thirty minutes later, we were seated right next to the pizza oven: a perfect spot to watch all the action!  Our wine was served in an old flower pitcher which was massive!  While waiting for our pizza, we listened to the head pizza maker yell orders at the others in his, what can only be described as, "Godfather"-esk voice. Pretty authentic, we knew we were in the right place!  We also had the privilege of watching Baffetto himself in action.  Baffetto is the cutest old man ever, with huge glasses and a sweet platinum white mustache, who was indirectly running the whole show.  Even though the place was packed, they left a whole table open for him to sip his wine and occasionally bark out orders to his employees if he saw them slacking.  The whole experience was awesome!

Kyle's next suggestion was right across the street, so we walked our full bellies just a few steps and we were at the Abbey Theater, an Irish pub.  Apparently they have them everywhere!  No complaints here, I'll take a cider (shocker).  We had a few drinks while chatting with some friends that Kyle had made during his time in Rome.  Our third stop, in the best corner of Italy, was to the Frigidarium: the absolute best gelato in all of Italy!  I had a scoop of banana and a scoop of coconut and couldn't have been happier.  I have dreams of this gelato still!  This is a must stop the next time you're in Rome.

Later we took a night walk through Rome and saw the Trevi Fountain.  The site was spectacular at night, absolutely beautiful.  It was a very romantic spot, other than the many teenagers roaming around who were probably up to no good!  Before we left, I made a wish...and if you've been keeping track with us on Facebook, you'll know it came true! Baby K is on the way! :-)

After visiting the Spanish steps, we headed back to our room for about 4 hours of sleep before our flight to Paris.  Two days was not nearly enough time in Rome; next time, I'll be sure to extend our time there!  Next blog is Paris, and then we will be done with Europe.  I was not a huge fan of Paris, so maybe I'll be able to convince Conor to blog this time...