Thursday, August 27, 2009

2nd City? Not in my book....

When Paul said he had a work conference to attend in Chicago a few months ago I decided, this just may be that mini vacation I've been needing!! So being the wonderful husband he is, I was allowed to tag along on his work trip for a few days. Funny thing is, I lived for a year just two hours away from Chicago but never made it up there, and boy do I wish I had been able to. Paul and I had hoped for a little Chicago weekend while I was living in St. Louis but when my dad got sick it just didn't work out. So 7 years later, we enjoyed a few days in Chicago and it was quite the memorable trip.

In anticipation for our trip I started doing some research on eateries. Being an avid watcher of the Food Network Channel I had seen a show with the head pastry chef for a restaurant named 'Hot Chocolate' and had to check it out. It was the MOST amazing dinner I think I have ever had. We went there Sunday night and over a bottle of wine enjoyed some amazing entrees (pork belly with grilled peaches salad and amazing macaroni and cheese) and of course some desserts that were out of this world. They were so amazing I had to take some photos of them. I had the chocolate souffle with salted caramel ice cream and Paul had a blueberry cannoli. They are famous for their hot chocolate, of course, and had handmade marshmallows with each cup that were amazing! The staff there were amazing; really I cannot recommend this place enough!!!

Continuing on our tour of eating through Chicago, Paul took me to Gino's East Pizzeria the next day for some famous deep dish pizza. My dad frequently took business trips to Chicago, so I was eager to try some of this deep dish pizza I had heard so much about and it didn't disappoint! Neither did Gino's which is an older restaurant that is artistically decorated by all of it's customer's who write on almost any surface they can find!

That afternoon, Paul went back to work while I walked off some of that pizza on the Magnificent Mile. Wow, the shopping in this city is amazing! I did some damage, much to Paul's horror, but come on....all the ladies out there can understand when I say there was a 4 story Banana Republic!!!

That night we went for drinks up on the 96th floor of the John Hancock building where the views are amazing and the drinks were pretty decent....

After our drinks we went to a great little Italian place where their motto was right up my alley of "Where Wine is Cheaper than Water." They had some amazing food, noticing a trend here?

Now most of you who know me well, know that I am not much of a sports fan. But my wonderful hubby is a big baseball fan, so our last night in Chicago we caught a Cub's game at Wrigley field. Even though I am not much of a baseball fan it was fun seeing a game at this historical field. We had fun eating at the Cubby Bear before hand and then listening to Eddie Vedder (from Pearl Jam) sing 'Take Me Out To The Ball Game' at the 7th inning stretch.

Wednesday morning I was sad to pack up and go, but was missing my kids a ton by then. I was so lucky to have my mom stay home with them while we enjoyed our trip in Chicago (thank you again Mom). To finish off the trip I went through a run, in the rain, along the Lake Michigan shore and through the parks of Chicago. There weren't many people out so it was peaceful and so beautiful, especially looking up at all of the tall buildings amongst the morning fog. It was amazing, as was our trip.

Don't let the name Second City fool you, this city is first rate and I recommend you all get out there to enjoy it for yourselves.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Happy Birthday Alex!

I cannot believe you are already 4 years old! It really seems like just yesterday I was holding you in my arms as a newborn or watching you take your first steps. You are growing up to be such a wonderful and unique little man! Mommy, Daddy and Sissy love you so much!!!!

Sunday, August 16, 2009

A spoonful of culture....

I'm sorry to say this, but it is true, I don't really feel like I have a culture. My roots trace back to 'hillbilly' on my dad's side and somewhere in England on my mom's side, but all in all I don't have a strong sense of personal culture. So when Paul and I started dating almost 8 years ago I was in amazement of his strong sense of culture and how fascinating it is! We now make sure our children also get a strong sense of the Portuguese culture, and this weekend was an important event in the Portuguese culture.

A majority of Portuguese are Catholic. During the summer each Catholic church takes a weekend (which lasts Thursday to Sunday) and has a festival or 'festa.' During these four days there is tons of food, dancing, music, a parade and mass. Money is raised for the church and people in the community come together to partake in the great activities.

Last year Alex was baby Jesus in the parade, and I tell you was the hit of the parade. This year Alex and Cierra were on the float of folk dancers dressed in traditional Portuguese folk dancing attire. Alex actually wore Paul's hat and sash that Paul wore as a child. After the parade Alex and Cierra performed with about 20 other children on stage doing some traditional Portuguese folk dancing. ADORABLE! It was very sweet and you better believe I got it on video!!

Even though Amelia was too little to participate in any of the events, she dressed the part and was so sweet in her outfit. She wore herself out running back and forth and watching all the events going on. Being an animal lover she was thrilled with all the livestock present.

One of the ways the church raises a lot of money is through an auction they have. The big ticket items at this auction are goats (like above) and cattle as well as Portuguese sweets and other random items. This year they were auctioning off some puppies and oh my, the kids fell in love with this dog. I was swayed for a moment because this dog had an awesome temperament. He was calm with all these kids petting him and when Alex sat down next to him he even laid his little head on Alex's lap. Alex really wanted to take him home but right now just isn't a good time for us to adopt a dog, maybe a little later down the road. He went home to a good place though, but I had to take one picture of Alex and Cierra with their little friend. Meanwhile, Amelia fell in love with a little Mini Pin and was even playing peek a boo with it! I am not sure how much longer we can deny these kids a dog....

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Birthday bash

I cannot believe I am the mother of an (almost) four year old child! We celebrated Alex's fourth birthday this weekend, even though his birthday isn't until August 18th. However, please don't tell Alex he isn't four yet or he will dissolve into tears. "I am a big kid now," he informs me on a daily basis.

Alex decided on dinosaurs for this year's party and this theme turned out quite cute. I loved his cake (and it tasted so delicious!) and he got lots of new dinosaur friends for his birthday. Although the favorite toy this year was a Bumblebee Transformer he'd been eying for quite some time now.

One of the best parts of birthday parties are the guests of course! Some special guests this time were Kimberlily and Baby Livy! We are always so glad to see them and it was so great this visit to watch Amelia and Olivia actually start playing together. I can just see the bond forming between them and growing stronger everyday. They would light up when the other would walk into the room. They had great fun this past weekend feeding each other, playing in the pool and just running around.

Cierra, our niece, also has been here this summer from Canada. Cierra and Alex have also been having a great time running around and getting into all sorts of trouble. My sister in law Cris has a CD of photos she is giving to me this coming weekend with lots of photos on it, but here are a couple I got this past weekend.

As I stated above, there are more photos to come after I get my hands on that CD, but I wanted to share a bit of the birthday festivities this past weekend! Alex has been recovering from all the excitement these past few days!

Monday, August 3, 2009

We were runnnn-ing.....

Well my title is suppose to be a play on Forrest Gump (at least it sounded like it in my head...) Last weekend Paul and I were proud finishers of the Wharf to Wharf 6 mile run in beautiful Santa Cruz. The run takes you from the wharf/boardwalk of Santa Cruz, through the coast and ends on the wharf (get it, wharf to wharf) and beach of Capitola.

Now, this is a small little run with only 15,000 participants. Yes, that is correct, I said 15,000. I have done quite a few runs in my day and even particpated in some big runs but this out did it all. This is not the run to do if you have any issues of claustrophobia. It took us at least five minutes to get up to the start line after the gun shot went off to start off the run, and we were not at the back. It took at least another 5 minutes until we could even really get running, and then the road narrowed, so we walked some more, and finally it cleared up enough that we could really stretch our legs and get out there. We finished with the respectable time of 1:05, but taking off those 5 minutes it took us to get to the start line I say we did it in under a hour.

I was especially proud of Paul who had never done a run before. He was a great 'running buddy' and it was great doing this event with him. Paul had so much fun he declared this will be an annual thing for us - yeah! Now if you notice from the photo above, Paul is wearing a gold number. His bib number was one of only 100, out of 15,000, that was gold. Those 100 gold bib numbers were entered into a contest for a week's vacation in Hawaii. Alas, it did not happen for us though. Now I just need to talk Paul into the half marathon here in November...I think he can be talked into it.

After the run we took the kids over to the Monterey Bay Aquarium with Paul's parents and his sister. There was a lot to see and do there, but I think most of us enjoyed the jellyfish exhibit the best. I wouldn't want to run into one of these creatures in the open water, but to look at behind glass was pretty incredible. We will have to return for another visit very soon. As always it was no fun to return to the valley heat from the beautiful coast weather, which was cold and foggy. I always say that if I lived at the beach I would be in excellent shape because it is always a beautiful day to run over there!