Saturday, April 26, 2014

2014 RAP Tour of Homes

One of my favorite activities is going on home tours. I feel like it is like watching HGTV, but live action! I attended the Riverside Avondale Preservation's Tour of Homes. with my mom. Coincidentally, it was also her birthday! We enjoyed peaking into some of the nicest homes in the historic district. 

I tried to limit the number of pictures, but we saw some many nice things. It was hard to narrow it down! We toured four homes total, then relaxed in the air-conditioned oasis of Biscotti's and enjoyed a relaxing lunch. These pictures are from my two favorite houses.

I think this was my favorite house. It was on a quiet cul de sac by the river. 

Front porch sitting would not be hard here!

Love this huge sink, located on the back porch

This room was my favorite. They converted the second floor porch (see first picture) into a grandkids room! Not pictured is a living room area with oversized couches and tv. Also not pictured was a stellar library with plenty of children's books and a desk area.

The next set of pictures are from the first home we toured.  I dream of having a bar cart in my home.

Shoe shelves in one of their daughter's room. The piece did not take up a lot of space. I feel like J and I have a wall where we could have something like this (for all his sneakers!) Edit: This is not from the first house we saw. This was in my fave house above!

The first home had an amazing pool house, complete with al fresco dining. 

Gas powered fire pit!

My mom had never attended a home tour before. It was fun to share it with her and celebrate her birthday!

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Anniversary celebration in St. Augustine

J and I celebrated our six year wedding anniversary by taking a 30 minute drive south to St. Augustine. Even though St. Augustine is one beautiful A1A drive away, we certainly don't enjoy it as much as we should! Truthfully, neither of us have ever spent the night there. Thanks to both our  parents, we were able to enjoy a toddler and dog free evening.

While booking our accommodations, we did not realize that our anniversary fell on Easter weekend. Rooms were scarce. Many of the rooms that were available had a 2 night minimum. We lucked out though and found a room at the Bayfront Marin House. We had not stayed at a B&B since our trip to Amelia Island in 2011.

The Bayfront Marin House was lovely. The room was well appointed. The bed was up so high, I had to use a stool to get in! They had a somewhat random Jacuzzi tub right next to the bed. I suppose for honeymooners, this would be a bonus!

View from the balcony

We did a little shopping before cocktail time. We picked up some spices, teas and saffron rice at The Spice & Tea Exchange. I wanted to bring home some datil pepper sauce as well. J remember The Pepper Palace, which has more hot sauces than any one could ever need. I found my datil pepper sauce and a couple of other items, including pickled okra.

We headed back as we didn't want to miss the cocktail hour. The cocktail hour (typical at most B&Bs) was impressive. They offered red sangria, white sangria, wine and beer. There was lemonade and sweet tea. They also offered an array of appetizers, including warn spinach dip, bruschetta, puff pastry with savory filling (cannot remember what they called them), and a relish tray with the best bread and butter pickles I've had in a while. They had a delicious looking chocolate rum bundt cake. We passed on the cake, as we were heading to dinner.

One of my favorite parts of St. Augustine is that it is very walkable. We headed to dinner, which was a little less than a mile away. With so much to see on the route, it made for a pleasurable and quick walk.

We had dinner at The Floridian, known for their local ingredient sourcing. They don't take reservations, so we gave them our contact info so we could get a text when our table was ready. It was an incredibly busy night, so we weren't seated for over an hour. However, the text messaging notification gave us a lot of freedom to walk around St. Augustine while waiting. Thank goodness, as waiting is not something I'm very good at anymore. Ha!

The Floridian was amazing. We enjoyed fried pickles, posole, and a cornbread stack with blackened mahi mahi. The decor was a hoot. I felt like I had been transported to a house in the late 60's/early 70's. But it really worked, in my opinion.

I was most excited about dessert. We headed over to Cousteau's Waffle & Milkshake Bar. After much deliberation, I settled on an Old Kentucky milkshake, which was made with butter pecan ice cream, candied pecans and bourbon whipped cream. J had a Wonut, waffle on the outside and donut on the inside.


We ended the evening in a dessert coma. After a refreshing night sleep, we enjoyed breakfast, watched a little Barclays Premier League football, and headed back to pick up Truffle and Jack.

Yay for anniversaries!

Monday, April 14, 2014

Did you have a nice weekend?

Every Monday morning, my co-workers and I will ask each other the same question:
Did you have a nice weekend?
I work in an exceedingly polite place. I usually answer this question without thinking by automatically saying “yes”. Because I feel they are just asking to be polite, much like I would.
However, I contemplated what to say in regards to this past weekend. It was such a mixed bag.
The bad:
  • J had to work around six hours on both Saturday and Sunday thus, he missed going to the zoo with us.
  • Jack did not nap on Saturday. He was obviously tired, but was in a fighting mood to stay up.
  • Jack woke up around 11 that evening, crying in his sleep every 20 or so minutes for about an hour.

The good:
  • Jack and I had fun with bubble blowing and water table splashing (until he threw a cup in my face anyways!)
  • On Saturday, we went to a friends’ house for Masters happy hour while the kids played in the backyard.
  • Drama free visit to the Zoo and good times with friends
  • We ate pimento cheese sandwiches on Masters Sunday while hanging out with friends.
  • Jack went to sleep before Game of Thrones came on. We actually got to watch GoT and Mad Men live (without falling asleep!).

Even though working on the weekend really stinks and I wish J could have been with us at the Zoo, we still had some fun.
So, to answer the question: It was a nice weekend!

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Foodie Fiction

I used to be a big chick lit/romance fan. I quickly devoured the latest Jane Green or Sophie Kinsella book. I would stay up all night to finish an Emily Giffin Book. I supposed saying "used to" isn't entirely true, as I'll still order a random chick lit book every once in a while.

I also like to read cookbooks. As you know, J is the cook in the family. I mean, I can cook. I just don't LOVE it like he does. But I love to read about food.

Several years ago, I stumbled onto Amanda Hessing sorta biographical book, "Cooking for Mr. Latte:. The book detailed the story of her romance with Mr. Latte. However, Amanda Hessing is really know for being the NY Times food writer. Her book was integrated recipes of foods she tried throughout the story. Her food descriptions were lush and tantalizing.

Finally--there was a genre that combined my interest of chick lit/romance with food! Foodie Fiction!

Most recently, I've read two books that are the epitome of "foodie fiction". Both books are by Stacey Ballis, a Chicago based author. The titles are "Out to Lunch" and "Off the Menu". Both books are set in Chicago (yay), contain smart, interesting characters, have a thread of romance, and (most importantly) features delicious food descriptions.

If anyone has any recommendations on books with similar themes, please let me know!

Friday, April 4, 2014

Fiscal Friday: Breaking up is not so hard to do

It's Fiscal Friday! Today's post the time that J went on two dates then broke up with a financial planner.

A good friend had referred us to a financial planner they had used. We have been working hard on paying down debt and starting to save. However, we had never seen a financial planner before. We figured this was as good a time as any.

I won't mention the company, but know that it was an insurance company.

Anyways, J went for a consultation. During the meeting, the planner asked him to gather our relevant information. This would be information on insurances, retirements, mortgage, and any other financial information. It was during this time I came clean about having a couple of random rollover IRAs (more on that in another post). They discussed our short and long term financial goals. One of our short term goals was to set up life insurance for J.

A second meeting was held to review the information gathered. Or so we thought. It was at this meeting that the planner (who was just doing his job) tried to sell some additional insurance to J. He also asked J if he would be willing to move his money out of our current financial institution.

The above gave J reason for pause.

Then J decided to research the company. After reading a couple of different sources, we discussed the findings. One striking item was the business model where reps are encouraged to sell whole life policies at hefty sums for large commissions.

More power to them.

But it didn't sit well with us. So J wrote a firm, but polite email to let him know to stop all actions on our behalf. After a couple of conversations, we finally parted ways.

Maybe this would have been beneficial for us. Perhaps we made a mistake. But we had to go with what felt right.

Timing is a funny thing. The following week, my Fidelity rep for my 403(b) was at my work. I made an appointment to look at my retirement accounts. He was extremely helpful on many items and provided guidance on ways that we could maximize the tax benefits of my retirement account.

Make sure to check out Katie and Christina as they share their Fiscal Friday stories!