2016 | What I’ve Been Up To

Hello Lovelies!

Happy 2016 (and early Valentine’s Day)!

Although I have a great deal in store this year (I’m back in action after a brief haitus), you may have been wondering what I’ve been up to! Let me give you a brief run down:

Our 2 Year Anniversary Trip to D.C. 

Living in the beautiful Carolinas, sometimes it’s difficult to leave. However, Shahin and I love to travel and instead of buying each other “traditional” wedding anniversary gifts, we do things a little differently in the Arminoei household. We’ve made taking a trip each year one of our traditions. This year, we decided to spend a long weekend in D.C. The fact of the matter is, I had only visited once when I was in elementary school for a field trip and well, let’s just say it’s one of the hubs’ favorite cities and he had been dying to take me there. Now if you know me, of course I did my research prior to our adventure to ensure we were hitting some of the best spots in town (duh).

The Highlights:

Zara

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{ Image courtesy of DC Internationalist }

I know, I know. I have a shopping problem and everyone is aware. Unfortunately, Zara has not yet graced Charlotte with its presence so whenever I see that big, beautiful store – I’ve got my game face on.

Zaytinya (for dinner) + barmini (for drinks) by renowned Chef Jose Andres

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Y’all – I wish I could put into words how blown away we were. After eating at one of James Beard Award Winning Jose Andres’ restaurants, Zaytina, we had drinks at his bar (which required a reservation). Once arriving, we had to ring a doorbell to enter (a little reminiscent of a speakeasy). This place was simply beautiful – clean, chic, hip. The Mixologist provided us with a drink upon arrival to clean our palates and then Shahin and I went to town. This place does hand crafted cocktails right. One of the drinks I had the pleasure of tasting was homemade banana bourbon – absolutely delicious and hands down one of the best cocktails I’ve ever had. If you’re in the area – don’t miss out on this place (but make sure you book a spot at the bar in advance!)

White House visit 

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Cliche, but one of those “have tos”. And of course, being the basic white girl I am, Starbucks in hand!

USDA Farmers Market 

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Purely by accident, we stumbled upon a USDA Farmers Market during a stroll through the city on a beautiful Autumn day. We picked up a variety of dumplings, apple kombucha and homemade cola and sat in a park to indulge.

Persian Cuisine

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I guess it’s no secret that D.C. has a buzzing Persian population. To pay homage to the hubby’s heritage, we decided to drive about 30 minutes outside of the city to get a taste of some of the best Persian cuisine I’ve had (aside from when Shahin’s grandmother comes in from Iran and cooks for us). Kabobs, grilled tomatoes and my favorite, Persian rice (tahdig). NOMZ.

Annual Family Trip: Panama 

Each year, Shahin’s dad and stepmom take the family on a trip for a belated Christmas. This is my favorite family tradition because we much prefer experiences and memories over tangible things. I didn’t think anything was going to top last year’s trip to Barcelona, but the fam never ceases to amaze me. This year we traveled to the beautiful country of Panama and stayed right in the heart of Panama City. Not doing a great deal of research in advance, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. Panama City reminded me of Miami in a lot of ways. It’s actually a big, international banking city (who knew) and there were restaurants and bars galore, high end shops (hello, Chanel) and so much to see and do.

The Highlights: 

JUICE

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Weird, right? How could juice be a highlight of a trip? Juice is a big deal in Panama. We stayed at the Waldorf Astoria and each morning, they had this little piece of heaven we dubbed “liquid life” = watermelon juice. Every morning when we would come down for breakfast, we b-lined straight for the juice (even over the omelette station). This stuff was the real freaking deal. Even outside of the hotel, we would grab juice from a little stand practically every day.

Panama Canal

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We took a boat through the Panama Canal – definitely a once in a lifetime experience. Although the excursion was a little longer than expected, the views were incredible.

Monkey Island & Indigenous Tribe 

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The best excursions we had (in my opinion) both occurred in the same day – and a full day it was! First, we met our guide and took a boat out into the water where we would then pull up to various parts of a jungle (keep in mind: about a 45 minute drive outside of where we were staying). This is where an array of different monkeys would come and visit our boat while we fed them bananas (and in some cases, right from our hands). This was seriously one of the coolest things I’ve ever done in my life. Above is a shot of a monkey that was hanging out on our boat. Pretty up close and personal!

After Monkey Island, we went to spend the rest of our day with an indigenous tribe. Yes – real life. A couple of the tribe members met us and took us out on a canoe to get to their village – life jackets and all (refer to the picture below).

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Once we got to the village, we watched the tribe do a few traditional dances (and then were invited to dance with them), were fed some delicious plantains and fried fish wrapped in a banana leaf and then had a little Q&A time (thank goodness we had a translator). We were also to buy some crafts from the tribe which was a really neat concept in itself because each family had their own table and the money went directly to them. I picked up a couple of beautiful hand crafted vases – LOVE! Below is a picture of the end of our excursion. The tribe was so welcoming – definitely a experience for the books!

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Coming Soon: DIY Project 

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So what else has been going on aside from traveling? The hubs and I picked up this beauty from one of my best friend’s moms (who owns Charlotte Staging). It’s actually an antique record player but we immediately saw its potential – and if you’ve seen some of my other posts, we love DIY projects. I am really looking forward to tackling this one!

So far, Shahin’s taken out the record player, and we will be using it to decoratively conceal our entertainment center. The piece has officially been sanded and we’ve removed the grates and added shelves. Step 2 of 3 complete.

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So what’s next? Of course, you’ll need to stay tuned (blog on this one coming soon) but we’ll be painting it and transforming it even more! We’re definitely going mid-century modern here – I’m thinking brass legs and a high gloss white paint. Below is an image I snagged from Pinterest and will be using it as inspiration!

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Be back soon! XO

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Swooning | A Mishmosh of Things I’m Obsessed With

Hello lovelies!

Although I have a series of Autumn related posts coming your way (and a special post on boots requested by my dear friend, Rachel), I wanted to currently focus on the random things that I’ve been obsessing over as my life has recently been a “mishmosh” of  beautiful chaos. And what better way to correlate this blog post to my current situation? Life has been quite hectic these last several weeks and I really cannot complain. Between weddings, bridal showers, bachelorette weekends, gender reveal parties, baby showers and a frenzied professional life to match, I’ve had a difficult time creating a single blog post that sticks to one theme! Alas, below are some things I’m obsessed with, working on and looking forward to…AKA: a window into my life.

Savannah Bee Company

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Last weekend, I had the pleasure of visiting a city that I’ve been dying to see for years – Savannah, Georgia. One of my very close friends had a bachelorette bash in this quaint, historic town and it was truly beautiful and inspiring. Although many of our activities involved bouncing around from restaurant to bar, I had the opportunity to step inside Savannah Bee Company on a walk back to our hotel. The company has been around since 1999 and the owner, a beekeeper, cultivated a business that offers some of the best products and ingredients around – from tupelo honey (of course), to various skin care products. When I was in the store, I picked up one of their best sellers, Royal Jelly Body Butter. I purchased the sensitive skin version of this “pot of gold” so I could use it as a face moisturizer. This stuff is the real deal. My skin has never been so soft – honey is a really great ingredient for your skin.

Cannoli Dip

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Yeah, that’s right. Cannoli dip. I made it this past week for a work bridal shower (pictured in the middle) and it was legit. Even more? SUPER easy to make. You combine all the below ingredients in a bowl and chill in the fridge. I served mine with chocolate and honey graham crackers but fruit would also be a delicious and viable option. Make it. Make it tomorrow.

  • 1 32oz container part skim or fat free ricotta cheese
  • ⅓ cup powdered sugar
  • 1 container fat-free cool whip, thawed
  • 1½ – 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • Mini chocolate chips
  • Fresh orange zest

Kitchen PINspiration

Since moving into our new home, I’ve been on Pinterest, pinning away like a fiend. I cannot wait to start working on one room at a time (that’s really the only way to do it, right?). In previous posts, I’ve touched on other things I’m obsessed with for the home (particularly things for the dining and living rooms). However, I’m getting geared up for Spring because we will be tackling a kitchen renovation. Honestly – there is not too terribly much to tackle. But we will be updating the cabinets, fixtures, pulls, and most importantly, the counters and back splash. My situation: I used to be captivated by all white kitchens. Although I still think they are classic and chic, I’m really feeling a few different looks that I’ve recently seen. This leads me to believe that we will be going in a different direction but one cannot be sure. I’m sure our minds will change between now and April, but this is what I’m in love with right now.

1. Greige Cabinets + Oil Rubbed Bronze Pulls & Faucet + White Subway Tile Back Splash + White Granite Counter Tops (in some ways I’ve also feeling a butcher block counter but the verdict is still out).

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2. Dark Cabinets + Brass Pulls + White Subway Tile + Butcher Block or White Counter Tops (Shahin and I constantly bicker over brass. I love it but him? Not so much. It might take a little persuading on my end. We shall see what transpires!)

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Our Anniversary Trip

I cannot believe our two year wedding anniversary is in less than a month. We did not really do it up for our first anniversary and instead of doing the traditional wedding anniversary gifts (year 1 = paper, year 2 = cotton, year 3 = leather, etc.), we wanted to start our very own tradition of going on an anniversary trip. The hubs and I are definitely a couple that march to our own beat and we much prefer memories over tangible things (but don’t get me wrong – I still love “things”). This year, we are combining our anniversary with our 30th birthdays and taking a trip to Washington, D.C. I’ve been really amped about this vacation because the only time I’ve been to D.C. was in middle school on a field trip. With it being one of Shahin’s favorite cities and a semi-reasonable drive, it should definitely be a great little getaway! Being me, I’ve done an extensive amount of research on things to see and do in the city. I’ve read review after blog post after article on the best restaurants and bars and definitely have that portion of the trip mapped out. Now, for the places we’ve made reservations for:

1. Zaytinya & Minibar by José Andrés

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There is a big chef and restaurateur in town and his name is José Andrés. He’s won a James Beard Award, named Chef of the Year by Bon Appetit and was even recognized as one of Time’s 100 Most Influential People. He owns restaurants in some of the bigger cities (Beverly Hills, Las Vegas and South Beach) but several in D.C. One of his newer spots, Zaytinya is a Mediterranean restaurant that has received nothing but rave reviews. Excited to check this place out! After dinner, we’re going to walk on over to his bar that recommends a reservation (yes – real life). Barmini is supposed to be a unique experience with whimsical and innovative cocktails. Looking forward to seeing what they serve up.

2. Toki Underground

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Ramen. Enough said. But really, Toki Underground is written up all over the place. No reservation yet but hoping we can hit it up for lunch one day while we are there!

3. Founding Farmers

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I’m really looking forward to doing brunch here as Founding Farmers is known as one of the trail blazers behind “farm-to-table”. With menu items like carrot cake pancakes and goat cheese and beet poached eggs…you really can’t get find a more interesting and diverse selection of eats.

4. Blue Duck Tavern

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I made a reservation at Blue Duck Tavern for our anniversary dinner. It’s been written up all over the place and one of those spots that you apparently cannot miss in D.C. Oh, and there is bone marrow on the menu. My heart just melted.

There are definitely some other places I want to check out: Good Stuff Eatery which is Top Chef‘ Alum Spike Mendelsohn’s spot, Copycat Co., Luke’s Lobster, Christina Tosi’s Momofoku Milk Bar (if the D.C. location is open yet), Golden Brown Delicious, Baked and Wired as well as a few others. Oh and Persian food. We will definitely be eating that in D.C. (need to pay homage to the husband’s culture).

5. Things to See + Do

Museums. All the museums. Not really, but we will definitely be spending our days checking them out. Particularly Air and Space and Natural History.

Stay tuned on this adventure – I’ll be doing a D.C. round up post in October after our trip.

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Travel | Barcelona Round Up

Well hello, friends!

It’s taken me a couple of weeks to get to it, but alas, I have summed up our amazing family trip to Barcelona, Spain! Now trust me when I say, there is no way on earth I have covered all of my bases (we were there for an entire week), however, I think I have provided a pretty concise round up on the city of tapas, cava + siestas!


Arrival

We arrived in Barcelona, Spain early Sunday morning (January 18th). We rented an adorable condo in the city with the most miraculous view.

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{ Inside of our condo }

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{ We’re here – oh happy day! }

Basilica of the Sagrada Familia

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Okay, if you are unfamiliar with Basilica of the Sagrada Familia, open a new tab and Google it right now. It’s listed as the 2nd most popular thing to see in Barcelona on Trip Advisor and rightfully so. Please keep in mind, the pictures do not do this place justice. Here is the rundown: it is a MASSIVE Roman Catholic church designed by the famous architect, Antoni Gaudí. He used nature and art as inspiration to cultivate this beauty. The project started in 1882 and guess what? It is still under construction and not projected to be done until 2030. Gaudí spent his very last days working on Sagrada Familia and his tomb is even in the church. This was such a sight to see – I mean, the intricacy of everything, the gorgeous stained glass windows…it was truly magnificent. Fun fact: we went up to the towers (556 ft high) and then had to take a spiral staircase down – and I shook uncontrollably while my family poked fun at me (afraid of heights, much?).

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{ The hubs and I outside of La Sagrada Familia }

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{ Mi familia }

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{ The detail on these doors – I mean…WOW }

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{ I have an obsession with stained glass }

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{ Glorious stained glass windows }

Boqueria Market

Okay, so I was told that the Boqueria Market was a must see when traveling to Barcelona. I thought to myself: Why? A market does not sound all that exciting. Wrong! This place is not like any market you have ever seen. When I say they have everything, I mean…they have everything! From candy, to all varieties of fresh seafood imaginable, to sheep heads (no, I’m not joking), to veggies, nuts, dried fruit and our ultimate favorite – an infinite variety of fresh squeezed juice for just a euro. We kept going back to the juice stand like crack junkies. As soon as I would finish one, I would purchase another. Papaya, coconut, coconut/strawberry…it was a sick addiction. This place was absolutely amazing and I would highly recommend checking it out if you get the chance!

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Dalí Museum

It’s weird, it’s obscure…and totally worth the two hour train ride outside of Barcelona. Even if you do not particularly enjoy art, you will enjoy this museum. It was by far the most interesting place we visited and I am so grateful that we did. From the architecture to the sketches and paintings inside, it exudes Dalí through and through. For me, it was intense just wrapping my head around the fact that I was looking at actual pieces of art that Dalí touched and created: MIND. BLOWN.

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{ Inside of the Dali museum }

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{ Outside of the Dali Museum }

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{ Obscure courtyard at the Dali Museum }

Picasso Museum

This was probably one of my favorite stops. Of course when you think of Picasso, you think abstract, however, he started off doing still life. I even picked up this print from the museum gift shop because I loved it so much. Perhaps on the gallery wall?

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{ Image found here }

Park Guell

Okay, so the walk up to the park was intense. Think: steep San Francisco hills meets outdoor escalators. Let’s just say, it was a lot of work to get to this famous park. However, once we got there, the view made it all worth it. The scene of Barcelona from Park Guell is breathtaking. There is no other way to put it.

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{ The view of Barcelona from Park Guell }

Tapas + Cava

You would be doing yourself a disservice if you did not eat tapas or drink cava in Spain. Period. That’s what they are known for (aside from the siestas). You can find tapas practically everywhere in Barcelona but a notable place to check out that we were blown away by: La Flauta. So, so amazing. The good news: they have a menu in English (score!) however, the selection is super overwhelming and we asked them to just bring out food to us…and boy, did they ever. Dish after dish after dish – it was slightly embarrassing because honestly, we just kept eating. Everything they prepared was delicious. My favorite dishes? Brie skewers rolled in toasted peanuts and topped with a raspberry sauce, patatas bravas, octopus salad, shredded potatoes (kind of like hash browns) topped with an over easy egg – I mean, wow.

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{ Feast your eyes }

On our last day of the trip, we decided to do a cava tasting. For those of you who are unfamiliar, cava is a sparkling Spanish wine that is similar to champagne (but so much better). My friend, Ashley, introduced me to a glass of it several years back and I have been a fan ever since. Spain is known for their cava and what better way to enjoy it than exploring the vineyards, learning the history behind it as well as the art of cava making? Let me tell you, this was one of the best experiences I’ve ever had. Artcava was the company we went through and it only required a 40 minute train ride outside of Barcelona. We met the owner, Eric, and enjoyed a 6-hour cava excursion with our host, Ramon. I can honestly say, we became friends with Ramon when it was all said and done. In fact, we still keep in touch through Instagram! He was one of the most interesting and knowledgeable people I’ve ever met. After our tasting and tour of the facility, we made our very own bottles of cava to take home with us and indulged in a delicious meal that Ramon cooked – it was hands down one of the best meals we had in Barcelona. What an experience!

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{ The scenery }

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{ Ready for our cava experience }

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{ The tasting table is ready to go }

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{ It really does not get much better than this }

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{ The hubs attempting to cork his bottle of cava }

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{ The finished product }


Barcelona in a nutshell:

  • The city was beautiful and this visit will be an experience forever engrained in my mind.
  • There is a great deal of hustle and bustle, people are constantly on the go.
  • It’s interesting to see businesses close in the middle of the day for a few hours and then reopen.
  • The food (particularly seafood) and cava are delicious.
  • I got spoiled drinking cappuccinos over there – it’s just not the same in the States.
  • FACT: the Coke products and McDonald’s taste better in Barcelona.
  • There are bakeries on every corner. With that said, I got to experience a cronut filled with nutella…no shame.
  • You do a great deal of walking in Barcelona – in fact, I was sore almost every day. Either I’m completely out of shape or living in the South and driving everywhere did not really prepare me for this adventure!
  • People believe in “working to live” over “living to work”. Bottom line: they think Americans are workaholics.
  • People genuinely look happy. They pretty much love life.

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Travel | Windy City Round Up

Hello lovelies! I feel like a horrible blogger because I skipped a post last week. But do not fret – I will be posting twice this week to make up for it. In the meantime, I am dying to share our mini vacation we just came back from with you!

I’m coming to find that one of my favorite subjects to write about is travel. The hubs and I just got back from a long weekend in Chicago and let me just tell you…it blew me away (figuratively and literally). Shahin and I are big fans of tradition and although we’ve been together almost 7 years, we’ve only been married 7 months and have wanted to implement customs in our marriage. One we have established is an annual trip with one of our favorite couple friends to an uncharted area (or at least for most of us). Last year, we took on New York City, which was ridiculously fun (will touch on that trip in a separate post), and this year we chose Chicago. Why? We’ve all heard remarkable things about the “Windy City” between the places to see, activities to do as well as the cuisine and social scene. None of us had been there before except Shahin who had only visited when he was much younger.

The hubs and I have discussed many times before that it is not often you find a group of people you can comfortably travel with. Let’s be real for a moment: think about all of your friends. They’re amazing and you love them dearly but consider spending several days with them at a time…how many could you travel with without eventually wanting to pull your hair out? I can assure you, it will probably just be a handful. Erich and Rachel are the perfect travel buddies, we always have the best time together. Even more, we each play an important part in the planning and execution of our vacations. Erich always tracks down the best deals (without fail) while Rachel and I research and choose our activities, restaurants and watering holes (priorities). I like to consider Shahin a “game day” kind of guy. He’s not one to do any initial planning but he will be the spontaneous life of the party when we get to our final destination as well as our GPS (he has an amazing sense of direction).

Here’s a run down of what we did with some notable places and moments:

Thursday
• Had Chicago style pizza at Lou Malnati’s. It was quite delicious but really heavy. In fact, I was almost sick after eating one slice. Glad I gave it a try but I will stick with NY style all day, every day.
• Visited the Willis Tower (formerly Sears Tower), which is the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere at 1,353 feet. We stepped out onto the glass box, which extends out about 4 feet from the skydeck – totally worth the sweaty palms!
• Ate dinner at an oyster bar across from our hotel that had a very old school/1920’s Chicago vibe called Shaw’s. We enjoyed oyster shooters and listened to live jazz.
• Found the most talked about new hot spot in Chicago for 2014: Three Dots and a Dash, a tiki style speakeasy in a back alley with no signs on the door indicating where it is with just a bouncer out front. It was essentially an underground playground for adults/secret society of the most beautiful people in Chi town. Lively, vibrant and a very happening lounge with heavenly concoctions in unique tiki glasses.

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Friday
• First thing in the morning we walked to Intelligentsia and had the best cappuccino I’ve ever tasted.
• Stopped at Glazed & Infused and picked up some Maple Bacon Long John donuts on the way back to the hotel.
• Visited beluga whales, dolphins, penguins, and fish galore at the Shedd Aquarium – one of the largest aquariums in the world.
• Took in the most breathtaking view of Chicago seen from outside of the Adler Planetarium.
• Ate Chicago style hot dogs and Italian beef sandwiches at Portillo’s, which was recommended by a friend (thanks, Mike). Oh and the chocolate cake shake we ordered to go along with it…sinfully good.
• Did a little shopping on Magnificent Mile and hit up the holy grail (AKA Topshop).
• Dinner and margaritas at Frontera = wowza. The Meyer lemon margarita from the special Spring menu was divine.
• After shutting the place down, we decided to continue with the tequila (rule #1 of tequila drinking: you should never mix it with anything else) and popped into Mercadito, where I consumed passionfruit margaritas with a smoked paprika rim…and it was the most glorious drink I’ve ever had.

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Saturday
• Shahin and Erich stayed in their rooms (recovery mode) while Rachel and I picked up some coffee and stopped for a peanut butter cup donut at Firecakes. WIN!
• Did a little more shopping.
• Met the boys over at the Navy Pier where we rode the Ferris Wheel.
• Visited a 2-story Italian market called Eately.
• Ate dumplings and #hotasianbuns at Wow Bao.
• Had pre-dinner cocktails at CH Distillery, Chicago’s only distillery cocktail bar. This place makes their own alcohol and they’ve created a very chic and trendy atmosphere around it. Let me just start out by saying…they completely NAILED it with the drinks. The Moscow Mule Rachel had was ridiculously good and my unique beverage called The Baron Takes Tea (Earl Gray infused CH key gin, lemon, simple syrup, egg white and soda) was unbelievable.
• Had a 10:15 reservation at Girl and The Goat which every food blog, Chicago magazine, social media outlet and local Chicagoans rave about. Not to mention it was rated #1 on Urbanspoon Chicago as the hottest restaurant in town. Done and done. It’s tapas style so each couple had about 4-5 menu items each and we all did some sharing.
Here is what we tried:
o Seared tuna: Incredible.
o Diver scallops: Sweet and delectable.
o Goat carpaccio: Served with smoked trout roe and olive maple vinaigrette – I cannot even deal.
o Ham frites: Served with beer cheese…need I really say more?
o Onion bread: With tarragon butter and pepper chutney alongside it – holy hell.
o Tortone bread: Served with rocoto cream cheese and pepita salad – also amazing.
o Wood oven roasted pig face: Yes, you read that right. And no judging allowed because you never know unless you try. It tasted like the most tender BBQ you’ve ever had in your life – so surprisingly delicious.
o Fried pickles: The only one I was not head over heels in love with. They were tasty but let’s be honest…we are all from the South. Call me biased but they just simply cannot do it like we do.

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Sunday (Our last day but we made it count)
• Walked around and took in some last minute views.
• Enjoyed brunch at The Purple Pig – another one we’ve heard so much about. They don’t take reservations but we waited in line to get in before they opened (True life: we’re not in North Carolina anymore).
This eatery was also a tapas/shared plate restaurant and we had some appetizing bites:
o Meatball slider with parmesan and arugula: YUM!
o Razor clams with oregano, olive oil and lemon: Can you really go wrong with any clam?
o Chicken thigh kebabs with fried smashed potatoes and tzatziki sauce: An excellent combination.
o Octopus with green beans, fingerling potatoes and salsa verde: My favorite item we had.
o Fried pig’s ear with crispy kale, pickled cherry peppers and a fried egg: Made my taste buds dance.
o Fried petit basque cheese with membrillo: Basically a fancy mozzarella stick – so obvi it was delicious.

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What an incredible four days and three nights in the Windy City! It’s clean, beautiful and there is too much to see and do in just a short amount of time…you truly need a lifetime! We definitely painted the town red and made every minute count. On our way back to Charlotte, we were discussing what our next adventure would be! Of course we’ve created a bucket list of places to go but we’re thinking an all-inclusive resort in the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico or Mexico is a must. Who knows what 2015 will bring but it’s safe to say that we will have many years to come traveling with these two because they’re tying the knot next year. This means there are many couple trips together in our future – yippie!

Our list of places to visit include (but not limited to):

  • Seattle
  • Portland
  • Washington D.C.
  • Boston
  • San Francisco (we can’t get enough of it)
  • San Diego
  • Austin
  • Arizona
  • New Orleans
  • Maine
  • Paris
  • London
  • Ireland
  • Scotland
  • Amsterdam
  • Prague
  • Oktoberfest in Munich (sounds like trouble)
  • Switzerland
  • Thailand
  • Machu Pichu
  • Brazil
  • Buenos Aires
  • Istanbul
  • Greece

We may need to start doubling up on trips each year! Definitely cannot wait for our many adventures to come! What are places you’re dying to see or have been that are ridiculously amazing? Do share in the comment section below!

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Travel | Paradise Found in the Amalfi Coast

At last, we have reached the last portion of our 3 part honeymoon in Italy! We’ve experienced the art, cuisine and wine of Florence + Tuscany and made our way down to Rome – the beautiful and historic old city. But now…we’ve saved the best for last (and it happened to be the last place we stayed prior to heading back to the U.S.).

Let’s be honest, you probably cannot go wrong with anywhere you visit in Italy. It all depends on the experience you wish to have. But if you know Sean and me, we do not like to do anything in moderation and wanted to have it all…is that really so wrong? When deciding on a final location, we wanted it to be somewhere that was not only relaxing but ridiculously breathtaking as well. Going into this, we knew that we were going to be exhausted from traveling and bouncing around from city to city. Not to mention, everyone else typically chooses somewhere calm and serene for a honeymoon destination and we did not want to miss out on that aspect. We saved the peaceful and “real honeymoon” portion of our vacation in Italy for the end – and I have to say, I am so glad we did because had we started with this place, I would have never wanted to leave…and the feeling was quite mutual. To put it bluntly, Sean and i fell madly in love here and even began brainstorming ways to relocate permanently. From a surf shop to a bar…we exhausted all options. Before you ask – no, I am not joking – if there was a place that I would describe as “perfection”, this place nailed it.

The location I speak of? Positano which is a village in the Amalfi Coast. Now, I’ve heard people rant and rave about the Amalfi Coast all of my life. It’s one of those places you have to see before you die from a bucket list perspective. There were several areas within the Amalfi Coast that were appealing and I do not think you can go wrong with any. However, I did quite a bit of research before booking our trip and Positano was always described as the most picturesque town in the Amalfi Coast where the rich and famous vacation. This was one of those once in a lifetime opportunities and we just couldn’t pass it up.

Before you scroll down to see some of our highlights of our 3 day stay in Positano, I am going to go ahead and warn you: after seeing this, you will want to move there. Like, tonight. You will also probably dislike your current place of residence – even if you live in the most beautiful of cities. So there’s your notice – now let’s keep it moving.

We took a train from Rome (business class again, of course) to Naples. We were told that we would then need a driver to take us about 45 minutes from the train station to the Amalfi Coast – which is basically the only way to get there. We called our resort while we were in Rome and they set us up with a private driver. We heard this was the way to go because a.) Naples isn’t exactly the safest place and tourists can be easy targets and b.) it was much better to get a driver that provided an up front cost versus a cab driver who could end up taking advantage of us financially.

We budgeted appropriately for our hotels in Florence and Rome but definitely splurged here. We stayed at Hotel Marincanto, which was ranked #7 of all of the Positano hotels on Trip Advisor. It was more than I could have ever imagined – wow, just wow.

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{ The lobby of our hotel. }

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{ We were greeted with prosecco + treats while we waited on our room. }

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{ Lemons are a big deal in Positano – the resort had lemon trees everywhere. }

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{ Anddd this was our view from our hotel terrace as we waited on our room. }

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{ Fresh squeezed lemon juice from the hotel’s lemon trees. }

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{ The view from our room – ahhhmazing. }

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{ And the sun goes down on our first day in Positano. }

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{ This sunset: unreal. }

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{ A gourmet breakfast with the best view in the world. }

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{ Forgive me – but did I mention how amazing the view was? }

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{ Beauty. }

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{ Exploring Positano. }

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{ Our hotel sat high on a cliff. }

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{The best part: you can sunbathe and look out into the ocean. }

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{ Dinner out at a lovely restaurant that sat on a cliff – our view was ridiculous. }

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{ Fresh seafood – oh ya know, caught just moments before. }

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{ Homemade panna cotta drizzled with chocolate sauce. }

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{ Beautiful passageway during one of our walks. }

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{ *Le sigh* }

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{ I can never get enough of this. }

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{ The freshest bruschetta we’ve ever had. }

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{ Nomzzz for days – fresh orange juice + fresh seafood = match made in heaven. }

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{ Our last sunset in Positano – but not forever! We will be back one day soon! }

This was the most unbelievably surreal experience I’ve ever had. Not one complaint. All I can do is rant and rave about how perfect Positano was. If you ever have the opportunity to go, do not, I repeat, do not hesitate. If you are planning a trip to Italy – this is not a place you want to miss out on.

Overall, our honeymoon was more than I could have ever possibly imagined. It was the perfect mix of art, culture, history, cuisine and serenity. This country will forever have a piece of me. Arrivederci, Italy. We will meet again one day soon.

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Travel | When in Rome…

So my very first travel post was about Florence which was Part 1 of 3 of our honeymoon back in October. As mentioned, Sean and I had decided to take on Italy for our first adventure as a married couple. Since there were so many places to choose between, we each picked a city that we were dying to visit and then one that we agreed on together. There was a method to our madness regarding our itinerary – we started up north and worked our way down south. Florence was our first stop (my choice) and next was Sean’s choice – Rome! I have to be completely honest here, I was very skeptical about Rome. Not that I didn’t think it would be fabulous, but there were other cities in Italy that were further up on my list of places to see. However, we made a deal and if Rome was where Sean wanted to go, that’s where we would go!

After two incredible days in Florence, we caught a train and traveled down to Rome. Prior to leaving for our honeymoon, I remember my dear friend, Amy, telling me how amazing the train experience alone is. In fact, one of her most vivid memories while traveling in Italy was looking out the windows of the train and taking in all of the beauty around her as all five senses were ignited. Ever since she described this to me, I longed for that same experience. Sean and I booked two “business class” tickets to Rome which provided us with comfortable leather seats and some extra room. The pungent aroma of coffee beans lingered throughout the cabin and the train attendants came around to pour us a fresh cup of joe while serving up delicious, crisp biscuits (a fancy term for cookies).

As I sipped my warm cup of coffee in my cozy leather chair, I gazed out the window of the train as beautiful Italian hillsides passed us by. I remember looking across the little table that Sean and I shared and took a few minutes to take this moment in. Here I was, someone who was constantly wrapped up in my own world back at home – between my career, school, social life, bills, pleasing people…all of these things began to seem so insignificant. Sure, it’s a part of our every day lives and how can we not get immersed in the monotonous day-to-day rituals and responsibilities we have? But having this moment to breath, collect myself, see the beauty of the world around us and actually look at this man sitting across from me, my new husband whom I was sharing this adventure with as I enjoyed my delicious cup of coffee, I was suddenly reminded of why I work so hard in life. It was to enjoy moments like these. It sounds cliché but it’s the little things I live for. And I knew at this very instant that this would be an irreplaceable memory forever engrained in my mind.

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{ An adventure in itself – the train ride on the way to Rome. }

We arrived in Rome in the early afternoon. We took a cab to our adorable little Bed and Breakfast, Navona Governo Vecchio, which was centrally located in the city and in an apartment building. This was a really neat concept because we were able to immerse ourselves in the life of a local. Rome was the longest leg of our trip (5 days) and goodness did they fly by! However, we were able to do a great deal of exploring (especially our first evening there when we decided to get lost on purpose and wander around with no map). I have to admit, I was extremely impressed and enjoyed it so much more than I had initially anticipated. I mean…wow.

First and foremost, Rome is an incredibly lively place. It had the hustle and bustle of NYC but in a very historic and beautiful old city. There was a hodgepodge of people – all ages, shapes and sizes, ethnicities, backgrounds – truly a melting pot of cultural wonder.

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{ A man at one of the piazzas playing the violin. }

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{ An endless assortment of fresh flowers for sale at a piazza. }

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{ Our first dinner in Rome at a vibrant hookah bar and lounge in one of the piazzas. Our appetizer: fresh prosciutto + buffalo mozzarella. }

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{ A fresh seafood pizza pie. }

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{ Enjoying some vino + brown butter/sage ravioli. }

Our next few days we did so much exploring (and walking). The best part about this was that we were able to work off everything we ate! So many incredible sites to see and take in. Since we photographed so many moments, below are just some highlights from our 5 day stay in Rome.

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{ The door to our room at the Bed & Breakfast – so very Rome. }

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{ This is what we woke up to every morning – fresh croissants and bread, cappuccino, tea, orange juice and yogurt. }

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{ We decided to visit the Jewish Ghetto – and the hubs had to point out the “accident” a few birds had that flew over him. He doesn’t have the best of luck but it made for a good laugh! }

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{ Walking around the Jewish Ghetto. }

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{ Doing some exploring! }

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{ So ornate and beautiful – the picture doesn’t do it justice. }

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{ Absolutely incredible – ancient ruins. }

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{ The Roman Forum – it’s hard to believe things like this still exist in the world. }

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{ Antipasto pit stop – someone was happy. }

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{ Oh, the interesting things you will see in Rome – all while eating at a street cafe! }

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{ Colosseum | Take I }

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{ Colosseum | Take II }

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{ Roman aqueducts }

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{ *le sigh* – this sunset + the Equestrian Statue of Marcus Aurelius }

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{ The famous Trevi Fountain }

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{ The Pantheon }

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{ We made it to Vatican City! }

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{ Amazing to see in person – there are no words. }

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{ You will never realize how small you are until you visit the Vatican. }

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{ Wowza! }

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{ One of the immense statues inside of the Vatican. }

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{ This incredible pergola. }

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{ We were able to witness the changing of the guards. }

What an enriching experience this was. We enjoyed every moment of our time in this incredible place. From the lively people, to the adorable piazzas, to the boisterous markets and quaint street cafes, to the delicious gelato and cuisine and of course, the refreshing vino…we had the time of our lives. Beyond all of this, being able to walk the old city with my new husband made it that much more beautiful. I will forever hold a place in my heart for Rome. Our last stop in Italy is coming up on the blog next and it was hands down our favorite place we’ve ever visited (ever). Stay tuned! Ciao!

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Travel | Cooking, Art + Wine – Florence, Italy

When choosing a honeymoon destination last year, my husband and I decided that we wanted to go in a different direction than most which is your typical tropical vacation. Not knocking it at all – if anyone loves relaxing by the ocean with their toes in the sand, it’s us. However, we wanted to go somewhere ridiculously enchanting. Somewhere lively with incredible food and a unique atmosphere. In other words, we wanted an adventure. I like to consider myself pretty worldly – I’m open to any experience and am more than willing to try anything at least once. Sean is even more worldly – he’s been to many different places and felt that I needed to experience Europe. He had been to London before and although he was open to visiting again, I wanted us to go somewhere that we would both be experiencing for the first time. After all, a honeymoon is a very special thing two people share – right?

We had originally decided on Paris and a few stops in Italy and we had 10 days allocated for our honeymoon (including travel). But after doing quite a bit of research, we discovered that it would require more traveling than what we had initially anticipated. We didn’t mind moving from city to city, however, we wanted to at least have a few days in each place so we could actually take it all in and enjoy. I mean really…I didn’t want to live out of my suitcase the entire trip. We agreed that we should make Paris it’s own vacation as there is a lot to see and do there and we decided to zero in on Italy…check! Now the next tough decision to make – where do we go? After all, Italy is rather large and there are so many beautiful places to visit. How could we possibly narrow it down? We decided the fairest way to figure this out was to each choose a city that we had been dying to go to and then a third city that we could both agree on. Now, when I say it was really difficult to make this choice – I mean that with the utmost sincerity. I have a hard enough time picking out what I’m going to wear each day much less, choosing an international destination.

Finally we hammered it down – we would start north and move our way down south. First stop: Florence (my choice), second stop: Rome (Sean’s choice) and third stop: The Amalfi Coast (our choice).

I wanted to visit Florence because I am an art nut. Not to mention we both love love love (did I mention love?) food and wine. We decided to throw in Tuscany into the mix as it’s always been on the top of my bucket list.

After several plane rides – we arrived on Wednesday, October 23rd just a few days after our wedding (October 19th – best. day. ever.). We took a bus from the Florence airport to a stop near our hotel. We lugged our suitcases for a few blocks (aye yi yi). But wow…what a culture shock. I could barely focus on walking because all I wanted to do was look around and take in all of the hustle and bustle of the city. So many beautiful people, so much architecture, so many little street cafes, gelaterias, boutiques…you name it. After settling into our hotel, we decided to start exploring immediately.

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{ We went to a little street cafe and shared a bottle of delicious red wine. NOM! }

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{ Happy hubby }

After enjoying some vino and fresh pasta, we called it a night because we were exhausted from traveling (dang time zone change) and had a very busy itinerary the following day. We booked a really incredible day that included a cooking class followed by a wine tasting in Tuscany which entailed getting picked up by a private van from the cooking school and transferred to wine country. I had done a substantial amount of research to find the perfect excursion and had decided on the cooking class/wine tasting combination with an organization called Vanarium. We were able to choose a menu from an assortment that Vanarium provided and decided on the seafood option. 

The following morning we woke up very early to meet our chef at a local market. Her name was Ingrid and she was just the sweetest woman with a wealth of knowledge. Originally from Switzerland, she moved to Italy and met her husband, an Italian man who was actually our wine tour guide. He would be picking us up later that day. Ingrid took us around the local market that was never really visited by tourists as it was off the beaten path. It was such an experience to be immersed in the day-to-day life of a local.

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{ Fresh fruit from the local market. }

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{ Forget grocery stores, fresh vegetables and fruit at the local market is the place to go. }

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{ Our chef, Ingrid, picking out our seafood from the local fish market. }

After we gathered all of our fresh ingredients, Ingrid took us to the local cooking school where we would be preparing our decadent four course meal.

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{ Our menu for the day – mussel balls, a cuttlefish soup, black ink risotto and cuttlefish and a panna cotta with chocolate sauce. }

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{ Prep station and a little table where we dined after we cooked our meal. }

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{ Fresh, traditional, Tuscan bread – it was delicious and crusty but had no salt in it because you salt the olive oil that you dip it in. }

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{ Sean cooking up a storm – Ingrid taught him well. }

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{ Oh ya know, just stirring some risotto! }

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{ Finished product #1 | Mussel Balls }

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{ Finished product #2 | English Pea Soup with Cuttlefish }

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{ Finished product #3 | Black Ink Risotto with Cuttlefish }

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{ Finished product #4 | Panna Cotta with Chocolate Sauce }

What an experience! I truly learned so much from Ingrid and the food was absolutely incredible. Everything was so fresh and tasty. I definitely learned how labor intensive a four course meal was but was excited to find out how easy homemade panna cotta is! I was super intimidated but it turned out remarkably.

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{ Cheers to our first homemade meal as husband + wife. }

After our extremely filling meal, our wine tour guide picked us up in a private van. He told us about a part of Florence that you could look out from a very high point and see the entire city. He asked us if we wanted to check it out before we drove 40 minutes to Tuscany and of course, we were ecstatic and accepted his offer.

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{ NO words. Completely in awe over this view. }

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{ It was even more incredible in person. }

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{ At the lookout point was an exact replica of Michelangelo’s Statue of David – apparently this was where the original was located before being moved to the Accademia Gallery. It was replaced with this one. }

After our pit stop, we drove through beautiful hillsides to get to our final destination. Our first stop was Casaloste in Chianti Classico. We tried several different wines, learned about them and the entire wine making process as well as the vineyard’s history.

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{ This view: ridiculously amazing. }

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{ Tuscany is truly a dream. }

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{ Grapes growing in the vineyard. }

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{ Delicious wine tasting at Casaloste. }

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{ A few of the different wines we tasted. }

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{ Learning about all of the different wines Casaloste cultivates. }

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{ The hubby enjoying some vino with our new Canadian friends we made in the background. }

After Casaloste, our guide drove us to another winery and vineyard called Montagliari.

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{ Outside of Montagliari. )

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{ Beautiful weather, beautiful place. }

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( Sean exploring the winery. }

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{ The beautiful outdoor area where you enjoy the wine + view. }

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{ Newlyweds }

After we left Montagliari, our guide drove us to a little part of town in Tuscany that was truly a hidden gem. It was an area that was transformed into little apartments. It was indescribable and the views were surreal.

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*Le sigh*. What magical places Florence and Tuscany were. The views…magnificent. The people…warm and friendly. The food and wine…rich and delectable. If I could have a second home anywhere, it would be between here and the Amalfi Coast. I could not imagine being anywhere as naturally serene and interesting as this. Perfection. It was a wonderful adventure but it was time for the next leg of our trip: Rome. So for now, arrivederci, Florence and Tuscany! I’ll be writing about our travels to Rome next. Ciao!

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