Friday, June 28, 2013

California Vacation Day 2

Our second day at the Culinary Arts Institute was on Sunday. We had a brief tasting session where we tried different tastes mixed together like bitter, sour, salty, and sweet, to see how they worked with or worked against each other.

The morning session was devoted to a Food Network's Chopped-like competition where we were given three ingredients: Mushrooms, salmon, and strawberries, and asked to create a dish that featured those three key ingredients. It was a bit overwhelming, but in the end we put our heads together and came up with Asian coleslaw stuffed mushroom caps!

Chef Patrick liked the slaw that we made, but our mushrooms weren't cooked enough for him. :( Oh well, it was definitely a learning experience. The winning team definitely deserved to win. Their salad was delicious and one of my favorites of the day!
Listening to the Chef's results

After we enjoyed our delicious salad creations, we went outside to do some group shots. This was the whole gang for the weekend. It was a really nice group of people who all really enjoy food and cooking:

We had some free time before our wine class so we went to the CIA gift shop and also went to their "Chocolate Bar" where you can get a "flight" of chocolates to sample for a few bucks. My favorite? The Peanut Butter and Jelly Chocolates!

There was an artist in the shop creating beautiful artwork out of melons. It was incredible to watch, and he was very funny and entertaining to listen to.

We still had some time, so we went across the street with our new friends, Michelle and Betty, to see two of the wineries: Charles Krug and Markham Vineyards.

At the end of the day, we had a salad and wine pairing seminar. I liked this wine seminar much better than the day before. It was taught by a Master Sommolier (did you know there are only 200 Master Sommeliers in the WORLD?) and he was incredibly interesting, engaging, and informative.

Sunday afternoon and evening we had free-time for ourselves, which I will tell you about on Monday. That night we started The Walking Dead on Netflix!

Our last day in Napa was a half day at the CIA and then we had the rest of the day to ourselves. Our flight wasn't until 9:30 that night (which ended up turning into 1am!) We started off the day with an olive oil tasting session. We tasted two olive oils from Italy and one from Napa Valley. Each one tasted so different, and the things we were asked to look and taste for were very similar to that of the wine tasting we had the day before.

This was followed by another salad making demonstration by Chef Patrick, who prepared 5 different salads for us. It was always fascinating to watch him cut, dice, chop, cook, and place everything. It's amazing the techniques he used and how quickly he could do things! He then sent us off to our kitchens to each prepare one of the salads he just made, but adding our own spin to it.

We were assigned one of the easier salads: The Waldorf Salad! We used smoked chicken, apples, grapes, toasted walnuts, and for the dressing instead of mayonaisse as he used, we mixed together greek yogurt, orange juice, and honey. It came out really well!

Once everyone was done, we all sat down to eat for one more lunch of deliciously prepared (and very diverse) salads, and that was the end of our culinary experience with Dole Salads at the Culinary Arts Institute!

Stay tuned Monday for our date night dinner and a drive through Napa in a Mercedes Convertible!

Thursday, June 27, 2013

California Vacation Day 1

This past weekend, Chris and I headed out to Napa Valley, California for an all-expenses paid trip sponsored by Dole Salads. I won this thru Skinny-Bits last year, and though I was concerned it was all too good to be most certainly was true and then some! Chris and I received star treatment from the moment we arrived and I cannot thank Dole Salads enough for sponsoring such an amazing weekend. We had a fun time getting to know a great group of people, taking cooking and wine classes at the Culinary Institute of America, and of course, eating great food.

We arrived to the Solage Calistoga Hotel and Spa around 11:30pm on Friday night (which felt like 2:30am to us!) The hotel was beautiful!! Each room was its own little cottage, with two bikes outside for guests to use as they wish throughout their stay (sadly, we didn't get to take them out.)

Our room was huge and lead out to a beautiful secluded patio.

Each morning, we were greeted with a continental breakfast consisting of yogurt and granola, very fresh, fresh fruit, scones, muffins, and my personal favorite: the English Muffins!!

On Saturday morning, this was our view as we ate breakfast...stunning!

Throughout the next three days we participated in a series of hands-on cooking lessons, contests, seminars and demos. It truly was a unique culinary learning experience and one I will treasure forever.

On Saturday, we got a tour of the Culinary Arts Institute facilities. From their garden, to their outdoor grills and brick ovens, to their classrooms and kitchens. 

After the tour, it was time to meet Clinton Kelly! Clinton was seriously so nice and so down to earth. He also recognized me right away from our twitter conversation earlier in the week! He came right up to me and said "did we tweet earlier this week?" and I said "Yes!!" and from then on in we were fast friends...I may even venture to say best friends? Though, that may be bold ;)
After we watched a demo of Chef Patrick prepare a variety of salads, we were split into teams to recreate the salads on our own and to think about presentation. Chris and I were paired with mom and daughter duo, Michele and Betty, who were so sweet and down to earth. I think the four of us made the perfect team, and we had a fun time cooking with them throughout the weekend. Clinton came around while we cooked to chat with us and help us think about our presentation plates.

Our team was assigned to make an Italian mix salad with fire roasted tomato and Mozzarella vinaigrette, and a Sweet lettuce salad with sour cucumbers, avocado and dill vinaigrette. It seemed soooo weird to be mixing pickles with avocado and dill vinaigrette...but this was one of our favorite salads of the day!
See? Best Friends....

Altogether we had 10 different salads at the end of the morning to sample for lunch. This really was like a dream vacation for me...salads??!! That's only my most favorite thing ever and each salad was better than the last!

After we ate our salad creations for lunch, we went over to Rudd Hall, a room specifically designed for wine tasting, for a "TastingWine like a Pro" seminar. I was even able to partake in this because we each had our own "spittoons" and even the instructor was spitting out her wine, so I didn't feel so bad or awkward doing so as well!

We had a little bit of time back at our room to change before dinner at the Wine Spectator Greystone Restaurant, the restaurant on the CIA Campus. I kicked my heels up on our back porch to soak in some rays before dinner.

Dinner was back at the CIA. It was ok, I wasn't blown away by the food and honestly, you could tell that they were just training their new group of summer students, because the service was all over the place.

However, we still had a good time getting to know everyone in the group a bit better. This was our table of the whole group at the restaurant:

 Chris and I taking in the views after dinner

I really wanted to do this whole weekend in two posts, but that was just one day and there's SO much more to share!! I have two more posts to share on what we did outside of class, and some of the other seminars and challenges we attended. So more updates on our big Cali trip coming your way!

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Bumpdate: 17 Weeks

I'm a day late with this week's Bumpdate since I was traveling back from California yesterday. We had an AMAZING time in Napa for the past few days and I cannot wait to tell you all about it! For now, here is my 17 week Bumpdate!

How Far Along: 17 Weeks!

Baby is the size of: an onion

Total weight gain:
7 pounds (Soon, I will be the heaviest I've ever been...sigh....)

Sleep: Good!

Best Moment of the week:
Besides meeting Clinton Kelly and having the most incredible vacation in Cali?! (More on our trip to come soon!) Maybe reading through our baby name book on the plane and narrowing down some boy name options. Still nowhere near deciding on anything, but making a good head start! I also started to set up some of our baby registries, and trying to figure out how I want to do it (i.e. where to register for which products, how many places, and what products to register for)

Worst Moment of the week:
The plane ride out to Napa on Friday. My stomach was so queasy for the second half of the trip. Not "I'm going to hurl" queasy...but just very unhappy with me. I thought that it might be because my eating schedule was all thrown off and I was eating differently, but my stomach felt the same way coming home on Monday...but I was able to sleep through most of it, so it wasn't as bad. Once I got back onto ground, my stomach felt much better.

Miss Anything:
Just like last week it was hard to be at a wedding at a winery and not drink the wine, it was a little sad to be in Napa Valley and not be able to try any of the wines! I did participate in two wine tasting classes and spit it out into my "spittoon", so I "tasted" the wine, just didn't consume any! I was glad I was still able to participate in the class...but I could only "taste" wines for so long and didn't want to do that at any of the specific wineries.

Food Cravings:
Fruit and cheese

Anything make you queasy or sick:

Have you started to show?
Yep! I'm still kind of in that gray area where people wouldn't necessarily say anything to me for fear of them being wrong. I'm also sort of wearing very loose clothes that somewhat hide it, so I'm not "so obviously pregnant" but if you know I am, you can certainly tell, especially depending on the way I'm standing.

Gender: Team Green!

Remember that time last week when I didn't have much of an appetite? Haha that was a funny joke. This week my appetite came back with a vengeance! Hungry ALL the time! Also - my stomach was very itchy from the growing skin. AND, I hate to say it...but I def. have stretch marks on both of my sides :(

Prenatal Yoga and lots and lots of walking! I hit a record with steps and miles walked last week!

Excellent, I was on VACAY! I was nervous about traveling pregnant. Would I be too tired? Would I have to run to the bathroom every two seconds? Would I constantly be hungry? But I felt really great our entire trip! (Minus the whole upset stomach on the airplane thing)

Looking Forward to:
Feeling the baby move. Could be any day now!

Maternity Clothes:
Pretty much lived in my Target Turquoise capri maternity pants for two days of vacation. I think I may wear those and my Old Navy Maxi dresses from here on in.

Finished The End of Your Life Book Club - review coming soon!

Baby spent this week developing sweat glands (bleh), and is starting to grow its own fat (join the club)

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Book Review: The Art of Racing in the Rain

From goodreads:
Enzo knows he is different from other dogs: a philosopher with a nearly human soul (and an obsession with opposable thumbs), he has educated himself by watching television extensively, and by listening very closely to the words of his master, Denny Swift, an up-and-coming race car driver.

Through Denny, Enzo has gained tremendous insight into the human condition, and he sees that life, like racing, isn't simply about going fast. On the eve of his death, Enzo takes stock of his life, recalling all that he and his family have been through.

A heart-wrenching but deeply funny and ultimately uplifting story of family, love, loyalty, and hope, The Art of Racing in the Rain is a beautifully crafted and captivating look at the wonders and absurdities of human only a dog could tell it.

My Thoughts:
Wow, pass the tissues. Pass them now. This book made me want to come home every night and give Zoey a huge hug and kiss. The Art of Racing in the Rain is about a dog and his race-car-driving owner. It's told entirely from the dog's perspective and he recounts the years he spent and grew up with his owner, whom he loves more than anyone, and how he understands and sees everything that goes on in his owner's life (from a marriage, having a child, and when things turn very difficult for him as well) The dog helps him through the best and worst times of his life. If you're a dog person, you'll love this book - just make sure you have tissues handy!

Monday, June 24, 2013

Guest Post: Katie Moore - "My Switch to Natural Living"

Hey Guys! Since I'm still soaking up the sun in California, today I have a guest post for you from Katie Moore at Moore From Katie, where she blogs about motherhood, children, fitness, health and all other things Mommy. Katie has written a great post today on staying healthy before, during, and after having a baby. What I like about Katie is her natural whole-living approach to healthy living. It's not all about fake 100-calorie packs and low-cal/low-sugar "crap" food. It's about being healthy all around, from the food we put into our bodies to the soap we use to wash ourselves every morning. Katie has some great ideas to the whole living approach. Take it away Katie!

I always considered myself to be a reasonably health-conscious person, but it wasn't until I became pregnant that I realized that a few weekly trips to the gym, some diet soda and 100-calorie snack packs weren't as healthy as I’d thought. That's when I made a whole-hearted commitment to living a truly healthy lifestyle for my sake and that of my growing baby.  Before changing your diet, make sure to double check with your doctor.  My doctor advised me on everything- from cord blood banking to teething!  Here are some of the changes I made!

Eating More Produce
The first step that I took was adding more fresh fruits and vegetables into my diet. The first thing I would eat in the morning was a piece of fruit like an apple, banana or pear. For lunch, I would have a salad with my meal and more fruit as a snack. For dinner, I would try to incorporate vegetables into the meal in any way possible by making stews, stir-fries and even homemade pizza.

Buying Healthier Produce
With my increased produce consumption came the worry about what might be on it. To avoid this problem, I researched which foods were the most pesticide-ridden and set out to replace those with organic versions. Among these things were apples, carrots, oranges, potatoes, leafy greens, grapes and berries. It cost a little more, but the risk to my baby wasn't worth saving a few measly dollars.

Exercise More
Although I visited the gym prior to my pregnancy, I didn't go often and didn't spend as much time exercising as I should have. These days, our culture favors the idea that pregnant women are in a delicate condition and should avoid physical activity as much as possible. This idea is reflected in the number of stores that have expectant mothers parking spots right next to their entrances. However, this belief is patently false and should be discouraged. Exercise is essential to a healthy and strong body and also helps to keep hormone levels in the proper balance. In addition, it helps to improve sleep quality and reduces the likelihood of aches and pains related to pregnancy. When I started going for brisk walks for 40 minutes five times per week, I noticed that I suffered very few unpleasant pregnancy symptoms.

A Safer Environment
Because the needs of a household don't disappear just because of pregnancy, I realized that I needed to make some alterations to the way I cleaned. Nearly all of the toxic substances I scrubbed my home with were easily replaced by safer, more natural options. Instead of the mysterious blue fluid called window cleaner, I began using a vinegar and water solution. Bleach-based scouring cleansers were replaced with a paste made from baking soda. When I wanted to mop my floor, I forewent the harsh chemicals and used a simple mixture of hot water and little lemon juice. Even my usual laundry detergent was replaced with an all-natural version free of dyes and fragrances.

Healthy Bathing
The things that I cleaned my body with were often just as bad as the things I used to clean my house, but it was also just as easily remedied. I started buying shampoo made with natural ingredients and used plain white vinegar as a conditioner. As opposed to the mass-produced bar soap that contains various unknown chemicals, I switched to using handmade soaps purchased from my local farmer's market that were made with a few simple ingredients and left my skin feeling nourished.

Making a few small changes throughout your pregnancy can help make for a happier and healthier baby- and mom!
Katie Moore has written and submitted this article. Katie is an active blogger who discusses the topics of, motherhood, children, fitness, health and all other things Mommy. She enjoys writing, blogging, and meeting new people! To connect with Katie contact her via her blog, Moore From Katie or her twitter, @moorekm26

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Zoey's 2nd Birthday

Today our little Zoey turns 2 years old! Another year older, another year wiser, another year of love etched into our hearts. Happy Birthday Zoey!

It's hard to believe how much this little munchkin has grown in a year, and how much more I love her each day!

A lot of people ask me how I think Zoey will react with a little brother or sister around. It's true that Zoey is a bit spoiled and is used to pretty much constant attention from Chris and me. I think there might be a little bit of adjusting and potential jealously issues with a baby around. However, Zoey is such a loving and sweet dog, that I really can't help but think that she's going to become completely protective and loving with the baby and totally rock her big sister role. She already loves her big sister t-shirt...just look how happy she is! LOL

Zoey sleeps in the bed with us, and I have no intention of putting that to an end just because we have a child. Zoey will learn to love, embrace, and be gentle with her younger brother or sister and that's just the way it's going to be.

How will your dog(s) be with a little one in the house? Did your dog(s) have any trouble adjusting to bringing home a baby?