Monday, July 31, 2017

We Have Walls!

Last time I updated you on the house, we had just broken ground. It's amazing how quickly a house can come together because now, just a couple of months later, we have walls!

We've been heading to the site every couple of weeks to check on the progress. I am just in awe of this whole process. About a month ago the house looked like this, with just the beginnings of the foundation.

Then, a couple of weeks later we had the frame of the house up. One of my favorite moments so far has been making the house our own by marking our rooms. Asher is too young to do it himself, but Zahara did a great job writing her name on her new closet. I love the idea that years from now, even though it will be hidden beneath layers of paint, drywall, and insulation, our names will be sealed inside the house forever.

Things are progressing rapidly now. Our closing date is September 5, but the house will be ready for inspection on August 30. That means just one more month to go! They've started tiling the bathrooms, installing the cabinets, painting the trim, and hanging the doors.

They also hung the siding and bricks.

Pretty soon they will move on to installing the light fixtures, finishing the cabinets, and installing the flooring. It's down to the finishing touches!

I am getting so excited to move, but there's still a ton of things to do on this end. I'm getting a bit anxious over that to-do list, which includes very minor things like PACK UP MY ENTIRE HOUSEHOLD OF FOUR PEOPLE AND TWO CATS. Oh, and find a renter who wants to live here for the next few years. You know, no big deal.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Dear Asher: 12 Months

Happy birthday sweet Asher! You are one year old today! It's hard for me to wrap my head around the fact that my little baby is a toddler now. What a strange feeling knowing that I don't, and won't, have any more babies.

Asher, I can't even explain to you the effect you have on people. You are just the sweetest, happiest baby. Your chubby little cheeks are magnets for people's pinching fingers. They can't help themselves. Your stick straight, wispy hair always makes people chuckle--especially when it looks like you've stuck your fingers in an electrical outlet.

You are constantly on the go now. You love cruising around furniture and exploring your surroundings. You're not a fan of having to sit still--especially for diaper changes. You haven't taken any steps yet, but you're just starting to stand on your own a little bit. I've only seen you do it once so far, but it was pretty exciting.

You are learning how to wave, clap, and blow kisses. It's absolutely adorable watching you put your chubby little hand to your mouth and try and blow. You also try and imitate anything that your sister does. So when she's pretending to be a cat (yes, that's a thing), you also come crawl to my lap and demand to be pet.

You've got a mouth full of teeth! You have eight, with a couple more on the way. These last few have been pretty rough for you. As usual, you've been a champ, but we can tell that you're not loving it. Hopefully you'll be feeling better soon.

You're going through a picky phase with food. You still LOVE food, just like the rest of your family, but you're showing clear preferences and dislikes. Lately, your favorites are cheerios, veggie straws, any fruit, and meat. You lose your mind over bananas, and you throw anything green on the ground.

You and your sister still get along great (and it melts my heart when she comes over to give you a kiss), but you're starting to act like a traditional little brother--namely, by annoying her. She'll be coloring at her art desk and you can't help but come up to see what she's doing. Despite her numerous warnings to leave her alone, you just keep crawling back and pulling up to see her.

Other quick facts about you: your favorite thing in the world is the TV remote. You're going through a bit of separation anxiety and only want to be with me. You are still sleeping through the night (thank you!!). You weigh 24 pounds. You love baths and pools.

Asher, we love you to the moon and back. Happiest of happy birthdays!

Read about Zahara at this age:
Dear Zahara: 12 Months

Monday, July 24, 2017

Minibar and Barmini: Part 2

Have I left you hungry for more after the first part of my Minibar recap? I hope so, because there's plenty more to discuss. Let's get right to it.
  • Broccoli and Cheddar Gnocchi
    • These "gnocchi" were filled with broccoli and cheese purees barely encased in a gel. They completely melted in my mouth, and I couldn't get enough of the cheddar sauce. I could have kept eating this one all night.
  • Montana Trout Rack and Lemon Yolks
    • Such a fun preparation! Looked like rack of lamb. The lemon yolks and brown butter sauce were phenomenal. 
  • Pesto Fusilli
    • These pasta were a true labor of love. The chef used a corkscrew as a mold and individually twisted each shell off the mold, then used a syringe to fill the pasta with incredibly fresh pesto. The egg yolks were perfectly runny. This dish replaced the snail caviar that the other diners ate.

  • Kumquat Ceviche
    • This was a miss for both me and Dan. It was a weird mix of fruit, fish, and ice. 
  • Thai Eggplant
    • We were right back on track with this dish. When I ate the peanut air and berries together, it tasted like a yummy PB&J sandwich. But then when I ate it all together with the eggplant, it tasted like an authentic Thai dish. So good!
  • Mojito Surprise
    • YUM! The lime was a shooter filled with a jelly sparkling mojito! Such a fun surprise. Everyone at the table was sad there wasn't more of this one.

  • Gorgonzola Dolce
    • This freeze-dried piece of Gorgonzola with apple is an acquired taste, but I loved it. 
  • Fried Donut
    • The chef individually fried each ice cream-filled donut and served it to us immediately. It tasted like being at the state fair!
  • Minibar
    • Shocking, but I didn't actually love this tiny chocolate bar. It was too much raspberry for me. This dish replaced the bacon chocolate (served on a ceramic pig!).

  • Chalk
    • We were given a box and told to take it next door to Barmini for the rest of our meal. There we played games of tic-tac-toe with our coconut, banana, raspberry and beet meringue chalk. I love playing with my food.
  • Dragon's Breath
    • This was so fun! The chef had a bowl of liquid nitrogen and froze individual mango tarts. He instructed us to eat them quickly, with our mouths closed, and then blow out through our noses. Watch Dan follow the instructions and look like a dragon here.

Let me take a second to tell you about Barmini. The bar is tiny but adorable. Everywhere you look there is something interesting to see. Even the bathroom is so weird and fun!

Dan got a drink while we waited for the next, and final course. Their drink menu is as whimsical (and  as long) and their food menu. Choosing one was difficult, but Dan settled one that came in a fun copper pineapple.

  • Dinosaur Dessert Platter
    • Our final "official" course was this adorable platter. It included:
      • Liquid Bourbon Peanut--delicious and boozy! Loved this!
      • Key Lime Bon Bon--not very memorable.
      • Coriander Abanico--the crunchy shell was good, but I didn't love it.
      • White Chocolate Shiso Leaf--interesting. Never had anything like it.
  • Cotton Candy
    • They brought out this Pina Colada flavored cotton candy in honor of Dan's birthday! So yummy!
  • Golden Egg
    • We paid for our meal in advance, but the bill for the wine and drink came encased in this delicious chocolate egg, along with the cutest Lego chef. 

It's this kind of attention to detail--having our own check inside a sealed chocolate egg--that made this experience so special. I loved absolutely everything about this meal. Even the courses that weren't hits flavor-wise were still so interesting and worthy of discussion. I can honestly say this was one of the best, and most memorable meals of my life. I would HIGHLY recommend Minibar to anyone who loves food and whimsy as much as we do.  

Read Part 1 of this dinner here.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Epic Doesn't Even Begin to Describe It

Where do I even begin with this recap? For years Dan and I have been wanting to try out Jose Andres' famous MiniBar. The concept of the restaurant is simple: many, many courses of tiny, yummy bites. It is notoriously difficult to get reservations, and it is outrageously expensive. But, for as much as Dan and I love food, we knew it would be worth it. And you know what? It definitely was!

Ostensibly this dinner was in honor of Dan's 35th birthday. But let's be honest, it was as much for me as it was for him. Everything about this dinner was amazing--even from the very first impression, which was a man standing outside a very poorly marked tiny entrance to the restaurant asking if we had reservations. Once confirming that we did, he then ushered us into the "White Room," which was a foyer that was completely white from floor to ceiling. The man in that room asked whether we were there for dinner or drinks, then opened another door to reveal the next waiting area. Appropriately enough, the next room is decked out to make you feel like Alice in Wonderland. The clock on the wall only has ten numbers (one of which is a question mark), and it runs backwards. That pretty much sums up how I felt at this point. Curiouser and curiouser.

Another man welcomed us and offered us a thyme hand spritzer--a natural hand sanitizer made from herbs--as well as a glass of sparkling wine. Then a slew of waiters brought out our first nibbles: a pizza margherita, puffed rice, and a lemon verbena slushie. The "pizza" might have been the best thing we ate all night. It tasted exactly like biting in to a great NY slice.

Once we were done with our nibbles, we were ushered in to the dining room, along with the two other couples at our seating. There are four seatings each night, each with only six guests at a time. We sat in the kitchen, watching all the talented chefs put our food together in front of our eyes. It was spectacular.

All the food came pretty quickly, one after another. It never felt rushed though.
  • Beet and Yogurt Butterflies
    • Delicious! Crunchy and sweet.
  • Wax and Honey Cocktail
    • Awesome that it all came from the same beehive (wax, honey, distilled vodka), but not really to my taste,
  • Hibiscus Crackling (not pictured)
    • Hibiscus essence trapped in a tea leaf. Smoky, sticky, and crunchy.
  • Harry's Berries al-Andalus
    • Infused strawberries served on a Himalayan salt tab. Fun, but not very memorable.
  • Magnolia Dew Drop
    • Loved this presentation! The dew drop was encased in a gel that burst in my mouth.

  • Avocado Toast
    • Everyone else at the table had uni with fresh wasabi grated over shark skin. Our toast was amazing. I have no idea what it was made of, but it was sweet and fluffy. It melted in my mouth.
  • Corn Chip with Horchata
    • The chip was a bit too chewy, and the Horchata was just OK, but the corn and BBQ sauce combo was awesome!
  • Parmesan Spoons
    • LOVED this! The Parmesan spoons were so fun, and the basil foam was terrific. The balsamic vinegar caviar was such a fun surprise.

  • Gin and Tonic Hand Refresher
    • So fun! Smelled amazing!
  • Pumpkin Tart
    • This was crazy. One of the chefs took a metal mold, dipped it in liquid nitrogen, then in melted chocolate. Another chef then filled the tart with a pumpkin and kumquat gel, and fed it to us individually on a spatula. I didn't love the taste, but the technique was totally novel.
  • Tuna Tartare
    • I could not get enough of this! So good! Especially the creamy egg yolk!

This is getting really long and I still have 12 courses to go!! I'm going to continue this in another post. Stay tuned for more.

Read Part 2 of this dinner here.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Kid-Free Vacation!

I'll try and refrain from using ALL CAPS and shouting at you, but I went on a kid-free vacation with Dina!! IT WAS GLORIOUS! Sorry, I couldn't help myself.

My friend Dina and I decided to celebrate our big 35th birthdays together by leaving our kids and husbands at home. Fortunately for us, our husbands are amazing and both agreed to our plan. Since the cruise left out of Florida, I actually took Zahara with me so that she could get some quality time with her grandparents and Dan would only have Asher. Win-win!

Dina and I went on a Royal Caribbean cruise from Miami to Coco Cay, Nassau, and Key West. It was four nights, which was a perfect length for us. The entire goal of our trip was just to relax. We wanted to sit by the pool, sit on the beach, drink fruity drinks, and eat good food. I'm happy to report we were successful on all fronts!

The only planned activity we had was a glass bottom boat tour in Coco Cay that we booked through the ship. It was amazing! Our guides, Quick Draw McGraw and Cardinal, were fantastic! I thought we would just be seeing the sea creatures from the boat; but Quick Draw would spot something, then dive in the water and go get it for us to view on the boat. We held star fish, lobsters, conch, sea urchins, sand dollars, and sea cucumbers*! We saw sting rays too! It was awesome!

To be honest, Coco Cay itself wasn't that fantastic. It still was super relaxing as we hung out by the hammocks, but they were doing some construction on the island, so the view wasn't that nice--nothing a pina colada couldn't fix!

It was kind of the same thing in Nassau. We opted to go to the public beach that was only a 15 minute walk from the port. Junkanoo Beach is easily accessible and was exactly what we were looking for. It had soft white sand and warm turquoise water. As we were right by the port, the view left something to be desired, but who cares? I grabbed my book and a local beer and suddenly everything was right in the world.

Key West was really relaxing as well. We had a nice leisurely breakfast on the ship and then just walked down the main street (Duval) until we hit the water. We stopped for a drink at the southern-most point in the Continental United States at a cafe appropriately named Southernmost Beach Cafe. The drinks were delicious, and the fries were incredible! The seasoning has a little sugar in it, which was is unusual and tasty. Later, Dina grabbed a chocolate covered key lime pie on a stick. So refreshing on a hot, sticky day!

We had just as much fun on the ship as we did off it. We sat by the pool and read--I read 3 books in 5 days! We played trivia and Scrabble--they only had the Spanish version, but we played in English anyway. We drank delicious drinks and ate great food. I even worked out a couple of times. And, we gambled, and won! We played craps every night and had an absolute blast.

I definitely came home feeling refreshed and relaxed. Thank you Dina for an awesome birthday trip! And thank you, Dan, for being the best, most understanding husband ever! Love you!

*Here's an interesting/gross story about sea cucumbers. Did you know that when they get stressed (like when they're out of the water being passed around by a bunch of tourists), they throw up their intestines? Yeah, that happened.

Read more about my adventures with Dina: 
Baltic Cruise
Mediterranean Cruise 
Caribbean Cruise

Read about our past birthday celebrations: