The Best, Worst and Most Perplexing Things About Atlanta

From time to time, I try take a look at the blog and imagine what it’s like reading this thing as an outsider. It’s hard sometimes because the blog has changed so much over the past year and a half, and sometimes I can’t see what it currently is from what it used to be.

What’s crazier, is that it’s pretty weird to think that I’ve been in Atlanta for 8 months now, and I have no blog posts about my actual life here!

Leo and I have finally settled into Emory, the Verizon job, and our apartment with the new pup, and so today I’m going to tell you all about it.

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The Best, Worst and Most Perplexing Things About Atlanta

Overall, Atlanta is a really cool city, but it’s not like I imagined at all. There’s not fried chicken and waffles on every street corner, with Ludacris and Usher driving down the streets – although I would absolutely love it if it was like that. (Actually there is a Waffle House on almost every corner, but we’re still missing Luda and Usher.)

Anyway, you get my point.

In no particular order, here are the things that I love about ATL.

Local Breweries

So.Many.Breweries. Terrapin, Sweet Water, Orpheus, Southbound (they are actually from Savannah, but equally as awesome).  Not being so close to wine country has actually been an awesome way to discover local breweries.

You know when you discover a new drink? And, for a period of time, that drink becomes a solid memory of that time? Yeah. That’s what’s going on with IPA’s for me right now. It might sound crazy, but IPA’s and Atlanta will be a memory of mine for a long time.

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Splitting a Check

This might sound like a really stupid point, and maybe it is. BUT, do you know how awesome this is?!? If you’re in ATL and you’ve got 10 people in your party – no problem. Restaurants in Atlanta will break your check down, even by the proportion of an appetizer. I literally paid $1.75 the other day to split an app 4 ways.

Why can’t they figure this out in SF? I’m so confused. Conclusion: SF, you lazy son of a gun, you.

Warm Summers & Epic Sunsets

Everyone gave ATL a bad rep for the heat, but actually, I kind of loved it! To be honest, you end up spending most of your day in air conditioning anyway, so it’s really nice to have a BBQ at 7pm with no fear of whether Karl the Fog will ruin your outdoor meal. Warm summer nights have quite possibly thinned my blood….

Although I’m hoping that this winter isn’t as brutal as last year, we’ve had some days in the 20’s and those are NOT pleasant. Needless to say, the summers are awesome, and the sunsets are epic.

Friendly People Everywhere

At first I was sure that someone was trying to mug me, but it just happens that people are really nice in the South – and even wave to you on the street, or say ‘Hi’ to you in the hall or elevator of the apartment complex. After years of practice, I had gotten eye avoidance down to an art, and this was really a bizarre experience for me – to simply be friendly in return.

Also, men will let you get on and off the elevator first, they will hold your door open, and I’m called “ma’am” on a regular basis.  It makes me wonder why we’ve completely lost that respect on the West Coast….

Legit Food

Truth. Not everything in the South is fried chicken and grits. But, we have had so much fun restaurant hopping around this city!

Greenery

Does anyone know that ATL is quite possibly the most green city ever? These these rolling hills are filled with tall trees everywhere, and everyone’s yard is beautifully groomed. It’s almost like you’re not even in a city at all!

This is what’s in our backyard:

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The Beltline

Quite possibly one of the coolest things to do on a weekend. It’s a 10 mile paved walking/ biking path through the city that is lined with local art and can lead you to different areas of the city!

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Last weekend we did the Beltline and stopped at the Little Tart Bakery at Krog Street Market for some coffee and pastries. Oh so good. Be sure to get the egg sandwich on brioche – to die for!

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The Botanical Gardens

The botanical gardens are amazing – spring or winter. If you go in the spring, you have to see the cobra’s. They do these huge cobra sculptures that are so delicately designed with flowers. In winter, they have the night time winter wonderland where you walk around to see the lights. Both are equally as spectacular!

Things I HATE

But as you can expect, not everything is rainbows and butterflies….

Traffic 

Sigh.  Oh, traffic. You are so difficult here. I thought it was bad in the bay area, but then you come to ATL, you have to travel 10 miles, it takes you an hour, and then you REALLY know what it’s like to want to pull your hair out.

Also, no one knows how to drive in this state. Literally, there is ZERO comprehension of a fast lane and a slow lane. If there is only two lane, then good luck buddy.

Blue Law

I had never heard of, or experienced Blue Law before moving to Georgia. This one time I went into Publix to get some vodka. I never buy vodka, it’s mostly just beer and wine, but we were making cocktails for this one event. I searched up and down the aisles 2 – 3 times to no avail!

By the time I got to the cashier to purchase my other groceries, I asked where it was, and the woman said, “Oh you must not be from here.” Clearly not lady! She told me that I needed to go to a package store….. a WHAT?

I’m still confused why we’re living from rules in the Prohibition era, but they say the South is backwards, so there you go.

Things I’m Completely Perplexed By

Stone Mountain

This little gem is not only the most popular attraction in Georgia, but it also happens to be where the KKK was founded. A fellow colleague calls it, ‘bizarr-o Mount Rushmore’, which is a 100% accurate description.

Let me paint a quick picture – there are Confederate flags, and sculpted into the mountain are famous Confederate generals. Then, they’ve made it this weird theme-park-type of place, where they have laser shows, and snow at Christmas.

It is literally the most bizarre place I’ve ever been.

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Unprotected Left Turns
Did the entire state of Georgia miss this point in driving school? No one can get it right.

Here’s the rule: when you’re at a green light and you’re trying to make a left turn, pull all the way into the intersection so you can take a left at your earliest convenience. Waiting at the line only prevents you from making that turn quickly, thus preventing me from making the light.

9 times out of 10 a Georgia driver will be waiting behind the line, and I hate them for it.

Helen, GA

Helen is a made-up fake version of Germany. This sounds exactly as weird as it is. It’s kitchy (spelling?) and it’s as weird as a you can imagine a fake German town in Georgia being.

At any rate, it’s pretty and we came here for beer.

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Drive-thru Liquor Store

The worst idea you can give a drunk person is a drive through liquor store. Here’s the Pitch & Putt, our local drive-thru package store. You just drive in, hand over your credit card, and off you go!

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There you have it. That’s about all I can think of at the moment, but I am sure there will be more. Stay tuned for more life updates from the South!

xoxo

 

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New Years in Santa Barbara

After the excitement from Christmas and the engagement party, we headed down to Santa Barbara to finalize some of the wedding planning details, and to get a little R&R from the holiday craziness. We stayed at the Fess Parker, which is great because it’s dog friendly and right on the water!

New Years in Santa Barbara

The goal of the trip was to bring Leo’s parents around to the various venues where we will be hosting wedding events. Take a look at our mini tour! We stopped by the Four Seasons Biltmore to check out the space, we enjoyed the beach, and we were able to finalize a DJ and bridesmaid dresses!

Wining and Dining

Not only did we manage to get some wine tasting in at Melville and Laetitia, but we also got to check out the Funk Zone, which is a new little wine tasting area in SB.

Resolutions for 2015

I don’t really believe in resolutions necessarily…. because I fail to keep up with them most the time, and it just seems pointless to put these false hopes into the universe that you know you’re going to end up breaking it anyway. Last year I decided to put a few “intentions” forward, rather than resolutions.

Here is the list, and I’ll update what I accomplished and what I still want to accomplish.

  • I want to travel to Europe. It’s been almost 2 years since I’ve been, and I miss it terribly. I miss my friends in London. I miss the architecture. I miss the history. I miss the food. I’d really love to go to back to London, Paris and Croatia. We’ll see what we can pull off :)
    • Well I didn’t make it to Europe in 2014, but I did manage to move my life to Atlanta. Given our current situation, we have a big trip coming up…. yay honeymoon! And although we haven’t done Europe, we have done a ton of traveling between Napa, San Luis Obispo, Miami, Vail, Austin, New Orleans, Sonoma, Savannah, San Diego, Charleston, Dana Point… just to name a few!
  • Since we’re on the topic of travel, I am also looking forward to spending some real time in Mexico. The boyfriend gifted me to a trip to Mexico. We will be heading to Mexico City first to visit with his family, and then we’ll be heading to the St. Regis in Punta Mita…. Yeah, he does pretty OK.
    • Our Mexico plans were also derailed due to the move to Atlanta, but this also might happen this year.
  • I want to continue to surround myself with wonderful friends, who embody the type of woman that I want to be. Strong, bold, loyal, true, brave, and fearless. My girlfriends are awesome, and I’d never give them up for anything!
    • Duh. Always. Plus, I’ve made some really awesome friends in Atlanta, whom I’m especially grateful for.
  • In terms of career, I hope to come up with a few new business ideas. I’d really love to be independent and own something that is just mine…. so I hope to find some inspiration. Consulting is great, but it’s not going to be it.
    • I am really happy with my move to Verizon this year. It has been such a refreshing career move with a lot of learning!
  • I hope that my relationship with my boyfriend continues on the path that it’s on. He’s seriously the most wonderful partner I’ve ever had in my life. He’s caring, thoughtful, determined, and I am so excited for our future.
    • We’re getting mawwwwieeed! 
  • I included a lot of health & wellness types of things on my board – running shoes, bikes, healthy foods, etc. I want to keep running, doing Bikram, spinning, and triathloning. I just signed up for another tri season, and I just successfully ran my fastest 15K, but there will be more about that later!
    • I am still doing lots of Bikram, staying active at the gym, an occasional trail run, and I’ll even be starting up barre before the wedding.
  • Financially, I’d like to get another raise, continue to contribute to my 401k, and all that fun stuff. Get money honey!
    • Wah, wah. I took a pay cut when moving to Georgia. But, hey, it’s not forever.
  • Lastly, I want wonderful things to happen for my family. We had a great year, and I always love watching my nephews grow and becoming closer with my stepdad’s family.
    • My family had an awesome year. My sisters and brothers are all doing great things in their lives, my parents are happy and healthy, and did I mention we have the cutest ring bearers and flower girls??

The only last thing that I want to add to my list this year is to increase my meditation & daily ability to be mindful. It’s so easy to get wrapped up in the chaos of life, especially between a job, lots of hours commuting, a puppy, wedding planning, refinancing my SF condo, etc. etc. Sometimes it’s important to take a step back and focus on the people (and puppies) that matter most!

OH, and last but not least – I want to write 50 new posts this year. This past year I did pretty well, but I want to do more. I’ve got 50 so far, and I need to hit 100! It seems small, but these posts take quite a long time to write.

Bring it on 2015! xo

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Lazy Bear: A Completely Refreshing San Francisco Dinner

While we were home, we were lucky enough to have friends snag some tickets to Lazy Bear. For those of you who have never been, sign up for their mailing list and follow them on Twitter, because the only way you can get in is if you order tickets… and they go fast! They are $120 a head, but you can bring wine and they’ve got a (limited) selection of wine, beer and cocktails. If it’s Bauer approved, then you know it’s going to be legit.

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VERY excited for this.

Lazy Bear: A Completely Refreshing San Francisco Dinner

So what is Lazy Bear? It’s an 11+ course dinner, where you’re seated communally, dinner-party style. There are two seatings per night, and you start the evening in the upstairs lounge where cocktails are served with your first few courses. Seating is limited, so tickets go quickly.

I will do my best to recount each of the details, but with 11+ courses (and wine!) you can imagine that I might miss some of the details. Hopefully the photos will do Lazy Bear justice. We started with a whipped scrambled eggs infused with bacon and maple syrup with a home-made spicy sauce at the bottom – savory, light, fluffy and so unique. I unfortunately didn’t get a great photo of this dish. Next, we moved to the oysters. These were shucked, and then served with some sort of spice on top. They were so creamy, and filled with citrus and a slight spice. If you know anything about my obsession with oysters, just know that these were top notch. I could have had a dozen on my own – easily.

After they oysters, we moved to duck, served 4 ways: slim jim with radishes, a duck hushpuppy with aoili, duck terrine wrapped in a quince fruit rollup topped with mustard seeds, and finally a duck mousse. The creativity that goes into each bite is just any foodie’s dream. I have not been this blown away by a meal since Quince.The last dish we had upstairs was a root vegetable fondue… and the fondue was made with bone marrow. It was very apparent that each dish was created with such great craft and care.

What a different and refreshing way to experience dinner!

Downstairs Dining

Once they bring you downstairs, you see two long wood tables, and you’re seated at your respective seats. There is a cute little Lazy Bear menu with space for you to write notes about the food you’re eating.  We started with a brioche and butter. I don’t know what they did to this butter, but it is the creamiest and dreamiest butter you’ve ever had. You could quite literally eat it plain – although that’s probably not wedding diet approved…


The Sweets

From a kiwi dish with marscapone, to macaroons, ice cream sandwiches, caramel and sage, the sweets were the perfect way to end the night. I was blown away by the variety, creativity and detail that made each dish unique and delicious!  

I can’t wait to come back soon!

 

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The Perfect Engagement Party

Although Leo and I got engaged over 9 months ago, we never had a chance to celebrate with our friends or family. Leo had proposed to me just three days before moving to Atlanta, so we were so excited to come home to celebrate with everyone over the holidays!

In my mother’s typical fashion, she went all out: from a surprise pianist, to an incredible slideshow of Leo’s life, my life and our life together that my amazingly creative sister put together.

The Perfect Engagement Party

If you know anything about my mother, then you know that she loves putting on a top-notch dinner party. For our engagement party, she did just that – the perfect engagement party. In addition to getting the party catered, we transformed our formal dinning room into a buffet that had salmon, more cheeses than one could imagine, charcuterie, fruit, veggies, and more.

The Food

Besides the salmon, the tartare, and the warm hors d’oeuvres that were being passed around, my mom, sister and I put together a few cheese and charcuterie plates – don’t act like you’re not impressed! We also had a bartender in our backyard serving wine, champagne and beer, and the other servers passed around crab croistinis, artichoke bites, and mini beef Wellington’s.

The Friends

Since we moved to Atlanta, we haven’t been able to catch up with many of our friends since the engagement. We saw college friends, elementary school friends, and even friends who live around the country. THANK YOU to those friends who came to celebrate with us. It wouldn’t have been complete without you! (and you have no idea how much we miss you!)

The Family

I’m so lucky that our families got to spend the holidays together, more importantly, we were so lucky to get to celebrate Leo’s parents 39th wedding anniversary the same night – what a special occasion!

Thank you to everyone who made this party so special! We love you all, and we can’t wait to come back to California to celebrate in July!! xoxo

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Tails of a First-Time Dog Owner

In case you’ve missed any of my recent social media, then it’s time to bring you up to date with our most recent adventure: dog ownership.

I probably should have been better at documenting the stories, but I fell a little behind. So here are some of the successes and failures of dog ownership thus far.

Tails of a First-Time Dog Owner

In August 2014, the most magical thing happened…. we found a dog! But not just any dog…. we found a “Rexford”.  Shortly after moving to Atlanta, I began looking for a dog – specifically a maltipoo. I had wanted one ever since we lost our miniature poodle, Noel, back in 2008. Noel was a 15 year old poodle that was so important to my childhood…. As you can imagine, finding the right dog was extremely important!

Why the name “Rexford” you ask? Excellent question!

First of all, it’s a serious name, and it commands respect. Secondly, I had a joke with a friend where you’d say in a very heavy posh British accent, “Oh dear me Rexford, you pooped the bath!?”

Frequently we speak to Rex with a British accent and ask whether he’s pooped the bath – and that’s just a normal day in the TayRod household!

How We Found Rexford

I found a girl on Craigslist… I know, I know – typical San Franciscan. She was selling her maltipoo because she couldn’t afford to take care of him – she was a student at Kennesaw.

When I first met him, his name was Nino, he was just 4.5 pounds, and he had never had a bath or haircut. He was a little disheveled, but he was so incredibly sweet when we first met – I instantly knew he was our dog. He kissed my face and followed me everywhere. He didn’t need a leash and he didn’t bark. It was incredible!

Two days later, I brought him home.

Getting Him to the Vet

We had a few health issues when we first got him since his first owner didn’t take proper care of him, but he is doing so much better now! He had never had his ears cleaned, and if you’ve ever had a poodle breed, then you’ll know that’s really important to make sure their ears are plucked. We had to take him into the vet, and his poor ears were so sore for a good day. It broke my heart for him, but his ears are in perfectly good condition now.

The other issue we had was a cough that he had. We tried an antibiotic, but nothing changed so then the vet recommended a cough medicine – just to give his throat a break. The vet eventually determined that it was from a weak trachea that sometimes happens in smaller breeds. Luckily, as he’s grown to be a few pounds bigger, his coughing has almost completely stopped!

The last issue that he had was that he never got his puppy vaccines, so we had to start from scratch at 4-5 months old. This is definitely a bit older than when most normal pups get their vaccinations, but luckily he has had all of his shots!

The next big step will be the loss of his balls…. that will happen in January!

Crate Training

Rexford had been previously trained to sleep in a crate, so we continued this at night to help with the potty training. We didn’t want to shake up any training or schedules that he had previously had. For the first month, this went smoothly. He knew what we expected, he went in his crate, and because he was only a few months, he would wake us up when he had to go to the bathroom.  So I would wake up in the middle of the night, take the elevator downstairs, and walk him.

About a month after we had been keeping this schedule, he decided that he wanted nothing to do with it. He scratched and cried in his crate…for hours. For about two weeks we tried everything from covering the crate in a towel/ sheet, to putting a piece of clothing that smells like you, to feeding him in his crate, to making sure he had treats and chew tows, to putting his crate in a different room, to ignoring the cries, to tying a Kong to the inside of his crate…. and nothing worked.

After two weeks of extreme exhaustion, I gave up and put him in his sailboat bed, which sat next to our bed. And then about a day or two later, he started sleeping in our bed. He now sleeps through the whole night right next to us, and I think it’s the best solution. He still knows what is expected of him, and with some serious potty training, I feel like we’ve found a sweet spot with Rex.

Plus, it’s not too bad waking up to a pup cuddling your face :)

Potty Training

So….. the crate training didn’t go as planned, to say the least. We needed another plan of attack.

Although Leo has been able to spend much of the day with him at home with his flexible grad school schedule, we still needed a way to prevent accidents. We immediately started with pee pads, which some people hate, but I swear by! Almost instantly, Rexford understood. When we would leave him at home, we would keep him in the kitchen with a pee pad, and shortly after we started using them, he got it! If he had to go, he would always pee on his pad, which was great for clean up.

Then we got to the point where we needed to teach him that going outside is where he needed to go – not the pad. For weeks we tried different things, and we first tried with putting him back in his crate, but that almost instantly didn’t work.  We were diligent about the times we brought him out, and we knew he could hold it…. Puppies are able to hold their bladder as many hours as they are old, so if you have a 7 month old puppy, he can hold it for 7 hours.

Finally we turned a corner a few weeks ago – dog treats. Every time Rexford does his business outside, we make him sit and then we give him a treat. This worked like magic, and all of a sudden he got it! It was a long three months of training, and although we have the occasional accident, I can say that having him trained is such a relief!

A Well-Traveled Pup

Rexford has been to Savannah, Southern California, out and about in Atlanta, Charleston, Miami, and next week he will be off to our home… San Francisco! Plus he’ll also see wine country and Santa Barbara, while we finish some of the wedding planning. He has become a better traveler in the car, but he has definitely been a challenge on flights. He is absolutely terrified of his Tumi travel case, and the sound of a plane…. but he LOVES it when he gets to his destination! Hopefully we can get him more comfortable over time!

Adventures of Leo and Rex

Perhaps what is best about this whole experience is Leo and Rex – if you want to follow their adventures on Insta, just search #adventuresofleoandrex. Leo happens to be one of the most caring, loving people I’ve ever meet, and watching him love and take care of Rexford makes me fall in love with him even more <3

He is so concerned about Rex and making sure he has everything he needs to live a happy life! Last week Leo asked if we could baptize him when we are home for the holidays (LOL), and just last night he asked what we could do about his underbite, because he didn’t know if we could get Rex braces.

I mean…. I can’t even…..

And on that note, I’ll leave you with Rexford’s Christmas sweater, which just arrived!

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More adventures to come!  xoxo Tay, Leo, and the Rexford pup

 

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The 4 Best Free Wedding Planning Essentials

If you’ve planned a wedding, or if you’re in the midst of planning a wedding, then you know it’s no easy feat. Not only are there a million different things to consider – location, music, reception, ceremony, style,  bridesmaids, guests, but how in the world do you keep track of everything?

The 4 Best Free Wedding Planning Essentials

So you got engaged… yay! But where on earth do you start? The beginning of our engagement was no walk in the park. It started with a lot of tears and fights – Leo and I wanted to get married in Mexico, and both of our families had… very different ideas about what our wedding would be like. The good news is that once you get your date and venue booked, it can be easily sailing from there with all of the amazing FREE online tools that are available. So here are my top four planning tools that I couldn’t live without.

1. WeddingWire

Meet WeddingWire. It will become your best friend. Looking for a way to budget, keep track of a checklist, create a custom wedding website, and gather ALL of your guests addresses? Well, Start with getting your budget and checklist in place.

Take a look at the checklists – these are so legit. It will literally break down your ‘to do’ list by month to ensure that everything is on track. I’m already a pretty organized person, but this is just a little peace of mind to make sure I’m staying on track. Plus, they have a mobile app where you can check your ‘to do’ list and vendors. It’s not the best mobile app, but I do like being able to feel like I can check my status on the go!

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Same with collecting your guest addresses. It’s not like the old days where you keep an address book where you pen in everyone’s address that you know. I try to organize it by Google, but quickly realized that I had no easy way to get everyone’s address. Have no fear, WeddingWire is here. All you do is upload your email addresses of your guests, and you can quickly and easily send an email to everyone asking them to fill in their address. Voila! That job is complete!

Also, you can easily use one of their awesome wedding templates to create your own custom wedding website. Check out our site here.

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There are also so many other things that you can do with this site – finding vendors, creating song playlists, creating registries and more. Basically, it will help save your life, so go take advantage of it.

2. Room Blocks

I had no idea where to start with this. I called a few places, and tried getting a room block, which happens to be an extremely inefficient use of your time. What if there was a way that you could get a room block?

Enter: hotelplanner.com

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3. Choosing Bridesmaid Dresses

WeddingtonWay has obviously been on the wedding scene in recent days, but literally it’s a life saver. Just imagine if you and all of your bridesmaids lived in different parts of the country (or world!). How would you coordinate with all of your favorite ladies about what they are going to wear??

Well WeddingtonWay makes it so easy! All you do is create your own showroom, add your favorites, add your bridal party and they can choose their favorites! Plus they even do rentals, which would also be cool if I weren’t doing full length gowns. At any rate, be sure to check them out because they are such an amazing resource to get a solid idea of the dresses that are available!

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4. Paper Products

I actually have a few recommendations for this, but I got my ‘Save the Dates’ from Minted, so I have to recommend them because they did an awesome job. We ordered a first set, but we were having a really hard time deciding on the style. We got them in the mail and we didn’t like them – plus, the color font did not appear like it had in the preview.

I talked to Minted, got a full refund, and was able to pick out Save the Dates we LOVE! Their customer service was awesome!

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3 Mouthwatering Homemade Ravioli Dishes

For Leo’s Birthday last weekend, I decided to surprise him with a cooking class at Sur la Table. Typically when we are home, I dominate the kitchen, but since we have never taken a class or made our own pasta, I thought it would be the perfect surprise!

3 Mouthwatering Homemade Ravioli Dishes

We made three different types of raviolis with three different types of sauces, so I’ll take you through each of them. Unfortunately, we didn’t make the fillings so I can’t speak to those, but I will include the recipes at the bottom!

Fresh Ravioli Dough

  • 4 large eggs
  • 2 1/2 cups all purpose flour (or “00”  flour if you are a pro)
  • 1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil

The dough is surprisingly easy… You might be thinking, “what about salt?” Our instructor said that salt sometimes makes the dough too coarse. So after mixing the dough together, we wrapped it in saran wrap and let it sit so it could soften.

After about 15 minutes, we unwrapped it and began to roll the dough. We rolled it with the both the manual press that you can secure to a table, and the automatic one that you can attach to your KitchenAid. Don’t use too much flour when you’re putting it through the pasta roll. If you’re dough is sticky, use a little for your table and hands, but you’ll never need too much.

Once we had rolled the dough, we let it hang to dry for at least 15 to 20 minutes.

Pro tip: Use a clothes hanger to let your dough dry!

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Making the Ravioli

Luckily they had already pre-made the stuffing for us. You can see how this entire process can take such a long time!  We made a few different kinds. One was using the square ravioli maker (pictured below). Another was simply by cutting a circle into the dough, placing the stuffing inside, and then wrapping it like a tortellini. The last option is making your own little squares and then cutting it with a ravioli cutter.

If you’re using the square ravioli maker, be sure not to put too much stuffing in the ravioli. Only put in as much as the little cup can fit. Otherwise you might have a hard time getting those ravioli to close. Also, be sure to get the air bubbles out, press the dough down, and then roll over  the maker with the rolling pin to cut each of the pieces. The more carefully you do this, the easier it is to get the ravioli perfectly cut! If you can’t get them separated perfectly, you can always use a pastry cutter.

Pro tip: use a spray bottle with water before you wrap the pasta on top of the stuffing. It will help your dough stick together.

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Cooking the Ravioli

I learned a few really awesome tips here. This is where our instructor added 1/4 cup of salt. She said that it would never make the pasta too salty, but that it would help the pasta cook quickly and really bring out the dough.

Make sure the water is at a high boil, and also make sure that your pasta/ ravioli is going to have enough space to swim!

Cooking time: 1 minute – If you leave them any longer, they might break!

The Sauces

We started with a caper cream sauce.

Lemon-Caper Cream Sauce

  • 2 tablespoons of drained capers
  • 1 medium shallot, peeled and minced
  • 1 tablespoon of unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup heavy whipping cream
  • kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons of minced flat leave parsley parsley

Place a large skillet over medium heat. Add the butter and when melted, add the capers and shallots. Cook the shallots and capers until tender, about 2 minutes. Add the lemon juice and cream. Let simmer until reduced. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper and then stir in the parsley.

Arugula-Pistachio Pesto

  • 1 medium clove garlic, peeled
  • 1/2 cup roasted, salted pistachios, shelled to give 1/2 cup
  • 2 cups packed arugula, wash and dry, stems removed
  • 1 cup packed Italian flat-leaf parsley, washed and dried, stems removed
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
  • 1/2 lemon juice
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

In the bowl of a food processor, add garlic, pistachios, arugula and parsley. Pulse to finely chop. Add olive oil in a steady stream and process to a smooth paste. Stop motor and transfer arugula mixture to a large mixing bowl. Add Parmesan cheese, sherry vinegar and lemon juice, stirring by hand to combine. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt, pepper and more vinegar as needed.

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Tomato Sauce 

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, peeled and minced
  • 1 medium garlic clove, peeled and minced
  • 1 (28 ounce) can whole tomatoes, separated
  • 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup of water
  • 1 tablespoon thinly sliced basil leaves
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Place a large skillet on the stove at moderate-high heat and add the olive oil. When the olive oil is shimmering, add the onion and cook until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic.

Place a sieve on top of a mixing bowl and empty the tomatoes into the sieve. Remove the whole peeled tomatoes, squeeze gently to remove the seeds and add the crushed pulp to the onion. Bring to a simmer and cook until starting to soften, about 5 minutes. Continue stirring.

Using the back of a wooden spoon, crush any remaining pulp with the sieve. Add the strained tomato juice and the sugar to the skillet and continue to cook until the tomatoes are soft for another 5 minutes. Stir in the basil and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper.

The Final Product

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The Fillings

Butternut Squash Filling

  • 2 pounds of butternut smash, peeled, seeded and cut into 2-inch chunks
  • 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil
  • 2/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese, divided
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

Preheat the oven to 425F and position an oven rack in the center.

To prepare the butternut squad filling: place the squash into a large bowl and toss with oil. Spread the squash in an even layer on a baking sheet. (Cooked squash has the tendency to stick to parchment paper.) Transfer the baking sheet to the oven and roast until tender for 25 to 30 minutes. Using a potato masher, mash the squash until smooth. Stir in 1/3 cup Parmesan cheese and taste, adjusting seasoning with salt and pepper.

Three Cheese Filling

  • 1 medium shallot, peeled and minced
  • 1/2 cup crumbled Gorgonzola cheese
  • 3/4 cup whole milk ricotta cheese
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 2 tablespoons minced flat-leaf parsley
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

To prepare the three cheese filling: Place the minced shallot in a fine mesh strainer and since under cold running water for about 30 seconds. Pat the shallots dry and add to a media mixing bowl. Stir in Gorgonzola, ricotta, Parmesan and parsley. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper.

Sausage-Spinach Filling

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 small yellow onion, peeled and minced
  • 4 ounces Italian sausage, casing removed
  • 1 small garlic clove, peeled and minced
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • 4 ounces spinach leaves, washed and dried, shredded into smaller pieces
  • 1/4 whole milk ricotta cheese
  • 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 2 tablespoons fresh white breadcrumbs
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

To prepare the filling: place a large skillet on the stove oven medium-heat and add oil. When the boil is shimmering, add the onions and cook until beginning to brown, about 3 minutes. Add the sausage and cook using a wooden spoon to great it un into small peaces, until browned, about 7-8 minutes.

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3 Original Groomsmen Gifts

If you read my last wedding post, then you’d probably be wondering about the groomsmen. Similar to the bridesmaids, we put together little care packages to let the guys know how much we care and want them to be a part of our wedding day!

3 Original Groomsmen Gifts

We wanted to put together the perfect package that was custom to each guy, included something that Leo loves, and had a hipster edge. The first thing in the package was a pair of socks asking, “I mustache you a question, will you be my groomsman?”  You can takes look here.

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The next thing we included was the prom bow tie – vintage burgundy, navy and ivory. You can find it in this awesome Etsy shop. After all, this is going to be a classy event!

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The final gift was a custom cork screw, which we also found on Etsy. We wanted to customize the gifts, and this was a perfect way of doing that! Plus if you know anything about Leo’s love for wine, then you’d know that we had to include a wine gift. These turned out so well, and they were the best finishing touch to the groomsmen packages!

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Similar to the bridesmaid gifts, we got small gray chevron boxes from Paper Source, and then shipped them off.

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The guys loved them, and a few even said that it was the most creative way they’ve ever seen anyone get asked. Job well done! Stay tuned for more wedding posts to come! Xx

 

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Thanksgiving in Charleston

This year we were not home for Thanksgiving. Instead we decided to use this as an opportunity to explore the South some more, and we headed to Charleston to celebrate the long weekend!

 

Thanksgiving in Charleston

Exploring Charleston over the long weekend was such an amazing treat for Leo, Rexford and I to enjoy all the things that ‘low country’ has to offer. Being one of America’s oldest cities that is so rich in history, we were never in shortage of things to do.  Every day we walked a few miles all around the city – from the shopping on King Street, to checking out City  Market, to seeing the mansions on Legare, Bay and Battery, to seeing the Christmas decorations at the Belmond, to reading the history of the homes that still stand today – we loved walking up and down the old streets.

What we found most impressive was the city’s active preservation of old historic homes, streets, and other important landmarks. We saw some of the original wall from when it was a fortified city (and original cannons from Fort Sumter!), and it’s quite striking how much of the architecture and cultural heritage they’ve kept in tact. Besides the huge porches that were always adorned with hanging plants and gas lanterns, the quintessential homes are a reminder of the importance Charleston’s history.

 

 

The Wentworth Mansion

We stayed at the Wentworth Mansion, which is nothing short of exquisite. It’s a 5 star mansion that truly has some of the best hospitality I’ve seen since we stayed at the Rosewood Sand Hill. Bruce Bochy apparently had checked out the day before we got there, so we knew we’d be in good hands!

I think what is most special about the Wentworth is how personalized your experience is. The concierge will go above and beyond for you. Besides making dinner reservations for us, we arrived to a hand-written note of what had been planned for us during our stay. They also knew we had a dog, so they gave us a suite that was downstairs and had a private entrance so we could easily take Rex for walks.

Every night when they gave us turn down service, they wrote a card with the following day’s weather along with some truffles. Every morning, we woke up to a wall street journal, with pastries and coffee in the sunroom. But, if you’re looking for a full breakfast, you can always walk over to Circa 1886 for a full breakfast – all of which is included within your stay. And, if you’re needing a little night cap, they keep port, sherry and brandy out for you to help yourself (since they don’t have an official bar).

The icing on the cake is all of their little “nice to haves” that they simply provide guests. For example, they have a 5pm happy hour, where there is more wine, cheese, charcuterie, and fruit that you can imagine. Similarly, there are always fresh pastries and coffee in the sitting room, for when you wake up.

Did I mention the space was massive? We had huge bedroom, a sitting room, a separate bathroom, tub and a back private porch.

It was honestly such a wonderful experience, and I can’t wait to go back!

 

The Food

We ate really, really well – even if we didn’t have a traditional turkey dinner! Our first night in town, we had dinner at High Cotton.  We ordered a duck terrine, shrimp and crab cocktail, and the flounder. The duck terrine was quite a treat… We should have known we were going to be eating well on this trip!

39 Rue Jean was a surprising little gem to find. We were looking for a dog friendly patio, and we lucked out with this little French bistro! The food was nothing short of amazing! We started with French 75’s (obviously), and then we moved to escargots, oysters, a mesclun salad with duck confit, and finally mussels.

Our final night in Charleston, we ate at FIG, which was probably our best meal in Charleston. The level of care and detail that FIG takes in preparing their food was something that I hadn’t seen since we were in San Francisco. We started with some Caper’s Blade oysters,  and then we moved onto a warm Nantucket scallop tart with creme fraiche and pastis sabayon, which was flaky, light and savory… this was absolutely amazing. They were topped with roe and parsley. We also ordered the ricotta gnocchi with grass-fed beef bolognese, which were some of the lightest and fluffiest gnocchi I’ve ever had. We finished with the lamb neck agnolotti topped with a sweet ravioli. The food here is incredible, and I can see why we had to book a month in advance! Also, the servers are extremely knowledgable, and truly understand the art of modern-American-meets-Southern cooking.

 

I was really impressed with Charleston, from the history, to the shopping, to food, to the unique blend of Southern Charm and history. We will definitely be coming back in the summer to check out Kiawah, Sullivan’s Island and Folly Beach!

 

 

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Remembering My Dad 14 Years Later

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Yesterday after I got out of my Bikram yoga class, I walked to my car and there was a boot on it for illegal parking – (SO glad I can check that off my bucket list!). The class had been a tough one for some reason, and the night was clearly not getting any better. After getting the boot off (and $75 later), I headed to the grocery store to pick up dinner, and I stopped to read an email from one of my best friends from home.

It read:

I was in my yoga class last night, and at the end, the instructor said to think of someone who has left us and to dedicate our practice. I thought of your dad, and this time of year 14 years ago when we sat on that bench for what seemed like a lifetime. I dedicated my practice to him.

Love you, thinking of you. All my love to you and your family and a Happy Thanksgiving!

I absolutely lost it in the parking lot – unconsolable tears. I hadn’t thought of that day in a long time.

This time of year is always tough, but over time it’s gotten easier – mostly from distractions, trying to forget, trying to keep busy, or trying to make new traditions. But there’s a certain guilt that comes with trying to forget. You see, there’s a very delicate balance in loss: trying to remember the one you love, and trying to forget the pain of missing them. Neither option feels good.

Seeing as this week marks his 14th anniversary, and I have lived almost as many years as the age I was when he passed, it only feels right to make a blog tribute, because the little memory that I have of him is all that is left.

 

Remembering My Dad 14 Years Later

In 2000, I was a sophomore at a very small, private K-12 school. My dad had been sick for a long time, and it wasn’t until December of 1999 that my mom told my sister and I that the doctors could no longer operate, perform radiation, or treat with chemo – his cancer was terminal. Being only 14 years old, this is kind of a difficult concept to understand. At the same time, I hadn’t ever known anything different in life; he had been fighting cancer from the time I was 7 years old.

At any rate, we were all braced for this unreal, unfathomable truth that the doctors said would happen within a year. They said that they would try chemo for a bit, but then at a certain point, there was no more the drugs could do.

His Final Project

My dad’s final project at home was to put a pool in our backyard. He worked on it the entire time he was sick, and our house is on a steep hill so there were all sorts of retaining walls and other things he needed to do to actually make this pool project happen.

Sometimes he was so sick he would cry – at least that’s what my mom told me after we lost him. But I only remember seeing him cry twice – the day he told my sister and I he was terminal, and one time when he and I were downstairs in his office during his last year. I think he cried because of the guilt he felt for leaving my mom with two small children. (The real truth is that my mom was the strongest of us all and kept us together, but that’s an entirely different post).

But my dad was one of the strongest people I’ve ever known. Despite having multiple very serious neck and tongue surgeries to remove the cancer and to  try to replace his tongue with other muscles in his body, he never complained, even though these surgeries caused his voice to strain, and caused him to choke frequently.

Instead, he smiled, and he joked. He made everyone around him feel good.

People who knew my dad well always tell me that my sense of humor reminds them of him. It makes me feel like even though I never got to know him as an adult, there is still a part of him that is an innate part of me – regardless of how little time I had with him.

In September of 2000, my dad finished his master pool project for the house. My dad was extremely talented with his hands. He was able to fix anything around the house – wiring for tv or sound systems, a broken garage door, anything electrical, a leaky faucet, and any other random thing that might break around the house. He was naturally gifted at putting things together, and the pool is a daily reminder of how good he was.

My mom’s friend Healey and Bill always remind me of when my dad dragged Bill out to the backyard to move part of the hill with the Bobcat. Bill tells the story better than I ever could, but my dad had no fear. He just popped the Bobcat right up the hill, regardless of the 45 degree incline, and got it done. He never showed that he was scared.

When he finished the project, we filled the pool and we all jumped in. This was his only swim in it, but it’s forever a part of our house.

November 28, 2000

I got called from my PE class that I needed to be picked up and go home. My dad was on Hospice at this point, so I didn’t know if he would still be alive when I got home. My friend who wrote me the email, sat with me on the green benches outside of the Pinewood theatre. It did feel like an eternity. I can’t remember if I said anything at all. I just remember looking at the birds in the sky and watching them as they flew.

My mom’s best friend came to pick me up, and we went home.

By the time I got home, he was already gone, but his body was still there – in our living room, since he was too weak to climb stairs at the end. His body stayed with us that night, and in retrospect it’s one of the most frightening things ever. He was cold, he did not look like my dad, and you could see the small cancer tumors all over his neck. All traumatizing things for a kid.

Sometimes I wish I hadn’t seen him that way. But at the same time, that was my only chance to say goodbye.

Remembering

14 years later…. I’ve finished high school, college and grad school. I had my first job in London, multiple jobs in SF, and now at Verizon in Atlanta. I have seen the pyramids of Giza, the Great Wall of China, and the Eiffel Tower. I’ve fallen in and out of love… and back in again. I bought my first condo, and I got a dog. And in 2015, I’ll be getting married – all big milestones that he’s missed.

And now, it’s becoming difficult to remember things. What did his voice exactly sound like? What if I had a voicemail to listen to from him? Or what if I had old emails to go back and read? Email and cell phones were before this time. What did he smell like? All I can remember is his Budweiser beer mustache when he would kiss me goodnight with. I wonder if he’d be proud of me, or if he and I would have the same fights my mom and I have? Would he be excited about my wedding?

Just two weeks ago, I found out when my mom and sister were in Atlanta, that he used to say “fixin'”, as in “I’m fixin’ to grab a drink”. He was from the South, and I guess I kind of don’t remember that either – except for the fact that he was a die-hard Seminole’s fan. I could never forget that.

So here I am, 14 years later, I am remembering him.

 

I miss you, and I love you, Dad.

 

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