Brasserie by niche

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Given that we had access to free and willing babysitters on our trip to St. Louis, of course Sean and I had a date night!  We went to Brasserie by niche, and we loved it.

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That spreadable cheese up there was so delicious.  Sean was very disappointed at the size of his steak when it first came out.  “Glad I have a side of steak with my fries,” he joked.  Then he was pleasantly surprised how happy he felt after eating just the smaller portion and was glad it wasn’t so big after all.  This restaurant reminded us of France.  I think we’re pretty sad we weren’t able to take a big vacation this year because we keep talking about France and seeking out these places that remind us of France.  There aren’t any perfect little French bistros like this in our neighborhood.  We’re pretty sad about that too.  The weekend after we got back from St. Louis, we tried to find something perfectly French like this for our family meal out.  We found something but didn’t make it there.  So he made some steak frites for us of his own.  He did a great job and we had our own little French bistro at home.

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Even though we were a little sad we weren’t actually enjoying this meal in France, we still had a great time.  Thanks for making our date night happen, Grandma and Grandpa!

St. Louis

IMG_7861Did you have a nice 4th of July?  We went to St. Louis to be with Sean’s family for the holiday.  I’ve wanted to call it a weekend, but when the holiday is on a Tuesday it’s not really a holiday, is it?  One of Sean’s sisters, Shelley, and her husband, Eric, live in St. Louis, which is why we met up there.

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I love St. Louis.  My family took a trip there in 2009 just the four of us and had such a great time.  Sean and I went shortly after we got engaged in 2011 to visit Shelley and had a great time and a very memorable meal.  It’s such a nice city.  Shelley and Eric live a little outside of the city, but we decided to stay in it.  Those photos above are from our first morning.  We walked around City Garden and had breakfast at Rooster.  Rooster was one of a few really great meals we had this trip.  Can you tell Wes is pealing the wrapper off his crayons in this picture?  It’s the first thing he does when he gets to a restaurant with crayons.  We don’t know why.  I think it’s funny.

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We went swimming at Shelley and Eric’s community pool.  It was lots of fun and a great way to spend a hot morning.  In Northern Virginia (and probably other places, just not at Shelley and Eric’s pool), the life guards take a break on the :45’s.  They blow the whistle and  if you’re under 6 you head to the baby pool.  When the life guard didn’t blow the whistle to announce a time to go to the baby pool, Wes did it for him.  At first he blew his whistle just for Sean to let him know when to stop swimming, and then we all eventually made it to the baby pool.  Children are such fun!

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Sean’s dad’s birthday fell a few days after this trip, so we had an early celebratory dinner for him since we were all together.  We went to Pastaria, and it was another really great meal!  When it came time to order dessert we ordered three.  We almost didn’t get that birthday cake pictured above, but it was the winner!

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For our last morning, we headed to the City Museum.  Sean and I went with Shelley when we visited.  It’s fun if you’re just adults and it’s really fun if you’re a kid.  I didn’t do very much this time.  There’s lots of climbing and exploring and tight spaces in this museum, so Sean took the lead here and those two and Alli explored under and above and all over! IMG_7779IMG_7783IMG_7763IMG_7760

Plus there is a two story slide!  Which Wes loved even if he’s not showing it on his face here.

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That cheese face!  It just makes me so happy!

Ithaca is Gorges!

I almost added all of these photos to the law school reunion post, but decided Ithaca’s gorges needed to stand alone.  The pun seems silly at first, at least to me.  All these shirts and mugs and bumper stickers and all kinds of things claiming that “Ithaca is Gorges!”  But then we hiked two and I totally got it!  Ithaca in generally is a lovely town, but the gorges are so, so beautiful!

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On Friday morning, Sean and I hiked Buttermilk Falls.  It was a great hike and the perfect day for it!  We heard it had been raining in Ithaca for days before we arrived.  The whole weekend we lucked out with beautiful weather.  It caught Sean a little by surprise.  He’s used to Ithaca being very cloudy.  Similar to our recent date for my birthday, we had a really great time being together.  Chatting and planning about things.  We love Wes so much, but it is just so nice to have these opportunities to just be us.  I know I already said this, but I just always feel so grateful for these moments with Sean.

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On Saturday morning we were joined by Sarah, a classmate and good friend of Sean’s who also lives in DC, for a hike around Lucifer Falls in Treman State Park.  Even though she lives close by and we do see her occasionally, it has been a little while so it was nice to catch up.  She’s the one that suggested Lucifer Falls specifically and I’m so glad she did!  The pictures don’t do it justice at all!  This was a beautiful hike.  We were dressed for the law school’s lunch that day.  We weren’t in the most sensible outfits or shoes, but we made it work.  This hike was tougher for me, but we just took lots of breaks.  Hiking while pregnant is apparently something I like to do.  Although the last time I hiked while pregnant I had no idea!

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Thanks for going to law school at Cornell so we could have a great trip 10 years later, Favorite!

Sean’s 10 Year Law School Reunion

Sean’s law school class celebrated it’s 10 year reunion the other weekend.  We dropped Wes off with my mom and dad and we headed to Cornell to be with his 2007 classmates.

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Cornell and Ithaca are really special to Sean.  He worked full time and attended school full time in undergrad, so he didn’t have the carefree experience most people I know had as undergraduates.  But law school was much more fun for him.  It wasn’t entirely carefree, but he bonded with classmates, traveled to some fantastic places, tried some new foods, and just generally enjoyed himself.  Ithaca is so special to him that we’ve actually been twice before.

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Not everyone Sean would have liked to catch up with came to this reunion.  We ended up talking and really enjoying the company of some of his classmates that he knew but not well.  While he wished he had the opportunity to see some of the people that didn’t come, he told me the weekend exceeded his expectations.  So that’s a real win!

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Cornell’s law school is all within one building, and they had plenty of activities to keep you busy the whole weekend.  We were able to pick and choose what to attend, which was perfect for us.  While it was no Switzerland or France, this weekend counts as our child-free vacation for the summer.  We were really happy to be able to spend some time enjoying the law school and Sean’s classmates, but also having dinners and doing activities just the two of us.  Some amount of child-free time each summer is becoming a tradition we really love.  It’s really nice to recharge our relationship batteries and have time to provide the other with undivided attention.  Even if it was only 3-ish days this time, it was a great refresh.

We may have checked the box on law school reunions, but we’ll be back to Ithaca.  Some of Sean’s classmates found lake houses that included fire pits and kayaks.  I think there’s a lake house visit with Wes and BA2 in our future so we can enjoy Ithaca, Cornell, and the surrounding areas as a family.  I’m already looking forward to it!

Christmas

Christmas with my mom’s  family is a big time.  She has three other siblings that join us for our Cozy Christmas.  They have seven adult children, and now there’s Sean, two littles, and an extra grandmother that join in.  It’s quite a crowd.  There’s always something going on.  It’s lots of fun.

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Oh my gosh, this game was so fun.  Cover us up, Nana!  And then we’ll pop up like you all thought we really weren’t there and it was just Beanie Babies.  By the way, isn’t this one of the biggest Beanie Baby collections?  I had forgotten all about them.

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The aunts and uncles watched the littles while the adult cousins when on a Saranac Brewery Tour.  Their regular root beer is delicious!  Maggie got one on tap which was so great.  They also made a spiked root beer which was also great.

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I’m trying not to repeat myself while also recognizing that some of you can’t remember all the details of my family.  My mom’s sister, Aunt Annie, leaves two doors down from my mom’s brother, Uncle Mark.  Aunt Annie hosts the Christmas Eve festivities and Uncle Mark hosts Christmas Day.  So here we are with Christmas Eve.

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I put my mom in charge of the cousin picture at first.  I have dozens and dozens of pictures documenting the talking, arranging, moving of furniture, moving around of people, etc. to make these pictures happen.  It’s fascinating but took forever to find the best ones.

Oh!  We had a Czech exchange student join us this year!  I totally forgot about that until I saw this picture.  Silvie made the best cookies.

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It was so fun to play Santa this year!  It was so fun to watch Wes start to figure it out!  I already liked Christmas but I’m so excited for the Santa phase!

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Halfmoons for breakfast!

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Sean was happy to get a butchering lesson.

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And then Aunt Ginger and Alexis lead us through the most amazing reindeer games.  A series of minute to win it games.  We were in four teams of four and it was so much fun!  That coming from the person who is not a game person.

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It was hard to resist snapping the oldest and youngest in our group sharing the couch.

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I love this picture so much!  I didn’t want to hug Sean around the waist because then all of the balloons would fall out.  But he was so enthusiastic about being a snow man (he did push-ups!) that I had to hug him.  And laugh.

Thanks, Aunt Ginger & Alexis!  It was so fun!  Sean and I were on Team 3 together, but I guess Team 4 did a really good job of promoting their team and shouting “Team 4” because Wes still randomly shouts “Team 4! Team 4!”  He also says “Aunt Joanne’s house.  Do again.”  So we had a great time.  Hope your Christmas was merry!

 

Thanksgiving

I didn’t do the best job of recording Thanksgiving in pictures.  But that’s not a reflection on our time.  We had a great time.  Especially since Sean’s parents babysat on the Tuesday before so we could go on a date and they let us sleep in every morning we were in Missouri.  It was amazing!

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At least I thought to capture an important exchange between Wes, his great-grandpa, and vehicles.

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This face is not a true reflection on the meal.  It was delicious.  Rich and Beth do such a great job of dinner.  They also do a great job of letting the newer family members add the Thanksgiving favorites to the meal.  Sean and I did the stuffing this year.  Rich and Beth also did a good job of letting Wes help with meal prep while Sean and I were sleeping.  Wes made the green bean casserole.

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He, of course, loved the pumpkin pie.

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Which some members of Sean’s family really think of as more equal parts pie and whipped cream.

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Do you think Wes will ever smile in pictures?  I sure hope so.

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The next morning Wes helped with the very important task of making the party mix for the Christmas season (it’s a take on chex mix, since it’s hard to tell what exactly we’re doing in these photos).  This stuff is delicious.  We didn’t take enough home with us so Sean made us a batch.  It’s on it’s last legs now and I will miss it.  Or, more optimistically, I will be so ready for the next batch next November.

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Then we went to a tree farm to pick a tree for Rich & Beth.  I had never been to a tree farm before.  Growing up we always had a fake tree.  And we just bought a new fake tree that better fits the ceilings in our house so we will always have a fake tree.  What a fascinating place, tree farms.  Trying to determine which tree is the best for your family, walking around with saws, people shaking extra needles off of trees.

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I don’t think we went intending to leave with a tree, but we did!  And you have to give it a bath before it goes into your house.  This is also fascinating to me about tree farms.

There were also wine tastings and puzzles and lots more fun not pictured here.  And I can’t emphasize enough how nice it was to get a little break from the morning shift.  Thanks, Rich & Beth!

 

First Family Trip!

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The three of us have certainly traveled, but we have always traveled to visit family.  We have never traveled just us three simply for the sake of traveling.  Until this past weekend when we went to Boston!  I used to go to Sean’s conferences all the time pre-Wes.  (If you’d like to look back there’s Phoenix and more Phoenix and San Francisco that made it on the blog.)  I haven’t been to a conference since Wes’s arrival, so it was fun to not only rejoin Sean but also go on this first family trip.

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We haven’t read Make Way for Ducklings yet, but heading to Boston Common and seeing the ducks (both real and statue) seemed like a must.

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I’m trying really hard to remember to not phrase things in a question to Wes when I definitely want them to happen.  Because I definitely wanted a picture with my little duckling at the ducklings (since we took one together back in 2014 when he was still in my belly) and Wes’s response was no.  Multiple times no.  Unlike some things that I definitely want to happen, I don’t think it’s fair to force him to take the perfect picture with me after he’s said no.  (Getting a diaper change or leaving a playground is a different story.) We got sorta, kinda close and I’m learning to be okay with sorta, kinda close in this phase of life.

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There’s a park by the frog pond and we spent a lot of time there getting wiggles out.

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We kept our routine as in place as possible, and I was really happy that Wes  took successful naps both of the full days we were in Boston.  It was also nice because there’s nothing for me to do in a hotel room.  There’s nothing to clean, none of the resources I need to work on most projects, etc, so I read.  It was nice.  Especially nice since I found traveling like this pretty tiring, so I was grateful for forced downtime.

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We went to the Children’s Museum on Saturday.  Just like Pittsburgh, I was again reminded how much I wish we had one in DC.  It rained on Saturday and because you could seriously spend all day here, it seems like the perfect thing for rainy or cold weather.  I wonder if I could start a petition to make such a thing happen.

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I’m really grateful to the woman who stopped whatever set up she was doing and very, very cheerfully stood in the rain to take this family photo.

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Then we went to lunch at Pastrol and had the most delicious pizza that Wes ate almost none of.  Sean and I loved it so much.  I have no idea how Sean thought of this or why it works, but sometimes when Wes won’t eat something Sean will say, “can you have a bite for the mailman?”  Sometimes it’s Grandma or the bus driver or the trash truck (we’re in a vehicles phase, can you tell?) instead of the mailman, but it works!  Not for a whole meal, but we will get some bites out of it. It’s so funny to watch his face as he thinks through, oh I’ll totally have a bite for the mailman.

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Luckily our hotel had a pool so we swam in the afternoon since it was still raining and cold.  (Not to keep referencing past posts, but it is really interesting how times have changed.  In San Francisco it rained unexpectedly and we played Words with Friends and drank wine.)

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Then we got a babysitter and snuck out for a date night!   We went to L’Espalier because Sean made partner (!!!) and this was where he wanted his celebration dinner to be!  We’ve been there before maybe about three years ago.  We went with Sean’s sister, Alli, and her husband, Mike, and had the best time.  There was something pretty great about Alli and Mike’s company the last time, but we still had a fantastic time and a very happy, much deserved celebration for Sean.

We were so done after this trip.  So, so, so tired.  We’re not really itching to run out and plan our next small family trip for just the sake of traveling, but Boston was good to us and we were happy to have made the effort take this first family trip.

France Part V: Paris

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I love the buildings in Paris.  I could take pictures of them all day.  I’m really glad we added a few days in Paris to the end of our trip, but Paris is August is tricky.  We thought we did all our research to make sure each restaurant was open, but we got it wrong sometimes.  Sometimes we walked so so much only to come face to face with a closed sign.  But we still loved our time in Paris.

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Sean took a summer class at the Sorbonne in law school.  This picture above is where that magic happened.

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We went to the Louvre, which might be crazy for only half a day but we saw what we wanted and were happy.  The mass of people below the statue of Nike was crazy.  I’m surprised I managed a picture that looks like no one was there.  We really enjoyed Napoleon’s apartment.  So fancy!  Isn’t it crazy to think someone actually called a room like that home?  I have no idea about the mirror with us in it, but it was a mirror we could be in so I snapped a shot.  Are mirror pictures a step above selfies or on the same level?  Oh my gosh, or below?!

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On our way to the Eiffel Tower we stopped for lunch at Les Cocettes.  Sean’s parents got me a book on French food for my birthday in anticipation of this trip.  This restaurant was mentioned there and stood out to me because of it’s proximity to the Eiffel Tower but not frequented by Eiffel Tower tourists.  It was such a great spot!  I wish we had gone for a bigger lunch or even dinner.

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Of course!  We had to!  So Sean had intended to propose about six years ago from the date this was taken right on this lawn in front of the Eiffel Tower.  After seeing how crowded and unromantic it is, we were both happy that plan did not pan out.

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We had our final meal at L’Atelier, which was a fantastic last meal!  We went to L’Atelier Las Vegas for my 30th birthday so we had some idea what we were in for, but it was still so great.  And I wore the same dress because that’s very me.

I had so much fun with you, Favorite!  Probably my favorite vacation we’ve taken so far.

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France Part IV: Beaune

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Beaune is the wine capital of Burgundy.  It is a city, so a very different setting from the rest of our trip.  We really enjoyed Beaune.  It made me wish all over again that I spoke French so that I could better enjoy it’s little shops and museums.  But, even with only the most minimal French and mostly English (and a whole tour group with bilingual tour guides), we really enjoyed this last leg of our bike trip.

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Our first night in Beaune we had a group wine tasting at Bouchard Père & Fils, which had a really cool cellar.  The real highlight of our first night in Beaune was our free dinner though.  Sean and I loved this trip and will definitely go on another Backroads trip, but traveling with a group was tough on us.  Having three meals a day with a group of people is exhausting for two introverts.  I was proud of us.  We did a great job of interacting  (thank you, Sigma Kappa, I drew from my sorority recruitment and conversation making experience so much on this trip!).  But this free dinner was such a welcomed break for us!

Then the next morning we got up, tackled a hill, and were rewarded with more spectacular views!

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Followed by a classic Backroads picnic.  Which was a much, much fancier picnic than I was expecting.  I wish everyday could be a Backroads picnic day.

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This is Otis & Franz!  They were such fantastic tour guides!

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Then we had a final group dinner where Sean got to order one of two magnums for the table!  We’ve never ordered a magnum (equivalent to two bottles, in case you’re not familiar), and I think our whole table got a kick out of drinking magnums.  Plus we got to sit near our favorite family, so it was a great last night for us.

While most of our group opted to get up early and go for another bike ride, Sean and I did not.  We knew we had only three more mornings of our trip left, and sleeping in is not really something that happens on a bike trip like this.  We were setting off most mornings by 8.  So as parents of a a young child we decided that getting at least three sleep in days was important to us.  We had chocolate croissants instead.

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Right before we got on the bus to leave and catch our train to Paris, it occurred to me that we had all of these dinners and times when we weren’t in biking clothes yet we had no pictures of us in anything other than biking clothes.  So here’s our quick before we miss our last opportunity for a non-biking clothes picture picture.

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I love this picture.  I think we look so happy.  We are so happy!  We slept in!  Waaaay past 6:30 a.m.!!  And we’re in France!