Tuesday, May 29, 2012

A Little Celebration and a Little Reflection

This is what 34 looks like.  Yup, toothpick and all!

You see, 34 is reflective.  You have a little life behind you, a whole lot more ahead and a brand new bottle of bourbon from your brother.

Two years ago, yesterday, we asked our friends and family to join us in the blistering Iowa heat to be witness to the choice we were making.  Since that day, we have seen more blistering {Florida} days and made many more choices.  But, each morning we make the same choice we did that very day; to continue to work toward a "good enough marriage."

I think we are doing right by those promises.  We still believe that our marriage is just that; ours.  There are great days, good days and days that we'd like to rush right through so we can start over again tomorrow.  But, we know that we define these days.

After two very short years, it feels like we are far from this day and somehow, at the same time, it is still very close in our rear-view mirror.

One of my favorite parts of two years of marriage came not too long ago.  We mentioned to a good friend that our anniversary was right around the corner and she asked us in a somewhat sarcastic tone;

"The best two years of your life?"

We looked at each other and realized that it has been. 

It's cheesy and cliche but it's true.

So, a happy cotton anniversary to us.

His new "cotton" track suit.  Except, it's polyester.  Ooops!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Fulfilling a Promise

The following post was featured on the Shutterfly blog.  A HUGE thank you to the many friends and family who made this special gift possible!

On the night my sister, Shay, got married, I talked to our closest friends and family about how I was – that evening – where I had always been, right at my sister’s side.  As her maid of honor, I raised my champagne glass and toasted her, and her new family, with a promise that I would always be by their sides.  But, as she came upon her 30th birthday while awaiting the arrival of her first child, I wasn’t by her side.  Well, at least not physically!

My husband and I moved away from our home state of Iowa a few years ago to follow his job as it literally moved us from one coast to the other.  The transition went smoothly for my husband and me.  I continued my career in marketing by working from home and he began a successful career combining his unique experience of military, engineering, and law.  But, for my sister and me it was a little harder.  We had never been so far from each other, and our phone bills reinforced the distance we felt.

I began preparing for Shay’s birthday months in advance.  I emailed and physically sent letters to family and friends.  I asked them to put down in words, pictures, and quotes what Shay has meant to them and what they wish for her as she embarks on a new chapter of her life – motherhood, and the next 30 years.

For the next few weeks, it was all I could do to keep the secret from my sister as I compiled the responses.  I was moved to tears as some of the words came in.  My grandmother sent the very first photo she had taken with Shay. 

My other grandma scripted memories in her own penmanship on three full pages. 

My parents reminisced about welcoming their first child into their world while my cousins reminded Shay of the funny times our pasts hold. 

The book ended with words from her husband – “I love you and look forward to 30 more years.  Twice.”

After scanning everything in to my computer, I laid out the many sentiments into a thoughtful book and had it printed.  Before I wrapped it up, and sent it on to my sister, I read through it one last time.  I quickly realized I needed to pack something else – Kleenex – because, as I said, I was sending this to a very pregnant woman!

In the end, the book was the beautiful means by which to give my sister an even stronger sense of self as she embarks on the beautiful – and challenging – journey that is motherhood.  And, she commented, that as she was reading it, she truly could feel me by her side as I promised I always would be.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The In Between

We're hanging out in between lately.  In between big trips, moves and celebrations.  We're coming off our wine high, cleaning up our current house and preparing for upcoming celebrations of marriage and another year in the life of Andy Wendling. 

The in between also means wandering around Lowe's pretending to be home owners.  It means sitting on the beach with many magazine tear-outs, dreaming of our soon-to-be new house.

It means grilling out at our current house with a favorite bottle of wine and discussing our next steps.

And, in between big trips, we travel to local places that we've never tried.  This week it was Matt's Casbah.  I suggest the calamari!

Please ignore the glass of wine on-deck.  Gotta order before happy hour ends :)

What does your in-between look like?

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Adventures in Napa

We wrapped up our San Francisco and Napa adventures with a few more stops through the Napa Valley.  We headed North to visit Von Strasser Winery.  Here, we were lucky enough to take a quick tour through their wine caves.  Hidden in the back was a large dining table surrounded by wine.  I couldn't help but day-dream about exquisite dinner parties in this cave including a mandatory rule that guests leave with a little more wobble in their step.  I'm sure these dinners exist and I'd love to be a fly on the wall at one of them.  {Actually, one time I heard a comedy routine making fun of that saying.  Because, really, when you say you'd like to be a fly on the wall at something, you're really saying that you'd like to be someone that those people trust enough to be at said event.  So, yeah, I'd like to be someone that the people at Von Strasser trust enough to come to their dinner parties.  Ohhhh, I digress...}

From there we made a quick stop at V. Sattui to grab some bread, cheese, and meat giving us the endurance to finish the day.  We made the decision to forgo tasting at this stop so we could fit in a recommendation from Tom at Whitehall Lane, and we were glad we did.  Our stop at Miner Winery was worth it.  As self-proclaimed pinot-lovers we were excited to see a few pinots on their flight. 
This is another of those small(er) wineries that is worth visiting.  Every wine we tasted was better than the one before and we walked away with a number of bottles to enjoy in the comfort of our home.

The final stop of the day was Artesa Winery.  And, what do you know, they were ready for us!

The architecture and views alone were worth the stop here and the wine was an added bonus.  We spent time with Austin who has visited every winery in Sonoma County - whoa!  The combination of Austin's knowledge, the views, and fantastic wine left us ready to return.

CHEERS, everyone!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Be Your Own Wine Expert at Whitehall Lane Winery.

I’ve loved wine for as long as I have been able to sip it – and maybe even before!  So, when I got the chance to head out to San Francisco for a conference with Wyndham’s Women on Their Way, I knew that a trip to Napa was in my very near future.  I explored the region quickly last year but it was my intent to further penetrate the wine-saturated area on this trip.  And, that’s just what we did.
I had an aggressive itinerary and prepped my cohorts on the beautiful drive from the Parc55 Hotel to the Napa Valley.  Step 1?  Cross the Golden Gate Bridge…

Our first stop of the day was to Whitehall Lane Winery.  This small(er) family-owned winery actually sits in St. Helena and owns approximately 110 acres of vineyards which produce around 50,000 cases of wine each year.  Now, I have to say, this was the best experience I have ever had tasting wine.  Each person we encountered was excited to welcome us early on this Friday morning and welcome they did with a delicious initial pour of their Sauvignon Blanc.  I’m not much of a white wine girl but this could easily become my new summer wine! 

From there we were given the opportunity to sit down and discuss their wines with Vice President, Tom Leonardini II, over a pour of three single vineyard cabernets {2008 Reserve, 2008 Leonardini Vineyard, 2008 Millennium MM Vineyard} and specially selected meats and cheeses {including prosciutto from IOWA}.  Tom was so great and down to earth when discussing wine with us and we all agreed that, at the end of the day, wine is meant to be enjoyed with food and friends.  The best advice he gave us was to be our own wine experts.  If we like a wine and it meets the objective of bringing together family, friends and great food then guess what, it’s good! 

I cannot recommend this stop more.  So, if you’re ever in the neighborhood - actually, make a special trip - stop by Whitehall Lane Winery and I would suggest picking up a few bottles of the 2008 Leonardini Vineyard Cabernet – I wish I had grabbed a few more!

Tomorrow, I’ll wrap up the trip through the Napa Valley with thoughts and pictures from Von Strasser , V. Sattui, Miner and Artesa Wineries.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Traveling Through Life.

The past few weeks have kind of been a blur.  A really awesome blur – one with rainbows and sunshine and amazing opportunities scattered within.  But, in reality, it was a blur of conferences in Vegas with accountants, conferences in San Francisco for Wyndham and an extended weekend to celebrate an early anniversary that is right around the corner.

I woke up in San Francisco, a city that I had not explored much of, at the fantastic Parc55 Hotel, grabbed some strong coffee on a stroll through town with Andy and then hiked through a park with friends in tow.  And only after we had worked up a sufficient appetite did we stop for some great food and beer at one of those cool places that seems to appear out of nowhere – The Monk’s Kettle.

Somewhere between the beer, hike and exploring, I was asked about the idea of writing about our wanderlust.  The question was whether you have to always be traveling in order to write about travel.  I answered in a way that I think I’ve always known.  We don’t always have to be boarding a plane to be writing about our travel because we are all traveling through our own lives.  Our journeys will look different and sometimes they may include the first outing with a new baby and other times they will be a literal cross-country excursion.  At times we'll walk right across the street and into a country concert while at other times the travel will be for work.  But, no matter where or when, we're all creating an account of our lives through the direction of our choosing. 

So, throw your travels into a bowl, mix them up and see what your blur looks like.  Right now I’m excited to share the colorful travels we have experienced lately from Florida to Vegas to San Francisco and back again. 

And stay tuned for some thoughts on the Napa Valley coming later this week.  As a preview...

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Cheers! What I'm Loving Right Now.

I’m still on my that was an awesome weekend high so I’d like to share with you a few things that we’re loving right now.

Markets that make Andy say things like; “this is what I was afraid of,” when referring to the danger of a great wine selection.

Our newest nephew.

And, I think it was Train that recently said “marry me, today and every day.”  Yes, it was them. They are probably talking about something much deeper than wanting to throw a wedding every day to drink, dance and spend entirely too much time in a photo booth with the ones you love the most.  But, maybe that’s what they meant, right? 
Regardless, I’m loving wedding photo booths and this random girl who probably felt bad for Andy’s solo shots.  Anyone want to identify her?

The hibiscus outside our window.

Quiet Moments on the beach.

And busy desks upon returning home.

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