East Coast Adventure: Part 2

If you recall from Part 1, Mr. Fiancé and I spent a long weekend visiting friends in Philadelphia, Virginia & DC all for about a day and a half each.  Here is the last segment – Part 2: Visiting Terra in Virginia & being a tourist in DC.

After Terra met us at the train station Saturday night, we picked up her husband from a work event and decided to grab drinks at a local bar that has 40+ beers on tap. I repeat, 40+ bars on tap. How awesome is that?  We ordered and devoured two behemoth Bavarian pretzels. Sadly, it ruined all future pretzels for me. I will never have a soft pretzel that will be able to compare. We even wanted to take one to-go, they were that good but didn’t. I should have taken a photo for you. Mmmm, I’m salivating just thinking about it. But I digress.  So, in the morning we went to breakfast and our lovely hosts gave us a scenic driving tour of their city, followed by a beautiful hike on an island that used to house a confederate prison.


Ever go to someone’s house and feel instantly at home and as if you had been going there for years? I guess that shouldn’t surprise me, that is the story of our friendship.  Terra’s house is a zoo; an adorable, I want to snuggle and take them home with me, zoo. I am not a huge fan of big dogs, but hers were super sweet and won me over.  I was very entertained by the cats, as I have never had one of my own. That night, we went to dinner at a delicious family-style Italian dinner where Stacey and Mr. Fiancé’s cousin met up with us. I wish we all lived closer so that we could have game night and see each other more often!

On Monday, Terra and her husband drove to Washington D.C with us. (Thanks again for driving!) We visited the Holocaust Museum, Washington Monument and Lincoln Memorial before they had to head back in time for class. If you haven’t been to the Holocaust Museum, I highly suggest it. I personally think it is very well done, more emotional and informational than Yad Vashem, the one in Israel.  Oh! and we had lunch with a friendly squirrel. Usually they run away but this one came right up to us and Terra hand-fed it a fry. In the picture, he is eating chips from a stash he found in the grass. After we all said our goodbyes, Mr. Fiancé and I continued being tourists and walked to The White House and then over to Ford’s Theatre.  I remember going to all these places as a kid, but it had been years. I clearly remember standing on Pennsylvania Ave looking through the gates as a kid but the surrounding area wasn’t what I remembered. I also have a vivid memory of the balcony at Ford’s Theatre and the bed Lincoln died in, but not the theatre itself. Memories are a funny thing – and you have to stop and wonder, how much of memories are true memories or figments of our imagination?

It wasn’t until I experienced D.C.’s Metro that I realized how lucky Chicagoans have it with the CTA.  The Metro is so darn confusing with different rates for different destinations. Not to mention that you have to use your card twice, once when you enter and once when you leave the turnstiles.  What if you change your destination on the train and subsequently don’t have enough money on your transit card? The CTA has one set price and it is very easy to navigate. Have you ever been on Earthquake The Ride, at Universal Studios?  My first instinct was that water was going to come crashing out of nowhere and the subway was going to be on fire because the tunnel eerily reminded me of the ride.  I couldn’t get over the fact that the trains, which were more like trams, had carpet. CARPET! What happens when people barf on the train? I know you don’t want to think about it, but crazy stuff like that happens on the CTA and it is a good thing it is tile floor! I just couldn’t get over that.

My mom mentioned in passing that her friend enjoyed the Newseum and that we should check it out on Tuesday. I didn’t know what to expect, but take my word for it- next time you are in D.C. GO THERE!  It was one of the best museums I have ever been to. It is educational without feeling lecture-y.   The museum shows a timeline of historic events through newspaper articles and interactive exhibits. As it is said, “news is the first draft of history” and the News Gallery does a fantastic job showing history through the centuries as told through actual newspaper covers.  From the very first newspaper printed in 1455, to The Declaration of Independence, to the Titanic and to announcing Hitler declared war, to JFK’s Assassination and to Obama’s becoming President, it is all there and more. While this was just a gallery, there really was enough there for it to be its own museum!  They even had a Gutenberg Press replica (or real?) that showed how newspapers used to be made. I cannot imagine making one newspaper at a time, having to put the letters on backwards and print it manually. So freaking cool. There was a fabulous 9/11 exhibit with an emotional film, an entire wall of the front page magazine coverage worldwide, and wreckage from the broadcast tower off of the World Trade Center.  One of the exhibits I didn’t want to miss was the Pulitzer Prize room, and it didn’t disappoint. It had every photo that has ever won since it originated in the ’60’s.  Some, I am surprised were winners, while others made my eyes water.  There was even a watchtower and a section of the original Berlin Wall.  Supposedly they had the Unibombers cabin, but we didn’t make it to that exhibit.  We didn’t have time to visit all the exhibits we wanted to see because we had a flight to catch, but we could have easily stayed another day (which is why your ticket comes with a two day pass).  I was a journalism major and Mr. Fiancé loves history, so this was the ultimate museum that combined our interests.  I strongly suggest this museum to anyone and everyone. I didn’t have high expectations and it surprised me how much I enjoyed it.

We had a great exhausting long weekend. It was so much fun to catch up with friends and be a tourist in cities we had never been to or hadn’t been to in a long time.  I can’t believe it is over already though. Time to look at photos and catch up on sleep…

East Coast Adventure: Part 1

Where has this month gone? November has just flown by, right?  A few weeks back, Mr. Fiancé decided he wanted to visit a friend in Philly to ask him to be in our wedding. Knowing I had friends in Philly and D.C. (thanks #BiSC!) and that Terra lived only a few hours away in Virginia, I began planning how I could make it work to see my friends, too. So our little getaway in November turned into a long weekend tour consisting of visiting friends in Philadelphia, Virginia & DC, all for about a day and a half each. Here is Part 1: Philly.

We went to Geno’s because you can’t be a tourist in Philadelphia and not try the famous Philly Cheese Steak.  Why is this sandwich a must? I am really not sure, I wasn’t impressed. I learned that to make it the traditional way, you must use Cheesewiz. Umm, excuse me, what? Gross. That stuff is processed fake nastiness. I’ll pass and take the provolone, please. The sandwich was not all it was hyped up to be, but not as greasy as I expected. We walked the entire day from Geno’s to the City Center, around town and practically back again.

On our adventure, we passed little neighborhoods; some I felt more safe in than others.  Trash, bums, broken windows and graffiti littered the streets everywhere.  I noticed European style outdoor food markets with beautiful colorful fresh fruit and specialty meat shops, that made me miss Italy.  One place had live chickens; when I realized it wasn’t a pet shop, I ran away flailing and shrieking.  We noticed a burning trash can in the street. Apparently, we also visited Gotham City.

I insisted on seeing Love Park, which, for some unknown reason I kept calling Love Field. Maybe I thought it sounded like a baseball field, or Strawberry Field? But whatever you call it, it was so much smaller than I expected!  Mr. Fiancé and I did some sight-seeing on our own and found this cute area with game board pieces as art statues from Sorry! Monopoly and Chess.  We made our way through the tents of #occupywallstreet to the Liberty Bell and stumbled upon the National Constitution Center.  I read about Katz Vs. United States and fascinated that even though that was in the ’60’s, the same privacy principle exists today, if not more-so; but that is a discussion for another post.  It is amazing the amount of history that exists in Philly and much of the east coast, compared to Chicago.  Finally, we met up with Tara for an absolutely delicious dinner at Dandelion and celebrated 11.11.11 at a local bar. It was wonderful to see her and catch up!

Don’t mind my phone, it doesn’t work properly obviously as it thought it was partly sunny at 11 o’clock at night. But how cool is that picture? It shows the time, the date and where I was! I had watched the clock like a hawk all morning, and then it came and went so fast, I missed it. I was only able to make one Epic-Big-Mega-Must-Make-It-Count Wish at night. Did you make the ultimate wish when the clock struck 11:11?? 

The following day, on Saturday,  Mr. Fiancé’s friend took us to Philadelphia Brewery Company where we got to take a tour of the grounds. Not only was it something different from sight-seeing, we got to see beer actually being made.  They were brewing while we were on the tour, so we got to see various phases in the process as well as taste beer straight off the conveyor belt.  How cool is that?! I don’t think you can get beer any more fresh than that!  Cheers.

Overall, I liked visiting, but I didn’t really like Philly. Unfortunately, it is not a city for me and I will not be rushing back to anytime soon.   We  said our goodbyes to our hosts and had our first Amtrak experience. I thoroughly enjoyed it. We watched a movie, read our books and were able to sit comfortably in our seats.  Knowing that Terra was only 5 hours away, there was no way I was traveling to this part of the country without getting to see her. The time flew by faster on the train than it has on any 5 hour plane ride I’ve been on, it was significantly more spacious and comfortable than a plane or bus and a lot cheaper than flying. Not to mention, it was on time!  I know that Amtrak goes through Chicago, but there are less destinations nearby.  The east coast is lucky to have a train system that is so easy to use, convenient and cost efficient. It reminded me of the train system in Europe, and how it is used as a frequent mode of transportation.

I felt like all I did was eat and drink my way through Philly (and the weekend for that matter) but there is more of that to come! Stay tuned…

To drive & vlog or not to drive & vlog? That is the question: An Open Discussion

Have you ever been looked over at the person in the car next to you and were shocked at what you saw? Ever had to swerve out-of-the-way to avoid being hit because they weren’t paying attention? I have seen some wild things, all very hazardous to not only the guilty driver but to others on the road, too. I have seen people putting on makeup/mascara, shaving, eating, picking their nose knuckle deep (not so much dangerous as it is gross/funny to watch), texting, putting clothes on, listening to music with headphones on, driving drunk, picking stuff up from the back seat or off the floor, taking pictures, or reading an old-school large foldable paper map, (seriously, people still use those?) as well as reading printed Mapquest directions.  Call me old-fashioned, a worry wort, up tight, whatever you want, but it frustrates me to see people putting other people’s lives in jeopardy because of their poor judgement. There are somethings that should be done at home and not in the car.  I won’t lie and say my hands are always at 10 & 2 but I do realize the severity of distracted driving.

Earlier this week, a fellow blogger posted on a topic that I want to open up for a discussion with my readers. I would love to hear what your opinions are on the matter.  I met Nate St. Pierre back in August at the 20sb Bloggers Summit in Chicago.  He is one of those people who immediately draws you in because he is that inspiring.  (Side note: In case you don’t know him, he has a fabulously wonderful company called Love Bomb where each week someone, who is going through a rough time, for whatever the reason, is selected to receive message of love, encouragement, hope etc.  Every week he is making an impact on someone’s life. It really is a beautiful thing. So if you aren’t familiar with it, check it out!)  But I digress.

So naturally, I started following his blog after we met. Nate is a vlogger and has recorded some of his videos while stuck in traffic.  His commute is nearly 3 hours a day so I understand the concept of making the most out of your time.  However, something about vlogging while driving bothers me and got me thinking.  Just how many people do this?  He isn’t the first person to record himself while driving. I noticed it during VEDA too. I think it is reckless to drivlog. You are not completely focused on the road and your reaction time is slower, even if you are only going 10 mph because you are not fully focused.  Holding the camera in one hand and the wheel in the other is no easy task. But is it safe? Can you really react at your utmost potential if you are looking into the camera you are holding? I don’t think so. If I were to see someone drivlogging, it would upset me because they are more focused on their video than on their surroundings and fellow drivers.  Is it worth the risk? It only takes one time to be distracted and there are plenty distractions out there, we don’t need to increase that on our own. That one distraction could be the difference between getting in an accident (albeit serious or not) or getting home safe.

If someone fender-bendered me and I found out that they were drivlogging, even if they were only going 5 mphs, I would be pissed.  I am not calling Nate selfish, but I do think that drivlogging is. What is the legal stand on this? I am pretty sure that the video could be used in court, should it get that far. Even if it wasn’t actually the vloggers fault, could they be seen as guilty for negligent driving?

So when Nate vlogged asking his viewers  if he should be drivlogging,  I wanted to contribute my thoughts.   He said, “Lately my ridiculously long commute has driven me (ha, see what I did there?) to video blogging in traffic. Should I be doing this? Yes or no, tell me what you think…” 

Apparently, I was the only one who commented on his post saying that I didn’t think it was a good idea.  To my surprise, most people were very supportive of vlogging while driving.  Realizing I was the only one, I became curious to know what more people thought about this topic.  Below is our thread from his post.

That is where you come in.  What are your thoughts on drivlogging? Do you think it is okay to drivlog? Have you done it? Seen others do it? Does speed matter? Is it okay if you are in a gridlock? Does it make a difference if your camera is mounted so that you are hands free? What other kinds of crazy things have you seen while driving?

Please share your thoughts, regardless if you agree with me or not. All I ask is that you please be respectful of others opinions. Thanks.

I’m all verklempt: Talk amongst yourselves…

Let’s get this discussion going!

P.s. I should copyright that term: Drivlog.

Don’t wine on our date

Relationships require a significant effort to keep things fresh and lively.  Part of keeping that spark alive is continually treating your partner to a date night.  As life often interrupts, this can be difficult to do.  However, Mr. Fiancé and I both do our best to take each other out on dates.  I don’t think it is fair to say it is the mans responsibility to keep up the excitement. It takes two to tango.

I wanted to take him on a creative and unique date so when I saw a LivingSocial deal for Bottled Grapes, a company whose mission is to teach how to pair authentic regional food with wine, I jumped at the opportunity. (Side note – some of my most original dates have come from these coupon sites.) Finally, after months of waiting for the right class to appear on the schedule that wasn’t already sold out, I finally was able to schedule our date night.  I wanted to surprise Mr. Fiancé so yesterday I told him we were going on a date, but it wasn’t until we walked into the building that I finally told him what we were doing.  Some classes focus on California cuisine, Spanish dishes, or French dinners, but I only wanted to take the italian class. Krunch, the owner, already retired twice, decided to go back and pursue his love of wine.  He is one of just 24 oenophiles in the world to have achieved the title of International Grand Confrérie Sommelier.  I had never heard of that title before, but apparently it is the highest level of sommelier recognition you can achieve. I was seriously impressed with Krunch’s ability to specifically pinpoint the taste of the apples, the lemon, the black pepper, etc. in the wines. To me, I can taste fruit, wood, etc., but can’t specify in detail that it is a boisonberry.  I know the wine is supposed to enhance your palate when you pair it with food, but I honestly couldn’t tell a difference.

We had a home cooked italian dinner and got to taste four wines: 2 red & 2 white. The wine bottles were hidden in velvet bags, as to ensure we tasted the wine without knowing what it was.  That way we could sample it and enjoy the aroma and flavors without being distracted by thought that we may or may not like that kind of wine from previous tastings.  A lovely couple sat across from us at our table and together we all played ‘guess the wine.’  Sadly, I didn’t guess any right. I liked three out of four of the wines.

One of the hardest courses I took during my time in Italy was a pairing food and wine class. While Krunch didn’t mention the basic pairing rule that white wine goes with chicken and fish, and red goes with red meat, he did share some interesting wine tips. Some I knew, others I did not.

Tip #1. There are three types of meal wines:

  1. Introductory Wine: This is usually white and light. It gets you ready for the meal and the heavier wine to come. It should be 12% alcohol or lower for the 1st course.
  2. Meal Wine: This is your thicker wine, usually red.  It should be 13.5% or lower. Otherwise, you are essentially dumping ketchup over your meal and ruining the flavor of both the wine and food.
  3. Dessert Wine: This should be 14% alcohol and higher.

Tip #2.  If you don’t like black pepper, don’t get a wine with black pepper in it. If you have a meal where black pepper is part of the ingredients, pair it with a wine that has black pepper.

Tip #3. Sunshine & heat kills wine. 

Tip #4. Best way to store already opened wine: Out of synthetic, screw cap, cork and box, which do you think is the best for storing already opened wine? I’ll give you a minute to think about this. Ready?   The answer from worst to best:  synthetic, cork, screw cap, then box. Boxed wine can stay up to 3 months after it is opened! Keep it classy, folks! Anyone up for a game of slap the bag? Just kidding.

Tip #5. If you can, buy wines that have aged for at least 5 years.

I successfully took Mr. Fiancé on an entertaining surprise date.  It is nice to spend time out of the house, away from the responsibilities; just enjoying each other’s company one on one.  Who said just because you’re in a long-term relationship, you can’t still go out on dates? I cannot wait to take him on my next planned date in a couple of weeks. But I can’t tell you about that yet. I don’t want his next surprise!