Monday, September 19, 2011

Just Another Madrid Monday #3

Well, with our original plans, we should be leaving for Spain sometime this week with Luke to start work on October 1, but that isn't happening. Long story short; We've been delayed. Our new expected departure date is anywhere between now and January 1, and January is probably the more realistic expectation. Although we're not too upset about the delay, it's a bit frustrating for a couple of reasons.

We found out about the delay one day after leasing our house. We'd known all along that a delay was possible, but because we'd already provided all of the requested documents without receiving any updates or requests for more information, we were operating under the assumption (we all know what happens when you assume) that all was on course and October 1 was still our date. We kept lowering the rent on our house, packing things up, etc... in order to prepare. So it's been a bit of a frustrating process; however, we're still so thankful for Luke's company and all they do to help us in obtaining visas. They have lawyers and translators and all kinds of people to help get all of our documents in the correct form with all the required notaries, jurats, etc...So hopefully, everything will be accepted by the Spanish government the first time through. Seriously, I don't even know how we would begin if we were doing this on our own.

Also, I'd already told my company that I would be leaving around the end of September, and acting accordingly to what I told them, they hired my replacement, who started at the end of August. So despite not leaving until potentially January, I'm out of a job September 29th. Although this isn't ideal, it will give me a lot of time to focus on Rosetta Stone, and I've also filled out substitute teaching applications to maybe help keep me busy until we leave. Everything will work out. And truth be told, I'm not too terribly upset about this. :)

Despite those frustrations, being delayed isn't all that bad. First of, regardless of the timing, we are very glad to have leased our house. Even though we may have been able to get more rent for it if we'd known we had more time before leaving, we're glad that we're no longer stressing about whether or not it would rent before we left. And the family that moved in seems to be very sweet and will hopefully take good care of it. In fact, the husband works in construction and seems to be very handy, so we're hoping they leave it in better shape than they found it! :)

We're also really glad that we will (hopefully) be here for the holidays with our families and get to enjoy all the goodness that fall has to offer with them. And a delayed departure date means a delayed return date. We'd love to have 2 summers over there instead of 1!

As of today, the Global Immigration Services team that is working with us has (finally) received all of our documents with the appropriate notaries, copies, etc. Next up, we have to obtain apostille (which Google tells me is authentication of public documents for foreign use) and certifed Spanish translation of all the documents. Hopefully, this process goes quickly so that we can (finally) send everything off. We're expecting a 4 to 6 week wait once everything is received by the government (although I'm not really sure where that expecation was born from). More updates to follow I'm sure.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Work Out Wrap-Up #3

I'm back with another work out wrap-up just because I like to do it (and this way, Luke won't have to listen to me :)). Here is what my work outs looked like this week:

Not too shabby considering it was my birthday week, and I could have very easily used that as an excuse to sluff off for a couple of days! Tomorrow morning, I might go to spin, but I'm hoping I can talk Luke into an outdoor run. Now that the 100+ degree days seem to finally (hopefully) be behind us, I'm looking forward to a nice run in the cool morning (and it'll be even better with the company of my hubby!) Have a good weekend!

Friday, September 9, 2011

Chi Town

Wow! We've been a lot of places this summer! First, New York followed by North Carolina, Arkansas and New Orleans. Then this past weekend, we spent Labor Day in Chicago with our good buddy, Adam. And what a great time we had!

Luke and I flew into Chicago Friday afternoon. After several wrong turns and taking a round-a-bout route, we finally navigated our way around the city to our hotel. We dropped off our bags and then set out for some fun. Just down the street from our hotel, we spotted a rooftop bar, so we stopped there first for a little hummus and a brewski. After enjoying the rooftop view and nice cool breeze, we walked around a little more before finding another little patio to chill on and wait for Adam. Once Adam met up with us, we started back to the hotel to get ready for dinner. When we're on vacation or celebrating something, I kind of love eating out, and if we're going out of town, I usually do a little Internet research before hand to find us a cool spot for dinner. This time my research paid off! We dined at Home Bistro Friday night and loved everything about it! It was a cool, little neighborhood BYOB place that we never would have just happened upon (and even if we had, it was tiny and full so we couldn't have gotten in without a reservation). The lights were low and the place was buzzing with conversation but not too loud. Before heading out for dinner, we stopped and picked up a bottle of wine to pair with each course. (I use the term "pair" loosely because we had no idea what we would order and let's be honest, I'm no wine connoisseur...yet). But having a different bottle to go with each course was really fun, and we would have never done that if it weren't "BYOB". Along with the wine, everything we ordered was awesome. We started with Fried Oysters and Housemade Pierogi, which is a Polish dish somewhat similar to a pot sticker or dumpling. I preferred the pierogi while the guys favored the oysters, but both were very good and different. For our main course, Luke had the Brazed Pork Shank, Adam the Handmade Mint Fettuccine with Pork Sausage and me the Sturgeon, which is an ugly white fish that Luke says looks like a shark. Again, everyone was pleased with their choices, but after passing a few fork fulls around the table, I think my ugly fish took first place with all three of us. Dessert was a little bit of a disappointment. We brought a bottle of port to go with dessert and were hoping for something rich and chocolatey. Unfortunately, though, there was nothing like that offered, so we went with housemade Belgian White Chocolate Bars. Though they were okay, it's just not what we were hoping for. All in all, it was fabulous meal, and the "BYOB" allowed us to enjoy a really nice meal with a couple of bottles of wine for quite a bit less than we would have spent anywhere else. I also really liked that it wasn't a touristy spot. When Luke and I vacate, we love to find little, off the beaten path places, so this was right up our alley. If you're ever in Chicago and want to venture away from the Magnificent Mile, I highly recommend HB.

Rooftop Happy Hour.

Dinner with my two guys.

Saturday morning, we hopped in our rented Toyota Corolla (which just happened to have Texas plates...random) and drove east to South Bend, Indiana, home of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. We tailgated with Luke's Uncle Greg and cousin Geoff, who were in town for the game from Cincinnati, Ohio before heading into the stadium to watch the Irish take on the South Florida Bulls. We had great seats on the 4th row that Adam scored from his "buddy" Kristen, who is a trainer for the South Florida team. Though the game was fun, the Irish were losing and there were a couple of rain/lightning delays, so we only stayed until half-time. After a little jaunt around campus to see the Grotto (where we got engaged more than 3 years ago) and a couple of other cool spots, we started back to Chicago. Back in Chicago, we checked into a new hotel, and I persuaded the boys to give me time to shower before dinner. (It didn't take much persuading because Adam wanted a shower too, but I did promise to put my hair up and be as quick as possible). Luke picked The Purple Pig as our dinner spot that evening. It was a good, cool place with a lively environment and group style seating. (Basically, just long tables of probably 10-12 with multiple different parties on each table.) The menu was centered around (you guessed it...the pig) and was served tapas (not topless) style where everything is small plates meant to be shared. The food was okay but nothing to write about. By far, the best part about this meal was the company. After Luke offended our waiter by referring to the bartender as "thinning hair, beard, really excited about the menu," and Adam brought back the gag symbol to show that he didn't like something, we laughed until our stomachs hurt. Oh yes. One thing about the food worth mentioning. There were not one but two hairs in our dessert that we're convinced were put there purposefully due to Luke's tiny bit offensive joke. Gross. and Rude.

Go Irish! Outside Lou Holtz gate.

The Golden Dome.

Dinner at the Purple Pig. Before the hair.

Sunday morning, we brunched on Rush at a place called Feast. Again, everything was fantastic. Luke had challah french toast, Adam the breakfast burrito and me the Lox and Bagel. It was so nice to enjoy breakfast out on the patio in the cool, breezy weather. After brunch, we headed over to Wrigleyville for the afternoon Cubs game. After the game, we went back to the city for Chicago style pizza at Pizzano's, which is my favorite. I definitely prefer it over Giordano's because it's not quite as heavy and filling even though it is still true Chicago style. (And they serve Oprah's favorite thin crust pizza, but I couldn't talk the boys into going thin.) We made a couple of more pit stops before calling it a night and getting ready to head home the next morning. We had so much fun, and it was good to end the summer on such a high note!

Brunch at Feast.

Trying to recreate my model pose from Fenway circa 2009.


Cubs game. Not even sure who they played, but it was fun!

P90X Style.

Pizza at Pizzano's.

Zoolander look.

Other than the Notre Dame and Cubs games, we mostly just walked and talked; wined and dined. But we had a ton of fun doing it and really enjoyed spending some quality time with Adam since he's become a New Mexican, and we don't get the opportunity to see each other as frequently. And we love Chicago. It's a really pretty, clean city for being so big and urban, and the fact that it is right on the huge Lake Michigan is really cool. If it weren't for the harsh winters, it might be at the top of my list for cities I would live in (if I ever had to choose). Cheers to Summer 2011!

NOLA 2011 - A French Quarter Saturday and Sunday in the Garden District

After a long break, I'm back with the rest of New Orleans recap. (Update: I actually wrote this some time ago but am just now getting around to uploading pics due to a bad/slow/unreliable internet connection at home.)

We started Saturday with brunch at The Red Slipper, a cute little cafe just around the corner from our hotel. I love having the Yelp ap on our phones because it's so easy to locate something nearby with good reviews! And this place had a free mimosa if you checked in on Yelp! Score! After breakfast, we spent the rest of the day exploring the French Quarter. We walked through Cafe du Monde but decided against a beignet. I've tried one before, and Luke wasn't interested enough to stand in line/wait for a table. We explored Jackson Square, checked out the Louis Armstrong Jazz Festival ("Satchmo Summer Fest"), and stopped for an afternoon snack of super tasty boiled shrimp. All during our trip, we had our eye out for a ring that we might buy to replace my engagement rings. I bought Luke's ring in New Orleans when I was there on my bachelorette party trip, so we thought it'd be so cool if we could find a little something for me there. Unfortunately, the place had closed down! :( We found a couple of other beautiful sapphire, diamond rings. I've always loved sapphires because it's my birthstone, and the rings are very Princess Diana/Kate Middleton-esque. But we could never pull the trigger. Although they were gorgeous rings, we weren't sure how trust worthy some of the stores were, and because the rings were still quite expensive, we decided not to buy something if we weren't 100 percent sure that's what we wanted. So, I'm still rocking a $25 cz from Target. (Update: This past weekend my Nana loaned me her engagement ring that my Granddad gave to her 60 years ago, so I'm now wearing that ring with pride.)

Saturday night we went to dinner at Broussard's in the French Quarter. We started with the baked Oysters, and they were fabulous. Unfortunately, the rest of the meal wasn't quite as tasty. Nothing was bad, but the appetizer definitely stole the show. After dinner, we went to Frenchmen Street to listen to a little live music, but I got tired pretty quickly (like couldn't hold my eyes open tired), and we left before too long.

Sunday we rented bikes and set off to explore the Garden District. We just rode around most of the day, checking out the cool, old houses and stopping here and there for a drink or snack. Around mid-day, it started pouring down rain while we were on our bikes. I'm not talking a light sprinkle; it was a torrential down pour. When huge, loud, scary, straight to the ground lightning started, we decided to pull over at the next place we saw and take cover. I was a little embarrassed to go in somewhere because I was soaking wet, but the patrons and bartender at the little place we stopped coaxed me in after Luke went in to check it out. We froze our buns off in this little place since they had the AC going while we were soaking wet, but it was a nice place to sit with a drink and let the rain pass. The rainy day bike ride was our favorite part of the trip! At first, I was thinking I don't want to get all wet, but once it happened and I just went with it, it was really fun to ride through the rain. Not to mention we were coming from 40+ days of 100+ heat and extreme drought in Texas, so the rain was quite refreshing. After the storm passed, we got back on our bikes, stopped for a suppertime muffaletta and then called it a pretty early night. The next morning, we were up bright and early for our morning flight back to DFW. All in all, we had an awesome time celebrating our 2 years of marriage! New Orleans is such a cool city with so much to explore, and it's such a quick flight from DFW. I definitely recommend it to anyone looking for a long weekend getaway!