Irish Exit

There's a chapter in Mindy Kaling's book Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? in which she extols the virtue of the Irish Exit. An Irish Exit, if you don't know, is when you leave a party without saying goodbye, perhaps because you've had a few too many. Not that I'd know anything about that... While some may consider it rude to slip away without saying goodbye, Mindy argues it's really the polite thing to do. No big fuss, no interruption, no forced farewell moment. I tend to agree.


A few months ago, at the start of this new but fleeting window of time where my babies are small and my career is busy, I realized just how little time I have in my days for hobbies. Or showering. So I decided to take down the blog. The easiest way I knew to do that without permanently deleting it was to make the blog private.  A few people have asked about the blog going private and I feel bad for the confusion. I hope I didn't offend anyone who thought I took the blog private and didn't extend an invitation to keep following. I'm not currently posting and the blog isn't private. It's just hiding. I made an Irish Exit.


So that's the deal. Hopefully one day soon I'll find a little extra time in my days to blog. Or shower. Until then, I'll be that girl on Instagram that really needs to wash her damn hair already. (God bless dry shampoo.) 


savannah & charleston


*Wayyyy back in April, Brian and I took a quick trip up to Savannah and Charleston to celebrate our fifth anniversary. We had a great time, ate entirely too much, and missed Blaire like crazy.  (It was the first time we'd left her for a weekend.) I wrote most of this post when we got home and then let it sit in my queue, neglected for months. I finally finished it so I thought I'd go ahead and share it. Fair warning, if gratuitous food pictures and descriptions aren't your thing, go ahead and skip this post. I was a pregnant lady set loose in the land of southern cooking. Without the distraction of cocktails, what else was I to do?


...


We hit the road Friday morning and arrived in Savannah about five hours later. We checked into our hotel - the Planters Inn at Reynolds Square.  It wasn't our first choice but the trip was booked fairly quickly and there was very limited availability for hotels in town that weekend. The location was great. The hotel, not so much. It was cramped, a little shabby, and had an awesome view of a parking garage. The staff was a bit rough around the edges and valet was a 15 minute wait every time. Admittedly, I'm a hotel snob and this place was by no means a dump but I definitely wouldn't go back. {That was probably far more detail than necessary seeing as how this isn't a review on TripAdvisor...}
 
Realizing the hotel was not going to be the highlight of our trip, we quickly set out on foot to explore the city. First stop, Zunzi's for a late lunch. Even though it was after 2:00pm, we still found a decent line outside the building and took that as a good sign that maybe this place was as good as people said it was. We shared "The Godfather" which was a huge sandwich with grilled chicken, house-made South African black sausage, and topped with at least three different sauces. We weren't really sure what we were getting but took a shot and ordered it fully loaded on the advice of the local in line behind us. We also shared a sweet tea on the local's advice, despite the fact that neither of us drink sweet tea.  When in Rome and what not. The verdict on the sandwich - I loved the sauces and thought the sandwich was good but the black sausage was a little gritty for my liking. Brian really liked it and thought it lived up to the hype. We dumped the sweet tea after a few sips. True southerners we are not.

 
After lunch, we walked down by the water, shopped some local stores, and succumbed to the delicious temptation of the free samples of caramel pecan popcorn offered up at the candy shops. We couldn't leave without buying a big ol' bag of that deliciousness. Our trip was the same weekend as The Masters so we stopped at an outdoor bar to watch a bit of the late Friday rounds and snacked on some fried pickles before our late dinner reservations. Brian had a beer which looked ridiculously good and I sipped on some ice water.  Being pregnant on vacation can be a bummer - until it's time for dessert. Then it's game on.
 
After The Masters finished up for the day, we walked back to the hotel to get ready for dinner. Our reservations that night were at the Old Pink House, which was located right next door to our hotel.
 


 
The Old Pink House is a Savannah institution and came highly recommended by almost everyone we talked to. It didn't disappoint. The restaurant itself, housed in a large Southern mansion, was so charming. The service was amazing and the food was delicious. We shared a fried green tomato salad and She Crab soup to start - both were amazing. I had the fried lobster because I've never heard of such a thing in my life and doubt I'll see it on a menu again. It was tasty but very heavy. {Uh, duh. It's fried.} Apparently I neglected to force Brian into photographing his dinner that night but I think he had pork tenderloin. I do remember that whatever it was, he loved it.  All the southern sides that came with our meals were equally delicious.


 
After dinner, we took our ridiculously full bellies back to our hotel, where we attempted to sleep on a very hard bed while drunk people stumbling back from bars shouted outside our window at all hours of the night. The next morning I was up early so I walked to Starbucks for a latte while Brian slept in. I woke him up when I got back to the hotel so we could get breakfast and get on our way to Charleston.
 
Our internet searches returned a surprising lack of well-reviewed breakfast joints in town so we settled on B. Matthew's Eatery, as it was one of the few places recommended on yelp and UrbanSpoon.   


The reviews were right - YUM.  There was a decent wait when we arrived just before 10am but the food and atmosphere were well worth it. The restaurant had a great rustic, vintage vibe and our meals were delicious. I had the crabcake benedict and subbed home fries for the fruit because, well, vacation. Also, pregnant. It was excellent. Brian had a really good omlet with bacon, potatoes, mushrooms and cheese.
 
After breakfast we got on the road for the hour and a half drive north to Charleston. And apparently took some road trip selfies.
 
 
We arrived at the hotel and instantly realized it was a vast improvement over our previous accommodations. The HarborView Inn, appropriately named, was on the waterfront and our room had a great view of the ships in the harbor. The bed was large and comfortable - hallelujah! That alone gave it an edge over the last place but every part of the stay was excellent. Service was impeccable and the hotel was beautiful. A complimentary bottle of champagne was delivered to our room, there was wine and cheese in the lobby in the evenings, warm cookies and milk at night, and breakfast was delivered to your room each morning, free of charge. Two very enthusiastic thumbs up!
 
 
After checking in we took a walk around town to get our bearings and find a quick bite to eat. We grabbed a quick and not so memorable sandwich at a spot on King Street.  After some browsing and strolling, it was time to watch The Masters again. 
 
I think this picture was to capture my new necklace, which I picked up at a boutique in Savannah. Or I'm just really vain.

We grabbed a table at The Rooftop above The Vendue to catch the Saturday afternoon rounds of The Masters. The view from the bar overlooking the Charleston harbor was gorgeous and the weather was perfect, warm but with a nice breeze. I sipped an Arnold Palmer while Brian tried a few craft brews. Sitting outside in that gorgeous weather, watching golf and taking in the amazing view, we were in heaven.

I snuck a sip of this one. So good.
After the Masters, it was back to the hotel for a nap before dinner at Husk.  This was the meal I was the most excited for when planning our trip to Charleston. I'd heard nothing but rave reviews about Husk and Chef Sean Brock and was so excited to eat there.  The restaurant, which features Southern cuisine and exclusively Southern ingredients {olive oil is rumored to be banned in the kitchen}, is located on Queen Street in a gorgeously renovated house from the 1800s. The bar is in separate house next door.  I was there for the food but I have to say, the décor was impressive in its own right. Simple and modern with lots of natural elements. A large, floor to ceiling chalkboard featured all the Southern-sourced ingredients on that night's menu. 



Brian must have been in a particularly good mood after the beers and golf because he let me take his picture in the middle of the restaurant.


The majority of the menu at Husk changes daily so we had no idea what they'd be featuring that night.
 
 
Husk archives their daily menus on their website, so I was able to pull up the details of what we ordered that night. {Fun little trip down memory lane but I suppose that makes my menu photo unnecessary.} We started with Baby Lettuces with Shaved Radishes and Vidalias, Crispy Country Ham, Boiled Egg, Pimento Cheese Dressing and the  Glazed Pig’s Ear Lettuce Wraps with Marinated Cucumbers and Red Onion, Scallions. The pimento cheese dressing on the salad was amazing and the pig ear lettuce wraps were crispy, sweet deliciousness. They also brought out a basket of bread with pork butter. PORK BUTTER. Heaven in a ramekin.
 
For dinner, I had Flat Iron Steak with Goat Cheese Smashed Potatoes, Roasted Mushrooms and Spinach.  It was damn good - no knife needed for the incredibly tender steak and the potatoes were delish. The mushrooms and spinach were disappointing though - way too salty, even for this salt lover. I was definitely out-ordered by Brian, who got the Cornmeal Dusted Catfish, Roasted Cabbage and Cornbread Purée, Confit Tomatoes with Tomato Vinegar. I don't even know how to describe the deliciousness that was that plate of food. Amazing. Lucky for me, he was willing to share. Husk absolutely lived up to its reputation - I can't wait to go back and try it again some day.  And next time, I'm having bourbon with my dinner.
 
Selfies in the courtyard outside Husk.

Despite being stuffed from an amazing meal, we were determined to have dessert at Kaminsky's that night. We spent some time walking the streets of Charleston, peeking in on ghost tours congregating by church cemeteries and browsing the stalls at the nighttime market.  When we'd finally walked enough to consider dessert, we put our name on the waiting list at Kaminsky's for a table.  It's clearly a very popular location as there was a decent wait after 9pm.  A good sign to be sure.
 
The dessert only café appeared to be tiny but we were lead to a table in adjacent space upstairs in a rowdy steakhouse. Unfortunately, it lacked the ambience of the smaller café and we were seated next to a large and rowdy party affiliated with some kind of sorority or fraternity event. Having once been young, drunk, and Greek ourselves, we weren't all that miffed by the less than charming location but it did take a bit away from the experience. Also making the experience a little difficult was the lack of a menu.  The café makes many desserts each day but apparently doesn't create a menu with the daily offerings as they're frequently running out of one thing and replacing it with another.  Understandable, but their solution of "Go downstairs and try to catch a glimpse of what's in the dessert case with the other 900 people in the restaurant" was a bit inconvenient, particularly when the dessert case is a flight of stairs and a decent hike from where you've been seated.
 


All of that was forgotten when they delivered my pecan pie a la mode with homemade whipped cream and a caramel drizzle.  Pregnant lady nirvana.  Brian got some brownie something or other he claimed was good but I was too busy devouring my pecan pie to try a bite.  I'd definitely recommend Kaminksky's but I'd suggest asking for a seat in the café to get the full experience. 


After two and half years as parents, we're conditioned to wake up early and Sunday morning was no exception.  We decided to set out on foot and wander the beautiful streets of Charleston.  Every alley and driveway was gorgeous and unique. So many amazing details to take in - antique gas lamps, wrap around porches, window flower boxes, moss covered steps, wisteria dripping from branches. Every block was more beautiful than the next. I don't know how many times I said "Could you imagine living in this amazing house?!?!"
 



By the time our brunch reservations rolled around, we'd worked up an appetite. Sunday brunch was at 82 Queen, just down the street from our dinner location the night before.  We arrived a few minutes early so we took a seat at the bar and watched the bartender pour mimosas, mix up Bloody Mary's, and muddle mojitos.  I'm sure I left a pile of drool on the bar top, lusting over those yummy looking cocktails.
 
We were seated outside in a charming little courtyard under a giant magnolia tree. The weather was warm and breezy - just perfect.  82 Queen is known for their she crab soup so we decided to give it a try to see how it would stack up to the soup at The Old Pink House. We both agreed that 82 Queen's was better - creamy and loaded with she crab, with the perfect amount of sherry drizzled on top.
 
 
I couldn't resist the shrimp & grits and they were oh so good. If calories didn't exist, I'd eat those cheesy, buttery grits every day. The barbeque sauce on the shrimp was good, but sweet. A little kick would have been nice. Brian got a wrap filled with traditional breakfasty stuff like eggs, bacon, potatoes, and cheese but I guess he dug in before I could get a picture.  He was probably fed up with my food photography at this point. Brunch was awesome and I'd love to try 82 Queen for dinner on our next trip to Charleston.
 
We spent more time exploring the city and shopping on King Street. We picked up some souvenirs for Blaire, who I was missing like crazy at this point.  It was also Second Sunday on King Street, so we spent time checking out the various shops and vendors set up in the street. After a few hours of shopping and sightseeing, we decided to grab a bite and watch a bit of the final round of The Masters.
 



I had my heart set on a Pimento Cheeseburger while we were in town, as I was determined to check every single Southern dish off my list in one weekend. We tried to grab a seat at the bar at High Cotton, which had been recommended to us, but they'd already stopped serving brunch and hadn't yet started serving dinner. We ended up at a brewery across the street from our hotel. They had golf on the TVs and a Pimento Cheeseburger on the menu (with fried green tomatoes - check off another Southern dish) so it was deemed good enough. I don't remember the name of the place and honestly, it wasn't really anything special.  The burger was tasty enough and the sips of the house brewed beers I snuck from Brian's glass were good but nothing I'd make a trip back for.
 
We took a walk along the water that night, stopping at the famous pineapple fountain like the tourists we were.

 
 
Dinner for our last night in Charleston was at Magnolias.   I suppose because I'd built Husk up so much in my head and the food was every bit as good as I'd hoped, I wasn't expecting another AMAZING meal on our trip. Magnolia delivered just that. From start to finish, everything was phenomenal.  We were sat immediately upon arrival and the service was impeccable. 


 
We started with the fried macaroni & cheese at Brian's request. I sort of rolled my eyes at him, thinking that sounded more like an app you'd get at TGI Fridays. Boy was I wrong. SO GOOD.  There was some kind of delicious bacon-y relish on top and it was a million years away from what's served at a pedestrian chain restaurant. The Southern Eggrolls were maybe my favorite thing I ate all weekend. I'd go back to Charleston just to eat them again. Sweet and spicy and so, so delicious.  My fried chicken and Brian's pork were both outstanding. My plate was clean, save for the collards, which despite many tries, I just cannot get on board with. No sweet tea, no collards. I'm surprised I haven't been tossed out of the south yet. (I could also mention how I'm not crazy about Red Velvet Cake but they might make me move north.)

We walked a bit after dinner and turned in for our last night in Charleston.  The next morning we thought we'd drive over to Hominy Grill for breakfast on our way out of town, as it was a bit too far to walk from our hotel.  Every time I mentioned to someone that we were going to Charleston they said "You have to go to Hominy Grill!"




I have to tell you, it did not live up to the hype for me.  Perhaps I didn't order the right thing or we hit them on an off day as the restaurant has a near cult following of fans. But my pancakes and coffee were nothing special and the service was poor.  Brian's food was equally forgettable.

We hit the road after breakfast and drove straight to Blaire's school to pick her up early.  I was missing her like crazy!  



It was a great trip and I can't wait to go back and eat my way around Savannah and Charleston again. Next time, there will be cocktails!





 

book review: 2014

Well hello there! And Happy New Year!


I decided to brush the dust off the ol' blog to share my favorite post I write each year - my annual book review.  It seems no one wants to join my book club (membership remains steady at one) so each year I look back over the books I read and tell you about my favorites. (Reviews for 2013, 2012, 2011, and 2010.)


This was a good year for reading. I spent the entire year either pregnant or nursing a new baby, which meant plenty of lost sleep. Many of the wee hours were spent reading in the dark on my phone or iPad.  I'm ashamed to admit to you that I've all but abandoned paper books. Even my library books are digital these days. Love the convenience. Love the instant gratification. Midnight and nothing to read? The "Buy Now with 1-click" button at Amazon to the rescue! It's a great time to be alive.


These are the books I read in 2014, shown in reverse chronology with the book I read most recently listed first:



 Some notes and thoughts on this year's books.
 

If you're just here for the highlights, a few of my favorites: The Rosie Project was delightful. Funny and charming. Would it be cheesy to call it a breath of fresh air? Because it was. This Is Where I Leave You was painfully funny. Wild was a compelling and honest retelling of one stupid-ass but brave undertaking. I enjoyed it far more than I expected. There's no higher praise these days than labeling a book "This year's Gone Girl!" and by my count, there are approximately 12,000 this year's Gone Girl's this year.  That said, if you liked Gone Girl then I think you'll like Bellweather Rhapsody  and Dear Daughter. I certainly did.


It was a year heavy on non-fiction. I was surprised to see at least ten of the books I read this year could be classified as memoirs. Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness was incredibly fascinating. Yes, Please only increased my love for Amy Pohler. Others didn't endear themselves to me quite as much. Lena Dunham has a chronic case of over-sharing. Not That Kind of Girl was Not That Kind of Book I Enjoy. (Let it be known, I am not a Lena Dunham hater. I feel she's unfairly criticized by many who are threatened by the success of a young woman who does not bend to their ideals or expectations. I applaud her fearlessness in the face of such critics. That said, on the whole, her book was not one I enjoyed.) I read Rob Lowe's first memoir because I wanted the dirt on the West Wing years. I read the second because he's pretty. It's all about reasonable expectations. As for Yes, Chef, it's human nature to smooth over our rough spots, paint ourselves in a better light. Chef Samuelsson either fought this instinct and shared all his dirty laundry or he's an ever bigger jerk than he comes off in his memoir. Either way, when I turned the last page I was less a fan than when I started.


As for B.J. Novak's One More Thing, I wanted to like it...


I finished The Goldfinch six months ago and I still can't nail down how I feel about it. Depressing. Captivating. Dragging. Beautiful. A little of each for me.


Books better suited to propping up uneven tables - Defending Jacob (see also: What was all the fuss about?), Paper Towns (picking on a YA novel isn't really fair - it's not intended for me - but what a snooze fest), The Vacationers (not a likeable character nor interesting plot line to be found), and You Should Have Known (wish I'd known better than to read this).


A few titles on my 2015 must-read list: Euphoria, All The Light We Cannot See, The Rosie Effect, Why Not Me?, The Flash Boys, The Kind Worth Killing, and Golden Boy.


Like any good book junkie, I'm always taking recommendations. What were your favorite books in 2014? What do you want to read this year? 


*I typically keep up with what I'm reading on Goodreads so you can follow along throughout the year here.








happy everything

I hope 2014 has been as good to you as it was to us. Wishing you & yours health and happiness in 2015.