Thursday, October 31, 2013

Happy Halloween!

I enjoy getting dressed up for Halloween!  I really didn't get into it until college, but dressing up this year made me think back to past costumes.  Here's what I can remember of the past 10 years of Halloween costumes...  Do you have any favorites from your past?
  • 2003:  Cheerleader & Superhero (TWO!)
  • 2004:  Lara Croft, Tomb Raider
  • 2005:  n/a (semester in France)
  • 2006:  80s Girl
  • 2007:  Witch
  • 2008:  Playboy Bunny (not my favorite)
  • 2009:  Cleopatra
  • 2010:  Luigi from Super Mario Bros. (in Iraq!)
  • 2011:  n/a (I think I just stayed home... rough year)
  • 2012:  Psy, from "Gangnam Style"

  • 2013:  Willie from Duck Dynasty

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Budgeting Bloggers: October 2013

It's time for Budgeting Bloggers!  I kicked off the month with a big bundle of Poshmark sales (and still more items available), so my budget got an early boost.  Woohoo!  There were definitely a few pieces I wanted to invest in this month for my wardrobe, and every little bit helps.  I also received a nice cash gift, so I gave myself a HUGE budget of $250 for the month.  BOOM!  It was burning a whole in my pocket.

  1. J. Crew Factory Clare Cardigan in Golden Mustard (originally $50, paid $25):  I was waiting for a mustard cardigan to come around that I liked, and J. Crew Factory brought theirs back! Timed with a 50% off sale, I snagged this for just under $25.  Shipping and tax added about $10 to the total bill for this and the next shirt, so for #4 & #5 I billed my budget $70 total.   I have this cardigan in tomato red and black, and they are super comfortable.  Probably the only cardigan I will ever buy from now on.
  2. J. Crew Factory Peter Pan Collar Tee (originally $68, paid $34):  Pricey impulse buy, but it looked so cute with the collar and cuff accents!  I have been buying so many bottoms it felt right to invest in a new top for work.  I liked the version with the printed tiny dots, but it was sold out.  I ordered it hoping the quality would be good, and therefore worth keeping.
  3. Naturalizer Lonnie Oxfords in Cognac (originally $79, paid $65 with tax): These shoes were on my wishlist last month, but they sold out in the color I wanted on DSW.  I looked ALL over the place to find them to no avail, so when they came back in stock on DSW I went for it.  One reason I wanted to invest in these shoes vs. find a cheap substitute because the reviews on these shoes are fantastic.  They are super comfortable!  (Also, moral of the story is if I want a pair of shoes pretty bad, all the retailer has to do is convince me they're sold out, bring them back, and I'm all in.  See also: Toms wedge booties.)
  4. Limited Exact Stretch Skinny Pants (originally $70 each, paid ~$48 each w/shipping+tax):  Had $25 virtual dollars, plus a B1G1 50% sale happening, so I ordered my favorite trousers in indigo blue and navy.  Decent savings (though the sales are never as good when you have rewards) and I already know these pants are a staple for me at work.  On my wishlist too!
  5. Gap Ponte Legging Jeans (originally $70, paid $57 with discount code):  These are offered online-only at Gap, and the reviews were fantastic.  I love wearing leggings when I travel, so I figured these comfy leggings that are more like pants would be a worthy investment.  But I did forget to order these in ankle length, so now I have to hem them!
  6. Merona Ankle Ponte Pant ($25):  I love the Gap Legging jeans for a work (and travel) appropriate pant.   But when I saw these in-store at Target, I decided to pick up a black pair to wear on the weekends now that it's getting chillier.  These will replace my worn-out Walmart leggings, and look less lazy at the same time.
  7. Gap Boyfriend Shirt with Cat Print (originally $55, paid $35):  I have another boyfriend shirt from Gap that I wear to work quite a bit... also with a different cat print.  This one I knew I'd need a cami with, but I wanted it nonetheless... again, working in pet food this is another great buy for me that can coordinate with a number of outfits!
  8. LOFT Bow Neck Cotton Tee (originally $40, paid $18):  50% off sale at LOFT online!  I felt a little like I'd spent all fall investing in pants, and not enough in good tops for work.  These fit the bill.  Same as above.
  9. LOFT Pin Dot Print Lace Trim Blouse (originally $60, paid $28):  Same as above, and I absolutely love it!
$383 - $140 Poshmark Sales = $243
Total Savings = $204

This month, I think I did a good job of getting almost everything on my wishlist plus a lot more!  I planned my purchases out, leveraging sales and promo codes as much as possible.  I'm loving the pieces I buy more and more, vs. just liking them and staying on trend.  Also, spending my entire budget too early in the month makes me really cranky and sad later on, so I'm going to try to do a better job of spacing out my purchases for that shopper high.

Here's an early-morning pic of me in one of the Exact Stretch pants from Limited... almost literally my new uniform for work!  Black, Maroon, Indigo, and Navy.  I know, I buy things in pairs.  But I won't need any more pants for ages now.  Except MORE PONTE PANTS OMG.  Those are my new sweatpants.

Limited Exact Stretch in Indigo Blue

November Wishlist:
  • Plaid button-down shirt, like this J. Crew Factory in Hunter Navy plaid, but not flannel
  • A vest for layering... I'm seeing them everywhere!  I don't do puffy, so something like these quilted Old Navy ones might work.
  • I'm also digging the moto jacket trend I'm seeing, though I would probably go for a vegan leather option for a better price point, especially since leather jackets in Nashville won't have a long season
  • More Gap Ponte Leggings!!!  MORE!!!
  • Timberland Savin Hill Riding Boots are now on my Christmas list.  At $220 they are clearly over my monthly budget, but I'm holding out to ask my family to pitch in for these!  I was tempted to use my gift money to buy them, but I have other boots so they aren't a pressing item right now.  Just on my radar.
Check out more of this month's budgeting bloggers at Fran's link-up!

Monday, October 28, 2013

Fall in Franklin (and Nashville!)

My friend Lindsey came to Nashville/Franklin for a short-notice trip recently, and I was so excited to see her!  We talk on the phone and text/FB fairly often, but I hadn't seen her since our June trip to Las Vegas.  It's weird to be so far away from her after both living in Savannah around the same time.

We both had pretty packed schedules, but we managed to spend three days in a row together.  We went to JJ's Wine Bar and Saffire the first night, enjoying a low-key but indulgent evening in Franklin.


The next night, we had dinner at the Gaylord Opryland Resort (gorgeous indoor gardens/conservatories!) before going to the Luke Bryan concert at Bridgestone Arena.

Opryland Resort...  I always feel so tall next to Linds!  LOL

Then Sunday, we had a sunny day in Franklin with brunch at Puckett's and a walk around downtown.

I have gotta admit, I have way more visitors since I moved to Tennessee than when I lived in Georgia... it's perfectly located in the middle of everything it seems!  Even though I didn't get to spend the whole weekend with Linds, it felt so nice to feel like we were both living closer to each other, you know?  It was a very fun weekend.

Downtown Franklin

Oh, and by the way, I rode my bike to and from downtown Franklin when we did brunch!  It was my furthest ride solo to date, on the roads.  Woohoo!

P.S.  Notice the polka dot shirt, H&M sweater, and dog sweater from August & September Budgeting Bloggers?  :)  I don't post a lot of outfits, but I'm getting great wear out of my pieces!

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Luke Bryan

I'm not the biggest country fan, but living in Music City I can't help but enjoy a good country concert from time to time!  My friend LD got tickets for the sold-out Luke Bryan show at Bridgestone Arena, so I was along for the awesome country ride.  The pictures looks super far away, but they were great club-level seats with an unblocked view of everything.

Cole Swindell was the first opening act, and he wasn't too bad!  He has a lot of energy, jumping around on-stage.  I just wish he'd taken off his hat, because given he's a rising star we need to learn to recognize his face.  There were a couple of moments where I don't think he was getting the proper feedback in his ear, so we had a few cringeworthy notes... but still entertaining.

The next act was a full ten songs from Dierks Bentley.  It was interesting how you could see the increase in stage confidence and performance with each act.  Dierks was great, and he really got the crowd going.

I went into the concert familiar with a few Luke Bryan songs, but I may have left a fan.  The stadium was packed to its rafters with people singing along, and Luke and his band are very talented musicians.  He even took some time to sing solo while playing piano.  I was very impressed.

You can just tell, especially after watching the opening acts, that he takes performing to a whole new level.  I guess that's why he won ACM Entertainer of the Year!  He has a fantastic voice, a great stage presence and energy, and a very fun banter throughout the concert.

What's interesting to me is, every single artist at some point took the time to stop and thank the troops serving overseas, and talked about how great America is.  That is so very country music, right?  I think it's a nice touch for this veteran.

Look at all the cell phones glowing....

I don't see a ton of concerts here in Music City... sometimes I just don't want to pay the steep price to see some of the shows.  But then again, I'm not used to living in a city where EVERY SINGLE ONE of my favorite music acts comes to town.  I think I'll have to start putting away a little funny money to indulge from time to time.

Friday, October 25, 2013

At Home: On the Walls

I am not an interior decorator.  But living in an apartment with beige walls, I wanted to add things to the space to break it up a bit and make it feel more at home.  I actually have more stuff on the walls than I did when I had a house!  Duke and I both like having quirky walls.

Here are the latest new additions...

In the Bedroom:  I had Kaelah create a quote from one of Duke's favorite books for our room.  The wood look is very him (he loves woodworking) and it added a nice touch to an otherwise-feminine room.

In the Living Room:  These are wacky, I know.   But when we saw the art prints that the Russian Hermitage commissioned in honor of their resident cats, we decided it would make an awesome installation for our living room.  These hang behind the couch, so they are a little surprise!  The middle one looks like Bear a bit.  We ordered cheap frames from Amazon, and the art prints via DeviantArt from the artist, Eldar Zakirov.  The prints were VERY high quality and well-priced, so I was impressed!  We have named them, from left to right, Grigori Catsputin, Wolfington Bearovic (after WolfBear), and Mikhail Baryshnikat.

In the Dining Room:  I had this wine glass rack made from recycled wine barrels already, but then I found this old barn painting that a family friend made.  It was in my parents' basement storage area, so I stole it and added it to the top.  I love the look, and it reminds me of Indiana!

In the Kitchen:  I loved the sign that Kaelah made for our room so much, I decided I needed a little series of them for the kitchen.  The signs are a conversation featuring Lucille on Arrested Development, and it just felt right to make our kitchen a little more "us".

In the Guest Room:  This is where I had ZERO stuff on the walls and decided to step it up.  It really brings the whole room together, though it is admittedly "my" room.

The little wooden unit it another steal from my parents' basement, and the items on it are mostly from my grandmother's sewing room.  I keep it there to remind me of her.  The little prints featuring Flapper Girl in her cat-loving goodness are from one of my favorite bloggers, Kate Gabrielle at Scathingly Brilliant.  She had a great sale on Flapper Doodle prints so I got them for $1 each, then added Dollar Tree frames.  $6 install!

I got these two plates while I was in Iraq; they're hand-painted from Turkey.  They were so pretty, but I worried that on the mantle they would get knocked over by Bear's climbing antics.  I got a couple of plate hangers from Amazon to put these safely on the walls.  If I feel froggy and collect more pretty plates, I may just hang a collection of them in the kitchen above my cabinets... but with only two, these look better in the guest room.

I had a ton of vintage sewing patterns that I thought were so pretty...  but they weren't showcased in any way.  So I took six of them and put them in Dollar Tree frames, with wrapping paper in the background.  Should have used scrapbook paper for ease of working with it, but it fills a huge empty void by the guest bed.

Do you have anything interesting on your walls?

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

LIGHT: Bruce Munro at Cheekwood

In May, Cheekwood began a weeknight LIGHT exhibit by Bruce Munro that lights up the grounds with some pretty amazing fiber optic light installations.  It was so popular, they extended the exhibit until November 10th!  After hearing a bunch of buzz about it, Duke and I purchased tickets for a Thursday night and hoofed it there straight from work.  We wanted to get there before sunset, and we made it in the nick of time.


There were a ton of people there, even for an exhibit that has been up for months and only happens on weeknights.  Parking was crazy!  But we had a perfect weather, and getting there before it was dark gave us a unique view of the exhibit in a before/after.  I'm waiting on a new camera lens for my DSLR (busted mine in Vegas) so all I have are iPhone snaps of the exhibit.

Field of Light

I think I liked the Field of Light best!  It has 20,000 lights like a field of glowing flowers.  Duke said he could build me a mini one if we get a house someday.

This exhibit is so hard to describe, and my iPhone photos don't do it any justice.  I definitely recommend you see it for yourself if you can!

Oh, iPhone photos... need to fix my camera.

Cheekwood is one of our special places.  It was one of our first "dates" in Nashville, back when the treehouse exhibit was up.  I'm so glad Duke is the kind of guy that loves art... He has no problem spending a few hours at a museum, and it's kind of a quiet and relaxing thing to do.  He promised to take me to the Warhol museum in Pittsburgh next we're there.  We went to the Carnegie last time!

Monday, October 21, 2013

Lighter Baked Ziti

I have been trying to cook more and eat better at home, but I am a girl who loves her pasta.  So, at the advice of a friend, I decided to check out some Weight Watchers recipes.  While the original recipe called for beef, I decided turkey would be a great substitute.  I also recalled a few articles mentioning you could make your meat go farther if you add in mushrooms.  Duke loves mushrooms, and he really liked this dish!

It was easy enough I could throw it together after a long day at work.  We were both surprised how seamlessly the mushrooms could be added to the meat to make it more substantial in the sauce.  We'll be using that secret in the future to make our $$$ go farther!

Lighter Baked Ziti
adapted from Weight Watchers
(Prep Time: 20 minutes, Total Time: 50 minutes)

  • 12 oz uncooked ziti (I used Ronzoni Garden Delight)   
  • 2 tsp olive oil   
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced  (or MORE!)
  • 1/3 pound(s) uncooked lean ground turkey
  • 2 cups baby bella mushrooms, rinsed
  • 1 tsp dried oregano   
  • 1 tsp dried thyme   
  • 1 tsp dried rosemary   
  • 1/2 tsp table salt   
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper   
  • 28 oz canned crushed tomatoes   
  • 1 cup (shredded) part-skim mozzarella cheese

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Cook pasta according to package directions; drain and set aside.  Use food processor to chop mushrooms until they are minced.

Meanwhile, heat oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat; add garlic and sauté 2 minutes. Add ground turkey and cook until done, breaking up meat with a spoon as it cooks, about 3 to 5 minutes; drain off any fat and set pan back over medium heat.  Add minced mushrooms and stir, mixing until incorporated into the meat.

Doesn't it look like a bunch of ground beef?  It's just 1/3 lb. of turkey and MUSHROOMS.

Add oregano, thyme, rosemary, salt and pepper; stir to coat. Cook until herbs become fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add tomatoes and bring mixture to a boil; reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes.

Spoon a small amount of tomato mixture into bottom of a casserole dish (just enough to cover surface, I used an 8x8 Pyrex); top with half of cooked ziti. Next, layer with half of remaining beef-tomato sauce and half of mozzarella cheese. Layer with remaining ziti and then top with remaining beef-tomato sauce; sprinkle with remaining mozzarella cheese. Bake until cheese is golden and bubbly, about 30 minutes. Slice into 8 pieces and serve. Yields 1 piece per serving.

Pretty colors!  Layer, layer, layer.
Do you have any recipes you've lightened up?

Saturday, October 19, 2013

The Color Run: The Happiest 5K on the Planet

Most likely thanks to Facebook and Instagram, I got it in my head that it would be fun to try one of those Color Run events.  It definitely looked messy, but kind of unique for a fun run!

LP Field

The Color Run happens twice a year in Nashville (and all over the country), and I got my friend BD to sign up with me for the run.  We showed up super early to beat the crowds (12,000 people, to be more precise) and got to enjoy a bit of the pre-run festivities while still sparkling clean.  We even did a Zumba workout with the crowd to get warmed up!


As our start time approached, we were corralled (a lot like cattle) to the starting line.  I had my Garmin watch ready to track our pace and distance, and we were OFF!  The frustrating thing about The Color Run?  I know it's just a fun run, but they don't try to put you into corrals by pace like other larger races.  So for about a half mile, all we could do was weave around walkers.  Thankfully (and painfully) the race started with a climb over Shelby Pedestrian bridge.  The uphill climb helped us wade through the crowds, though we were a bit exhausted after rushing through everyone.


I must admit it was pretty cool to run through downtown Nashville.  The weather was perfect!  I am way out of shape, so the run itself was pretty slow for me, but I did speed up running through the color points!  They douse you with wet or dry color powder at different points on the course, so by the end of it all you're a big colorful mess.  But it's FUN!  (One gripe from a retired road runner: the course was, according to my Garmin, HALF A MILE short.  I timed from Start to Finish arches, though the corral walk to the start was probably half a mile.)

Once we finished, there was a big area for an afterparty and celebration.  There were food trucks too, as well as free Kind bars as part of a sponsorship.  We were pretty tired though (hilly course!), and since we ran in the very first group, we didn't feel the need to wait for another 12,000 friends to come through and finish!  So we headed home to shower up and scrub off the color.

Check out that Nashville skyline!

Still, it was super fun to run the race with BD; since running a good time was nearly impossible, we did it for fun and had a conversation the whole way.  It was the perfect way to catch up and get a workout in at the same time.  I don't think I'll be doing a Color Run again, but it was fun to try it once!

Friday, October 18, 2013

Me Before You... and a bunch of other books

I've actually been reading quite a bit before bedtime, given that most everything else I read these days is for work or school.  I recently discovered the Overdrive app for iPad, and I can check out a ton of books for FREE via my library and read them.  W00t!

But I actually want to talk about a book my coworker lent me, Me Before You by Jojo Moyes.  OMG.  This book just blew me away!  Was it realistic?  No.  Did I laugh and cry and laugh?  Yes.  I read it in two nights and absolutely couldn't put it down.

Me Before You is about a rather boring/ordinary young woman who takes a job as a caretaker for a wealthy paraplegic who used to have a high-powered career and lifestyle.  But it's not what you think it is.  It's never what you think it is!  It's a beautiful story about friendship and people and making the most of the life that you have.  I don't want to give it away, but this book made me simultaneously sad, happy, and furious  It's just one of the best books I've read in a while.  I know a lot of book clubs are picking this one up, and it's one of the few mainstream book club books I've really loved.

Other books I've read since my last book posts, and a brief thought on them since I'm talking about books for once in ages...

  • The Selection & The Elite by Kiera Cass:  My friend Jen blogged about these YA books, so I downloaded them for my Kindle and read them both on flights for work.  I have this thing for dystopic future love triangle books like The Hunger Games, and this one is kind of like The Bachelor set in a weird future like that.  I really enjoy these despite the typical love triangle angle (Why do YA books all have love triangles?  Hello, Twilight and Hunger Games.)  and controlling government in a weird future society thing.
  • One Thousand and One Nights retold by Hanan Al-Shaykh:  This retelling was supposed to be really great, but I found it to be very dull and uninteresting.
  • Graceling by Kristin Cashore:  This is part of a series, but since the sequels don't follow the same characters, I read it as a stand-alone.  This is a YA fantasy book about Seven Kingdoms where some individuals are born with graces, or special talents that make them both special and dangerous.  I enjoyed this read, not bad!
  • Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein:  This book was slow for me to get through, but centers around two young women working for the British in WWII shot down over France.  I didn't like the ending and felt generally confused, but it's not uninteresting to read.  Another YA book I found.
  • Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli:  More YA.  Why didn't I read this when I was younger?  We all knew a Stargirl, brought down by the popular kids because she was too different.  Because she was determined to be herself.  This is a great book that needs to be read by more kids.  Period.
  • Matched & Crossed by Ally Condie:  These books aren't very good.  They kind of feel like a rip-off of The Giver plus a weak love triangle.  Basically, in this YA dystopic future, individuals are matched with their future spouse, and some aren't matched at all.  They live in a controlled society, where some members are views as tainted or less desirable, like a caste system.  I keep reading these just to figure out the ending, but I view them like junk food books.  I have one more to go, and my expectations remain low.
  • Every Day & Six Earlier Days by David Levithan:  These, too, are in the YA department.  Sensing a trend?  I think I like reading YA because the books are easy to read and typically quick... they are my candy.  This book (and prequel novella) are about a being called A that spends each day in a different body.  It's a fascinating premise, and the book doesn't disappoint.   I recommend it, though I'm not sure how I feel about the ending.  There's no sequel planned, so it's kind of different from other YA series that tend to work in trilogies.
  • World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War by Max Brooks:  LOVE this book.  So much better than the movie, and I wish they'd make another movie that tells the diverse oral histories within this book.  Duke and I watch The Walking Dead, and while I'm not a fan of horror, this books reads like an actual report of the zombie epidemic, and the characters read as real people with incredible stories.  I really felt like I was reading a documentary.  I highly recommend this book!!!

  • The Omnivore's Dilemma & In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan:  My cousin S likes Michael Pollan's books, and I've read other food books like Fast Food Nation.  I really liked The Omnivore's Dilemma.  It just makes you think about the American food landscape, sustainability, and what we put in our mouths.  Seriously FASCINATING and I can't stop referencing it and recommending it.  In Defense of Food, on the other hand, felt too political and opinionated to me.  I just didn't feel the same way about it, and I never finished it.  I gave up.  But I still recommend the first book!!!
  • The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down by Anne Fadiman:  Before I read this book, the only thing I knew about the Hmong people I learned from that Clint Eastwood movie Gran Turino.  This book is about a special needs Hmong child and the cultural obstacles the doctors and social workers encounter in dealing with her family and the Hmong people.  Coming from a mixed race background myself, I saw how things being lost in translation could literally impact the lives.
Currently Reading:  A People's History of the United States by Howard Zinn... this one will take me a bit!

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Eating Grand Rapids: Hop Cat and Grand Rapids Brewing Co.

I ate at two other restaurants in Grand Rapids worth mentioning, especially given that my craft brewing-boyfriend would have loved them both!

Hop Cat has an insane beer selection, as well as incredible pub food.  Seriously.  I'm used to a greasy spoon pub meal, but their select was great and it seemed to be a favorite with locals.  Beer Advocate even named them #3 Beer Bar on Planet Earth.  Props.

I went with the Turkey Bruschetta Wrap (their burger as a wrap, essentially) and the Crack Fries on the side.  Now, given I ate fries the night before at Reserve, I decided I would only eat half of these to try them.  And then I promptly ate them all.  They call these seasoned, beer battered delicacies "Crack Fries" for a reason.  Not only that, but the turkey was tender and juicy, and paired with the spinach, bruschetta, and pesto aioli it was great.  I think I liked it better as a wrap than I would have as a burger, since the wrap helped contain the chopped goodness.  A bun might have been a mess!

And being a crazy cat lady, their awesome logo of a cat holding a beer definitely lured me in a bit.  Note to self, find out if they sell t-shirts for me and Duke.
Hop Cat on Urbanspoon

For my last dinner in GR, I met up with an old friend DP and headed to Grand Rapids Brewing Co.  What a great atmosphere!  It felt cozy and bustling, like an old familiar place.  Nice and laid back, but still not missing the mark in terms of menu offerings.

I started with their Brewer's Heritage, a Bavarian Hefeweizen that was delicious.  I'm not into hoppy beers, and if I could have taken a growler of this home I would have.  Super smooth and perfect for my tastes.

For dinner, I decided to try the Pulled Otto's Chicken, a sweet carolina BBQ pulled chicken sandwich with tomato & smoked mozzarella, all on griddled sourdough.  Yum.  I really loved the mozzarella holding it all together.  As a side, I chose a cup of their soup of the day, a chicken & lentil.

DP and me!

Everything was delicious!  Grand Rapids never missed the mark for me in terms of fantastic meals.  I would happily come back again to both Hop Cat and GR Brewing... it's just not your typical pub fare at all.
Grand Rapids Brewing Co. on Urbanspoon

Sidenote:  As I am a food lover who indulges in great meals while traveling, I must lament that I don't get to take doggie bags home.  I love to write about these food extravaganzas, but I always feel bad at the end of an amazing meal when I haven't cleared my plate because the portions are just enormous.  And when I tell the server I can't take it home, I feel like it's wasted and sad!  Ah!  First world problems, indeed.  I'm not alone in this I hope.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Eating Grand Rapids: Reserve

Oh, Grand Rapids...  You full on seduced me with your foodie fare.  Let's just say I ate a lot of things I shouldn't have, but I loved every minute of it!

View from my seat... Mmmmm....
On my first night in town, I dined at Reserve.  It was a crowded, eclectic place, and we were seated at one of the few places available during such a busy time (ArtPrize) at dinner:  the counter at the charcuterie.  We had a great view of all the cheeses and meats being prepared, so we definitely indulged in a some cheese and (per my request) some delicious pork and garlic rillette... basically a spreadable meat topped with lard/fat that you put on the bread pieces.  And yes, it was delicious.  Great chutney and cheeses too.

We were already digging in when I remembered to snap a photo...

One of my companions also ordered the vanilla bacon.  It was like a beautiful little bouquet of salty and sweet goodness.  I mean, bacon as a small plate?  This place is after my own heart.

When it came time to choose a dinner option, I was a hot mess.  The cheese guy was willing to assist, but I was bouncing back and forth over too many different options: Chevre Gnocchi, Spinach & Egg Risotto, Magret Duck Breast, Chicken & Dumplings...

In the end, I had to go with an old standby: the Cheeseburger.  Okay, no judgment here, this is no ordinary cheeseburger, and it came highly recommended.  This burger is not only made with fresh ground daily grass-fed beef, but it is 15% PORK BELLY.  Whenever I hear the phrase "pork belly", I make Homer Simpson-like "Mmmmm" sounds.  It came with a suggested wine pairing, which I felt I needed to try given the theme of the restaurant being about pairings.

But I would say the piece de resistance of the meal may have been the Pork Fat Fries.  You read that correctly.  They fry in lard, the same way people did 100 years ago... and these were hands down some of the best fries I have ever had in my life.  Insane in the membrane.

When I'm back in Grand Rapids for work, you can bet your bippy I'll be coming back here.  There was just too much on the menu not to return and have an amazing experience, all paired with the perfect glass of wine.  If this restaurant were in Nashville, they could count me in as a regular!

Reserve on Urbanspoon

Saturday, October 12, 2013

ArtPrize in Grand Rapids

As I checked into the gorgeous JW Marriott in Grand Rapids for a recent work trip, I could not miss the incredible works of art everywhere that I looked.  What was going on?

One word: ArtPrize.  I was in Grand Rapids for the tail end of the competition, an open, independently organized international art competition decided entirely by public vote.  There was definitely an element of subjectivity to the voting, as some pieces were displayed in more trafficked areas than others, but the result was literally hundreds and hundreds of pieces in essentially every building in the downtown area.

And it’s all free and open to the public to boot!  I'm so lucky I happened to drop in at the right time to enjoy Grand Rapids at its best.  Took way too many photos to post.   Loved it all.

P.S.  My stay at the JW was top-notch.  Highly recommend this hotel!  I had a beautiful view of the river and city.  JW in Tucson is still my favorite, but this one is gorgeous.

Oh, and this car was parked outside the JW and looked like art.  It wasn't in the contest, but I wanted to drool over it some more.

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