Friday, January 31, 2014

Our Travels: Savannah, GA Day Two

Friday, January 31, 2014
Our second day in Savannah, we ventured out to the Wormsloe Plantation. Although there isn't much left of the house, the mile and a half of oak trees leading up to the property is remarkable. I went to the Oak Alley Plantation in New Orleans, and that property "only" had a quarter of a mile of oak trees. The length of this road put that one to shame. I could just imagine what it would be like to be invited to a dinner party only to drive up to an entrance like this. 
The plantation home in New Orleans had a house still in working order, with tours and decorations, and mint juleps on the back porch. This plantation in Savannah was more for the property, the trails in the forest, and the old way of creating walls with a mixture of limestone and shells. What was left of the remains were thick and textured, and you could see the oyster shells peeking out. 
We also went to the Bonaventure Cemetery, a cemetery known for it's beautiful sculptures at loved ones resting place. It's a gorgeous place, right on the water, with statues tall and intricate so that you can see them from a distance. 
Something we started way bay during our trip to Paris in 2010, is collecting leaves or flowers from the area we've visited. We pressed some tamarix from a favorite park in Paris (Parc des Buttes des Chaumont) and from Savannah, we pressed some northern tree leaves. Like our tamarix in a frame, we hope to put more leaves and flowers in various frames from our trips near and far. 
And of course, if you saw Instagram, our Visas were approved! It was all just a lack of certain paperwork that wasn't explicitly clear on the consulate website. We submitted the paperwork, and thankfully the woman at the consulate was able to process it within a day. Next, they send us back our Passports with our Visa stamped inside, all cozy. This weekend is all about packing and tidying the house so it will be a warm welcome in two weeks. 
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Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Our Travels: First Day in Savannah, GA

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Our bed and breakfast, in the middle of historic downtown Savannah. A fifteen minute walk to the touristy areas, and a quiet area to start and end every day.

The streets, lined with northern trees, spanish moss, and old period homes.

One of the restaurants that we thoroughly enjoyed, Gryphon, a tea place with fresh brunch. We stopped here on a whim, since it was close to the bed and breakfast. It's owned by SCAD and employs the students. 

An old pharmacy turned restaurant, they kept all of the built in shelving, and even served our check in an old book. 

Here, we stopped in one of our favorite shops, Anthropologie. We weren't in the market for anything, and mostly stopped in to admire this wall of portraits and their decanters and glassware for sale.

Savannah is the cutest little town with brick roads, ivy creeping up the sides of houses, and trees everywhere. One thing that we could definitely use more of in central Florida is northern trees in our parks. Down here, the palm trees don't shade the forceful sun and there surely aren't any squares. In Savannah, there are historical squares every few blocks. Each one with a different statue, a different history, and even different benches. 
We could have only wished for one thing to be better, the food. The restaurants were in beautiful old buildings, all kept well, except the menus were lack luster. We found three interesting restaurants online, and being that it was a weekend trip, could only chose one for our Saturday night reservation. We chose the most interesting one, and we weren't super impressed. It was delicious, of course, and the wine was one of the best glasses I've had in a long time, but it wasn't that memorable. 
We did find a lovely antique shop that we passed by more than once that was four floors of beauty. One thing we noticed was that the antique shops in Savannah had a great selection of period furniture. In Florida, you're lucky to find a nice selection of trinkets and accessories at an antique shop. 
Dirty mirror selfies entertained us. And above, the tall windows were outlined in solid iron. 
This building has ceilings so high I felt like I could breathe (something really dreamy for me, a girl that's 5'8"). Although the walls and mouldings paint chipped in various places, it only added to it's charm. On the third floor, the window was open to a terrace, with more furniture for sale and a view to the neighboring mansions outdoor terrace. It all seemed quite luxurious. 
We got to the fourth floor, where the lights were turned off and we nearly turned around as fast as we walked up the stairs. With the open terrace windows, the wooden banisters felt soft and damp, and yet the wooden floors still creaked under the busy carpets. It's a building that I could happily live in, spending my days and my money restoring the property, keeping it's history. 
One thing we love to do is simply explore cities, walk around their streets, getting to know their bones. We'd walk and peek into private courtyards and glance up to marvel at houses covered in ivy. It's a beautiful little town with personality on every corner. 
There was a park near us with a gorgeous fountain, tall statues, and a large xylophone. And of course, horse drawn carriages all along the streets. One thing we would have liked to do, but didn't know it was an option until we got there, was to schedule a walking tour. We saw a group or two walking around with old gentlemen in hats and canes, going over the historical sites and important pieces of history in Savannah. 
Although the weekend trip to Savannah was technically my birthday gift, S got me a little something else that he has known I wanted for a while now. Every trip to an antique shop, I keep my eye out for a sturdy whiskey decanter that is also at a good price. S found one for me, cleaned it, filled it with bourbon, and wrapped it for me to open before we left for our trip. Most of the ones I've swooned over are the crystal style with lots of details. S surprised me by finding a lovely art deco style decanter that is the perfect start to a collection. 
Lastly, I have a few more photos to share, but it's taken me a while to get life sorted. We've had some troubles with our Visa application for Brazil, and we are supposed to leave in one week for South America. Our first stop is a week in Buenos Aires, which is fine if we don't have our Brazilian Visa, but at this point we still don't even have our passports back from the consulate. Our spirits have been really down lately, struggling with bureaucracy. Although I've taken out our suitcases and started packing our summer clothes, it's really a facade; it's hard to get excited when there may be last minute travel changes. You'll know everything is all set for our trip when you see me post a photo on Instagram with my passport back, safely in my arms. 
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Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Balsamic Chicken and Polenta comfort food

Tuesday, January 21, 2014
It's been cold for Florida; in the mornings putting on office dresses paired with colorful leggings to keep me warm and a long cardigan to keep me cozy. It's also been incredibly busy at the museum. We finished one huge building event and now will start one big rental event, and I still find time to write in between. But that's how it goes; sometimes I am incredibly exhausted and we eat cheese and crackers for dinner, and sometimes I am so inspired that I'll whip up something new in the kitchen. This time, something warm for our bellies.
Polenta is something I grew up with, my mom always pairing it with a Brazilian dish she calls, simply, "beefy". Of course, a saucy beef dish and creamy polenta go perfectly together. I craved polenta and opted to braise some chicken in a balsamic, tomatoes, and wine sauce. You can find my recipe typed up in my Tastebook
Currently, S isn't feeling well. I woke up this morning to find his side of the bed littered with tissues and tea mugs piled up. Last night I made him some green tea, with lemon and honey - something a barista in Italy made for me when I was sick in the middle of winter during my trip in 2005. I remember it soothing my throat and feeling so much better, even when bracing the cold walk to our hotel. My free time lately has been devoted to researching restaurants, site-seeing, wineries, and day-trips to different cities in Buenos Aires and Brazil! We are exactly two weeks away from our flight today! And I don't want to talk about how we don't have our Passports back from the Brazilian Consulate yet... 
Also, I promise photos of the beautiful and historic Savannah, GA soon! Tonight, while we're cuddled up with tea and blankets, I'll be sure to upload those photos. 
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Friday, January 17, 2014

Focaccia Bread

Friday, January 17, 2014
I believe I have linked to this recipe before, a focaccia bread from a woman named Julia who hosts a supper club in her Brooklyn home. Vice did a short little film on her day-after-dinner-party lunch. She made focaccia bread looks so easy, delicious, and well worth the wait, so I had to try it out. 
I woke up early on a Sunday, brewed some coffee, and set to mixing my dough. Her recipe is on Vice, and it calls to let the dough rise for a couple of hours. I drank my coffee, read a magazine, and we even had time to go to the farmer's market. When we came back, the dough doubled in size and it was time to lay it out. I topped half of the focaccia with her suggested grey sea salt and the other half, I got experimental and topped with the lavender sea salt I've been using a lot. Also, I added thyme into my dough... I love thyme focaccia bread. 
The only difference in my bread - it didn't rise in the oven as much as hers did. But, I think I know where I went wrong and I am prepared for next time. Also, fresh bread does not keep long at all. Half of this went stale within the week, what a shame. I have to say - I really like the combination of thyme focaccia bread with the lavender sea salt! It was a little floral and herbal, a great combination. 
My thoughts lately... Downtown Orlando used to be so vast and large to me when I first moved here (has it really been over 5 years now?). Sure I was born and raised in NY, Manhattan my backyard and city to play in. However, in west Florida where I lived previous to here, there is no city, so when I moved to Orlando, the downtown area seemed so unfamiliar, huge in it's own, mysterious way. I used to think that only clubs existed down there. But, now I feel like queen of downtown. Everyday at work, I overlook the tall buildings, their tops sometimes hidden in fog, admiring an empire of businesses. After work, I meet S at a bar under his office. I watch people walk by, getting off work, going to work, looking for change, asking me for change. It's not so scary anymore and in fact, it seems quite small, and definitely familiar now.
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Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Saussicon Sec, a French Memory

Tuesday, January 14, 2014
When we were in Paris in 2010 (you can see my Paris travel blog here, before this blog was ever born), we would go to the grocery store on the corner that was in this gorgeous and ornate old building. We'd buy a baguette from the bakery, brie from the coolers, and saucisson sec from the deli. We had never had it before, but we tried it all together, a little sandwich to take with us when we walked around the city and got hungry. We'd eat these sandwiches in parks on the iconic green chairs and in cemeteries on benches under trees in the serene calm. 
We haven't had saucisson sec since our trip, so as a gift to S for Christmas, I tracked down some American made saucisson sec, made the French way, somewhere in Pennsylvania. I ordered some, over-nighted it, and kept it in the fridge until we opened presents. We enjoyed it with brie, of course, and crackers. Sliced thinly and layered with creamy brie, it was a little taste of France at home. 
We recently went to one of our favorite antique shops, ready to buy with a gift card in hand. We bought this affordable little gem of a chair with it's gorgeous curved back and it's sleek wooden legs. It is scratched and has imperfections and it was obviously re-upholstered, but we liked it enough to bring it home with us. Sadly... we had to pass up this gorgeous orange Eames lounge chair that was missing a button. Although the price was a steal for what it was, we are not in the market for a lounge chair like that and have been putting all of our extra money into our South America trip coming up next month. Sadly, we had to walk away and thought, maybe, if it is still there next time we go, well then maybe it's meant to be. 
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Sunday, January 12, 2014

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Sunday, January 12, 2014

24 feels good. I'm in Savannah, GA for the weekend to celebrate with my main squeeze. Cheers!
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Thursday, January 09, 2014

Lavender + Salmon Dinner

Thursday, January 09, 2014
This recipe stemmed from S wanting to eat healthier more often, like introducing salmon into our diets on a weekly basis. Being that I recently received lavender sea salt as a gift, I wanted any excuse to use it. I found that the sea salt and pepper is really all that a salmon needs, plus the lavender made for a very delicate and floral flavor. 
I paired it with gorgeous pearl cous cous, a staple my dad always has in his house these days, seasoned with a blend of spices called "Fishermen's spice" that was also a gift. With the arugula, I dressed it with my favorite balsamic and olive oil, plus the lavender sea salt, just a little, for some complimentary flavors.
Lately it's been a cold two days in Orlando (cold for Florida) and I have so been embracing it. Although everyone up north is bracing snow storms and working from home, I'm thankful for this cold front, otherwise we would have never had a winter. In Florida, people snicker that it will be back in the 80's by Friday (which it won't - this is a common thing among people who live here. It will be a high of 79, like yesterday was and it will barely crack 70, but people like to gloat.) This gloating bothers me for the main reason that I'd rather be up north, worrying with coworkers if our cars will start, bundled up with neighbors to shovel the snowy driveways, and feel that sense of community. There is nothing to gloat about our 90 degrees 9 months of summer here. Take it from me, it's not pleasant the rest of our year this far south. 
Maybe because I grew up with snow days and tea at night just to stay warm and cuddles on the couch with a movie when it's gloomy but that's what winter is all about. You bear it for a couple of months because the rest of the year is pleasant and getting a snowball tossed at you that slides down your neck is worth it, just because it's winter.
I'm dreaming of snow down here because we get out of work and something about this cold front smells like snow. It reminds me of our last trip up north, the last time I needed snow boots and crunched in the snow. I'm the type that barely turns on the heat and would rather bundle up in sweaters and blankets. What else is this time of year for? 
Yesterday was my brothers birthday (and mine, born one year and four days later, this Sunday!). So, a little happy birthday song in Portuguese like my mom and her family always sang to us. Parabéns pra você, nesta data querida. Muitas felicidades, muitos anos de vida! Happy Birthday big brother Mike!
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Monday, January 06, 2014

Cheese + A Supper Club

Monday, January 06, 2014
Saturday started with come chicory coffee that my boss brought back from her most recent trip to New Orleans, knowing that I love Cafe du Monde coffee and just as I ran out of my own supply. I had every intention of sipping endless cups while catching up on my favorite blogs and the lives of my favorite bloggers. And then, my wifi went down. It's all fine now, nothing a new modem can't fix, and secretly it was a blessing in disguise. Instead of binge watching the Sopranos this weekend, I caught up on my favorite cooking magazines, issues dating back into summer. S spent some time in our little garden on the patio, and I cooked and cooked and cooked, my favorite way to make a mess.
Here is the aftermath of a trip to the market that I posted about, as well as Whole Foods. A quest for bread and cheese led me to be indecisive. I ended up with a delicious trio of American, French, and German cheese! Paired with a local baguette made with kalamata olives baked inside and crunchy crackers, heaven. The American cheese is a soft and tart goat cheese with herbs de provence including lavender, "Purple Haze", it's my favorite. The French is the creamiest brie with the best flavor called "D'Affinois", S's favorite on baguette slices. The last, the perfect companion to other cheeses because it is semi soft and nutty, called "Bruder Basil". Not sure why they call it that, but it reminds me of smokey and nutty goudas. 
Like most do, I thought about resolutions or goals for 2014. There isn't anything that I need to do at the start of this year. We eat healthy, I cook all of the time, we go to yoga regularly, we travel, we save money for more travel, I'm reading three books at one time now that I've graduated, I dedicate all that I can to my career without sacrificing myself... The only thing that I have missed in 2013 that I think is important enough to me to make a goal of it, is having friends over for dinner. This is a college town, and like many college towns, people move away when they graduate and when they find jobs. This town is one big waiting room and I'm still here. It's okay though, this waiting room has the job that I've always wanted, a job that S has worked hard for, our favorite little gems of shops and restaurants, and this waiting room has our little home and each other. So I like this waiting room. The thing is, friends move away, and suddenly, there are less friends to invite over for dinner.
I would like to think that my goal of having more dinner parties and entertaining friends will be accomplished, but I know my nerves. I love entertaining friends, welcoming them, keeping them fed and warm in my home, but it is still nerve inducing. I'm equipped with so many delicious recipes and gorgeous cooking and serving ware and a huge dining room table that could seat 12 of my closest friends, and a new book of classic drink recipes with fresh herbs and interesting spices, and a bar cart and even a dress. But I just have to take the step to set a date, call some friends, and start a supper club. 
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Friday, January 03, 2014

Our Fair City: East End Market

Friday, January 03, 2014
There is a new market near us that we have been to many times - I am surprised I have yet to post about it. When I first heard about it, it was described to me like a mini Redding Terminal Market in Philly. Ours is small, but still two stories high, with different vendors on the first floor and offices and an event space on the second floor. 
The first floor is lovely when you first walk in. It's a stretch of a pathway straight to the back of the building, with bread, meat, cheese, coffee, and even beer and wine vendors on either side. Every time we go, we grab a beer, sometimes a sandwich, and site outside in their little patio. The patio is surrounded by their vegetable garden. There's tomatoes and gorgeous leafy lettuce, in abundance.
Everything there is done with care, locally and sustainable. The beer and wine are made in central Florida, the cheese lady has cheese from throughout Florida, and my favorite, the bread lady from the farmer's market, has a booth right in front with a wall of crusty bread. It's a beautiful sight.  
I hope that everyone had a wonderful New Years Eve, both safe and fun. We spent the beginning of the night at a friends house, then made our way to a wine room for midnight. The wine room seemed perfect since it has champagne "on tap", however, the champagne machine was down that night - the worst night for champagne to not be flowing. Instead we opted for a bottle (or two...) which really is the next best thing. Although all the bartenders were working, they too were able to enjoy the festivities and some bubbles. I can really appreciate a work environment that is flexible and forgiving to employees on holidays. 
The next day, as most can imagine, we all ended up with sugar headaches. The dizziness went away quickly, but the headache lingered into lunch. It was definitely worth it to celebrate that way, and so was The Sopranos marathon we enjoyed at home with paninis and sausage bread - two things I could make at home that were on the greasier side. 
And again, it's the weekend. I'm looking forward to cleaning up the house a bit, researching some spots to see in Buenos Aires in February, as well as Savannah, where we'll be for my birthday next weekend. If you have any suggestions for either - shout them out please! I've already started my lists in a moleskine, which is what I take on my trips as a journal. It started in Paris where I wanted something small I could keep in my purse to write in throughout the day at a bistro table at a cafe or on a park bench. I did the same in Costa Rica and have one already set aside for Argentina and Brazil. Happy weekend!
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