Our trip to Nashville, TN

Our trip to Nashville, TNHi, guys!

Todays’ blog post is a flashback Friday, because well, life has been crazy busy! This post is from the original blog that I had a few years ago and I always find myself referring to it when people ask for recommendations. Nashville was one of our favorite trips! Now thinking about that, we may say that about all the places we have been. But, this one isn’t too far away from PA and is a perfect trip for a long weekend. Funny enough, Nick was then just my boyfriend and looking back, this was the trip that sealed the deal for me! I wasn’t letting him go after how much fun we had on our first road trip together. Read on for the whole story!

May 4, 2014

If you know me well, you know I always talked about going to Nashville. Last spring, I was telling Nick all about how I wanted to go and to my surprise my non-country listening boyfriend said, let’s go! By doing some research we found that Nashville has a “Music City July 4th” festival every year with all kinds of free music, fireworks and more! So we decided to plan our trip during that time and I waited patiently for July to come.

July was quickly approaching and as always I was on my computer doing research on bars, restaurants and other things going on in Nashville. I stumbled upon the Grand Old Opry and realized that Carrie Underwood was in town performing one evening during our stay. Of course, I got really excited and then went to work asking the girls if they thought I could convince Nick into going to see Carrie with me while we were there. Their response was, “What guy wouldn’t want to watch Carrie?”. Knowing that I’d see Nick that evening, I had my speech ready to try and convince him that we needed to go to the Opry! In the middle of my begging, he had a big grin on his face and asks me why I always ruin my own surprises. Which is true, I accidentally always do this! Apparently, he had already gotten the tickets and was going to surprise me when we got there!!! Have I mentioned how great of a guy Nick is?

The day we were leaving arrived and I had my cowgirl boots packed up ready to go! The drive there was pretty easy and not too. too long. As always, we had fun killing time listening to the 7 mix CDs I had made for the trip. We stopped for a while on Kentucky Bourbon trail for exploring and got to our hotel in no time!

I’m pretty sure the rain started as soon as we arrived and would only stop for short amounts of time during our entire trip, but we tried not to let it damper our moods! We booked a hotel within walking distance to Broadway (strategically) and did a lot of exploring. I’ll break it down by the three best parts of Nashville.. the food, the bars and the music!

Food:
We ate very well during our long weekend. Some of our favorites were Merchants, 417 Union, and Jack’s. All of these places were downtown and were recommendations from others. We ate at 417 Union twice during our visit because it was so close to our hotel and delish! I would recommend their breakfast AND dinner. Jack’s had awesome barbecue food and we got there just in time before there was a line out the door waiting! Merchants had a throwback-cool vibe with awesome specialty drinks.

Bars:
The best thing about Nashville bars is the live music. The second best thing about Nashville bars is that there is NO cover charge. We did a lot of bar hopping down Broadway, which is what you are supposed to do right? Every bar not only had live music, but each of these cover bands were really good. Our favorites were Tootsies, Whiskey Bent Salon, and Silver Dollar Saloon. To say the least, we had a good time drinking, dancing and listening to the music. Not that into country music? That’s okay because a lot of these bands were playing rock too! The only thing I didn’t like about any of the bars is that when the bands were taking a break, they come around practically begging you for any cash you have. I guess that’s what will happen when they aren’t charging a cover at the door. We made plenty of friends from all over the states and we all agreed on something… we loved Nashville!!!
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Music:
We were there during the Music City July 4th festival hoping to spend the day in the streets listening to band after band. Unfortunately, because of the rain, practically everything was canceled. Understandably so, because I sure didn’t want to stand outside in the pouring rain all day. They kept the main event scheduled which was The Band Perry and fireworks! We braved the crappy weather and joined the massive amounts of people and could pretty much only hear The Band Perry. It was still fun and we weren’t too bummed because they were playing with Carrie Underwood at the Opry the next night. Add in all the other music from the cover bands we had been listening to the entire time we were there and we were musically satisfied. I couldn’t wait to get to the Grand Old Opry. Talk about a cool experience. They have been recording live shows there since forever and playing them on the radio. All of the artists play a few songs then the next one comes on. Of course, between the artist’s commercials played. There were plenty of older country artists that we didn’t know, but the whole experience was unlike any other. The Band Perry was fantastic, but I was just so excited for Carrie. When she came on, the old people left and the young went wild. She is so unbelievably talented! While visiting the Country Music Hall of Fame, she was the featured exhibit. We got to see all of her stages costumes as well as some other things. The museum wasn’t my favorite compared to the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame, but still interesting. Anyway, after visiting Nashville it is very clear on why it is called Music City!

As you can see I have a lot to say about this weekend that went by way too fast. Nick and I still talk about how much fun we had there. We also continuously talk about how we can’t wait to go back! That’s all for now! XO

Hawaii- Part One

Hawaii- Part OneAloha!! Holy cow guys, it’s been 3 months since we were in Hawaii and I’m still swooning over here like we just got back. Nick gets to travel quite a bit for work and when his work trip to Hawaii came up (total job envy!), I just had to go with him! Not only would it make it affordable, it was somewhere I’ve been dying to go! I have so much to share about the trip so I’m going to split it up into two parts. The first part of our trip was spent in Waikiki because that’s where Nick needed to be for work. We stayed at the beautiful Waikiki Beach Mariott Resort, right on the beach! Waikiki is a bustling place, to say the least. It’s super commercialize which was fine for a couple days because it’s still stunning there! Since I spent most of the days solo while Nick actually had to work (bummer) I did a lot of exploring and relaxing on the beach/pool. Here is a quick recap of a few of my favorite activities around the area!

Hawaii- Part One Manoa FallsManoa Falls

So I have a thing for waterfalls and I wasn’t leaving Hawaii without seeing one. With major jet lag, we were all messed up and kept waking up super early. So we took advantage of it the first morning and went to Manoa Falls bright and early for a hike. Just a short drive out of the city and you are in the lush mountains of the Oahu island. It was a fun and easy hike that introduced us to a different side of Hawaii. It was gorgeous and unlike any hike I’ve ever done. Everything was vibrant green unlike anywhere I’ve ever been. The lush forest of bamboo with it’s pop of florals was a beautiful sight to see. We made it to the waterfall and it was the most breathtaking waterfall I’ve ever seen. It was SO tall! I could’ve hung out there all day, but the bug bites were getting outa control even with all my bug spray. We headed back and they were making lei’s in the resort lobby. YES!

Hawaii- Part One- Luau Luau at the Waikiki Aquarium

We felt obligated to get to a luau while visiting because what better way is there to really get into the Hawaiian vacation spirit? Was it touristy? Absolutely. Was it fun? Absolutely. When planning the trip I randomly checked Groupon and there was one for the Diamond Head Luau. Score! Because luau’s are not cheap. It was in walking distance to our hotel and a great price so we went for it. There was lei making, ukulele lessons and so much more before the show and dinner. The show was so fun to watch the dancing and learn more about Polynesian culture. The food was okay but it did force us into trying some traditional Hawaii food that I ended up falling in love with (poke!!). Would I go again? Probably not. But it was definitely fun for our first Hawaiian trip.

Hawaii- Part One- Photo TourOahu Photography Tour

Recently we bought a new camera to document life together and for trips like these. I’ve always loved taking photos for fun so when looking for activities this one spoke to me. I’m by no means a photographer but they said all skill levels were welcome and I needed a way to explore without a car. It was a small group unlike many other large bus tours in Waikiki and enjoyed this experience so much. The photo above is from one of my favorite stops, Makapu’u Beach. How pretty are the contrasting colors of the greenery, lava rock and bright blue ocean? I’ll write a separate post about my tour with the Oahu Photography Tour soon with some of my favorite photos!

Hawaii- Part One- Diamond HeadDiamond Head State Monument

Who doesn’t want to hike an inactive volcano crater when in Hawaii? It erupted like 300,000 years ago so don’t worry. I recommend not doing this hike in the heat of the day, but ya gotta do what ya gotta do when the hubby is working and gets off at 3 pm. It was so hot and all uphill, but so worth it. The view from up top is gorgeous! It was so sunny and crowded that I didn’t see signs of any other islands. But it is said that you can see the offshore islands of Moloka‘i, Lana‘i and Maui! Very cool.

Waimanalo BaySunrise at Waimanalo Bay

What’s better than starting your day with watching the sunrise, I’m not sure? Because I love it. After my photo tour, I fell in love with Waimanalo Bay and I just had to get Nick there. When a light bulb went off that a sunrise would be gorgeous there, I convinced him that we could wake up and drive to sunrise before he had to go work. We cut it close because it was about 35 minutes to the east side of the island and traffic is kind of crappy in HI, whoops. Regardless it was worth every second to about the only ones on this beautiful beach and watch the start of the day. I can’t get over the glow of the sun on the beach. It was unreal!

With gorgeous beaches, waterfalls, a zillion rainbows, great food and mai tais, how can you not be in love with this island already? Little did we realize how cool the North Shore would be. Stay tuned for part two! Mahalo, Hawaii!

Xo, Anna

Hawaii- Part One

DIY Memory Ornament

DIY Memory Ornament

Hello, again!

I’m popping in for a quick DIY post. I realized after I was done making my ornament that I should’ve maybe taken some photos along the way to share to process. I’ll get better at this blogging thing eventually, I swear!

An ornament could be made in memory of so many things, whether it be a wedding, a birth, etc. My mom made me one with my tassel from graduation! If you’re someone like me, you keep things to remember the special days. Those knick knacks can sometimes end up stuffed in a drawer and you just don’t know what to do with them! I decided I could take some things that I had saved from our wedding and put them in an ornament. As a personal preference, I am someone who is a big fan of Christmas trees filled with ornaments that hold many years of memories. Plus, it makes them so much more fun to decorate.

This is what I used…

  1. Clear glass ornament bulb
  2. Wedding dress scraps from fittings
  3. Pin from bouquet
  4. Dried flower that would fit without breaking
  5. Tag from our invitations
  6. String used to wrap around our invitations to hang the tree
  7. Toothpick to move the pieces around to be in the order you prefer

Basically, just put in whatever you’d like the ornament to have a forever keepsake! Using a toothpick helped me move things around once I got them into the bulb to get the positions that I preferred.

Here is a close up of the final product!

DIY ornament

What do you have sitting around that you could put in an ornament? Let me know your ideas!

XO, Anna

St. Lucia Day

 

St Lucia Day

Can you believe we are in the midst of the holiday season and that next weekend is Christmas?! It’s the time of year where the word tradition is used more than ever and families have their special ways to celebrate the season. Some people look for the pickle ornament in the tree, some make cookies, but ultimately a lot of traditions come from a family’s heritage.

My mom is Swedish and my dad is Italian. Basically, the Italian side of things is celebrated all year long since everything Italian is readily available and scrumptious. The Swedish side of things, however, is always put a little on the back burner. There was one day a year my mom wouldn’t let that slide and it was every December 13… St. Lucia day. Here is a quick video on what the heck this day means: Swedish Lucia For Dummies.

One of part of this tradition is that the youngest daughter is “Lucia” aka me. Which for many years I thought was cool because my favorite American Girl doll, Kirsten was Swedish and had an outfit to match me. Eventually, I was too cool for it, but hey, I came back around. In our family, we typically decorated the tree, drank hot chocolate and ate the delish St Lucia buns (Lussekatter) that my sweet mother slaved over. Those buns were the best part! I remember helping my mom shape the dough in the shape of an “S” and sneaking some extra bites of the Swedish pearl sugar.

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As the years go by I develop a deeper appreciate of where my family is from and how it’s molded us. This year I decided I wanted to give the whole St. Lucia Day thing a go, as the youngest daughter is supposed to, and also test my baking skills. I was super nervous but my mom gave me the recipe, some special key ingredients and I was off to the kitchen to give this a go, with a little help from Goggle of course. But really, who scolds milk before using in a recipe and why?

It was a fun and long (5 hour!!!!) challenge, these buns really pushed me out of my baking comfort zone! To my surprise, they were just as good as I remembered! Okay maybe not… everything my mom makes taste way better when she does it, but still, I did it!! I had family over to our apartment and we spent the afternoon munching on Swedish food and enjoying each other’s company to recognize St. Lucia Day.

We may not celebrate it as traditionally as they do in Sweden, but it’s nice to spend a day acknowledging our roots! I don’t know anyone else besides our family that celebrates this day. Does your family have any unique holiday traditions?

Happy St. Lucia Day and God Jul!

Xo, Anna