Thursday, May 21, 2015

David's Birthday :: Houston Trip!

Hello everyone,

Last weekend was quite the weekend!  Not only did Phoenix have its last performance of the season (Flight), it was also David's graduation and birthday weekend!  I know, the weekend could not have been more packed.  

Sadly, David's graduation and Phoenix Flight happened on the same day, so I couldn't be in Houston for his graduation, but I booked it home after the concert, packed, and got on a flight to Houston a few hours later for David's birthday!  --giving that whole life/work balance a go over here  hah!

His birthday began with a pretty darn spectacular sunrise in Boston ;)  
the only (and I truly mean the only) perk of being awake at this hour, in my opinion... haha

I definitely went to sleep freezing my butt off on the plane, but a few hours later, I woke up to unbelievable heat and humidity.  Oh Houston... thank you for welcoming me back with everything you had to offer...  but all that was soon forgotten as I met up with my birthday boy and the rest of the S clan!  

Jack and their Dad had made it out to Houston for David's graduation, and I was so glad to see them! 

Dad was flying out soon after, so we grabbed a quick bite to eat and shared some birthday cupcakes while enjoying the short amount of time that we had together. 

Though I had met David's dad and brother individually, I had never seen them all together like this before.  It's hard to put into words, but there was something really heart-warming about seeing them reunited, interacting and spending time together like this   =)  

                                                                <----                                            <----  The evolution of David?  hehe

As soon as Dad left, the kids went wild.


As wild as the couple that chooses baking over drinking gets  =p   

I hear that Houston actually has a pretty great bar scene, but poor Jack never got to experience that because he had us grandparents as his tour guide  haha  Amulet did drag me to one bar (Flying Saucer) during our roomy era, so we did bring Jack there during his visit!  

Oh, but we definitely had the best BBQ we've ever had!  We may not drink much, but if you've followed this blog for awhile, you know that food is definitely our thing! And of all of the BBQ we've ever had, this is the best.  Ray's BBQ is in a gas station, the inside is quite cramped, and the table we got was literally spinning off of the base, but none of that mattered as soon as we tasted the food.

Oh... My... Goodness...  seriously, the juiciest BBQ we have ever had!  
If you live in Houston, you have to go try it!  and all of the many students (ahem, Rice!!) about to move away to a new city, you will seriously regret it if you leave without trying this place!

Having stuffed ourselves, we took a stroll around the Hermann park.  I was kind of shocked to find this part of the park (some sort of a garden) because I don't think it was here when I was at Rice..?   It'd be really sad if it was there all along and I never knew!

The big bro and the baby bro.

David and I have been engaged for awhile now, and we knew that we wanted to be together long-term waayy before we even got engaged.  However, the fact that we are getting married has just begun to feel real, and I think it's because we've gotten to spend more time with both sides of the family (mine in Charleston and his here) in the past couple of weeks.  (and maybe because mommy calls daily asking about the non-existent wedding details...)

For me, marriage isn't just about the couple; it's about two families becoming one.  So when families came into the picture a little more, our upcoming marriage seemed more real to me.  I grew up in a big, loud, and very tight-knit family on both sides, and I've always known that I wanted to continue that tradition as I added my own to the mix.  Family is everything to me; they're there to lend a hand when it is needed, to hold you accountable for your actions, to argue with you, to laugh at/with you, and to share the joys and the sorrows of life. I can't imagine not having that giant support group as you move through different phases of life.

Having such a big family that likes being in everyone else's business has its pros and cons, and one of the cons was that whoever I decided to marry had to have approval from all of the 50+ family members. My aunts and uncles have always joked that their nephews and nieces will never be able to find anyone to marry because it would be impossible to find someone who could pass the family test haha  so when David survived meeting all 50+ of them in Korea, I knew he was a keeper  ;)  haha 

We are both pretty excited to be gaining another set of parents, and another brother each. (and alllll of the extended families.. hah) David was the baby of the family, so he's really liking being a big bro to Peter, and I'm pretty stoked to be getting an older brother myself!  I was an only child for 5 years, and for as long as I can remember, I've always asked my parents for an older brother. I ended up getting a younger brother, which I guess is the next best situation (I love you baby bro! haha). I've also always had many older cousins who filled that older brother role, but now I'm getting a real big brother!  =D 

David and I were discussing our thoughts on this matter, and David told me that girls are very rare in his family, so getting a sister may be a whole new adventure for Jack.  But I'd say he's a natural ;) He already grudgingly endures the many photo shoots coming his way like a seasoned pro  =p  haha

It was a really wonderful day celebrating David's birthday, hanging out and getting to know the family a bit better, and exploring different parts of Houston!  

If you have noticed that the pictures look a little bit different in quality, it's because David got me an early birthday present--a new portrait lens!!  It has a bit of a learning curve, but I am loving the quality of the photos so far.  I'll be back with a new post soon trying out the new lens during the last of our Houston explorations  =)

Have a wonderful weekend, and thanks for stopping by!

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Traveling Musician :: Meadowlarks and Phoenix

Hello everyone!

Since the last Charleston post, it's been crazy over here with music related activities!  I love that I get to do what I love, with people that I love, while traveling and seeing different parts of the world! 

After Charleston, I flew straight to Cleveland to reunite with my Meadowlarks.  This was our first season venturing into the world of chamber competitions, and we had 2 days to get ready for the biggest one in the United States, the Fischoff Chamber Music Competition!  

Those two days were absolutely crazy. We had 2-3 coachings per day, and played 12+ hours a day with one another to try to get ready for the performances...  After the 2 intense rehearsal days, we drove to South Bend, IN for the competition!

The absolute best part about Fischoff was the people we got to meet along the way.  Not only did we get to play for the judges, but we also got to meet all of them afterwards for some feedback (and these judges are like... gods of the chamber music world).  We also had the opportunity to share our love for each other, and for the music, with the incredibly receptive audience for the Fischoff soiree at the Sabato's house. The audience was so warm, and the hosts--the Sabato's--were seriously amazing! We are so glad to have met and have been 'adopted' by the humans, horses, dogs, and cat alike. We love our South Bend family!!  =)

Another incredible thing happened at Fischoff that really touched our hearts, and that was the fact that Maureen and Roger came all the way from Chicago to cheer us on!  We met them here in Boston because their nephew is Sam, the violist in my string trio, and I was so incredibly touched they came all the way out to Indiana to see us.  They were like our adoptive parents for the weekend, and I can't tell you how comforting that was for us -- so many warm fuzzies all around!  I can't wait to see them again in Boston when they come visit!  =)

After the competition, we drove back to Cleveland and celebrated with some awesome food at L'Albatros!  
People have always told me that Cleveland is a foodie city, and if more places like this exist, then I can totally get on board with what they mean!  The burger, duck, and the pork belly salad were all. incredible.

After the whirlwind of a trip in the midwest, I flew back to Boston for a few days for the Phoenix Flight!  I've mentioned before how I've been a part of this team getting the orchestra off of the ground for the past year, and it was so incredible to see this last concert of our first season come to fruition.  

Of course, I love the concept, and I feel that I'm playing with some of the best musicians of our generation in this orchestra.  The Boston Globe gave us a pretty rad review as well, and I'm excited to see where the next seasons will take us!

But again, my favorite part of the group is the people in the orchestra.  I know, I know, I'm starting to sound like a broken record over here with my love for the peeps in my life, but what can I say, I'm surrounded by pretty awesome humans!  I've known a few of the members in the orchestra for many years (like Matt, the conductor, and Christina, the bassoonist. We go waaayy back to our high school years).  However, I've gotten to know even the folks I've met either at this concert or at the last one a little better, and I am just so happy to have the chance to play with all of them in Phoenix!  Such amazing musicians with such big hearts  =)   

My favorite photo from the night with my stand partners, Zenas and Abby!   

A few hours after the Phoenix Flight concert, I flew out to Houston for strictly personal reasons, and I left my violin behind for 2 days.  I know, I know, it felt really weird to not touch my violin for the full 2 days I was in Houston, but the break was needed I think  haha.

Thanks for stopping by, and I hope you're having a wonderful beginning of the week so far!  I'll be back with a few Houston adventure posts soon! =)

Friday, May 15, 2015

Eating around Charleston, SC

Hello everyone!

If you've followed this blog for awhile, you know that the record of our trip to Charleston wouldn't be complete without a post dedicated to food!

We visited a few different restaurants, but these two really stood out among the eateries that we tried. Because we were only there for a few days, we couldn't try all of the ones our friends recommended, but I guess we'll just have to go back to try those later!  ;)

First one, probably our favorite, is Page's Okra Grill.  I think it's a locally very popular place, and when we got there, we were told the wait would be an hour or something like that, but somehow, we were seated in more like 10 minutes!  I didn't take pictures of this, but because we went on a Sunday afternoon for lunch, we got the full Southern Sunday-best experience!  I loved seeing everyone decked out in their summery dresses and all of the BIG hats!  loved all of the big hats!  I was a little envious because I really want one, but I wouldn't really have a chance to wear it in Boston..

Anyway, let's get to the food because that was amazing.

I mean, just look at these!  We ordered shrimp and grits, chicken and waffles, biscuits and gravy, and some pancakes.  I know, that's a lot of food for 3 people, but we didn't realize how big the portion sizes are here!

When we were ordering, the waiter was really surprised at how much food we were ordering, but we did good work!  that's what happens when you go with two growing boys  =p

Another place we visited was Magnolias!

We went there before Daon and Tristan's wedding with all of our family friends and this is definitely a more of a fine dining experience whereas Okra has more of a local diner charm.

We had some fried tomatoes with grits and house-made potato chips with blue cheese. That blue cheese is not for the faint of the heart...  'twas intense!  

For the main course, we ordered a lot of different dishes because there were many of us, but I only took photos of the Cuban sandwich and the Lowcountry Bouillabaisse.  Both really good!

For dessert, the waiter insisted on their home-made southern Pecan Pie, so we did!
It was beautiful, and delicious for sure, but I feel like desserts are all very similar in different restaurants.  They are all very.. sweet..  haha.

We thoroughly enjoyed our Southern comfort food experience, but I think I've had enough Shrimp and Grits to last me quite awhile  haha  I had it every day I was there!

To aid in digestion of all of the comfort, we took a stroll on the beach. We were in a beach house for the wedding, and I could really get used to living in a beach house haha  

People were swimming and frolicking in the water, so we thought the water would be warm but it was absolutely freezing!  this is as far as I went into the water haha  crazy kiddos...  how do they swim in this freezing water?

Our visit to Charleston was very low key (other than the wedding) and that was just what I needed because right before this was my finals and right after was the Fischoff Chamber Music Competition with the larks!

Thanks for dropping by, and have a wonderful weekend!

Monday, May 11, 2015

Magnolia Plantation and Audubon Swamp

Hello everyone!

While we were in Charleston, David, Peter, and I visited the Magnolia plantation and the Audubon swamp. What a beautiful property!

As soon as we walked in, we were greeted by a few peacocks!  We found it very funny that they just roam around the property like this.

The garden was huge, and it took us a few hours to walk around.  Actually, I don't think we even saw all of it--maybe about 70%?

Mostly, it was a good chance to hang out with baby bro and fiancee.  

It was nice too because it gave Peter and David a chance to get to know each other better.  They're going to become family soon, so it seemed fitting  =)

the property was divided into many different sections, so it was fun to walk from one to the other and experience many different atmospheres. 

some bridges were rather... shaky  haha but this one was the most stable of them all, and we joked that it was because it had a tree going right through it  haha!

the one I wanted to visit the most was the maze!   haha

I have to say, it looked better from above than actually in the maze, but it was still fun =)

we made it!

we also found a rogue photographer in the maze  =p 

The weather was absolutely perfect (especially for this still-frozen Bostonian) and the whole place was so tranquil that it was a perfect counterpart to the amazing, but busy wedding day the day before!  =)

2 of my favorite guys =)

Next, we visited the swamp. You do have to pay extra to visit the swamp, but it was worth it for us because we really enjoyed seeing the wildlife!

It was heaven for this shutter bug (and the baby bro)

 All of the following pictures were taken by Peter and I'm so impressed!  =)

I especially love these!  Good work Peter!

When we looked up the swamp, the first thing everyone said was that we would see alligators!  We did indeed see them, but it wasn't as exciting as I thought it would be haha  they weren't walking around or swimming around near us, which I guess makes sense since that would be quite dangerous.. haha

We had a wonderful time, and if you have never been, we would recommend dropping by!  It's quite beautiful, and sine we had amazing weather, it was perfect!

Thanks for stopping by, and have a wonderful week!