Boo!

Halloween in January?  Yes please.

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Timely post?  Er, not so much.  Sorry.  But let’s do a quick recap: this year for Halloween we traveled to Florida.  We spent a week in the sunshine state–half of the time visiting Mini B’s Beachy BFF and half of the time visiting Mr. Squishy.  And one day of overlap at the happiest place on earth.  Which day?  Halloween of course!  We stayed at the Wilderness Lodge (which probably deserves its own post since it was pretty outstanding, well, except for the “test” of the fire alarm during one of Mini B’s only naps . . . grr).  But since it’s taken me 3 months to get this post done, let’s be realistic–there will be no Wilderness Lodge post. 

Back to the matter at hand: Halloween.  And since it was Halloween, we put Mini B and Mr. Squishy in their matching costumes (hand-made by my aunt–thank you Auntie J!).

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Are they not the most scrumptious little pumpkins you’ve ever seen?  Holy cuteness.  After doing a little modeling stint in their costumes, it was time to head to the park.  Staying at the Wilderness Lodge meant we just had to hop on a boat to get to the Magic Kingdom.  Mini B’s first boat ride?  Check.

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Then it was time for a fun-filled day at the Magic Kingdom.  You know the one–the place where dreams come true.  Which in our case must mean that we dream of our little girl taking the poop to end all poops and having it leak all down her leg and up her back while waiting in a line three-deep for the ONLY changing table on Main Street USA (really Walt?  ONE changing table?  Really?!).  But it wasn’t only a poop-filled day because that would be sad.  So so sad. 

We did a lot of fun stuff too . . . although before we got to that we had to take the requisite posed pics in front of the castle:

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It was a super sunny day, so much of our time was spent in Operation Keep Those Babies Covered!

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The most magical part of the day came when we got a sneak peak to the new Fantasyland (they were doing a dress rehearsal for cast members only):

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Fantasyland is the Magic Kingdom’s new land–it includes the castles for each of Disney’s Princesses.  Basically if you’re a 6-year-old girl, it’s the best place in the entire world.

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It also includes some new rides, including one based on the Little Mermaid.  We decided to take Mini B and her BFF on the adventure, but Mr. Squishy sat this one out (he is a little man after all).

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Not sure this was Mini B’s favorite part of the day.

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She was not the biggest fan of Ursula . . .

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And was pretty relieved when the magic ended.

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One of the most incredible parts of the new Fantasyland was Belle’s ballroom.  I didn’t get any pictures since the lighting was not so great, but it was spot-on to the movie.  Here’s just one of the creatures guarding it.

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Unfortunately there was still some construction around the park, so it wasn’t always the best view.  But the bambinos didn’t seem to mind.

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And luckily they still had turkey legs.  Phew.

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Yuck.  Mini B preferred her thumb.

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And her BFF just had no idea what to think.

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Mr. B was so proud to show Mini B around his old stomping grounds.  So sweet.

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Unfortunately this was during Mini B’s ‘I-only-like-my-parents-phase-and-everyone-else-makes-me-cry-so-don’t-even-try-and-hold-me-aunts-and-uncles.’

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She can be kind of a drama queen sometimes.

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Basically, though, we totally killed it.  3 babies.  1 Magic Kingdom.  Infinite Memories.

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It was a loooooong day.  And someone was a little tuckered.

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Of course, she did end up rallying later that night for trick-or-treating at the Wilderness Lodge.  Her first candy loot!

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Ahhh.  Halloween post finally done.  Only 3 months late.  But still so cute.

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Camels, Donuts, and Pumpkins . . . Oh My!

Happy Halloween Everyone!  We’ll share details on how we’re spending today later on, but first we thought we’d share our first family tradition with y’all: The Great Pumpkin Farm Festival!  If you’ll remember, Mr. B and I discovered it last year (more on that here) . . .

And this year we decided to officially make it an annual tradition and bring Mini Bunches . . .

And since this year we did the trip a few weeks before Halloween, there was a lot more to see, but let’s let the pictures do the talking, shall we?

In less than two hours she was completely wiped and passed out on Dad’s shoulder.  Somehow I think next year’s trip will go much differently.  Oh, and next year we might have to go home with a dozen of those donuts; they were NO JOKE the best donuts I’ve ever had.  Period.

Wedding Crasher

I’m not sure how it happened, but Mini B has officially become a wedding crasher.  Her dad is so proud.  But let’s not get ahead of ourselves–how about we start at the beginning?  First up–Mini B’s first plane ride.  Gone are the days of us traveling light, huh?

She was great in the airport . . .

But that slumber didn’t last long–she was wide awake by the time we boarded our flight to Philly . . .

And even though we were prepared for disaster (I had steeled myself to be those parents with the screaming baby who receive one of two looks from the other passengers: 1) the look of total sympathy; or 2) the look of death), she actually did wonderfully.  She was wide awake the whole time, but overall pretty content.  Mr. Bunches and I breathed a collective sigh of relief for that one.

Once we got to Philly, we were starving.  And what do you eat in Philly?!  Why, cheese steaks of course!  So off to Geno’s we headed . . .

Now, I had a Philly cheese steak once back in high school on a rowing trip to Philly, but for the life of me I can’t remember where it was from.  But I have a vivid memory of it being surprisingly good.  And Mr. Bunches assured me that this one was the BEST (the best, Jerry, the best).

And let’s face it–I was famished.  So I polished off an entire cheese steak in less than 2 minutes.  Ugh–I’m cringing right now at the memory of it all.

Good thing Mini B was sound asleep and therefore got to miss the carnage.  Was it the best cheese steak ever?  No.  Hardly.  But it was food.  And I was hungry.  Therefore, mission accomplished.  Once our bellies were filled with grease and “steak” (I mean, let’s be honest–that’s no Grade A beef or anything), we headed off to introduce Mini B to the “Loop,” aka Mr. Bunches’ college buddies . . .

Of course, she didn’t really seem to take that much interest in the conversation . . .

Ahh well.  After that it was time to take Mini B to her first hotel.  The Hilton Garden Inn.  Now, we had asked for a crib in the room, but we already knew we weren’t going to use it.  Nope, not for our high-maintenance Mini B.  No sirree.  We had to instead bring her “Pink Palace” from home for her to sleep in . . .

And there she is in all her glory.

See, in preparation for this trip I had attempted to wean her off the Pink Palace (which is actually the Nap Nanny), but it didn’t work (and I suffered 30 sleepless hours for my failed attempt).  So the Pink Palace came with us–stuffed in a suitcase.  But it was basically a lifesaver, so it was worth it.

Why was it a lifesaver?  Well, let’s just put it this way–Mini B gave us her longest sleep ever on our trip.  8 uninterrupted hours of pure bliss.  We seriously contemplated moving into that Hilton Garden Inn for good . . . isn’t it amazing how important sleep becomes when you have a kid?  But anyways, back to the long, drawn out story of our trip (C’mon–you’re loving the play-by-play, right?).

On Saturday we decided to hit up Mr. B’s alma mater: Villanova.

She was loving being shown around by her proud papa . . .

Of course, being the idiots we are, we thought that school hadn’t started yet since there weren’t any students around.  But then we saw a few students and they informed us that it was just too early for people to be up, but school had in fact started the previous week.  It was 11:30 AM on Saturday.  Apparently that’s “too early” for people to be awake . . . oh, to be in college again.  Sigh.

We wanted to get Mini B a little souvenir of her trip, so we headed to the bookstore.

But it was CLOSED.  Seriously?!  Closed for the entire Labor Day weekend–whoever heard of such a thing?  So maybe next time Mini B . . .

After our excursion, it was time to get ready for the main event: the WEDDING!  Mini B took a power nap (3 hours–basically her best nap EVER.  Again, we were seriously considering moving into that Hilton) and then put on her party dress and headed out.

Of course, she ended up waiting until we got there to give us a little surprise . . . no worries, though, that just meant a quick diaper change in the car.  We’re actually getting pretty good at that maneuver.

Once she was all cleaned up, we passed her off to our babysitter (thanks Auntie Kar-Kar!) and we headed to the ceremony.  It was really beautiful–held at the Stone Barn in Kennett Square, PA, the ceremony was just perfect.  I’ll let the pictures do the talking . . .

See what I mean?  Sigh.  Thank you, thank you Leah & Derek for inviting us to be a part of your day!

Well, after the serious stuff was taken care of, it was time to get our party on, and that’s when it became official: Mini B crashed the wedding!

She just had to get in there and see what all the fuss was about.  Plus, they had bacon-wrapped scallops.  And if there’s one thing Mini B loves–it’s bacon-wrapped scallops ;).

Seriously, though, she had a great time meeting some of the guests, being reacquainted with the “Loop” and also giving her congratulations to Leah & Derek.  There also may have been a few celebrities in attendance that may or may not have been slightly enamored with our little peanut . . . but we’ve got to keep those details on the DL.  Sorry! :)

Unfortunately Mini B was not the best dressed in attendance . . .

Sorry Ian–I just had to do it.  It was THAT good.

It was a great time, and once Mini B made her rounds, it was back to Auntie Kar-Kar so that the Mr. and I could enjoy our night out along with everyone else.

There was a fair amount of hoopla, including Derek’s initiation into the Loop . . .

Which basically was the start of things going a bit downhill (this last one is from the after party) . . .

Oh, and just because I thought they were great, here are a couple shots of their wedding cakes (yes–they had three!) . . .

After all the hoopla, we spent a quiet night back at the Hilton Garden Inn (aka our favorite place ever since it somehow put that magic spell on Mini B and got her to sleep extra long) and awoke only slightly hung over . . .

But no worries–we rallied.

Mini B even did a little more hanging out with her new friends . . .

But then it was time to say goodbye and head back to the airport to go home.  She did AMAZING on the flight home–slept the entire way!

It was a great trip, but she was happy to be back home . . .

And while we had some trepidation about leaving behind that glorious, glorious Hilton Garden Inn, it all worked out in the end.  On our first night home she slept 9.5 hours straight!  It was a Labor Day MIRACLE!  Of course, it didn’t last–the next night we were back to sleeping in 4 hour chunks.  So who knows–maybe we will be moving into that Hilton Garden Inn after all . . .

Where in the World is Mini Bunches?

That’s right–our Mini Bunches has officially become a world traveler.  Her first stop?  CANADA!

Armed with her birth certificate, our passports, and our season passes to Marineland, we crossed the border and introduced Mini B to her first taste of international travel.  And yes–she loved it.

She loved the whales . . .

And especially the Killer Whale–she even taught him how to jump over her (it’s pretty amazing how talented she is, right?  I mean, and this was all at only 9 weeks old AND with her eyes closed) . . .

Not too shabby, eh?

Well, Mr. Bunches was a little upset that she couldn’t even bother to open her eyes when it came to feeding time, but maybe that’s just as well.  Just look at those jaws!

Either way, she was a real trooper for her first-ever trip to the True North.  And she did manage to open her eyes to say hello to some of the other Marineland creatures . . .

So I’m not exactly sure what deer, elk, and buffalo have to do with Marineland, but I’m just going with it.  Seeing as how this is one of Mr. B’s favorite places ever, I’ll give them a pass . . . 

And look–Mini B wasn’t the only baby hanging around . . .

Once we’d said hello to all the animals, it was time for a treat and a visit to my favorite area of all–the black bear enclosure!  We didn’t feed them this time, but we definitely will in the future.  They are HYSTERICAL (granted, not in this picture they aren’t, but just take our word for it).

Well, after a long afternoon at the park, it was time to go home.  Just one quick pit stop at the castle (yep–just another random piece of this theme park.  I swear–I don’t really get it).  

And then we headed out, which of course meant we had to walk by the gift shop (those Marineland folks are no dummies) . . . Mini B couldn’t take her eyes off of those blow-up toys!

And she of course has Dad wrapped around her little finger, so he wanted to get her one, but I put my foot down.  I mean–c’mon!  She’s nine weeks old for crying out loud.  There will be plenty more trips to Marineland in her future and I’m sure she’ll end up with multiples of these guys . . .

But it was hard to say no . . . just look at that face!

All in all, it was a good trip.  So much better than playing in our own little marineland . . .

Oh, and ever since that trip, Mini B’s new favorite song is the Canadian anthem.  It calms her down almost immediately whenever we sing it . . . how random is that?!

Babymoon, Canada-Style

Yes, so I get that this post isn’t exactly timely in lieu of the fact that our Mini Bunches arrived a few weeks early (more on her here); but, better late than never has become my new motto (and for those of you who have sent baby gifts, please understand that the motto applies to thank you notes as well–they’re coming, I promise!).

So here’s just a quick post about our last major outing before Mini Bunches arrived . . . where to?  Toronto!  Yep, we didn’t want to travel too far from home given my ginormous state  (I was 33 weeks pregnant at the time) . . .

So we just drove a couple hours north to the bumping metropolis that is Toronto.  But, of course, what trip to Canada would be complete without a little trip down memory lane for Mr. Bunches?  First stop: Port Credit, Ontario.

Mr. Bunches played hockey here as a kid and had very fond memories of the place.  And I can see why–it was freaking adorable!!  We just might have to move there, especially because directly across from the hockey arena was a rowing boathouse–I mean, could it be more perfect for the two of us?  Oh, and there was also a super rad playground that I’m sure Mini Bunches will just love some day . . .

Yeah, we were those people.

It was really neat seeing the rink where Mr. B used to play (and seeing him get all giddy about it to boot) . . .

We’ll definitely have to take Mini B there some day . . . and who knows–maybe she’ll be a hockey player like her daddy?

After our little detour, we took another brief one in St. Catharine’s and then another one in Burlington, Ontario.  We didn’t snap any pictures, but both were fantastic towns that I’m sure we’ll visit again.  We’ll be sure to take pictures when we go next time with Mini B.  But now, on to Toronto and our little adventure there . . .

First up: FOOD.  What else, right?  I mean, I was 33 weeks pregnant people!  And what better place to find food than the St. Lawrence Market . . .

Kangaroo meat anyone?

It was hard to decide what to eat with all those options, but we finally decided on some seafood at Buster’s Sea Cove (it didn’t hurt that the line for this place was about 50+ people long):

Yay salmon sandwich!

After we finished up at the market, we decided to just wander around the city and see what we could discover.  And what did we find?  Why, more food of course . . .

Yep, we discovered Marche, an amazing food market with basically everything you could ever want to eat . . .

And then look at what we stumbled upon across from Marche: a hockey store!  Oh happy day for Mr. Bunches!

Of course, unbeknownst to us, the store was actually the gift shop for the Hockey Hall of Fame.  What a happy accident, right?

We got to see a lot of cool hockey stuff, like an homage to Wayne Gretzky, aka Mr. Bunches’ hero:

A mock-up of a pro locker room (I forget which team it was):

Some interactive shooting games for Mr. Bunches to relive his glory days . . .

And there’s the team with a special place in Mr. B’s heart . . .

Some championship trophy blow-ups . . .

And a little trophy that some of you may have heard of . . .

Yep–the Stanley Cup!  Turns out it only spends about 30 days a year at the Hockey Hall of Fame, but our timing was just right–lucky us, eh?

Not too bad, eh?  We were pretty jazzed.  Anyways, to wrap this up, Mr. Bunches took me to a fantastic Mother’s Day Brunch at One Restaurant.  I wish we had taken pictures, but we were a bit too hungry (again, 33 weeks pregnant folks).

So there you have it: our last big adventure before the greatest adventure yet . . .

C’mon–you know I had to throw in at least one picture of our Mini B!

Hey Mickey!

Hey Mickey, you’re so fine, you’re so fine you blow my mind.  Hey Mickey!  . . . Hey Mickey!


Is it in your head now?  Nice.  Goal accomplished.  Okay, but on to a quick post that is somewhat of a little tribute to one Bachelor-in-Residence whom you may remember from here, here, and here.  (Wow, it’s amazing how much Mr. B and I see this kid, eh?) 

Well, MO has been promising me a Virginia t-shirt for approximately a year (but who’s counting, right?)–see, he works for some t-shirt people.  That’s all I’m gonna’ say.  So as it turns out, he’s hanging with Mr. B in Vegas at the moment, and look what he got me:

YAY!!  I’m so excited!!  And it even looks big enough to fit me and my growing bump . . . double score.

Oh, and it looks like MO not only came through for me, but also for all of Idiot Nation with the Syracuse “Comin’ in HOT!” t-shirts.  And just in case all of Vegas wasn’t clear on who this motley crew was, well, MO helped out with that too . . .

Job well done, MO.  Job.  Well.  Done.

And yes, Mr. B is currently in Vegas clearly working hard with the other members of Idiot Nation . . .

Um yeah–rough life for these kids, eh?

Okay, so there’s my shout-out thank you to MO for my t-shirt (I can’t wait for Mr. B to bring it home) and my little shout-out to Idiot Nation.  Have fun boys!!

Bonjour!

It’s finally here–my Paris recap post.  I apologize for the delay, but sorting through hundreds of pictures, readjusting to the time zone, growing a baby in my belly, and embarking on some recent house projects (more to come on those later this week) has left me little time to do the proper tribute to the City of Light.  So to do it right, and to maintain some level of order in my mommy-to-be brain, I’m going to break this post up into categories: Sights, Eats, School, and Exports.  Fair warning–it’s a long one.  Here goes.

Sights

First up, some sights.  Needless to say Paris has a TON of them, and my overly capable tour guide Dana (of previous BofJ Adirondacks fame) managed to show me most of them.

BTW–I kind of loved the fact that many of my pictures had the Eiffel Tower poking up in the background.  Sigh.

Dana managed to usher me through 15 of Paris’ 20 arrondissements (districts) in less than 72 hours.  Let’s just say that’s no small feat considering Paris covers an area of 41 square miles and we did much of our traveling on foot . . .

With so much to see in so little time, I was lucky to just catch my breath, let alone be able to snag pictures of it all.  But here’s some of the highlights:

The Louvre.  One word: MASSIVE.  Okay, some more words: way beyond anything I could have ever pictured in my mind.  It’s enormous!  And we didn’t even attempt to go in it (except to see the bottom of I.M. Pei’s masterpiece in the shopping mall underneath; sidenote: if you’re itching for a Starbucks, there’s one underneath the Louvre–those things are everywhere!).

It’s so large that there was no way I could even attempt to capture the whole of it in one picture.  So I’ll spare you my 20+ pictures of all the different pieces of it.

The Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel.  At the western end of the Louvre, this smaller Arc is perfectly aligned with the Carrousel and the larger Arc de Triomphe–can you see them?

We then ventured over to the Washington Monument and an empty fountain of mermen and merwomen hugging fish (er, at least, that’s the Mrs. Bunches version of what we saw, although I’m guessing the Paris guidebook would offer a different interpretation) . . .

Okay, so maybe that’s actually the Luxor Obelisk.  Moving right along . . .

Up next, the Ferris Wheel.  I don’t know what it is about them, but I love taking pictures of ferris wheels.  Riding in them?  Not so much.

We then ventured down a side street from the Avenue des Champs-Elysees and found ourselves outside of the Eglise de la Madeleine, one of Paris’ famous churches.  It was absolutely breathtaking . . .

They just don’t build ‘em like they used to, huh?

We then headed back up the Avenue des Champs-Elysees and got our fill of every store you’ve ever seen in an American mall.  No joke–the stores on this street were so Americanized it was crazy . . . I couldn’t believe the line outside of Abercrombie & Fitch.  Gross.

Although, there were some French gems on the street as well, like the Public Drug Store, which might have been the most deceptive shop name ever.  This store was anything BUT your local drug store:

Nope–it was a super chic store/restaurant/boutique/all things good from Paris.

I have to say that I feel much obliged to Dana for taking me on the long, touristy walk up the Champs Elysees, and I can feel quite comfortable saying that, should I find myself in Paris again, I think I’ll skip that street.  For me, it was kind of one and done.  But, we were well rewarded when we arrived at the top of the street to this site . . .

That’s right–the Arc de Triomphe!  It’s pretty dang impressive.  And well worth the walk.  Good job us.  Of course, that walk pretty much wiped out baby and me, so I pleaded with convinced Dana to take the metro home.  And I have to say I was blown away by the cleanliness of it–well done Paris.  Well done.

After our relaxing ride back, we crossed back over the Seine . . .

. . . and that was only half of one day.  Crazy, huh?  But besides some of the major sites, Dana also showed me some of the regular character of Paris . . .

A typical street (that woman better hurry up because there is no way that car will brake for her.  Absolutely. No. Chance.)

A typical Parisian man (they really do wear berets!):

Another famous historic site?  Nope–just a Paris hotel.  Ridiculous, right?

Complete with a public ice-skating rink out front and an adorable carrousel:

There was also some vandalism, although it was decidedly more tasteful than much of the vandalism I’ve seen in the US . . .

Another random monument (there was stuff like this around every corner–it was seriously crazy):

We also came across the Place des Vosges, the oldest planned square in Paris (again–thanks to Dana for her outstanding French translation skills):

The Place des Vosges is a true square–140 m by 140 m (this was also quite large and made capturing it via camera a bit difficult, so forgive the crappy pics):

There was a beautiful garden in the center (admittedly it’s likely much more beautiful in the spring/summer, but I could see the potential):

The square also housed the former residence of Victor Hugo.  Ten points to anyone who can identify Hugo . . . anyone?

That’s right–Hugo wrote Les Miserables and the Hunchback of Notre-Dame.  Consider yourself learned.

Continuing our meandering, here’s just a random little sculpture that someone decided was a good place to dispose of his water bottle.  Seriously?

I guess when there’s beautiful stuff around every corner, then you just start taking it for granted?  Who knows.

During our walkabouts, we also managed to come across a rare sight in Paris . . .

Yep–that’s a picture of someone in Paris running!  Actually working out!  I’m not sure what’s going on in Paris, but everyone’s thin and no one works out.  Seriously–we walked around 15 districts and we only came across one gym the entire time.  One!  For that reason alone I think I might need to move there–staying thin by osmosis?  Yes please.

Well, not only did we catch a glimpse of the rare Parisian runner, but we also got to walk through the Jardin du Luxembourg, Paris’ second largest public park.

I was really tired at this point and didn’t feel like backing up the two steps necessary to get a picture of the entire sign.  Blame the baby if you must.

I kind of loved that the park had public table tennis.  How rad is that?!

Dana pretty much fits into Paris perfectly, don’t you think?

So there you have it–the sights of Paris.  I have to say, everything was just spectacularly amazing–especially all the little streets with shops, restaurants, and apartments up above.  I mean, c’mon–could it really be any quainter?

Eats

As my resident partner-in-food-crime from Boston, Dana knew that one of my top priorities for my first visit to Paris was to sample the best of Parisian cuisine.  And let’s just say, Dana fulfilled that expectation ten-fold.  The food was so good, in fact, that I often found myself devouring the meal before I had a chance to properly snap a picture.  So this section, unfortunately, will be somewhat abbreviated.

My first meal in Paris was at the “best” falafel place in town–L’as du Fallafel.

We split a falafel pita and a chicken pita.  Oh, and since we were in France, a plate of frites (duh).  The food was amazing, and we were so hungry that there was no time for pictures (plus, the place was closing in 30 minutes, so we were mad-dashing it).  Two thumbs WAY UP.  So far, Dana was 1 for 1.

Our dinner that night was at L’Aoc, a quaint bistro serving only the top quality agricultural products of the area (does Dana know me or what?).  We ordered a foie gras terrine for an appetizer, which I didn’t manage to snag a picture of (it doesn’t look that appetizing anyways), but I did snap a pic of how sweetly they wrapped up the leftovers . . .

Oh, and that burlap sack–that was how our bread came to the table.  I loved that!  Up next, our main course of roasted pork loin and potatoes.  They kindly agreed to split the entree for us since neither one of us was all that hungry after filling up on foie gras and bread.

Even though we left L’Aoc completely stuffed, our walk home led us directly past this gentleman . . .

. . . and that GIANT jar of Nutella in the window.  Are you kidding me?!  There was no way we were skipping this.

Ahhh . . . my first Nutella crepe in Paris.  Can’t you just read the joy on my face?

Our next day of adventure led us first to a croissant from Gerard Mulot (we were hoping for fresh-from-the-oven ones since it was 7 AM, but somehow that didn’t happen :( ).  Oh well, I still thought it tasted great.  We then went to a half day of class (more on that in my next section), and grabbed ourselves a Parisian lunch of fresh cheese, butter, and bread.

You could smell the cheese shop from 1/4 mile away–I’m not joking.  It was crazy.  Crazy good, that is.  And the butter!!

Don’t even get me started.  I literally could’ve eaten it with a spoon.  With a nice baguette, we made ourselves quite the good lunch . . .

French bread really is better in France.  Sigh.

Up next?  Dinner at La Fontaine de Mars–ya’ know, where Barack Obama took Michelle back in 2009.  ‘Cuz that’s how we roll.  Of course, while the restaurant was always popular, since the Obamas’ visit, it’s become even more so.  Which would explain our 9:30 PM reservation.  Well, that, and everyone in Paris dines late, so we were just trying to fit in with the locals ;).  The food was fantastic–I had the special–a white fish over a bed of leeks with some sort of butter sauce:

Dana got one of their famous cassoulets, and we got an order of the best-ever potatoes gratin for the table.  Seriously, I could live on nothing but that gratin for the rest of my life . . .

We also partook of some desserts, but those were devoured way too swiftly for the camera.  Sorry.

La Fontaine de Mars is also very near to the Eiffel Tower, so I did manage to see it all lit up.  However, it was raining pretty hard, so I also don’t have any pictures of it.  Wah-wah.  Next time maybe?

Okay, with only one day of eating seeing Paris left, Dana pulled out all the stops . . . this time she took me to Angelina (and no, I don’t mean the Brad variety):

Angelina’s famous Salon de The has the most sinfully delicious hot chocolate ever created.  In the world.  I’m serious.  And it comes with a mini pot of whipped cream on the side.  Seriously?!  I could’ve stayed there all day . . .

But it was a good thing we got there early since the line forms quickly for a seat in the restaurant.  We only had to wait ~20 minutes, which was totally worth it once that little carafe of steaming chocolatey goodness landed on our table.  Oh, and they also have some pretty outstanding desserts, which we of course had to sample.  I completely forget what this was called, but it’s one of their signature items so if you go there, you won’t be able to miss it . . .

Okay, so then it was on to our last dinner together in Paris, and this one was by my request.  See, Dana has her own blog where she’s chronicling her life abroad, with the dual purpose of making us all regret certain choices in our own life and secretly yearning to follow in her footsteps.  Oops–did I say that aloud?  Moving on . . .

So a few weeks before I visited Dana, she wrote a post about her dinner at Relais de l’Entrecote where there is no menu (except for desserts and wine) because the only thing you get there is a salad starter with the most amazing Dijon mustard dressing, and then two (yes–TWO) servings of steak with french fries.  Which look like this (keep in mind you get TWO plates of this):

And that sauce on the steak?  Oh, let’s just call it a little bit of heaven.  But don’t even bother asking what’s in it because they won’t tell you.  Needless to say, that did not stop me from eating both of my servings.  Yes sir, I was most definitely a member of the clean plate club that night.  So much so that we had to skip dessert.  Er, well, at least at Relais de l’Entrecote; of course, we did manage to get another Nutella crepe on our walk home.

Oh, and apparently the popularity of this Parisian staple (with four restaurants in Paris alone) has made its way to Manhattan: Le Relais de Venise.  I seriously doubt it’s as good as the Parisian original, but it’s a heck of a lot cheaper than flying to Paris for some steak frites.

Okay, so that rounds out what I ate in Paris.  Is it sad that this section was longer than the sight-seeing section of this post?  I guess now you know where my true passions lie.

School

Most of you are probably wondering what school has to do with my trip to Paris.  Well, the reason Dana is living abroad is because she’s attending the original Le Cordon Bleu, the famed culinary school.  And that means that I got to go to class with her one day; and for any of you that know me, you know that combining food with school is basically my dream come true (yeah, I’m pretty much a nerd, so I get kind of geeked up about taking tests and going to classes).  And Le Cordon Bleu certainly did not disappoint.

Now, I’d like to say that I have a ton of pictures to share with you, but since taking pictures in the classroom is against the rules, I basically don’t.  The only thing you’re allowed to take pictures of are the prepared dishes.  So during this class, the chef prepared three items:

  1. An appetizer of Huitres Chaudes au Muscadet (Warm Oysters with Muscadet Wine)
  2. An entree of Canette Rotie Aux Navets (Roast Duckling with Turnips)
  3. A dessert of Souffle Chaud au Couintreau (Warm Orange and Cointreau Souffle)

Sounds fantastic, right?  Well, it was (they make a LOT so that everyone in the class gets to taste a sample of each).
I loved everything but the souffle (it had candied orange bits in it which, in my opinion, definitely could’ve been left out).  But regardless, watching the chef prepare everything, all the while in French (don’t worry–there was an English interpreter) was amazing.  I learned more about cooking in three hours than I have in the past few years.  Made me kind of wish I could take 8 months off to go to culinary school . . . something tells me that’s not going to happen, huh?
Exports
So now that we’ve come to the end of my uber-long Paris post, I’ll attempt to be brief.  Since this will likely be my last trip abroad for quite some time, and possibly my only trip to Paris for the foreseeable future, I figured I should get some mementos.  But shopping isn’t really my thing (obviously eating is), so I consulted the Internet and found a great article by food blogger David Lebovitz about the 10 things you should bring back from Paris.  And I got at least a few of them . . .
Dijon Mustard: apparently the French invented mustard as a strong condiment to mask the taste of rotten food back in the day.  So I figured I’d better bring some back and see what this overly zealous Grey Poupon was all about . . .
While there are about a million brands of mustard, I went with a supermarket staple: Amora.  Haven’t tried it yet, but I’ll keep you posted.
Next on the list–salt.  Apparently it comes from all different regions, and the Beluga Caviar of salt is the fleur de sel de Geurande:
I went with the supermarket brand, which only cost me about $4.  Much better than the $15 price tag on the same salt at the duty free shop at the airport, eh?
And since I was in Paris, I had to get something for Mr. Bunches.  But first, a little back story.  Mr. Bunches has some close friends with ties to Belgium; when he last visited them (they live in Philly), he tasted what he described as pure nectar of the Gods (okay, so maybe I’m paraphrasing).  Well, these friends were nice enough to send us a jar (which reminds me–I still haven’t gotten a thank you note in the mail!  AARGH–I’m so sorry.  I’m going to blame it on 1st trimester morning sickness, but I promise to get one out soon):
What is it, you ask?  Well, just take a look at the ingredients . . .
It’s basically pureed cinnamon biscuits.  I mean, c’mon!  Who’s the genius that came up with that?  I (and Mr. B) would like to shake her hand.  So, since we’ve never seen Speculoos in the US, I figured I’d better get us a back-up jar.  I couldn’t find the same organic one, but the grocery store did have lots of options (note–the grocery stores have tons of different types of nut spreads, e.g. nutella, and things like Speculoos, but they only carried one peanut butter and it was almost $8 for a teensy jar of it . . . makes you wonder what the incidence of peanut allergies is over there, huh?  But I digress . . . ).  I opted for this one:
Happy gift from Paris Mr. Bunches!
Okay, and since it was pretty painful to not be able to partake of any of the fine French wine during my visit, well, that just meant I had to bring some back.
Yep, I brought back two bottles.  I’m sure they will taste amazing in 4 months.
Yep–a. maz. ing.  4 months.  sigh.
Okay, and since I raved about the bread, I figured I should bring back a baguette from Gerard Mulot.  Just to share the bread love with Mr. B.
And last, but certainly not least, a little sweet treat: Macarons from Laduree.  Can we say beautiful?  They almost look too good too eat . . .
Now, the Parisians love their Macarons–you can see them in just about every other shop window.  I especially loved the display here–like little pieces of art:
And I wish I could say that I had pictures of the six I brought home, but they didn’t actually last too long in our house.  They were just so yummy!  My favorites were the vanilla and the colombian chocolate.  Mr. B was a pretty big fan too.  So unfortunately, I just have the darling little box left . . .
Alright kids, so there you have it.  67 pictures and 3174 words to sum up my 3-day trip to Paris.  Au revoir!

Driving Ms. Bunches

Fully embracing life in Western NY, Mr. Bunches and I attended our first Auto Show together this past weekend.  Can you believe it?  I only say that not because cars aren’t cool and all, but because Mr. B and I may be the only people we know who aren’t concerned with what we drive (those of you who know us can attest to this from Mr. B’s Club Escape and my former cruising machine . . . )

Although, with our 10+ year old cars dying slow deaths, we have managed to upgrade (you may remember our Cleveland adventure to get the Subbie from here).

And we’ll probably soon be in the market for yet another car, so what better way to check out a bunch of options than at an Auto Show, right?  So off we went . . .

And clearly someone did not bring his best attitude, huh?  No worries–that frown was short-lived.

We got to check out the Chevy Volt, and apparently that was the only time I brought out my camera . . . oops.

It was a pretty tiny car.  Mr. B barely fit in the backseat, which means I wouldn’t stand a chance getting in there :).

Of course, it’s entirely possible that last picture was of a different car than the Volt.  Obviously I didn’t do a good job of taking broad shots so that we could determine which cars were which.  And my memory is nothing but shoddy these days.  Oh well.

I’d like to say I know what car this was in, but I have no idea . . .

Possibly the new Prius V?  We did like that car a lot–it’s on our short list at the moment.

Either way, we had a good time hopping in lots of fun cars.  Oh, and I didn’t get a picture of this one because the room was all dark with crazy mood lighting, but we did like this car a lot too:

It was shockingly roomy inside.

Of course, my favorite part of the show was the free photo booth provided by Ford.  I’ve always loved photo booths and the idea of collecting photo strips, but all the booths around now seem to add all these tacky effects so you don’t just get the classic b&w strip of images.  And while the Ford booth definitely had a promo edge to it, it at least wasn’t super cheesy.

And who knew that my nose was entirely made of rubber?

The Polar Plunge

Recognize any of those kings?  Are you done with all my references to royalty lately?  Okay–sorry, but with this picture I just couldn’t resist bringing it back to last week.  So can you guess what we did this past weekend?  THE POLAR PLUNGE!  That’s right–we jumped into freezing cold water for no reason at all.  Can you pick out which one of the above is Mr. Bunches?  Mr. Rockstar?  Mr. Holoholo?

No?  Well, that’s because we didn’t actually do it.  Kind of like how we didn’t actually get a goat.  Sorry.  But, there was a lot of talk about doing it.  See, the Polar Plunge takes place each year in Skaneateles, NY (pronounced skinny-atlas).  It’s a great fundraiser and is one of the more exciting parts of Skaneateles’ Winter Fest.  Last year they had to saw through 8 inches of ice just to make a hole for people to jump into.  Not this year, though.  Nope–no ice on the lake at all.  So I’m guessing this year’s event was a little less dramatic.  I’m only guessing because Mr. B and I didn’t make it into town quite in time to see it.  But no worries–we got to see lots of other stuff.  Er, well, mostly ice sculptures . . .

Oh, and donuts.  Mmmm . . . donuts.

Okay, so the donuts aren’t actually a part of the Winter Fest, but rather they’re just a regularly scheduled part of Skaneateles.  The Skaneateles Bakery to be exact.

Essentially, this is one of my dreams–Mr. Bunches and I move to a quaint little tourist town and open a fresh, local bakery.  With homemade donuts.  Lots and lots of donuts . . .

Oh, and wouldn’t you know it that the owners are two twenty-somethings that just moved to NY from Boston?  I mean, c’mon!  I know we’re not in our twenties anymore, but could they really be any more similar to us?!   Not like I know them or anything, but in my mind they’re just like us, which means, by the transitive property, that Mr. B and I could definitely open a successful bakery.  And yes, I said transitive property–take that fellow math geeks!

Okay, moving on.  Besides eating donuts (clearly I have a one-track mind at the moment), we actually did some poking around the town . . . we ended up in a local antiques store where we found all manner of assorted old things.  Like some gorgeous white stoneware that I almost purchased . . .

You know I love me some white stuff.  But there were also gobs of cool storage crates . . .

Some super old milk containers . . .

A giant stoneware piece labeled “large coffee mug” although I’m pretty sure it’s an old bed pan (but don’t tell Mr. B) . . .

And of course your token barrel of incredibly old golf clubs.  Seriously–who buys these things?  Can you actually still play with them?

But despite all the goodies in the antiques store, we left empty-handed.  I guess watching all those episodes of Hoarders has really curbed my appetite for “stuff”, eh?  And apparently made me a bit Canadian.

Okay, so after poking around, it was time to meet up with some friends–the actual reason we made the trek to Skaneateles in the first place.  Don’t get me wrong–we love a good excuse to go to the Finger Lakes, but the best excuse of all is when you’re going to spend quality time with the Rockstars, Holoholos, and the newest couple to the blog . . . Clark and Ellen.  They all were staying at the adorable Sherwood Inn . . .

I mean really–could it possibly ooze any more charm?  Well, the answer is yes.  Just go inside and be greeted by a roaring fireplace and this gingerbread house and you’ll know what I mean.

Methinks someone had a little too much time on their hands, no?

We didn’t book our trip in time to stay at the Sherwood, but we did manage to snag ourselves a room at the only-slightly-less-quaint Skaneateles Boutique Hotel.

It was actually quite lovely.

But getting back to the matter at hand.  Drinking and dining with our friends.  And what better place for both then at the Mirbeau Inn and Spa?  FYI–be forewarned about clicking on that link as there’s some pretty get-in-the-mood music playing in the background.  Bow-chickie-bow-wow.  Mr. Rockstar, of course, picked out the Mirbeau as our destination; why?  Well, because of the sample-your-way-silly wine bar:

Yes sir–it’s one of those wine bars where you hand over your credit card in exchange for a faux credit card (I’m guessing so that it makes you feel like you’re spending Monopoly money instead of the real thing) and then get to sample a whole assortment of wines by the glass, half glass, or 1 oz. taste.  Best. Idea. Ever.

And just ‘cuz I’m curious–am I the only one that didn’t know that Dave Matthews now owns his own winery?  Dreaming Tree Wines.  Please tell me I’m not the only one living in a cave.  Anyways–they obviously had some of DM’s wine on hand.  Yum.

And what better way to enjoy wine then with some cheese.  Lots and lots of cheese . . .

Mr. Rockstar couldn’t even wait long enough for me to snap a pic.  I’m not sure I’ve ever met anyone who loves their wine and cheese more ;).

But the fun didn’t stop there.  Nope–we enjoyed an amazing dinner.  And dessert.  It was so good, in fact, that I couldn’t even pause to take any pictures of it.  So you’ll just have to trust me.  Well, that, and this proof:

That was a PB&J dessert–a peanut butter mousse ball dipped in chocolate with a grape sauce and homemade marshmallows.  Clearly, it was disgusting.  But not as disgusting as Mrs. Holoholo’s dessert . . .

Yep, her combo banana bread carrot cake was really gross.  Ick.

Clearly, we were all unhappy with our meals . . . can’t you just tell by the looks on our faces?

Oh and yes, I was there too.   To prove it, I hopped in for the “crazy” picture.  And apparently I’m oh-so-creative in that the only thing I could think of for crazy was rabbit ears.  Seriously?  Am I ten years old?

We really did have a great time though on our little weekend getaway.  So thanks again to these fine couples for thinking to invite us along . . .

Maybe next year we’ll actually partake in the Polar Plunge?  Who’s with us?

Dome Time

First up–sorry for the lack of posts.  I’d like to say it’s because we’ve been busy around the Bunches’ household, but that would be sort of dishonest.  The more accurate truth is that I’ve been a little lazy lately.  Oops.  But we’re getting back on track, and first up I have to share our most recent trip.  Where to?  Guess.

Anyone?  Okay, I’ll give you another hint . . .

Got it figured out yet?  No?  Okay, last hint, but if you don’t get it this time, then you need to try stepping out of your cave once in a while.

That’s right folks!  Mr. B and I headed to Syracuse University last weekend.  Why you ask?  To see this guy of course!

Yep, Mr. B’s cousin was playing in the Carrier Dome.  Against Syracuse.  The #5 ranked team in the nation.  Basically, it was one of the biggest moments in his life.  And, of course, that meant that we had to be there to share in it.  In a word: AWESOME.

You see, Ryan was a walk-on at Fordham University.  He tried out his freshman year, made the team, and has been enjoying every second of it since.  And now, as a senior, he was co-captain of the team, and playing in the Carrier Dome–arguably one of the most impressive college basketball stages of all time.  Dream.  Come.  True.

With the stands filling up fast . . .

. . . we watched Ryan and his teammates warm up.

I’m not sure that Uncle C could have been any prouder . . .

We even managed to snag him away for some photo ops.

Of course, the Rams weren’t the only ones out there warming up.  Nope, Uncle C managed to grab this guy for a quick chat . . .

Who’s that you ask?  Look familiar?

Yeah, it’s only Scoop Jardine.  One of the best college players in the nation.  No big deal.

The starters for each team were announced, and Ryan stood jumped to greet each of them . . .

Some final fans straggled in . . .

And the game was underway!

The Rams even led at one point . . .

Unfortunately, that was short-lived as Syracuse held the lead for the remainder of the game.  But Ryan still made an impact . . .

Yep–coach put him in for some quality time with the team’s starters.

He played really well, especially against Syracuse’s starters and in front of such a crowd.

Oh, and in case you’re wondering who scored the final two points of the game . . . well, yeah, that was Ryan!!!

Nothing but net!

So even despite the final score, this game was a win.

What a moment.  What a memory.  And we’re so glad that we were among the large family contingent that was there to be a part of it.

Congratulations Ryan!!!  We love you!

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