Little Monsters at the Zoo

ghouls

I am falling more in love Nashville everyday. We have been super busy with all the fall festivities in and around Nashville. Everyone told us that having Luna would slow us down, but the truth is, she keeps us motivated to do more. Thanks to Nashville Parent and the various flyers hanging up at Starbucks, I am constantly finding new family-friendly stuff to do in middle Tennessee. Last weekend kicked off the Ghouls at Grassmere annual event at the Nashville Zoo, and we decided it was a perfect time to take Luna on her very first zoo trip.

zoo

The Ghouls at Grassmere event is geared towards kids and is a really unique Halloween experience! The kids get to dress-up, trick-or-treat on the trails, see the zoo at night and participate in many other activities. They have a haunted hayride, a spooky house tour, a “scary-go-round”, carnival games, a dance party and more. Luna was a little young for most of the activities, but that little detail did not keep us from enjoying ourselves, or from trick-or-treating.

trick or treat!
trick or treat!

I have never been to the zoo at night, but OMG, it is SO much better! It’s not too hot, you can’t get sunburned, it’s waaayyy less crowded and kind of cool to see what the place looks like a night… also, a little creepy. It’s a really cool atmosphere for a Halloween event. There were lots of lights, light designs, Halloween decorations and really good music. It was full of activities, yet very relaxed. We took our time walking around, ate dinner and just enjoyed ourselves.

Foam party for kids!
Foam party for kids!
They had tons of popular characters for kids to take photos with
They had tons of popular characters for kids to take photos with
a scary spinny tunnel!
a scary spinny tunnel!

The best part had to be watching all the kids run around in their costumes! If you know me at all, you know I love dressing up and celebrating for just about any reason. It was sooo much fun to see how the creative costumes at the zoo.

Mary Poppins AND Napoleon Dynamite...love this family
Mary Poppins AND Napoleon Dynamite…love this family
yup...definitely doing this for Luna one day
yup…definitely doing this for Luna one day

Our favorite activities for us and Luna were definitely the “scary-go-round” and the “Monster Mash”. The “scary-go-round” was the carousel with creepy music and lights that blinked on and off. Come to think of it…I guess that was Luna’s first ride! The “Moster Mash” was a huge dance party. We all danced together and taught Luna how to shake that little tush.

scary go round dance party

The only downside to being at the zoo at night is that the animals aren’t out. We got to see flamingos and camels, but that’s all. I was hoping for Luna to see more animals, but we will just have to back. (As a matter of fact, we went back today! But, that’s another blog…)

flamingos

Anyways, only 5 more days until Halloween! How is everyone celebrating this week??? Oh, and if you are planning a trip to the Nashville Zoo soon, you’ve gotta check out their calendar of events here. They’ve got some really cool activities coming up!

I was so excited to find this perfect picture spot!
I was so excited to find this perfect picture spot!

Cheers!

Nashville’s Very Own Food and Wine Festival

The past weeks has been a rough “Mom” week, not rough in the sense that anyone was sick or hurt in anyways, more like rough in the sense that I haven’t slept more than 3 straight hours, washed my hair in 4 days, ate a decent meal, my phone broke and so on… (More on the desperate need for a breather later) Today (Today = Sunday…I’ve tried writing this review for 3 days now and have fallen asleep at the keyboard every time), I got to drink alcohol, and it was the first time I’ve gotten to drink in a very VERY long time. Allow me to introduce you to the Music City Food and Wine Festival.

oodandwine

During a 6-mile walk with Luna and my good friend, Bella, today (i.e. Sunday) I got notified of an invite to review the 2nd day of the 2nd annual wine and food festival. My first thought was “Hell yeah! Mommy needs a glass of wine!”, but we were in the middle of a walking trail and currently lost, so fast forward a couple of hours, an outfit change and a baby feeding lady, and Husband and I are running through downtown with a stroller and getting “hangrier” by the second. At the box office, we were told “You know you have to be 21 and up to get in right?” To this, I literally shouted “Yes!” as I fist pumped toward the sky. Literally. It’s been a long time since I’ve been ID’d. The young woman then looked at Luna and explained that EVERYONE has to be 21 and up.

Woops.

We very quickly decided to take turns watching Luna and enjoying the festival. I took the first drinking/eating shift and let him sit with the sleeping baby. It worked out fine, but rushing from booth to booth, scarfing bites and downing booze while worrying if Luna was freaking out (did I mention she broke my phone?) wasn’t exactly the relaxing evening of wine tasting that I envisioned. Eh, c’est la vie.

grand taste

 

hot chicken

The actual festival was pretty cool. It is a festival full of demo’s and panels from many famous chefs (Hello, Michael Symon and Trisha Yearwood). Then there’s food from over 25 of Nashville’s top restaurants and drinks from over 40 wine, beer and spirits exhibitors. I’d love to tell you I tried it all, loved it and partied the evening away, but that would be a big fat lie. I tried the veggies/fish stuff (which was REALLY delicious) and 5 drinks. I’m pretty certain I was drunk after the first. It’s been so long since I’ve been able to drink. Husband tried literally everything. He was a lot fuller and uhhh…sillier, than I was. We both agree that it was a cool experience, but would have been much cooler together.

michael food

 

My favorite bites of the day were the roasted beet tartare with pickled apples, french toast with pears and crab mac and cheese. The number one drink was the definitely the pineapple moonshine with cayenne pepper and some other stuff that I can no longer remember. The festival was a beautiful combination of southern food and fancy flair. There was braised pork, pickled onion and hot sauce, cornbread with pickled cherries and Hungarian honey and sunburst trout with orange fennel. It was Memphis meets Manhattan, and Jack Daniels meets Pinot Noir. It was lovely.

beets braised pork mac and cheese trout

There were lots of cool reasons to go to this festival. Lots of delicious and unique food, dozens of alcoholic beverages, various famous chefs and lessons on how to cook, prepare and serve these amazing dishes. You could spend all day eating, drinking, and hanging out in the park while simultaneously hobnobbing with Tennessee’s top culinary talent. Oh and Uber offered free rides to anyone who needed a safe and sober ride home, very cool.

ice coffee

Yes, it was pretty cool, BUT not exactly worth the $15o/day tickets. Even Husband, who ate and drank everything, doesn’t think he digested $150 worth. If you LOVE food, wine tasting, and the art of cooking, like really LOVE these things and spend ALL day soaking in the festival than you will get your money’s worth. If it’s not your dream day than you make walk away feeling cheated. Either way, you’ll walk away tipsy.

plate

Cheers!

“Hello Brooklyn B-B-Baby”

Even after a 45 minute train-ride home on Saturday night, we still managed to get up and make the trip back to Brooklyn again on Sunday. And while were on the subject, I’d like to point out that the absolute best thing about using the train as my primary form of transportation, is the free time it gives me. I used to consider these long rides as time wasted, but now I see it’s value.

If I was driving in my own car, I would only be able to listen to the radio (and maybe put on some eyeliner), but the train gives me “hands-free time”…well not hands free, i guess…more like “hands…utilized time”? I can read, freshen my make-up, fix my hair, play on my phone, and still listen to my music. The PROBLEM with these free time options is that 90% of the time I forget my Nook, book, headphones, make-up, brush, and I never put anything on my phone except solitaire. This weekend I managed to play 32 games of solitaire…BUT I did beat my record 3 times, so I guess it wasn’t a total loss.

Anyway, we started our day in Brooklyn at Atlantic Antic, supposedly New York’s biggest street fair. It’s “a mile of food, music, and fun;”…and basically the same as every other New York street fair. If you are like me and LOVE fried food, lemonade, corn-on-the-cob, and lots of cheap homemade crap for sale, then these fairs are right up your alley.

Instantly, we lost Husband and his friend, which, of course led to lots of jazz hands (our signal for being lost/finding each other).

Once together again, we walked through the streets, but as we walked, booths were literally being picked up in front of us. We had to basically run down the street to reach anything before they pulled down their curtains, or folded their tables, and said “sorry, we’re closing.” Upon seeing our disappointed faces, one vendor informed us that the whole festival had to close early due to the Jay-Z concert.

The Barclay Center, a multi-purpose arena, just opened in Brooklyn, which is like, BIG news for this borough. Not only will it bring more tourists, money, and  jobs (hopefully), it’s bringing the New Jersey Nets to Brooklyn. Jay-Z, a Brooklyn native, is a partial (like a miniscule amount) owner of the Nets and has apparently been dreaming of moving his team to his hometown forever.

Jay-Z has been such a strong supporter of the Barclays Center that he is giving eight (yes eight!) concerts in a row to christen the grand opening! Every single show is already sold out; that’s one heck of an opening. I don’t know how we missed or ignored all the advertisements for his shows, but I’m sure they are/were amazing.

We stood and gawked at the center for a while, hoping to somehow run into Beyonce and baby Blue Ivy before we went to dinner at The Rose Water.

At our dinner, we were so famished that we just ate and ate and ate and drank and drank, never once thinking to snap a picture (I know no one is tired of seeing my dinner pics yet, right?). Just trust me that it was beautiful and delicious.

Brooklyn, you were a fun weekend fling, but to be honest, I’m not looking for anything serious. It’s not you…it’s me. So, maybe we can just be friends? I’ll give you a call some time.

Cheers!

Brooklyn Dumbos

While making plans for the weekend we decided to spend one day at the Dumbo Art Festival that we keep seeing advertised, and one day in Brooklyn hanging out with a friend who lives in Brooklyn Heights. Little did we know that “Dumbo” is the name of a neighborhood in Brooklyn, and before we knew it we found ourselves spending the whole weekend in in the Borough we typically avoid.

We don’t have any beef with Brooklyn. In fact, it’s actually a creative and trendy neighborhood with lots of good shopping, eating, and hipster sight-seeing to do, but it’s SOOO far away, and we are SOOO spoiled to our own Manhattan neighborhood. Spending two days in Brooklyn is equivalent to spending two consecutive days at Universal Studios when you work at Disney…it just doesn’t happen.

We have only ventured into Brooklyn a handful of times so all the different neighborhoods are still puzzling and different for us. People mention names like Bushwick and Park Slope and my mind goes blank before into thoughts of Sephora and shoe shopping. Thank God for Google Maps which give us the gift of getting around easily at the touch of a button. We managed to get to Dumbo in less than half an hour, and immediately discovered Dumbo is basically in Brooklyn Heights.

The Dumbo Arts Festival presents over 500 local artists, has tons of free galleries, lots of fun projects for kids, AND is set right on the water between the Manhattan and Brooklyn Bridges. Our first stop was Dabney Lee, the cutest little stationary and trinket store, and stocked up on their free wine and snacks offer!

what a sweet card

Once we felt slightly tipsy and less hungry we left to explore the art world. We explored lots of local artists’ little galleries (where more free booze was given out), and then watched a performance piece that involved a bonfire in the middle of the street –I think, I did have a couple glasses of wine at this point.

 

a “foot bag” competition
Art in an old train car

The best part came when we discovered the park by the water. Brooklyn Bridge Park is gorgeous with some beautiful views! Plus, the park was spotted with more art and entertainment. There were Cirque type girls gracefully moving up and down column type thingy’s; there were pirate-ship bicycles, playgrounds, more art displays, and a rock-covered shore to sit and take in the views.

Lucky kids, getting to play in front of such scenic backdrop

We decided to stay in Brooklyn for dinner, which was three orders of fries at Five Guys. Saturday in Brooklyn was great, so great that we agreed to go back on Sunday. Tune in tomorrow for another dose of a day in Brooklyn!

Cheers!

Big and Little Italy

While living in Albania, Husband and I were fortunate enough to visit Italy twice! We went to Rome and Venice twice; and Florence, Pompeii, and Naples once. I LOVE so many things about Italian culture: the language, the food, the espresso, the style, the history, the architecture, the young guys in tight pants and leather jackets, and the pretty girls in stilettos and designer duds. I could do without the high prices and the excessive smoking, but every destination has its shortcomings.

One of our most favorite restaurants in the whole entire world is a tiny teahouse hidden on a little side street in the middle of the waterways of Venice. An adorable sweet elderly couple runs the place and serves fresh homemade dishes all day with a wide assortment of teas. They have their regular customers that occupy 4 out of the 5 tables, and have managed to make the most cozy and loving environment.

My first time at the tea house.
Second time I took my Mom and cousin. Look at all that food!

 

One of my favorite locations out of all our traveling is the Spanish Steps. I had gelato when I first visited the Spanish Steps because I wanted to sit on the steps, eat gelato, and people watch just like Audrey Hepburn in Roman Holiday. The steps are so beautiful and always full of Italians and tourists. I had such a good time that I even bought one of the touristy watercolor paintings from a artist at the top of the steps to commemorate the memory.

View from the bottom

One of our most favorite experiences on a vacation is taking cooking classes with Chef Fabio. Fabio took us all through the Jewish Ghetto of Rome at the crack of dawn to purchase fresh ingredients. Then, he took us to his gorgeous home to learn how to make homemade pasta and ravioli in his actual kitchen! His wife wasn’t home so he told us to make ourselves comfortable and check out every room of the house, even his bedroom, which had a beautiful view of the Spanish Steps!

Checking out his beautiful view
Look at me, all grown up, and learning to make ravioli!

Now, you have to know that after having all of these great memories, plus many more, that I often miss living so close to Italy. So, when I learned that Little Italy, right here in Manhattan, was having their annual Feast of San Gennaro (New York’s oldest and biggest religious street festival) I made immediate plans to check it out.

Little Italy is like a tiny sample bite of Italian culture. There are tiny crowded streets with authentic Italian food, old men drinking espresso and smoking, and lots of restaurant owners standing outside their doors beckoning every pedestrian to take a seat and try their fresh pasta. That’s about as deep as the culture goes.

The Feast of San Gennaro lined every inch of every street in Little Italy. Some of the booths had fresh brick-oven pizza, Italian wines, gelato, or even fresh pasta. These booths were fun (and delicious), but half of the them had tacky carnival games, cheap souvenirs, and lots and lots of fried everything (also delicious).

I think this police officer was posing for me.

Potato Swirls!!!

Very, very, very good fried pickles…mmmmmm
We ended our tour with a healthy batch of fresh fried Oreo’s.

Getting bits and pieces of numerous cultures and traditions is another reason why I love living in the city! Is anyone else attending a cultural festival soon? I know my hometown is celebrating their annual Pecan Festival! I would love to fly home for some greasy food and fresh lemonade…not sure I can find boudain balls or pecan pies at any street fairs in NYC! There’s always next year…

Cheers and Cin Cin!