30 Blessed Years

Last weekend we celebrated my (Sarah) parents’ 30th wedding anniversary!

Yvette and Rick...30 years together and counting!

My sisters Lauren and Katherine and Ben and I rented a baller party bus through James Limousine (a fantastic local limo company that we highly recommend!- and no we weren’t perked to say that!) and planned a whirlwind wine tour through central Virginia!

About to board the Anniversary Party Bus!

Mom and Dad on the Anni Party Bus!

Many friends and family members joined us to celebrate Mom and Dad’s 30th: Vickie and Wes- neighbors of 23 years and counting; Ben’s parents Cindy and Philip, Mark and Myrna- friends from church, Mom’s sisters/family-Gina, Rodney, Shannon and Sharon!Once we got on the road we pulled out the game that the four of us (Lauren, Katherine, Ben and I) devised to test everyone’s trivia knowledge of Mom and Dad. That’s me playing moderator and Mark trying hard to beat his wife, Myrna who did end up winning the whole game.

These are the contestants trying to win: Myrna (the ultimate winner) on the left with curly hair, Vickie in purple telling everyone the answer, Cindy making up a story in lieu of the correct answer, Ben…sitting?, and Mom probably embarrassed by all the attention.

Philip next to Mom cheesing it up, Wes correcting Vickie’s answer so everyone gets it right, Dad telling Wes the correct details to announce.

For the record, this photo was taken before the first vineyard stop- Wes is just that fun! In case you can’t tell, that’s a ‘grill’ he’s fashioned out of a gum rapper wrapper.

After an excellent bus ride we made it to Cooper Vineyard in Louisa, VA. This up-and-coming vineyard boasts a swank new eco-friendly building and some excellent white wines. Philip (Ben’s dad) is a huge fan of whites and thoroughly enjoyed all the dessert wines.

Cindy, Philip, Lauren, Katherine (often confused as my twin) and Ben tasting at Cooper

Myrna, Mom, Mark, Dad, Vickie and Wes tasting at Cooper

After tasting all of Cooper’s vinos we hit the bus again this time bound for Keswick Vineyards. Mom’s sisters and family met us here (they live in Orange, VA-very close to Keswick) which made our party 16 strong!

Gina, Rodney, Shannon, and Sharon brought us all a delicious picnic lunch! It was so relaxing to sit outside on a beautiful fall day, sipping wine, eating lunch, and enjoying great company. Such a blessing!

Because we were so big, Keswick let us sit and picnic on the grounds and a Keswick sommelier treated us to a private tasting right at our picnic table!

Keswick’s wines were fantastic- the reds were particularly delicious and they had this heavenly wine-infused chocolate sauce that they let us try…enough said.

out-of-focus pic of the heavenly chocolate sauce...

Rebecca, our sommelier, making the rounds:

Ben, me and Lauren waiting to taste

Lauren, Gina, Shannon and Katherine waiting to taste

Gina, Shannon and Katherine

Keswick's tasting collection...yum

Picnic and tasting on a beautiful October afternoon!

Tasting like they know!

The whole Anni Party: Myrna, Mark, Sharon, Ben, Me, Lauren, Gina, Katherine, Cindy, Philip, Mom, Dad, Rodney, Vickie, Wes

Once we finished lunch, we hit the bus one more time to head to our last stop: Barboursville vineyard!

Single-double-fisting? (For the record only one of those was hers!)

We were running short on time, so we didn’t end up tasting at Barboursville (but we have before and they have some excellent wines!) Instead, we made our way to the ruins and did a little sight-seeing before heading back to the RIC:

And that concludes our trip! Happy Anniversary to the best role models anyone could ask for! (But maybe I am biased ?)  🙂

French Quarter: Joie de Vivre

I (Sarah) set out yesterday morning (Wednesday 9/14/2011) to explore the French Quarter in the light.

I’ll start off by saying that the French Quarter has a fantastic ‘feel’ to it! There’s a tangible energy in this area that’s a blend of old-world charm, Southern hospitality, laissez-faire attitude, creativity, and just a touch of rough Bacchanalia.

The design of the area is spectacular. All sorts of architectural styles and details tumble along beside each other running up and down all the streets and blocks to create this web of so many influences. Some of the architecture is very similar to what we saw in Paris and even Provence. Other buildings showcase Italian influences and there is even an example of West Indies architecture! (More on that in a later post.)  It’s almost like the streets of the French Quarter make up some sort of design gumbo that gives New Orleans it’s own personality! (Did you catch the wordsmithing in that analogy? I made reference to Louisiana’s tasty culinary staple. Corny?)

The landscape design and city planning is also really inspiring.The details of the landscaping are tight and trimmed much like French and Italian gardens are, but the plant choices are so different! It is so neat to see such a distinct style achieved by a completely different palette of plants!

The sun, humid heat, and vegetation gives NOLA (upon arriving I learned that many of the locals- or at least the marketing geniuses in the area-refer to New Orleans as NOLA) a bit of a Florida/Savannah flair, but the smell of the air is definitely different. No salty sea smell, but something deep south and waterfront.

Another distinctly N’Awlins (I’m just going to play around with all the names I’ve heard this place called!) characteristic is the music that sort of floats around the air near Jackson Square! It’s a lively, bouncy, jazzy sort of collection that totally lifts your spirits and makes you want to smile at everyone. As I was walking down the street soaking in everything I possibly could, I couldn’t help thinking that I felt like I was walking around in a movie scene! The songs (that came from everywhere and nowhere in particular) were like a soundtrack for my sightseeing and for the activities of everyone around me! And it was the middle of the morning on a Wednesday- so spunky!

Speaking of everyone around me, the locals (and even the tourists) are willing to talk to anyone (perhaps the peppy music promotes easy conversations!?) There were several groups of people sitting around the Square talking and playing music and most people seemed to be thoroughly enjoying themselves.

*Note to the ladies: there are plenty of ‘gents that readily (and loudly) offer their opinions of your physique, but if you don’t oblige them and  look like you know what you’re doing, they won’t pursue!

The colors of the French Quarter vary significantly from pale neutrals to rich, dark city-like colors, to saturated Spanish hues, and even bright teal (more on that particular color later- I was totally inspired by the doors below!) Somehow, it all worked together to make this beautiful old-feel cityscape!

The food was incredible! We’ll share a post devoted entirely to food because, in case you don’t know us, food is our passion and we think it is ever so important to pay tribute to a place’s cuisine.

It seems that the city loves to enjoy good music, good food, and a good time. The city seems proud of the history, heritage, and culture that can be found along its streets. It feels like New Orleanians have a passion for life, however tough it might be. And that’s our impression (that we only had a few short hours to form) of the Joie de Vivre in New Orleans’ French Quarter!

Does anyone else have an impression of New Orleans’ personality? How does it differ from ours? What did we leave out? We’d love to hear your opinions!