Saturday, April 30, 2016

My Birthday Staycation: Part 1

I enjoyed celebrating my 32nd birthday throughout my ten-day staycation. Off from work starting Sunday, April 10th and going through Tuesday, April 19th, I accomplished a lot of what I planned to do. I wanted to share some of the highlights with you from the first five days in this post. Since this is really long, I plan to publish how I celebrated my birthday during the second half of my vacation in Part 2.

On Tuesday morning, I savored a pain au chocolat along with my usual espresso. I highly recommend these delicious chocolate croissants from Williams-Sonoma.

That evening, my friend Elizabeth and I decided to try two new recipes from my Recipes To Try Pinterest board. First, we hopped on over to the grocery store for ingredients and then made two quick pasta dishes. The first was Penne Pasta with Sun-dried Tomato Cream Sauce, which turned out well and was a big hit. I can add this recipe to my repertoire. I was probably inspired to pin this because it's similar to one of my favorite dishes from one of the best restaurants in my hometown. It's nice that I can now make it at home! I can also easily add chicken breasts like they do. Nowadays, you can even warm and top it with pre-cooked sliced chicken. Our dish sans chicken was still decadent and delicious.

Our second pasta dish was Mozzarella and Tomato Pesto Pasta SaladYes, it was too much pasta for one evening, but I did wish to expand my signature recipes. We tweaked this recipe as we served it hot instead of cold and used Barilla pesto instead of making it from scratch, which I already know how to do. I adore Classico jarred tomato sauce, but with this recipe, I learned that I prefer the Barilla pesto over their's. This dish turned out too, but it wasn't a hit. Elizabeth didn't like it and I forced myself to eat the mozzarella since I've been trying to acquire a taste for it for awhile. When it's fresh, I can't get over the texture. I love mozzarella on pizza and in lasagna though! It's very Italian, so I hope to like it one day. Anyway, I love the flavor combination of earthy pesto, sweet tomato, and creamy cheese. Perfect. For people who are not as picky eaters as I am, I would serve it in the future, both hot as a meal anytime and cold as a side dish during summer. Both recipes can now be found on my Recipes Tried board.

Dinner was served with bread and olive oil.

The wine was a big hit too, which is a bit of a surprise since we both prefer red, only trying white and rosé a bit. I had bought this Sancerre from my favorite wine shop in Annapolis awhile ago and was saving it for dinner with Elizabeth. We both liked this French kind of sauvignon blanc wine from our wine tasting at O Chateau in Paris. It was crisp with a note of citrus. I thought it was a refreshing pairing for the cream sauce. My preference is something dry like this. I officially declare Sancerre my favorite white and will definitely try to keep a bottle at home. I wonder if my local liquor store sells it...

At the grocery store, Elizabeth and I picked up half of a decadent chocolate cake and a carton of chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream that was on sale, which was good too. This is our dessert...

I indulged in a professional mani-pedi on Wednesday morning. At my nearby salon, I selected one of my signature shades Red Hot Rio by OPI for both my fingernails and toenails. It was nice to be pampered! 

Coming back from the salon, I picked up some fresh flowers from the grocery store to arrange at home. I selected red roses and white daisies. I bought the red roses closed, but here is what they look like bloomed...

I cut down the six stems significantly for a small arrangement in the white polka-dotted Kiki Vase that I purchased from Crate & Barrel awhile ago. I set the vase on top of a short stack of three coffee table books having to do with Italy in the middle of my coffee table. (I had ordered a tray from West Elm the day before. I will reveal how I now have my coffee table styled in a home tour blog post.) 

I slipped the bunch of daisies into a tall clear glass vase and centered the arrangement on a small black accent table in my living room.

That evening, I went over my parents' place for my birthday dinner with my family. I had requested balsamic chicken, garlic mashed potatoes, sauteed spinach, and Pepperidge Farm french dinner rolls on the menu. My brother's fiancée J had prepared the first two dishes, including grilling the meat. I actually sauteed the spinach in some olive oil really quick. My mom rounded out the feast with roasted carrots and stuffing. Everything was delicious! My parents, maternal grandparents, sister and brother's fiancée J attended and we had a good time. Unfortunately, my brother had to work at his new job. My brother and J gave me a bottle of good balsamic vinegar, so I will definitely have to perfect a balsamic chicken recipe. I also want to perfect making mashed potatoes as well as try garlic mashed potatoes for the first time.

My grandfather, father and I all contributed wine and red sangria. My dad thoughtfully bought me Gabbiano Chianti Classico, which is one of my favorites (and more expensive than regular Chianti so I don't usually buy it). I provided Moscato for J. My mom also made iced tea. 

My mom ordered a giant chocolate chip cookie for my birthday cake. It was beautifully decorated with frosting roses. It was delicious.

My parents also gave me flowers that night and I arranged them in a short clear glass cut vase on Thursday. I had these on an end table between the sofa and the front door. I love fresh flowers in my home. My living room was incredibly fragrant for a few days!

After a bit of blogging, Elizabeth and I attended a wine tasting at my favorite wine shop, Bin 201, Thursday evening. This event featured eight wines from Germany and Austria. It was different from the few tastings I have been to before. Instead of staying in one place, you could walk around the shop. Six of the wines were white and all but one of those Riesling. Favoring red over white, this tasting certainly broadened my horizons. I found that I like whites that are described as dry and refreshing. That are also smooth rather than possessing something like a "persistent minerality." I actually liked some of them! Although, my favorite was the last selection, a red called Moric Blaufränkisch 2012 from Burgenland, Austria. This wine was fruity but also earthy. I preferred it to the other red which was spicy. This is me holding my favorite in one of the aisles...

Even though there was a discount on a bottle of this specific wine, it was still more expensive than the bottle I left with. I felt like I purchased the Italian equivalent of that tasting favorite. I love the economical and earthy Masciarelli Montepulciano d'Abruzzo. I pair this with grilled steak in the summertime or chili during autumn. I plan to save it for later. Montepulciano d'Abruzzo comes from the region where I studied abroad. I look forward to returning to this wine shop for both their tastings and stock. Elizabeth really enjoyed the tasting, so we will keep it in the mix of things to do.

I want to take this opportunity to thank everyone again for the birthday wishes. This blogging community truly means something to me. Grazie

Stay tuned for Part 2!

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