Nashville.

It's hard to believe that the trip we have been anticipating for months has already come and gone! Cody and I went sans LJ and I have to say, as much as I adore her and missed her while we were gone, I am glad we chose to leave her with my parents (much more fun for them too!). There's no way that Cody and I would have gotten to experience Nashville the way we did had we brought her along. (She is currently in the "can't-sit-still" phase. Imagine the plane ride.) And we pretty much experienced Nashville via our taste buds.

I was really hoping for some abundant fall color, but unfortunately we arrived a little late for the best of it. There was still some color here and there, and I soaked it up as much as I could!

We had some amazing BBQ, phenomenal espresso, the best cocktails we've ever tasted, made a stop at White Castle (a childhood favorite of mine!), and checked out some of the places that were recommended to us by helpful locals and friends who live there. Without further ado, here are some of the highlights:

Crema

Nashville Crema sign

We literally couldn't get enough of this place. We went three times. I wanted to pack the whole thing in my suitcase and take it with me back to Arizona. I learned much about the craft of espresso when I started working at Liberty Market and am thankful that I know a good shot of espresso when I taste/see/smell it. And Crema was IT! Loved the atmosphere too. I do believe this would get the Joe stamp of approval.

Nashville espresso

Nashville latte

Nashville downtown

Nashville Crema
Yeah. It was love.

Marche

Nashville Marche

I was too busy enjoying my savory tart with parsnips, gouda and caramelized onions and tasting Cody's cinnamon croissant french toast to bother with pictures. But this was by far our favorite food experience on our trip.

Patterson House

Nashville Patterson House

Before we went to Nashville, I had no idea what a speakeasy was. But everywhere we went, people kept talking about "that speakeasy the Patterson House." In fact, while at dinner when we mentioned to our server that we were headed over there, she got this dreamy look on her face and said to us breathily, "It's wonderful…" She was momentarily transported out of her current reality as our server before snapping out of it and taking our payment. Little did we know… we'd be doing the same thing after our experience there.

There is a waiting list… a heavy velvet curtain dividing the waiting area from the bar… and once you're inside, you're handed a menu full of drinks made the old way- think an experience that transports you back to Prohibition times. We sat at the bar and enjoyed two drinks each made by our bartender Matt- who was awesome enough to buy our first round in honor of our anniversary. We heart him forever. I didn't have my camera with me (I was KICKING myself) but we went back and snapped this photo. Hands down, most memorable part of our trip- we LOVED it.

Fall Leaves

Nashville sidewalk leaves

Nashville red leaves

Nashville red leaf

Nashville house

Nashville life and death

Of course, being from AZ, we were super stoked to see some actual fall color. And experience some cool fall weather (it stays well into the 100s through October here). Much to my chagrin, it was warmer in Nashville when we arrived than it was in AZ! COME ON! Thankfully, that changed quickly, but sadly for us, we missed the bulk of the color.

Honky Tonkin' 

We also headed down to Broadway to do a little bar hopping and BBQ eatin'. Jack's was SO GOOD. Again, didn't bring the camera (and it's a good thing- the honky tonks were PACKED!) but I took a shot of the area:

Nashville Broadway

Before we hopped on our plane home, we met up with Courtney of Pizzazzerie and being the sweetie that she is, she treated us to lunch at Nuvo! It was so fun meeting her in person and getting to know her a little more. She's a doll and I can't wait to see her again when the TomKat girls and I venture to NYC in January!

Nashville Courtney 2

Nashville Courtney

And finally, here are some pictures of us from the trip.

Nashville Cedars of Lebanon

Nashville East

Nashville piggy back

Nashville Gallery

Nashville AEA fall leaves

Nashville couch

So… the verdict? We loved Nashville. Maybe even enough that we could live there… someday. But not now. Phoenix is home and as much as there was that we loved about Nashville, I actually left with a new appreciation for all we do have at our disposal here in Arizona. All in all, we had an amazing trip and loved the time we had for just the two of us. Nashville- we will be back!

Happy 3rd anniversary to the love of my life!

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Where do we go next year? It will be, after all, 11.11.11!

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Help us decide- to bring baby or not to bring baby?

Cody and I are headed to Nashville for our anniversary and have run into quite the dilemma as to whether we should bring LJ or not. The thought of not bringing her along bums both of us out big time because we want her with us and can't imagine being away from her that long.

On the flip side, the thought of bringing her along STRESSES US OUT.

We have a sitter-in-waiting if we decide not to take her along, so that isn't the issue. And it certainly isn't an issue of wanting her there- of course we do. What we get stressed out about is the plane ride there (the child can NOT sit still- and screams at the top of her lungs if she's forced to!), the naps she requires, the fact that we probably won't be able to get out to experience Music City the way it was meant to be experienced (like go to shows), cloth diapering, whether we'll get quality time together (since it is for our anniversary) or if we'll spend the whole time chasing our constanty-on-the-go little girl around. And I really feel like we need some time to focus on each other instead of always dealing with life's daily demands (not just LJ- I would never complain about that- but everything as a whole). I feel like life hasn't made much room for our marriage to grow in recent months with all of the commitments and changes we have faced- all good ones, but the days are definitely speeding by more quickly than ever before!

But we love our daughter to pieces and want her with us when we travel. It really makes me sad to think of being away from her that long, about taking pictures in this fun new place and her not being in them. She's fascinated by everything around her and when I imagine the look on her little face when we show her a leaf turned red by fall, or snuggle with her to keep her warm, I can't imagine her not being there! So if we're gonna bring her, we need to be prepared to have her with us, and it needs to happen fast.

So we don't know what to do. We're both completely torn. I know lots of moms out there have little ones that they have traveled with (or maybe didn't) and have opinions and advice for us since we're getting down to the wire. So what advice or experiences can you share to help us decide?

LJ Vintage Rose Wraps

Arizona is home… for now.

Cody and I have been thinking of where we would like to live if we ever left Arizona. Then I take pictures like this and wonder if I could ever leave this kind of beauty.

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There is no sky like an Arizona sky. You can see for MILES.

We're planning a trip to Nashville for our anniversary this year (and keeping our fingers crossed that it actually works out) because we are super intrigued by living there… even though we've never been there before. So call us crazy that it's at the top of our list of places to live- vastly different than this scenery, that much I know.

I think that no matter where I live, Arizona will always be home. I love this place more than words can say. But Cody and I both agree that if we didn't take a chance and move our family somewhere else at some point, we may regret it someday. It would be a huge change and super difficult to leave our family and friends, but it's time for some adventure in our lives!

Maybe we'll just pack our loved ones in our bags and take them along.

Just sayin'.

Our trip to Oak Flat.

Last week, Arizona had one of the BIGGEST winter storms in recent history- it was nuts. The single day rainfall record was nearly double the previous record, and higher elevations had such intense snowfall that interstates and most roads up north were shut down for days. For goodness' sake- it was so out of control that we actually had TORNADO WARNINGS in metro Phoenix! Say what?! So what do Arizonans do once the insanity passes? We head straight for the areas where the action is!

Our route of choice was an impromptu drive to a place called Oak Flat between Superior and Globe, an area where I used to go climbing, bouldering and camping (three pastimes I would like to take up again… someday). On our way there, we not only got a closer look at the snow-capped peaks surrounding the Valley, there were also waterfalls all along side the US-60, and the sky was breathtaking! Here's a few pictures- it was super cold, so we left Linnea in her car seat the whole time. Didn't stop me from snapping a picture or two of her 🙂

One of many waterfalls at Oak Flat- this was up by the mine:

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The snow-capped hills surrounding the area- the light was beautifully contrasted:

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A few pictures of the three of us:

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The old mine road through Oak Flat:

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Here are a couple of pictures of the waterfalls that formed on the side of the highway. We snapped these as we were driving by:

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Some gorgeous desert scenery:

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The sky was amazing!

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Next road trip adventure with our little one: Sedona and Flagstaff sometime before the hubster has to head back to work on February 3.

Recipe on-the-fly.

Last night after returning from a fantastic weekend in Sedona with some of our dearest friends, I began flipping through one of our cookbooks and came across a recipe for bow tie pasta with red pepper sauce and peas that looked pretty tasty. But because we simply didn't feel like getting back into the car to go get the necessary ingredients after a long trip home, I decided to see if I could improvise with what we had on hand. What I came up with was actually quite tasty! There's nothing better than making a great meal with little notice using what's already sitting in the pantry.

I started by chopping five cloves of garlic into eighths (I didn't finely chop them because they are too easy to burn for a novice like me) and sautéing them in olive oil for a few minutes. I then added a can of diced stewed tomatoes that were lightly seasoned with herbs, some julienne cut sun-dried tomatoes, Italian seasoning, basil, coarse sea salt, and fresh-ground pepper, and let it simmer on low for an hour or so before I began preparing the rest of the meal.

The rest of the meal consisted of whole wheat fusilli pasta and cooked frozen peas. I thought we had regular frozen peas and was worried that the sweet peas with butter sauce wouldn't work with the recipe, but I decided to chance it and it was delicious! The butter sauce was light enough that we couldn't taste it- only the sweetness of the peas came through. 

Cody made chicken breasts marinated with garlic and herb sauce, and we sliced that up and put it on top. I preferred mine without a lot of chicken but it added a good bit of protein to the meal, something that my pregnant body needs much of these days. 

Tonight, I'm going to make salmon cakes with French cut green beans, yet more ingredients we already have on hand to make a great meal. 

On a slightly unrelated note, I went to the grocery store to stock up for the weekend with my budget-friendly-and-delicious-too-cooking-sensation friend Jessica. This girl is a champ at coming up with delicious meals on a budget, and that's exactly the goal we had in mind for our weekend jaunt up north with our group of six. We purchased the ingredients for five meals for six people, including snacks, for less than $100! It came out to a little more than $30 per couple for three days' worth of food. The only meal we didn't make ourselves was lunch on Saturday because we were in Flagstaff. I take no credit for any of it- she came up with the meal plan and made the shopping list- but it was great to shop with her because I learned a lot about saving on food for a family. 

We had a fantastic time. The house where we stayed, which belonged to our friend Alex's parents, was one of the most beautiful places I've ever been to, but most of all Cody and I enjoyed bonding with these two amazing couples with no agenda except to rest and relax. Our pups, THOR! and Hanalei, were clearly in heaven, what with encountering a tiny human for the first time (which was a great run-through for us!) as well as access to floor-to-ceiling windows where they could watch every conceivable desert creature scurry by. Cody and I didn't take any pictures, but being the professional photographers they are, Jason and Jessica documented our time there, complete with a mini photo shoot in Flagstaff, so stay tuned. 

We can't wait for the next trip. But for now, it's dinner time!