Friday, July 31, 2015

A Summer Wedding in Chicago

They say there's nothing better than Chicago in the summer.  And I must admit, it is pretty nice!

We kicked off our weekend there at Meli's for brunch with Tarra and Evan.  They were so gracious to agree to host us for the wedding weekend...and we had SUCH a blast with them! That afternoon, we just relaxed and rested up for the wedding fun!  We had our first experience with Uber arriving at the venue in plenty of time for the beautiful ceremony with an aisle full of a gorgeous array of flowers. 

We had tons of fun laughing and dancing and catching up with everyone.  Dinner was delicious and we barely left the dance floor once it opened up!  The highlight of the night was having all the "Old Girlfriends" guys dancing together.  It was chorus line number...and quite possibly the most awesome thing I ever witnessed!!

It's hard to believe there is only one of us left as a single lady!  We sure made quick work of this past year!  Looking forward to the last old girlfriend getting hitched just after Chris and I celebrate our one year anniversary!  October will be here in a flash!  So excited!

We slept in on Sunday before venturing out for an afternoon at Taste of River North.  While I was surprised they charged admission ($5) to the event, it was well run and lots of fun.  They sell tickets that equate to dollar amounts so you spend those instead of money to buy all the yummy food and drinks.  Chris had a prime rib slider and we shared some cheese curds - so good!  And I had mint chocolate chip ice cream to balance out the heat as we listened to the music and took in the scene.

And then we were off to the airport!  We're down to only three weddings left for 2015!

Andrea :)

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Mini of the Month: July

Lemon flavored everything has become super popular in the last year or so.  And Baked by Melissa finally jumped on the bandwagon.

The Lemon Cupcaron totally hit the spot on a hot July day!  The cake and icing are lemon, but the twist is in the topping - a yellow macaroon.  I absolutely loved it!  They had sampled the cupcaron in a few other flavors earlier this year, but I think lemon was the best of them all.  It probably helps that I am a big fan of macaroons, but even without the topping I think I would have enjoyed this one!

Do you like macaroons?

Andrea :)

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Our Honeymoon: Layover in Amsterdam

Our flight back to New York from Venice had a layover in Amsterdam.  We had about 8 hours from landing of one flight to take-off of the next.  Not super long, but long enough for one last honeymoon adventure.

After locking up our baggage in the airport lockers, we took public transportation into the heart of Amsterdam.  We were on a mission to visit the Anne Frank House so we didn't waste much time along the way.  We managed to see a few neat sites as we walked to the museum though.

We arrived at the Anne Frank House to discover an incredibly long line.  We took turns standing in line and exploring the nearby area.  We ended up being in line longer than we were actually inside the museum, but it was totally worth it!

It is difficult to describe the feeling of being inside the area where Anne and her family spent years hiding.  It is quite moving.  The rooms are decorated simply with quotes and passages from her diary.  One of the most unique museums I have ever visited.  So devastating yet also so empowering and inspiring.  What a truly remarkable life!

After our time in the museum, we had to high tail it back to the airport.  We made time for a quick treat at Melly's Cookie Bar though!  We didn't spend nearly enough time in the lovely city of Amsterdam, but our glimpse was enough to intrigue us to come back someday for sure.

Andrea :)

Monday, July 27, 2015

#collaboreads: A Name in the Title

Some twins communicate in a secret language all their own. For Whiskey and Charlie Ferns, the two-way alphabet (alpha, bravo, charlie, delta) whispered back and forth over their crackly walkie-talkies is the best they can do. But as the brothers grow up, they grow apart. Whiskey is everything Charlie is not - bold, daring, carefree - and Charlie blames his brother for always stealing the limelight, always striving ahead while seeming to push Charlie back. By the time the twins reach adulthood, they are barely even speaking to each other.

When Charlie hears that Whiskey has been in a terrible accident and has slipped into a coma, he is shocked...although perhaps not devastated. But as days and weeks slip by and the chances of Whiskey recovering grow ever more slim, Charlie is forced to look back on their lives and examine whether or not Whiskey's actions were truly as unforgivable as Charlie believed.

What part of the book could you NOT get enough of?

I was completely taken in by this debut novel.  Two parts - the "issue" between Charlie and Whiskey and Charlie's dismay with marriage - both proved fascinating and really drew me in.  The novel was written mostly in flashback style which I enjoyed because each chapter seemed to give you more and more clues as to why the twins had drifted apart.  It kept me on my toes...always guessing what else might happen to further drive the wedge between these two.  At the same time, there is a whole second storyline revolving around Charlie and Juliet, his stunning live-in girlfriend of 5+ years.  Charlie seems to have a beyond absurd phobia of marriage...even after playboy Whiskey settles down.  I never did quite fully grasp his trepidation, but it kept me reading chapter after chapter.

How did you relate to/care for the characters?
What's your thought on the plot line and twists and turns?

There were twists and turns in both the current situation and the stories of the past as they unfolded.  Specifically, I was shocked when Whiskey came back from trip to Peru married to Rosa.  I mean, who does that?  At first I thought it was so unlike Whiskey, but then I realized it was exactly like his character to do something so random and life changing all at once.  It caused me to really look deeper at Whiskey's character.  Throughout the novel, you really only see him through Charlie's skewed vision, but when you stop to take a look at him on his own...he's really interesting. 

I also really like the part of the book where they contemplate turning off life support when Whiskey has been in a coma with no signs of life for months.  Obviously, this is no decision to be taken lightly.  The novel presents very well thought out arguments for all sides.  Each of the various points made complete sense so it really made me think about what I would do in that situation and how much of that type of situation can be selfishly motivated.  There was a similar (much more brief) look at the issue of infertility.  Both very relevant and deep concepts that really helped bring the characters to life.

What other books are like this one?
If none, did it remind you of a particular TV or movie with it's themes and characters?
Does it serendipitous-ly line-up with things going on in your life or the news right now? 

Promise of Stardust by Priscille Sibley is similar in many ways.  It also deals with a character in a coma while loved ones debate what to do next.  Generally, the sibling rivalry issues remind me of SO many characters on TV and in real life.  Sibling relationships can be quite complicated and tricky for many people.  This book does a great job of presenting a number of sibling rivalry issues and allowing you to think through them in your own way as you continue to learn more about both Charlie and Whiskey.

Part of why I enjoyed this book so much is that I always wanted to be a twin.  Always.  Even though the book pointed out many of the not so great things about it, I still wish I had the experience.  My brother and I were close and dressed alike often as youngsters so sometimes people thought we were twins.  And I had a best friend growing up that had a birthday the day after mine so we often referred to ourselves as twins.  But neither of those situations exactly fit the script of completely sharing your whole life with another person from the beginning.  Going through the good and the bad of life with an identical partner-in-crime.  It seems so exciting to me! :) 

You know you judged this book by the cover. What did you think of it? 
How did it relate to the contents of the novel? And the font and layout of the pages? 

The cover for this book is perfect.  I love how it shows one brother (Charlie) as slightly shorter and giving the other brother (Whiskey) an absolute look of admiration.   They look exactly as they are described in their early years.  

In terms of layout, the chapter titles were by far the most unique way I have ever seen chapters labeled.  It was fantastic how the author used the walkie-talkie code as chapter titles.  It was exciting to discover how the story in each chapter was going to relate to that particular code word.  Some of them were pretty creative.  In between every few chapters, there was an update on the current status of life in italics.  Perfect layout for the novel! 

How many out of five do you give this book?
Would you recommend this book to a friend?

I give this book 4 out of 5 stars.  I really enjoyed it!  The characters are unique and fun to get to know.  The story is captivating and leaves you thinking about what you would do in a variety of situations.  I would certainly recommend reading this novel!

Andrea :)

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Saturday States: Louisiana


State Nickname: The Pelican State

Year of Family Trip: 1995 and 2004

City Visited: New Orleans

Can't Miss Tourist Attractions:
Mardi Gras World, Cafe du Monde, Jackson Square, Bourbon Street

We spent the week of my 21st birthday (how can that have been 11 years ago already?!?) in New Orleans, Louisiana.  We did a little bit of everything on this trip from a swamp tour to Mardi Gras World to Cafe du Monde to Bourbon Street.  I absolutely fell in love it!  Our family trip was my first time experiencing the Big Easy, but I've been back at least a half dozen times since then.  Without a doubt, New Orleans ranks in my top five favorite US cities!

A Special City

In fact, the city is special to all three of the Heflin kids.  For me, I turned 21 there and had my first hurricane to celebrate in 2004.  For Jordan, he proposed to Jen there when we took a college spring break trip with a couple of our buddies in the spring of 2005.  For McKinley, it's home to his beloved Saints and he watched Super Bowl XLVII there with Chris in 2013.  NOLA is the best!

Cajun Wild

When we visited Texas in 1995, we managed to swing through Louisiana for a brief visit on our way home from Houston.  As soon as we crossed the border, McKinley went totally nuts.  He became what our family deemed as Cajun Wild.  It's difficult to describe the level of his unruly behavior.  McKinley went so bonkers that we STILL talk about it over 20 years later.  Maybe his wild ways were part of the reason we got pulled over by the police for running a red light.  From the passenger seat, Mamaw confidently attempted to convince the policeman that the light was most definitely yellow when we went through it.  Our van was in a complete state of mania at this point.  McKinley bouncing off the walls...literally, Mamaw continuing to explain the situation from her viewpoint over and over, and pretty much everyone else either panicked or telling someone else to be quiet.  That's probably why the officer let us go with a warning in the end.  I think he was just wanted to escape our little bubble of insanity!

Eduardo - International Man of Mystery

We always loved playing in the pool when we stayed in a hotel.  Being in New Orleans in the middle of the summer was certainly no exception.  Enter Eduardo.  We met him and his daughter while getting in a few quality rounds of Marco Polo at the pool.  As it turns out, he was some type of fancy government official visiting from Mexico.  When we parted ways at the pool, we said our goodbyes and didn't think much of him again.  Then, one night we were venturing along Bourbon Street taking in all the wild behavior and attempting to collect beads in the most modest way possible when Dad receives an insistent tap on his shoulder.  It was Eduardo!  Took us a minute to recognize him sans swimming trucks, but sure enough our friend found us!

I got Baby Jesus!!

On my birthday, we spent part of the day riding along the river in a paddle wheeler and the other part of it soaking in all that Mardi Gras World had to offer.  We were able to try on costumes, see tons of floats used in the parade, and learn lots about the history of Mardi Gras.  Toward the end of the tour small pieces of King Cake were served to each guest.  The guide explained that in each King Cake, a small Baby Jesus figurine is hidden.  The person that receives the piece with Baby Jesus inside gets to host the next party.  Imagine my surprise when I lifted the fork to my mouth and found out I was the lucky winner.  I got Baby Jesus!!  I was convinced my family arranged for me to get that piece, but the guide said they did no such thing. I couldn't believe it!!

Alligator Food

One of the most interesting experiences we had during our trip was the swamp tour.  The guide was Cajun through and through.  His accent was thick.  And that's saying something since we're used to country slang.  We managed to understand enough of his story to realize he was the resident alligator wrangler.  And he told us a little secret - alligators like to eat marshmallows.  I'm not entirely sure how he discovered this fact, but judging from his one wooden leg I'm not so sure I want to find out!

Have you ever been to Louisiana? 
Do you love New Orleans as much as I do?

Andrea :)

Friday, July 24, 2015

Flashback Friday: BIRTHDAY style!

Since the beginning, birthdays have been my thing!  Honestly, who doesn't love cake and a day all about YOU?!?  For me, nothing is more fun that a good birthday celebration!  Heck, I even enjoy celebrating other people's birthdays *almost* as much as my own.  But today, let's focus on ME!!

No matter how old or young, a birthday is always cause for a massive celebration of life in my book!  Here's to hoping for yummy cake and fabulous fun ALL day long!!

Andrea :)

Thursday, July 23, 2015

#MarriedMaitlands - NINE months!

We packed A LOT of fun into this past month!  We kicked things off with some pizza on our rooftop as we hosted my brother and his family at our apartment for a few days.  We roamed all over the city with our little niece and nephew before they left to go back to Kentucky.  The fun continued as we had date night after movie night after date night after movie night.  Oh, and we took a few trips in between all those dates and movies! And then we capped off our month of excitement by attending Reba and Peter's wedding in Chicago!  Needless to say, we had a great month! 

Date Nights

Comedy Cellar
(Double Date with Kate and Sven)

New York Derby at Yankee Stadium
(Red Bulls won the inter-city rivalry game this time!)

(Queens and Brooklyn in one weekend!)


Colin Quinn: The New York Story
(We saw it in previews so a few kinks still needed to be worked out.)
My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Chris' Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

A Deadly Adoption
(Lifetime spoof movie...obviously, I don't recommend it!)
My Rating: 1 out of 5 stars
Chris' Rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars

Hustle and Flow
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Chris' Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

 7 Days in Hell
(Mockumentary on HBO...a little out there, but funny)
My Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Chris' Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Horrible Bosses 2
My Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Chris' Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

 Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom
My Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Chris' Rating: 3 out of 5 stars


-We spent a couple days in Myrtle Beach.  The highlights were tasty food and fun mini-golf!

-We spent another few days in Charleston with my parents.  We toured a handful of sites, spent some time at Mother Emanuel AME Church, and ate lots of delicious food.

-We had a blast at the #sakoncox wedding in Chicago on our 9 month anniversary!

Notable Events

-Hosted our first overnight guests when the Heflin's came to NYC!

-Celebrated Mary turning the BIG 30 in Hoboken!

-Dinner with our out-of-town pal, Rachel.

Andrea :)

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

#MarriedMaitlands: After Party!

Since nearly all our guests were staying at the hotel we selected, our reception just shifted over to the hotel bar where the after party began!

I was completely exhausted from the full day of wedding fun, but it was great to have a chance to chat with friends without being interrupted for photos or to be asked a question.  And I only had one request - I wanted some Papa John's pizza!!

And I got it!  Neither of us had eaten much all day so we totally devoured the pizza! Chris played Monopoly Deal with some friends and I rounded up my cousin Tricia who had indirectly introduced the game to Chris so they could all meet her.  After he first played it with my family, Chris brought it back to the WAM office in Albany and life has never the same!

Eventually, we made our way back to the room and crashed!  We managed to spend most of the next morning in the lobby saying our goodbyes to family and friends!  It worked out really well for us to just kinda hang out there because we saw nearly everyone as they left.

That night, Chris' parents set up a nice dinner for us at Morton's.  It gave us some time to visit a bit with his family from England that had come over to help us celebrate.  It was great to have a chance to catch up with them without all the wedding craziness in the mix.  The food was amazing, too!

And just like that we went from bride and groom to newlyweds!  Our first big adventure as husband and wife involved packing up the rental car with all our gifts and wedding stuff for the long drive back to our apartment in New York!  Let the fun begin...

Andrea :)