montana – day 4

hello, kelseyv.com blog followers!  phillip back here as a guest blogger with my dear wife, fellow companion, and my “amazingly uncommon” gal.  i am here to wrap things up from our big sky, montana trip and discuss the events and festivities we did during our last day on the slopes.  or, should i say off the slopes?  😊

kelsey and i decided, by nature of our bodies being sore and to save a penny or two on lift tickets, to take things a slope and a step back and enjoy our final day resting and relaxing (R&R’ing) around the resort.  we started off by sleeping in the cabin and ate the remaining breakfast that was prepared by some of our new friends that we met through kelsey’s work colleague, ben atkinson.  we ate scrambled eggs, toasted bagels with peanut butter, and one of our most important breakfast staples: bacon!  since the group still had loads of groceries in the cabin, they decided to exhaust the remaining breakfast items, including the massive box of bacon, so there was a lot to go around even after they left the cabin to go hit the slopes and snowmobiles for the day.  of course, being the meat aficionado i am, i was thoroughly impressed and excited to bring home the bacon by consuming roughly 8 slices!  i would probably guess that about half of those slices were consumed behind kelsey’s back, but hey, a man’s got to eat protein to keep energy and momentum for the relaxing day we were about to face together.

shortly after we ate our lovely breakfast, we sat down at the dining room table with our new friend, Ash.  Ash was studying on her laptop and catching up on personal emails while kelsey and i were reviewing our gopro footage we took during days 2 and 3.  everyone else either went to hit the slopes or took their day on a snowmobile excursion at yellowstone national park.

for kelsey and me, we decided to hit up one of big sky’s restaurants, the cabin bar & grill, and try out one of their popular entrée items, the elk/bison burger.  it was recommended from Jeanie, one of the employees from big sky’s ski and rental shop.  kelsey ordered her burger with blue cheese, and i ordered mine with swiss, and we both had fries, of course!  we must say that the burger was not as good as we expected it to be.  i think i enjoyed it more than kelsey; i thought it tasted like a pretty standard burger, but kelsey’s reaction was that the burger seemed to taste bland and dry.  we did, however, enjoy the beautiful scenery on the restaurant’s 2nd floor since it looked out at big sky’s iconic heated 8-seater chairlift, the ramcharger 8.

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after lunchtime, we went back to the cabin and relaxed for the remainder of the day.  everyone who went skiing came back around dinner time, so we all decided to go down to another big sky restaurant, M.R. Hummers.  those who went to yellowstone came back much later around 9pm or so.  kelsey and i went to Hummers to meet with Mohit, a friend and old coworker of kelsey’s.  he happened to be skiing at big sky for the week, and kelsey and mohit found out that same day that they were within walking distance from some of the most beautiful and biggest skiing that i’ve ever seen.  kelsey and i split a Hummers cheese waffle fries that were loaded with bacon, queso bravo, and scallions.  they were incredibly good, and i think that kelsey enjoyed them, too.

after catching up with mohit and team (yes, i say “and team” a lot since i work in HR), we walked back to the cabin with our crew and played werewolf again all throughout the night (puns intended here; werewolves could be howling during the night).  some folks had to leave the cabin around 3am since they had flights around six or so.  we went to bed and departed on a snowy “drive and fly” back to the warmer climate of atlanta a few hours later.

overall, the big sky trip was a “big” hit for us.  we enjoyed catching up with ben and some of his closest friends from work, school, and other walks of his life.  the crew was friendly, and the weather was perfect.  we’ll be back to big sky to ski down some more greens and possibly some blue slopes once we continue to become masters of the ski wedge.  😊

montana – day 3

with a whole first day of newly found confidence, we woke up saturday morning ready to take on the day.  i mean, i could just feel it was going to be a good day because it was loads easier to put on my boots.  🙂  once i got the rest of my gear all situated, the group decided to start things off together at the white otter lift since it was within skiing/snowboarding distance of the cabin.  in theory it sounded like a great idea, because this lift would take us up to a run that would get us to base a lot quicker than trekking through the snow.  plus, the crew felt i was ready for the white wing run, and i didn’t want to disappoint.

long story short, here is how things went on the white otter lift and white wing run.  i got onto the lift all by myself no problem.  i enjoyed the scenic and quiet ride up the lift.  i completely ate it when i got off the lift, one ski popping off but my energy still intact.  i watched as the crew, one by one, shooped down the very steep entrance from the lift onto the run.  i also observed, with much trepidation, as phillip made his way down as well, slowly but surely.  i took a big gulp of “i have to get down some way” reality, mustered all the spirit i could, and launched myself down the hill.  i’m not quite sure what happened, but the result was a quintessential wipeout right in the middle of the run.  the struggle was real one attempt after another as i tried to get my ski back on and get myself out of the way.  eventually i righted things and after a few more confidence-crushing falls, i shuffled my way to the finish line.  when i finally found phillip, all i could say was, “well, that is the least amount of fun i have had this entire time.”

there was good news out of this, though:  that i recognized what my abilities were and were not and, as such, spent the rest of the day back at bear basin.  phillip was a patient and positive cheerleader throughout the windy afternoon as i worked on weaving and faster turning and getting all the fresh mountain air that i could.

ultimately my goal for the second day of skiing was to end on a high note, and i think these pictures are evidence of just that.  🙂

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montana – day 2

after an extremely restful sleep thursday night, we were awakened by the wafts of something delicious coming from the kitchen.  steve had whipped up a good ‘ole american breakfast for the crew, complete with eggs, bagels, fruit, and, of course, bacon.  what a delightful surprise!  i couldn’t think of a better way to start the day before hitting the slopes.  oh, wait.  yes, i could.  setting the theme song for the day!  while we were enjoying breakfast, for whatever reason people couldn’t stop singing “africa” by toto, and just like that, it was the song of the day.

everyone cleared and cleaned their dishes and then piled into the cars to drive over to base.  before we could go shredding anywhere, we first needed to pick up our passes.  ben led the group right over to the lodge and stuck us in line to wait with everyone else.  i felt quite out of place without all my gear on yet but did my best to look the part and act like i knew what i was doing.  i knew it wouldn’t be long before we were ready to go, so we patiently waited our turn as we took in the surroundings.

first of all, it amazed me how much energy there already was in the crowd.  it was my impression that the typical person coming to big sky knows the skiing and snowboarding ropes pretty well, and these people were ready to get on those lifts and tear up the mountain.  the energy was infectious, and i found that i was eager to get into my boots and find my way to the bunny slopes.

it wasn’t long before phillip was strapping my lift pass to my pants and we shuffled aside to get all suited up.  i already had on my base layers, pants, and jacket, so the next order of business was the boots.  the nice folks at lone mountain sports had given me a quick tutorial the day before on putting on boots, so i slipped off my sneakers and grabbed the left boot.  for about a solid 30 seconds, i sat there struggling, unable to bend my ankle at all and get my foot all the way forward.  i glanced around to see if anyone else was in a similar predicament.  nope, only me.  i grunted and tugged and pushed but could not get that thing on.  i finally decided i was wise enough to realize i needed help, so i hollered at ben to assist.  i was quite grateful when he told me that ski boots can be tricky to get on and that he would be more than willing to help out.  with a little more wiggling and pulling, boom!  the left boot was on!  i felt like a champion already!  with some new-found confidence, i tackled getting on the right boot all by myself.  it may have taken me a few minutes, but soon enough both boots were on and i was more ready to go than ever!

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montana – day 1

a few months ago my friend and former coworker ben texted me, asking, “do you and phillip ski?”  i replied that phillip did when he was younger and living in michigan but that i never had.  that didn’t stress ben, who promptly invited us to join him and some friends on a ski trip to big sky, montana.  i approached phillip about the opportunity, not certain what he’d think, but the minute i explained it to him, he didn’t hesitate and said, “absolutely!”  pleasantly surprised by his quick decision, i told ben to count us in, and that is how we found ourselves on an early delta flight westward.

with no direct flights to montana (or at least to where we needed to be), our first leg of the trip was a smooth two hour flight up to minneapolis.  phillip slept and i did a little reading and writing and in no time we were deplaning for a brief layover.  if you’ve never had the pleasure of visiting the minneapolis-st. paul airport, i’d highly recommend it.  the airport was clean and spacious and fitted with nice shops and eateries everywhere.  even though we weren’t there for long, it was all-in-all a pleasant stop to make.

soon enough we were boarding our next plane, which took us to bozeman, montana, one stop closer to our final destination.  the airport definitely had the lodge vibe going for it, and everyone we encountered was just as nice as could be.  we didn’t have much time to mosey around, though, because the caravan of folks coming from butte was outside and ready for us.  we grabbed our suitcase from baggage claim, hustled into the cold, waved down our friends, and loaded on up.  phillip and i piled into an suv and met steve and fernando, friends and current coworkers of ben’s.

before making the drive down to big sky, we stopped for a little grocery shopping at the local albertson’s.  our digs for the weekend would be a big cabin right next to the resort, so we stocked up on breakfast food and coffee and snacks and, of course, some adult beverages.  it wouldn’t be much of a ski trip without a little fireside drinking, now would it?  oh, and i should mention the chips.  all the chips were ours!

three buggies later, we packed the cars a little fuller still and stopped for a quick bite at good ‘ole burger king.  over french fries and nuggets and whoppers the size of your head, more introductions were made and we met ashima and chris and james.  once all bellies were full and satisfied, we hit the road to big sky.  the drive wasn’t too long and was pleasant as the montana landscape revealed itself to us mile by mile.  i’ve never been surrounded by this kind of scenery and was quite taken with the mountain skyline and sturdy evergeens blanketed with soft white snow.  it was definitely quite a sight.

the views only became better as we pulled off of moose ridge road and into the driveway of our rental cabin.  ben did an excellent job finding this spot for us, and we all dropped our bags inside as we explored the main living space with its well-equipped kitchen, cozy leather furniture, and humongous wall of windows.  i mean, this shot isn’t too shabby, is it?

you’re so gorgeous.

we all picked our rooms and then took the cars into the resort to get all geared up by the kind folks at lone mountain sports.  employees steve and shelby assisted us in getting the right size boots, skis, poles, and helmets for our skiing experience, and before you know it, we were at least totally looking the part.  if you look good, you feel good, right?  i’m gonna go with yes.  🙂

with a long day of travel behind us all and our equipment all ready to go for the next day, the only thing left to do on day one was relax back at the cabin.  eventually curtis and kara arrived, and we cracked open beers, poured the wine, put on our bathings suits, and got the party started in the hot tub, complete with music and jets and light effects!  if this was any indication of how the rest of the trip would be, a great weekend was surely in store.

bye, buckhead

well, folks, the time came for phillip and i to sell the condo in buckhead and look forward to new adventures elsewhere.  you might wonder why now?  the most simple reason is that we just need more space.  now that i work from home and that we have grace, it’s time to spread out a bit.  we need a yard so that she can really be a dog.  we need a proper office for even better work.  did i mention we’d also like a slightly bigger kitchen and maybe a garage?  yeah, all those adult things.  🙂

our home hunt really has just begun, so stay tuned for details on our very own version of house hunters.  and i promise to not complain about the colors of the walls because, as we all know, you can paint them whatever you want!

saying goodbye to the condo wasn’t as emotional for me as i expected, which was interesting.  i mean, i lived a lot of my early adult life in those four little walls.  from bachelorette-hood to clark living with me to phillip moving in and getting married – wooh!  maybe it’s a good thing walls can’t talk. 😉  but really, i did think i’d be more choked up at the closing.  i mean, how will i survive without the location and restaurants and neighbors and purple walls?!

i really think that because everything happened so quickly i didn’t have much of a chance to slow down and process.  barely a month passed between staging, listing, and closing, so most of our downtime was spent buying boxes and taping boxes and packing boxes and then taping them again!  you get the picture.  and even after the closing and us moving to our adorable rental in east atlanta village (thank you, matt, for saving us) i thought i’d be a wreck, but i don’t think i have been.  all the things in the condo are now in our rental, and it honestly feels just like home.  and i think deep down i just knew we had outgrown the condo and are ready for the next step.  yes, there were many good memories made in buckhead, but we are looking forward to exploring the village for as long as we are here.  so, if you ever find yourself south of 20, give us a ring and come on over!  we have a spacious kitchen and open floor plan ready for entertaining.  😀

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phillip and kelsey do boston – day 3

okay, i know, you’ve been on the edge of your seat, waiting to hear how our trip to boston ended (now two months ago).  well, i’ve been a little preoccupied with work and becoming an aunt and everything, so i think the delay can be excused.  🙂  our last day in boston did eventually arrive, so we packed up our bags and wandered around the financial district in search of some coffee.  since our flight didn’t leave until dinnertime, we had a lot of time to kill and ended up posting up in render coffee for a couple of hours.  true to form, phillip ordered a sweet mocha and i ordered a frothy latte and we enjoyed reading and just watching the locals.  it was pretty chilly outside, so the cozy mugs and soft leather chairs warmly welcomed us to stay, which we did.

all hopped up on caffeine, we were ready to put some food in our stomachs, but not before we snagged a couple more classic boston pics.

now, had we had pizza the night before?  yes, but this next pizza place we went was meaningful to phillip.  when he and his family lived around boston, their parents would drive by regina’s to grab a few pies for the kiddos and scarf them down, and since phillip could eat pizza pretty much any day of the week, that is where we had lunch.

thank goodness we had the baby suitcase with us, because there is not a lot of extra space in regina’s.  tables are crammed together, booths line the walls, and the bathroom stalls are quite little.  regardless, it’s clear that regina pizzeria has been a boston institution for some time (since 1926 to be exact), so we ordered some beers and sat back and enjoyed.

the waitress recommended the giambotta pizza and the meat lover’s pizza, so that is exactly what we ordered.  i remember very specifically loving the crust and could easily picture myself ordering regina’s weekly if i lived anywhere nearby.  these pies were a good size, and with the appetites we had, only one slice remained.  but don’t worry, we took it to-go and ate it at the airport for dinner.  🙂  waste not want not!

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unfortunately, our visit to boston was coming to a close, so with our pizza in tow, we hopped on the blue line to the airport.  we were only a couple of quick stops away, and before we knew it, we had our boarding passes and were though security in no time at all.

but wait!  we had a surprise!  we couldn’t leave boston without one more trip to mike’s, so we had stopped there quickly after regina’s and took with us to the airport one peanut butter chocolate cannoli and one cookies’n’cream cannoli.  i savored every single bite as we watched the sun go down, the airplane arrive at the gate, and the line of passengers start to form.  although i would have loved a day or two more to explore some more, i thoroughly enjoyed our quick boston visit and highly recommend you give the city a try if you haven’t yet had the pleasure.

phillip and kelsey do boston – day 2

day two in boston started with breakfast at, where else, dunkin’ donuts!  we had some coffees, donuts, and breakfast sandwiches as we planned out the rest of our day.  our first stop, and probably the most important stop of the trip, was to visit the hospital where phillip and his sisters were born.  so we caught the train and headed to dorchester.

now the st. mary’s center for women and children, st. margaret’s is were michele and kim spent several months delivering their miracle babies over thirty years ago.  since we were there on a weekend, we couldn’t get the full tour, but the receptionist charlotte was happy to show us around the grounds as much as she could.

phillip & charlotte.

as charlotte led us through some of the buildings, she was happy to give us some history of the grounds.  it turned out she has been working there for quite some time, so she was able to tell us all about the purpose of the center now, how some of the rooms were used when the grounds were still a hospital, and even where some of the original architecture and artwork is still maintained.  it was so special to watch as phillip took it all in, soaking up the place where his story began so many years ago.

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eventually charlotte did have to return to her desk, but she suggested we go sit in the garden since the weather was so nice out, and that is exactly what we did.  it was so pleasant to slow down, even if just for a few moments, and appreciate all the good things going on at this place.  🙂

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phillip and kelsey do boston – day 1

our summertime travels continued with a trip up to boston.  phillip and his sisters were born there but none had been back since, and since i loved the city the last time i came with my friend vinh, i was all in, no doubt about it.

we were up bright and early that friday morning and landed at boston-logan international airport around eleven a.m.  seeing as how our trip would total to barely 48 hours, no humongous luggage bags were necessary (shocking, i know), so we deplaned, grabbed some local transit maps, and hopped on the free silver line bus to south station.  as my father would say, “if it’s free, it’s me!”  about ten minutes later we exited and began to roam the city streets.  we couldn’t check into our airbnb for a few hours, and since we were hungry for some local eats, we asked a friendly bostonian for directions to the original cheers restaurant.  i mean, when in boston, where else would you go?

it was easy to find the restaurant, just a few turns away and a gathered crowd.  there was a slight wait due to the start of the lunch rush, so while we waited we did what every good tourist would do and took a junk ton of pictures.  aren’t they fabulous?  🙂

once our buzzer buzzed, we took the stairs down and crammed ourselves and all our stuff into a cozy booth.  the restaurant was coming to life right before eyes, the energy was tangible, and it was a great way to begin our visit.

like all great day-time vacations, we were not on the clock and were quick to order a couple of adult beverages.  phillip had a local dark something and i stuck with a standard wheat beer – you know, easing myself into things.  both were crisp and cold and quite refreshing.

in no hurry at all, we also ordered ourselves a little appetizer to munch on while we looked over the rest of the menu.  per the waiter’s recommendation, we enjoyed the spinach artichoke dip.  what a classic!  the picture may not be doing it justice, but this popular dish was nice and hot with fluffy gobs of whipped cream cheese, hearty artichoke hunks, gooey cheese, and tasty spinach.  a bite here, a sip there, things were off to a good start indeed.

pretty satisfied with the dip, we decided splitting an entree would be the way to go next, and the kitchen gladly served us our reuben on two individual plates.  this sandwich is such comfort food to me, and the only thing it needed was more thousand island dressing.  i can never get enough!

with full bellies and a second wind, we killed some time on the self-guided freedom trail tour.  the map directed us through boston common, over to the old south meeting house, and, for us, ultimately to faneuil hall.  it could not have been a better sightseeing day, as the air was cool and the cloud coverage was substantial – a welcome change from the stifling georgia heat!

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at last we received word that our airbnb was ready for our arrival, so we navigated our way through the financial district to our studio apartment for the weekend.  the space was just perfect for our two-night stay and ended up being a great, central location for all our adventures.

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macon and andersonville

WOW!  What can I say, Kelsey and I recently had a “father/daughter” weekend and it was FANTASTIC.

Macon, GA and Andersonville, GA.  Granted, these two locations may not sound glamorous, fun, etc…but we had a TERRIFIC time.

First of all, a big “shout-out” to Kelsey’s husband Phillip for being “part of the solution” for this weekend.  As a way of saying thanks, I did provide Phillip with some goodies.  Three sleeves of Pringles, a package of Thomas’ English Muffins, and an entire jar of Smuckers Orange Marmalade.  Guys are so simple.

And now to the highlights, and there were plenty.

I drove from Birmingham to Altanta one Thursday night back in September, pouring rain and I mean pouring the entire way from Birmingham to Anniston.  Of course i slowed down to 86 MPH but managed to hydroplane my way to Kelsey’s condo.

As some of you know, one of my “trip traditions” is to bring a baseball cap and have people that we meet and chat with autograph the hat as a keepsake.  Kelsey reminded me that a couple of years ago I gave her a modest collection of the vinyl albums that I had.  One of the vinyl albums was from the Allman Brothers titled Eat a Peach.  Since part of the trip included a stop in Macon, GA to go to and visit the Allman Brothers Museum (AKA The Big House), I had a BFO, or blinding flash of the obvious.  Instead of having people sign the baseball cap, have people sign the album cover.  HOME RUN!

For my visit, Kelsey had baked my all-time favorite breakfast, her world-famous cafeteria coffee cake.  MAJOR YUMMO that Friday morning!

Our next step was Macon, GA and the Allman Brothers’ “The Big House.”  We arrived, and it was almost a religious experience.  We walked around and toured The Big House for almost two hours.  If you or your mom or your dad are Allman Brothers fans, this is a terrific trip.  The Big House includes almost everything you can imagine:  lyric sheets, contracts, drums, keyboards, clothes, etc…If you are looking for a unique/creative gift, a trip to The Big House would be perfect.  We met and talked with several different “hippy-dippy” types and had a great time.

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It was then early Friday afternoon, and since Kelsey and I were both hungry, we opted for a restaurant that the Allman Brothers enjoyed, the now world-famous H&H Cafe.  The perfect little “hole in the wall.”  Kelsey had fried chicken and I had the brisket sandwich.  Great stuff.  Our server was nicknamed “Panda,” and she signed the album cover.  Sidebar, there were two Alabama football fans at H&H.  I guess they’ll let anyone with money come in.

Kelsey’s husband Phillip attended Mercer University in Macon, GA, so our next stop was to drive to Mercer and take a very nice walk around the campus.  The campus just oozes with education and smart people, and I was overcome with all the knowledge surrounding us.

One of the big highlights of Mercer was the time we spent with the statue of Jesse Mercer, the founder of Mercer University.  One of the many great traditions at Mercer involves the rubbing of Jesse’s head.  Well, in addition to rubbing Jesse’s head, I also poked him in the eyes, picked his nose, etc…

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orlando – days 2 & 3

i know you’ve been on the edge of your seat to hear about the rest of our time in orlando, so here we go!

our saturday proved to be just as fun as our friday, and it all began at the winter garden farmers market.  we have these sorts of things in atlanta but never seem to make the time to go, which means we enjoyed ourselves even more.

things at the market were already pretty lively by the time we arrived, which made for excellent people watching.  there were couples of all ages, families with little ones, ladies with big sun hats and bigger bags full of fresh produce and fragrant baguettes.  it was a feast for the senses, indeed!

since we had forgone breakfast at the house, we were definitely in the mood for a little snack.  considering the heat of the already sweltering florida morning, lisa led us straight to enzo’s acai bar.  the line wasn’t long, the people were friendly, and the service was fast.  i don’t remember exactly what we had, but i do remember the cool sorbet, crunchy granola, and sweet fruit in every bite.  the perfect start to the morning!  as we munched, we moseyed from booth to booth, admiring the quality and beauty of the local craftsmen.  if we’d had any extra space in our suitcase, i’m certain i would have come home with a bundle of treasures, but i’m betting phillip is grateful that wasn’t the case.  🙂

one stand we stopped by caught lisa’s eye as she turned the corner:  the allisons’ apiaries honey stand.  lisa admitted to us that she was on a big honey kick these days and just could not resist.  the gentleman who assisted us was quite welcoming and helpful and generous with samples.  we tasted wild flower honey, blackberry honey, honey whose names i cannot recall, and they were all so scrumptious.  lisa’s honey infatuation was so darling that phillip and i insisted we treat her to some as a thank-you for hosting us that weekend.  at first she couldn’t accept but then quickly warmed up to the idea and picked out a couple jars and even a beeswax gator candle.  i’d say they were worth every penny.

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