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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mm, mm! marcrumb cookies

this year phillip and i were in birmingham for thanksgiving with my family, and if anyone has spent a holiday with us, you know that our gatherings revolve around one thing:  food.  now, you might think, “sure, isn’t that everyone around this time of year?”  maybe, but we are the kind of family that talks about their next meal while they are eating their current one.  our schedules, especially holiday schedules, revolve around when the meals are planned, and i look forward to continuing that tradition with our own family some day.

but this post isn’t about me or my family.  it’s about the food, and one food in particular:  cookies!  personally i somewhat have a love-hate relationship with cookies.  i love eating them but i sometimes hate making them – it can become quite tedious, and when you have an undersized oven like us, baking cookies takes twice as long as it should.  i imagine most people feel this way, especially those who don’t consider themselves bakers.  but alas!  i did not have to break my back or burn my fingers over cookies this year because a childhood friend came to the rescue.

my friend amanda marcrum may or may not have started a cookie company this year and may or may not have named it macrumb cookies.  it’s adorable, yes!  and the only thing more adorable than the name are the cookies themselves.  i saw some of her social media posts with darling little cookies decorated with all sorts of cute shapes and lovely designs and knew i couldn’t resist supporting an old friend.  i reached out and ordered a dozen seasonal cookies for the occasion, and the day before thanksgiving amanda delivered these precious treats in person.

i squealed in delight when my mom opened the box and revealed these little treasures.  tiny corns and turkeys and leaves and pumpkins – what’s not to love?  and if you think these were too cute to eat, you are wrong.  i chomped into one of those little corns and about jumped for joy because these cookies remind me of one of my favorite types of cookies in the world:  cheryl’s cookies.  only these are the tiniest bit better because they had the most pleasant trace of almond at the end of every bite.  the cookies were a huge hit at the andrich house, and if you consider yourself a cookie lover on any level, i insist you order yourself some marcrumb cookies.  they will not disappoint!

nrw – the imperial

earlier this month we finally got around to resurrecting nrw after a brief hiatus and kicked things back off at the imperial in decatur.  eric, claire, kari, phillip, and i met up at this local spot after being inspired by good day atlanta’s coverage of the restaurant during atlanta burger week.  buck langford was lucky enough to get to meet with owner aj and try the winning mac attack burger live on camera, and it was then i knew we just had to be there.

the imperial is located in what appears to be a somewhat tucked away and quiet part of town, but when we actually got to the restaurant, it was quite alive with customers of all kinds, from families with kiddos and dogs to singles enjoying half-priced bottles of wine to friends just catching up over good food.  it really feels like a “come as you are” place.

our group was seated just inside the main entrance, which gave us a great view of each other and our surroundings.  the imperial is nice and open both inside and out on its patio.  the bar is well-stocked and would be a perfect place to belly-up for a beer, some eats, and tv watching.

after being served a few pints of local drafts, the poutine eric and claire ordered for the table arrived.  now, i don’t know about you, but i’ve never in my life heard of poutine, and to the ears it first sounds like maybe a fancy french dish, right?  wrong, lol!  no joke, i looked up what poutine is and the definition i found was “a dish of french fries topped with cheese curds and gravy.”  not so fancy after all!  😀  however, a dish doesn’t have to be fancy to be delicious, and that could not have been more true of the imperial’s take on this dish.  their poutine actually has pimento cheese in place of cheese curds because, you know, in the south pimento cheese is quite the staple.  and our order of poutine was even more delectable because we opted to add the diced up bacon because if you’re going to be bad, why not go all the way?

POUTINE.

in fact, eric and claire were so happy with the poutine that they ranked it first out of everything they ate that night!  in their words it was simply “AMAZING.”

claire & eric.

we hungry kids scarfed up that poutine in no time, leaving some room for our actual dinners.  making the rounds, we’ll start with kari who ordered the plain burger and topped it with cheddar cheese and bacon.  as far as a basic burger goes, she said it was very good and a “SOLID” choice for those of you who prefer to build your own burger.  all in all, she enjoyed a great meal that night.

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the wedding chronicles | decision #22

THE TABLE & SEAT ASSIGNMENTS

now that most everyone has mailed back their rsvp cards, it’s time to get crackin’ on those table and seat assignments!  i’ve been to receptions where there have been assigned seats, assigned tables, or no assignments at all, which i think covers the entire gamut of what is available.  i personally prefer at least assigned tables, because the last thing i would want for our guests is them scrambling to save a seat or fighting to add another chair to an already full table.  no one wants that kind of animalistic discord at their reception, right?  right!  especially when it is avoidable with a few simple seating charts.

it actually is working out in our favor for the reception because the venue requires that each guest have at least a table assignment and, if we so choose, a seat assignment.  how nice when things fall into place like that!  there are a few tables that will intentionally have assigned seats, but all other guests will simply be assigned to a particular table and then can choose their seat from there.  part of the reasoning behind the assigned tables is simply to keep organized.  the other part, which i like most, is that if someone doesn’t have a table assignment card and isn’t on our guest list (aka they didn’t rsvp at all or rsvp’ed “no” and then decided to make a guest appearance), then they so nicely get to stand aside and cannot enter the reception until the “authorities” get permission to let them into the ballroom.  this is why sending your rsvp in a timely manner is important, people!  we brides and grooms have a lot on our plates in these last few weeks before the big day, and the more we can do ahead of the time, the saner we will be.  so, if you’d like a spot at the dinner table, you better let us know!

anyway, now that i’m off that soapbox, the next thing to do is figure out who is going to sit where.  our guest list naturally has certain categories like immediate family, extended family, childhood friends, college friends, work friends, family friends, so on and so forth.  for many of those groups, it makes sense to potentially sit people with people they already know.  that would be easy, right?  but don’t you think that, for example, your work people see each other all the time and might like to get to know other guests at your big day?  i think so!  i certainly think the table assignments are a great opportunity to mix things up, so don’t be surprised if we seat you with someone you might not know.  now, if this doesn’t really sound like it is up your alley, please keep two things in mind.  first, it’s our wedding and we’ll seat people wherever we like.  🙂  second, you won’t be at your table all night.  dinner is only part of the party we have planned for you, so you’ll most certainly have the opportunity to visit your friends at the bar, on the dance floor, etc…at the end of it all, what we want more than anything is for our guests to have a unique, fun experience on our wedding day, and we look forward to bringing all of that to you in just 25 days.  can’t wait to see you there!

the wedding chronicles | decision #12

THE GUEST LIST

based on my wedding planning experience, i think it’s a safe thing to say that the guest list very easily goes hand-in-hand with the venue.  as such this post probably could have come much earlier in the wedding chronicles, but better late than never.  🙂  i think it’s possible to think of it this way:  either your guest list dictates your venue or your venue dictates your guest list.  do we think this assessment is fair?  in my opinion it is because if you are in love with a particular space but it only can hold 100 people, then the guest list is 100.  on the other hand if you and your fiance(e) have humongous families and you know at least 200 people will be there, well then you’re going to need a ceremony and reception site big enough to fit them all, and that requirement in and of itself may eliminate certain locations.  again, sometimes your wedding decisions can be very logical.

as far as things go for phillip and me, we do have larger families and lots of out-of-town guests but also lots of locals since the event is taking place in phillip’s hometown of peachtree city.  so me?  i’m hopeful that most of the folks who received save-the-dates (and have invitations on the way in january) will be able to join us.  for our venues we’re paying for a minimum number of guests, so if at least that many if not a few more show i’ll be quite happy.  with that being said, i have heard from other couples who are recently engaged/married a statistic that about 30% of your guests won’t be able to make it.  well that’s just too bad, right?  but it also is a fact of life and is what it is.  regardless, understanding that a certain percentage of people won’t be able to join you in your big day can sometimes cause a little uncertainty as far as choosing a location.  do you pick a place that will fit a maximum of 70% of your guest list (if we’re going off this statistic) or do you book a venue that will hold 70%+ in the wonderful event that most of your guests can come?  that decision i leave up to you.  we are okay with having a minimum and then, if necessary, paying extra if we go over that amount.  however, if that is not your style, you’ll need to be more mindful about the venue you choose.  make sense?  i think so, too.

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nam phuong – atlanta, ga

earlier in august i had picked up the local periodical creative loafing and was flipping through the pages when i came upon a story that highlighted and reviewed the best 12 wing joints in atlanta.  coined “the ultimate wing smackdown“, writers and contributors took recommendations from creative loafing loyalists to taste, savor, and ultimately decide which restaurant in the city boasts the best chicken wings.  with five criteria (including flavor, exterior texture, interior texture, value, and overall appearance) by which to evaluate, the judges trekked far and wide to, in the end, crown nam phuong the chicken wing king.

in a mostly unassuming building off buford highway, nam phuong is a spacious sit-down restaurant that, on the tuesday night we went, was quite busy with a very diverse crowd.  now, before i go on to review these chicken wings, let me say this:  buford highway is like the yellow brick road of authentic food in atlanta.  with restaurants that span cuisines from all over the world, the real foodies in this city know that la buford is the place to be, and nam phuong is a perfect fit for this reputable strip.

our group of seven was quickly seated and our water glasses were brought soon thereafter.  as i flipped among the menu’s pages, my eyes wandered around the tables near us, interested to see what other diners had ordered.  big, white ceramic bowls with steam rising out of them were most of what i saw, and even though a big helping of pho sounded tasty, i knew i would have to make a return trip for that.  this visit was for chicken wings and chicken wings only!  at least as far as i was concerned.

matt, anthony, janine, grant, eric, and claire all opted for the pho, which came out quickly and piping hot.  on a cold winter’s day, i could easily picture myself coming back here for a savory bowl of that stuff, but i waited patiently as my wings took a little longer to come out.  i took that as a good sign, hoping it meant they were being cooked to order.  🙂

thankfully i was able to keep my drooling under control once the waiter served me.  the wings were hot and covered in some kind of delicious fish sauce, and alongside was a heap of white rice and some sliced vegetables.  for about nine bucks, it looked like this “appetizer” was going to be more than enough to fill me up!

as the rest of the group happily slurped up spoonfuls of noodles and chicken and broth, i got down and dirty with my wings.  the wings were cooked in such a way that the skin was crispy but also a little tacky with the sauce that had obviously been brushed on at the right moment in the grilling process.  the sauce itself was sweet but also had a little zing at the end of each bite, so it was good i had the rice to help offset the spice.  the chicken itself was very juicy and not dry at all, and i greedily ate every single one of them!

if you’re a wing lover in any regard, i highly recommend you swing by nam phuong to give their wings a try.  this dish is a great value for what you get, the service is fast and friendly, and supporting a local joint just makes you feel good!  so, if you’ve got a hankering for something familiar but also something new, then this place is the spot for you.

viva las vegas!

this time last sunday, kiley, kari, and i were recovering from a fun couple of days out in fabulous las vegas!  besides being in desperate need of a girls’ weekend away, we also were in town to see the legendary britney spears in concert!  before we get to that, though, there are plenty of other things to share first.

after getting a good night’s sleep on thursday at kiley’s parents’ house (thanks, mr. and mrs. a!), we woke up and grabbed an energizing breakfast at craft kitchen before taking a smooth ride out east to our first tourist spot the hoover dam.  our trusty transportation for the weekend?  kiley’s dad’s souped up jeep wrangler.  how bada** do we look in this?!

a short 45-minute drive later we arrived in clark county, nv and joined the other masses of international and local visitors as we explored this american wonder.  unfortunately the dam tour was closed that day, but we had plenty of other seeing to do as we followed the roadway and sidewalks to get incredible views of lake mead, the colorado river, and the intake towers, flow gates, and spillways.

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if you ever find yourself in the area, i highly recommend making the trek to the dam.  there’s plenty of parking, plenty of fascinating information, and plenty of good photo ops to fill a few hours of your day.

something else that’s cool?  you can stand in two states at once – neat!

upon hiking back up to the car and chugging some water, we drove ourselves about an hour the other direction to check out an art installation off interstate 15 called the seven magic mountains.  designed by internationally renowned swiss artist ugo rondinone, this public installation is designed to represent the creative human presence in the desert with bursts of “form and color.”  pretty cool, right?

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one of the most fun things about visiting seven magic mountains was people-watching all the visitors who were trying to get the perfect filter-worthy photo for their social media posts.  not wanting to miss out on the entertainment, i snapped an inspiring shoot of kari against these brightly colored boulders.

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and kiley got in on the fun, too, with a model walk of her very own!

we were now in a pinch to get washed up and ready for the concert, so we hit the old dusty and headed back home.

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showered with love

last weekend our crew had the privilege of showering our close friends kyle and liz with love and gifts in anticipation of their baby girl, due in just a few short weeks!  the day was perfect with friends, family, games, delicious food, and refreshing beverages.  with kari, kyle, and phillip by my side, i learned about the key elements you must have for a successful baby shower.  in no order of importance, they are as follows:

#1 – choose a theme.  if you’re short on inspiration, asking the mom and dad to-be for decor ideas they have for the newborn’s room is a great place to start.  you don’t have to get too specific (even a color theme will do), but i’ve found a general theme of some sort helps put you in a good direction for other parts of the party you’ll be planning.  i myself am dying to throw, attend, or be given a winnie the pooh themed shower some day.  just saying!

#2 – pick out and send the invitations.  now, on this one i personally went a little overboard and designed some custom invitations on vistaprint.  i know it’s so easy these days to do electronic invites and rsvp’s, but i still think there’s lots to be said for hand-addressed envelopes with personal greetings.  but hey, maybe that’s just the old soul part of me talking.  also, it’s hard to resist invitations when they’re this cute – just look at those squishy little animal faces!

#3 – decide on the menu and beverages.  of course this part of the planning depends on the time of day and how long you expect the shower to last.  will folks already have eaten lunch and not be hungry?  do you need to fire up the grill for a cookout or will finger foods do?  regardless of how much you do/do not do, i’d recommend making/getting the mom and dad’s favorite foods if you can find out what they are.  doing so adds a personal touch and will really make them feel special.

#4 – figure out how much decorating you’ll need to do.  this one will depend greatly on the space you are using to host the event.  if you’re having a “destination” shower at a local shop or venue, there might be enough natural decor or beauty that you don’t have to do much.  or, if you have a blank slate, you might want to get creative.  of course, all of this also depends on your budget (kari was the pinterest queen on this one!), but believe me that whatever you are able to do, the parents to-be will be overwhelmed simply by the gesture of the shower itself.

#5 – get all the help you can!  putting on a baby shower might not sound like it is a lot of work, but believe me, the to-do list tends to grow quickly and kind of sneaks up on you.  knowing that, i highly encourage delegating and making the event a team effort.  that’s what fiances and husbands are for, right?

#6 – make sure you make it easy for your guests to find your house (or wherever you are hosting the shower).  for example, darling balloons that match colors of your theme, wrapped sweetly around the mailbox.  believe me, there’s nothing worse than driving circles around a strange neighborhood while squinting to read street numbers in a place you’ve never been and all the while sweating through your cute shower outfit because of the humid georgia summer.

all credit goes to phillip on this one!

#7 – i think we’d highly recommend planning for at least one game.  it’s a great way to bring the crowd together, especially if you have guests from different areas of the parents’ life (you know what i mean, work friends and then the college friends and then the high school friends and then the family).  the game doesn’t have to be complicated or even last that long, but it brings some variety to the party.

#8 – take a bundle of awkward photos of the guests of honor as they open every single gift.  and then!  upon revealing each gift, gush over them all with “ooohs” and “awws”.  i think this is actually a baby shower law, and we do not apologize for all these pictures.  🙂

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and just like that, once the tissue paper settles and the toys are toted away, you will be done throwing the baby shower of the year.  but, i have good news for you – the joy doesn’t end there.  soon enough, there will be a whole new life to be thankful for, and i suppose that’s what all of it is about after all.  🙂