What a Difference a Night Makes

As I mentioned in the last post, we have both been very busy at work.  When you work at a school, fall can make you a bit crazy.  Kevin’s workload has, thankfully, slowed down a touch since the start of the semester.  I have not had any such luck with mine, nor will I in the near future.  It will be at least November before my department can catch its breath.

Back in August, one week proved especially awful.  I knew we needed to just get out of town.  I talked to Kevin and we agreed we were willing to spend a little money to do something different that night.  I hopped on Priceline to see what I could get for that night.  After a successful low bid, I left work a few minutes and packed a bag for us.  When Kevin came home, I told him I had a surprise for our evening activities and we hopped in the car.

We drove to Columbus and checked in to the Westin downtown.  In our first such experience, we got upgraded to a suite, which made the price we paid even better.  We got settled in our room and then walked around downtown.  One of our vendors at worked had told me about a little restaurant his son works out and I knew Kevin would love it.

Enter Dirty Frank’s.  This tiny hot dog joint easily ranks as one of Kevin’s new favorite restaurants.  Prices are cheap and the food is great – at least as long as you like hot dogs.  Kevin asked to go back at least four times that weekend.

After dinner, we walked around downtown more.  Having spent the majority of my life in Columbus, it never ceases to amaze me how much of the city remains undiscovered for me.  I was reminded why I love cities so much and how desperately I miss living in one.  There is always something new to see or some neighborhood you haven’t explored.  In contrast, there is literally no street in our town we have not been down.

We walked over to the Topiary Garden near the School for the Deaf.  All of the topiary sculptures here are modeled after Georges Seurat’s famous painting A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte.  We loved seeing students and families and all sorts of people enjoying the park.  We talked about how, while we loved our college experience, the one aspect we feel we missed out on was having a city to explore.  I would have loved having such a cool park a few blocks from my college campus and going there to study.

Once we got back to our hotel, we walked to a nearby Kroger and picked up supplies for a picnic the next day and some snacks for the night.  The snacks proved insufficient, however, and we succumbed to the temptation of room service.

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As simple as it sounds, being together, eating room service, and watching HGTV was exactly what we needed that night.  It was wonderful to get away for a short time and just relax.  The next morning, we laid in bed and watched Bob Ross paint some trees on PBS.  After a lazy morning, we packed up and headed over to the Columbus Park of Roses for a picnic lunch.

Again, it was the perfect activity for the day.  It may not have been the exact time of year to see the most roses in bloom, but there were still plenty of them to enjoy.  Once again, we were so happy to enjoy the simplicity of the moment and the opportunities afforded by the city.

We were gone less than 24 hours, but we returned feeling more rested and refreshed than we had in weeks.  The whole trip really didn’t even cost that much since we chose mostly cheap activities and got a good deal on our hotel.  It was just the reminder that we needed to value simple, quality time together.

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June is for Weddings

Thanks to minimized screen time and the plethora of Disney posts, we missed out on a whole month of Napp activities to post about.  Instead of spreading it out, I’m going to pack it all into one post for you today.  Hold on to your hats; we are about to fly through June.

We started off the month by heading up to Mt. Vernon, OH for a wedding.  But not just any wedding.  In a joining of families long imagined, my cousin married my sister’s best friend (and my honorary second sister).  Jim and Brittany were sweet enough to ask me to sing for their ceremony.  It was a beautiful day and one of the most fun weddings I have been to.  Kevin even got out on the dance floor!

The third weekend in June was filled with community theater performances.  Earlier in the spring, I auditioned for a part in our town’s Broadway Revue.  I performed as part of the Dance Chorus and also sang a duet (“Goodbye Until Tomorrow/I Could Never Rescue You” from The Last Five Years) with one of my dear friends.  I had a lot of fun.  I rarely get to perform like this any more, so having the chance to be on stage again was priceless.  The highlight was probably being cast as Fantine in the “Les Miserables” medley.  I got to sing “I Dreamed a Dream” and a be a part of a beautiful trio at the end.

Also that weekend, we had the pleasure of attending the wedding ceremony of one of Kevin’s coworkers.  It was right in town, so we got to go before my Saturday matinée show.  I am so glad we did.  There’s nothing quite like watching one of your friends experience the same joy you did not too long before.

IMG_0207Back at home, the flowers around our house bloomed beautifully.  We inherited some nice landscaping from our home’s previous owners, including some gorgeous lilies and a rose bush.   I especially appreciate these features of our house when Kevin clips some flowers and brightens our kitchen with them.

IMG_0209June also brought with it a big event: my parents’ 30th anniversary!  Since they are not party people, my sister and I found a different way to honor their life together.  We contacted friends and family from over the years and asked them to write a small note of congratulations for my parents.  We also gathered pictures from every era of their relationship.  The result: this beautiful book.  We got it from Milk, which, despite its horrible design interface, really put together a nice product.

The fourth weekend of June found us headed to another family wedding, this time in Georgetown, KY.  My cousin Matt and I have always been very close.  He and his brother served as ushers for our wedding and I was honored when he and Alyssa asked me to sing for their wedding.  I could not possibly be more happy for these two.  They both deserve so much love and God has truly blessed them with each other.  The wedding was beautiful and a truly worshipful time.  It was also super fun to see Jim and Brittany who were just back from their honeymoon.  On a completely side note, we stayed at the Hilton Garden Inn in Georgetown and were really surprised and impressed with how nice it was.

On the way home that night, we visited the drive in movies to see World War Z.  Now, we had gone to the drive-in last summer as well.  It’s the sketchiest place, but so fun.  We had a Groupon for a double feature that included a large popcorn.  We didn’t stay for the second movie, which didn’t start until almost midnight, but we enjoyed the inexpensive way to see Brad Pitt’s latest.  Only downside: we ran the battery down on our car and had to get someone to jump us before we left.  It didn’t turn out to be a problem at all, but it definitely made the night more eventful!

We closed out the month by cashing in a Groupon for a canoe trip down the Little Miami.  It was a cool day and we made great time.  In fact, upon on return, the staff couldn’t believe how quickly we had done the trip.  We’re canoeing champions!  You can look for us at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio.  We had a great time making our way down the river and doing something different.

Oh, and after the canoeing we celebrated our third annual Little Kid Day.  This holiday originated when we were dating.  It involves eating snacks we ate as children (i.e. juice boxes, Gushers, etc.) and picking a movie we loved as kids.  It used to involve making a blanket fort as well, but then we realized that those aren’t nearly as fun when you have to disassemble them yourselves.  This day we were inspired by our visit to Disney to watch the classic Swiss Family Robinson.

Also in celebration, I attempted a grown-up version of a meal my mom made when we were little: mac and cheese with smoked sausage on the side.  Now, as a kid, I only ate the Kraft blue box mac and cheese; I was long overdue for an upgrade.  Martha Stewart’s recipe served the occasion perfectly and was delicious.  As with any Martha recipe, it required a good amount of time invested in it, but it was well worth the effort.  (I did cut the huge recipe in half and it still was way too much for just us two!)

There’s no denying that we love summer.  June encapsulated that perfectly.  There is so much to do and we have been staying very busy fitting in as much as we can!  July hasn’t slowed down much for us at all, so make sure you keep coming back to see how we’re filling these (finally!) hot days.

What did you do this June?  Has your summer been as filled with weddings as ours?

It’s like we’re outside…

Welcome back to Nashville Week!

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Unfortunately, we did not actually get to spend a week in Nashville.  It was just the first stop on our 12 day trip.  We drove down on Thursday morning, stopped for lunch in Florence, Ya’ll, and made it to the Gaylord Opryland Resort by mid-afternoon.

When Kevin first told me he had a conference in Nashville, I silently dreamed that it would be at Opryland.  If you haven’t been, Opryland is an enormous hotel and convention center that has multiple atriums filled with luscious plants, waterfalls, gardens, and restaurants.  I had been with my cousin when I visited Nashville before and could not believe the immensity of the place.  It’s beautiful and a definite experience all of its own.  Needless to say, when I found out the conference actually would be held there, I got very excited.

IMG_0114Sadly, we did not get an atrium room.  Our room was definitely smaller than I expected and, while decently nice, definitely does not qualify as the nicest place we have stayed.  It’s obviously that when you stay at Opryland, they do not expect you to spend a lot of time in your room.  There is so much to see and explore.

The layout of the resort can be confusing.  Kevin found himself lost more than once that first night.  The convention center was located on the opposite side of the building from our room and it took a solid ten minutes to make the walk.  I don’t think I ever went the same way twice, although, for me, exploring was half the fun.  I found it frustrating at times that there were no easily accessible stairs to our fourth floor room.  I’m sure they were somewhere, but I never did find them in the four days we were there.  Had there been a fire, I have no doubt I would have died trying to find the stairs.

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Thursday night we grabbed a bite to eat at the Mexican restaurant before the conference began.  All of the restaurants at Opryland are expensive (this became a theme of our trip). However, they are convenient and good.  We enjoyed all the meals we had there, just not the bills.  Above you can see Kevin with the homemade guacamole he ordered.  That’s a happy camper right there.

IMG_0105I got fajitas that came with steak, chicken, and chorizo.  They also came with those delicious, purplely beans you can see in that bowl.  They were so good!

IMG_0103Kevin got chicken tacos and enjoyed them just as much as he did the guac.

One of my greatest vices is my inability to turn down dessert – especially when its something I have’t tried before.  We ordered dessert tacos.  Their arrival and presentation excited me so much that I promptly forgot to take a picture until we were halfway through them.  Oops.

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They tasted divine.  The whipped cream in the bottom had been flavored with vanilla bean. You could see the dark flecks throughout the cream and the flavor permeated perfectly.  The rims of the tacos had been dipped in chocolate and then sprinkled with sugar.  Then the whole thing was topped with fresh strawberries.  I am only slightly ashamed to admit that Kevin ate half of one taco and I polished off the rest.  I will definitely be attempting to recreate these at home.

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A super fun part of staying at Opryland was the scenery.  On Friday I worked remotely and set up my temporary office overlooking this fountain.  The view slightly bested the one from my actual office.  The weather on Friday was pretty dreary, but neither of us even realized it was raining until just before lunch.  The whole world of Opryland creates the illusion of being outside without experiencing actual weather or bugs.

Opryland has been mentioned in the Humanities course I teach before as an example of postmodern art.  We have created a world in which all of the things we like about nature exist without the negatives.  There are quaint shops and restaurants set up on little plazas in a quasi-European experience.  But at its core, everything there is merely an imitation.  Beautiful, enjoyable, but fake.  We ran into this feeling at Disney as well, and we’ll talk about it in a future post.

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Regardless of any internal dilemma caused by the faux environment, we truly enjoyed ourselves.  We were so thankful to get to see dear friends on our trip, including the wonderful Tyler Scott, who did our wedding photography.  He very generously worked his schedule around ours and met us for a quick breakfast at Opryland before we left for the airport Sunday morning.

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We would have loved to spend all day hanging out with this great friend and felt awful for cutting our time together short.  Next time!  Of course, Tyler, being the awesome person he is, took our picture before we parted.  I think he’s taken more pictures of us than anyone else at this point.  Thanks, Tyler!  This is probably the one we’ll put into our new Opry frame next to our scratch map.

DSCF0451 Stayed tuned for one more Nashville post on Friday.  We got to experience some great local culture while we were in town and can’t wait to share it with you!  Ok, let’s be honest. Friday will mostly be about food.  There is great food in Nashville!

Have you been to Opryland?

A Little Bit Country

Carrie Underwood

We know, we know.  It’s been forever.  I can hardly believe it has been nearly two months since we posted anything.  We officially claim the title of worst bloggers ever.  Cut us some slack, though; we’re newbies.  Besides, the holidays kept us just a bit busy.  Between various work parties and fitting time in with friends before everyone headed off to their respective families, we packed a lot into December.  We spent over a week on what we affectionately dubbed “The Whirlwind Tour of 2012.”  We had a great time and saw nearly all of our family members.  Despite the fact that everyone told us to take it easy our first married Christmas, we felt that we couldn’t miss family functions after everyone had made the effort to get to our wedding.  Next year, we’ll be completely M.I.A.  Just kidding.

Since New Year’s the only excuse we have for not blogging is laziness.  Oh, and the endless string of illnesses we’ve contracted.  Between the two of us, we have not been mutually healthy for more than a few consecutive days since before Christmas.  Kevin started off the year with an emergency root canal (it was bad, folks) and this vicious flu has taken its toll as well.  We’re hoping February finds us much healthier and able to get out and do fun things again.

Blown Away Tour

Speaking of fun things, way back in early December we got the chance to see the great Carrie Underwood on tour.  Country haters, judge away; she was incredible.  I bought the tickets the very day the went on sale way back in the spring and we had pretty great seats.  To say I was excited is a pretty big understatement.  Kevin, who would never have picked this concert on his own, was a perfect picture of marital support.

Country FansWe also got to see Hunter Hayes, who is opening for Carrie on this tour.  Since I only listen to a very few select country artists and not country radio, I had not heard much of his stuff before that night.  The kid is definitely talented, although I felt like he was trying a bit too hard at some points.  Still, his songs were well written and he has a pretty decent voice.  Oh, and his looks aren’t hurting him – especially not with the population of teenage girls who I’m fairly certain screamed the entire time he was on stage.
Encore Of course, Hunter Hayes was not why we were there.  No one could rival Carrie.  While I know many popular artists do not perform well live (*cough*Taylor Swift*cough*), Carrie can most certainly be counted as the exception.  Her voice is unbelievable.  I mean, the girl can sing.  It takes a lot to impress me; Carrie left me in awe.Carrie overheadShe put on a good show as well.  At one point, a whole section of the stage came up and traveled the length of the stadium while Carrie and a few of her band members performed from above.  It made for a fun opportunity for everyone to see her a little closer.  At this point in the show, I got a good glimpse of her enormous ring.  Could we please just double date with Carrie and Mike Fisher already?
Carrie UnderwoodAnd it’s not just Carrie’s ring or voice or five outfit changes that were beautiful that night.  She is stunning – inside and out.  She seemed so genuine and even took a moment mid-concert to thank all those who had voted for her way back in her American Idol days.  And if you are unconvinced that she is the real deal, read this article and be convinced. Carrie Underwood
If you made it this far in the post, you deserve serious props for making it through the manifestation of my Carrie fanaticism.  I promise I’m done.  We had a wonderful time.  In fact, one of the most enjoyable parts of the whole night was people watching all those around us.  There were some very interesting characters in attendance that night.  If only we could have taken pictures of all of them and written a post about them instead….

Carrie overhead

PS: Sorry for the poor pictures.  Not only have I definitely not mastered concert photography, my camera battery was dying so I was trying my best to keep my picture taking quick.