Friday, May 28, 2010

Off to the Emerald Isle

Well we are just a few days out from jetting off to the Emerald Isle for a couple of weeks and then heading on to France for about another week and a half. This trip has been almost a year in the making and I can't believe it is upon us. I am excited to see the sights, but what I am most looking forward to is spending some quality time with my family (immediate and extended). We won't have all the interruptions of daily schedules, TV, FB, etc...We will be spending time talking and doing things together. I can't wait for my girls to experience another culture. I know it is not like we are visiting ancient tribes in Africa or anything, but the European way of life is different from ours. We need a break from Easy Mac, Nick Jr., trips to Target, etc.....all of which we will be dying for come the end of June I am sure! We need a little time to walk and enjoy the sights, we need to broaden our horizons and try new foods and not try to eat in five minutes, and we need for the girls (especially Sarah) to see that there is more to the world than what is within 10 miles of our house. I know there will be challenges with food for the girls, no naps for Lauren some days, TV and toy withdrawals, but with 15 people in our group...I think the kids will do just fine. When our nanny, Linda, joins us 1/2 way in that will be a blessing for sure! Charlie and I are most excited to have her take the kids the night in Paris we have dinner reservations at the Jules Verne. It will be a most wonderful dinner to celebrate our 11th wedding anniversary!

We pray for safe travels, no sick kids, no lost luggage, and perfect weather! I may or may not be blogging while over there. This is my first overseas trip to take since I began this blog, so I am not sure if we will have great computer connections, if I will have time, or even if I will want to! You can bet if it is crickets chirping around her for a few weeks, there will be lots of posting going on when we get back!

Don't you just love these graphics. You can find them HERE...they have all sorts of cute items to buy with graphics from many countries and states, as well!

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Sarah's Big Weekend

Sarah had a big weekend. It was not only her dance recital, but her spring gym meet, too. She did so great at both and Lauren was a great little sister sitting through everything and supporting her.

Saturday was the gym meet. This is the 2nd gym meet that Sarah has done and she improved a lot since December. On the Floor she went from an 8.8 to a 9.15, on vault a 9.1 to a 9.2, on beam an 8.9 to a 9.1 and on bars she is holding even at an 8.8. Maybe by the next meet she will get above a 9.0 on everything and get her Level 1 trophy!

Today, she had her dance recital. She did 2 numbers (same costume). One to I Wanna Be Like You from A Jungle Book and the other to Monkey Jive. She really knew her dances and smiled a lot. She seemed to really enjoy it. It makes me sad that she is not planning to take ballet/tap next year. She wants to try out hip-hop. We will never know what the summer will bring. She has already changed her mind about quitting gymnastics.

I was so proud of her this weekend!

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Rob and Nina's Wedding: The Wedding

FINALLY! I am so happy to say that I am finally getting around to writing about the wedding. I am very proud that I got it done before October! I still don't have all the pictures I would like to post, but I think you will get the idea regardless. It was such a classy celebration. They really lucked out that they had such a gorgeous day. I mean it was perfect and we had been having a rainy fall up to that point. It was sunny, about 75 degrees. Everything went off just as planned (or at least from what I could tell) It was very nice to be in a wedding and just have to look pretty. I didn't have to stress about vendors, or decor, or anything this time around. She had a very high end Dallas wedding planner, a well known wedding venue, and a great photographer. What more could a bride ask for!

The ceremony took place just as it was getting dark. The candles were beautiful and the trumpet playing as she walked in were perfect! It was the most beautiful evening wedding.

Ceremony: Highland Park Methodist Church

Sarah loved being a flower girl!

The McDonald Family

The reception was so much fun. We started off with a cocktail reception in the conservatory. All the windows with the beautiful botanicals around was the perfect setting. The piano music was wonderful. The ballroom was lit just perfectly for the reception. All the fall colored flowers and the gorgeous cake as the centerpiece was breathtaking. For dinner we dined on beef tenderloin and jumbo lump crab cakes. Fabulous! The band was so much fun and had the crowd dancing well into the wee hours of the morning. They made a fabulous exit in their Rolls Royce and it was a perfect ending to a perfect day!

Reception: Crescent Court

Sarah and I with my Dad

The Parents!

I will not be doing a final installment on the honeymoon. I was not invited, imagine that! I do not have any of their pictures from the honeymoon. I can tell you they both enjoyed FIJI immensely and it sounded like it was a great trip. HERE is where they stayed!

Saturday, May 15, 2010

La Mia Italia: Castello Di Montegufoni

I recently blogged about Tuscany and the little town Montespertoli that we visit every time we go. I mentioned in that post a castle that we stay at: Castello di Montegufoni

We first stayed here in May 2003 while attending a wedding. It was actually the location of the wedding and all the guests stayed here. It is a charming location that has several great amenities. It is very clean and comfortable, but yet has a rustic charm about it. You typically would stay here if you are planning to stay 5-7 days or more. I believe their policy is for an extended stay and not just a couple of nights. All the rooms are like suites/apartments. Most have kitchens in them and they all have private bedrooms. It does not have a hotel feel at all. There is one restaurant that is open for dinner only and one that is open for lighter meals throughout the day. The type of place you go to get some breakfast, a sandwich for lunch, and a couple of pizzas for dinner. The other restaurant is more fine dining and since it is not big, a reservation is typically made. Not so much because the place is that crowded, just so the chefs have a little notice as to how many to plan for. A lot of what they make they buy locally and that day. There is a grocery in the town and we usually go by there and get breakfast breads, meat, cheeses, fruit, and wine to have in our rooms.

The castle also has a nice little pool, which the kids like.

To me...I feel like I am living in times of Romeo and Juliet when we stay there. It is so positively Italian. It is gorgeous with breathtaking vistas. You can see the town of Montespertoli from there, as well as, the Ugolini vineyard. In fact, the Ugolini vineyard has a white villa on top of the hill and we often would look out at it and say how nice it would be if that was our villa. We often wondered who lived there. The next time we visited the region on 2007 we found out who lives there and are now friends with them. We took my oldest daughter in 2007 and she loved Castello di Montegufoni so much that she cried when we left and kept pointing out the window..."my castle, my castle". She was 3 at the time.

La Fattoressa
This is the apartment we stayed in last time. It accommodated me, my husband, my father, and my daughter. The 2nd picture is of the little bed my daughter slept on. She had her one little room!

La Cupola
This was the apartment we stayed in back in 2003. It has 2 bedrooms, 1 bath, and a huge living area.

Il Cardinale
This is the apartment Charlie's parents have stayed in twice. They love it. It has a kitchen and huge family room. 3 people always stay with them.

Here we are in 2007. Yes, I was about 5 1/2 months pregnant with Lauren.

Me with my dad!

Dinner al fresco on the terrace. This was pretty much our entire group we traveled with.

Castello di Montegufoni and the countryside!

"My castle, my castle"!!

Friday, May 14, 2010

La Mia Italia: Chianti Wine Festival - Montespertoli

We happened upon this charming little festival back in 2003 when we were attending a wedding in Tuscany. We were staying at an old castle called Castello di Montegufoni and our view out our room was of the quaint little hill town of Montespertoli. We went to explore one evening for dinner and much to our surprise there was a little festival going on. The prefect little activity just waiting for us every evening. It takes place every year the last weekend in May and into June. This year it is May 29-June 6. Click HERE to read more about it. (Watch the is in Italian, but you get the idea) All the local vineyards set up booths and let you "taste" all their wine, olive oils, and balsamic vinegar. I put taste in quotations because every "taste" is about a half a glass of wine. When you pay for the festival they give you a wine glass and glass holder you wear around your neck. It is so fun to go around to all the booths. You really get to meet the people who run the vineyards and you get to talk with them about their product. It was at this festival back in 2007 (our 2nd time around and the 50th anniversary festival) that we met our good friend Mauro. His wife's family owns a vineyard just across the hill from Montegufoni and he now runs it. It is the Ugolini Vineyard. They have great wine, but the olive oil is what we love the best! Charlie's parents have started to sell it in their shop: Le Petit Hameau. The first shipment they got around the holidays sold out very fast. The new shipment will be in very soon. The wine he gives us we save for special occasions. I will do a separate feature on Mauro at some point. It is not the worst thing in the world to have an Italian friend. All of us McDonald women love to just sit an listen to Mauro Italian.

At night at the festival there are local musicians that play. The local restaurants are all open and usually packed. There is, of course, a wonderful little gelateria there for a sweet treat, too! It is so nice to sit under the stars in the middle of Tuscany sipping local wine, hanging out with the locals and just experiencing la dolce vita. One thing that makes it so nice is that it is not overrun with tourists. I know blogging about it isn't exactly keeping it a secret and I am potentially going to drawn attention to our quaint find, but you guys are my friends and I love sharing travel tips with my friends in hope you would do the same for me. So make your plans to travel to Tuscany, visit the wine festival, even stay at Montegufoni. I will do a separate post about it at some point, too.

There has been talk about the McDonald's making another trip to Montespertoli next year. We will see...our girls are of Disney age, so the rest of the extended family may be taking the trip without us. Here are some photos from our past visits to the Festa di vini!

Town of Montespertoli

Charlie doing a little wine tasting. Note the wine bag around his neck and our friend Mauro in the green shirt!

Note: When searching for a good Chianti...look for the Gallo Nero "Black Rooster" seal. It is the official seal of the Chianti Classico region. If you see it, you know you are getting an authentic bottle of Chianti from this region!

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