Friday, August 30, 2013

Mosaic District

In my last post I briefly mentioned the newly built Merrifield Town Center. After doing a little research I've learned that this new area is called the Mosaic district. It is one of our area's newest urban-designed communities with hand selected retailers and restaurants. We basically stumbled across this great area when we decided to dine at one of favorite restaurants, Four Sisters. Four Sisters was one of the first restaurants to open in the Mosaic district and the past few times we visited not much else had moved into the area. However, the last time we ate there I was pregnant with Carter so that tells you it was well over a year ago. Needless to say, a lot can change in a year.
Mosaic is built around some of DC's top independent boutiques, wonderful restaurants, healthy grocers, an art house cinema, and premier national retailers. Some of my favorite shops are Anthropologie, South Moon Under, Courage. b, Lou Lou, Last Call Studio and Bellacara. South Moon Under carries a lot of fun clothes, accessories, and shoes. They have men's clothing and recently started carrying a few kids clothes. Lou Lou is an accessory boutique that offers jewelry, hats, sunglasses, handbags and scarves. The store is neat because everything is grouped together by color. It's the perfect place to go and look for that finishing touch to your outfit without spending fortune. Last Call Studio reminds me a lot of Nordstrom Rack, but on the higher end. They had some great sales when I visited and their shoe selection was impressive. They even carry David Yurman jewelry. Dawn Price Baby is a great children and baby boutique. Whether you're shopping for your little one or are in need of the perfect baby gift, you should definitely stop by.

There are great dining options as well. As I mentioned earlier, Four Sisters is a wonderful Vietnamese restaurant. There is a CAVA Mezze Grill which features Greek tapas. If you're in the mood for a great sub sandwich then you should head to Taylor Gourmet. You can't go wrong with pizza or sliders from Matchbox and if you want something on the lighter side you should stop by Sweetgreen for a salad and some frozen yogurt. We have a Sweetgreen near my office in DC and I find myself going there for their frozen yogurt on a regular basis. Their tart frozen yogurt is made with organic Stonyfield yogurt, has live active cultures and it's fat free and all-natural! They have a great selection of fresh or dried fruit and crunch toppings to choose from and they just recently introduced dark chocolate yogurt. The center has their own butcher, Red Apron Butcher, and they also have a MOM's organic market, which is basically like a smaller Whole Food's. And if you're looking for a great glass of wine or would like to try an artisanal beer, be sure to stop by Swirl and Sip. While you're out enjoying this great little district and you find yourself needing some essentials or groceries on your way home you can easily stop by Target.

One of the neatest things in this area is the Angelika Film Center and Cafe. It is a state-of-the-art boutique cinema with eight screens featuring independent and specialty films. There is a cafe that specializes in global fusion cuisine that you may enjoy in the lounge or during your movie. They also plan on hosting local film festivals, offer interesting cultural events and programming. There is a great lawn outside the film center that is called Strawberry Park. It's the perfect place for kids to run around and every Friday at 7:00p.m. they play a film on their large outdoor movie screen. Many of the restaurants that I mentioned above are directly across the street from the outdoor movie screen so you could easily grab a bite to eat and watch the movie from their outdoor patio. Every Saturday at 9:00a.m. they host an event called Cartoons and Coffee. It's a chance for families to come together and watch their favorite old school cartoons likes The Flintstones, The Jetson's and Scooby Doo.

The Mosaic district offers several exercise opportunities as well. Every Wednesday and Friday from 9:30a.m.- 10:30a.m. they have Stroller Strides. I'm not sure if you're familiar with the program, but it is a fitness program that moms can do with their babies that involves a lot of power walking and intervals of strength and body toning exercises. Sounds like a fun workout! They also offer free community Vinyasa flow yoga every Sunday at 9:00a.m. in Strawberry Park.

This fall they will feature a new event called District Avenue Art Walk which will take place the first Friday of the month from September 6, 2013 to December 6, 2013 from 6:00p.m. - 9:00p.m. Each month a line-up of artists will be curated by elan magazine to showcase their work along Mosaic's District Avenue. Retailers host their own events throughout the year as well so it's a good idea to check their website occasionally. Last but not least, the area features luxury apartments and town homes. The district is conveniently located by I-495 and Tyson's so it's a great place to live.

So have I sold you on a visit to the Mosaic district? As I've been writing this post I've convinced myself that we should take Carter to Cartoons and Coffee in the morning! It's a great little area to visit so plan a trip soon.

I hope everyone has a fun and safe Labor Day weekend.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Summer Vacation 2013

My summer vacation officially began on Thursday, August 8th. For Mother's Day Chris surprised me with two tickets to the JT and Jay Z concert and Kim flew up to join me for the occasion and to visit for the weekend. I worked half a day Thursday and then went to pick Kim up from the airport. After a detour by the house, we quickly got dressed (well as quickly as two ladies can considering this was the first time we'd seen each other in seven months), grabbed a cocktail and on the road we were to Baltimore. Kim and I had tried for weeks to get a hotel room in Baltimore for the evening but believe it or not, everything was completely sold out or we were going to have to pay $800 for a room. Since this was a gift Chris said he had always planned on providing our transportation for the evening. So you're thinking a car service, right? Why yes, the car services of Brandon Cockerham and Chris Wall! Brandon drove us up to Baltimore and Chris came and picked up up after the concert. Top notch service.

What an awesome concert! We had the absolute best time and immediately following the concert we were trying to figure out how to make it to the next show. Little did I know that they were only performing in ten cities and Baltimore was the second to last stop. JT and Jay Z opened the show together and then they alternated every few songs, at times singing together and other times doing solo performances. The best part of the show was singing along to their old school songs, especially Jay Z's. It has been many years since we heard some of his songs but the lyrics came right back to us. Of course they closed the show with Suit and Tie and Jay Z's Forever Young. I'd pay to see the concert over and over again and I can't thank Chris and Kim enough for putting such a special night together.

On Friday I worked from home, so we took it easy and recovered to an extent from the evening before. On Friday night we went to the newly built Merrifield Town Center. If you live in this area and haven't been out there then I highly suggest making a trip. The reason for our trip was to dine at Four Sisters restaurant. It is one of the best Vietnamese restaurants in the area and it's very inexpensive. The Washingtonian magazine always features a "Cheap Eats" and "The 100 Very Best Restaurants" edition each year and Four Sisters is always ranked. It was a great dinner and not only did Carter try new foods so did Kim. We were about halfway through our meal when I realized that everything had crushed peanuts on top. I had a moment of panic when I realized Carter was stuffing food in his mouth as quickly as possible, but he seemed just fine. So, Carter's first experience with peanuts was completely by accident but turned out great. Although, Chris and I were paranoid all evening worrying about a delayed allergic reaction. The joys of being a parent.

After dinner Chris took Carter home and Kim and I stayed to do some shopping. They have a lot of really cute boutiques and a Last Call Studio by Neiman Marcus- just like Nordstrom Rack but a little on the higher end. After our shopping excursion we enjoyed frozen yogurt from Sweet Green. They also have a large outdoor movie screen located in the middle of the town center and on Friday evenings they play a movie and Saturday mornings they have an event called "Cartoons and Coffee." Such a great little area to visit in you're in town!

On Saturday we slept in and then ventured out to the Italian Store to pick up lunch and get supplies for Chris to make dinner. The Italian store is a gourmet Italian specialty shop that has been run by the same family for over 30 years. They feature items sourced from Italy and Brooklyn. They sell fresh pasta, sauce, meat, cheese, Italian subs, NY style pizza, prepared meals, wine, dessert, and much more. They're really known for their great sandwiches and on any given day you should expect to wait in a lengthy line, especially around lunch time. If you plan to make a trip on the weekend make sure you go early. On our trip we picked up sandwiches for lunch, fresh pasta, pancetta, cannolis and Berger's cookies for dessert.

I feel like I need to have a special paragraph dedicated to Berger's cookies. While we were standing in line waiting on our sandwiches, Kim started freaking out. I'm talking about freaking out to the point where people standing around us stopped and looked at her to make sure she was OK. Kim had spotted a shelf underneath the sandwich counter with Berger's cookies. All she said for two minutes straight was "Omg they have Berger's cookies! You don't understand, these are the best cookies in the world!" All I could do was just laugh because I've never seen anyone so excited over a cookie in my life. A lady standing beside Kim asked her if they were really that good because she had always seen them and wondered. Well Kim convinced her to buy a pack. How many did Kim buy? Three packs, and I'm sure there were close to ten large cookies in each pack. The cookies are made in Baltimore and they're pretty darn tasty. It's basically like a shortbread cookie covered on top with fudge. If you're ever in the Baltimore area or happen to go to the Italian Store, pick up a pack.
Carter enjoying a Berger cookie

Saturday afternoon we went to the mall to buy Carter some new shoes but made sure to make it home in time for cocktail hour! I bought Chris the book Speakeasy for his birthday last year so he has turned into a fantastic mixologist these days. Some of them are a little too over-the-top for me but several have been right up my alley. I actually have no idea what he made Kim and me that evening but it was really good. He also prepared the most amazing ragu bolognese you've ever tasted. We found the recipe a few years ago in Bon Appetit magazine and it has been our go to since then.
Kim's first birthday present to Carter. Can you tell he likes it?

Story time
On Sunday Chris, Carter, Witt and I headed to the beach for the annual Wall family beach trip. This year was a little on the hectic side because Ray and Marsha just bought a new house in Tidewater and they closed on it the Tuesday before we all arrived. Needless to say they were busy all week moving things into their new home and getting their condo ready to rent. They had a lot on their plate but fortunately they still allowed all the kids and grand kids to pile in for some summer fun.

There were nine kids in one house, ages three months to ten years old! Everyone hand their hands full but it was a lot of fun! Carter absolutely loved all of the activity and attention that his cousins gave him. We spent most of our time at the beach and one afternoon at the pool. The last time Carter made it down to the beach he was around six weeks old. I was excited to see how he would like it now that he's a little older. Boy did he love it! Not only did he love playing in the sand, he enjoyed eating it too. The second day on the beach Ray even got him to fall asleep on his beach chair and Carter napped for over an hour. What better place to take an afternoon nap. You have the breeze from the ocean and the sound of the waves.

After four days at the beach, Chris and Witt flew back to DC and Carter and I headed to Charlotte to visit my family for the remainder of the week. Fortunately my boss's district office is located  by Southpark Mall so I was easily able to work from their office on Friday while my parent's watched Carter.
Carter playing with one of my childhood toys. Have you caught on to the fact that my mom has pretty much held onto everything from our childhood? Lol, I love you mom!!

Saturday morning my mom, Carter and I went to Mason's first birthday party. Mason is Erin Banker's, my childhood best friend's, son. Erin's mom and my mom actually grew up playing together as young kids. Mrs. Hinson's mom and my mom's aunt lived down the street from one another so there were many times when they would get together to play. Little did they know that they would both have daughters right around the same time and they would both go to Providence Day School. Erin and I were inseparable from kindergarten through the fifth grade. I have vivid memories of Erin being at my house when I first learned to ride my bicycle without training wheels. I ended up leaving Providence Day School after fifth grade and going into the public school system. Unfortunately Erin and I lost touch with one another through middle school and high school, but thanks to Facebook we reconnected after all these years! We both ended up marrying men by the name of Chris, right around the same time, and we both got pregnant around the same time and had little boys within a few weeks of each other. How crazy is that?  It's been wonderful to reconnect with such a special friend and share in all the wonderful and challenging experiences of being a first time mom. Now if only we lived closer to one another and could get our precious boys together for play dates!

The Erin's and their boys.

Carter enjoyed Mason's drum set!

Erin C. & Erin H. in the PDS talent show!

I can't even remember if this was fourth or fifth grade, but it's pretty cute.

On Saturday afternoon Justin and my Grandmother in Statesville came to the house to visit. That evening we ate dinner at Chuy's, a Mexican restaurant that recently opened next to Cowfish (best sushi ever!) at Southpark. That evening one of Justin's closest childhood friends, Jonathan, and his wife, Amanda, and their daughter, Emma, came over to visit. I have vivid memories of Justin and Jonathan as kids so it's hard to believe that he is now a dad with a precious little girl!

Emma, Justin and Jonathan

Carter wasn't happy when I held Emma so he decided to join us in the picture.

On Sunday we took it easy around the house and my grandmother in Charlotte and my great aunt Vi came to visit. Can you tell that Carter got a lot of attention over his vacation? When I sat down to think about our trip, we visited with 36 people! Not too shabby for a one week trip.

I think the Suburban is just the right size.

Helping Gigi clean out her car.
On Monday Carter and I made the trip back to DC. We were sad to see our trip come to an end but we knew it was time to get back to our little routine. Carter has nine teeth coming through right now so I think he was ready to get back into his bed, in his room after being in a pack and play for a week. It was a great trip and we really enjoyed seeing so many of our family members and friends. Believe it or not, but there were still people that we didn't get to see that we hopefully will on our next trip.
Pit stop at McDonald's on our way home. When traveling solo with the little man on a 7 hour road trip we took the easiest route for lunch- don't judge! :) 

I hope everyone has enjoyed a wonderful and relaxing summer. It's hard to believe it's coming to an end this weekend. Time seems to fly by these days and even though I'm sad to see the summer months go I am excited about the fall. My three favorite holidays are quickly approaching and I will have to say that I'm excited about the cooler temperatures. For those of you with little ones headed to school over the next few weeks I hope you have a great year!

Farewell summer!

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Suit & Tie

Not sure what you'll be doing this evening but Kim and I will be at the JAY Z and Justin Timberlake concert in Baltimore!

Chris surprised me with tickets to the concert for Mother's Day and Kim made it even more special by coming up for the weekend. Kim and I haven't had a weekend together in ages so I'm really excited! We have one of those friendships where we can go weeks and months without talking and then when we do we pick right back up where we left off.

Kim and I have been friends since the 10th grade. One of my best friends from middle school was assigned to a different high school than I attended, which at the time was devastating. However, it ended up being the best thing that could have happened because she met Kim and the three of us became inseparable. I could write for hours about our endless memories from high school and college. They sure were fun times and I couldn't have asked for a better friend to have by my side. Times may have changed since those wild days but it's comforting to know that I still have such a wonderful friend.

Love you, Kim!! Now, "Can I Get A......"

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Kid Friendly Pinterest Recipes

I honestly don't know what I did before Pinterest. I have planned many meals thanks to Pinterest but more importantly it has helped me find the best toddler recipes! There are many times where I feel like I feed Carter the same foods week to week; therefore, I'm always on the hunt for something new. Recipes must be easy and they get bonus points in my book if they make enough for leftovers. Here are a few you should try.
Zucchini Tots
White and Green Pizza
Orzo with Roasted Vegetables
This is an Ina Garten recipe that I have made before but it's perfect for kids. What kid doesn't love pasta and this recipe manages to toss in some tasty roasted vegetables. 

Mini Meatloaves
These are so good! The recipe make close to 24 mini meatloaves and they freeze easily. I wrapped then in saran-wrap and placed them in a Ziploc bag and tossed them in the freezer. They're perfect for those nights when you don't feel like cooking. Chris and I ate several of them ourselves! 

Chicken & Black Bean Casserole
This makes a huge casserole. Freeze the leftovers for another week. 

Zucchini and Yellow Squash Gratin
Perfect for the entire family!

Sausage and Pepperoni Pizza Puffs
These are great! I could easily eat a plate of them. Next time I plan on doubling the recipe because it only made twelve and they were on the small side. 

Black Bean- Quinoa Salad

Egg Breakfast Muffins

The link didn't work for this recipe but all you have to do is pour the egg mixture into muffin tins, add your favorite ingredients and bake at 375 degrees for 25 minutes. I made some with sausage and spinach and Carter absolutely loved them. They're great finger foods. 

On an adult note, we made these for our picnic at Wolf Trap last week and they were so good!

Happy Hump Day!

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

This & That

Summer has officially arrived for our family. As most of you know, I work on Capitol Hill and Chris's schedule revolves mostly around what Capitol Hill is or isn't doing. The month of August is a district work period which allows members to go back to their respective districts to attend events, meet with constituents, host town halls, etc. For Capitol Hill staffers it's a time to take a deep breath, get caught up on their work and enjoy a little peace and quiet. 

We've enjoyed two relatively low key weekends which has been nice. The weather has been picture perfect and considering it's August in Washington, D.C. we hope it sticks around. Unfortunately Carter has come down with a little summer cold so he joined me in the office for a few hours yesterday afternoon while dad finished up his golf game.

Recently Carter has become obsessed with the iPhone and iPad. You can't use either device without him having a complete meltdown. You can imagine how challenging this makes FaceTime. I even try to give Carter my phone to play with but of course he has to have the iPad. We've downloaded several apps for him and have discovered some fun sing along songs on YouTube but good luck pulling them up for him. If you even attempt to touch it he starts to cry because he thinks you're taking it away from him. We quickly learned that we're going to have to invest in a better case. We need something that will protect the iPad when it's thrown on the floor, from sticky fingers and drool. I polled the mom's club yesterday and here are the recommendations I received. The funniest part of this situation is that this is Chris's iPad. I just keep picturing Chris on the couch using his iPad in one of these crazy kid covers, ha!

Fisher-Price Laugh and Learn Apptivity Case
Speck Products iGuy Free Standing Case

OtterBox Defender Series Case
Griffin Survivor Extreme Duty Military Case

Two Sundays ago we decided to take Carter to McDonald's for his very first happy meal. I cannot explain how excited Chris was about this! He has wanted to take Carter to McDonald's since the first day he started eating solids. Uncle Brandon came and met us for lunch to witness the special occasion. Carter ate two chicken nuggets, a cheeseburger and several fries. The boy can eat! After lunch we headed into the city to go to the National History Museum to see the dinosaur exhibit. I have lived in DC for nine years and people always ask me why I don't go to the museums more often. Well Sunday answered that question. I cannot deal with all the tourists. They're everywhere. They love to walk down the sidewalk, side by side, taking up the entire walkway and not paying a bit of attention to anyone else. They're notorious for coming to a dead stop while walking along the sidewalk, or through the museum, and then they give you a nasty look when the stroller hits their feet. Really? Anyways, we managed to maneuver through some of the exhibits at the museum and then decided it would be something best to do during the fall and winter months when there aren't so many people in town.
Hurry up with my food!
Carter's 1st happy meal

This past Friday evening Carter went to his cousins house for his first sleepover. Chris and I joined two of our good friends to see Bugs Bunny at the Symphony at Wolf Trap. I'm not sure if you paid attention as a young child, but the original Looney Tunes cartoons were brought to life with classical music. The show featured some of the famous cartoons on a large screen while the score was played live by the National Symphony Orchestra. We had a perfect evening with temperatures in the uppers 60's and we were able to stretch out on the lawn with our own picnic complete with several bottles of wine and bubbly! Date night score!!

The rest of our weekend was spent at the pool, going on walks, catching up on Homeland, preparing Carter's food for the week, running errands and doing laundry! Exciting, huh? We have a lot coming up this week so my to-do list seemed never-ending.

We ended our weekend with a truly southern, summer meal. Chris's tomato plants have done extremely well this summer. We enjoyed BLTs for lunch over the weekend so Sunday evening he decided to make a tomato pie. I had never heard of tomato pie until I met Chris. If you haven't tried it, you're missing out! We also enjoyed fresh squash, fried chicken and watermelon and cucumber salad. While it may not have been the healthiest meal it sure was tasty!
Watermelon-Cucumber Salad
Tomato Pie 
On a side note, I received an email from Gap this morning about a new jean they're introducing this fall. It's a high-rise skinny jean and I couldn't be happier! In recent years high-rise jeans have become my favorite. There is nothing worse than having your rear end hang out the back of your jeans every time you sit down and high-rise ones keep everything tucked in nice and snug. LOVE!
1969 high-rise skinny jeans

I hope everyone has a great week!