This past weekend we had the pleasure of being up in Boston to attend my sisters wedding. Erin and Matt tied the knot at the church on the campus of Merrimack College and then had a fantastic reception at the Hilton in Woburn. Below are a series of photos from both the rehearsal dinner [at Salvatores in Lawrence] and the wedding itself. I took a bunch of photos at the rehearsal dinner but I only had my point and shoot with me for the wedding day. I had no desire to lug around the DSLR when there were people there getting paid to do it for Erin. It's funny because everyone did keep asking me where my "big camera" was. Locked away in room 548, that's where! In any event, enjoy the photo recap of the weekends festivities. We had a blast!
[photos without my logo are courtesy of Kathy S.]
Rehearsal and Rehearsal Dinner:
Of course it wouldn't have been a Nowak wedding without some rain. Luckily it was just a passing shower and it was over by the time we finished the ceremony.
Here's a quick video from inside the limo bus en route to the hotel in Woburn...crazy times on that bus!
I also snagged a few minutes of footage during the "first dance"
There are few other videos from the big day on my vimoe site that you might want to check out as well...and probably get a good laugh out of!
Have fun in Hawaii guys!
We pulled into the driveway on Sunday evening after our 7hr drive back from Boston [for Erin's wedding] to see this staring us in the eye.
I have no idea how it didn't do any damage to the house or to the white fence you see there, but it didn't. I actually pulled the entire thing away from the house a bit before snapping these shots, but it was nestled in there pretty tight. I think we may have lost a trash can, but other than that we got off pretty easy. This fell off a very healthy tree from about 40 or 50 feet up! Must have been one hell of a wind storm that afternoon.
I've been buying tools on an as-needed basis for the house...so I stopped at Home Depot on Monday for a hand saw. Guess I need one of those now!
FYI: Photos [and videos] from Erin's wedding should be ready and up by Friday, stay tuned]
Our kitchen table has been a work in progress for about 2.5 months now but it's finally come together and we couldn't be happier. Kel and I knew we wanted a table with some character and history and knew we weren't going to find something like that at a traditional furniture store, so we jumped onto the world wide internet and began our search. It didn't take us long to find John Duffy at Stable Tables. We drove up to Flourtown, PA to meet him and check out his tables and were immediately impressed. This guy was covered in sawdust and eager to show off his work. Each table is hand built from reclaimed wood timbers and constructed in a way that it's virtually indestructible. You could pile 1,000lbs on this thing and it wouldn't even know. Hence the "Stable Table" name I guess. Or maye that has to do with like a horse stable? Who knows.
Anyway...after some careful consideration we placed our order with John for an 82"x40" table that could easily seat 8 people. The wood for our table came from a barn out in Orbisonia, PAthat was once owned by the Reese's Candy family. The farm is now run by a couple who raise organic black angus cattle and the barn had fallen into disrepair. Bad for the farmers, good for John Duffy. John bought the entire barn for its wood beams before a new metal barn was constructed on the site. Here's a shot of what she looked like.
It's cool to know that our table is made from trees that were growing from before the American Revolution and it's super environmentally friendly that we did our part to reuse these timbers and save them from being tossed into a landfill somewhere.
About 5 or so weeks after we placed our order John dropped off the table at our house [it was actually the day before we officially moved in, so he had perfect timing].
So now we had a place to eat, but we also needed a place to sit. John is a table man only...he'll make an occasional bench, but he doesn't do chairs. Says they take much too long and you just can't make any money doing that. So we had to come up with a solution for that as well. We decided to get some chairs [and a china cabinet] at an unfinished furniture place nearby and have them finished to match the table. At first I thought I might be able to do the finish work myself, but after talking with a number of people I decided it may be a bit much. It was a good thing I left it up to a professional too because we were dealing with 3 different species of wood and trying to get them all to have a similar look is not the easiest of things to do. That's where Darren Minder of D+D Woodfinishers comes into the story. He's a good friend of Patrick's and does everything from small jobs like this to custom kitchen cabinets that can cost over $100,000 just for the finish work. [I saw some at his shop one afternoon...just amazing stuff!]
Darren needed to make 3 trips over to the house to compare the chairs to the table and make sure he was on the right track. We knew all along that it was never going to be a 100% match, but he did one hell of a job to get them as close as possible and we couldn't be happier with the result.
If you like this table and are interested in getting one of your own they're very reasonable and John can get them to you pretty much anywhere on the east coast. Be sure to mention my name if you do call him! Check out his website too [link above] because he does make some other decorative tables with cast iron legs that are pretty cool. I think we may end up getting one soon for our foyer.
Next up is switching out that heinous light fixture above the table and getting our print from Vernazza, Italy framed. [no the poster frame it's currently in is not a long term solution...just bought that to keep it safe!] We also need to paint the entire downstairs in a color that's still TBD, but most likely something in the tan/khaki family.
We have a small counter that separates our kitchen from the dining area and since we moved in we planned on mounting a small 19" TV there so that we could have access to it from either room. Just spin it one way to watch the news while cooking dinner or the other way to watch/play Jeopardy while eating said dinner. With the help of Patrick and Captain the job got done, and in rather quick fashion.
Our work started after dinner this past Friday with a quick brainstorming session about what the best way to do things was. We knew we wanted to remove the quad outlet that was existing but replace it with a double so that we'd still have some power on the counter top. All of the other connections [TV and power] would be run through the wall and connected beneath the counter. With a plan in hand we were off to Home Depot around 9pm to get blocking, drywall and a bunch of electrical and cable supplies. We finished up for the night around 1am but still had a few more things to take care of...and a few more trips to Home Depot of course.
When the FIOS guy was out for the initial connection of our house I slipped him a few bucks on the side and had him provide an extra connection and coil some wire in the basement beneath where this TV was going to go. We just had to snake the cable wire up the wall between the insulation and the ductwork and we were good to go. Everything else came down from above so it wasn't that bad of an install. With the 2x3 blocking we put in this TV isn't going anywhere for a while! The old owners left us about 20 gallons of various paints down in the basement so I was able to repaint the wall yellow until we repaint the entire kitchen/dining room/living room sometime in the Fall. I finished up the painting and clean-up by around noon on Sunday...not too bad, and I think the end result came out pretty good.
Here are a few photos that we took start to finish.
And the finished product:
For those do-it-yourselfers thinking about doing this at home, total project cost was $39.99 for the mount on Amazon.com and another $50 or so at Home Depot for various supplies [studs, drywall, junction boxes, etc]. A larger TV means a more expensive mount, but other than that the costs should be about the same. Overall it's a pretty straightforward project as long as you plan things out beforehand.
Thanks again to Patrick and Captain for all the help!
I think you all know by now that Kel and I were out on the West Coast over the 4th of July holiday weekend to help celebrate Matt and Tracey's wedding as well as enjoy some R and R up in wine country. Below is a recap and some photos from the trip. Just a handful. Enjoy! And please tell me you know the drill here by now, right? Let's all say it together one more time..."Click to Enlarge". Good job.
We got into SFO late on Thursday night [July 1] picked up our rental car and met up with the crew at a local watering hole in downtown Walnut Creek. After some hellos and a few drinks it was time to call it a night...especially with the 3hr time difference. We were bunking down at the awesome Renaissance ClubSport where Matty actually works out during the week. Great hotel with awesome fitness and pool facilities! I think everyone from the wedding stayed there so it was a pretty festive atmosphere all weekend long.
[Friday July 2nd]
Friday morning was an early start as the we caught the subway back into town with Andy and Val for a quick trip over to Alcatraz. We didn't visit the island on our previous trip out to San Francisco so we wanted to make sure we got it in this time...and I'm really glad we did.
While out on the Rock we did the cell-house audio tour which is an awesome way to experience what daily life must have been like at the prison. One highlight was being locked into a solitary confinement cell for 45 seconds...in the pitch dark. You couldn't see your hand infront of your face. Imagine spending 23hrs each day in there?
This is one of the cells that was tunneled out of during the famous escape from Alcatraz. No one knows if those 3 guys ever did make it!
After our time on the island we took the 15 minute boat ride back and walked over to Pier 39 to see the sea lions and grab a bite to eat.
Before we knew it we had to catch the subway back out to Walnut Creek and gear up for the rehearsal and rehearsal dinner later that night. While all the guys got ready the ladies got to hang out by the hotel pool for a few hours before joining us for the dinner portion of the evening.
One of Matt's golf club members [Matt is a golf pro for those who were not aware.] offered up his house for Matt and Tracey to use for the wedding ceremony. I won't post too many photos of this guys pad, but if you'd like to see more just check out the latest Pottery Barn catalog or Google the new iPhone 4 commercial...both shot here on location. The views up here were amazing and there's not one neighbor in any direction.
After the walk-thru we all made our way back to Walnut Creek for dinner and drinks at Bing Crosby's. Great food, drink and some funny conversations! Thanks to the Mores' for an awesome meal.
After our time at Bing's it was back to the hotel bar to finish the night off with a few more drinks and oddly enough a few rousing games of boccie. Things did get somewhat rowdy at the end of the night and a few people were thrown out! Luckily Herb-dog had his yellow and red cards in his wallet so he could make the ejections official.
I love that photo of Andy and Val on the hood of the "teal-mobile" they rented for the trip. And how about the look on Murph's face after he got issued that red card. Kid does not look happy at all. And Murphdog, I'm with you on this one, the official was way off. Seriously though...I need to start carrying a yellow and red card in my wallet.
[Saturday July 3rd: Wedding Day]
Saturday started with everyone mustering down at the breakfast buffet to enjoy a much needed coffee! After that everyone just milled around and made our way out to the pool to relax before having to suit up for the Big Day. Before we knew it everyone was tuxed up and ready to roll out for photos. Of course a quick stop at the store was needed to get beer and ice...wedding day essentials, right?
We took the required photos and the time seemed to just fly by. In the blink of an eye we were ushering people into the seats, the music came on, and Tracey was on her way down the aisle.
There you have it...Mr and Mrs Husband and Wife! After the ceremony we all limo'd over to the country club for the reception. More good food, drinks and plenty of dancing!
Here's footage of Matt and Tracey being introduced to the crowd:
And please don't ask why I'm holding up a log from the fireplace in that photo towards the end...you're smart enough to figure out it probably had something to do with Scotty "the Evil Bartender" and the amount alcohol he was pouring into each drink!
[Sunday July 4th: Happy Birthday America!]
Once again we all found ourselves down at the breakfast buffet licking our wounds, some worse than others! Nothing a few cups of coffee couldn't cure though. Once we had a good meal in us we loaded up and made 45 minute drive up to wine country. More booze? Why not!
Kel and I drove around downtown Sonoma for a bit to get the lay of the land before checking into our hotel, the Renaissance Lodge at Sonoma Resort and Spa. Talk about a nice hotel...and we got an awesome AAA rate! And a total coincidence that we were staying at another Renaissance hotel. Here are a few shots of the room and hotel.
We unpacked and lounged by the pool for a bit before meeting Jo Jo and Jill at Ravenswood Winery [#1] for a tasting before dinner.
After our tasting we still had a little bit of time to kill before our dinner reservation so we stopped into the Sonoma Cheese Factory right on the main square and grabbed a bottle of wine and a few snacks to tide us over. We sat down on the grass and nibbled away before walking over for dinner.
We made the short walk over to The Girl and the Fig where we met up with Andy and Val, so it was 6 of us for dinner.
It was another short walk to a field a few blocks outside the main square to watch the Sonoma town fireworks show which started around 9:30p. It wasn't the best fireworks show I've been too, but it it satisfied the requirment that every American should see some fireworks on the 4th of July.
[Monday July 5th]
Kel and I got up and grabbed some eats and a coffee at a great spot called Homegrown Bagels right in town. [Hey...with no Dunkin Donuts in that state you have to make do!]
After fueling up we drove the 25 minutes over to downtown Napa to have a look. Nothing too exciting going on there, and not nearly as nice as downtown Sonoma [or Healdsburg for that matter]. After walking around a bit we got the call from Matty saying that they wine country limo tour he had organized was en route and that we should meet up with them asap. We set course for the beautiful sparkling winery called Domaine Carneros [#2] and met up with the entire crew.
After Domaine our next stop on the tour was Tracey's horse barn. Matt's wife Tracey trains and competes in different horse events and while I don't fully understand it all, you should keep an eye out for her at the 2012 Olympics in London during the dressage events. Getting to have a look around the barn and to meet her horse Aldente [Ali for short] was a real treat.
After whispering to the horses our next stop was to be the Regusci Winery [#3] back in Napa in the Staggs Leap area. We needed to get some lunch first though so we hit up a favorite spot of many people in Napa, [and one of ours from our trip back in 2007] the Oakville Grocery. Talk about awesome sandwiches, cheese, and all sorts of snacks!
As we left Regusci we said our goodbyes. AC and Val were on the late bus back to Beantown and the limo was headed back to Walnut Creek. Since it was early in the afternoon and we still had a craving, we decided to stop at a few more vineyards. We set the GPS for our most favorite place in all of Napa, Peju [#4]. We stopped in for a tasting and to buy a bottle that we'd enjoy later in the evening.
After Peju we didn't really have a plan, so we just drove up the road until we saw something that peaked our interest. The building at Alpha Omega [#5] looked cool so we decided to pull in for a tasting. Unfortunately that was the only cool thing about this place. The wines were so so, but super expensive, and the guy who did our tasting was kinda rude. So we tasted quickly and hit the road.
Just as we were finishing up our tasting we heard from Jo Jo and Jill Jill, who had spent the day up in the Russian River Valley, wondering what our plan for supper was. We agreed on a Mexican joint in Sonoma that we had seen the day before. La Casa was as close to a carbon copy to Jose's in Cambridge that we've seen so far! Excellent quacamole and authentic Mexican food really hit the spot.
After dinner we decided to relax by the outdoor fire-pit things that our hotel had by the pool. We uncorked a few bottles and chilled until it got so cold that we had to head inside. But like I said, our hotel had a fireplace too so we were able to keep the party going no problem!
We filmed this little gem while we were outside by the fireplace:
It was nice to spend the evening with Jo Jo and Jill before they had to head back to Boston on Tuesday morning...
[Tuesday July 6th]
We got up early and drove through Petaluma en route to the coast and Bodega Bay, about an hours drive from the hotel in Sonoma. We figured that we'd drive up the coast for a bit and then cut over along the Russian River on our way to Healdsburg and the wineries in that area. When we got to the beach it was cold, foggy and rainy. Temps were about 50 degrees and we were shivering as we walked down to the water. Kel put her feet in and quickly realized how cold the Pacific is that far north.
Once we got into the Healdsburg area we made our first stop at Ridge [#6]. What a great little winery off the beaten path and with some great vintages and amazing vistas.
Our next stop was one of our favorites on this trip, Stryker Sonoma Winery [#7]. Some great wines here and some pretty cool architecture too for thier tasting room.
After Stryker we swung by Mauritson Winery [#8] in the Dry Creek Valley. A nice small winery with some decent wines. We just did a quick tasting here and then go on our way...lunch was calling!
We snagged a few sanwiches at the Oakville Grocery in downtown Healdsburg and took them over to a picnic table outside Rodney Strong to eat. Rodney Strong [#9] and J Vineyards [#10] share a parking lot so you can to 2 tastings in 1 stop...pretty convienient if you ask me!
You've probably seen that J Vineyards sparkling wine at your local liquor store, right? Looked familiar to me too...and it's really good stuff! And how about that Livestrong jersey they sell too...didn't get one though I really wanted to. After J we decided to call it a day and head back to the hotel and relax by the pool for a few hours before dinner.
For dinner we actually met up with Matt and Tracey at a great little italian joint in downtown Napa called Allegria. The food was amazing and the restaurant is housed in what used to be a bank building. We had a choice table up on the second level that overlooked the entire place. It was real nice to catch up with Matt and Tracey since they were pulled in so many directions over the course of the weekend and we couldn't really talk all that much.
[Wednesday July 7th]
We slept in at the hotel a bit before getting started on our last day of the trip. After checking out we got snacks for lunch at the Sonoma Cheese Factory and then headed north into the Sonoma Valley and started the day at St. Francis [#11]
We really enjoyed all the wines here at St. Francis and the tasting room and views were just breathtaking.
After our tasting we started to get real hungry so we found a beautiful picnic area at Chateau St. Jean where we sat down and ate. Once we finished up and watched a wedding ceremony [yeah...a Wednesday wedding...a bit odd, right?] we made our way to Kunde Family Estate [#12] just down the road. The wines here were okay but the lady doing our tasting could have cared less that we were there and took no time in explaining anything.
Next up on the 2010 Nowak Winery Tour was a place called Mayo [lucky #13]. This small family winery was awesome. A great tasting hostess walked us through everything and the wines were great. Too bad we can only get them online!
After Mayo we drove up, up and up into the mountains that border the valley in hopes of getting some good views of the valley below. No luck. Most of the moutain roads are tree-lined and you can't see anything. Oh well, it was worth the try.
3 more wineries left on the whirlwind tour. Imagery [#14] was a neat place where every bottle labeled is designed by a different artist with the only requirment that it have an image/drawing/representation of the Parthenon on it.
On a recommendation we decided to swing by B.R. Cohn [#15] for a wine tasting and also an olive oil sampling. This place was actually founded by the guy who was the road manager for the Doobie Brothers back in the day!
With a few more minutes left before most of the wineries started to close we were able to squeeze in Benzinger [#16], which is actually the parent winery of Imagery. This place was really cool and I wish we had gotten there earlier in the day. They had tours of the winery and farm that are supposed to be great. Oh well, next trip, right?
So...for those of you keeping score at home [and how could you not since I provided updates after each winery] we hit a total of 16 different tasting rooms. Not too bad for a 3 day visit to wine country!
Now that nearly all the wineries had buttoned up for the day we needed to grab some dinner before the airport. We found a small bar/grill in Glen Ellen that did the job. Before we knew it we had to get in the car and make a b-line for SFO. Came across this huge American flag hanging from a tree in the middle of a vineyard. Very cool!
Of course we did stop at the park overlooking the Golden Gate Bridge to snap a few photos, which almost cost us to miss the flight. When we left wine country it was sunny and 80 but by the time we reached the bridge it was 50 and the fog was as thick as pea soup. It was windy as heck up there too which made it a bit hard to get a good photo with Kel's hair blowing all around!
Thanks as always for reading through and looking at all the photos. I'll leave you with a quick video that we filmed in the final hours of our trip.
p.s. - some of you keen observers will notice from the video that I'm driving a Hyundai Santa Fe. A bit ironic since that's what we have at home for a car. Total coincidence on that. We were slated to get a Ford Escape and when we got to the counter the guy was like "How does a Hynudai Santa Fe work for you". Hey...why not!
Kel and I are still out in California [most likely tipping back a few glasses of wine as we speak] so I thought I'd pre-post another round of cell photos that have been cleared off my phone from the past few months. They're in no particular order whatsoever. Click to enlarge...