Brunch so hard with Barcelona Wine Bar

barcelona (1 of 1)It’s not every day you take over a Facebook page.  Might as well make the most of it!

Submit a compelling argument to me as to why brunch is NOT the greatest meal of the week.  For one, it’s rare.  Usually occurring only on Sunday (but at Barcelona Wine Bar – you also get Saturday brunch – rejoice!), with all the carbs, all the meats, all the sugars, and of course, all the booze.  Barcelona was kind enough to invite myself and several guests (big and one small) to enjoy brunch with them – and pick up the tab – for which I sincerely thank them.  Also sincerest thanks and gratitude for a truly amazing meal.  This is truly one of my favorite spots in the Center.  Shout out to my friend Xavier, formally of Rooftop 120, for recently being named their new West Hartford Executive Chef also!  Ok, down to business.  Some highlights from our feast:

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Brunch without booze is a sad breakfast, they say (and they’re right).  So might as well booze like you mean it with the perfect Bloody Mary from the more than ample bloody mary bar.  It’s a little overwhelming perhaps, but Amanda is a pro and created this artistic and delicious creation:
extravagance

Pictured: nothing excessive

And then, of course, there’s the food.  Barcelona is known for tapas style dining, combining traditional Spanish cooking and eating styles with a little American flair and fusion.  Their Brunch Tapas menu is available alongside the (more traditional) tapas selection and delectable cheese boards and paellas to share… so that you can mix and match if you care to do so.  We were spoiled and overwhelmed with brunch items and stuck to those however:

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Exhibit A: Chicken and Churros

Of all the dishes, we sampled, my personal favorite was the “Breakfast Octopus:”

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Replete with a perfectly poached egg sprinkled with just the right amount of paprika.  Octopus, cooked correctly, is a texturally perfect meal.  This plate is also light and healthy, which was good because the chicken and churros were… probably not…

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Come to think of it… poutine (with Mangalica gravy), is also PROBABLY not particularly healthy.  But dang, is it tasty.  Also pictured: Mimosas made table side with my favorite Juve Y Camps Cava and fresh grapefruit or orange juice.

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Another crowd pleaser: Huevos a la Flamenca (Spinach, Manchengo, Baked Egg).

Penelope enjoyed Lemon Blueberry Pancakes for her own baby brunch:

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Sharing jokes with Auntie Amanda

And we adults enjoyed a very grown up rift on french toast with the Torrijas:

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That’s Coffee Vanilla Syrup and it’s amazing.

Thanks again to Barcelona for, well, killing it in every single way.  Our entire dining party, including the (not pictured/too busy eating to pose for pictures) Scott and Adam had a perfect dining experience.  I’ll be back very soon to see what sort of cool twists Chef Xavier has put on the dinner tapas menu – so stay tuned for more Spanish food porn in the very near future, and follow Barcelona on Facebook and Instagram for even more foodie goodness.

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New and noteworthy: farm dinners with Treva + brunch at Little River Restoratives

Working in content marketing for my company, A Little Bird Told Me, and working (mostly) with restaurants exposes me to, well, all the food.  I’m spoiled.  I know it.  And I consider it my duty to share it with the world.  So without further ado, here are two excellent offerings from two of my very favorite clients:

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What is Hadley + Occum?  It’s the rich, glacier born soil that graces the Farmington River Valley.  And it’s the genesis of all that beautiful produce which burst from every farm stand during these glorious hot summer months in the West Hartford/Valley area.  And it’s also the name of the new farm dinner series from the DORO Restaurant Group, starting with perennial favorite Treva and the cuisine of Chef John Medonis:

john medonis at sub edge farm

Seen here perusing the kale at Sub Edge Farm, which will host the dinner on July 27th.

Get tickets here and enjoy this first of a series of beautiful nights on the farm with what is guaranteed to be excellent, local driven cuisine.

Also tasty and new: brunch at Little River Restoratives – Hartford’s hippest cocktail bar and soon to be Ramen purveyor via a sister restaurant which will open next door on Capitol Avenue in the fall of 2016.  Catch a glimpse of the new menu with what Proprietor Chris Parrot refers to as “Japanese hangover food:” authentic Cabbage pancakes smothered in Japanese mayonnaise, cheese, and your choice of toppings.  Plus excellent cocktails with body soothing ingredients such as aloe vera water and Vitamin b12.  Plus a DJ.  Plus the aforementioned simple, umami saturated and oh so satisfying menu, with Executive Chef Tyler Anderson of Millwrights guest cooking during our visit today.  So yeah – basically as cool and cool can be, and very tasty to boot.  Below are some pictures of today’s brunchfest with Style Context:

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The Cooper, the Keys, and the Baby Mermaid

Before we dive into my vacation recap, let me invite all of you to visit my new blog project for Share Our Strength: Taste of the NationLeeanne and I recently attended a fundraiser dinner at Millwrights for the charity, and my write up is here.

Gah.  It’s already been a week since our trip to Florida.  Good thing we have another one coming up at Christmas – I love autumn, but the shorter, cooler days have snuck up way too fast this year.  Not to mention – every time we go back to Palm Beach Gardens, I seem to find more to love about our former home.  And now that The Cooper has joined the vibrant PBG restaurant scene – there’s even more to love!

those dates

This was my brother, Lucas’ reaction to the Cooper chorizo and manchego stuffed medjool dates.  Seems an appropriate lead in.  Also, please note the excellent math pun on his t shirt (it’s a runner thinking about pi)

My BFF and compadre in arms always, aka my sister Helen, and I managed to go to the Cooper twice in the week I was in Florida (she’s since been back by herself, because of course she has).

sisters the cooper

Photo from our first night

me menu

Cheesy, happy menu shot

cooper cheese plate glamour shot

Cheese plate the second – we ordered cheese plates both trips.  This one featured, from left to right: Manchego, Hudson Valley Camembert, and Moliterno al Tartufo.

The first time we visited, we had to leave early to get back to baby Penelope – so we packaged up our food to go, including this excellent salad:

peach salad

Grilled Peaches & Point Reyes Blue Cheese

This tangy gazpacho:

gazpacho glamour shot

Heirloom Tomato and Watermelon Gazpacho

And, of course, the aforementioned dates.  We DID have time to sip and savor a couple cocktails however:

cooper cocktail 2

“Bees Knees” martini: Citadel Gin, honey syrup, lemon juice

cooper cocktail 1

Name Dropper “Modified Sour:” Plymouth Gin, St Germain, grapefruit and lemon juices

Our second visit also marked a happy, lively meeting with head bartender and CT native (as if the beard wasn’t a dead give away! ha!) David Bouchard

chartreuse bitches

He really likes chartreuse.  Don’t question it.  The man is a master

haha! cocktails

Seen here deep in his craft and also immersed in snarkology.  It’s always nice to meet a fellow snarkologist.

The shot above pictures David mixing our agreed upon favorite cocktail:

cooper cucumber cocktail

Cucumber Southside “Classic Sour:” Hendrick’s Gin, simple syrup, citrus, muddled mint, cucumber

The cocktails at The Cooper are quite up to par with the other Max locations in CT – thanks to David’s creativity and a menu which is influenced by a Southern/Carribean vibe – much like the food menu – adding a unique, tangy Floridian twist to the Max flavors we know and love.  Quite nice!  Can’t wait to go back in December with Caitlin and Hannah.

There was more fun and delicious dining in the form of a brand new dining experience – Rosie’s Bar and Grill in Wilton Manors!  I was suitably excited upon being informed that: 1) this is a gay diner 2) valet parking only.  Seemed like an excellent start.  Plus, my good friend from college, Jana, does NOT recommend bad dining destinations.  Ever.

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Meeting Baby P for the first time!  With a nice photobomb from Julie and her boyfriend, Rob.

Rosie’s boasted many, many strong points: sassy tags on each of the servers’ shirt (our servers read: “there’s a fine line between hotness and hot mess) cool “see and be scene” crowd (that’s their tag line by the way at Rosies’ – it’s definitely a ‘Florida thing’), and enormous, delicious portions

brunch 1

No I did not eat this (enormous banana stuffed french toast)

brunch 2

But yes! I did eat this, and it was so very good (asparagus eggs benedict on a delectable home made biscuit)

The trip to Rosie’s worked out perfectly as it was on the way to one of my Dad’s favorite vacation spots in Key Largo – Ocean Pointe Suites.  This glorious timeshare boasts a location with is much more central than Key West which – although fun – is also a good three hours further by car (possibly farther depending on traffic).  It also has a lovely pool whose only flaw is a radio which is constantly tuned to Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville channel (shudders), a nice little beach grotto, onsite bar, marina, tennis courts, and apartments complete with kitchenettes.

kayaking w baby

Kayaking with baby!

p on da beach

Exploring the beach!

sisters in the kayak

Sisterly bonding!

We also visited a cool Bird Sanctuary – ok – it would have been a bit cooler if it were not for the 6 million strong mosquito population – but P enjoyed herself nevertheless:

pelican and daddy

Penelope still enjoyed it!

And there were some more, notable foodie highlights in Key Largo:

fish and grits and mimosa

Fresh fish and grits at Mrs Mac’s Kitchen with $2 mimosas.  Now we’re talking

birfday cake

And the most amazing early birthday cake ever from my Grandmother!  Streudel on top, cheesecake in the middle, coffee cake on the bottom.  Oh my.

Thankfully, with all the delicious vacation foods, I also had a nice stash of Shakeology to keep me on track:

shakeology on the beach

Seen here in a glamour shot

There were also super healthy foods because my family is good like that too:

pineapple yogurt chobani

Grilled pineapple and chobani with granola.

Penelope spent as much of her vacation as possible in the water – indiscriminate between pool and ocean – she was fearless and oh so into it.  Few things are more enjoyable, as a parent, than watching your child really enjoy herself – so swimming with baby was definitely a highlight of the trip!

with swimmies

Let’s go!

The theme of “no let’s not leave the water, ever” continued up until our last night, at my Dad’s condo on Singer Island

swimming with grandpa

Swimming with Grandpa.  It’s the best

mommy babby

Someone did NOT want to pose for this picture but I got it anyway because I’m sneaky.  Plus P is wearing her beautiful Lilly dress from Silkworm!

So there you have it.  Our home away from home/second home – Florida.  Like many CT residents, we have deep roots in the state, and wonderful family and friends who we look forward to seeing again very soon!

 

Two awesome weekends with Penelope – @MillwrightsCT and @FunwithCarbsLG barbeque

I had every intention of posting last week, I swear.  But somewhere between working full time (which I adore) little Penelope (who is the best thing in the world), and a three day holiday weekend (yaaaas), time just got away from me.  So here’s a summary of the last two weekends’ festivities, starting with: dinner on the patio at Millwrights with my loves!

Oh, what’s better than dining outside on a glorious summer evening with the people you care about?  Just about nothing.  Well, the opening night of Talcott Mountain Music Festival would have been nice, but when our babysitter had to cancel, we went for a family evening – and it was fantastic.  Millwrights, for being somewhat (ok, very) fancy and farm to chef, is still down home, hospitable, and oh-so-baby friendly.  How friendly you ask?  Friendly enough for the General Manager, AJ, to hunt down sunblock from me for little Penelope when she got a bit too much early evening sun on the deck:

millwrights baby

Thanks to Chef Tyler‘s wife for lending us some and pretty much saving our dinner.  P practiced her naice walking al fresco and threw a jelly sandal in the pond, and she did not get sunburned in the slightest.  A very successful evening.

Dining with a 15 month old can be a bit chaotic, so we have a couple simple rules to manage the experience and make sure it’s pleasant for us and our fellow diners:

– Eat early.  The ‘witching hour’ for P is around 7:00 pm, as that’s her bed time, so a 5:00 pm start time typically works well

– Seek out family friendly places.  This tends to be less “Chuck E Cheese” and more “awesome, laid back staff – ” like Millwrights, as well as places with stimulation and some space to stretch the little legs and wander about.  Outdoor dining in general is, of course, fabulous for this.

– When all else fails, grab some to-go boxes and exit stage left.  To be honest yes, this has happened a couple times.  But thankfully not on this particular evening!

So there you have it.  I’m sure every parent has a trick or two up their sleeves – just happens that this works well for us.  It also helps that I occasionally receive gift cards as bonuses through my work place – as budgets for new parents can be tight also (and ours certainly often is!)

millwrights cocktail

Another parent staple – a delicious cocktail.  Pictured: the Violet Femme (vodka, creme yvette, lemon, rosemary)

amuse bouche

Chef Tyler sent out this delightful amuse bouche, which has an equally delightful French name which I remembered only as its translation: cheese puff (the Violet Femmes may have been to blame for this)

millwrights biscuit

Anyone whose been to Millwrights and doesn’t have a gluten allergy will most likely attest to the flaky delectable qualities of the biscuit and house infused butter combo

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We ordered a side of asparagus for P, but it was enjoyed by all

steak millwrights

Mike’s entree: Tournedos of Beef Tenderloin.  The pickled scape garnish was incredible.  I’m canning scapes this week in an attempt to replicate at home.

duck millwrights

My Duck Breast.  The parmesan grits were a bit of a let down for me – I’m a purist when it comes to grits and the texture was a bit too rich, mealy, and not quite starchy enough for my taste.  But the flavorful, fatty, rare plus duck more than compensated, and it paired quite nicely with my Violet Femme.

This was my first opportunity to actually dine on the deck at Millwrights.  I can’t wait to go back, hopefully for drinks at sunset?  Who knows.  It’s awfully nice that its only fifteen minutes away from our house 🙂

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Love it

So that was Friday evening – over and home before the sun had fully set – but that’s not a bad thing at all on a long summer night with a small child in tow.  Saturday, we had another family excursion to the Pickin’ Patch in Avon!  We arrived just in time for the last strawberries, which is why our berries are a bit small.  We worked hard for them and they tasted extra juicy because of it!

picked by penelope

Sun ripened, juicy beauties.

pickin patch baby

Someone got a special wagon ride from Daddy!

As well as berries, the Pickin Patch has a variety of ‘you pick’ vegetables.  We grabbed some snow peas, and I would definitely like to go back for more of a veggie array at some point in the future.  We plucked these particular berries for a very maple syrup infused brunch at our house the very next day and served them in maple syrup (naturally).  The entire concept of the brunch was birthed from a single bottle of maple syrup infused wine from Arrigoni Winery in Portland. I did a tasting when I picked the bottle for the party up, and a write up of many of their wine blends is coming tomorrow!  There were enough of them that they deserve their own post.  The maple syrup wine didn’t last long, but thankfully we had back up:

onyx and necklaces

Namely, Onyx moonshine infused with strawberries.  Paired with some delightful Lia Sophia necklaces which were also up for grabs at the brunch

p and hannah

Look at these fashionable ladies

Most of the cooking was done by a kindly guardian angel who arrived on a fluffy cloud from Billings Forge and professionally took over my kitchen, thus preventing a syrupy meltdown on my part.  Cathy AmaranteI can’t thank you enough for applying your professional catering knowledge to my chaos, and the food you prepared was tasty and beautiful:

egg cups

Pinterest worthy ham and egg cups

goddess pancakes

Bacon and apple pancakes.  I also provided really ugly and not very good Vegan pancakes.   Sorry vegetarians/vegans.  I tried.

brunch spread

Other tasty food stuffs!  Those giant muffins were so good and unfortunately can be purchased very close to my house.  I’m in trouble.

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Little people enjoying play time

p and amanda and spike jonze

…and necklace modeling.  Yes, it looks good on you P

On Independence Day, we celebrated with my husband’s family and a giant array of Italian delicacies (hello, cutlets!)  Unfortunately the weather was awful – fortunately – we got to attend Leeanne‘s barbeque the very next day!

l cheese plates

I made this and, heck yes, I’m very proud of it.  Blue cheese, Sweet Pea chevre, and prosciutto.

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No lack of food or tasteful displays here! 

The highlight of the barbeque for me were the Broad Brook Beef burgers.  Ok, definitely the highlight for me were the Broad Brook burgers.  I’ve never tried this local beef before, and the meat was intensely flavorful and juicy.  Oh man.  Definitely going to stock up at some point in the near future.  There were also many delicious libations flowing:

l rose

Rose, because we classy

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Yet more Strawberry Onyx Lemonade. Great minds think alike.

rare luddite sighting

Also, Two Roads Brewing Company Road Jam beer.  Hi Rob!

p baba

I managed to photograph both camera shy luddites, but not a single group shot of the ladies.  DANG

cool kid

…except for P killing it in her glasses

Lack of taggable Facebook photos notwithstanding (the horror!  the humanity!) a terrific time was had by all, and it was an honor to be in attendance for Leeanne and Rob’s first BBQ.  The next day was the end of our three day weekend, so we opted for a low key hike to Enders

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Which I’ve blogged about before here and I’ll do so again because I absolutely love it

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P and Daddy enjoying the waterfalls

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And a picnic!  Note how Mike is channeling Bill Murray from Caddyshack

sangria enders

Guess who just got mason cocktail jars and promptly filled them with sangria?  And posted the recipe at the end of this blog?  Awww yeah

p and mammy enders

Only seems right to end on a Mommy-Baby selfie

It’s the apex of summer – so many more long and sunshine filled weekends to come.  Hope everyone else enjoyed the sun, the beach, the awesome weather, and the long holiday weekend with friends and family xoxo

Easy Summer Sangria

2 bottles unoaked red table wine

1/2 cup cointreau

1/2 cup brandy

1/2 cup sugar

1 lemon

1 apple

1 orange

San Pellegrino Aranciata

Cut the apple and orange and place in the bottom of a large pitcher.  Juice the lemon over the other fruit and sugar.  Macerate the fruit with a long handled spoon, and add the cointreau and brandy, plus 1/2 bottle of red wine.  Place in fridge for several hours, stir, and add the remaining wine.  Keeps in the fridge for up to a week.  To finish and enjoy: strain out the fruit and serve over ice with a splash of San Pellegrino Aranaciata or other flavored Pelligrino (sprite or prosecco also work nicely)

 

From Happy Hour at Rizuttos to a Cinco de Mayo Art Party at @HartfordPrints – one heck of a weekend

May is a glorious month, is it not?  Especially for those of us who live far enough north to experience a true, biting winter, followed by a slow starting Spring (brrr).  But the warm weather is finally here, and all of the state seems to be in bloom with flowers, as well as cool events and happenings:

chef tony

Chef Tony of Rizutto’s in West Hartford

My good friend Carolyn Paine joined me for a free happy hour on Friday over at Rizutto’s.  Chef Tony Camilleri, pictured above, invited us in and graciously picked up the check (thanks so much!)

kat and carolyn

Cheers!

We both immediately bypassed wine in favor of cocktails, as there were so many good looking ones to choose from.  When we remembered we could have more than one (yay adults!) it made life a lot easier

grilled cheese and dippers and cocktails

Pictured: our first round.  From left to right: a “Cool as a Cucumber,” (Crop organic cucumber vodka, agave lemon soda, finger limes, and soda), Mini Grilled Cheese (manchengo, prosciutto, and acai berry mustard), Cherry Pepper Buffallo Chicken Skewers with gorgonzola dip, and “The Devil’s Honey,” (Old Overholt rye, muddled mint, house-made sriracha honey, and lemonade)

I thoroughly enjoyed the Devil’s Honey – which I ordered with extra sriracha for an extra spicy and sweet kick.  The skewers were also very spicy and tender, and who doesn’t like mini grilled cheese – even when ordered without prosciutto at Carolyn’s request?

carolyn instagramming

A photoshoot for the next cocktail: a Lavender Cosmo (vodka, white cranberry juice, triple sec, fresh lime juice, and house made lavender syrup).  Also, please note and admire Carolyn’s fetching business onesie

sniffing the cocktail in a business onesie

Here’s a better picture of the onesie.  It’s amazing.  Perfect for office meeting or cocktails with friends.

guava deliciousness

My own little beauty: the Guava Goddess (Ulimat vodka, fresh lime, Domain de Canton ginger liqueur, guava nectar).  Love the rosemary garnish!

We also sampled several other perfectly sized appetizers, which are all priced from $3 – $5.  The cocktails were not on the happy hour menu – although we could have chosen a wine or beer which was – and were all priced at a reasonable $10

little pizza

Margherita mini-pizza.  So cute!

crab dip

Cast Iron Crab Dip!  Carolyn declined so I had this all to myself.  I was ok with this

bruschetta

Luscious bruschetta.  According to Carolyn at least – I had enough carbs with the dip and the pizza!

At the end of the evening, curiosity got the better of us, and we ordered and sampled the ominously, and honestly titled, “fireball shot”

fireball shot

Oh my goodness.  Why.

The initial sip was heaven, but the flavor got cloying very quickly – it’s basically whiskey, infused with fireballs.  Yep.  I can see why they serve this with a beer chaser!

After happy hour, Carolyn and I strolled to Charming Charlies for some cocktail enhanced shopping for a birthday party we are attending next weekend – one of the best things about the Blueback Square!  Again, a big thanks to Tony for inviting us in, and I’ll most definitely be headed back ASAP to sample the cocktails we didn’t get to this time around.

Saturday, Penelope and I had a nice play date with some other babies at ReCreate CT, which takes place every year in Elizabeth Park

baby playdate

Attempting to push the stroller.  Kudos for trying, kid.

Naomi, who I met at the Best of Hartford party invited us to listen to Little Ugly during an al fresco, free concert.  It was great to see all the babies enjoying the music, and also – I lucked out and found the NoRa Cupcake Truck right before they sold out!

nora cupcake

Cinco de Mayo preview with a Margarita cupcake.  All the yaaaaaas.

We wanted to head to Firebox afterwards, but alas, when we arrived, all the low tables in the bar were full, and even the trendiest of babies doesn’t fare well with a high top (although if someone were to design an extra tall high chair for such occasions, that would be wicked cool).  So we headed home early, which was just fine as it was still a lovely day in the park, and the next day we had big plans to join Leeanne for a much anticipated brunch at Millwrights!

sweet cocktails

Hallo beauties.  All photos courtesy of LeeAnne Griffin

The brunch at Millwrights is quite unique as, according to Chef Tyler Anderson, he basically made a menu around what he would want for brunch – a mix of three courses (appetizer, main, and dessert) and family style sides for $30 a person.  Yes, it was decadent.  Yes, it was a ridiculous amount of food.  Yes, I have more pictures (naturally)

bruleed grapefruit yas

Beautiful grapefruit bruleé with tarragon syrup.  I’ve had something similar at Firebox before – and I’m a big fan.

asparagus

Thanks to Chef Tyler for treating us to the Asparagus, with house cured ham and sauce gribiche!  P loved the crunchy asparagus although she balked at the sauce (because baby).

bread basket

The lovely bread basket

steak and eggs

My main course: Steak and Eggs, with beef tenderloin, poached egg, greens, and bearnaise sauce

eggs benny

Leeanne’s very pretty main: Eggs Benedict with braised ham, wild ramps, and meyer lemon hollandaise

omg sausage

Oh nothing.  Just house cured bacon, and home made sausage, and succulent potatoes.  Just hanging out.

custard pie omg omg

Last but certainly not least – Buttermilk Pie with black current sorbet

leeanne and p

Penelope chilling with her Auntie Leeanne, reading the thrilling page turner: Where is Baby’s Belly Button

We left thoroughly stuffed (I mean, obviously) and I brought home the bacon, which went quite nicely with roasted asparagus for dinner that night.  In the afternoon, P and I enjoyed the garden because…

vogue

Yes, because Sunday Funday

mushroom

She is my very favorite mushroom

If anyone is wondering – Mike was away on business this weekend, which is why P and I got to enjoy so much quality time and play dates together!  And to top it all off, we attended a very fun, creative, engaging Cinco de Mayo party at Hartford Prints! on Monday night

arts

Pictured: sidewalk chalk and street graffiti.  I really hope it doesn’t rain tomorrow because I want to see the finished designs quite badly when I go downtown!

Rory sure does know how to throw a party in her letterpress studio, and there are plenty of cool new items in for spring if you haven’t been shopping there in a while.  In addition to live music from Oh Cassius! (which I’m sure was wonderful but was past Penelope’s bed time, so I didn’t get to find out first hand, alas) there were free tacos!  yeah!  free tacos.  And free margaritas!  yeah, free margaritas. Sorry about that sentence structure but I get quite excited about these things:

tacos

Thank you Whole Foods West Hartford!

ripe

Thank you Ripe!

Plenty of Hartford friends were out and about as well – who wouldn’t want to check out such a cool party?

p and kerry

Pictured: best friends with rad hairstyles

selfieeees

Pictured: ridiculous selfies with CT Ain’t So Bad.  Just because we can.

Nothing like Cinco de Mayo on a Monday to make it feel like a three day weekend, even if I worked a full day today!  Well, that about wraps it up.  But yeah, Hartford is kind of awesome, and if this is what the rest of the summer is going to be like, I can’t wait.