21 October 2012

Anniversary! 10 October 2012 and 12-14 October 2012

October 10 was mine and Richard's first anniversary, and we wanted to celebrate it in the best ways we could think of. That Wednesday, we went out to the Cheesecake Factory for a marvelously delicious dinner. But that was only the beginning of our anniversary adventures.
We had been planning our anniversary for something like a month and a half. We knew that we wanted to go somewhere, and hoped we could make it somewhere we had never experienced before. I spent nearly a week scouring the internet for places to go in nearby states, finding so many of them were too far away, or too expensive.
Then, one Saturday afternoon, I got an email from Livingsocial.com. They send me emails daily about various deals that would appeal to people in my area, and there it was: the perfect deal. We bought reservations for two nights at the Resort at Glade Springs in West Virginia for half price, a mere $112 per night in their Executive King Suites. So, last weekend, we drove five hours down to Daniels, West Virginia to enjoy our time and relax. The room was amazing. We had a sitting room, a large bathroom, and bedroom with king-sized bed. The atmosphere of the whole place was so relaxing. Since it's the middle of autumn now, the property was surrounded with trees changing their leaves.
Further, there was a lot to do on the resort itself, and it's actually more than a resort; it's a gated community, so there are a lot of people who have built their houses on the resort. On site, there are two golf courses, horseback riding, an indoor swimming pool, indoor and outdoor tennis, an athletic centre, playground, bowling alley, hiking trails, boat rental, and so much more. There are several places to eat on site, as well. In the main building, a buffet breakfast is served. You can go to the Small Talk Cafe, which serves things like pastries and small sandwiches, as well as coffee and bottled drinks. The Glade Springs Grill and Bar is the fancier place, where the fare is more refined and expensive. For a more "dressy casual" dinner, Richard and I went to the Bunker Sports Bar, for a delicious meal and dessert. We also bought a bottle of wine from the restaurant to have back at our room.
Before leaving West Virginia on Sunday, we traveled to Tamarack, which is about a half hour away from the resort. There, they have vendors that sell local made items, from paintings to sculptures to jewelry to wine and jams. There, we bought two bottles of wine, two jars of honey, and a jar of plum jelly.

Driving down

View from our room

Dinner at Bunker's

On a walk

At the playground, they really had this sort of ninja training set up. I passed.
At the rec centre

Bowling. Richard said to me, "Give me your warrior face!"
We took this photo after completing our shopping adventure at Tamarack
Everything about this trip was amazing and wonderful and beautiful. We have a great time exploring most of the grounds in a several hour-long walk. We took the time to stay in at night and just watch television (we don't have cable at home). We got to experience a whole new place that we've never seen before, and we hope that we can come back some day.

Comments We spent a lot of time planning this trip, from deciding which days to go to where and how we'll deal with the financial costs of the whole thing. Since we don't have a joint account, we just decided to split things in various ways, and it all worked out evenly. My suggestion to any couples who want to plan a big trip is to take the time (perhaps an hour or so) to organize the whole thing. Decide on what you'll need to bring, how much money you want to or are willing to spend, and think of some of the things you want to do there. For us, we were content to keep our activities limited to walking around and a cheap round of bowling, but other people might wish to golf, or go skiing, or take tours. Whatever you're thinking about doing, you should plan for it well, as there's nothing worse than being stuck somewhere you're not familiar with with no money.
My best advice to anyone trying to plan a special trip like this is to enjoy it to the fullest, and try to go somewhere you've never been before. Exploration is the source of much of the world's happiness, in my opinion, and when you get to experience new places, there is a special joy that stays with you as long as you remember the trip. Get out, and do something new and exciting. Experience the world with the people you care about, and enjoy the time you have on this earth.

And that's the low-down on our very special anniversary trip to West Virginia! Thank you for reading this article of the Endorphin Walrus, and we hope you enjoyed it. Hopefully, we were able to give you some ideas for your next big trip! As always, please feel free to leave comments, questions, and suggestions below!

Long Update

Good Sunday afternoon, everyone. We have not updated this in a while, which is a shame, but things have been rather busy.  Further, our Saturdays haven't been as...unusual, shall we say, as they had been in the past. Since I am now paying an unfortunate amount of money for my new car each month, we do have less to do things with. In this post, I will tell you about some of the more ordinary things we've been doing, and discuss why having a period of so-called "normal" dates isn't a bad idea. In the next post, I will discuss a recent trip we took.

The first weekend of August, we went to a friend's wedding. I have known Kevin for about six years now, and Richard has known him far longer. His new wife, Sam, is also someone Richard has known for years.
The wedding was up in Richard's hometown area, near Syracuse NY. We drove up a couple of days before so we could enjoy the countryside, walk around, and relax. The day of the wedding, we spent a lot of time getting dressed. Since Richard was the best man for the wedding, we had to make sure he looked perfect -- and he did! I only have one photograph from the wedding right now, as the rest are on my laptop.
The wedding was wonderful. The ceremony was held outside in a small inn's garden. The bride was gorgeous, and the whole thing was very moving. This was the first wedding I have any memory of going to, and it was so hard not to just burst into tears.
After the ceremony, we were brought inside for dinner, with an open bar. Many people got drunk and danced. Before all the regular dancing started, Kevin and Sam had their first dance together, to Dean Martin's "Ain't That A Kick in The Head?" They had taken the time to choreograph a very cute dance, and it was a wonderful sight. Dinner was delicious, and the whole reception was a lot of fun. I even got up to dance (to older songs, such as Frank Sinatra's "New York New York").

For the following weeks, most of our Saturdays were spent finding a fun place to eat and watching a movie. This part of the year has involved the release of a lot of movies that we've wanted to see, so we've made it a point to see as many of them as possible. The theatre we go to has a seven dollar regular ticket charge, but with student ID's, it's five dollars per ticket. Since this is something like a ten dollar decrease from the ticket prices we paid in New York, weekly movies are not an issue.
Some of the movies we've seen recently are: The Dark Knight Rises, Paranorman, Looper, and Hotel Transylvania. I won't really get into which I did and didn't like for reasons of time, but it was a lot of fun to relax and watch a film.

We've also been eating at a lot of different places. One place we found, which is an absolute diamond in the rough, is Stoke's Grill on McKnight Road.
This place is a very unique eatery, offering all homemade items, and holding many of it as organic ware. The food is fairly priced, and we got one appetizer, two soups, two entrees with sides, two drinks, and three of their famous cookies for less than forty dollars.
The inside of this place is really comfortable, and you can look at the menu at a table, then walk up to the counter to order your food. They then give you a ticket, and your food is delivered according to the courses you ordered based on the number on the ticket.
The food itself was really superb. Our appetizer was a toasted pepperoni roll with melted mozzarella, and coming right from the oven, it was amazing. Our soup course consisted of butternut squash for myself and french onion for Richard. We traded off to try each other's as well. I'm not so much of a soup person (I'm rather picky about them), but they were so delicious it didn't matter. For our entree, Richard had a Philly Chicken, which is like a Philly Cheesesteak, but with chicken instead of beef, and provolone instead of cheese wiz. I had a sandwich called The Hitch, which was oven-roasted turkey, swiss cheese, lettuce, and honey mustard on a pretzel. Yep. On a pretzel that was cut in half. My sandwich came with homemade chips, and Richard got fries. For our dessert, we had to try their homemade cookies, which Internet reviews raved about. They were three for one dollar (!) and so chewy and delicious I wanted to use the rest of my singles to take the rest home.

Another restaurant I want to talk about here is a place I've been going to with my friend Niki for nearly a year now. It's a place we found by accident, as we were at the Waterworks strip mall one night and very hungry. We stopped at this place and were so amazed by the food that we have made it a point to eat here once a month, when we get paid. That's right, I'm talking about Burgatory.
This is the best place to get a burger that I have ever been to in my whole life. Here, they allow customers to create a custom burger, stacked high with meat, condiments, veggies and other toppings, cooked to perfection. And the custom-made burger is a serious matter to consider. Do you want classic, hormone-free beef, or perhaps the robust taste of Angus beef? Never had a lump crab patty? Are you a vegetarian, and prefer veggie burgers? How about chicken? After you consider your meat, you move on to choosing your bun, from regular Brioche to Whole Wheat to bunless or "Naked." Next is rubs. This restaurant offers homemade rubs for their burgers, from classic "Angel Dust," which is just salt and pepper, to "Kingston Jerk," which gives the burger a bit of a kick. Next you choose your cheese, from the regular expected choices to Amish Gorgonzola, Horseradish Chedder and Aged Gruyere. Finally, you can start to choose toppings and condiments. Toppings are unique; not just your average ketchup, mustard, and mayo. A few choices from their long list are: Buttermilk Ranch, Bourbon BBQ, Banana Ketchup, and Truffled Shallot Aioli. The last things to choose are toppings. They have a list of $1 (or $1.5) toppings, ranging from Cage-free Egg to grilled mushrooms to grilled pineapple and avocado wasabi. Then there is a list of free toppings (well, the first four are free), beginning from classic iceberg lettuce and going to tomato slices, baby spinach, jalepeño peppers, and red onion slices. Then of course, you choose red, pink, or no pink for wellness, and add your name.
Your burger gets delivered to you stacked high with all your requests, held together with a little red pitchfork bearing your name. The traditional side for these burgers is pile of homemade, thick chips.
Something to definitely consider on a visit to Burgatory is their shakes. They are perfectly thick, and full of flavour. They have the Campfire Smore's shake, which comes with a toasted jumbo marshmallow on top, as well as the PB&J. They also have a class of "Hard Shakes," such as the Espresso Love (Richard's favourite), which has ground espresso beans and Patron XO Cafe mixed into the ice cream. It comes with a dusting of espresso and a chocolate covered bean on top.

Aside from movies and restaurants, one of the biggest things Richard and I have done recently is to make interesting and elaborate dinners together. As I've said before, one of the most romantic things for the two of us is to work together towards a common goal, and dinner is a perfect way for us to do that. Here are just a couple of our endeavours come to life:

Butternut Squash Soup

Homemade Flan, decorated with fresh-made pomegranate syrup and blueberries. This was the dessert course to a meal of fried scallops served on top of rice noodles and topped with sautéed carrot and green onion. 
This was our first time trying either of these items, and it turned out really well. The soup was so good, in fact, that we have made it again. There really was just something special about the two of us working hard in the kitchen to achieve something so tasty.

Comments: If you're not in the Pittsburgh area, and crave delicious food like the things Richard and I have been eating, search around! There are all kinds of privately owned, interesting places that serve delicious food. So many of us stick to the big-name chains because we are sure they're good -- they have tons of reviews, television commercials, and sometimes hundreds of restaurants all over the country. But they are not necessarily the best places. For example, we won't go to TGI Friday's anymore, because it makes me ill every single time. Sometimes the best places to eat are the little places stuck in the corner between the big name places. Their food might really be ten times better than, say, Olive Garden.
As far as making things for yourself, be sure to experiment. As I've mentioned before, play to your strengths. Maybe one person really can't cook so well, but is faster at preparing the ingredients than the other person. Work together and coordinate to make something amazing.
Further, not all of your dishes have to be as exotic as some of ours. I love to experiment and mix flavours and learn new recipes, so making soup and flan was a lot of fun for me. Another dish we made recently was simple: Pan seared chicken topped with sautéed mushrooms and onions and toasted almond slices, served with tri-coloured pasta. It looked like this:
Lastly, something that can be just as romantic, without requiring a lot of work, is to make something for your significant other. On a recent Sunday, I was home alone whilst Richard was working, and I wanted to surprise him when he got home. So I made a homemade brownie:
He was very happy to find it covered up in the living room, and we ate it together over the next few days.
Remember that romance comes in many forms, and even when some of your activities seem mundane, there are ways to make them interesting and extraordinary.

Thank you for reading this article of the Endorphin Walrus. We hope that we have inspired you to try something new amongst your every day routines! As always, if you have any comments, questions, or suggestions, please feel free to leave them below. If you want any of the recipes for the dishes I've mentioned above, please feel free to let me know, and I will get them to you as soon as I can!