A Budget-Free Day in Paris

The current humongous lottery got me to thinking. What if I was the lucky person to win, and what if after all of the responsible things I would have to do with the money were done and I could plan a day without a budget.

My perfect budget-free day would be in Paris and my schedule would be:

  • Breakfast on any street corner in Paris with coffee and Pain au Chocolat

“My plate”

  • Shopping in Paris at Franck Namani on rue Marbeuf right off the avenues des Champs Elysées
Franck Namani

Franck Namani

  • Shopping for the perfect picnic lunch, and picnicking at the Eiffel Tower
Picnic Shopping

Picnic Shopping

  • Strolling through Monet’s beautiful gardens
Monet's Garden

Monet’s Garden

Monet's Garden Bridge

Monet’s Garden Bridge

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • Freshening up at the Hotel Mayfair in the perfect Frenchy-look Room

 

Hotel Mayfair

Hotel Mayfair

  • A lovely dinner at La Méditerranée – A gorgeous restaurant near the Luxembourg Gardens (Le Jardin du Luxembourg)
La Méditerranée

La Méditerranée

  • After dinner cocktails at the restaurant Flottes O. Trement, it has a chic and cozy bar
Flottes O. Trement

Flottes O. Trement

  • Strolling back down the des Champs Elysées back to the Hotel Mayfair to retire for the night
Hotel Mayfair

Hotel Mayfair

I have experienced all of those things except for actually “buying” something at the Franck Namani store. (I just drooled!) So I guess you don’t have to win the lottery to be happy, you just have to remember all of the great things you have already done and be happy with them. But just in case I do win, who wants to go with me?

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Are You A She-Shed Or A Glamorous Closet Getaway?

I recently saw a newscast about women who for whatever reason have built themselves “She- Sheds”. Whether this is directly or indirectly in response to their significant other’s “Man Cave”, or just a need for private space, I’m not sure.

She-shed

She-shed

 I myself am in the mist of the overwhelming task of designing a master walk-in closet for myself. While I have no thoughts of making my new closet a getaway by any stretch of the imagination (at least not yet), I remembered this newscast about women who have actually had a space built on their property, repurposed a spot in their existing home or reclaimed part of their garage or tool shed. As the pictures I have posted show, some of these “She-Sheds” are quite pretty, creative and are also used as office space.

She-shed

She-shed

 If I had to choose between a repurposed garage space, custom built shed or a high fashioned clothes closet for my getaway, I would choose the latter! This isn’t to suggest that their choice isn’t great for them; it is just to state it wouldn’t be for me!

Glamorous Closet

Glamorous Closet

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I will not have a closet big enough to go hide out in, or sit in it with Champagne and Caviar, but I found some pictures of people who do live that kind of lifestyle. A girl can only dream! While I struggle to figure out how to afford the composition of my little getaway, you can view a couple pictures of both sides and decide for yourself what your choice would be.

Glamorous Closet

Glamorous Closet

 

She-Shed

She-Shed

She-Shed

She-Shed

 

Glamorous Closet

Glamorous Closet

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Glamorous Closet

Glamorous Closet

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Citico’s: A Special Place In East Tennessee

Citico's

Citico’s

Not a lot sounds better than a few days tucked away at a former luxurious private estate. So when we were offered the opportunity to check out Wind River and stay at Citico’s Inn we said, “Ok!”  The drive into the gated Wind River Golf Community is very impressive with endless, winding curves and pristine landscaping.  Citico’s, a Club and Restaurant in Wind River, is located just outside of Knoxville, TN.

The Views

The Views

Citico’s is positioned to overlook Lake Tellico, and our stay was as much about opulent comfort and great food as it was about checking out the community. We were delighted with the quaintness and quality of the home as much as the romantic setting. Our room was the “Honeymoon Suite”, which was the master suite for the family that built the home. This suite had the perfect setup: a double sided fireplace adjacent to the bed, a small private screened porch just outside overlooking Tellico Lake, an in-room refrigerator that contained wine and other various drinks, a complimentary bedside basket of crackers/cookies and a huge TV above the fireplace.

Freestanding Tub

Freestanding Tub

Shower

Shower

 

 

 

 

 

 

The bathroom in the Honeymoon Suite was a relaxing sanctuary: a freestanding tub across from the double-sided fireplace, a huge walk-in glass block shower, two private sinks with surrounding tower cabinets, a separate vanity and makeup mirror with daylight, and a huge walk-in closet.

Dining Room

Dining Room

And of course breakfast was included! The gourmet kitchen/Breakfast/Great Room dining area was loaded with charm, beautiful millwork and amazing lakefront views. Chef Robert Allen is the Executive Chef at Citico’s, and he was warm and friendly. He offered us an amazing array of breakfast treats that were prepared fresh daily. We went with simple: yogurt with granola for me, and Bob ordered eggs and toast served with their house-made preserves. After our delicious breakfast Chef Robert took us on a tour of their commercial-grade kitchen, which had been converted from one of the original two-car garages.

Citco's house-made preserves

Citco’s house-made preserves

Kitchen

Kitchen

 

The Fireplace

The Fireplace

 

 

 

 

Perhaps the best part of our stay? The Food. Citico’s is a very elegant and quiet venue perfect for your special occasion dinners. It offers something for everyone and they have a Sunday Brunch menu too. This is one of the Knoxville area’s hidden gems and worth the drive.

Brunch

Brunch

 

Citico's

Citico’s

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Traffic or Prosecco?

Suffer in rush hour traffic or stop at Prosecco for a lovely dinner? That was the question posed to me from my thoughtful husband. Gee I wonder, was there even a question how I would respond? “That would be great!”

Prosecco

Prosecco

If you happen to know Bob and I, we just happen to love Champagne, I mean really love it. We celebrate just about anything we can think of all the time with a bottle of bubbly. Any excuse at all. So years ago when we heard of a restaurant named Prosecco, it was a must try restaurant. Prosecco is one of the restaurants named under Romantic Restaurants in Chicago on this blog/website. And yes it is a very romantic restaurant that serves delicious Regional Italian fare.

Romantic Tables

Romantic Tables

Back to the present, we didn’t have reservations, which wasn’t a problem on an early Thursday evening. We were warmly greeted, seated and served the customary complimentary and very welcome glass of Prosecco immediately. This was a delightful idea, Bob! I never turn down bubbly, Prosecco or Champagne, never. (The quick explanation of the difference between Champagne and Prosecco is: Prosecco is sparkling wine made in the Veneto region of Italy, and Champagne is a sparkling wine made in the Champagne region of France.)

Polipetti E Calamari Grigliati

Polipetti E Calamari Grigliati

We ordered one of our go-to appetizers which is anything with grilled calamari. Prosecco’s version was fantastic: Polipetti E Calamari Grigliati: Grilled baby octopus, calamari, fingerling potatoes, string beans, diced Roma tomatoes, with roasted garlic.

For an entree I picked: Scallops with spinach, shitake mushrooms and diced Roma tomatoes. Bob chose: Rigatoni with pancetta, mild Italian sausage and a light tomato cream sauce. I wish I had a picture of them, but we gobbled them up way too fast.

I only managed to stop long enough to get a picture of the appetizer and the Limoncello that Sam Geatti, the Wine Director, graciously treated us to. Prosecco’s Limoncello is fantastic and it made this very romantic and impromptu dinner complete!

 Sam & Connie

Sam & Connie

Limoncello

Limoncello

 

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Pelago Ristorante, I Love You!

The Drive In

The Drive In

It was a cold and gray December day and the drive into Chicago was unusually brutal for lunchtime. Maybe an early decent of the New Year’s Eve crowd was upon us? We weren’t sure, but everything was more than fine the minute we arrived at Pelago! We had a reservation for a Chef’s tasting luncheon, a special lunch because we were celebrating our wedding anniversary.

Pelago's Exterior

Pelago’s Exterior

Their exterior was decorated so pretty for Christmas and as always their refined dining room immediately had a “you-melt-me” affect on me. This has to be my favorite restaurant in the world, not just Chicago. Not even a few I can think of in Paris, none. So, if you want to impress someone, a business client, a special date, a romantic anniversary etc., this is your place! I’m not just referring to the elegant ambience – the food and the service are all top notch.  And don’t worry about getting the perfect table, because no table is a bad table at Pelago! However, there is one that is a little more private. (Even the ladies’ purses get their own stool/table!)

"Purse Stool"

“Purse Stool”

Perfect Ambience

Perfect Ambience

 

 

Romantic Tables

Romantic Tables

Speaking of food, our lunch was fabulous:

Appetizer: Fresh Mozzarella Salad: Roasted Buffalo Scamorza with Arugula and Tomatoes; Roasted Mozzarella with Borlotti Beans; Mozzarella Eggplant.

Appetizers

Appetizers

Pasta course: Hand Rolled Tube Pasta with Lamb Ragù; Homemade Penne with Hen Ragù and Sage; Gnocchi with a marinara sauce.

Pasta Course

Pasta Course

Fish Course: Roasted Striped Bass Fillet with Sautéed Spinach; Roasted Filet of Sea Bream with fresh tomato and basil; and Seared Salmon Filet with balsamic reduction.

Fish Course

Fish Course

Dessert: Tiramisu and Chocolate Ice Cream and Coffee

Dessert

Dessert

Before trying Chef Mauro’s version of Tiramisu, I didn’t care for the dessert. I loved it! Wow, what a difference a Chef can make. Every time I visit Pelago, the words flow from my mouth “I love this place, it is perfect, I can’t think of another restaurant I can say that about anywhere.” Try it, you’ll love it too. Thank you Chef Mauro! You out did yourself again!

Connie

Connie

 

Pelago Ristorante

Pelago Ristorante

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We’re Back! – At Fleming’s

A romantic getaway to Lincolnshire? Yes if it happens to be at Fleming’s. We were back!!

Our Booth

Our Booth

We love to dine at Fleming’s any chance we get and our collective birthdays (only three days apart) seemed like as good a reason as any. We even have a favorite booth, they know it, and that is just fine with us. There isn’t another steak house around or in the city of Chicago for that matter that we feel has better steaks. The Fleming’s in Lincolnshire is our favorite.

Fleming's Lincolnshire

Fleming’s Lincolnshire

 

For our birthdays we enjoyed a three course pre-fix dinner that was being offered at the time.

The wine, one of our favorites: “14 Hands Cabernet Sauvignon”.

14 Hands

14 Hands

 

The appetizer: Empanada’s and of course Fleming’s wonderful fresh bread and cheeses.

Empanadas

Empanadas

 

The salad: their Modern Caesar Salad.

Modern Caesar Salad

Modern Caesar Salad

The entree: Surf & Turf – 8 oz. Filet and 8 oz. Lobster tail.

Filet & Lobster

Filet & Lobster

Of course a birthday celebration calls for cake, tada! Fleming’s Carrot Cake: a three-layer cake with cream cheese frosting topped with a drizzle of dark rum caramel.

Carrot Cake

Carrot Cake

We’ll be back, save our booth for us!

Booth 4

Booth 4

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A Romantic Rocky Mountain Road Trip

The road trip was eminent. The agenda: Bob had two state capitals to finish his “See all 50 Capitals” -Boise, ID & Helena MT.  (An adventure that started long before we met.)

The Idaho View

The Idaho View

So, one has to ask oneself a few things first: Is a road trip a romantic thing? Is it a good thing for your marriage, just the two of you in a car for countless hours? Winding your way through the Rocky mountains of Idaho and Montana and eventually Wyoming? The answer became clear after a few miles out, quite simply “yes!”There were gorgeous ever-changing mountain views in every direction the entire trip. We had a lot of driving ahead of us, but no problem. You can’t get bored with the panoramic spread of the mountains. At least we didn’t!

Sun Valley Ski Resort

Sun Valley Ski Resort

We flew into Boise and started our road trip to Sun Valley, Idaho; later driving all the way to Yellowstone Valley Lodge in Livingston, Montana.

On the road

On the road

Yellowstone National Park was only 25 minutes away, so why not see it?

Bison at Yellowstone

Bison at Yellowstone

Bob was dead set on seeing Old Faithful. Our timing was ok, but the not so faithful geyser surprised even the rangers and we missed it! Oh well, that is one of the things you learn on a road trip, you have to be open to plan B.

"Not" Old Faithful

“Not” Old Faithful

Back to the Yellowstone Lodge, it was in a beautiful location. From the front the cabins didn’t look like much but they were perfect and backed right up to the Yellowstone River.

Cabin View

Cabin View

We had a private little terrace with Adirondack chairs to sit in and enjoy the majestic views of the Absaroka Mountains. Their scrumptious complimentary breakfast was perfect and in the evening their fieldstone fire pits provided beautiful views.

Breakfast

Breakfast

Our only assignment for the two evenings we were there was to soak in the view and enjoy  champagne.

The Fire Pit

The Fire Pit

 

Connie

Connie

 

Bob and Champagne

Bob and Champagne

 

The lodge’s grill was a dinner option and their chefs prepared outstanding fresh masterpieces.

Chef's 1st Creation

Chef’s 1st Creation

 

After two nights of this wonderful lodge we packed up to head all the way back to Sun Valley where we started out.

We had fun on our road trip and if you’re a romantic, the ingredients are all there. Restful and serene views of mountains (some still snow capped), millions of acres of wilderness, and plenty of time to get to know the differences in the way you both navigate the road via map or GPS. One of the best parts of a road trip are the discoveries that are made along the way. What did we discover? We love each other, but still can drive each other crazy some of the time.  My tip to add enjoyment to your next road trip is to make sure that your rental car has a CD player and pack some CD’s, or make sure you will have XM radio. If you are traveling through mountains you won’t have great radio reception. I found it helped me to sing most of the way. Oh yeah, mission accomplished!

Boise, ID - 49th State

Boise, ID- 49th State

 

Helena, MT - 50th State

Helena, MT – 50th State

 

Bob's 50th

Bob’s 50th

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And The Sign Said: The Food, The Bar, The View (In Seattle)

The Sign

The Sign

 

I remembered this little restaurant the other day and thought I should comment on how excellent it was and how glad we were to have stumbled upon it. Place
Pigalle is tucked in a little corner behind Pike Place Market with a view of Puget Sound and Seattle’s Ferris wheel.

 

 

 

Place Pigalle

Place Pigalle

It was hidden, out of the way, cozy, a place for us to sit, unwind, relax, and take in an “us” moment. We had a large breakfast, and intended to eat out for dinner, so we just needed something little to hold us over. Place Pigale was  perfect, it was exactly what we were looking for and it was time to get out of the rain! I had always heard that it was very rainy
in Seattle, and I was finding out it wasn’t an exaggeration! The rain was sporadic however, one minute raining, the next sunny.

 

The funny thing was as we looked over the menu, I looked out the window over Bob’s left shoulder, and it wasn’t raining. I looked over his right shoulder at the Ferris wheel view and it was pouring! How odd, I thought my eyes were playing tricks on me, but no, it was just the weather in Seattle. I didn’t know if they were trying to compete with the yo-yo weather we have in Chicago, but if they were they were doing a good job!

The Rain Game

The Rain Game

 

The view

The view

With the help of our friendly waitress, we decided on Escargot de Bourgogne, (Tarragon Butter, Garlic, Shallots, Pernod, Baguette) one of our favorites, and Calamari Dijonnaise, (Squid, Garlic, Ginger, Spinach, Cremini Mushrooms, Dijon Cream Sauce). Calamari is also one of our favorites, not fried mind you, but grilled! How perfect with a bottle of Champagne! That was all I needed to be hap, hap, happy! Both the Escargot and the Calamari were delicious, and we sat there and enjoyed the view and the intimate moment in a special little restaurant.

Calamari & Escargot

Calamari & Escargot

 

Our Lunch

Our Lunch

Don’t miss it if you are in Seattle!

Place Pigalle

Place Pigalle

 

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Champagne Makes My World Go Round!

Champagne!

Champagne!

I don’t know about you, but I love Champagne. It doesn’t have to be New Year’s Eve or a wedding to bring out the bubbly. Whenever Bob and I pop a bottle of Champagne whether it is for a special occasion or just a special dinner at home, it makes the moment feel like a party. There is something magical about that “pop” and no matter when you pop a bottle of Champagne, that pop signifies the party has started!

Champagne Balloon Bubbles

Champagne Balloon Bubbles

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I have often thought that a Champagne party, yes just to celebrate how great it is, would be as good a reason as any to have a party. So let’s (pretend to) plan such a party. We’ll plan the perfect Champagne party by gathering up pictures, ideas and goodies from many online sources. The venue, or home, would be decorated with these clear balloons that mimic Champagne bubbles. (Pictured above) The tables will be graced with the cocktail napkins below.

Cocktail Napkins

Cocktail Napkins

Along with the balloon décor the walls will have French Vintage Champagne Posters strategically placed for inspiration, not that we will need any!

French Posters

French Posters

French Posters

French Posters

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The invitations would be similar to this one I found.

Invitations

Invitations

Now for the edibles, of course caviar, and other fancy yet satisfying appetizers are in order. I found a recipe for Champagne cupcakes I think sound perfect.

Caviar

Caviar

Champagne Cupcakes

Champagne Cupcakes

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The barware would consist of a selection of different Champagne glasses that would be chic to intermix and play with the many shapes and patterns.

Champagne Glasses

Champagne Glasses

Let’s not forget the Champagne buckets – they would be varied too. Wine stoppers can add to the whimsy also.

Champagne Bucket

Champagne Bucket

Champagne Bucket

Champagne Bucket

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wine Stoppers

Wine Stoppers

 

Champagne is expensive for a reason. Even though a good bottle of bubbly is splurge-worthy, we would have to budget accordingly and therefore the guest list would be smaller, so the Champagne bottles could be a-plenty! It can be confusing picking the right bottles of Champagne, if in doubt refer back to my blog about picking the right Champagne. My favorite is always a Brut, which is the driest.

 

Ok, there’s the planning – I’ll be waiting for my invitation in the mail. Oh, remember, there’s never enough Champagne!

Lucy

Lucy

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Piccolo Sogno Due isn’t “A Little Dream”, It Is A Fantasy!

Piccolo Sogno Due

Piccolo Sogno Due

Enter Piccolo Sogno Due, Chicago, and you instantly feel the romance – dark blue ceilings offset by crisp white woodwork and crisp linen tablecloths. Our table was off to the side, which I was thankful for because the room was becoming filled as we were seated. The good news was that the tables were spaced so it wasn’t a problem. (We were alone in a crowd.)

Breadbasket

Breadbasket

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

First things first, the bread basket was served promptly by our eager-to-please waiter and it didn’t disappoint, filled with a variety of freshly made focaccia, sourdough, flat breads, whole-wheat crackers and squid-ink sourdough. My mouth was watering immediately and I eagerly poured some of their fantastic olive oil in preparation to devour the savory breads. Yep, I was glad for the bread because we ambitiously decided on a wine-pairing
dinner and starting with some worthy bread is a good idea.

Polpo

Polpo

Our antipasta choice was the Polpo: grilled octopus, roasted peppers, fingerling potatoes and grilled frisee with tuna sauce. Octopus may not sound or look alluring to many and when it is over-cooked it tends to be rubbery. However, ours was cooked to perfection and
it was drop-dead delicious. We paired it with Prosecco and it made an excellent pairing.

Fava

Fava

Our salad course was Fava: fava beans, olive oil, arugula, and the Tuscan cheese Pecorino, paired with Rosso Blau. My reaction after a few bites was “wow!”

Pappardelle

Pappardelle

Our pasta course was the Pappardelle: long flat pasta, and spiced wild boar ragu. The pasta was perfect and the ragu was a rich mix of meat and tomato that I couldn’t stop eating. This was paired with Vino Nobile. It was hard to keep going at this point, but we were up for the challenge!

Our Carne (meat) course was the Vitello: grilled veal loin, local squash, tomatoes, roasted onions and fingerling potatoes with a balsamic. The veal was big-flavored and beautifully grilled. We enjoyed two glasses of Barolo with this course and decided we could not do another course justice.

Vitello

Vitello

Our experience at Piccolo Sogno Due was complete – romantic ambience with delicious Italian food (you can’t order the wrong thing here) and perfect wines. We will definitely be back for more and next time I’m determined to save room for dessert.

Piccolo Sogno Due

Piccolo Sogno Due

Images courtesy of Piccolo Sogno Due

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