Monday, July 28, 2014

Not Quite Mexico

Hank and I have been wanting to take a vacation, but between home improvement projects, fall trips, and other assorted things, it just wasn't in our budget to take the kind of trip that we really wanted (like to the beach in Mexico). Instead, we decided to make it easy on ourselves and booked a long weekend at the Éilan Hotel in San Antonio. Not quite Mexico, but super easy to get to (and affordable with our Marriott points).

The Holland House: Éilan Hotel

The hotel was beautiful, we lucked out by getting one of the few rooms with a balcony, and the amenities were really nice. However, the service left much to be desired. Long story short, almost everyone who worked there didn't seem to give a flip about providing any type of enjoyable experience. If we had paid full price for our room, I would have been much more vocal about our disappointment. It did not ruin our trip by any means, but it did ensure that we will not return the hotel again. With options like La Cantera and the JW Marriott right around the corner, I'm surprised they don't up their game.

Our room wasn't ready when we checked in, so we walked down the steps toward the residential area. The hotel is part of a larger development with condos, a few office buildings and shops. There is also a Farmer's Market on Sunday mornings that was really fun to visit too. On our way down the steps we noticed a sign that said cocktails (and nothing more). With an hour or so to spare, we made a beeline for the door. We were thrilled to walk into this tucked away little Speakeasy-type bar called George's Keep. It was cool, empty (they had just opened), and had an amazing craft cocktail and beer menu. We kept cool and hydrated until our room was ready.

The Holland House: George's Keep

After getting settled, we cleaned up a bit for dinner at Piatti's. It was also located right down the stairs from the hotel, which was very convenient. I didn't get any pictures at dinner (I was trying hard not to be on my phone much during vacation), but the restaurant was really pretty inside and we had a fantastic dinner! One of my favorite things about their menu was that they offered small and large portions for both salads and pasta dishes. I hate wasting really big portions, so this was a perfect way to get both without feeling super stuffed. Hank ordered a Caeser and I ordered the Bibb salad with preserved lemon dressing- yum!! We had a really tough time choosing our entrees- they had so many great options. Hank ended up getting the pasta special with shrimp and peas (two of his favorite things that I never fix at home), and I got the rigatoni with fennel sausage, roasted tomatoes and goat cheese. Needless to say, neither of us had much leftover, and the "small" portion was just right.

My parents had a bottle of champagne and chocolate covered strawberries sent to our room at check-in, so we ordered a piece of chocolate lava cake to go (because....duh!), and headed up to enjoy our balcony. After drinks in the afternoon, a bottle of wine at dinner, and champagne- we were both well on the other side of tipsy. But we had so much fun sitting on the balcony, talking, people watching, and maybe having a strawberry stem throwing competition. (Hank totally won).

The Holland House: Champagne and Dessert

Day 2 we slept in just a bit, went down for Sunday brunch at the hotel restaurant, and then got ready to hit the pool for the day. I had reserved a poolside cabana when I booked our room, and we were looking forward to a full day of relaxation and sun. After a little snafu with getting our cabana (remember that service issue I talked about?), and waiting an hour for towels, we were all settled for the day. The cabana was perfect because I can't be in the sun for extended time, and it allowed me to cool off in the pool and then retreat to the shade as needed. Our comfy lounge bed was also perfect for an afternoon nap. Life is rough, I tell you!

The Holland House: Éilan Hotel Pool

The Holland House: Poolside Cabana

After our previous late night, and a day of doing absolutely nothing, we were too exhausted to get dressed and go out for dinner. Hank ended up picking up dinner from the restaurant downstairs and we stayed in bed, watched a movie, and ate dinner. It was absolutely perfect.

Day 3 we decided to be a little more active, and started the morning with a run around the property and a visit to the hotel gym for some medicine ball drills. Hank and I don't often work out together (he's a much faster runner than I am), so this was a fun treat. We grabbed breakfast afterwards, and then got dressed to head out for a bit. Being from Oklahoma, Hank had never been to visit The Alamo before. He loves history, so we made our way to downtown San Antonio to see it. If you don't know anything about it- it's home to a famous battle in the Texas Revolution, and included legends Davy Crocket and Jim Bowie. It's also way smaller than people imagine it, and it's fairly easy to miss if you happen to drive by it. He loved getting to visit, and I didn't get bored because it took all of 5 minutes to walk through it.

The Holland House: The Alamo

After the Alamo we stopped by a restaurant that a friend of ours is associated with. We had been dying to try it, so I'm glad we were able to make it happen. Stella Public House is located in the Blue Star complex in downtown San Antonio, and it's a must! Their menu is farm to table, and I love that they list the farms where their ingredients come from. Their specialty is wood-fired pizzas, and their beer menu is out of this world. (Seriously- I really want a job that allows me to taste beer for a living.) We started off with an order of brussels sprouts. On the menu it's just listed as Brussels Sprouts- roasted with crispy pancetta. But it was SO.MUCH.MORE. It was roasted in a blueberry soy reduction sauce that I swear I could have drank straight from the pan. In fact, I saved the pan so that I could dip my bread crust because I wanted every last drop.

We ate at the bar, and the bartender was super nice and very helpful. Plus, he was just fun to talk to. He sampled a few beers for us and we stuffed our faces with the Sausage and Kale Pizza.  We were probably there for nearly two hours, and really loved having a leisurely daytime lunch. If you are ever in the area, I highly recommend it.

The Holland House: Stella Public House

The afternoon was spent by the pool, and then we made one last trip for dinner at La Fogata (another must for San Antonio, in my opinion.) The patio is just amazing, they have terrific margaritas, and so many classic dishes that it's nearly impossible to choose what you want. It was just a tad warm, but nothing a frozen drink couldn't fix.

The Holland House: La Fogata

It's always sad when vacation is over, but we were missing our animals by day 4 and were ready to pick the pups up from Mud Puppies. The trip was everything we wanted it to be- relaxing, fun, and easy.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Dining Area Remodel

I know I've mentioned this before, but since moving in with Hank, I've been on a mission to remove as much "brown" from the house as possible. My most recent victim: the dining table.

The Holland House: Dining Table- Before
Dining Table- Before

It was bar-height, heavy, and just didn't fit in the space. Not to mention that it was brown all over. We wanted something lower that would allow better visibility from the kitchen into the living area. We had been leaning towards a farmhouse table, and even toyed with the idea of Hank building one. Our budget did not include the $1000 (or more) tables that we liked the most, so we decided to be patient.

Hank has been so good about perusing Craigslist and our neighborhood Facebook "garage sale" page, and his persistence paid off two weeks ago. He found the most gorgeous antique table for one heck of a deal- $250!! (After selling our old table, we ended up only paying $100.) It's a drop-leaf, scalloped edge table circa 1950's (we think), and it's just beautiful. I can't believe we own such a unique piece of furniture.

The Holland House: Scalloped Edge Dining Table
Our pretty new dining table

After removing the old table and getting the new one in place, I immediately got to work creating a Pinterest board for our new dining area. We needed chairs, a rug, and new lighting. I could see the dollar signs adding up, and knew it would take awhile for this transformation to happen. We only buy things when we have money in the bank, so there was no way I was going to rack up credit card debt just to make it happen.

I had last Friday off and made a quick stop at HomeGoods just to see what they had in stock, and I hit the jackpot. I found two beautiful upholstered chairs for $129 each (usually $300 or more in catalogs like Ballard), and the most perfect 8x10 rug I've ever seen. ON CLEARANCE. Most of the rugs I have looked at were $600 and up, and I was staring to think we would never be able to get one. And then I found this rug on sale for $249. It was meant to be.

The Holland House: HomeGoods Finds

We still need 4 more chairs, and we've picked out a lighting fixture that we both really like, but we'll have to wait another month before we make those happen. So for now, we dine like King and Queen sitting at the head of our new (to us) table. We love the softer, lighter look of our new dining area, and I can't wait to get it all finished. Room by room we're slowly making progress.

The Holland House: Dining Area- After
Dining Table- After

Monday, July 14, 2014

We bought a dining table

I'm not sure if I should be embarrassed or proud that this is the most exciting thing to happen to us in weeks. Truth be told, it's been a brilliantly relaxing summer, with a few more fun weekends on the horizon. But none have really been blog worthy unless you want to hear about us sitting by the pool all weekend long.

When we're not sitting by the pool, we're dreaming up how in the world we're going to renovate our kitchen to make a big impact, without spending big dollars. And buying a dining table really has nothing to do with that, but I just thought I'd tell you what else we've doing lately.

So on to the new dining table. It's really, really pretty! I thought about holding off on a picture because we don't have chairs for it yet. But what's a blog post without a picture, right?

The Holland House: Scalloped Dining Table
Our table, but not our house.

It has a beautiful scalloped edge, and a grayish finish. It's also a drop leaf table, which makes it pretty practical long term. Hank has found comparable tables on eBay for anywhere from $700-$1200. We paid $250 for this!!! Have I told you how much I love my resourceful husband? He's the one who found it on craigslist and insisted we look at it.

Originally we were thinking we wanted a farmhouse table, but just weren't thrilled with anything we found in our budget. We weren't even sure about this one until we saw it in person. It truly is a special piece of furniture, and I'm so glad we lucked out with such an amazing deal. I'm sure we'll end up paying for it in the long run as we begin our hunt for the perfect chairs. But I think it will really change our dining/living area once it's all complete.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Port A 2014

This past weekend we went down to Port Aransas to celebrate my mom's 60th birthday, and my sister-in-laws 31st birthday. We have 4 pairs of birthdays that are within weeks of each other, so it's always fun to have these celebrations. This one was extra special, given the milestone birthday of my mom (even though she'll only admit to being 45).

The Holland House: Life's a Beach Cookies
Birthday cookies for my mom and sis

Everyone met down at a rental house on Friday, and we enjoyed 3 days of pure relaxation. The "children" had worked on splitting up meals and coordinating food, and of course we ended up with way more than we needed. But it was nice to never have to get dressed and go out- we ate at the house the whole time (I don't even think I fixed my hair or face for the entire trip- hence no pictures of me.)

We set up camp on the beach both Saturday and Sunday, and enjoyed mild temperatures and just enough wind to keep us cool. Other than a bunch of yucky seaweed on the beach, it was perfect! Georgia and Blair had a blast playing in the sand- or in Blair's case, just eating it. And the adults played games, relaxed, drank and attempted to surf in the water (it's so much harder than it looks!)

The Holland House: Beach Babies
Georgia and Blair on the beach

On Saturday night we had the birthday dinner celebration followed by a really fun dice game called Left Center Right. I highly recommend playing this game with 3 $1 bills instead of the coins that come with it (my sister's brilliant suggestion). It certainly ups the competitive factor!

The Holland House: Birthday Fiesta
Birthday Fiesta

Overall it was a fantastic getaway, and couldn't have come at a more perfect time. Work has been nuts, and it was nice to just be in the car with Hank for 4 hours with no other distractions. We're rested and relaxed, just in time for a holiday weekend.

Have a safe and happy 4th of July!

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