Mountains of Memories

While the Finger Lakes has become a dream destination for Mike and I, there is another place that has called me home (and continues to call me home) since I first crossed its borders. Continue reading

Going Whole Hog – FLX Wienery

We grew up in Chicago. We know sausage. We know hot dogs. In fact, I grew up two blocks from the number one hot dog joint in the country. And after many trips across the border to Wisconsin (Miss A is in fact a legitimate “cheesehead” born in LaCrosse), we know brats. At least that’s what we thought. Then we were introduced to the FLX Wienery in the Finger Lakes region of New York. Continue reading

Marks of Time and Travel

We sure are happy May has arrived! Speaking of May, do you have any traditions for the spring festival, May Day? When I was growing up my mom would help us gather flowers from around the house. We’d bundle the flowers, place them on a neighbor’s doorstep, ring the doorbell and run. It was a mother-approved game of ding-dong ditch!may day

Fast-forward 30-some odd years and my children and I have put our own little twist on the tradition. Each year, we pick-up a bouquet of flowers, or a nice outdoor flower arrangement, and we leave it on my mom’s doorstep. The kids take this very seriously – there are many heated discussions about the best place to hide, who will ring the doorbell, who will carry the flowers, and ultimately how they will run back to the car (which I’ve parked down the street well out of sight). 30 years later

Some years my mom is surprised, other times she does a good job of appearing surprised. Sometimes we drive away with the kids in fits of giggles and so proud of their stealth-like maneuvers, and other times they hide at the side of the house and pop out just as my mom wonders aloud where the flowers possibly could have come from! This year was a hide at the side of the house year; however, still complete with lots of giggles.girl scout

Giggles. This house is full of giggles. Especially with Miss A around. She’s either making herself giggle, or making the rest of us giggle. She is definitely a character, and definitely keeps us on our toes! She’s been spending a lot of time practicing dribbling a basketball. However, don’t ask her if she’s going to play basketball, which is what Papa recently asked her. She quickly replied as though it was the most ridiculous of suggestions, “Papa, have you not looked at me lately,” referencing her small height while looking way up at the basketball hoop. Then she continued dribbling before running off into cartwheels. Constant motion this one!

Photo Credit: Adapt Theatre

Photo Credit: Adapt Theater

Speaking of Papa and Nana, they have joined us for the past few weeks. They are up from Florida to help us through Mr. N’s busy play season and also to give Mike and I a little respite! We’ve all been so grateful for their visit. I don’t know what we would have done without them these past few weeks!

Photo credit: Adapt Theatre

Photo credit: Adapt Theatre

Mr. N’s show opened a few weeks ago. It has since received a Jeff Recommendation, a big deal here in Chicago theater. He’s having the time of his life and again, we couldn’t be more grateful or proud. I’ve often said there are few things I enjoy more than watching him perform. It’s such a mix of so many emotions – pride, love, amazement, excitement, happiness, surprise, and peace. Then of course there’s the emotions he elicits through his character, and this play takes you on quite the roller coaster. I have yet to leave with a dry eye and I’ve seen it three times already!

Photo Credit: Adapt Theatre

Photo Credit: Adapt Theatre

We still have a few more weeks of performances to go, but I can feel the wind down coming. There’s a calm on the horizon. Hopefully it’s not one of those calms followed by a storm!

Photo Credit: Adapt Theatre

Photo Credit: Adapt Theatre

I’m dying to get back in the kitchen, especially with summer on the way. I’ve been drooling over many of the recipes on my favorite blogs. It’s been near torture seeing these beautiful recipes and photos and knowing I just don’t have the time to put much thought into cooking right now. Soon though. Definitely soon. In fact, I’m going to have the kids do a little cooking around the world with us on our first free moment to commemorate our latest travels.

Finger Lakes Region, NY 2011

Finger Lakes Region, NY 2011

Thanks to Nana and Papa, Mike and I got away for a week this month for our 15th anniversary (which is actually coming in June). We toyed with several different places to go, but one place kept coming back to us. It’s a beautiful slice of the world we stumbled on randomly on a road trip back in 2011.

Watkins Glen State Park, NY 2011

Watkins Glen State Park, NY 2011

And it’s a place we returned to on purpose in 2013.

Grape juice tasting  - FLX, NY 2013

Grape juice tasting – FLX, NY 2013

The Finger Lakes Wine Country of New York drew us in, spoiled us with all of its charm and beauty and kept a piece of our souls. It has a way of welcoming us into its fold and keeping us coming back.

Anniversary in FLX, NY 2015

Anniversary in FLX, NY 2015

How could we not spend a special anniversary in such a place?! And I have to say this adventure did not disappoint – in the least. So in the next week or so, to keep the memory of this trip and the fire it ignited within us alive, we’re going to break our hiatus and cook up one or two dishes inspired by our latest (but certainly not last) visit.

Until then, I came across this quote yesterday and it summed up exactly how the Finger Lakes have repeatedly made me feel. We love to travel, we’re lucky to have seen many amazing places on this earth, but we’re especially grateful to have experienced places that call to our souls.

“Travel changes you. As you move through this life and this world you change things slightly, you leave marks behind, however small. And in return, life – and travel – leaves marks on you. Most of the time, those marks – on your body or on your heart – are beautiful. Often, though, they hurt.” Anthony Bourdain

P.S. I had no idea this was going to be such a lengthy post! I guess I’ve missed both writing and cooking!

Memories of Spain

This is just a brief post to let you know that we haven’t disappeared. Between work, the end of the school year and the play we are…well as a good friend put it, in an intense period at the moment. Wonderful, but intense (and really tiring!). So until things settle down, here are a few images from our next stop on our European adventures this past spring. Barcelona

After Paris, our travels took us by train to Barcelona where we spent three glorious full days sightseeing and eating. We did lots of eating. However, if I had to pick one word to describe our Barcelona experience it would be – Gaudi (Antoni Gaudi, Barcelona’s most famous architect). We first took in his famous church, Sagrada Familia and then the public park, Park Guell. His architecture was instantly a hit with both of the kids who honestly couldn’t get enough. Personally, I had never been a big fan of Gaudi’s work. I had found it rather unnerving and chaotic. That all changed after this trip. We spent hours touring his works, reading books and visiting museums. I have to say I now look at his designs much differently and have found a whole new appreciation for his utter genius. sagrada familia

That said, no one was more taken in by his work than our Miss A. She fell in love with Gaudi’s homes, particularly Casa Mila. During our tour of Casa Mila, or La Pedrera, Miss A was front and center right next to the tour guide listening intently. She didn’t even glance back to look for us – she was completely taken in. At one point during the tour, Miss A walked right up to the tour guide and said, “This is the best grown-up museum I have ever been in. I love it.” After these first few visits, each day of our Barcelona stay included another Gaudi tour. touring

And as I mentioned we ate, a lot. It’s too hard to pick a favorite restaurant. We had at least four amazing sit-down meals that featured everything from paella to snails and jamon Iberico to croquettes. We had tapas, we had sit down meals and we had two wonderful visits to the Boqueria along La Rambla. It was a food paradise! La Boqueria

We all thoroughly enjoyed every moment of our time in this beautiful city. I know we would all love to go back again – especially Miss A. While Mr. N’s favorite city of the trip was Paris, Miss A fell in love with Barcelona. She could have stayed forever I believe. Here’s a few peaks at why, first the Gaudi gallery:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

And then the food and fun:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Mike and I still can’t really pick our favorite city of the trip. They were all so incredible in their own ways. However, if hard pressed, we would likely answer our next and final destination. It spoke to the two of us in so many ways. It just felt right. We’ll be back soon with highlights of that magical city and then hopefully we’ll finally have time to start cooking again (and something other than quick salads and sandwiches). Until next time, please pardon our absence and know that I will pop back into your blogs as soon as I am able as well. Cheers!

Donkeys, Frogs and Wine

If I said this was a busy summer, that would be an understatement. Particularly these past few weeks. Last week was an extended holiday weekend complete with three BBQs and a sleepover. This weekend we’ve just wrapped up two of three birthday parties with one more to go. Whew. It’s a little how Toronto felt for us too – one big whirlwind of fun. So when we left Toronto to head back home, we opted for the scenic route. wine route

It was time to slow down for a bit, take in some of the outdoors, some wine and even some grape juice. Mr. N and Miss A became quite the aficionados. grape juice drinkers

We began the next leg of our adventure on a wine route on the southern side of Lake Ontario – a great recommendation from Barb. She even pointed out a few great places along the way to stop for lunch and tastings, the first of which was The Good Earth for lunch. It was a gorgeous day and we were able to dine outside. The food was delicious, but the view was what we were lost in. The Good Earth

Good Earth Beamsville

They even had some chickens, so Miss A was in farm heaven. Feeding chickens

After lunch we found a few other wineries along the way – several of which were accessible by hiking a little trail. Now how clever is that! This was by far one of our favorite afternoons. hiking

wine run

father and son

There was even some wildlife along the way. frog pond

And of course some grapes…Hidden Bench


It was one of those days you didn’t want to end. Fortunately we had several more ahead of us though as we headed back toward the Finger Lake region of New York. We had passed through the area a few years ago and really enjoyed it. The lakes are a the quintessential summer getaway with small, friendly towns, rolling hills and scenic drives. (And of course more wineries!) New York wineries

Now don’t worry, while Mike and I were most certainly enjoying ourselves…the kids were too. Many of the wineries are kid friendly (or perhaps our kids are just winery friendly) and most of them have something interesting aside from wine. The Swedish Hill Winery, for instance, has Doobie the donkey. He of course came over to see Miss A. Doobie

Swedish Hill

And a trip through the Rochester area be complete with a visit to the National Museum of Play and the Sesame Street stoop! 123 Sesame Street

Check out how much Miss A has grown since the last time we were here: Miss A in 2011

Miss A 2013

So after a few days of wining, dining, playing and relaxing in the Finger Lakes, it was time to head home. This time we took a slightly different route though and made one last stop – Allegany State Park. It was just a gorgeous area. Lush with trees, wild flowers and beautiful old forestry building. allegany state park

Sitting room

After a picnic lunch we took a short one-mile hike that made a nice loop through the woods. Red Jacket Hiking Trail

We passed remnants of an old zoo, old zoo

and old ski lifts. old ski lifts

The kids especially dug all the caterpillars we saw though. caterpillars

It was the perfect way to end the trip. Relaxed. mom and kids

I think we could use another one of these. 😉 Until then, I’m just going to try and adopt Miss A’s happy-go-lucky style. Life is good. happy

Next week we’ll be back with a stateside recipe from New York…it only seems fitting after all. Have a great week!

Mahalo…A Hui Hou

We returned from Kauai on Sunday evening well-rested, sun-kissed and happy. It was a much-needed, relaxing, utterly beautiful and fabulous vacation. We’ve been fortunate enough to have taken many vacations over the course of our marriage, and even quite a few since the kids have been born, but I honestly don’t remember another time I came home this peaceful and relaxed. I didn’t even have my post-vacation “it’s over” sadness, just utter contentment. I suppose someplace as beautiful and magical as Kauai can do that to you.

Dawn of a new day.

Mr. N and Miss A even fully immersed themselves in the relaxation of this trip. With the exception of a few minor meltdowns from Miss A (which frankly were nothing in the grand-scheme of things – pretty remarkable for a three-year old) and a few initial protests about an activity from Mr. N, both of the kids were absolutely in-tune with each other, us and the vacation.  Continue reading