It’s getting {real}…

We had a fun-filled visit to the old homestead over the weekend… It was about time – We hadn’t been back since Christmas!

Our days were filled with wedding festivities (hooray for Mary Beth & Luke!), a spinning class, mildly successful shopping, hang out time with friends, laughs with family, and THIS dinner.

Yes, that is a homemade grilled pizza buffet. Yes, my mom outdid me with my own recipe. Yes, it was heavenly.

My favorite appetizers, great wine, homemade dough, amazing toppings (including Pear & Gorgonzola) and a cozy fire… sigh. No place like home.

There was also BBQ and funfetti cake at the Husband’s parents’ (partially eaten in the basement due to a slight weather emergency) but that was inhaled with such vigor that there is no photographic evidence. The hail and tornado sirens might have been a little distracting as well…

The other fun development over the weekend was “THE TRIP” coming together! Gordon & Selena, our “Friends up North”, were in town and helped us finalize a few more of our plans. I told you we booked our cruise, but now we’ve purchased our plane tickets and have a few more little details to share… It’s getting real!

We leave May 24 and will return June 10. In between we will be here:

Florence, Italy {source}

and here: Venice, Italy {source}

and here: Pisa, Italy {source}

and here: Orvieto, Terni, Italy {source}

and here: Rome, Italy {source}

and here: Messina, Sicily, Italy {source}

and here: Kusadasi, Ephesus, Turkey {source}

and here: Athens, Greece {source}

and here: Chania, Crete, Greece {source}

I can hardly contain myself. I can hardly concentrate on anything else. I can hardly fall asleep. AND we have two months to go…

Oh, well. I need that time to panic over packing and booking hotel rooms and tours anyhow ;)

Any fun weekend adventures or tips planned in your neck of the woods? Do any of you experienced travelers have any advice for us? We need it!

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Pear & Gorgonzola {Flatbread}

Flatbread makes everyone happy.

This recipe straddles the delicate balance that all hostesses search for: Something the ladies will love (and be impressed by) but that the husbands will still chow down on with abandon.

Enter Pear & Gorgonzola Flatbread. Perfect for parties (now one of my most “requested” appetizers!), or for a meal with salad, or just when you’re craving one of the most perfect sweet/salty marriages ever.

The stinky cheese makes foodies swoon, but it looks enough like pizza that dudes will grab a slice, too.

Talk about a win, win.

Pear & Gorgonzola Flatbread

Inspired by the California Pizza Kitchen

Makes 2 Flatbreads, Serves 8 as an appetizer

Ingredients:

  • 1 Medium onion (I used a Vidalia – on the sweeter side of spectrum)
  • 2 Pears (Try a mix of varieties for color)
  • About 1/2 Cup Gorgonzola cheese, crumbled
  • 1 Package of Whole Wheat Naan (Usually contains two flatbreads – Or, use pita or make your own from scratch!)
  • 2 T Earth Balance or Olive Oil
  • 1 T Garlic Gold or Olive Oil
  • 2 T Fig Vinegar (The fruit flavor works well with this recipe, but balsamic is a great substitute)

Directions:

  • Preheat oven to 400.
  • Chop onion into thin half-moons, and roughly slice pears (about 1/2 in. thick, varying sized pieces).
  • Add onion to medium/medium high heat along with Earth Balance. Add vinegar, stir occasionally, and cook until browned and almost caramelized – 10-15 minutes. Add sliced pears, stir. Allow to cook down and soften, about 5 minutes (you may need to add a little more EB).
  • Remove Naan from package, and lay on a baking sheet. Lightly brush with Garlic Gold.
  • Spread pear and onion mixture over flatbreads, then sprinkle (liberally) with the Gorgonzola cheese.
  • Place flatbreads in oven, and bake for 7-10 minutes, or until the breads are crispy and the cheese begins to melt.
  • Remove from oven, slice, and serve warm! Arugula, tossed with a little balsamic, makes a great garnish… and a great Cabernet :)
Enjoy!

Not your average {Joe}

Let me tell you a little about Joe.

Joe Buckley is my little brother…

…and he is truly one of the most interesting people I have the pleasure of knowing.

{And yes, that may or may not be a mullet-esque hairdo I’m sporting. Though mom claims otherwise… “Dorothy Hamill” my foot.}

{Senior Pic… Stud}

Named for two great men: Our great-grandfather who lived his days bringing life to the land on his Ohio farm, Joe Washington; and our rural Kentucky-born grandfather who ended up directing a Children’s home he ran away from as a boy, Robert Buckley. Joe was born in 1990, just shy of four years after me, and he has always loved his name.

{Buds}

Like most of us, I think, he’s made up of an interesting combination of contradictions, accomplishments, small tragedies and large joys. We fought, like brothers and sisters do, but I remember eagerly awaiting the day that he could read so we could play Monopoly… and there were bike races, 4-H meetings, barbies (he liked Ariel from the little mermaid because she also had red hair… or maybe it was the shell bra…), birthday parties and all of the normal childhood joys we raced through together.

Including dressing up in period costumes on family vacations…

Don’t let him tell you he didn’t do it of his own free will. We were the envy of all other children, and tourists stopped to take photos with us. It’s the truth.

{Gotta love us}

We’ve always had a good relationship, but in the past year or so I would say that our friendship has ‘grown up’. Joe is about to graduate from college, and enter a new, exciting, successful stage of his life, and there is something about both of us arriving at adulthood that has made each conversation a little more meaningful, and each memory a little bit sweeter.

And so, this post. Each of my family and friends have taught me important lessons, but here are a few that are “uniquely Joe”…

Lesson’s from Joe:

1. It‘s OK to suffer a little bit: Joe has the highest pain tolerance of anyone I know. Bleeding/oozing gash, no biggie. Misaligned/sprained joints, another game of ultimate Frisbee is still on the agenda. Beyond enduring weird physical pain, he’s amazing a pushing is natural limits and more healthy ways as well. Example: We are not “math people.” Growing up, we both shed tears over algebra, but when he went to college he knew that an understanding of finance could further his future career…. so he majored in it. Talk. About. Pain. He put in extra time, and suffered through classes that we not his forte to achieve a greater goal. And, it’s paying off. So, push your limits. Be ok with discomfort. Go for the big picture.

2. It’s Ok to have happy secrets: I am not a person that likes to keep things to myself. I can take a best friend’s secret to the grave, but I LIKE to talk about myself. I think I’m pretty fascinating, so why wouldn’t I share my every thought with the world? Joe, not so much. He doesn’t broadcast his feelings, but when you get to know him, it’s like opening a treasure chest. He looks smart, athletic, funny and outgoing, but you’d never guess that when he comes home he reads dusty old Zane Grey novels in his room instead of always watching a game on TV; he reaches for grapes and feta cheese for a snack instead of Doritos; and he can converse about dairy goats or dog showmanship just as easily as politics or the Cleveland Indians starting lineup. Be deep. And be okay with the entire world not knowing it.

3. It’s OK to care: Joe feels deeply. He thinks about his family, his friends and his dog, and he makes sure to let them know that they matter in his life. His birthday cards to the family usually come in the form of a sheet of plain white copy paper folded in half, and four lines of text scrawled in pen on the inside, but those words are always thoughtfully crafted and more beautiful and honest than anything Hallmark has ever produced. My mom called him a “snuggler”, and others say he’s just a good, sweet-natured friend (but with a razor-sharp wit and the fastest come-backs known to man). I say, he’s a good guy to have in your corner. Show simple kindnesses, make people feel cared for. Back them up when it counts.

He also knows how to be loyal to one of the most disappointing teams in baseball…

…but that’s a story for another day :)

These lessons might be simple, but they are often overlooked. Take the time to think about applying these concepts in your life, or think about how a brother or sister or cousin or friend has taught you something without even realizing it…. just by being a {not so average} Joe.