Big City Living | NYC tips & favorite things

Processed with VSCOcam with t1 presetSo, I used to post a lot of recipes. Currently, however, our master bedroom is serving as our kitchen  while most of our first floor is under construction. Though it is complete with mini fridge, microwave, toaster, panini press and espresso maker, even with all of these fabulous amenities, my cooking repertoire is limited, to say the least. So, the recipes will be coming…. but I’m gonna give it a few more weeks… (unless you want to know how to grill a sandwich without catching your bedroom curtains on fire. I’m pretty good at that. ).

In the meantime, as I eat cheese, crackers and apples for lunch again (totally under-rated, by the way. Like an adult lunchable, and who didn’t love those?!), I thought I’d share a few of our favorite things about our brief Big City life!

2015-02-08_1423417429We moved to Jersey City, NJ in freezing early February for a short-term assignment for the Husband’s job. In a small apartment in a tall building along Hudson river, there were a lot of adjustments to make.   Of course, having all of NYC literally at our feet for three months was pretty spectacular. But, there was a bit of a learning curve involved…


At first, I was frustrated. The sparkle of those famous lights was so near, but it was roughly -24 degrees, and I had a 9mo old and the trains were crazy, the Husband worked and had a long commute during the week, and I was sure I would only get to admire the sights from afar. Humph. But, after careful observation of the city-savvy parents that surrounded us (and watching every episode of Friends), we realized that the cold + baby + subway was not an impossibility. And, though the weeks were long, we filled every weekend to the brim. A challenge, yes, but a zillion people traversed the snow and crowds every day, little ones in tow, and we found that we could, too!


Some of Our (more obscure) Favorite Spots

We visited Yankee Stadium, Madison Square Gardens, Grand Central Station, the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, made lots of trips in and around Times Square, the Freedom Tower and 9/11 Memorial, MoMA, Museum of Natural History, The New York Public Library, Bloomingdales, Macy’s  and dozens of other shops  and attractions that you already
know are gorgeous. But, here are a few less common stops that should be on your list!

Hoboken | On the Jersey side, this spot is hopping! Yes, you can visit Carlo’s Bakery, but there are a ton of fun restaurants in this up-and-coming community on the banks of the Husdon. We loved this stroller-friendly biergarten! Tip: Jersey is a super quick ferry or train ride away from the city, and it can be far less expensive to stay on this side of the river if you’re planning a visit. You also get one-of-a-kind views of the city, and easy access to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island! Quick Facts: Also Frank Sinatra’s birthplace, and the filming location for the classic movie, “On the Waterfront” starring Marlon Brando.

Jason BatemanTriBeCa | Short for the “Triangle below Canal street” we visited this area for the first time during the Tribeca Film Festival, and I fell in love! Perfect for celebrity sightings (like Jason Bateman –>) and ahhhhmazing brunch, strolling these streets make you just FEEL like you belong here and could totally make this city home, and have a “squad”, and walk to the gym in heels and stuff like that. Or, you could just go to Starbucks and people watch.

Processed with VSCOcam with t1 presetUnder the PlazaThe Plaza itself is the kind of place that childhood dreams are made of… perched at the edge of central park, it’s everything that our Eloise books and Home Alone 2 told us it was. The Husband and I enjoyed drinks at the Palm Court on a date night, but the real hidden gem of the place is what’s under it! Perfect with kids, get a casual plaza experience with the dining options, and even pack a picnic to take to the park (like we did for T’s first birthday  – complete with cupcakes!).

2015-04-13_1428889454Momofoku Milk Bar | I had a LONG list of places we HAD to visit when in the city, and Milk Bar was near the top. And it deserved it. The cereal milk ice cream with cornflake topping is as good as they say, and the cookies and bars are even better. You just HAVE to go!Uniqlo | This shop is spreading like crazy, and is well-established on the East Coast and here in CT where we live now. But, for us midwesterners, it was awesome! Like a funky-industrial mix of the good parts of Gap, JCrew and H&M, their clothes are fun, functional, and perfectly priced. They have things for littles, too!

IMG_1186The Gansevoort Market | It’s a good idea to cruise instragram for fun locations to visit when you’re in a new spot. That’s how I discovered this gem! Etheral, historic and packed with good things to eat, this was a fun destination for casual lunch in a beautiful atmosphere!




2015-05-02_1430577185Bemelmans Bar | If you want to feel like you walked onto the set of Mad Men, this spot is a date night MUST. Nestled on the Upper East Side, and named for the artist that created it’s fabulous murals (the illustrator of the beloved Madeline books!), it’s just to die for. Tip: The King Cole Bar is another NYC classic with vintage vibes, and a secret hidden in its mural.


Honorable mentionsCheeky Sandwiches – Chicken and biscuits and ginger ale, thanks to the New York Gebert kids for introducing us :) | Eileen’s Special Cheesecake – The Husband doesn’t like cheesecake, so I bought him one and ate both. duh. | The Boathouse restaurant – A very popular spot in Central Park, but they have a less-busy causal outdoor area perfect for sitting with a glass of wine and a toddler!


Tips & Tricks for Parents

Especially if you visit during the colder months, here are a few ideas for parents planning to visit NYC or any big city with a little one!

IMG_0396Rain cover + Bundle Me | Your stroller rain cover isn’t just for rain, and you have to buy one of these. No blankets falling off every five seconds, no howling wind, and all of the sudden our brunch date with friends when it was 12 degrees was on the table again… Titus and hundreds of other kids we saw each day were cozy for all-day city outings for months with this combo! This has been great for our new adventure here in CT, too. No need to stop enjoying long walks because of the weather!

IMG_0220Stairs + Strollers DO Mix | You’ve just gotta be ok with hauling your stroller up and down stairs for the subway. We were pretty appalled at the lack of accessible subway stations, and figured out quickly that to be efficient, you’ve just got to use the stairs. Though, you could call a cab and hold your child on your lap, and stow your stroller, it’s a lot of effort! We didn’t use a cab once when out with the baby, and never had any real issues. Baby wearing also helps, particularly if you’re trying to train solo!

IMG_1262Pack Small | I didn’t understand the concept of an “urban jungle” until we had this
experience. Dressing for the weather and the tired feet, plus packing the snacks and toys and diapers necessary for 6 hour day in the elements makes you look more prepared for an arctic expedition than a chic day in the city. BUT, everything in the city is tight – small restaurants, small sidewalks, crowded subway cars. We brought our big jogger stroller with us and didn’t touch it! We also opted for a backpack style
diaper bag, and a back carrier for museums. Anything that can be efficient and compact is a game changer (another reason the bundle me was so great)! It can be hard to do with littles, but economize any way you can.

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 presetBabies are babies, even in NYC | It’s ok to feed, change and tend to your baby virtually anywhere. We nursed and changed in museums, at sporting events, in restaurants, on busy streets and subway stations. There are WAY weirder things going on in the city. Trust me. Just go and see what you wanted, go and eat great food, and bring the baby along to (almost) everywhere with you.

At the end of our time in the city, we were ready for some of the more familiar comforts of home – a yard for the baby, peace and quiet, no crowds… but, we’ll always treasure our New York adventures! And fortunately, our new home is just about an hour away! So, if you’re making a trip to NYC, give us a call. We’d love to have a reason to visit some of these amazing spots again, or try something new :)

freshlyminted… again

I thought I had outgrown this name.

No longer a newlywed, not a new homeowner, settled into my career and comfortable in the kitchen, things were pleasantly busy and routine. I wasn’t really a “freshly minted” anything…

And then this happened:

Baby T

And we moved here for a bit:

NYC views

And now we’re living here, and bought a really old house:

Milford, CT - Lower Duck Pond

And nothing is the same, so it’s time to write again.


We welcomed Titus in April of 2014, I left a job I loved in January of 2015, and we moved to Jersey City, NJ for four months early this year and soaked up NYC. Then, we lived like nomads between states for about six months, and had some family adventures along the way. Now, we are the new owners of a not-so-new 145-year-old house in costal Connecticut that totally captured my history-loving self the moment we walked in the door. But it needed a little TLC…

So, yep. Not a lot is the same…

The Husband works really hard. And Titus and mama hang out together. A lot. And we’re learning how to renovate a sweet but tired house, live 10 hours from grandmas, explore New England, cook again, make new friends, and how to be a family in the midst of change.

Not my forte. But it’s starting to be.

So, if you’d like, stay tuned. I’m gonna write about my (re) freshlyminted life.

The Trip: {Venice & Orvieto}

This post should have read, Venice, PISA and Orvieto…

…but that was before the rail workers went on strike, we skyped with friends in two nations to change plans, I almost died of thirst on a train, I gave a lady from South Africa two granola bars, and we walked over ancient cobblestones with our suitcases a mile out of our way after we got lost (for the first time) on our way to the station.

Oh, Europe. We love you.

{Cancellato, Cancellato, Cancellato… and lots of tourists in line for refunds}

During our stay in Florence, we planned a day trip to Venice, and to Pisa. One of those, as you now know, was cancelled due to unavoidable circumstances. However, the other, along with a gondola ride straight out of a book, or a dream, or a Disney theme park (whatever speaks to you) more than made up for it.

Who needs to see an ‘ol lopsided building anyhow.? That’s what I told myself, anyway… It sort of worked.


{Made-on-the-spot espresso on the train, the Tuscan countryside, water taxi ride…}

The train ride to Venice was our first rail experience,  and we navigated it wonderfully. Mind you, this was the day before they were on strike, so we were blissfully unaware of the problems we could have faced… thank goodness! The city itself was packed with crowds. There was a boat race that day, so there were several thousand EXTRA tourists and spectators packed on to the narrow bridges and streets – quite a contrast to the relatively easy to navigate (and breath/have elbow room) Florence.

But, Oh…

…it’s so beautiful.

We purchased the Venice Pass (to bring us to the front of the long lines!) and took the vaporetto (water taxi) to St. Mark’s Square from the train station to see the Doge’s Palace and Basilica of St. Mark. The square was full of people, but the sights were beautiful. The “bridge of sighs” that passed between the palace and its prison (where prisoners would sigh as they took one last look at Venice as they crossed) was one of our favorite spots (top right, above!)…

{Narrow water-streets, our gondola, the Grand Canal… and that blue door}

After touring both the palace and the church, we wanted to get into the city to see the lovely little waterways and more of the Grand Canal – too picturesque for words! We ended a rather warm, crowded day with a cool, peaceful, romantic gondola ride (so, so worth it!), and some local cicchetti at al Pesador – a bar nestled right along the Grand Canal and the Rialto bridge… octopus, yum!

{Flavors, guide book review, the husband trying new things, fresh-water fountains}

We really enjoyed walking the streets, browsing the lovely Murano glass and traditional lace – both made on one of the hundreds of islands that make up this amazing, historic city. As we often felt during the trip, we had to leave too soon… but, more adventures awaited us!


Because Pisa was a no-go, our next day was spent getting a refund at the train station, then spending some extra time in Florence before departing earlier-than-planned to Orvieto. It turns out, this was a blessing in disguise! We adored every moment we had in this tiny city-on-a-hill in the Umbria region with Hannah!

{Views, our suite of rooms and breakfast… oh, to be sitting there again!}

We stayed at B&B La Magnolia, and it was more perfect than I could have imagined. Serene, the owner, also owns the fun cafe & bar downstairs (where our breakfast was served the first day – above middle), and was wonderful to work with. Our suite was at the tippy-top of the historic building in the center of town, and had a fabulous view of of the city and countryside below. It was also just steps from Orvieto’s fabulous duomo, which was one of our favorite churches we visited on the trip… and that’s saying a lot!

The highlight of this portion of the trip, however, was getting the chance to see Hannah “in her element”! Now fluent in Italian (though she would deny it), seeing the place I’ve heard so much about from her over the last few years was amazing. She works with a college program that she attended while in school, and is getting ready to start her Masters in Fine Arts this summer. Orvieto has inspired her work in so many ways – it was easy to see how she fell in love with the views, the culture, the language and the people…

Speaking of the people, we also had the delightful pleasure of meeting Hannah’s talented, amazing friend – Federico. He is a shoemaker and leather craftsman that learned his art in Rome, and lives in Orvieto where he has a shop. We had a blast getting to know him, seeing his beyond-beautiful work, and taking advantage of his tour guide and pizza ordering skills :)

{The evening streets were dream-like, and the sunsets were not to be missed}

While here, we toured the duomo, visited ancient pre-Roman Etruscan ruins, walked down the St. Patrick’s well, climbed the clock tower and ate the most fabulous pasta alla carbonara and affogato known to man at Mezza Luna Trattoria (the restaurant with the amazing flowers hanging over the door, above). The pizza with spicy sausage and Gorgonzola wasn’t too shabby either… or the wine…

…let’s just say it was a good thing we climbed 10,000 stairs while on this trip.

All to quickly, we said goodbye… and were off to Rome!

…more coming soon!

P.S. On another note – Happy third Anniversary to my brave, strong, smart, Godly, devastatingly handsome husband… We always said we would go on adventures together… I’d say we’re off to a good start ;)

A milestone…

Well, my goofy redheaded “little” brother has officially graduated from college…

…oh, my.

I’m old.

My only consolation is that I still get asked for my ID at the movie theater, and somewhere in my head I fully believe that I am about to enter the 8th grade.

Hanson, gel pens and Bonne Bell lip gloss are still all the rage, right?

Anyhow, Joe’s graduation celebration was wonderful. The ceremony was honestly the most well-run and lovely program I’ve ever attended. It felt wonderful to see my little bro walk across the stage, and to watch him hug, grin and chat with family and friends.

This shindig also gave me a reason to:

  1. Buy a new dress
  2. Go to the nearby outlet mall
  3. Stay in a hotel
  4. Eat at Cheesecake Factory
  5. See the Avengers

Sooooo, as you can see, it was good time.

In other news, The Trip is pretty much all I have on my mind at this point.

Two Weeks.

Am I ready? Of COURSE I’m ready:

His & Hers passport covers? Check. Zebra neck pillow for the airplane? Check. Grandma walking sandals for my still-on-the-mend runner’s feet? Check. Mini bottles of every type of hygiene product known to man? Check. Re-reading my 6th grade “Famous Men of Rome” text book. Half-way check.

Totally prepared. Totally freaking out.

Talk to me in a week and a half and I’ll let you know if I’ve actually started packing or have stocked up on my to-go nut butter supply yet. Then you’ll know It’s getting serious ;)

For now, the next big thing is Chicago with Bekah & my lovely mama for the weekend!

{Can’t wait to be here again (2011). That’s American Girl bliss, folks.}

:) Exciting things ahead!

Our Friends {Up} North

You know those times that you feel like you could say “Thank You” a million times, and it still couldn’t begin to explain how blessed you feel?

Our weekend adventure left me and the Husband in just that state: Reeling with gratitude for friends, hospitality, surprising excursions, epicurean delights, wise words and the road we have ahead.

We trekked up to Ancaster, Ontario to visit our good friends, Gordon and Selena, and their son Harrison. Another set of friends, Phillip, Josie and baby Gabe, met us there over the weekend as well. (Note: Gabe was the most beautifully well-behaved child I have ever met. SUCH a sweetheart! And, he gave me kisses…)

We’ve known these wonderful families for a while, but have been itching to get to spend some real time together hanging out and having fun. This was the perfect opportunity!

We talked babies, education, faith, food, the arts, and…. TRAVEL. One of the many reasons we make the trip up was to get Selena’s world-class European travel advice. Yep: The Husband and I are planning a special trip to Italy in the spring….. and have been hopelessly at a loss as to where to begin.

No more! We think we might have a start, some ideas for a middle, and end. Details will emerge as we solidify them. Already can’t wait! {May 2012}.

Besides talking and eating Selena’s fabulous meals (seriously delicious pork & applesauce, jams, cheeses, steak & potatoes, pate, soup, salmon sandwiches and salads!… and her tea was fabulous as well.) and getting a new appreciation for wine and spirits from Gord, we visited the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM), shopped, and ended our visit with a trip to the Falls and Niagra-on-the-Lake.

I also taught Harrison how to use a rubber-band wrapped around his hand as a gun (see upper left corner). I’m sure that made Selena happy. And no, I wasn’t kicked out the country for possessing firearms ; ) (Sorry guys…I had to use one Canadian joke. Just be proud I refrained from using “Eh?” in the title).Toronto was such a progressive, fun city – Lot’s of fabulous European influence and green living!

After breezing through several exhibits – (The dinos were our favorite!), we were treated to lunch at Crystal 5 (c5), a restaurant at the top of the museum, overlooking the city.

So beautiful. So delicious. {Goat cheese & beet salad  and pulled pork tacos, cappuccino and re-imagined french toast for dessert…}

Fortino’s was an amazing grocery – a little like Whole Foods, and packed with an amazing selection of produce, cheeses, prepared foods and products I hadn’t seen before (it takes me forever to shop at home…let alone when there is soooo much to see!).

The Falls were breathtaking. I’ve seen the American side, but I have to say our friends up north have a better view : ) LOVED the rainbow!

Lunch at the Oban restaurant at Niagra-on-the-Lake was perfect. Have you ever had a Caesar? A Canadian tradition, it’s like a Bloody Mary, but with Clamato juice. Doesn’t sound delicious… but it was actually pretty refreshing.

Such a pretty afternoon.

But I have to say, the Tiramisu & Bacio Gelato was the highlight of the day. (Think icy Nutella!). The spot on the top left is where Selena and Gord were engaged

A wonderful trip with wonderful friends. We’re already looking forward to the next get-together!

It’s the season of Thanks. What unusual thing are you thankful for? (Canadian friends and Goat Cheese are already taken…sorry).

A Good Sport…

In 1997, I could list the starting lineup of the Cleveland Indians, and my most prized possession was a Sandy Alomar, Jr. autograph. Maybe I was a little obsessed…

{Note the shirt, shorts, earrings, necklace, hat, glove and facepaint. Too bad my coordinating red and blue socks were cut out of the photos…}

Times have changed. Thank the good Lord.

Though baseball is still the only sport that I can actually follow, I can’t really tell you much about the game any more (except stories from my childhood about camping our in the living room when the Tribe was in the Series, and how I would throw myself in a corner and pray under and blanket every time one of our guys got up to bat. It was sweaty…and disappointing.) But, this weekend I got to see my good ‘ol Indians, go to a fabulous wedding AND see the Brownies take home a win (in temperatures above freezing!).

We were in Cleveland for Aaron & Carly’s wedding – The Husband was good friends with Aaron in college, and Aaron was in our wedding two years ago. The Bride and Groom are both big Tribe fans (Carly especially) and had the awesome idea of having their rehearsal dinner at the Indian’s game!

We were also very lucky, because they were honoring Jim Thome (one of those old players I actually know!) for hitting 600 homers, and many of his old teammates came to the game (I waved to Sandy…. I totally think he remembered me from that autograph signing in the 90’s. Let’s face it…I haven’t changed much.)

After watching the Tribe pull out a win, we woke up bright and early the next day to get ready for Aaron and Carly’s big day. The Husband had the honor of being the Best Man, so he helped Aaron run some last-minute errands while I got to run, eat oatmeal and write.

The wedding (and the bride) was absolutely lovely, and the music selection was superb. Aaron’s little sister sang many of the songs, and they played a bunch of my favorites. The Husband did a great job doing a special reading: It was one of his favorite passages in Jeremiah that he and Aaron had studied together in a bible study college. So special, so fitting.

We danced and ate and had fun with the photo booth (gotta love those things!). The Husband’s speech was great, and we owned the Macarena. After the reception, we plopped exhaustedly into bed at the hotel. But, more fun was in store for the next day:

A Browns game!

{Tribe game, Aaron’s grandpa serenades us on the church steps with his harmonica, Browns win!}

Carly happened to have a few connections that allowed the four of us to get amazing last-minute seats. We did have a slight run-in with some pushy scalpers, but the boys took care of us : ) The sun was shining, and it was actually hot – totally unheard of for a Cleveland football game – and we WON (equally unheard of).

The Husband and I sported brand new Browns gear (purchased right before the game) and were so, so happy to get to spend some extra time with the newlyweds : )

Congrats again to Aaron and Carly, and here’s to many more Cleveland wins!

…maybe I should start praying under the covers again.


We {Rocked}

We spent the weekend camping and rock climbing in Red River Gorge Kentucky with our good friends Valerie and Destrey (you’ll remember them from another recent adventure) and their adorable little girl, Carlie.

Carlie and Andrew discovered they’re practically the same person. They hate having sticky fingers, ask “is this healthy?” with a little sneer every time you hand them a snack, like Disney movies, can fall asleep anywhere in two seconds flat and get antsy on long car rides. We got along great ; )

The sights and the culture and the food was amazing. We were four hours away from home, but it felt like we were on another planet! I tried to keep up with the lingo (pumpy, trad, smearing, multi-pitch…) and fit in. But, I think my level of hygiene, lack of hiking sandals and the fact that I was wearing a bra gave me away pretty quickly. Though I did order chickpeas on my pizza. I feel that counts for something.

I climbed dozens of feet in the air, hiked over crazy terrain, gripped rough, wild rock with my bare hands, and my worst injury was from walking into the picnic table after dark. That. smarts. And ruining my nails.

The climbing itself was pretty intimidating, but felt so good once you’re at the top.  Valerie & Destrey were wonderful instructors, but when you’ve got both feet off of the ground and your palms are sweaty and you realize you’ve really got to reach for that next hold, it’s quite the adrenaline rush! I didn’t succeed every time, but I was super proud of how well the Husband and I hung in there.

He doesn’t even LIKE heights, but loves me enough to do it anyway ; )

While were were down there, we ate at Rosie’s – a little diner with dollar bills stapled to the ceiling – and Muigel’s. Rosie’s was fun and quirky, but Muigel’s was a whole new experience. It’s part pizza shop, part gear store and part campground/hangout for climbers from all over the world.

{Rosie’s dollar bills, campfire food and Muigel’s}

The list of toppings for their pizza’s, salads and sandwiches was endless: It took me FOREVER to choose, but I ended up with chickpeas, artichokes, sweet potatoes, onion, mushrooms, spinach and green pepper. Delish!

Apparently ordering an “Ale 8” is also mandatory at every stop. I don’t even want to think about how many were consumed over the weekend….but they’re good. And you can only get them here!

This was Carlie’s first climbing trip too. She was a natural! She was totally fearless climbing up rocks that made me nervous. She got a new chalk bag and shoes while we were there, and made her awesome parents so proud. We also spent lots of time making pies out of leaves, pistachio shells, cheddar bunnies we accidentally dropped on the ground, and dirt, and “baking” them in holes in the rocks ; )

While the Husband and I might not be cut out to be hard-core climbers, I think we’ll definitely take another trip. We were sore in places we didn’t know existed, but the workout felt so natural it wasn’t chore. It was a memorable adventure with great friends – Sometimes you’ve just gotta try something new(and maybe a little dangerous).

Labor & Birth {Days}

I. Love. Surprises.

As evidenced by the photo to the left, even when wearing serious cowgirl garb, I can barely contain my excitement (that’s a swing set in the trunk by the way. I loved that thing…Until I realized that wasps built nests in the glider, and then I steered clear of the thing for months). I think the bolo tie made the outfit, don’t you?

Birthday excitement then…

When my Birthday dawned yesterday, it wasn’t much different. Even though I’m 25, not 4, and had to go to work, I was beyond happy to be greeted with THREE b-day surprises, including flowers from the Husband, and chocolate from the Parents. But, what excited me most of all was the prospect of dinner at my favorite restaurant in the universe: Revolver.

…Birthday excitement now

I adore Revolver’s seasonal, local, fresh, amazing food… and their retro-funk decor is a total treat. Chatting with the staff is fun, and the wine list is to die for. In short, this place is a gem, and I LOVE that it is nestled in our little city in Northwest Ohio.

We dined on poutine with duck fat french fries, braised goat and aged cheddar (not so healthy, but oh, so amazing), sweet corn bisque with vanilla mascarpone (the vanilla was intense!), pekin duck breast with roasted sweet corn, spicy pickled cucumbers and avocado, and local pork loin with fennel gratin and watercress. And, I can’t forget, polenta… I rarely DREAM of food, but Chef Mike’s polenta is simple, rich and heavenly.

For dessert, we got both the rich chocolate brownie with homemade raspberry reduction and ice cream, and the summer fruit trifle (served in a glass jar!) with fresh whipped cream and buttery pound cake and a cup of French press coffee (hey, it’s my Birthday…I can’t eat two desserts if I want.)… *sigh*. Perfection.

This day of bliss actually followed a pretty amazing Labor Day weekend. Even though it was packed, we had a ton of fun with friends and family at our annual Labor Day Family Camp (where the Husband and I first hung out eight years ago!), enjoyed great friends at a wedding, and even got to hang out along the Ohio River and take a spin on a Jet Ski!

The wedding was so lovely, and we are ecstatic for our friends Pat & Emily (they’re going on their honeymoon to New Zealand and Australia – how cool is that?). We stayed with our friends Sarah, Andy, Karen, Josh, Liz and Kyle at Sarah’s family river house after the wedding, and were treated to delicious food, a boat ride, sangria, a church service on the lawn and more hospitality than anyone could ask for (Thanks!). It’s a fun group (the guys and Karen all work together) – it felt like a little vacation.

We started and ended our weekend at Labor Day Camp. Also known as “The Best Four Days of the Year”, this camp has been a part of our lives for a long time. Our entire church family attends – a million little animals kids, parents and pastors alike, and we take time to learn, eat and play together. My lovely mama danced, my little sister sprained her ankle but was too busy running around to notice, and my brother got to sit by the fire for hours with his friends. Our stay there (even though we always leave tired, sick of the camp food, totally over the hard wooden benches and in need of a real shower) is always refreshing and delightful.

So, we caught up with friends, listened to great teachings, had amazing times of prayer and ate lots of s’mores… In short, I don’t think we’d miss it for the world (even if that means getting ready for a wedding in a camp bathroom with no air conditioning in 100 degree heat…Thank the Lord for hairspray).

I hope your holiday was just as full of simple joys, and that you get to see friends and eat at your favorite restaurant soon too.

Do it. It’s worth it.

Wine a little…it makes everything better

After 12 hours of traveling with friends, seeing beautiful views, getting a wonderful surprise, witnessing 50 middle-aged tipsy women hitting on our husbands, lots of mental math, a few (haha) wine samples and a baker’s dozen of bottles packed into the trunk…. we made it home!

We traveled with our friends Cole and Steph to the Seven Springs Resort for their annual Food & Wine Festival to work with the Laurel Mountain Winery.

Our road trip companions were excellent, and I wish we had a video of our jokes and conversations (and of the lady with the house-arrest ankle bracelet at the Stop-and-Go/ Subway combo…but that’s another story). We also loved them for their Costco Pub Mix.

Girls got the back seat…

A running theme of conversation throughout our drive was the quality of our hotel. The girls were prepared to stick it out no matter what – we’re pretty tough (we even completed the Warrior Dash this summer together!) – but the boy’s comments about the probable state of the hot tub and lack of breakfast options started to wear on us. Just as the trip was ending and we were starting to wonder if we should just camp in the car, we saw the hotel sign out the window….. and then we saw it pass us by. The boys shouted “Surprise!” in unison!

They worked some last-minute magic and got us an amazing room at Seven Springs – right at the location of the festival! We could have cried for joy – they had known for days and kept it a secret…and played up the ‘bad’ hotel on purpose! Sneaky…

We had two busy days of pouring, selling and manning the cash register (I was there with two ‘enginerds‘ and a math teacher, and guess who had to make change? Me.). Luckily, we had enough hands that we could take shifts walking around the festival to taste and see the sights.

Cole and his “Papa John”- He owns the winery, and even hosted a seminar comparing wines for CA and PA.

The Husband and Cole poured samples, and poured on the charm – they made splash with the ladies – They LOVED their dreamy blue eyes…and the fact that they were 25.  And Steph and I got our workouts in with bagging and boxing bottles for customers.

Matching “Screw it” shirts – We fit right in!

Though most of the wines at the festival were “traditional” Pennsylvania wines and therefore on the sweeter side, the Hubby and I were able to pick out two juicy Cabernets and two Pinot Grigios that were just right. We also got “The Fainting Goat” (loved the name…and couldn’t pass it up with my 4-H goat-showing past) a black cherry wine, and a bright orange mango that was bright, light and not too sweet.

“Groundhog Grog” was Laurel Mountain’s spiced apple wine that was a huge hit – perfect served warm or used as a marinade

Both couples ended up with a ton of great memories, more than enough wine to last us a while : ) Special thanks to Papa John and his wife Barbara for their generosity (dinner was amazing!) and to Cole & Steph for inviting us to tag along!

The Hubby even found some goldfish!

WINEding road trip

My husband hears a lot about my healthy cooking and new recipes. Hence, this gem of a facebook post from last night *Note: I was out late on a bike trip and just saw it this morning:

Goldfish, Cashews, Pecans, and a Coke…I’m practically a vegan.

Dinner of champions. At least his heart is in the right place.

Anyway, I’m pretty excited because after work today, we head out with our good friends Cole & Steph on a roadtrip….and it involves WINE. No, not while driving. Our destination for the weekend is the Seven Springs Wine & Food Festival in PA.

This is “The Gang” – Three of the husbands best friends from school. They came up from Columbus to hang out a few times this summer and are a blast!

Cole’s grandfather owns  Laurel Mountain Winery, and invited us to help him out at the festival! We love our vino, and can’t wait to jump in. The hubby is particular exited about sharing his thoughts with attendees on the subtle flavors he detects in each variety….but, in light of the state his palate (think the comment above), I don’t know if hints of “Welch’s fruit snacks” and “Mt. Dew” will fly with the customers : )

We’ll see how this goes….