The Best Vacation Ever – Part I

I was at church last night with a wonderful group of women I’ve been journeying with for the last several weeks.  We were practicing silence and guided prayer, which I will leave to others much more knowledgeable than I to document.  What I want to write about is where the practices led me.

We were to go, in our minds, to a safe place. The place that came to me was a cottage where Jeff and I stayed when we took a trip to Maine for our 10th wedding anniversary.  It was an absolute oasis where we spent two utterly relaxing weeks.

So this morning I pulled out the photo album from the trip and as I was paging through it I realized that without even knowing it, I was blogging on that trip.  OK, back then we called it journaling; but you know, tomAto / tomAHto!

Although the cottage is no longer available for rent; many of the restaurants are still in business and worth reading about if you’re taking a trip to Maine!  So I am going to share the trip with you in installments!

August 3, 2003

We’re sitting down to a delicious breakfast of homemade muffins, fresh fruit and the freshest eggs I think I have ever eaten.  They are from the hen-house, which is a stone’s throw from our door and which Lucky loves to visit each time he can escape.


[Lucky was a wonderfully crazy Golden Retriever with many issues! You’ll read a lot about him and his “brother” Dakota over the next several days.]


This breakfast and the beauty of our surroundings eases the “pain” of yesterday…


We got up at 3:11 a.m., showered, packed the car and got on the road by 4:46 in an effort to beat the traffic.  Ha!!! The car ride began with the boys [dogs] walking around the back of the SUV and being generally uncomfortable. At our first stop in Lebanon (yes, we didn’t make it very far) I got in the back to lie down with them thinking it would calm the savage beast. It worked for Dakota – he snuggled up next to me and slept.  Unfortunately Lucky continued to pace like an expectant father in the maternity ward.


Once back on the road, we sailed through Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York (which was very interesting) and stopped once in Connecticut.  We attempted to get a Super Duper Weenie in Fairfield (Exit 24 of I-95), but arrived to find a “CLOSED” sign in the window.  It was, however, a great place to take Jeff’s picture and to potty the guys.


Super Duper Weenie

Back in the car we headed for Massachusetts.  Once on Route 84 we were in the midst of what we affectionately refer to as the Mass. Turnpike Toll-Booth Parking Lot.  Apparently stopping for 30 minutes to an hour at each toll-booth is a common practice on summer weekends in New England. [Remember, the trip was before the wide-spread use of EZPass]. Let’s just say the second “half” of the trip was L-O-N-G!!!


At exit 3 in Maine we became impatient and decided that seeing the back roads would be a nice change from highway driving – or more accurately – “highway sitting.”  Jeff got out the atlas and found our alternate route – Route 202 – which is the one exception to the atlas scale.  For all other routes, the scale is one inch equals five miles.  On Route 202, one inch equals 100 miles – or so it seemed.  At first we didn’t let it get us down because we had visions of passing clam shacks and beautiful Maine scenery.


Our visions were slightly skewed – either that or we were driving through the Bronx again!  We passed what seemed like hundreds of pizza joints and literally no seafood restaurants (unless you count the lobster roll at McDonald’s).


We also came to realize that several other vacationers to Maine had gotten sick of driving on Route 202, stopped, got out of their cars, slapped ‘FOR SALE’ signs in the front windows and began walking to dinner at a pizza joint.


Cars weren’t the only things for sale on the roadside.  We could have bought snowmobiles, trailers, homes, fruit, a tractor-trailer for $8,500, and of course pizza.


We were surprised when we passed the most run-down trailer park from the ’50’s.  Where were the New England style houses?  And towns….forget it….on the map, heavily populated areas are shown in orange.  Well, heavily populated areas have approximately 3 homes.  In one “orange” town we saw the most people we had seen since we began our trek on Route 202 – it was what appeared to be a family reunion of 15 of the most frightening people we have ever seen.


Finally, we were nearing our destination – Kents Hill / Fayette.  We started to relax and to look for Fayette Corners Road.


I think it is important to point out here that we are on a trip celebrating our 10th wedding anniversary.  Much like a day from our honeymoon trip where we drove around aimlessly through Falmouth, MA looking for Aunt Mitzi and Uncle John, our spirits began dampening when we realized that either Fayette Corners Road does not exist or it is not marked.  We also began to fear that Cornerstone “Cottage” would be an old, leaky Air Stream trailer with no electricity or running water.


Dakota and Lucky were so antsy – and who could blame them?  Except for a few rest stops to potty and stretch our legs, we had been in the car nearing 13 hours.  During the trip, Lucky only laid down one time for 10 minutes – by the 13th hour he looked utterly exhausted – his eyelids were drooping and he could barely hold his head up – luckily he was resting it on the cooler.


We pressed on though, and after driving the same stretch of road several times and ultimately asking some locals for directions, found Fayette Corners Road.  Interestingly enough, there is a street sign – the only problem is that it is 1/4 mile AFTER you turn onto the road!


We easily found Baldwin Hill Road and Ellis Road – our final turn.  Expecting the absolute worst, we saw a beautifully carved rock announcing our arrival at Cornerstone Cottage.  We turned into the drive and all our fears melted away like cotton candy in the rain.


Cornerstone Sign

Wildflowers were growing around the beautifully planted garden and the hens welcomed us with a rousing melody.  The sound of gravel crunching under our tires began to seem as relaxing as a mountain stream gently trickling with cool water.  We were “home.”


Cornerstone's Garden

The Hens and The Cottage

The Cottage

Eric came out to greet us and show us around.  As we walked into Cornerstone Cottage, we began to notice the fine craftsmanship in the house – however, every time we have walked in since, we have noticed something else.  I think the most obvious touch is the “spiral” stairs that still have tree bark on the faces.  It is so warm and comfortable here.


Inside the Cottage

Ahhhhhhhhhh.  That is the sound of our stress melting away.


We wandered through the cottage looking at the details and settling in.  Then we headed for the beautiful deck, which of course was hand crafted.


While having a lazy conversation with Eric, Jeff began to do what looked like some sort of tribal dance.  This stirred up Dakota, who ran over to participate.  The next thing I knew, they had both been stung by bees.


The Deck with the BeeseWhile I calmed Jeff and Dakota, Eric headed under the deck to investigate and found a hornet’s nest, which he said he would dispose of after dark.


Bellies empty, we parted company with Eric to begin our quest for lobster.  We went inside where Dakota promptly threw up three times.


This initiated a call to the vet in Pennsylvania to make sure he wasn’t having a reaction to the bee sting, which prompted our search for Benadryl.


The four of us got back in the car (yes, we swore we would not get back in the car for at least 24 hours) and headed for Hallowell, stopping at the Fayette Country Store on the way for some relief for Dakota.


The scenery seemed to magically change.  ON the way to Cornerstone Cottage we were seeing the worst, but now that we had relaxed a bit, we were seeing the best.


And the best site of all was Hattie’s Chowder House – our choice for the evening and an entry in Jeff’s “little black book.


In Search of Lobster

Not wanting to leave Dakota alone, we ordered our food to go.  We each ordered a lobster roll and we shared some of Hattie’s famous lobster stew and clam chowder.  Sitting on some poorly lit steps in an alley-way, we had an incredible meal.


It was difficult to decide which soup was better – just when you thought you had made up your mind, your mouth was teased by the flavors of the other.  I still haven’t decided.


We threw away our trash and, with sticky hands, headed back to Cornerstone Cottage for the best night’s sleep in pitch darkness.”

Stay tuned for the next installment of The Best Vacation Ever!!!

In the meantime, what was your “best vacation ever?”

Newport: Days 2 & 3

Yesterday began in the best way possible….with a trip to the Franklin Spa for breakfast.  While it is true I am a sucker for breakfast out, I dream about breakfast from the Franklin Spa.  That’s not just a cliché, it is an absolutely true statement.

I don’t dream about just anything from the Franklin Spa either – I dream very specifically of Blueberry Stuffed French Toast and a side of bacon.  I tried to make myself feel better about ordering it by offering to share with Jeff F.; but he turned me down flat.  Clearly I am still getting over the refusal!

Blueberry Stuffed French Toast

Franklin Spa's New Mugs

Bacon Avocado and Cheese Omelet

Chocolate MilkJeff G. ordered the Boss Hog – an omelet with pulled pork inside; Jeff F. ordered the Blueberry Stuffed French Toast – obviously; and Holly ordered a bacon and cheese omelet, which she amped up with avocado.  Let me tell you quite honestly that the year-long wait was soooo worth it.  I’ve had stuffed French toast at other restaurants, but no one does it like the Franklin Spa!

After our whopping breakfast we did a little shopping and then set out on foot to walk as much of the Cliff Walk as is open.  The weather was perfect for the walk – the skies bright blue and the air breezy and cool.  We enjoyed the scenery and the company – laughing along the way.  When we reached The Breakers, we headed in toward Salve Regina and walked back to our hotel through the neighborhoods off Bellvue Ave.

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Our plan was to get takeout soup from The Brick Alley Pub and enjoy it, along with some homemade Bloody Mary’s, in our suite; but when we returned to the room, housekeeping was working. So we went to the Brick Alley and ate at a small “table” in the bar.  The Lobster Bisque was a wonderfully warm treat after a long walk.

Lobster Bisque

YummyritaRefueled and ready for action, Holly and I did some shopping.  The Jeffs went for a few beers.  Holly and I had fun at Alex and Ani and looked around in some of the shops on Banister’s Wharf and Bowen’s Wharf. When we were done, we met the guys and headed back to the hotel.

After a day in the cool air, we decided a late dinner in was in order.  There was no question from where we’d be ordering.  Anthony’s Seafood is THE place for  lobster rolls.  The prices aren’t for the faint of heart, but the overflowing lobster rolls are worth every penny.  We ate while we watched Mr. Holland’s Opus and drank Bloody Marys.  We wound down the evening with a nice glass of red wine and an 11:00 bedtime.

Lobster Roll

The alarm went off early this morning, which on a normal day would make me sad and a little bit cranky – but this morning made me soooo happy.  Spa Terre at The Viking Hotel was the first stop for me and Holly….and what a stop it was!  On the menu for Holly – a Balinese massage and a mani/pedi – and for me – a Hot Stone Massage and a Signature Facial.  Spa Terre was fan-tastic.  We were pampered – especially by Rebecca and Mary Ann.  After my services, I enjoyed a glass of champagne in the steam room and then showered, enjoyed the Moroccan Oil hair products, and did a little reading.  Although there were no cooking magazines in the waiting area, there were other good reads like Coastal Living, Health, and Marie Claire.  I treated myself to a rich facial moisturizer, which I desperately need after this winter wreaked havoc on my skin.

While Holly and I were being pampered, The Jeff’s visited (or rather re-visited) another sort of spa – the Franklin Spa – for breakfast and did a little exploring.  When Holly and I were appropriately relaxed and buffed and scrubbed the guys picked us up.  Since Holly and I started the day with fruit salad, our bellies were ready for some nourishment. And after spending the morning at the spa we were each craving healthy food.  For the first time ever, we stumped Jeff.  He got that deer-in-the-headlights look on his face as he thumbed through his mental card catalog of Newport restaurants.

We decided on the Atlantic Grille in Middletown where I ordered a wonderful Beachhouse Salad that included spinach, dried cranberries, goat cheese and salmon topped with a refreshing pineapple salsa.  It was the perfect choice after spending the morning in complete bliss.

Lunch was followed by a drive through Middletown to look at houses,a visit to Purgatory Chasm (which Jeff G. discovered this morning while enjoying his morning coffee), a quick trip to Sachuest Point Nature Preserve and our annual visit to the Beach House, a wonderful gift shop, in Middletown, RI.

As I write, I am sipping a coffee from Starbucks and a glass of Falanghina.  A girl’s gotta have a plan – and my plan is to stay awake for dinner with Mark and Tracey AND have a little vacabuzz going on!

Now lest you think this trip is all about snooty hotels, fancy meals and pampering; I thought I would treat you to the soundtrack of the trip.  When I say soundtrack of the trip, I’m not kidding.  At least once an hour one of us busts out a bit of this little ditty and the other three giggle like little girls. This song has been used to try to keep people from going to sleep at night and to attempt to wake others from slumber in the morning. It also provides a glimpse into our insanity.

This one’s for you, Pit!

Enjoy the music and just in case you want to enjoy a little of the trip, here’s the recipe for the bloody mary’s!




Sunday Brunch Bloody Marys

by mmm mmm mmm


    Roasted Tomato Puree

    • 2 to 3 lbs Roma tomatoes, cut into quarters
    • 2 – 3 Tbsp olive oil
    • 1 Tbsp honey
    • Kosher Salt / Pepper

    Bacon Salt

    • 6 slices bacon
    • 1 Tbsp sea salt
    • ½ Tbsp ground black pepper

    Veggie Juice

    • 1 stalk celery
    • 1 small red, yellow or orange pepper
    • 1 Hungarian Pepper
    • ½ jalapeno pepper, seeds removed

    Bloody Marys

    • 1 clove garlic
    • 1 cup roasted tomato puree (above)
    • 1/3 cup veggie juice (above)
    • 1 – 2 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley
    • 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
    • Zest and juice of 1 lime
    • 1 Tbsp lemon juice
    • 1 Tbsp prepared horseradish
    • ½ tsp Sriracha
    • 2 oz. vodka


    Roasted Tomato Puree

    1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

    2. Place quartered Roma tomatoes on a baking sheet.

    3. Drizzle with olive oil and honey.

    4. Season with kosher salt and pepper.

    5. Roast in preheated oven for approximately 45 to 60 minutes – turning at the 30 minute mark. Pay close attention toward the end of roasting to avoid burning the tomatoes.

    6. Allow the tomatoes to cool.

    7. Process in a food mill to remove seeds and skins.

    Bacon Salt

    1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

    2. Arrange bacon in a single layer on a baking sheet covered with a Silpat mat.

    3. Bake in preheated oven until VERY crisp – but do not burn.

    4. Allow bacon to cool.

    5. Crumble bacon and place into a food processor or spice/coffee mill. Whir to crumble bacon further, add salt and pepper and whir to create a fine powder.

    Veggie Juice

    1. Cut celery and peppers into approximately 2” pieces and place in the bowl of a food processor or Vitamix.

    2. Whir until the veggies become a thin puree.

    3. Place in a strainer over a bowl and, using a rubber scraper, press the pulp against the strainer and allow the juice to collect in the bowl. You should have approximately 1/3 cup of juice.

    4. Rinse the bowl of the food processor.

    Bloody Marys

    1. With the food processor running, drop the garlic through the feed tube into the spinning blade.

    2. Add the tomato puree, 1/3 cup veggie juice, chopped fresh parsley, Worcestershire sauce, lime zest and juice, lemon juice, horseradish, Sriracha and vodka.

    3. Whir to combine.

    Yield: Approximately 1 ½ cups


    1. Rim the serving classes with lime juice and the bacon salt.

    2. Fill the glasses ¾ full with ice cubes.

    3. Pour drinks over ice, garnish as desired and serve.

    Garnish Ideas

    Celery stalk

    Skewered grape tomatoes

    Jalapeno pepper

    Lemon/Lime Wedge

    Powered by Recipage

    Newport: Day 1

    I woke up this morning, threw open the curtains to a beautiful sunny view of the water, and just felt overwhelmingly blessed!  This is the one weekend of the year I look forward to with unabashed, body-shaking anticipation!

    Let the Games Begin

    This weekend is spent in my happy place – not that imaginary happy place in your head where you go when you need to escape stressful situations – my ACTUAL happy place.  After all these years, I’m still not sure exactly WHY I feel so at peace here, but I do….I feel utterly relaxed and rested here.  Overwhelmingly at home.

    Where am I?  If you have to ask you haven’t been reading long enough…..but I’ll fill you in anyway.  I’m in Newport, Rhode Island.

    Like most things in life, it’s not simply about the destination, it’s also about the journey!  And the journey yesterday was so much fun!

    We departed Harrisburg at about 9:30 and began Leg One of the trip.  This leg seems pretty easy to me because we’re all excited for the day, we’re typically rested, and we have caffeine in hand.  We also know we’re going to have an AMAZING lunch at Super Duper Weenie!

    Despite the fog, we made great time until I took the wrong fork in the road and mistakenly headed toward the Holland Tunnel instead of I-95N.  But, even the detour didn’t dampen our spirits!  We actually enjoyed a foggy ride up the Westside Highway. And eventually we made our way back to I-95.

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    Traffic was less-than-desireable, but we eventually made it to the Black Rock Turnpike exit – the holy grail – the promised land – Super Duper Weenie. And we were HUNGRY when we arrived.  Trust me when I tell you that SDW is worth the wait!

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    Not only are the hot dogs DELISH, but the French fries are amazing and the mustard – stay with me here, I know it’s a condiment – makes my Jeff and my friend Holly shudder.  They LOVE the mustard and breathe and audible sigh of relief when we leave with a pint of it for the road.

    I’ll be honest – Leg Two of the trip drags a bit.  I always mistakenly think Rhode Island is closer to Super Duper Weenie than it is and the food coma begins to take over.  I have a happy belly and the hours of driving begin to take their toll.  But, never fear – 80’s music and off-key singing saved the day!!!  There’s just something laugh-inducing, true belly laugh inducing, about singer loudly and off-key to the music of your childhood.

    We finally made it to Dunkin Donuts just over the Rhode Island border where we traditionally stop for gas and a coffee pick-me-up.  It seemed to take a very long time to get there this year.  And then Leg Three was extremely foggy, which had people driving VERY slowwwwwwwly; but finally – we made it!  We got to Newport around 4:30.  And even though it was raining, we did the official first day visit to the ocean on Ocean Drive.  Ahhhhhh… was like coming home……the sound of the ocean calms my soul and inspires a smile and a sigh.

    4 People, 3 Nights Overpacked

    The Wine (Mostly) Bar

    The Hard BarWe checked into the hotel – a new one this year, The Newport Beach Hotel and Suites – and unpacked.  After a glass of wine each for the girls and a glass of Scotch each for the guys, we got ready for dinner at The Salvation Café.

    Sangria & Hydrangeas

    The sangria arrived at our table shortly after we sat down and a great dinner commenced.

    Spicy Mixed Nuts

    Pork Belly PizzaWe shared a Lil Jar of Flavor, which contained Spicy Nuts.  We also shared a Pork Belly Pizza, which had ginger peach jam, pickled onions, pork belly and cheese.  Both appetizers were fantastic, but we expect nothing less from Salvation.  For dinner Jeff F. ordered gumbo (which I am not usually excited about, but which was very good), Jeff G. ordered the Hunters Pie, Holly ordered Filet MIgnon and I ordered the Teriyaki Salmon with Crispy Spinach and Pickled Ginger.  I won the entrée of the night contest.  Mine was absolutely delicious.  It was just what I wanted and all the flavors complemented one another wonderfully.  Jeff F. arranged for dessert in honor of Jeff G.’s birthday so we shared an order of Chocolate Banana Purses, which were the perfect end to a great meal.

    Although we had big plans to stay up late drinking one or more of the many bottles of wine we brought; the long drive and full belly took over and I waved the white flag of surrender just after 11:00.

    It was a perfect start to what is sure to be a great weekend.  Who can ask for more than a beautiful destination with wonderful friends?  We truly are blessed.

    The ONLY thing missing from this weekend is the Hoeritz’s!  We miss you Jenny & Pit!!!

    Milestones, Markets & Mozzarella

    Friday was the anniversary of the first date Jeff and I shared.  Interestingly enough, for that date HE cooked for ME!  22 years ago yesterday, I drove my little red Dodge Colt to his house in Lawn, PA (one of those don’t-blink-or-you’ll-miss-it towns) for dinner.  If my memory serves me correctly that night was quite snowy, much like the winter nights we’re experiencing this year. I also remember having those excited/nervous butterflies in my stomach – would the night go well?  Was he a good cook?  Would this turn into something?  Ah, youth!

    For dinner, Jeff made stuffed shells and a salad.  And for dessert – bananas foster.  I was hooked!  He went to a lot of trouble to make a nice dinner for me.  He didn’t just get take-out or throw burgers on the grill, he actually put effort into it.  And he seemed to enjoy the process, which was something we had in common.

    I also remember distinctly while sitting at the table talking after dinner Jeff said to me, “I’m so sorry.  I have to clean up this kitchen or I won’t be able to pay attention to you.”  Holy moly! I wish I could say that the kitchen cleaning OCD has lasted throughout the years, but I would be a liar if I did.  That’s not to say that Jeff doesn’t clean the kitchen – he does. (Typically he gets sick of the mess before I do and even when he’s not cooking he’ll sometimes come into the kitchen and banish me to the living room while he cleans up so I can continue in a clean workspace.)  But his tolerance for dishes in the sink and a mess on the counter is dramatically higher now than it was 22 years ago.

    Yep, that’s how long it’s been!  22 years since that first date.  22 years of ups and downs.  22 years of laughter and tears.  22 years of love (and some moments of hate).  22 years of being stupid and hopefully getting smarter when it comes to one another!

    Through the years we’ve celebrated our “first-date-a-versary,” our “proposalversary,” and our anniversary many different ways.  The one I remember best was our tenth wedding anniversary.  We were on vacation in Maine (my favorite vacation to date) and were staying overnight at a bed and breakfast in Acadia.  We made reservations at a very nice restaurant in Bar Harbor.  We had spent the day hiking and, separately, we were each kind of dreading getting dressed up and using our best manners.  Almost simultaneously, we each blurted out that we didn’t feel like getting all dolled up to celebrate.  So, in a rare moment of spontaneity for Jeff, we scrapped our dinner reservations at the nice restaurant, threw on shorts and t-shirts and headed to The Lobster Pound where we ate fried clams and fresh steamed lobster with butter dripping down our arms!

    Today, we are adventuring through Lancaster.  Our first stop, Lancaster Central Market.  If you’ve been reading the blog from the beginning, you’ve read about this farmer’s market previously.  Although I’ve made several trips to LCM, Jeff’s never been there.  This morning he suggested we visit the LCM and also make a stop at Spring House Brewery and Tap Room.

    We got to the market an hour before closing, which was just enough time to make it through all the aisles and to buy the things on our list – and, of course, a few things not on our list.

    Part of the reason I like the LCM so much is because the building is beautiful…and incidentally, it has been a market for over 275 years!  That’s pretty cool.  Another reason I like it is that I can find things there that I can’t easily find other places – like micro-greens, a selection of sprouts and every time I’ve been to LCM I’ve been able to find Tuscan kale, which I love!  They also have a great selection of prepared food vendors, coffee vendors and other interesting items as well.  On this trip I found fresh turmeric…I have no idea what to do with it, but I bought some and will learn about it!!!  It looks like mini ginger root, but according to the vendor it is not nearly as fibrous as ginger.

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    After marketing, we browsed through some of the interesting shops that surround the market and ultimately we made our way to the Spring House Taproom. We had to wait for seats and ended up at the bar, where we remained for the duration of our stay.  Jeff ordered a sampler, which included healthy-sized samples of 9 Spring House Brewery beers.

    The Beauty of Beer

    We enjoyed our rare time alone together talking and sipping from the sampler (and me from my Diet Coke with occasional sips from Jeff’s beers).  We also chatted with the bartenders and asked about the interesting names of some of the beers. Among those we tasted were Seven Gates Pale Ale, Big Gruesome Chocolate Peanut Butter Stout (which Jeff has had before and really enjoys), She Monster Mango IPA (which has nothing on Alter Ego Brewing Company’s (AEBC) Mango Habanero), Lil’ Gruesome Peanut Butter and Jelly Stout, and Smoked Porter (which smelled amazing – I didn’t really appreciate the taste, but I should let you know I’m not much of a beer person (unless it’s brewed by AEBC)).

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    There was so much beer in the sampler that Jeff needed a little something to eat….and, of course, I didn’t want him to eat alone!  So we ordered some Monster Mozzies, which are made in-house (including the mozzarella) and are ABSOLUTELY AMAZING!  They are served with house-made tomato bacon jam, which was over-the-top good!!!

    Monster Mozzies

    It’s only fitting that we’re celebrating this “versary” with food (shopping for it, buying it, and eating it) since our first date revealed our mutual love of cooking and eating.  Since that fateful evening 22 years ago, we’ve been cooking, eating and entertaining together.  We’ve shared many meals, tried many recipes, and (as our waistlines will attest) we’ve enjoyed a lot of good food.  Most importantly, we’ve been enjoying life together….one bite at a time!!!

    Take the Long Way Home

    Yesterday, after an appointment with my orthopedic doc, I decided to take the long way home.  On my way to the doctor’s office, I took the most expedient route – the one that would get me to my appointment on time.  And I’m glad I did.  But I had nowhere to be until the evening so I meandered home.

    My route took me not on the highway, which was my route TO my appointment; but rather it took me through small towns and through the countryside.  What a nice trip it was!

    We (me included) are often in such a hurry to get everywhere we are going because our lives are overfilled and overscheduled and overeverything’d.  And in our frantic rush to get places we miss a lot. We don’t stop to look at the sights. And we often don’t leave enough margin to be kind.  We’re frequently in such a hurry that we can’t even take the time to let someone in front of us at a stoplight – at least I am usually in that much of a hurry.

    But yesterday it was different.

    Not only did I enjoy my ride home, but I also drove past a small-town post office and was able to buy the stamps that have been on my list!  I can’t tell you the last time I went into the post office.  It’s been months, perhaps near a year.  And let me tell you, it was fun to go into the small town post office that I chose.  The woman behind the counter was pleasant – yes, you heard me pleasant.  And she had clearly worked there for a long time because she was able to address the majority of customers by name.

    Pondering my trip home yesterday, I realize I took the road less traveled, at least less traveled by me.  And it reminded me of Robert Frost poem The Road Not Taken.

    “Two roads diverged in a yellow wood.

    And sorry I could not travel both

    And be one traveler, long I stood

    And looked down one as far as I could

    To where it bent in the undergrowth;


    Then took the other, as just as fair,

    And having perhaps the better claim,

    Because it was grassy and wanted wear;

    Though as for that the passing there

    Had worn them really about the same,


    And both that morning equally lay

    In leaves no steps had trodden black.

    Oh, I kept the first for another day!

    Yet knowing how way leads on to way,

    I doubted if I should ever come back.


    I shall be telling this with a sigh

    Somewhere ages and ages hence;

    Two roads diverged in a wood; and I –

    I took the one less travelled by,

    And that has made all the difference.


    Now, my roads yesterday did not diverge in a yellow wood.  They diverged in the bustling Millersville area – near 283 and 741.  But it doesn’t really matter where your roads diverge.

    My roads diverged over two years ago – looking back nearly between sanity and insanity – with respect to work and my life’s calling and passion and direction.  I had to choose between following what “society” told me was the right choice and following God’s direction.

    I am glad to say I took the one less travelled by….It HAS made all the difference.

    Whopping Weekend

    This past weekend was action packed.  There was a lot on the calendar – some work, some play – and all of it was BIG fun!

    My day Saturday began at work making 15 batches of pizza dough – enough to make pizzas for more than 30 people! With the exception of a break for lunch, I worked most of the day Saturday prepping for Hailey’s birthday party and for the Pizza Pizzazz class on Sunday.

    From 4:00 to 6:00 I had the pleasure of helping Hailey – an adorable birthday girl about to turn 7 – and 13 of her friends celebrate.  I taught them how to make pizza and watched them decorate cupcakes and excitedly encourage Hailey during the gift opening.

    Hailey’s mom – Shelly – should be given the creative-mother-of-the-year award! When she arrived, she put a cute little apron and a custom-made chefs hat at each girl’s seat.  She was a savvy shopper and found the aprons in Target’s dollar section.  The chefs hats were paper to which she added stickers to spell each girl’s name and the most amazing flowers made from coffee filters and muffin liners (a Pinterest find (I think this is the right link) according to Shelly).  With permission, I snapped a few pics to share with you.

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    On Sunday I woke up early and got myself ready for Pizza Pizzazz at a leisurely pace.  At approximately 10:15 am, Jeff and I headed for The Kitchen Shoppe & Cooking School.  Yes, you read that right….Jeff came with me….not to sit in class, but to help assemble and cook pizzas while I was demonstrating pizza-making to my students.  Poor Jeff, I frequently draft him for jobs that he never intended to do and 99% of the time he performs his tasks with grace and good humor.  Sunday was one of the 99%!  He worked his tail off at the oven and the Big Green Egg making sure my students had well-cooked pizza to enjoy.

    Not only did Jeff help me, but I also had my “backup singers.”  A group of folks who ensure that classes go off without a hitch.  Without them, my classes would be a wreck.  They read my mind, cover my mis-steps, and provide tons of support and encouragement!!!  And as if that’s not enough, I also had Brandalynn & Theo from Alter Ego Brewing Company with me at the class.  As you may have read in a previous post, they paired their beers with my food, served beer and described their company and each brew to my class.  I hope they had half the fun I did!

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    The pizza combinations – although unusual – were well-received and the beers perfectly complemented each course, including salad and dessert.  Since I didn’t share the combinations with you in my post entitled Great Partnerships, I will do so now in the hopes of stimulating your taste buds and encouraging you to try Alter Ego and/or one of my future classes!

    Here is the lineup:

    • Light & Lemony Fennel Salad paired with Wits End – a Belgian style white ale.
    • Roasted Potato & Goat Cheese Pizza with Rosemary paired with Critical Condition – an amber ale with a hint of caramel flavor.
    • Ballpark Pizza (chili, hotdogs, cheddar, raw onions, and mustard) paired with Cheap Date – an American blond ale.
    • White Pizza with Asparagus & Egg paired with Mahatma – one of a series of IPA’s.
    • Asian Chicken Pizza paired with Mango Habanero – a wonderful beer with a kick made from mango puree and whole Habanero peppers.
    • Espresso Panna Cotta paired with Dolce Vita – a sweet stout with chocolate and hazelnut.

    The class favorite pairings were the Ballpark/Cheap Date and the Asian Chicken/Mango Habanero.  But all the pairings were terrific.  If you ask me, the partnership of Alter Ego’s brews and my food was meant to be!!!!

    Then on Monday there was time for a little play (not that work is too much like work these days)!  Jeff and I drove down to the Rockville/Bethesda, MD area to do a bit of shopping and meet up with our friends Jenny & Tom for lunch.

    We had a wonderful day!  We were in the car by 8:30 am and we reached our destination just after 10:00 am.  We got our shopping errands out of the way just as Tom & Jen drove up.  We hopped (ok, more like hoisted ourselves) into Tom’s new Jeep and set out for lunch at Founding Farmers’ Potomac location.

    We decided to have a leisurely meal, so we started by ordering the popcorn of the day (chocolate chipotle on Monday) and a round of cocktails from their pre-Prohibition style bar.  Our drinks weren’t just mixed, they were lovingly hand-crafted and quite delicious.

    Since Jenny & Tom are like family, we passed our drinks around the table and shared sips here and there.  Here was our drink lineup – one VERY spicy Bloody Mary; one Clementine made with chili-infused Tequila, lime and pineapple juices, and agave nectar; one Pimm’s Cup 10 (this one was for you, Mic) made with Pimm’s No. 1, Curacao, lime juice and ginger beer; and one Farmer’s Fizz made with Gin, elderflower liqueur and Prosecco. Mmm mmm mmm!

    For nibbling while we decided on lunch, we ordered house-made Ciabatta bread with candied corn, mascarpone cheese and charred apple chutney.  OH MY GOODNESS – it was wonderful.

    Finally, to our waitress’ relief, we ordered lunch (which turned out to be lunch and dinner since we ended up being sooooooo full).  Again, we ordered and passed – sharing so we could all taste.  Perhaps ordering 5 entrees for 4 people was overkill, but we all loved leaving with leftovers!

    Here’s what we ordered:

    • Crispy Spatchcock Chicken with Maple Mustard Glaze
    • Yankee Pot Roast
    • Skirt Steak & Enchilada
    • Southern Fried Chicken
    • Poto Mac & Cheese with handmade pasta and seven cheeses

    We enjoyed our meals at a laid-back pace, talking and laughing and catching up.  The food was REALLY good – especially the mac & cheese, which was heavenly – creamy and warm and comforting!!! The drinks were wonderful – particularly, in my opinion, the Pimm’s Cup 10. And it goes without saying [but I’ll “say” it anyway], the company was first-rate!  Any time we have a chance to catch up with friends and build stronger relationships is time well spent!!!!

    Needless to say, after all that food we had NO ROOM FOR DESSERT!  So we asked for the check, which was delivered in a miniature mailbox.  We were instructed to put the outgoing mail flag up on the mailbox when our payment was inside.  Too cute!!!!

    Of course, I took many pics so that I could share the experience with you:

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    Before leaving Tom & Jen’s company, we made two additional stops. One at Fleming’s Ultimate Garage and the other at Penzey’s Spices.  Two very different places, but both fun.  At Fleming’s we looked at vintage cars and each dreamed of our ideal ride – mine is a big boat of a car – you know, a pimp mobile – like a vintage Lincoln Continental!  At Penzey’s we sniffed and smelled our way through the store.  We knew we were done when our noses were itchy and our sneezers were working overtime!

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    Although the weekend was action packed, I feel both relaxed and energized as a result.  Thanks to Hailey’s parents for including me in the fun of her birthday party, to all the students who came to Pizza Pizzazz, to my “backup singers” for all they do, to Jeff for helping with pizzas and for helping me follow my passion, to Theo & Brandalynn from Alter Ego Brewing Company for their brewing & consumptionista expertise, and to Jenny & Tom for a wonderful day together.

    There is no doubt – I am truly blessed!

    Thanksgiving: Part I

    Ready of not, the holidays are upon us!

    Now I don’t know what your family holidays are like; but when my family gets together, chaos ensues!  You think I’m kidding?  Ha….be careful….you may have to be invited to see for yourself.

    This past Saturday, Jeff and I drove to Bethlehem with my mom and dad to have the first of two Thanksgiving dinners.  On Thanksgiving, my immediate family will have dinner at my mom and dad’s house; the dinner in Bethlehem was with extended – but no less important – family.

    So anyway, the chaos….it began before we even got in the car.  Now mind you, we were going for a Thanksgiving meal, but my mom – ever the hostess – made sandwiches for Jeff and I to eat in the car because we had arrived straight from a ministry event at church and hadn’t had time for lunch.  In addition to making sandwiches, she was also making sure she had everything packed that was on her list of things to bring to my aunt’s house.  My aunt lives in a lovely neighborhood, in a beautiful home that has a more than well-equipped kitchen and plenty of furniture.  Why am I telling you this?  Because when I tell you some of the things my mom packed for a few hours and a single meal, you will surely wonder if my aunt lives in a tent.  She DOES NOT.

    We were each assigned something to contribute to the meal.  My mom was to bring a cheese tray and I was to bring roasted veggies.  My checklist included the veggies, a serving bowl and a serving spoon – pretty straightforward, right?  My mom’s checklist included all the food items, a tray, paper leaves on which to serve the cheese, small cheese knives, several kitchen knives, several spoons, small bowls for noshes including olives and nuts, 3 baskets, ironed cloth napkins, scissors, a cutting board, handiwipes, a thermal carrier to keep the cheeses cool, paper towels, her First Holy Communion dress and two tables – yes tables.  No, my aunt did not ask her to bring tables.

    Needless to say, the trunk was full.  Unfortunately, so was the CD player – full of opera, classical music and the best of Andrew Lloyd Webber.  I am not opposed to any of those types of music in moderation – but since the holidays are not a time my family practices moderation, we learned a little bit about “too much of a good thing.”  Add to the music a little too much heat and a little too much swaying in the back seat and you end up as I did – car sick….a great precursor to an enormous holiday meal!!!

    I will be the first to admit, having everything needed to assemble the cheese tray – including a place to work without being in the way of the rest of the food prep – was terrific.  But the looks of incredulity on the faces of my aunt and cousin as we brought in bag after bag after bag after table were priceless!

    Once we arrived, others were not far behind.  All total we had 15 people spanning four generations, 3 dogs (too many open doors because one dog escaped), 2 wheelchairs, several arguments, lots of alcohol, the blaring of the smoke alarm, enough food to feed the 5,000 , and lots of love!  I loved my time in the kitchen with my cousins, Mic and Richie!  I love the banter and sharing of recipes and cooking tips, the chance to catch up and to reminisce.  The chance to work side by side and laugh and watch the rest of the family interact.

    The menu included:

    • Cheese & Nut Board
    • Crespelle (a.k.a. Scripelle)
    • Waldorf Salad
    • Turducken (a first for me)
    • Horseradish Crusted Tenderloin of Beef
    • Baked Sweet Potatoes
    • Mashed Rutabagas
    • 3 kinds of stuffing (including the one in the turducken)
    • Mashed Potatoes
    • Roasted Vegetable Platter
    • Baked Corn Casserole
    • Gravy
    • Cranberry Sauce
    • Homemade Pasta with Honey Bacon Alfredo
    • Stewed Apples
    • Pumpkin Roll
    • Apple Pie
    • Cranberry Bars
    • Mulled Wine

    Everything was delicious, but we should have pared it down a bit!  Marge, my cousin Mic’s wife, made some wonderful desserts that few of us were able to eat until the next day because we were too full from the rest of the meal.

    Take a look at some of the pics:

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    In spite of the motion sickness, smoke alarms, and pandemonium, I am thankful.  Thankful for good food, for good times and for family – however crazy! So, yes, the holidays are upon us.  The chaos has begun.  Here’s to making it through.

    Stay tuned for Thanksgiving: Part II….

    What is on your Thanksgiving menu?

    Sipping & Sunsets

    Jeff and I just returned from a fun weekend at the beach with friends.  I wasn’t feeling too well beginning on Wednesday of last week; so it was touch-and-go as to whether we were going to make it.  But I decided I could just as easily be sick at the beach as I could at home; so we set off on our adventure on Friday afternoon!

    Jeff and I left the house at approximately 2:30 pm and had a nice, leisurely drive through PA Amish country and mushroom country and through Delaware on our way to Rehoboth.  The sunset on Friday evening was SPECTACULAR!!!! The colors were so vivid and every time I looked out he car window, the scene had changed in a dramatic way.  It was a wonderful start to our weekend.

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    Our first meal was a winner!  Lu made ribs and hot sausage on the grill, along with a salad, a mixed potato gratin and sautéed veggies. Mmm mmm mmm!  The leftover sausages were a thread woven through the remaining meals and snacks of the weekend!  Based upon how quickly Jeff and Mark were snoring, I have to reiterate that the meal was a winner!!!!

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    On Saturday morning Jeff and I and Lu and Mark went for a long walk on the beach.  We strolled through the sand – sometimes in pairs or groups, sometimes alone – thinking and talking and gazing in amazement at God’s handiwork.  Of course, we saw many dogs enjoying their time in the surf, chasing balls and greeting strangers.  I’m always happy to see doggy faces when we travel….I don’t miss mine quite so much when I can scratch behind the ears of someone else’s canine friend!

    After the beach we dropped Lu off at our home base, picked up Kara (Mark and Lu’s daughter) and took a quick trip to The Fractured Prune for donuts-to-go in honor of our friend Jackson.  Holy Moly.  What a selection of donuts!  And what a fun place!

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    After we returned from the Fractured Prune we straggled upstairs for showers, had a yummy lunch and then ventured out for a beautiful drive to Dogfish Head Brewery…..our ultimate destination was the tasting room!  We enjoyed the scenery on the way to DFH – the bright sun seemed to illuminate the colorful leaves from within and it made the greens greener and the blues bluer…….

    The DFH campus is quite interesting.  The buildings are industrial, but beautiful in their own eco-friendly way.  There is a wood-fired “lunchbox” offering interesting food for sale (since we had eaten lunch, we didn’t sample any food, but it smelled incredible).  Perhaps the most unusual aspect of the campus is the metal treehouse, in which DFH employees are reported to have meetings.

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    Jeff and I were lucky to be travelling with experienced tasters – Lu and Mark knew their way around the tasting room and kept us on track!  We each sampled four offerings – Jeff and Mark sampled four beers.  Lu and I each sampled three beers and the birch beer, which was excellent and the favorite for both Lu and I!  I kept asking, “does anyone taste rosemary in this birch beer?” and sure enough, when Jeff asked about it, we found that there is, in fact, rosemary in the birch beer.  It is a wonderful addition and adds a layer of flavor you don’t get in a typical soda. Mmm mmm mmm!

    Of course, we snapped many pics while we were there – Jeff even tried out the Panavision option on his new phone!  And after we were done sampling our beers and sodas, we took a quick trip through the store.  The lone purchase….a beer glass.

    Jeff’s pics:

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    Upon our return to our home base, we scattered a bit.  Jeff and Mark headed out to buy cigars and a few grocery items.  Lu and her daughter, Kara, did some outlet shopping.  And I went to my happy place – the kitchen.  Saturday night was my night to make dinner so I spent some relaxing time in the kitchen prepping chicken cutlets like my grandmother used to make and a kale salad with roasted red beets, crumbled feta, spiced cashews and a spicy peanut vinaigrette.  I also slid a butternut squash lasagna that I had assembled prior to the trip into the oven to heat.

    While I was cooking, Jeff and Mark returned from their adventure and headed to the back porch with cigars and a full growler of DFH Raison D’Etre to watch the sunset and solve the world’s problems.  It was nice to hear the murmur of conversation through the back door and to catch a faint whiff of smoke while I was cooking.

    The timing was perfect.  I had just finished cooking, had everything warming in the oven (except the salad, of course), had the table set and had poured myself a glass of wine when Mark spied Lu and Kara pulling up to our home away from home.

    We enjoyed a yummy dinner, lots of laughs, and some vintage television.  While watching t.v. my cold (or whatever this is) started to catch up with me and my eyelids became heavier and heavier.  I’m pretty sure I was in bed by 8:00 pm.  Yep, I AM getting old.

    Sunday included Lu’s yummy pancakes and sausage, shopping for the girls, a trip to the beach for the guys, a quick lunch and clean up of our digs.  Then we hit the road for home.  On the way, we enjoyed ANOTHER pretty ride – clear skies and vibrant fall colors make for great travel!

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    Happily, my cold didn’t slow me down too much and we had a wonderful weekend with great friends!

    What did you do this weekend?

    Eat, Drink & Be Joyful!

    I’ve been very lucky over the last year to be able to share my thoughts about cooking, eating and entertaining via this blog. I’ve gone on a few rants, disclosed some personal things about myself and given you a TASTE of what it’s like to live in my world.

    So it’s only fitting that I spent the last few days eating, drinking and being joyful. And the best part is I have the pictures to prove it!

    On Saturday I had the rare opportunity to go on a date with my husband! Although we have no children, we don’t schedule time to be alone together as often as we should. In fact, my friend Alicia and I have discussed that when you’re married with no kids it may be more important to be intentional about spending time alone with your spouse. You see, us MNK’s (married-no-kids) often take for granted that we’ll have time TOMORROW to be alone with our spouses….but then all the other obligations get in the way. I’m sure if you have kids, you’re probably thinking to yourself, “Yeah? Well try adding kids to the mix!” And I’m sure that is a difficulty….but most of the people I know who have kids make family time a priority. What’s hard to remember is that the spouses in MNK relationships ARE one another’s family.

    But anyway – that was a diversion I wasn’t planning to take! My point was to express my gratitude to spend nearly a full day alone with Jeff with the sole intention of being together!

    Eat Divider

    I worked at the Kitchen Shoppe in the morning, but Jeff picked me up promptly at noon 12:30. (I <3 U, Honey).  Our first stop was lunch – and it was a good thing because we were both famished by the time we reached the restaurant.  We decided on Momma Spriggs in Carlisle – (1) because it is close to the KS, but also because (2) I’ve been wanting to give it another try ever since I went there with two of my co-workers for lunch.

    When I went with my co-workers there was a dessert in the case that was calling my name, but that I didn’t try.  It was called Chocolate Joe Cheesecake.  Unfortunately, when Jeff and I went on Saturday, they didn’t have THAT dessert.  Fortunately (for everything except my thighs), they had others!

    While we were perusing the menu, I told Jeff about the Hot Roast Beef Sandwich that one of my co-workers ordered on our previous visit.  It intrigued him enough to order it – and by the looks of his plate shortly after it was put in front of him, I’d say it was an excellent choice!

    Hot Roast Beef Sandwich

    No More Hot Roast Beef Sandwich

    I ordered the Johnny Appleseed Burger and French fries.  The Johnny Appleseed is described as a burger with “cheddar cheese, bacon, sautéed apples and red onion served on grilled wheatberry bread.”  What is not in the description is that the burger is delicious. I ordered mine medium rare and it was cooked to juicy perfection and was adorned with wonderful flavors from all the toppings.

    Johnny Appleseed Burger

    Because I knew we wanted to try dessert, I only ate half my burger.  I wish I had had as much restraint with the fries, but they were so good I couldn’t stop!

    While Jeff and I pondered our dessert choices, I recapped a conversation I had with my LHA buddies (thanks for a nice dinner David, Kim & Andrew) the other night about sharing food.  I really wasn’t trying to discourage our sharing a dessert, but it worked out that way.  Jeff ordered the Peanut Butter Pie with Chocolate Ganache and I ordered the Oreo Explosion Cheesecake.

    Now I have written before about how disappointing it can be to go to a restaurant and see desserts that you think are going to be great only to order them and find that they are ordinary.  I can assure you that that was not the case at Momma Spriggs.  The desserts were FANTASTIC!  Jeff’s pie was so rich I am surprised he was able to eat it all – but he took one for the team.

    Peanut Butter Pie

    After just one bite of my cheesecake I knew I’d be taking some of it home.  I was soooo good, but there was no way I was going to be able to finish it and still walk out the door.  So, with a little assistance from Jeff, I ate half the piece of cheesecake.  We split the rest for dessert the next evening.

    Oreo Explosion Cheesecake

    After we finished our lunch, I decided to snap a few pictures inside Momma Spriggs to give you an idea of what to expect when you go, which I would highly recommend.

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    Momma Spriggs has a bit of a diner feel to it, but the décor is much nicer than diner décor.  The colors are relaxing and welcoming and there is a decorated feel. A word about the service.  On my first visit, my co-workers and I waited (what was IMHO) too long to be acknowledged and seated, but on Saturday we were greeted immediately and shown to our table by a nice young man.  Interestingly, during the first visit, the table service was better than on Saturday – but that is not to say Saturday’s service was bad.  I have my fingers crossed that on my next visit I will have good service all the way around!!!!

    Drink Divider

    After we left Momma Spriggs, Jeff and I headed out to explore Southern Cumberland County and Adams County by car.  Our objective for the day was simply to meander and take some pictures.  And that we certainly did.  It was relaxing to drive and talk and see the beautiful autumn leaves.  And what a nice surprise it was to stumble across Reid’s Orchard & Winery, which we did quite by accident.  After choosing a direction at a crossroads, Jeff decided to turn around and find the vineyard for which we had seen a sign.

    I am glad he did because we had a lovely experience at Reid’s talking with Samantha and with Clair, sampling some good wines (which surprised me for PA wines because I admit I have had a somewhat old bias about PA wines all being sweet fruit wines) and hard ciders, and exploring the beautiful property.  We learned a bit about the orchard itself, talked with Samantha about the hard cider making process, had our questions answered about the label art on the wine bottles,  discussed food and wine pairing, and were even able to sample a fruit we had never tried before – arctic kiwi – and a surprisingly delicious blueberry wine that was not at all the sweet fruit wine I expected.

    Roaming the property was my favorite part of the Reid’s experience.  It was relaxing to stroll through the rows of grape vines and apple trees.  The smells were interesting – highlighted by fresh autumn air mixed with sweet, fermenting fruit.

    I hope the pictures below pique your curiosity!  I would highly recommend visiting Reid’s in the fall; but I’ll also tell you that Clair shared with us that in warmer months Reid’s offers live music on the weekends.  Sometimes there is catered food available, but you can always bring a picnic basket filled with your own goodies.  And wines are available by the bottle and by the glass.  The seating area is lovely with picturesque views.  I can guarantee Jeff and I – and perhaps some friends – will be checking out Reid’s on a weekend when the weather warms!

    The majority of the photos below were taken at Reid’s Orchard & Winery, but some are from surrounding farms and orchards and restaurants.  Enjoy!

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    Be Joyful Divider

    That brings me to today.  As some of you know, I’ve been trying to listen to God’s prompting to “Wait!  Just Wait!”  Some days this is easier than others – especially for someone as “D” as me.  As driven, task-oriented, and impatient.  But I’ve found a lot of joy in the waiting – especially this morning.

    I got to work a few minutes before 8:00, which was the time we set to start prepping for classes this morning.  When I pulled into the parking lot at the Kitchen Shoppe, there were NO cars in the parking lot.  I cannot tell you how unusual this is.

    But when I looked toward the Le Tort Spring, which runs behind the shop, I knew the empty parking lot was a gift from God and a wonderful reminder of the beauty that can be found in waiting!  I had a peaceful few minutes to walk along the spring and take some pictures.  I wish everyone could begin their day like that!  It was a time to relax, breathe, center and focus.  And to take in the wonder of God!

    For those of you who wonder, THIS is why I try to always have my camera with me!

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    So as I reflect on the last year of blogging, on the events of the last few days and even on the few moments of solitude I enjoyed this morning – I am reminded to EAT, DRINK & especially to BE JOYFUL!

    I received no compensation for either the review of Momma Spriggs or of Reid’s  Orchard & Winery.  The ideas expressed are strictly my own based upon my experience.

    MmmMmmMmmushrooms – Part II

    Sorry to make you wait for Part II of MmmMmmMmmushrooms.  To recap MmmMmmMmmushrooms – Part I, Jeff and I and our friend, Ron, and our niece, Vanessa, attended the 28th Annual Mushroom Festival in Kennett Square, PA this past Saturday.   Up to this point in the adventure, we’d made our journey from the Harrisburg area to Kennett Square, figured out a plan to meet up with Vanessa, successfully rendezvoused, and begun tasting food.  So far we’d tried arepas and Roasted Mushroom and Gorgonzola Hummus.

    After a brief stroll through The Market at Liberty Place on State Street we cooled down a bit and worked off the Roasted Mushroom and Gorgonzola Hummus we had shared.  We continued to wind our way through the crowds and to look at the offerings in each booth.  As you might imagine, we saw many interesting mushrooms along the way.

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    Just before we reached the entrance to the mushroom exhibit, we stumbled across a booth offering Mushroom Mac & Cheese… can you resist that?  You can’t 0r at least we could not!  We shared one order with four forks and while we were eating there was no shortage of ‘mmm’s’ and ‘oh’s’… was terrific – it was hands-down my favorite food of the day.  The mushrooms were easily detectable – earthy and warm and the mac and cheese was creamy and salty with a crispy, crunchy topping.

    Mushroom Mac & Cheese

    Mushroom Mac and Cheese

    We made light work of the mac and cheese and headed for the mushroom exhibit, where we learned about the substrate or growing medium for mushrooms.  We saw and learned about different varieties of mushrooms and, of course, had some laughs and took some great pics!

    Baby Mushrooms Pushing through the SubstrateBABY MUSHROOMS PUSHING THROUGH THE SUBSTRATE


    More Mature Mushrooms in the SubstrateCLOSER SHOT OF MORE MATURE MUSHROOMS


    Shitake mushrooms are the most popular in Asia.  They look like little parasols and, in my opinion, have a somewhat spongy texture in your mouth.

    PomPom Lion's Mane MushroomsPOM POM LION’S MANE

    The Pom Pom Lion’s Mane mushrooms were so interesting to look at and to touch.  They were quite soft and furry.  We were not able to eat these at the festival (at least that I saw) and I’ve never tried one, but my research tells me they have a chewy texture and taste faintly of seafood.

    Oyster Mushrooms OYSTER MUSHROOMS

    Oyster mushrooms are dove-gray in color and they have a delicate flavor.  I recently used them – along with some other types of mushrooms, in a Roasted Mushroom Soup with Apple Cider Stock, which was heavenly.

    We also saw two other colors of oyster mushrooms – yellow and pink.  They were beautiful!

    Yellow Oyster MushroomsYELLOW OYSTER MUSHROOMS

    We saw portabellos and criminis and porcinis, oh my!  And of course, we saw white button mushrooms – called agaricus – which is the most poupular mushroom consumed in the US.  But we also saw my favorite mushrooms – maitakis or hen of the woods mushrooms, which I had for the first time several months ago and have been using ever since.

    Maitakis are typically found at the base of oak trees, but can be found at the base of other trees – like maple or elm – as well.  They have many names in addition to maitake or hen of the woods.  In Japan they are known as “dancing mushrooms” and the Italians refer to them as ‘signorinas’.  They are also referred to as ‘sheep’s head’ or ‘cloud’ mushrooms.  I have had and made these mushrooms simply pan-fried in butter with salt and pepper and they are delicious.

    Mmmy Favorite Mmmaitakes or Hen of the WoodsMMMAITIAKE MUSHROOMS


    I’ll be honest with you, it was quite warm under the exhibit tent; so although we were learning under there, we were also happy to exit!  When we left the tent, we were right at the booth where you order mushrooms to take home with you.  The set up they have is quite convenient.  You can order and pay for your mushrooms inside the festival at any time (for us it was great to do it just after we had learned about all the different varieties), but you don’t have to pick them up until you are on your way out – and conveniently, the pick-up location is right near the exit!  We decided to bring home some enokis, some maitakes and a large box of portabellos, which we shared with Ron.

    All that learning about mushrooms made us hungry for another nibble – fried mushrooms….but we glammed it up some by ordering crispy portabello “fingers”.  They were quite crisp and very meaty tasting.  I really enjoyed the horseradish sauce with which they were served – it was a nice complement to the mild mushrooms.

    Crispy Portabellos

    An Order of Crispy Portabellos

    We continued to explore the festival.  We tried on some hats, which made us giggle! And we had worked up a thirst, so we set about finding something to quench it.  A homemade soda sounded terrific, until we found out that in order to get the soda you had to buy a mug for either $12, $15 or $20.  Now I have been known to splurge on food before, but I was appalled by the idea of a $12 soda, let alone a $20 one.  So we opted to share a lemonade – $5 with $2.50 refills!

    Our final treat of the festival was ice cream….according to Jeff, “There’s always room for ice cream.  It just melts around everything else.” And truthfully, as I mentioned earlier, we each only had one or two bites of each thing we ordered, so it really was a nice way to have lunch.  We had time and a nice walk in between our “courses”.  Jeff and Nessa and I shared the Cream of Mushroom Ice Cream and Ron opted for Strawberry.  While the Cream of Mushroom Ice Cream was good, it didn’t taste mushroomy.  It was like vanilla ice cream without as much sugar as usual and with a few brown flecks in it.

    Cream of Mushroom Ice Cream

    Although some of us had hoped to take a mushroom farm tour, we were newbies at this festival and didn’t realize you need to buy your tickets in advance.  So by the time we said goodbye to Vanessa (who opted for a nap instead of a farm tour) and got to the ticket booth, they were sold out of tours for the day.  Oh well, it wasn’t meant to be.

    But since we were not ready to call it a day and head home, we decided to journey around Lancaster County on the way home.  We wound through back roads and passed farms and farm stands and we bought some apples, pears, peaches and other goodies.  The following are a few of my photos from after the festival.

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    With Ron’s permission, I am also sharing a few of his photos from the day.  He loves snapping pics as much as I do – so we always have fun with our cameras when we are together.

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    Our final stop of the day was Iron Hill Brewery for a quick dinner.  I know you’re probably thinking, “How could you possibly eat again after all that fair food?”  But it really wasn’t that much food when you divide it by four people and we worked up an appetite traversing the countryside!  I had a salmon wrap and I cannot even remember what Jeff or Ron ordered, but my food was good – not great – but perhaps that was because I was comparing it to all the yummy dishes we’d sampled earlier in the day.  The only photo I managed to snap at the restaurant was of our drinks – maybe I was more thirsty than hungry!

    Lots of Drinks

    All in all, it was a fun and educational day that  hopefully will become a tradition.  We had no trouble parking or navigating the festival so next year should be even easier. We know now that we should pre-order our farm tour tickets.   We already have the 29th Annual Mushroom Festival on our calendars for 2014!  I’d love to run into you there!!!!

    What’s your favorite mushroom recipe or dish?

    MmmMmmMmmushrooms – Part I

    I am sitting back, eating a delicious BLT&P (bacon, lettuce, tomato and parmesan – oh yeah!) that Jeff made for lunch and reflecting on the day we had yesterday.  Before I tell you about yesterday; I have to share some photos of the sandwich with you!

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    The BLT&P was messy and flavorful – just the way I LOVE a sandwich!!!

    Anyway, back to yesterday.  Jeff and I and our friend Ron (wish his wife, Leslie, could have joined us) took a road trip to Kennett Square, PA for the 28th Annual Mushroom Festival.  We had no idea what to expect, having never been there; but the three of us are always up for an adventure and can always regroup and go to plan B if necessary.  Fortunately, however, it wasn’t necessary!

    The first (of two) glitch of the day was when we came to a complete standstill while we were traveling on Route 283.  We never did determine what the hold-up was, but we sat at a standstill for about 20 – 30 minutes.  Always one to find the silver lining, during that time I learned about a new-to-me app, Waze. Waze is an app that allows drivers to share real-time traffic information to help one another.  Of course, you have to use the app BEFORE you’re sitting in a parking lot on the highway!!!

    The second glitch of the day was at a “quick” coffee/potty stop at McDonald’s.  We ordered our coffees (tea for Ron) and then waited…and waited…and waited…and waited.  You need to know that Jeff is a relatively patient guy.  He rarely complains about a wait and normally gives people the benefit of the doubt.  After about 15 minutes waiting for two iced coffees, I thought his head was going to explode.  He finally complained to a manager and we quickly received our coffees and were headed to the parking lot and back on our way.  Or so we thought…after the first sip of his coffee he declared, “This is really bad.  It doesn’t even taste like coffee.”  So we encouraged him to go back in – of course, we warned him that the next version of the iced coffee might taste a little like spit.

    While Ron and I waited, I backed the car out so that Ron could get in (thank you to the person who parked VERY closely to our car) and then we did some laps around the parking lot. Finally Jeff came out and we got back on the road.  Whew….as far as glitches go, we were really lucky!!!!  Again finding the silver lining, had I not taken the driver’s seat, Jeff wouldn’t have gotten on Facebook to see our niece’s status.  Vanessa had just posted, “What a perfect, pretty day! Now what to do with it?!”  Knowing that Kennett Square is not too far from where ‘Nessa lives, Jeff texted her and asked her to meet up with us at the Mushroom Festival and she agreed.  The more the merrier!

    So Jeff coordinated the meet-up with Vanessa and I found a place to park.  We paid our admission fees, got our arm bands on and began our mushroom adventure.  While we waited for Vanessa to park and take a shuttle to meet us, Jeff and Ron and I meandered through the festival.  There were many vendors including restaurants, crafters, retail stores, culinary products, clothing and accessories, etc.  And of course, there was a lot of food, many dishes made with mushrooms and some made without mushrooms.  We took many pics while we walked and waited for Vanessa….here are just a few.

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    As we strolled from booth to booth, the arepas grabbed our attention. So while we waited for Vanessa’s call, the three of us shared one.  Arepas are a staple food in Venezuela and are thick corn cakes split and filled with cheese.  When they are heated the cheese becomes ooey and gooey and the corn cakes get slightly brown and crisp.  Let me just say, mmm mmm mmm – Venezuelan comfort food!


    Digging In

    One of the best things about hanging out with friends is being able to share food – you can try different things when you’re just having a bite or two of each!

    Shortly after the arepa, ‘Nessa called and we headed back to where we had started to meet her.  When at last we met up and introduced Ron and Vanessa and we were all fast friends, we began our festival experience in earnest.  While the arepas were good, they didn’t have mushrooms in them, so we had to get going on our mushroom tasting!  Had to….

    Our first mushroom stop was at the stand of a Kennett Square restaurant called Portabellos.

    A Place for a Future VisitEverything that the people in front of us in line were ordering smelled and looked wonderful.  It was hard to decide what to order, but we decided to share the Roasted Mushroom and Gorgonzola Hummus.  It turned out to be a good choice. Although it was difficult to detect the gorgonzola, it was still really good and really mushroomy!

    Roasted Mushroom & Gorgonzola Hummus

    If I had only been going to order ONLY one thing all day, I may have chosen Portabellos’ Portabello Mushroom Cheesesteak Sandwich because it looked fabulous – but, there were too many things to try to fill myself up on only one thing!

    The sky was bright blue, the sun was out and although the day started off on the chilly side, after the first hour at the festival I was wishing I hadn’t worn long sleeves and a BLACK long-sleeved top to boot.  But you live and learn!  We continued to look at the stands, stopping to look more closely at things that caught our interest and passing those that did not.  We talked and laughed, sometimes in a group of four and sometimes in pairs.  It was nice to have some time to catch up with Vanessa and find out how things are going with her. We had a brief reprieve from the sun and snapped some more pics when we explored The Market at Liberty Place on State Street.

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    I have to get ready for work so please stay tuned for MmmMmmMmmushrooms – Part II detailing the end of our adventure at the 28th Annual Mushroom Festival in Kennett Square, PA.

    Happy Birthday, Pop-Pop!!!

    Today is my dad’s birthday.  If my math is correct, it is his 48th birthday, which makes me……uh, that can’t be right…..younger than I was when I got married…..I never have been too good at math.

    Even though TODAY is the day, we did our celebrating as a family this past Friday evening.  Jeff and I, my mom and dad, and Laura and Shawn (my sister and BIL) went to DK Dogs on Derry Street in Harrisburg for dinner.  I know to many of you this doesn’t sound like the kind of place you take you father to celebrate his birthday; but for MY dad, it’s exactly THE kind of place! For my dad, the four food groups are hot dogs, ice cream, bread and beer – and you can get ’em all at DK Dogs.

    If you go to DK Dogs, don’t expect fancy.  It’s not.  Don’t expect table service.  There isn’t any.  But do expect great food.  It’s abundant.  Now if you’ve been reading for a while you may be surprised to hear me label the food at DK Dogs great since I typically like my foods a little more sophisticated (not snooty).  But when you go into the experience wanting a good hotdog, you will not be disappointed…in fact, your expectations will probably be exceeded!  The difficult thing will be picking which dog(s) you want to order from a varied selection.

    DK Menu

    Collectively we ordered 3 DK Dogs, 1 Philly Dog, 1 Pittsburgh Dog, 1 Ultimate New Yorker Dog, 1 Chicago Dog, 1 Reuben Dog, 2 large orders of fresh-cut french fries, 1 order of Konstantine Fries, 2 Yuengling Lagers and 2 large bottles of water.  Whew!  And then we waited for our food….


    The following are descriptions (from the menu) and pics of the dogs:

    • DK Dog – Sharp American cheese, Mustard, DK homemade chili, onionsDK Dog
    • Philly Dog – Grilled onions, mustard, provolone cheese on a pretzel rollPhilly Dog
    • Pittsburgh Dog – Fried bacon wrapped dog, swiss cheese, DK homemade coleslaw, mustard on a pretzel rollPittsburgh Dog
    • Ultimate New Yorker Dog – DK homemade country brown kraut, mustard, sweet relish, New York onions with red sauce

    Ultimate New Yorker Dog

    • Chicago Dog – Pickle spears, mustard, onions, sweet relish, hot banana peppers, tomatoes, celery salt served on a poppy-seed rollChicago Dog
    • Reuben Dog – DK  homemade country brown kraut, swiss cheese, 1000 Island dressing

    Reuben Dog

    Although you know what fresh-cut fries are, you may not know what Konstantine fries are.  I didn’t get a pic of the Konstantine fries before they were devoured, so image the picture below smothered with rich gravy and cheddar cheese sauce.

    Fresh Cut Fries

    After dinner, we all drove back over the river and reconvened at our house for coffee and cake.  It was nice to have a break in the action to digest and to see a beautiful sunset over the river.

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    During the day on Friday, in addition to making food for our Saturday kayak trip, I made a Coffee Walnut Cake with Coffee Mascarpone Cream Icing for my dad’s birthday celebration.

    The following are some pics of the process of making AND EATING the cake:

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    In our family we don’t really need a reason to get together over good food, but it is fun to have a reason for a celebration!  And although we’ve been lax as a family on birthdays this year – giving gifts and cards months late – we did this one right!

    Happy Birthday, Dad!  You’ve taught me many lessons over the years.  Some you meant to and some you didn’t – but I learned all the same!  You’ve given me a lot of good advice too.  You may not have thought I was listening; but I was.  Two things in particular come to mind….

    1. You can’t make people respect you.
      AND, my all time favorite,
    2. Take your foot out of the shoe.

    What’s the best advice you’ve received from your father?

    Can you guess which DK dog I ordered?

    Kayaking & Life Lessons…

    On Saturday Jeff and I went on a 19.5 mile kayak trip with our friends Jenn and Brian.  The four of us have been talking about taking a kayak trip together for almost a year, so it was great when we finally got it on the calendar.  And it was even better when it happened!

    You don’t set out to paddle 19.5 miles when you have other things to do….it’s a long, lazy day.  That’s not to say that there isn’t work involved….just ask my arms; but it is to say that can be relaxing, slow-paced and a good time for getting to know one another better.

    We met at 9:00 am [ok, truth be told we really met at 9:04:57] on the beautiful campus of Messiah College.  We unloaded our boats and gear from the car, packed our kayaks and headed for the water.  I am used to Jeff and I kayaking alone so I must admit that I was feeling a bit spoiled when Brian carried my load in some situations…a girl could get used to such treatment, but then where will I be when it’s back to just me and Jeff and I have no choice but to carry my half of the load!?!

    We were anticipating beautiful weather for our float, but when we began paddling the sky was cloudy and there was a very light rain that actually sounded quite nice as it bounced off the water.  And as the day progressed, the weather gradually improved until the sun was finally shining and the sky was a brilliant blue.

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    As we paddled I couldn’t help but think about how our behavioral styles (at least mine and Jeff’s) were demonstrated on the water.  If you know anything about the DiSC behavioral inventory or Gary Smalley’s personality inventory (which assigns an animal to your personality type based upon how you answer questions) or even if you’ve just lived for a while  – you know that we are not all created equal.  Each of us has his/her own personality quirks.

    Having taken the Gary Smalley inventory MANY times, I know that I am a LION and Jeff is a GOLDEN RETRIEVER.  And if I didn’t know this prior to Saturday, I could have figured it out based upon our behaviors.  The LION is goal oriented, likes to lead and enjoys challenges so it should come as no surprise that I was out in front most of the day – not because of a need to be first or to “win,” just because that’s where I am most comfortable.  Safe or not, I was ready to plunge headlong into most of the rapids without even assessing the current.  The GOLDEN RETRIEVER looks for security, is great at making friends, and works best in a steady situation so I was not surprised to hear Jeff behind me talking up a storm and watch him going last through most of the rough patches – because that is where he is most comfortable.

    Our positions changed throughout the float, but I can tell you that I could feel myself getting frustrated when I was at the back of the pack and I could see a bit of anxiety begin to show around Jeff’s eyes when he was at the front or when he wasn’t sure what was coming next.  I love (but don’t always understand) that we are all wired differently and I find it interesting when you can clearly see the “animals” come out in real-life situations. But, the float was not all about personalities…

    Although we see Jenn and Brian often at church, we haven’t had the pleasure of spending a lot of time with them – so the kayaking trip was the perfect day for learning about one another.  Floating along at approximately 3 to 4 mph gives you time to tell stories, ask questions and listen!

    You also work up an appetite….you didn’t think I’d forget about the food, did you?  We stopped at approximately the half-way point and had a great lunch.  Jenn and Brian brought a variety of beverages and I volunteered to make the food – you know I can’t resist an opportunity to cook for people!

    I made the food on Friday and packed it all in containers I thought would withstand a dunk in the water and that were light enough not to sink our kayaks on the way to our lunch spot!  We had quite the buffet when we spread it all out on the picnic table.  Jeff went to Alvaro’s in Harrisburg on his way home from work on Friday to pick up sandwich rolls so that we could make chicken cutlet sandwiches.  I prepped a bunch of things to go on the sandwiches and packed them in small containers so that everyone could assemble his/her own based upon their likes and dislikes.  Our sandwich extras included mayonnaise, balsamic jelly (stay tuned for a post), thin shavings of sharp provolone cheese, arugula with a light lemon vinaigrette dressing, and roasted red peppers with herbs.

    We also had chips and citrus marinated mushrooms for the side.  And then, as if that wasn’t enough, I enlisted my mom’s help with dessert (you need a little something sweet when you’re paddling for hours).  She makes some absolutely wonderful chocolate oatmeal brownies and we were fortunate to be the recipients of her baking skills.  When he bit into the brownies, Brian proclaimed, “You can tell some love went into these!”

    Not only were the brownies packed in a water-tight container, there was also a note inside – kind of like “fortune brownies” – wishing us a good day of kayaking and letting us know that the brownies with the edges were for me!!!!!  You see, my favorite part of a pan of brownies is the edges – I’d rather eat the edges than the gooey middle part!  And I learned on Saturday that when kayaking on a hot day an oatmeal brownie goes quite nicely with a cold lime beer!

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    We spent about an hour total on dry land at lunch time, taking advantage of “the facilities” and following the “old wives tale” advice about not getting in the water for 30 minutes after you eat!!! [Yes, I know it’s for swimming, not kayaking].  With full bellies, we set out for the second half of our float.

    Somewhere along the line, Jenn and I got ourselves into a harrowing situation [ok, no one was really at risk, but it sounds so much better than “we got stuck on a rock”].  We were heading for some rapids and rather than leaving a suitable distance between us as we approached as we had become accustomed to doing, the four of us seemed to be upon the rapids at almost the same time.  Jeff went left and cleared the rocks; but I did not and in an instant I saw part of a rock jutting up from the water and knew I wouldn’t have time to correct course.  I got hung up and Jenn, trying not to hit me adjusted course, but not enough to avoid the rocks.  So we were both stuck.

    It was clear to me that the only way for me to get “unstuck” was to get out of my boat and pull.  So I did.  Now, if you’ve ever been kayaking you know that when you get out you have to hang on to your boat or the current will take it and you’ll be left walking behind it for the rest of the day!  So I was holding on to my boat and trying to “unstick” Jenn.  The current started spinning my 12-foot boat and I was trying to keep myself upright on the mossy, wet rocks, to hold onto the boat that the water was desperately trying to take from me,  AND to keep Jenn from tipping.

    This is where the life lesson comes in…..sometimes you’re so invested in your current situation that you don’t see any other options.  You keep struggling where you are, doing what you’ve been doing (which incidentally is not working really well), and you begin to exhaust yourself.  I could feel myself getting tired, but I didn’t want Jenn to tip and I didn’t want to lose my boat.  I lost sight of the fact that there were other people I could turn to for help.  Although Jeff and Brian were downstream, I didn’t think to look to them for assistance.  Finally they yelled, “let go of your boat.”

    Well, for a few seconds that made ABSOLUTELY no sense to me.  But they said, “we’ll get it.”  So I let go of my boat and in that instant, the rushing current didn’t seems so overwhelming.  I was able to get my footing and help Jenn get moving again.  THEN I could worry about getting back to my boat.

    Of course, all I was looking at was my immediate surroundings (about 1 foot around me in all directions) and at where my boat was.  So I began trudging forward through deep, rushing water.  But Jeff, being back far enough to see the big picture, guided me to the right where the water was more shallow and the terrain less rocky.  Working together, Brian and Jeff managed to get my boat to me as I walked on more level ground.

    Safely back in my boat, I couldn’t help but wonder how many times have I held onto my boat [my plan, my way, my situation] and walked through deep, rushing water because either I thought there was no one there to help me or because I was too proud to ask for help or accept it?  Then I was reminded of how tightly I held onto my former job – not leaving because I couldn’t step back far enough to see that if I just let go of it, I could get out of the rushing current and onto more level ground. I went with the flow because I thought that was what I was supposed to do and I thought it was the only option.

    I shouldn’t be surprised at God’s amazing timing, but sometimes I am.  Yesterday’s sermon in church was entitled “Going Against the Flow.”  The main sermon points were:

    When I live my life empowered by prayer…

    1. God becomes my anchor against the flow.
    2. I find peace in the turbulence.
    3. I find courage to go against the flow.

    WOW!  I love and greatly appreciate it when God provides a smack upside my head.  I know that sounds strange, but you see, subtlety is lost on me.  I am fairly literal and so sometimes I need that extra push.  Standing in the water on Saturday and listening to those who had a wider perspective reminded me that I CAN turn to others for help when the current is raging….I can turn to God and I can turn to those who can see my situation more clearly than I can because I am too close, too scared, too mired in the details, trying too hard to make my way work.

    Kayaking is like life… doesn’t always turn out the way you expect, it’s more fun when done in fellowship with others, and it can teach you a great deal about yourself and about life!

    Where ever you are in your life right now, do you need to let go of the boat?

    a fraiche perspective

    I’ve been fighting a cold for over a week now and as a result I’ve been a little bit cranky.  Let’s be honest – summer colds stink!  I’ve gone from a throat so sore I would swear I was swallowing broken glass to a stuffy head to a ridiculously runny nose to sneezing….I am a walking Nyquil ad!!!  But today I am determined not to let it get me down as it has for the past several days.  If I’m going to have to live with this cold, then it’s going to have to live with me!

    Wall of Vendor NamesSo this morning, after much sneezing and using too many tissues to count, I resolved that not only would I drive Macy to her salon appointment (yes, my dog IS at the salon – do you have a problem with that?), I would enjoy the time I had to spend waiting for her.  After I dropped Macy off, I drove aimlessly for a while trying to decide how to use my “free” time.  Since it was after noon and my belly was a bit hungry, I thought about where I could go for a nice lunch – somewhere I hadn’t been before and somewhere I could write about to inform my readers….hmmmm.

    Well, truthfully, I drew a blank.  How is that possible?  I write a food blog.  I spent the next few minutes berating myself for not having a list of restaurants to try on days like this.  Then I berated myself for not moving more quickly on my “get a smart phone” errand.  There I was, in the car with no internet access…the horror!

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    Phun in Philly

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    What a great two days I have had.  Yesterday Jeff and I, and our friends Christa and Ben, traveled to Philadelphia for a day of great food and a trip to Citizens Bank Park to watch the Phils play.

    Of course, we wandered around the Italian Market in South Philly, showing Christa and Ben (Italian Market Newbies), some of our favorite spots….Sarcone’s Bakery for a loaf of seeded bread; Tortilleria San Roman for fresh-made corn tortillas; DiBruno Bros to enjoy the smells, to taste and buy some wonderful cheeses, and to see what’s new; Claudio’s to check out imported Italian foods and to see if they were making mozzarella; and The Spice Corner for spices.

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    I was on the road yesterday with my handsome hubby and our dear friend,  Beans.  We had an action packed day planned and got off to a good start.  We met at the Weis Market in Highland Park and promptly hit the road.

    Our first stop was Echoes from the Past on Rt 72 in Manheim – a great place for salvaged items like doors, hardware, windows, etc.  At our old house Jeff and I built a potting bench out of a piece of salvaged wood. We want to recreate it at our “new” house (ok, we’ve lived there for four years so I should probably stop calling it our new house, but old habits die-hard). Echoes from the Past paid off….we found a great piece of wood and a post we can turn into legs for the table.  I’m excited to see the finished product!

    Pics from Echoes:

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    Lavender Steamer

    Lately I’ve been trying to give up coffee…or at least to decrease the amount I drink.  It’s not so much the caffeine (although the older I get the more caffeine affects me in a negative way); but rather it’s that (as I have confessed previously) I use coffee as a cream and sugar delivery system!

    So, what’s a girl who loves a warm beverage – especially late-afternoon – to do?  Well, a lavender steamer is one option.

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    Trying Something New

    We all have our issues. I sure have my share (I know there are those who would argue that I have MORE than my share).  But this morning I am feeling so sorry for my little four-legged girl, Kissy.  Kissy is the living embodiment of love.  She wants 3 things out of life – food, to love, and to be loved.  Like me, she doesn’t necessarily want them in that order every day!  She is sweet and calm.  She is funny and beautiful.  And she has more than her share of health problems.

    She had two entropion surgeries in the month before we rescued her.  Entropion is a turning in of the eyelids, which causes the lashes to rub against the surface of the eye. She also has chronic ear infections, severe skin allergies, thyroid issus, chronic eye issues (likely from the entropion), a bum back leg, and an ever-present odor, which we refer to as her “funk.”  Yet she is perfect!

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    Happy Birthday, Baby!

    Today is my husband Jeff’s birthday – Happy Birthday, Baby – and we found a great way to celebrate!

    When I asked Jeff last week what he wanted to do for his birthday, he said he needed time to think about it.  He was mulling over the idea of either going out for sushi or having dinner at home. On Thursday, after getting a recommendation from a trusted source, I called him at work and suggested a day-trip to D.C. for oysters.  Of course, being the king of travel planning, he asked for more information and after I obliged he happily accepted.  He LLLOOOVVVEEESSS oysters!

    Union Market Entrance

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    A Crackerjack Event

    Last week was so much fun….I spent the majority of it preparing for a party I catered for our friends Lowell and Nancy on Saturday evening. They were welcoming some friends from our church into their neighborhood.  Lowell and Nancy are such gracious hosts and some of the most generous people I have ever met – they’re quite inspiring.  So it was my pleasure to cater the party.

    We met a few weeks ago to talk about the menu, decor, buffet placement, etc. I then worked out a menu, which Nancy and I tweaked along the way, and last Tuesday I did all the grocery shopping I could do in advance.  On Wednesday food prep began and by Saturday afternoon, Jeff was helping me unload the car at Lowell and Nancy’s beautiful home.  Their house overlooks a lake, which made working in their kitchen a pleasure. The view from the window over the sink is spectacular!

    Between 2:30 and 4:00 I got the bar, the dessert table and the appetizer buffet set and then at 4:00 I began putting the finishing touches on the food.

    Nancy and Lowell chose a nautical theme and I had great fun coming up with ideas for the bar and buffets. Jeff agreed to tend bar, so I wanted him to have a nice space to work.  I created the bar using a 4 foot table; two vases with sand, rope and shells; a piece of reclaimed wood; and some other decorations including a string of battery-operated lights.  Everyone at the party commented on the bar.

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