A Very Corning Christmas Present

My parents came into town on the 19th and after hours of catching up, eating dinner, and sharing a few early gift surprises Luke and I gave them their Christmas card. The card explained their Christmas Present: a trip to the Corning Glass Museum and chance to make one of their own Christmas ornaments at the Glass Studio (for more on this see Sparkle). After looking at the weather we decided to go on Saturday while it was rainy and cold.

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We started by walking through the lowest level; the museum store looking at Christmas ornaments  on sale and other artistic glassware items. Then we went up the escalator, got our tickets for the museum and ornament experience then toured the second level taking in the modern art exhibits.

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Next we circled up to the main historical glass exhibit. My father enjoyed the glass making examples and collections from history starting with Egyptian perfume bottles, to Venetian glass, all the way up to modern windows and lighting. Here also he enjoyed learning about  how Corning became a center for glass production and about the glass processes at the time.

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My parents especially enjoyed seeing the arts and crafts movement stain glass pieces of Frank Loyd Wright and Greene and Greene.

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After this, we toured the demonstration level of the museum. My mom enjoyed watching a glass maker create a bright orange glass pitcher in the Hot Glass demonstration room. We then toured other demonstrations learning about how glass for car windshield are made, and how fiber optic glass works to carry information and light.

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Then it was time for the main event: we took my parents over to The Studio to make their own glass ornament. Once there my parents jointly decided on a spiral design and tear drop shape combining lime green and cobalt blue colors.

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My dad was beyond excited to make the ornament. While watching all of the kids make their snowmen and ornaments  it was obvious my kid-at-heart father was fascinated by the process as he impatiently waited for his turn. When it was his turn my dad was throughly involved in the process, enjoying every minute as the glass ornament was blow, shaped, and then taken to the oven to cool.

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The finished product

Afterward we took my parents to Slammin’ Jammin’  BBQ for a late lunch/early dinner ( see racefever and local bbq) then decided to take a stroll showing my parents downtown Market St. We stopped in  some of the glassworks boutiques and several antique shops  then enjoyed a cup of rich hot chocolate with homemade marshmallows from Poppleton Bakery and Cafe .

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It was a great Corning Christmas activity day and I’m glad I had the chance to share it with my parents.

How about you? You get a chance to share a local holiday outings with your family?

Oh Christmas Tree . . .

Whether you decorate with a specific color scheme, use garland and tinsle, or put an angel, star, or santa hat on top retrieving and decorating Christmas trees is a tradition everyone does in slightly different ways. For some it is time to get out the artificial tree and assemble others will go cut their own down. Last year for our first married Christmas Luke and I talked through what OUR family Christmas tree would look like.

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I grew up going with my family to pick out a Christmas tree at a local grocery store lot. ( I had no other options living in L.A.). We would come home, string white twinkle lights and a garland of wooden red cranberries on the tree. Then we would get a change to open our new ornament for the year. We would place our heirloom ornaments, including ones my parents collected over the year, on the tree while we listened to our favorite Christmas CD’s, and drank hot cocoa. Topping it all, we placed a gold and red metal angel holding a trumpet to her lips on the very top of the tree.

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Luke grew up with a slightly different tradition. His parents for several years owned a ran a Christmas farm in Oregon raising Douglas Firs and Nobles for sell. So his family always buys local Douglas Firs usually going to cut them down themselves. His family, like mine, kept home crafted ornaments made by their children, gifts from family member’s travels, and old fashioned brightly colored blubs. They used  silver tinsel and the large colored lights to decorate their tree. When I went to visit for New Years in 2011 their tall Christmas tree was placed right in the front window of their home.

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So last year, being new to the area, we went to a lot near our home to buy a tree. The tree was a little expensive for it’s awkward shape. We decided to use LED colored large bulb lights similar to what Luke grew up with but no tinsel or garland.  My parents had given me all my Christmas ornaments collected over the years back in October when we had moved, Luke had his mailed out to us along with his manger scene from his parent’s home. To brighten the tree up we placed candy canes and paper snowflakes to fill in the empty spots.

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Last year we also made ornaments for ourselves at Sparkle (see Sparkle) to place on the tree. We struggled to find a good metal angel to place on top, like the one I grew up with, so we settled on a metal star until we found an angel we liked.

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This year after asking around we drove out to Emerald Evergreen Tree farm which is only fifteen minutes south of our home. We came dressed in snow gear and parked behind the barn, taking a map of the area we grabbed a tree cutting saw and went on a winter wonderland walk through the evergreens. It snowed about four to five inches this past weekend so all the trees had a pretty coat of white on them.

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I was grateful for my snow boots as we trudged towards the Douglas Firs.  We shook a few trees off from snow to see if they were too yellow, too short, too full at the bottom, or too thin at the top. Then I saw one in the clearing near the train tracks. When we cleared it from snow I knew: this was our tree. Luke did most of the cutting but he insisted that I give it a try too.

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Once we got the tree down we carried it back to the barn following the car routes. Halfway there a man waiting for his family to pick out a tree picked us up in his truck and drove us and our tree the rest of the way to the pay center.

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We got the tree up on the car in a short time and tied it on. Luke went and paid for the tree coming back with hot cocoa. The cost: about the same as last year but this time with a much better tree and experience! When we got home we had to cut off a few extra branches and level out the bottom from the original cut we made then placed it in the stand.

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This year we decided to place the tree in our front room so it can be seen from the street.

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We have also added an ornament we bought on our anniversary trip to Niagara Falls (see Niagara Falls Anniversary Part 1; Niagara falls anniversary part 2).

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The greatest surprise for this year though is that  my parents will be bringing the metal Angel tree topper I grew up with to hand it down to us!! When my mom asked if we would like it I was elated!! I could find nothing like it anywhere online or in stores and am grateful my parents are willing to let it go because we are beyond excited to have it! Until then we will keep the star on top.

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So how does your family pick out and trim that perfect tree?

A Taste of Home

During the past almost year of living New York,  there have been several missed elements from my home state of California (for some see I miss my old life). One of the items in short supply (or quality) is Mexican food. I was spoiled in SoCal.  Mexican restaurants are more plentiful than Mcdonalds’. Each restaurant or fast food joint had their best specialties and all were authentically delicious. Mexican has always been my comfort food so it was hard to leave behind the tamales, enchiladas, chile rellenos, and good guacamole rice, and beans.

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Luke enjoying west coast Mexican food on our May vacation to Oregon

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Luke and I have kept an open mind and while trying the few Mexican restaurants here. We’ve been to chains and hole in the wall places  we have been everywhere from Rochester, to Ithaca, to Buffalo, to Oswego and everywhere in-between. Each time we were disappointed. The meat was not marinated and bland. Tomato sauces tasted more like Italian pasta sauce. And the beans and rice? Rice had not kick and the beans no flavor. We kept hoping for one half decent place to get that taste of home.

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enjoying some famous Olvera st. taquitos in LA

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On our way back from our anniversary trip (see Niagara Falls Anniversary ) we stopped for a late lunch and gas in Batavia. Here we decided to brave once again a little mexican restaurant called Ranchero Viejo. We ordered our typical taste-tester foods and were surprised, it wasn’t half bad. The rice had flavor, the beans had a little too, the salsa had kick, but the meat was still a little bland. Overall we were grateful even if it wasn’t on par with what we are accustomed to.

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When we first moved to Corning there was a small mexican restaurant called Toto’s on Market Street. It was never open  and before winter was over it had closed completely. The store front sat empty for months. On a drive last week through downtown we were shocked to see a new mexican restaurant had moved in and opened! Fiesta Brava! We were skeptic but willing once again to try.

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Where my family is used to getting Mexican food in SoCal

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On Sunday we met some of our friends at Fiesta Brava for lunch after church. I was nervous the food would be bland. But as we waited for our friends to arrive we started with the salsa-best we’d had in the state. Then we looked at the menu: it was the same menu listing as the restaurant in Batavia! We soon realized that they must be connected. This gave us a little hope.

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the-hole-in-the-wall mexican place across the street from Luke’s old apartment in SoCal

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When it came time to order I chose a risker lunch combo of chili relleno, taco, beans, rice and guacamole. Luke ordered the same fajita burrito he had eaten in Batavia but ordered chicken instead of beef. When talking to the waiter he asked if the chicken was marinated in the same seasoning as their carne asada like he had had in Batavia. The waiter-in a very proud confident voice stated very clearly their food was  better than Batavia. And he was right. It was the best Mexican food we have had on the East Coast so far.

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not my actual plate of food but close enough

My Chile Relleno was delicious lightly battered in egg, the pepper had a kick to it and the beans tasted like actual mexican refried beans. I never thoughts I’d judge mexican food based on such a simple dish. The rice had the spicy tangy flavor I’m used to and the taco dripped with juicy ground beef. I was beyond happy. Then Luke offered me a taste of his fajita chicken-the marinade they used was excellent far from the boiled shredded flavorless protein we’d had so far.

I am grateful for this little new Mexican place full of flavor and life.  It is a small blessing to once again get a taste of home thousands of miles from it.

Harvest Music Festival

We had a blustery start to Autumn this weekend, gray clouds, wind blowing leave off the trees, and rain showers. Still we decided to take a walk and risk getting wet to check out the Harvest Music Festival downtown Corning.

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Each year to kicks off the fall season the Riverfront Centennial Park hosts a Jazz/Music and Harvest festival. Friday night festivities include beer and wine tasting and headlining Jazz concerts.  Saturday includes a farmer’s market with food and craft vendors, a carnival,  street entertainment,  and of course more music artists.

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We decided to enjoy a few early trees turned to bright fall foliage on our walk and settle our curiosity of how the festival was going in the rainy weather. With a recyclable grocery bag in hand, with hopes of buying some local produce we walked downtown.

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colorful trees on our walk

IMG_1588 Walking down Market street we saw some of the local business had scarecrows on display. Many local business as part of the festival decorate a scarecrow and enter it into a competition. There were not many out in the open-some were in storefront windows where they’d be sheltered from the rain. As we came to Centerway Square we noticed the park looked empty.

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Because of the weather they had moved all activities into the first floor of the parking garage. This also meant there was no carnival and limited food trucks or vendors in the rain.

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At the end of the blocked off section of parking lot a stage had been set up where a country band sat playing typical favorites.  A very small car show was on display, among the scarce booths of crafts and limited number of produce vendors. On the right a small children’s activity section had been made with face painting and games.

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It was obvious the weather had gotten the best of this festival. Slightly disappointed, we were happy to pick up some local honey from a vendor who was also selling dried flowers and organic onions. We left the festival only fifteen minutes after arriving with honey in hand braving the rain on our walk back wishing we could have at least enjoyed the cider and doughnuts we thought would be waiting for us at the festival.

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Well, you can’t control the weather and there’s is nothing like proving that fall has hit like a blustery day. Don’t worry, we still had an enjoyable fall weekend filled with co-worker b-day parties and dinners out with friends. Plus who doesn’t enjoy a good rainy storm from the comfort of your home with a cup of coffee?

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Happy Fall everyone! Did you have a fall weekend? What activities are you looking forward to this season?

Cabin Fever

Every year during the dead of winter the Gaffer District hosts Cabin Fever: a wine/beer tasting event hosted  in the storefronts along Main Street.

This year Cabin Fever was postponed because of a snow storm, leaving us stuck inside for the month of February (ironic ? yes). So we anxiously waited for the chance to get out this past Friday. We arrived around 6:30pm to the information center, when we showed our IDs we received our purple wrist-bands and souvenir miniature beer/wine  glasses. Taking the program list, we briskly walked in the cold passing parties of college students, old friends, and couples laughed as they strolled down the street.

Some of the wineries at this event were also at the Corning Glass event we attended in January (2300 degrees). Thinking ahead, we brought along our list from the previous wine tasting so we knew which wineries to try something new from, give a second chance, or skip all together.

Going with a Mardi Gras theme, each location gave a string of beads to guest so that by the end of the night people were decorated in green, yellow, and purple. Many of local businesses also provided food/chocolate samples, live entertainment, or coupons/ give-aways for their stores.

Still this will probably not be an annual event for us. We knew that rescheduling would changed a few elements such as which wineries/breweries would participate. Yet there was no effort to make changes based on the new date. For example, it was a little odd to celebrate with a Mardi Gras theme so close to St. Patty’s day. As well as, the brochures were not updated; so which stores were open or which wineries/breweries were present at the event was inaccurate.

The tickets were 15 bucks a person but the number of winiers/breweries participating was substantially less than the free event we went to in January. A downside to using local storefronts was the line out the door; you felt rushed at the one-at-a-time-line for each tasting. This is why I didn’t take a single picture! The samples were also communion-size, far less than the free samples at 2300 degrees. Because Luke works late we didn’t arrive at 5pm when the event started, so by the time we had arrived to some stores the brewery/winery they hosted had already left (apparently out of samples).

Cabin Fever gave us an excuse to step into some of the local businesses we haven’t  visited yet.  It also gave us the opportunity to try samples from several new wineries and confirm what we liked/did not like from before. In addition, Luke was able to sample local beers and check out some of Corning’s pubs/bars.

Our souvenir wine and beer glasses, wrist bands, and Mardi Gras beads

Our souvenir wine and beer glasses, wrist bands, and Mardi Gras beads

Still, there is no limit to the year-round wine/beer tasting events in our area and next year we will check out a different February/March event.  

How about you? Are you out of the winter slump yet?

What post/Christmas winter activities are in your town?

Sorge’s: local food and wine

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This past holiday weekend (federal=holiday for us) we went to an Italian restaurant in the Gaffer District  called Sorge’s. We were given a gift card to this local family-run business by close friends of Luke. Open for 62 years, Sorge’s is known for their homemade pasta. In fact in the summer of 2011 they made it into Guinness World Records book for the world’s longest egg noodle!

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We took advantage of their weekend special: pasta and salad bar buffet with a complimentary glass of wine (hard to turn down). You never know what you are getting with a buffet, but the food was great! Since my trip to Italy I can tell when pasta or noodles come from a box or are homemade. With Sorges there was no question, I could tell they make their own pasta noodles.

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The buffet included three Italian cheese ravioli, stuffed cheese manicotti, veal and spinach cantaloni, cavatelli (similar to gnocchi), cheese and vegetable lasagna, and meatballs in meat sauce (am I making you hungry?) We were also given the option of white or burgundy house wine and served warm bread at the table with olive oil and seasoning .

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Sorges also offers a Gluten-free Menu  including an alternative pasta made with corn and several yummy gluten-free desserts.

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Their service was great, in-spite of how busy they were. And as I looked around I  saw large families enjoying a meal out, couples on dates, and friends catching up. You could tell this is a family-oriented comfortable place where people can be themselves and enjoy some great pasta.

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When we left we decided (in a belated Valentine’s day celebration) to pick up some wine to enjoy with our homemade pie. When we went into the liquor store  (wine isn’t sold in grocery stores here) we were surprised to find a large selection from local wineries. We found one of the wineries we’d given an score of 8 at the wine tasting at 2300 degrees: Bully Hill Vineyards. So we took home a bottle of their goat white and a bottle of love my goat their red wine which we had tasted before.IMG_2725IMG_2724

(The white rose was from Luke for Valentines day.)

Cheers to a more than successful local date-night out!

My new hometown

Luke and I love to explore but sometimes for cost sake it’s better to stay local. Yet in this still very winter weather, no matter how tempting, we don’t want to get stuck inside. Fortunately we live in Corning.

Spending more time close to home, I realized I haven’t blogged about my new hometown.

(As I have written before click on any picture or word/phrase in orange to see more!)

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Corning is probably known best for Corningware or Corelle. You know, all those plates and baking dishes you buy for wedding registries? (maybe even bought for mine). This is where it all got started.

Corning was first known as a lumber town because the Chemung river runs through it. When the industrial revolution hit the city became a center for the railroad. By 1868 it had become the new home for Corning Glass Works. This is why Corning’s nicknamed “Crystal City”.  Tourist come in the summer to the Corning Museum of Glass featuring modern glass art, the science behind glass, glass uses, live glass blowing demonstrations, and an extensive collection on the history of glass.

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On the same property is their glass making studio where you can sign up to make a featured item.

Ornaments Luke and I made in the glass studio in December

Ornaments Luke and I made in the glass studio in December

Or you can take one of many glass shaping/art classes at the glass making studio.  You may remember my 2300 degrees blog; that event was hosted at the museum. Corning Inc.’s offices and one their research and development facilities, which test glass products for industry, science and technology, are also in Corning.

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As much as I love history, what you will probably hear me talk most about is our historic downtown called the Gaffer District (a gaffer =a glass blower/maker). This area encompasses several blocks of glass art studios, museums, eclectic speciality shops, antique stores, bars, bakeries, and restaurants.  Many events and festivals are held here annually (some of which I  will attend in the future and share with all of you ).

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If you are a history buff and want to know about Corning’s history: Click Here!

Want to know more about the historic downtown Gaffer District? : Check it out here!

or take a look at the Gaffer District’s Facebook page: Click here!

So that is a short tour of my new hometown. What do you think?