Birthday Outing 2016

This year my birthday happened to fall on a Saturday. So to celebrate Luke,  his parents, and I took a very long day trip.


We picked up the ornaments made earlier in the week from the glass studio in Corning. For more on this see:

Then we headed to Watkins Glen State Park to hike the George Trail.


Being a very warm Saturday, the trail was crowded but as always worth it. We have had a very dry summer so far, and light winter, so the falls were not as full as normal, but still it is a beautiful place.



After our morning hike we drove up to Ithaca to the farmer’s market for a late lunch. Diana was happy to find more than 6 stalls selling organic produce and was surprised to find a pre-made completely organic lunch of samosas and salad. For more on the Farmer’s Market see:


We picked up a few groceries, then roamed to see what options were available for lunch. At the table was a variety of food from a Sri Lankan curry to Momos all with local organic strawberries for dessert. We went back through one last time after lunch to pick up some goodies. Diana and John picked up some local maple syrup, cheese, and wine.


With full stomaches we got back in the car and headed to Cornell university. There we stopped at the botanical gardens welcome center and explored the gardens. After a nice walk through the rohdi’s and sitting in the shade we decided we were ready for dessert. We climbed up the hill from the garden parking lot and over to Cornell’s dairy bar. We discovered all of this on our camping trip in Ithaca a few years ago for more on this see:


The ice cream was just as good as ever, creamy, and just enough flavor and sugar. After enjoying our afternoon treat, we got back in the car and drove the Corning Plantations Arboretum drive passing ponds, orchards, and the student farm. Taking a break to look out over the plantations, we decided to take a short walk to a suspension bridge over looking some of the falls on campus. When we did we discovered even in the low water many people were out swimming in the heat.


Getting back in the car we headed down to greenstar a local natural and organic food store to get Diana dinner and a few groceries for their trip ahead. We then went to get Chinese food for the rest of us to go.


With our to-go meals in hand we drove to Buttermilk falls on the outskirts of town. We found a picnic bench to sit and enjoy our dinner at while watching the falls. With how dry the year has been there was little to  water flowing over the rock but it was still a pleasant view. For more on buttermilk falls see:

A long last outing of our touring behind us, we drove back toward home. It was great day and I was happy to be able to spend it with family.

Finger Lakes Cheese Festival

So I know that recently it has looked like all we have been doing is house (and car) hunting/shopping but July did hold a few other treats for us- I’m just behind in posting about them.

July 26th we were more than ready for a real date-break from the stress of all of the transitions we are in the middle of. So we went to the Finger Lakes Cheese Festival in Odessa NY. We wanted to attend the year before but were in the Washington for my brother’s wedding. We drove out to this little town right outside of Walkins Glen on a sunny and humid Saturday getting there around one.


We parked in the field of Sunset View Creamery and paid our $2 each to get into the festival. For only it’s 3rd Annual year it was obvious word had gotten out of about this farmer’s festival and the place was busy. The festival started around 10 with several children’s activities including a dunking booth, petting zoo, guided farm tours, hay rides, and chances to milk a goat.


But we chose to come later in the afternoon for the grown-up activities; cheese tastings. We just barely missed out on the free wine and cheese paring; the tent was overflowing and they only had 50 samples to go around; but we did snag a brochure. Every pairing was local cheese being sold at the festival by the smaller artisan creameries with wines from Seneca lake wineries.


We listened in for a while then decided to explore the booths. In order to check out the more then twelve creameries at this festival we had to get in line after line to sample their cheeses and get brochures on where/how to buy their products. There was everything; soft fresh, hard aged, stinky, mild, jack, cheddar, mozzarella, feta, spicy, blue , herb, sharp and more. There was also goat cheese and every place offered slices, wheels, or curds of their most famous flavors. But the cheese booths were also partnered with other local goods such as honey, maple products, soaps, and veggies and fruit.


As we traveled around the booths sampling cheeses we enjoyed listening to one of three bands playing in the entertainment tent throughout the day. In the entertainment tent also was plenty of shaded seating for people to sit and enjoy their food and the music as well as two local wineries and breweries offering tasting for the adults.


Other than sample,s there were plenty of non-snacking food options including roasted corn, bbq, popcorn, ice cream, hand pies, and more. As it got to the warmest part of the day we decided to get ourselves a treat: a scoop of local ice cream-and it was good; creamy and flavorful and not too sweet: Luke had mint chip and I had a raspberry chocolate chip cheesecake and it was very good.


After wandering the farm grounds and festival booths we picked up some iced coffee and staked out our seats under the event tent for the beer and cheese pairing at 3:30pm. We enjoyed watching the people as we waited for this free pairing using local beers and cheeses. Once again this pairing was of only cheeses available to buy at the festival from the local creameries paired with beers from local microbreweries. The cheese were good the beer was decent also. Although the beer trail along the finger lakes area is still relatively new they are definitely growing with more than 60 microbreweries now in the area (or getting started).


After the pairing presentations and discussion we went up to talk to the presenters and ask about their suggestions for local porters and stouts as well as picked up filers for additional food/cheese pairings with different types of beers.


Believe it or not we didn’t pick up any cheese; we got out of the beer and cheese pairing around 4:30 and the festial ended around 5pm. Because the festival was so popular this year many of the local creameries had actually run out of supplies and left early. So we have learned our lesson;  next year we come earlier and buy the cheeses we discovered we like.

When we got home we looked up also where we can get the cheeses at local stores for future reference. All in all it was a perfect foodie day-date.

For more on the finger lakes wine trail check out at:

or visit them on facebook:

Do you like cheese? What is your favorite kind?

Playing tourist with the Grandparents

It’s always fun when family come in from out of town; we love to play tourists and being hosts.  The season they come during and their personal interests determine which types of activities and locations we get to share with them.

This past week my grandparents (dad’s parents) came into town for a visit on their month long travels. They started from their home in California in their camper-van and are on their way up to Maine and back again. The last time I’d seen them was at my brother’s wedding last August (see:

So I was thrilled to get some time with them.


My husband took off work on Friday so we were ready for them when they rolled into town that afternoon. We took them downtown Market street on a walk after some much needed catching up. While downtown, we stopped in the Crystal City olive oil store. My grandpa took samples of everything and enjoyed talking to the store workers since we had the place to ourselves. Luke and I bought a bottle of lemon basil white vinaigrette we thought would go well on both salads and for marinades and my grandmother picked up some very early christmas gifts for a few friends.

For more on Corning’s Market Street see:


We came back to our little rented house and made them our traditional Greene pizza with a twist. Instead of the usual ingredients we used artichoke hearts, olives, crushed fresh garlic, grape tomatoes, onions, and spinach with an Alfredo base instead of tomato. And for meat? Chicken breast pan fried in olive oil and oregano. It was extremely delicious and a great experimental sucess.

For more on our homemade pizza see:


The next day we took the grandparents on a hiking/nature tour. We stopped by their beautiful campsite with my homemade quiche and fruit for a picnic lunch (see:

Then we took off in our car to Walkins Glen to hike the Gorge Trail. Although the parking lot was crowded the trail was not too busy and my grandparents had not problems keeping up on the incline of stairs (which is pretty great since my grandfather turned 80 this year!) It is just as beautiful as last year when we first discovered this amazingly breathtaking view.

For more on Walkins Glen state park see:


Next we drove up to Ithaca passing by one of the finger lakes (Seneca) on our way to the base of the other (Cayuga) through beautiful country. We stopped by the Ithaca Farmer’s Market where we split off: grandpa and Luke sampling cheese and other foods and Grandma and I tasting local ciders and wines.


We left with some local maple syrup and hard cider and headed to another state park: Buttermilk Falls. We chose not to conquer two gorge trails in one day but instead enjoyed the view from the picnic tables at the base of the falls.

For more on the Farmer’s Market and Buttermilk falls see:


We drove back towards Corning a different route to show more of the country-side then ended up in Horseheads for dinner and dessert. We took my grandparents to our favorite little mom-and-pop sushi place where we enjoyed our delicious sashimi, miso soup, and traditional rolls while my grandparents enjoyed yakisoba  (although they did try a shrimp, avocado, and egg roll). And for dessert? We went to sweetfrog; the local frozen yogurt joint where we could all get a variety of topping and flavors for our unique personalities.


On Sunday after church we went to lunch at one of my favorite spots: Walker Cake Co.: Barn Owl Cafe where we got breakfast for lunch: breakfast burritos, gluten-free breakfast sandwiches, and traditional two egg breakfasts all with coffee.


After a hearty brunch we took our grandparents to the Corning glass museum (how could we not?). They were concerned that we would be bored since this was our fourth or fifth time in the museum. We assured them that we weren’t; the contemporary art exhibit had completely been changed out; the demos were being done by new people which always means different information, each live glassblowing creates new and unique items, and the main art display always has a changing/rotating exhibit.


So although we had taken my parents  at christmas we were far from bored. We also did a very early christmas gift ; the grandparents made a sculpture at the art-glass studio. Much like what we did from my parents; grandma chose the colors and grandpa made the sculpture. Since they are traveling they chose to have it shipped to my parents place where they will end their travels.

For more on the glass museum see:


After a long tour day at the museum we headed back to our house for another Greene dinner: fish tacos. My grandfather tries every fish taco place in California when he has the chance and gave ours a thumbs up for approval

For more on our fish tacos see:

We finished our last night together enjoying the thundering rain storm on our porch while eating some of my homemade popsicles.

See some of them at:

As a parting gift as we took my grandparents back to their campsite I gave grandma one of my swedish rye loafs (will be my bread of the month post) and little horseradish cheese from our trip to Ellicottville.

For more on Cuba cheese see:

It was a great weekend playing tourists and hosts. It was also a fun overview for us of what we have explored, learned, and discovered in the past year living in the Corning area. Can’t wait to see what we will explore and discover the rest of this summer and into next year as we transition into a new location (but more on that later).

Do you enjoy hosting friends and family?

What are some of your favorite meals to cook for them?

What local restaurants/tourist spots do insist showing them?


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.


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.


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.

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.


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.


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.


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.


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?


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

Little Norway and The Emerald City

Last week at this time I was rushing around Pikes Place in the Emerald City. Dodging around Seattle tourists, I tried to find the perfect bouquets to decorate the ceremony and reception space for my brother’s wedding.


It had been a year and a half since I had gotten the chance to see my favorite American city. Luke and I had visited friends/family in Oregon and Washington during New Years break in 2012. It was the first time Luke had seen me in such familiar and comfortable territory. I was giddy to return to the rainy, green, and coffee obsessed state where I went to college.

At SAM (Seattle Art Museum) Park
At SAM (Seattle Art Museum) Park January 2012

Two weeks ago late night I joined my parents at the Best Western in Silverdale. Exhausted and jet-lagged the next day my mom and I went down to the espresso bar in the hotel lobby. I boldly asked for a 12 oz. nonfat double shot cappuccino and almost cried with happiness when she asked if I wanted it wet or dry. I told her I loved that she asked me- and without understanding my burnt espresso experiences , she just gave me an odd look. I realize I am a coffee snob and I do not trust any other state to get a cappuccino right (but more on my coffee obsession later).


My mom and I enjoyed the bay view sipping on our coffee trying to regroup for the bridal shower that night.  As I sat there I remember why I love this state: surrounded by bays, lakes, and the ocean year-round there is greenery in site ( it is called the evergreen state after all.) The sunny days are deeply cherished just as the rain and cloudy days an accepted norm.

our hotel water front view quite beautiful minus the light pole
walking path along the backside of the hotel

We spent most of our time in a little town called Poulsbo. This quaint country-like town is considered a little Norway. Years ago, immigrants from Scandinavia settled here because the weather and geography reminded them of the fjords in the old country.


Front street downtown Poulsbo hosts a variety of Scandinavian treats and souvenirs awaiting the summer tourist. This was not my first time to Poulsbo, visiting both in 2005 and 2009 during some vacations. So in our limited spare time my parents and I stopped by Sluys  the famous Scandinavian bakery in town. It storefront is easily spotted especially in the summer as the line is out the small front door.



This little Norway hosts traditional winter and spring festivals such as Julefest and St. Hans Midsommer which is celebrated along the Liberty Bay waterfront. Here the local Sons of Norway chapter dedicates itself to preserve culture through annual events, traditional folk dancing performances and classes among other cultural arts. Stina and her family are Swedish/Norwegian and have grown up folk dancing and participating in the annual festivals downtown Poulsbo for years.


Within this past year my brother also has participated in the Scandinavian traditions. And appropriately so, although our family history includes many European ancestries my maiden last name is Norwegian and we can trace the Halvorson name all the way back to a farm in Norway. It was here at the Sons of Norway that the wedding reception was held and celebrated by traditional folk dancing (more on this to come).

back view of the Sons of Norway facing the waterfront


But as I mentioned earlier I did get to spend some time in the great city of Seattle. Taking the Bremerton hour long ferry on rehearsal day my mother, Stina, her father, and I sat and discussed our strategy for saving time and money on this flower-run. Meanwhile,  we enjoyed the music of street-muscians warming up for a performance at Pikes Place.


If you have never been to Pikes Place it is a multi leveled shopping experience filled with eclectic storefronts. The top level hosts the famous semi-open market adjacent to the famous original Starbucks.  All along  the right hand side of this top level are florists selling beautiful arrangements for 10 to 15 dollars a bundle.


After gathering enough bouquets to fill the back of the van we took a snack break grabbing monster size gluten-free pumpkin cookies at a familiar storefront.


By 11am we were back on the Bremerton ferry headed to Poulsbo. On the ferry ride I sat in the back organizing flowers and prepping a sample bouquet for centerpieces.



The next day after the wedding reception and seeing the newly weds off Luke, my in-laws, and I packed up our bags and headed for the 7:55pm ferry to Bremerton. It was my first time on a Seattle ferry with Luke and it was beautiful as the sunset over the Emerald City.


By the time we reached downtown the sun had set. We parked under the free-way and walked over to the pier boardwalk. Finding a cheap fisherman stand, we got a late dinner of clam chowder and fish n’ chips. We found a spot to sit outside watching the ferries and the newest additon to the pier: The Great Wheel light up.


As we walked around the pier and then back to the car my mother-in-law said the same thing Luke had  more than a year ago:  I was obviously back in familiar territory.


As we curved past SAM park I directed my father-in-law up hill to the Queen Ann district to get gas before taking us to the airport.  Passing right by the space needle we then headed to SEATAC for our red eye back to New York. I was sad to leave the northwest and friends and family behind but was so grateful for a weeks worth of great experiences with them in and near my favorite city.

An Ithaca birthday adventure

As I mentioned on my birthday, this past weekend we took a trip to the college town Ithaca for some summer b-day  fun. We got moving slowly in the morning because we went to the local drive-in theatre Friday night and didn’t get to sleep until 2:30am.

Fortunately Luke made us some irish cream lattes for the road. By noon we were traveling through the green tree covered hills with the windows down passing small villages and lake side towns.


We arrived in Ithaca around 1pm and drove straight to the steamboat dock. Here at the base of Cayuga lake is Ithaca’s famous Saturday Farmer’s Market.


We entered the wood covering strung with lights and began to look around. Like a true farmers market there were many stalls of fresh local herbs, vegetables and fruits, garden plants, dairy products, and meats. But much like the more permanent Pike’s Place Market there were also vendors selling local maple syrup, honey, cheese, wine and hard cider all up for tasting and sampling.



Interspersed between the food goods were vendor stalls with homemade crafts, pottery, jewelry, paintings, photographs, incense and essential oils, woodworking and even hammocks. This was a great place to people watch or listen to a street musician playing an acoustic guitar.



There were also many food vendors from around the world: Cuban, Tibetan, Cambodian, Thai, French, and Mediterranean to name a few. Luke and I chose to order buckwheat gluten-free crepes stuffed with ricotta and spinach and topped with a mozzarella herb sauce. We took our food and sat down on the dock watching the ducks, boats, and kayakers on the lake as we ate.



Satisfied with our market experience, we left with a local bottle of hard cider and stomachs full ready for the next stage of the adventure.


Driving up the hills we stopped at Buttermilk State Park. This park hosts trails and bridges spanning from the top of lake Treman, to waterfalls through the gorge, all the way down to Buttermilk Falls base where there is a swimming hole. We took the gorge trail down to Buttermilk Falls named for the foamy white water which falls over the grated slate.


It was a very hot and humid day but it cooled off considerably once we took a few flights of stairs down onto the gorge trail and stood under the cover of the trees lining the gorge’s rim. The gorge trail follows the river as it passes over slabs of slate creating several unique mini-falls along the way.


Everyone and their dogs, were taking breaks from the humid trail to splash barefoot in the shallow waterways between the waterfalls.


After our hike, I was ready to cool down my cherry red skin. So we headed to yogurtland.  After sampling a few flavors I chose a bowl of tart blackberry passionfruit swirled with original and a small amount of vanilla topped with cheesecake bits, strawberries, and yogurt chips.


After our sugary cold treat, we checked out the campsite at the base of Buttermilk state Park then drove up to the commons, the central college area for Ithaca College and Cornell.

After a walk around we drove back down the hill and ended up at A Taste of Thai. I ordered my favorite norm: red curry with chicken and Luke tried their Rad Nah drunken spicy noodles. I was happy to get red curry as good as they come with plenty of fresh chicken, basil, peppers, and bamboo shoots.


When we arrived back home Luke commented that he saw a firefly. Excited I got out and watched, sure enough I saw that yellow flashing light moving along the grass in our backyard! I guess that is one benefit of living in some humidity.

That was my Ithaca birthday adventure.

Do you have a favorite Farmer’s Market?

How do you like your frozen yogurt?