2013 in review

I know we are a little more than a week into the new year but it has taken me a full week to get back into the normal routine of things (I can’t be the only one who’s in the post-holiday struggle for normality). As I look back on almost a full year with this blog I thought I’d review some of the highlighting events of 2013.

So here is a review of 2013 blog style:

January: survived our first NY winter:  A Lesson in Independence and explored our local museum’s winter events: 2300 degrees

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February: Started a new Valentines tradition: Valentine’s Pie: a New Tradition, and explored what it means to be newly married :Dispelling Marriage MythsMarriage Myth busting: Round 2

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March: Celebrate Luke’s birthday with brewery tours/tastings in Rochester: A Chemistry lesson for a birthday present, Shared about my allergy to barley: Why I am barley free: Part One, and celebrated Easter: Hot Cross Buns and Berry Salad

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April: Celebrated 6 months of marriage: Wow it’s been 6 months!, shared details about our wedding:The Dress and  learning how to look for a job: Patience: giving myself time

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May: Traveled to the West Coast for an Oregon vacation and my brother’s college graduation: Vacation Highlights Part 1: Family TimeVacation Highlights Part 2: Date Days

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June: Went Kayaking in Rochester: Kayaking and BBQ, bottled our first homemade barley-free beer:  Bottling our first homemade brew and celebrated my birthday in Ithaca: An Ithaca birthday Adventure

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July: Explored local festivals: Two festivals and Korean BBQ, Fixed up the front porch: Home Improvement: The Front Porch Project, and traveled to Washington to be apart of pre-wedding events for my brother’s wedding : Pre-wedding Jitters

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August:  Particpated in my soon-to-be sister-in-law’s bridal shower: Stina’s bridal shower and other wedding events, attended two local foodie festivals in NY: Smoke on the WaterTaste of Ellicotville, and hiked a local landmark: Walkins Glen State Park= Gorge-ous

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September: Looked back on my brother’s wedding: The Wedding, and shared more about my job-search: A New Year: Teacher without a classroom

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October: Picked pumpkins and attended an Apple Festival: Picking Perfect Pumpkins;  Apple Fest,  shared about my allergy to tree-nuts:Why I am tree-nut free Part one,  and celebrated a year of marriage with a trip to Niagara Falls :Niagara Falls anniversary Part One

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November: Kept busy with non-blogging activities and shared about them in: busy: and update

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December: Started two new holiday traditions: Post-Parade Cookies and Cocoa and Christmas Concert TSO. Attended our local holiday festival: Sparkle and shared our Christmas with my parents: A Very Corning Christmas present and A handmade and heirloom Christmas

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That is one very full blogging year! And that is only a small portion of the blog-post in this past year and doesn’t include any of my recipes. So what can you look forward to reading about this next year? You’ll find out soon enough.

Two festivals and Korean BBQ

Every three months or so we find ourselves driving the hour and forty five minutes north to Rochester. Whether it is to get some grocery goods, or eat a meal out we can’t get locally, or to go to a big event it’s worth the drive. Although we drove up to go kayaking (see kayaking and bbq the perfect summer combo) this was our first summer time trip into town since Luke b-day (see a chemistry lesson for a birthday present). So what drew us this time?   Two festivals and some good BBQ.

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After a humid drive up, we decided to start our adventure at the Corn Hill Arts Festival. A neighborhood event we figured it would be much like the other art fest. this summer: small with local artists. But as we struggled to find parking we realized this was a much bigger event then we thought. For forty-five years this historical district of Rochester has been hosting this local artist competition and street fair. Homeowners opened up their front porches to local musicians and hosted parties and bbqs with their neighbors all along the eight or more streets lined with a large variety of creative wares.

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Through the winding beautifully tree lined streets filled with gorgeous old homes were booths with high quality paintings, photographs, refurbished furniture, handcrafted quilts, clothes, jewelry, pottery, toys, carving boards and so much more. Among the vendors were also fresh lemonade, roasted nuts, and popcorn stands. All streets lead to a local community college parking lot with a court of food trucks, a kids bounce house play area, and main stage for the more well known musicians.

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Passing through the parking lot, you come to the central square of the Corn Hill neighborhood where the churches have set up hot food booths around the park. in the center of the park is a gazebo where even more musicians are playing in a fenced in beer and wine garden open to the public.

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This festival exceeded expectations; a great surprise with plenty of high quality shopping options and food. No wonder it has been running for 45 years. After a long walk around the neighborhood we decided to get a sweet cold snack before moving on and found a local ice cream place selling black raspberry sorbet;  it was amazing!!

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We then drove to our next stop: highland park where the city was putting on what we thought would be an epic BBQ and Blues fest. Again struggling to find parking, we payed our 5 bucks and took over a piece of park lawn and walked towards the spicy smokey smell and wailing guitars. After paying our 5 bucks each to enter we explored the options.

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Displaying trophies and banners of their winning sauces and flavors, from NY to Texas there were BBqed ribs, chicken, brisket and all the classic fixin’s: potatoes, beans, mac n’ cheese, slaw and more. Luke picked up a overpriced IPA  and I tried to get some hard cider had to settle for an equally overpriced slushy sangria. Listening to the only blues stage (thinking from the long music list there would be more stages) slotted fro 30 minute sessions each we tried to find the best bang for our buck.

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Tasting the different sauces, we decided to get in the Florida Gator BBQ line. We only grabbed a 1/3 rack of ribs and a side of potatoes to share because that snack cost us 11.00. The fest’s meat dishes were expensive without a lot of cheap sampler options. In the end we decided we’d much rather get some amazing food at Sticky Lips BBQ with better meat offerings, sides, and combos. for the right price.

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After a meaty snack we moved on to our only errand of the day, a long awaited trip to Trader Joes. We stocked up on coffee, crackers, (samples), and tuna steaks at a cheap price.

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Last but certainly not least was a dinner Luke had been looking forward to all day and craving for weeks before that, the spicy salty taste of Korean BBQ. Luke loves the kimichi but also the price. Thirty bucks gets us a big bowl of kimichi soup, rice, the typical fixings, and all the beef we both could need. Satisfied we headed back home at sunset.

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How was your weekend? Find any fun summer activities to do?

Stars Hollow, Fireworks, and Minions: Holiday Weekend in review

As I mentioned in my 4th of July post Luke had a four day weekend! Instead of traveling or packing up the camping gear we decided to stay local so Luke could get a lot of “Luke time” (aka play computer games and not think about work) at home. So instead we explored nearby for holiday weekend events and celebrate the 4th with our own BBQ for two.

We started our 4th of July with some patriotic pancakes. Using Bob’s Red Mill gluten free pancake mix I added a little honey, cocoa powder, vanilla, and fresh blueberries and strawberries for our Thursday brunch.

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The rest of the day was spent relaxing with no particular plan in mind. For our BBQ using pre cut stew meat, Luke combined soy sauce,  sirachica, and some spices to create a savory but kicking steak marinade. And what BBQ is complete without some corn on the cob straight from the grill? All served with some local hard cider.

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When it got dark we went on a walk to the Bridge st. where we watched fireworks over the Chemung river.

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wish I could take credit for this picture but I’m not that good

Friday was a complete day in highlighted by finishing a good book and making some great homemade fish tacos (recipe to come).

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Saturday we drove up to Hammondsport  just north of Bath where Luke works. And if there is any town to be named a real life Stars Hollow this is it! Named “America’s coolest small town” by Budget Travel, the central park has a gazebo where summer concerts are held Thursday nights.

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Surrounding the park are mom and pop diners and bakeries, antiques, an ice cream parlor, pubs, a toy store, a BBQ joint, coffee shops, city hall, and the downtown church.

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After a humid walk we got back in the car and drove to the northside of town to check out the fireman’s carnival. This small town fundraiser for the local fire department included a BBQ chicken dinner, raffles, and of course carnival rides and all those games to win a giant stuffed pink monkey topped off with a fireworks show later in the night.

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After walking through the carnival, we found the Keuka lakeside park full of people with their families enjoying the waterfront in swimsuits, BBQing, or kayaking on the lake.

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We then drove with the windows down to the mall to catch the last showing of Despicable Me 2. We laughed over and over again at some minion mischief while sharing a box of junior mints

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And today? Well today is our chance to regroup from a great long weekend, check off a few weekly chores, and see what’s ahead for the next week.

What did your family do for the holiday weekend?

Birthday in picture review

Thought I would follow up my b-day outing plans with some picture proof.

After a walk down to the library, I went to Walker Cake Co.and realized I was hungry for more than a treat. So I got a gluten-free artichoke avocado bacon turkey sandwich with flaxseed tortilla chips and grapefruit juice and yes it was very good. 🙂

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Then I walked down to Soul Full Cup. Indecisive about what to order I looked at the specials and decided on the dark chocolate iced coffee. It was rich dark yummy awesomeness great for accompanying my good read.

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Next I walked down to the grocery store to pick up a few items and some new kitchen goods then headed back home.

thunderstorms predicted thought an umbrella would be a good caution

thunderstorms predicted thought an umbrella would be a good caution

After cooling off from the humid 90 degree weather I treated myself to the dessert I picked up after lunch: mocha doughnut cupcake. It was so rich and crumbly good I only ate a quarter of it.

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To top off the day, Luke came home after work with a present for me too beautiful for wrapping.

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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?

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?

2300 degrees

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Since we didn’t get much of a vacation over the holidays, Luke decided to take a few days off of Martin Luther King Jr. weekend. For our first day off, Thursday January 17th, we decided to go to 2300 degrees.

2300 degrees is a free event sponsored by the Corning Glass museum every third Thursday night from November to May. Each month the museum chooses one night to close the galleries and transform this tourist attraction into a site for a night on the town.

Corning Glass Co.  launched 2013’s 2300 degrees with a “Finger Lakes Finest” themed event which meant free wine tasting. You heard right: free!  The Finger Lakes Region, as our area of upstate New York is called, is home to many local wineries and wine trails nestled in the hills surrounding the local lakes.

Luke and I arrived around 5:40pm to find the Glass Museum parking lot, and all adjacent parking lots full. It was disappointing to have to walk several blocks in the snow, but it was promising to know that this event was well attended. Grateful to get into the warmth, we were greeted and given a program listing the 30 wineries and their booth locations.

We walked through the entrance and wandered toward the auditorium. Low-lit black dinning tables lined the back wall. On the stage was an Indie Rock band from California called The Blind Spots. A lead singer with a  Zooey Deschanel hair cut swayed as she sang and rocked to her decked-out microphone stand. On the adjacent stage screens flashed images from the Hot Glass innovation stage as lights danced on the open stage floor.

The Blind Spots

The Blind Spots

After listening to a few songs, Luke and I decided to check out the wineries. This was my first time wine tasting and although I know generally what I prefer, I was not as familiar with wines such as Caberet Franc, Riesling, or Gewurztraminer. Fortunately  being married to an ex-bartender, Luke has had plenty of wine-tasting experiences, so I let him take lead.

Each winery brought three to five wines  from crisp whites to full-bodied reds, some even brought fruit or dessert wines. We decided to focus on red wines. We wound through the corners, ramps, landings, and stairways of this modern museum reading each booth’s wine descriptions and taking brochures from the ones we liked best. (It didn’t take long for Luke to start a 0-10 rating system on the side of our program.) I was pleasantly surprised to discover we both liked the same wineries and the similar qualities in a red wine.  Just as I began to remember we had not had dinner yet, we rounded the corner to find a table of free snacks: cubed cheese, crackers, vegetables, dip, and cold cuts were piled high on round black tables getting quickly picked over.

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We took a short break from the crowds to watch the glass blowing in the Hot Glass Innovation studio.  A tiered open auditorium hosts a large screen showing the busy hands of the glass artists on the stage directly below. With the aid of state-of-the art video equipment observers can even watch the glass be turned and heated via a video camera inside the kiln.  Many people sat sipping their drinks while watching the artists make a large wine colored vase decorated with clusters of glass grapes.

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 In spite of the tight space, everyone was warm and friendly, milling around the booths discussing their taste and preferences with each other. Everyone stood in clusters holding comfortable easy conversation. If they bumped into someone it was only to  recognize their face and ask how their holidays were.

This was one local event we were lucky to attend. We now can support local wineries without any guesswork.

Curious what 2300 degrees really looks like?  Here is the event list and photo gallery: Click Here

Want more details on the wineries? Here is a link with information on “2300: Finger Lakes Finest”: Click Here

Looking for new up-and-coming music artists? Find out more about The Blind Spots: Click Here

P.S. I’d love to know: What do you do for date-night or a night-on-the-town with your friends where you live?