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.

Niagara Falls Anniversary Part 2: Wine tours and Italian dinner

In review, Friday night at the The Keg in Embassy Suites  we had a partial view of the Canadian side of Niagara Falls. Afterwards we walked around the  tourist area filled with haunted houses, wax and world record museums, children amusement parks and arcades, and much more! Although we are not into these tourist traps they are pretty fun to walk by lit up at night. Here are some pictures:

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Saturday (our actual anniversary)  we packed up our things at the Best Western and checked out. The Best Western had given us a 15$ off card to use at IHOP and although we do not often go there we thought we’d save the money where we could. So we ordered one meal to split of whole wheat blueberry pancakes and an omelet.  The waitress came back and said the fine print on our coupon said we had to order two entrees to get the 15 off. We understand having to follow the rules of the coupon but it was a little frustrating and disappointing to find this out after we’d already eaten.

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We then chose to walk off the carbs (and our annoyance) down the hill to the Canadian view of the falls along the Niagara River Recreation Trail. It was another beautiful sunny day and there were plenty of pedestrians and tour buses alike taking in the view. We followed along from the American Falls down to Horseshoe falls. As we got closer to Horseshoe falls we needed to put our sunglasses on the mist reflecting light from the sun was creating quite a glare. At the end of the falls trail it felt like we were back on the Maid of the Mist standing in a thin rain cloud as we listened and watched gallons of water flow over the edge is seconds.

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After our walk, we got back to our car, found directions, and drove to Niagara-on-the-Lake to local wineries. We first went to Pellar Estates Winery. This large vineyard/winery is probably one of the oldest in this area known for it’s fertile ground and good weather. We brought our groupon vouchers to the front desk after wandering the tasting room and got set up for the winery tour. At 1:30pm we went with a large group to learn about the Pellar winery. The tour was extremely educational, out in the vineyard we got a change to hear about how the soil is conditioned differently for each type of grape, how the grape vines are kept and pruned, when the grapes are picked based on the varieties and how they use a eco-friendly pest control prevention system.

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Next we were  taken into their wine cellar were the wine barrels are kept. Our tour guide informed us about the different barrel types used, the varieties in woods/materials the wine is fermented in, and changes in fermenting times.  Last of all we were taken to a table to taste their wine. The tour guide explained the wine connoisseurs process of three tastings for each wine: one to clean the palate, one to taste the oxygen in the wine, and last to get the full flavor. We tried three varieties, a pinot noir, a chardonnay , and one of their regionally famous very sweet ice wines.

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Getting back in the car, we followed the wine trail to Trius Winery, another winery owned by the Pellar family. This tour was less formal or informative but we did get a chance to learn a little about Trius’ specialty which was sparkling wines and see where these wines are fermented in the bottle. We were then taken to a garden to taste another one of their ice wines, and their traditional white and red. This was my first day doing a wine tasting at an actual winery but I was grateful for having experienced tasting wine where we live in the Finger Lakes area (for more on this see 2300 degreeslocal food and winecabin fever ). We decided that the Niagara area wine was not for us, they were either too light and acidic or too sweet. It may be that we are becoming partial to our local region.

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We decided to not drive another half hour into the country to check out the last winery and instead headed back to the Falls area. We checked into the Sheraton hotel around 5:00pm; in time to relax a little before getting ready for dinner. In contrast from our previous hotel, this place was large, spacious, and connected to a casino, a Starbucks in the lobby,  several stores, restaurants, and even a water park! Dressing up for a wonderful dinner out we took the walk way to the Crowne Plaza Hotel and up to the 10th floor to Massimo’s Rainbow Room, a more formal Italian dinning room.

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We made reservations months ago when we got the groupon for $40 towards a dinner there to celebrate our anniversary night. We were ushered in low lighting to a white table clothed table for two right up against a glass window over looking the falls at sunset. It was beyond beautiful. Sadly we did not bring a phone or camera with us to dinner so we will just have to keep that dinner and moment in our memory. When the sunset we enjoyed watching the falls light up with varying colors as we ate a delicious dinner. Luke ordered the steak I ordered a rack of lamb but we shared. (for a more detailed description of the menu click here ).

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What the restaurant looks like in the daylight

After our wonderful dinner, we headed back down the elevator and on to see what our other vouchers for the evening would get us. We started at the Hard Rock Cafe  where we had two free cocktails at the bar. After enjoying our rum and cokes by lava lamp (seriously they had mini lava lamps all across the bar) we headed over to Hershey’s for a sweet finish.

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After standing in line at their candy store we turned in our voucher and out came a box that the cashier said contained two cupcakes. We walked back to our hotel room and opened our dessert to find one chocolate and one white cupcake with vanilla frosting topped each with a Hershey’s kiss. After dessert we cuddled up on our king size bed to watch our wedding video for the first time. It was great to look back and laugh at the small details or reactions from family and friends we were too nervous or preoccupied to notice the day-of.

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I didn’t get a picture of our actual goodies but here’s what they had in the store

Sunday we slept-in, Luke tried his luck at the casino for a brief hour  and then we checked out of the hotel. We hit the road back home in the middle of surprising noon traffic back over the bridge to America. After a long wait at the border we were on the road to Buffalo and eventually back home. It was one wonderful weekend to celebrate a crazy busy and challenging first year of marriage!

Niagara Falls Anniversary Part 1: Maid of the Mist and Prime Rib

Well we are getting back to our normal weekly routine after an amazing sunny anniversary weekend. As promised here are some great pictures and details from our anniversary trip to Niagara Falls:

We left on Thursday around 5:00pm and drove the three hours north to Niagara Falls avoiding toll roads as much as possible. By around 8:00pm we were at the boarder crossing with our new passports and for the first time together crossed over to Canada. We checked in at the Best Western, dropped off our bags then went in search of a late dinner.

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Since we bought two separate Groupon Getaways we had several vouchers for food and activities, plus the hotels threw-in several extras with our room keys. For the most part this made planning our weekend and where would eat very easy. We walked to TGIF with our $20 voucher and got a good quick dinner. Then we went on a brisk cold walk to get a partial view of the Canadian side of the falls at night.

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Friday we switched into outdoor mode. Gearing up with tennis shoes, hats, and sunglasses we packed a picnic lunch and crossed back over to America to check out the Niagara Falls State Park. For a Friday the place was pretty quiet. Unfortunately, the park has been doing some re-construction of lookouts, hikes, and walkways which ended up limiting our exploring. But the view was beautiful and so was the weather. Following the rapids away from the falls we walked toward the trail to visit the Islands. For a virtual map of all that I am describing click here.

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The first Island has had several names over the years but the one that has stuck is Goat Island. Crossing the rapids on a pedestrian bridge you come to a picnic area and parking lot. Walking to the waterfront you can look back on the American Falls and get close to Bridal Veil Fall the mist of which was creating a rainbow.

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Again because of construction Luna island, a closer viewing point to the falls, was closed for construction so the above picture was as close as we could get. Rounding the viewpoint is  the ticket-booth and elevator for the Cave of the Winds tour which takes you to the base of the American Falls along wet walkways.  Continuing along the trail we came up to Terrapin point, the lookout for the American view of the Horseshoe falls. This was Luke’s first time to see these monstrous falls in daylight.

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Next we continued past the Fallsview Restaurant and on to the Three Sisters Islands. This area had already been remodeled and looked beautiful with many trees, drops in the rapids, and from the bridges you could see mist from where the rapids end and the falls begin.

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After all this walking, we headed back to the car for our picnic lunch. Then we headed over to the Maid of the Midst for our boat tour. We first took in the view at the observation deck, then we went down the elevator and climbed the stairs to the crows nest.

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view from the observation tower
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view from the top of the crow’s nest

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 As we waited in line for the Maid of the Mist tour, we put on our blue plastic ponchos. Luke was skeptical he really needed to wear it as he sweated waiting to get on the boat-I knowingly smiled. We crowded as close as we could to the front of the boat and off we went. First we took in a great view of the American falls as we rounded the last of the falls the wind and midst began to hit us and we were grateful for our hats and glasses.

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We then turned toward the massive HorseShoe falls. As we got closer the thundering of the falls roared louder than the boat’s engine.  We inched closer and closer and got hit with a windy down-pour of rain (aka Mist). Taking in the view from both sides of the boat as it turned around we saw the rainbow once again over the American falls.

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We got off the boat, up the elevator, and tried to dry off. Driving back to the Canadians side over the Rainbow Bridge turned out to take awhile in the rush-hour afternoon traffic. But with a great view and the windows down it didn’t feel too long before we were back at the Best Western getting ready for dinner. All the hotels and restaurants are so close to each other that we once again walked to The Keg located in the Embassy Suites. Grateful we made reservations, we were brought right to our table with a partial view of the falls.  (I’m sure you have to specifically ask or come early for seats right by the window).

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We watched the sunset and had an amazing prime rib dinner of which we only paid for tip outside of groupon vouchers!! We then went on a walk to explore a little more of the Canadian side tourism central with Starbuck in hand. On our route back we stopped by the Skylon tower to view a wonderful fireworks display over the falls around 9:45pm.

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again not my photos but pretty view

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On our way to our room we heard another whole set of fireworks go off. We hurried up the stairs to watched them from our balcony around 10:00pm. This was the last night of fireworks for the season and we think they may have been celebrating both Canadian Thanksgiving and Columbus Day all at once! It was a great end to a wonderful day.

Next up: Niagara Falls: Anniversary Part 1: Canadian Side

Something Old . . .Something New in Review

It’s hard to believe, but a year ago today in sunny SoCal’s apple country I married the love of my life!

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As you may have seen in my update last weekend (see Transition reflection) we are spending a long weekend enjoying some great groupon getaway deals at Niagara Falls! (which I’m looking forward to sharing with all of you later).

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But for now I thought I’d  look back and share with you my something old. . . something new . .  list for our wedding. The list was posted on the back of our wedding program along with a thank you to friends and family. This tradition follows an old English rhyme dating back to Queen Victoria but has been adapted by many Americans as a “good luck” charm. Whether you are just curious, want to be reminded, or are considering what to do for your own wedding I hope you enjoy:

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Wedding bands on my pointer finger, opal ring on my ring finger, and handkerchief

Something Old: My great-grandmother’s wedding bands

The something old in tradition would be a handed down heirloom to signify the continuity of lasting marriages from past generations. My mother has both her mother’s and father’s mother’s original wedding bands. She will occasionally wear them for special events.  Both couples were married young in the South in times where wedding rings were only bands and far from as extravagant as they are today. They remind me of simpler times, as part of this tradition one day these rings will again be passed down to me and so on.

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Something New: Wedding Dress

As expected, the something new represents the optimism and bright future ahead for the bride in married life. As most bride’s do I named my wedding dress as my something new.  After all you only wear it once; might as well highlight it! For more about my wedding dress and how I came to decided on what style of wedding dress to wear (see The Dress).

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Something Borrowed: my great-grandmother’s handkerchief and lace from my mom’s bridal bouquet.

Originally, the something borrowed would be a small item from a happily married friend or relative. It is thought that this item would transfer luck or happiness to the newlyweds.  Instead of friends I stuck once again with family  because they were a large part of our wedding theme (for more details on this see Heritage and Sentimental wedding details ). My mom had been handed down a very thin old handkerchief from her mother’s mother to carry at her wedding and I carried it in mine. Growing up the bow from my mother’s bridal bouquet sat in a glass display case along with other precious items in my parent’s home. So it was a great honor to be able to use this same lace around my own wedding bouquet. Other examples of borrowed items: my new sister-in-law Stina (married this past August for more see: The Wedding) borrowed a hair clip of mine for their wedding and my brother borrowed my dad’s monogramed H brown handkerchief for his suit jacket pocket.

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Something Blue: My great-grandmother’s Opal ring

The color blue as mentioned in this rhyme represents purity, fidelity, and love. When my great-aunt passed away my mother was given her mother’s (my father’s mother’s mother) beautiful opal ring. Opal is my mother’s birth-stone. It also happens to be the birth-stone for October the month we were getting married. We found that to be an added bonus to the ring’s wonderful shade of blue.

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And . . . a sixpence in your shoe!

Not many people remember or keep this part of the rhyme. It remains mostly a British tradition because who here owns a sixpence anymore? It originally came from a Scottish variation where the groom would place one in his shoe for financial prosperity and security. Well my grandmother (who’s mother was part scottish) does have a sixpence! She wore this  sixpence in her shoe at her wedding in 1953 they are celebrating 60 years of marriage this fall! The sixpence  was given to two of my cousin’s for their wedding days and then given to me. I this summer was happy to carry on the tradition by pass it down once again to my sister-in-law Stina.

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My grandmother and Stina with the sixpence in her shoe

Who will the sixpence go to next? For right now I don’t know I have two younger unmarried cousins but they are young and no one’s rushing for them to get to the alter. 

Well hope you enjoyed looking back with me and that you are having a great weekend I know I am!

Transition reflection

I’ve posted most recently about festivals, food,  and holiday decorations but I’m taking a break for this to reflect and share about some transitions ahead for A.Greene.

In 6 weeks and we will have been NY residents for a year! In this past year there have been many new experiences and challenges. For me a large portion of this was adjusting to living completely on our own.

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When we first moved I had little social interaction outside of skype, phone calls, or the grocery clerk. There were long periods of loneliness and boredom and a whole lot of time on Netflix. I struggled to adjust to the new life-pace. I had been in survival mode for months planning for a wedding while working. When we moved less than a month after the wedding I needed a large amount of down-time to adjust, everyone said so and told me I had earned it.

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But the adjustment wasn’t easy. I at first felt guilty and purposeless.  It took a long time to realize what I was supposed to be doing with my time. In the long run the time was not wasted: I learned how to create boundaries, how to balance my life, how to recognize stressors and handle stress properly, I got in shape, I learned how to maintain a household, learned how to cook healthy for two (check out my transcend category), edited two books, applied to jobs, and wrote more than 100 blog posts (see 6 months=100 posts!) None of that includes the learning and growing in my relationship with Luke! (For more on that just type marriage into my search engine and you’ll see plenty of recent posts).

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All of this to say, it has been a major year of transition and with this fall even more is coming our way.

Here’s what we are looking forward to:

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1. We are now going to be weekly co-leading a Young Married small group with our church. On Tuesday night we will get the opportunity to gather with people at the same place in life as us and share the good, the bad, and the ugly. I’m looking forward to making new friends and to sharing our experiences adjusting to married life.

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2. I have some great job opportunities coming down the line: continued editing work and possibly teaching college-level English courses and/or substituting. I am curious to see what I end up doing, it’s hard to not get anxious wondering where I may be starting my career on the East Coast.

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3. Next weekend we will be celebrating our 1rst year Anniversary!! We are headed to Niagara Falls for a fun filled Groupon getaway!

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4. It’s months from now but: My parent’s are coming for Christmas! After a year of celebrating every holiday just Luke and I, we are ready for company come the holiday season. I’m so excited that it’s hard not to want to plan out every second of time together months in advanced.

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Plus in general we are just getting busier! In the past several weeks there have been birthday parties, dinner meetings, conferences, day-trips to visit friends, co-worker events etc. They are taking up our evenings and weekends more than ever before! It’s a great change (no more boredom or loneliness) but it has been a stretch.

Just as it was difficult to adjust to so much time on my own, so it has also been difficult recently to get out of my introverted state and get out there and socialize more. With transitions (even when they are good ones) there comes new stressors and challenges. As the routine shifts, I have to again adjust  and re-learn how to balance all over again. But it is so worth it.

As we move into the time of holidays what changes or transitions are you anticipating?

What adjustments do they require of you?