4th of July weekend

So what did we do for the 4th?

Well after more than a week with Luke’s parents we were ready for a weekend in. (More on that week to come soon.) We spent most of the weekend working on the house, working on some of those projects that take only a few hours but are hard to fit in. We also got some quiet time to just regroup together, and on our own.



On the 4th we celebrated with burgers, local hard cider, and dessert. For the 4th this year I decided to make a new cookie (always looking for excuses to experiment). After research online I decided to make lemon thyme shortbread cookies (recipe to come). To make them festive I used a star cookie cutter.


To complete our dessert I made a berry salad adding fresh mint from our garden, then made some whipped cream with a little vanilla and agave. It was a refreshing and light festive dessert. Maybe a new tradition? For more on this see:



After dessert we drove over to Loon Lake to enjoy the fireworks, we got a perfect spot, closest I’ve ever been to a fireworks show.


Hope you had fun celebrating with friends and family for the holiday weekend.

Day Two: Dinner and a Show

After our afternoon outing we returned to the hotel to re-group before our evening plans. We change our close and left again for uptown.


We had made reservations at a restaurant uptown close to the theatre. K Rico is a upscale Latin fusion steakhouse. We were surprised to find the place empty, and I felt a little ridiculous for reserving and table and rushing over there so quickly. We both got glasses of wine then decided to look at their pre fix theatre menu.

Many of the restaurants in the theatre district provide a menu that is only available for either before or after theatre shows that provides minimal options. What this does is guarantee your food will come out faster so you will not be late for a show. It also means that you are getting a package deal on three courses at a decent discount.


I got filet minion with pureed cauliflower, Luke got the skirt steak in chimichuri sauce. My steak was perfectly cooked and with a sprig of rosemary under it was very fragrant.  Then came dessert, I ordered Tres Leches and Luke got the chocolate and coffee flan. This was the highlight, although we both would have liked more berries with our sweet treats they were both amazing.


We then walked a few block over to our theatre where we were surprised to see a long line outside. Apparently because these theatre are smaller, everyone is let in at the same time first come first serve even though we all had set seats.


Luke and my seats were in the mezzanine and we were concerned about our view, I was shocked to realize the theatre was smaller and built so that you really couldn’t get a bad seat. We could clearly see the stage and all characters on it, not squinting necessary.


The musical “Something Rotten” itself was perfect. This was both of our first times seeing a broadway musical in it first run with original cast and you could tell. Every dance number, song, line, was done with the same amount of energy and focus as the next. Looking at the playbill most leads and some extras had been in other broadway productions, if not they had been on tours, all had experience.


It was a hilarious comedy with a unique story line and characters played preformed well  enough to be nominated for and receive several Tony’s for their performances. A perfect option for Luke and I.


As we left that evening we traveled through time square to get to the Subway. Because of the time of night it was crowded as everyone was streaming out of their theaters at the same time. It was bright, noisy, and claustrophobic. After only blocks on the main street Luke said that was plenty of time square for him. We found the subway station and headed to our hotel.



Day 1: NYU, LES, and Blue Man Group

Sorry for the mass delay in NYC trip details, we had a very busy week.

After Little Italy we traveled to the LES, or Lower East Side. This is an area that everyone says is “up and coming”.

When we got there we realized it was a little more “coming” than “up”. It reminded me of  neighborhoods around the garment district in L.A. One street has fancy boutiques and specialty sweet, the next is bordered up with graffitied pawn shops.


We walked to our first destination: The Pickle Guys. A small hall way of a store, you stand in line immediately on your left are giant 3 foot tall tubs of foods brining in spices; everything from pineapples, to olives, onions, beets, carrots etc. We wanted a tasting sample so we got two spicy sour pickles and a small container of garlic stuffed green olives and kalimata olives. They were wonderfully crunchy and full or spicy brine.


Then we traveled over to the tenement museum but were too late for of their many tours. Instead we were watched a free 30 minute video about the neighborhood. In which we learned that this was the primary neighborhood for immigrants to Manhattan. It was amazing to hear the waves of ethic groups who transformed this neighborhood over the years and their struggles to establish themselves, work, and live in poor and crowded conditions.

We then sought out our dinner place: Ivan ramen which we had been told would be good. We both order ramen bowls with slight differences in broth flavorings: one with soy, the other sea salt. When food arrived we found it basic and plain. We our used to vibrant aromatic broths with plenty of vegetables in addition to noodles and egg. We walked away disappointed realizing that our Rochester ramen place Furoshiki was much better.

We then traveled North to NYU, an area full of Japanese Yakitori shops and Asian fusion restaurants. Immediately regretted not heading there for dinner, we stopped at Barcade, yes that is a bar that is also an 0ld-school arcade. There we enjoyed hard cider and stout beer while playing pinball, PacMan, Tetris, bust-a-move, and more.


We left just in time to walk over to the Astor Theatre where the Blue Man group was preforming. The show was good, not my cup of tea with un-known audience participation, but Luke loved it and since he has wanted to see them for years and this was his birthday present, it was worth it.

After the show we found a bubble tea place for dessert, then headed back to the subway and our hotel room for the night.

Backlog: August Summer Road Trip: Dollywood

Yes we went to Dollywood. We decided it was the best amusement park for our vacation and right by the smokey mountains. We got up early and found parking easily.



We started the morning by walking to the back of the park where most of the more high intensity roller coasters were. Because its as still early there were very few people at the back of the park.We took on the wooden roller coaster  first. It went much faster then I think Luke and I had expected and was a great wake-up for us both. Luke, excited about the lack of lines jumped right into the next ride: a mine ride which I thought would be akin to Thundermountain at Disneyland, I was wrong


IMG_5419Once we got into the seats and I realize they were putting the bar over our heads I went “uh oh” It was intense and fast and because of my short torso my ears and head got a little banged up. After that I asked Luke to take things a little slower.

IMG_5423We went on a slower “kiddie” ride indoors where you are a part of firefighter team chasing a blazing house fire(s). Afterwards we began to wander a little more and went on the log ride then got coffee at the grist mill and stood in line for the rapids ride.


IMG_5414The rapids ride line took forever compared to the ride itself and was the longest wait of the day. After the noon heat hit we started to look at the show list. We watched the birds of prey show for a few minutes, then watched an ensemble walk through medley’s which told the history of country music (most of which I did not recognize, fortunately Luke did). Afterward, we listened to the string band, play bluegrass hits, the highlight of which was actually the banjo player.


IMG_5429We got a baked good then headed to our last show of the day: the Kingdom Heirs Dolly’s own southern gospel quartet. Although this is not my favorite style of music it is a style I grew up around as my grandfather was in a quartet when he was younger . I thought it wise since we were there to take it all in. Most of the show we enjoyed, my husband appreciated hearing the true bass sing in a range he could as well.

IMG_5418After an afternoon of shows we got a snack and water and went on a train ride on the steam engine which around the park. On that ride we found out that the park used to be a silver dollar city before it became Dollywood and Luke informed me he had been to the silver dollar city in Branson when he was young.


At the end of a relaxing train ride we explored the carnival area where we rode the swings (one of my favorites) and refilled on water (it was a little warm and I was dehydrated). We then walked back towards the faster coaster area and I sat and continued to rehydrate as Luke took on some of the larger coasters including soaring Eagle, one of the newer rides of the park.


One unique thing about Dollywood is when your parks’ rep is a songwriter new rides in the park get their own theme song written by Dolly herself. I sat and enjoyed the theme song to several roller coasters Luke went on.

IMG_5439Last of all we together went on a coaster which traveled through “forest” to fight forest fires, ends in a fireworks factory which is set on fire, then takes you back through half the track backwards to the beginning.

It was a fun and relaxing day and a very different theme park then what Luke and I were used to but worth it.

The next day we left early, did a little shopping:  outlet cowboy boots and cast iron skillets at the lodge store then were were on the road again. This time our route took us through North Carolina, corner of Maryland, West Virginia, Virginia, and Pennsylvania. We were safely home late that night ready to unpack for the coming week.

And that is finally our backlog catch up from the summer-thank you for your patience.

Backlog: Summer Vacation: Smokey Mountains day 2

On Thursday of our vacation we had many options to choose from. We wanted an outdoor activity to explore the area but were not sure which to choose: kayaking, ziplinging, horseback riding.


Well, because of constant concern with thunderstorms we decided to not go kayaking. And although zip-lineing would have been a new fun adventure for both of us, we were having a hard time choosing a company from all of the reviews.


Instead, we decided to go horseback riding at walden creek stables, a fully functioning dude ranch which provides wagon rides, and weekly rodeo dinner shows in the summer.


We signed up for the 2 hour trip and were lucky to have a tour to ourselves. We were given a very knowledgeable guide who had been riding horses since he was very young. We enjoyed hearing his many  experiences in the rodeo, riding the trails, and working as a stunt double for shows including as chuck norris stunt double in walker texas ranger. It has been a long time since I had been on a horse and this was not a pony slow ride. We worked are way up the hill into the smokey mountains over rocky terrain and to a beautiful outlook where we took a break for the horses.


Then as we came back down we rode along a creek through a dense forest of more rohdi’s and pine trees. It was at first a little difficult but by the end I was grateful for the challenge and experience. (We didn’t take our camera and just enjoyed the experience for ourselves so pictures are from hikes later in the day).


After this, we decided to return to the smokey mountain park for a few more trails and driving. We started out once again driving out to Cades cove but this time we stopped along the drive to take in a few waterfalls. Then at the end we decided to do one more last hike before leaving.


The hike itself was again beautiful as this time you had clear views of the foggy mountains on one side all of the way to the falls. You could hear the falls before you got to them and they were beautiful, even though it was crowded.


We returned back into town, got dinner and prepped for our next full day . . . at Dollywood.

August backlog: Summer Vacation: The Great Smokey Mountains

Tuesday night we settled into our hotel right next to Dolly’s Dixie Stampede and try to adjust to the Vegas-like touristy area we found ourselves in. (I think I could have prepared Luke a little better for what this would be like).


We decided to start our adventure by exploring the Great Smokey Mountains. We drove through Gatlinburg and into the national park. As we got out of town and into the park the temperature dropped with the dense forest. We took a few minutes at the sugar land information center to orient ourselves with the park and get maps.


Then we took a windy road all the way across the park to the observation site. The road up was beautiful even though windy as we climbed in elevation and began to discover why it’s really called “The smokey mountains” covered in fog.


We got out of our cars in the very cold and foggy weather and climbed the path to the observation tower. From the observation tower we could see . . .nothing-some pine trees and fog. If it was a clear day then we would have seen into several states and most of the park.


No matter what it was worth it to be at the highest point of the park and say we had been “on the top of old smokey”. As we drove back down we stopped at several view points to take in the mountain sides and beautiful wild flowers.


We rerouted past the sugar land center and drove to Grotto falls. Again, a windy road uphill this time with limited and difficult parking. This hike was just as much if not more fun on the way as it was at the final destination. The hike took us through a dense old rhododendron forest and required working around several streams and rocks in the clay mud. The air was dense, musty and humid but cool. It was so densely green yet the ground was still sticky with mud.


When we got to the falls we could see several people swimming in the pool beneath it and others enjoying walking behind the falls into the cave enjoying the change to cool off. We dipped our feet in to clean off the mud the preceded back down the trail only to get covered in more mud.


After making our way down the windy path we decided to drive out to Cades Cove before sunset. Everything we read said to tour this part of the park at dawn or dusk when animals are most apt to be out. The drive to Cades Cove is long but again beautiful as you loop across and around waterfalls and rivers.


We reached the cove right around dusk and drove the loop slowly taking in the wildflowers, tall grass, and sunset over the hills. Codes cove is also well known for many old settlers buildings which can be toured everything from mills, to farms, to churches, and schools.


Many of these are right along the main road side and we could see from our car. We had hoped to see some elk, and if we were lucky a black bear but only encountered wild turkey, a coyote or two, and some deer.

August Backlog: Summer Road Trip: Downtown Memphis


The next day of our summer trip, we met my brother work downtown Memphis after a half day of work. We walked with him and Stina to the more famous area of Memphis: Beale street.


We came into town the week after Elvis week and saw a few impersonators still wandering around. As we approached Beale street, we stopped at a famous peanut shop.


I waited outside because they mix all of their nuts together (for more on this see why I am tree nut free) with my brother as Stina gave Luke the tour. Everyone got samples of their favorite peanuts as a snack and we continued walking.



We passed a statue of Elvis across from the Hard Rock, and the Gibson guitar factory and then we were on Beale street. A very quiet walking street in the early afternoon, the street is filled with big named Jazz bars and night clubs including the original coyote ugly bar.


On this street is also a bar which hosts parked outside one of Jerry Lee Louis’ cars. All along the street, similar to in Hollywood on the sidewalk are jazz and blues musician names.



We continued walking to the Peabody hotel and did a fast tour of the hotel and the famous ducks in the pond (to learn more see peabody ducks)


After a lengthy walk around we got lunch and got back in our cars. We drove down toward the Mississippi river waterfront and parked at what is called “The Pyramid”, and old sporting area that has now been turned into a giant bass pro shop.


We went in and saw there was a lot to take in. This “shop” has a restaurant and bar with bowling alley to start with, it’s own fudge and sweets shop, hotel rooms built like cabins you can rent on the third floor, and a live alligator display.



Add this to the fact that the place is decorated to resemble the bayou with floating docks and boats you can tour in a few feet of water filled with catfish. Like most bass pro shops it also included many stuffed and staged animals of all types.



Luke and I both found good hiking/camping pants downstairs in the apparel then we went upstairs. On the second floor is a duck hunting museum including wood ducks (word?) and a display of guns. There is also a free arcade sample of duck hunting, and a place to test out bows for hunting.


They had one of the best camping sections I have ever seen and a large hunting dog section as well. Let’s just say my husband was a happy camper.



We left downtown Memphis and head back to my brother’s place where we got local BBQ and played a board game during dessert.