Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Where's Pearl?

I do plan to talk about the individual places we visited as noted below:

  • Milwaukee (my new favorite city, great small city)
  • Corn Palace (the world's only corn palace)
  • Badlands, SD (one of my new favorite National Parks)
  • Mt. Rushmore and Black Hills, SD (hotter than....well, it was hot)
  • Montana (Glacier National Park, Nevada and Virginia cities - all fabulous)
  • Yellowstone National Park (too crowded for me)
  • Grand Teton National Park (just stunning)
I thought it might be nice to highlight some of the pictures of Pearl.  When we dropped her off at home this past Saturday she said, "I loved every minute of this trip. Where are we going next?"  This trip was very much about her and we were happy to have spent this time with her.  Some of her highlights.....

Pearl with the Fonz in Milwaukee on the River Walk path.

Pearl with 'Corn'elia at the world's only Corn Palace in South Dakota.

Need more be said? In South Dakota

You've got to know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em, when you play cards with Poker Alice.
At Wall Drugs in SD.

At the New York State column at Mt. Rushmore.

Pearl and Jamie in Glacier National Park.

Nevada City just before we boarded the train.

We tried to take a selfie with mom as we sat on the train between Nevada and Virginia cities, MT.
We told her she had to step it up.  This face wasn't going to cut it.

So she did.

In Yellowstone National Park overlooking the canyon.

In Yellowstone National Park overlooking Mammoth Hot Springs.

Rubbing the "beard" of a moose in Grand Teton National Park.
Pearl is normally camera shy.  She never poses for pictures.  I was lucky to have these shots to commemorate the trip.  Also, she was quite bossy ordering me to "take a picture of this," "take a picture of that, Pauline."  I was happy to oblige.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Happy Father's Day

[This will be the first in a series of posts about our recent trip out west with my husband, mother and me.  Pearl (mom) has always wanted to go to Montana because she'd heard "it's beautiful out there," so we thought we better get her out there.]

I don't often write on Father's Day since my father has been dead a number of years.  It seems odd to bring it up even though I certainly do think of him on Father's Day and many other days during the year.

My husband and I took my mother out west the past two weeks for a grand adventure.  What most folks don't know, however, is that before my father died the two of us were planning a road trip out west.  He had mentioned to me that when he was younger, his family had driven out to California to visit his aunt who was living in Long Beach at the time.  He talked about having visited Mount Rushmore among other sites.  I told him I thought it would be awesome if we did something like that.

My dad was never one to take more than a few days off at a time - if at all.  Workaholic sums him up. I asked if he would be willing to take more time off so that we might make this trip even more memorable.  He said, "yes."

That would have been just before I went to college at St. Bonaventure University.  Plans discussed the summer after I graduated from high school. The plan was to take the trip during one of my summers from college.  My brother would still be in high school or would have just graduated, depending on timing, and my sister would be in middle/high school.

Death has a way of foiling your plans.

The trip never happened.  He died December of my sophomore year at Bonas.  Taking a trip like this was out of the question at the time.  The idea was abandoned.

Cut to nearly 30 years later and here we are in a truck heading across the country to Montana including Mount Rushmore and other points of interest.  We were listening to the car radio in South Dakota and what did I hear but a commercial for John Hoffman electrical. It freaked me out a tad because John Hoffman(n) is my dad's name.  Yes, John is a common enough name.  Hoffman is also.  My dad wasn't an electrician by trade but he did work on electronics while in the US Air Force.  It was enough of an odd coincidence to give me chills and make me pause.

I am one to look for signs and I saw this as a sign that he was watching over us on this trip.  I mentioned it to no one in the car.  Pearl would have likely laughed it off; Jamie would have thought I was nuts, as usual.

It made me feel as though he was along for the ride we never got to take 30 years ago.  This trip was for my mom, but a part of it was for him, too.

Dad, thanks for everything you've given me, my ambition, drive, curiosity, intelligence, sense of wonder and awe, family, sense of humor, and life (to name far too few).  I'm glad you were able to join us if only in spirit.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Weekend Update

I know it's Wednesday and everyone is looking forward to this weekend but I want to comment on last weekend.

I participated in the WNY Fiber Arts Festival at Emery Park in Wales, NY.  I've sold my products, Wild Mountain Organics, for several years at this show.  It is one day from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and it is usually a glorious day.  This past Saturday was no exception.  Temperatures were in the 70s and it was nice and sunny.  A great start to autumn.

I don't spin, weave, knit, or crochet but I do love to look at the wools and other crafty fiber materials that folks use to make wonderful creations.  I also love to look at the animals.  Last year I was situated next to the llamas.  They hum, did you know that?  And it's quite hypnotic.  My job is stressful much of the time and it's nice to do low key shows like this to relax as much as to have conversations with customers.  The humming nearly put me to sleep last year in a good way.

This year it was nice to have a steady crowd with an interest in the products and great questions.  I also met some folks I might end up collaborating with in the future so stay tuned.

There was a llama (or an alpaca - I'm not savvy enough to tell them apart, physically) pulling a little cart. I want a llama and a cart!  I have heard that llamas are incredibly intelligent and incredibly loyal. [They can also be quite mean if they need to be and will defend the homestead against intruders like coyotes, fox, bad people.]  I figure I can go out on the town and get completely wasted and have the llama cart my happy ass home.  They will know the way.  Is it DWI if your llama is sober but the rider is not?  I will have to check on that one.

This next comment has nothing to do with llamas or fiber.  I was looking at the Kohl's ad this past Sunday and noticed this picture.  I love dogs.  You don't often see them in ads for baby onesies and shirts, but here we are.  I am not familiar with babies and all things babies.  Is the Carter's mascot a bulldog?  I do not know.  What struck me was the dog and the little dude next to him.  Tell me they don't have the same expression on their faces?  It reads:  "Hey, where's my kibble?"  or "Hey, where's my pureed peaches?"  Just an observation.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Rural Sunday....What to do? Take Five

I had dinner with a friend of mine the other day. She is decidedly urban and I am decidedly rural.  Now, I can be urban if I want to, but why?  There is so much to be said of rural living.

Today is Sunday and my husband and I decided to go to a couple of "events" happening in our neck of the woods.  There is always so much to do in the Western New York area that if you get bored, it's your own damn fault.  I wonder, are these activities you engage in?  Five things we did today.

Fly in, Drive Up pancake breakfast at the Olean Airport.  I don't think this airport is international, but it could be, I guess.  Small planes only - and helicopters.  I love pancake breakfasts for a couple of reasons.  First of all, breakfast.  What's not to like about pancakes, eggs, sausage, real maple syrup, yum?  Also, pancake breakfasts benefit a charity, in this case the Olean Airport.  I am more than happy to support local organizations.  There is also something just damn cool about watching people fly in in their little planes (I am sure they would be insulted by me calling them "little planes") and then take off.  You can get so close.

They also offered helicopter rides.  The airport is located at the top of one of the mountains in our Enchanted Mountain range.  I said that if get really into training, I will ride my bike up the hill to get to the airport.  I might need a lift down although down is the best part.  My husband said that the helicopter ride might not be the best for me since I am terrified of heights.  Here's what doesn't make sense - I can fly without a problem.  For some reason when I get so high, everything looks like the Land of Make-Believe from Mr. Roger's Neighborhood and then it becomes unreal to me.  So it doesn't bother me that I am hundreds or thousands of feet in the air with nothing below me.  But a bridge or a cliff?  Forget it!

Cuba Garlic Festival.  I love food festivals (is there a theme here?).  We have plenty of food festivals in the area dedicated to particular foods.  Franklinville has the Maple Festival, Eden the Corn Festival, the Peach Festival up north, I am sure I am missing a food.  I think all foods should have a festival.  I think we should start the melon festival.  Of course we will need to be careful how we sell that one!  Come see melons.  Big, juicy melons.

I digress.

The Cuba Garlic Festival had plenty of garlic and other vendors.  It was also a tad overpriced for my liking.  $7 to get in seemed a tad steep.  It wasn't that large a show.  Other than that, we didn't eat any of the food because we went just after the pancake breakfast so we were full.  Unfortunate since there seemed to be many food vendors with all kinds of goodies.  Perhaps then I wouldn't complain about the $7 entrance fee.  We did get a couple of different kinds of garlic.  Every meal should have garlic.  It should be the law.

Cuba Cheese Shop.  This is worth a trip by itself.  Why?  Cheese.  All kinds of cheese.  We are currently in love with the grilling cheese.  Halloumi cheese is perfect for grilling.  How come it doesn't melt and ooze all over?  Who cares!  Just eat it.  Some things don't need an explanation.  (There is an explanation but it doesn't matter to me - it's just delicious.)  Spread it with some jalapeno jam and you are all set.  The Cheese Shop has all sorts of other cheeses as you can imagine. It's worth a trip but the garlic festival gave us our excuse.

Drive through the countryside.  It isn't peak leaf-peeping season yet but it is still amazing country down here in the southern tier.  We could drive all day and never be bored or never get tired.  In addition to the views, we also like to look at houses, barns, land, landscaping, etc.  We are interested in paint colors and landscaping ideas.  We area also in love with old homes.  Cuba is perfect for old home viewing.  Such a beautiful town.  Franklinville is also full of old homes with character and charm.  In fact, I challenge you to find an old town in the southern tier that is not charming.

Tractor Supply Store.  This is my favorite damn store ever!  I have more fun in this store.  They sell pink and purple Carharts. I just think that's a hoot.  We get all sorts of things for the farm here. Today we needed dog food and a leash for Maggie.  See, we don't think just of us when we eat.  We also feed our dogs.  They are thankful.

Next week I will be selling Wild Mountain Organics at the WNY Fiber Arts Festival.  Please join me on Saturday at Emery Park in Wales.  I will be near the alpacas and llamas, I hope.

Monday, September 07, 2015

Can You Unplug? Why, yes I can!

I have had several discussions recently about unplugging.  People question whether or not it is possible to unplug from electronics, emails, text, etc. for any period of time.  My husband and I took a week off in July to go to Port Austin, Michigan (our second trip there).  We rented a rustic cottage right on Lake Huron and unplugged.  The only people I texted were the two wonderful Lee's who were watching our dogs.  Otherwise, you could wait until we returned.  I don't think I even posted to Facebook, but I could be wrong.

I essentially spent the week reading, eating, swimming, kayaking, picking my bottom.  It was sublime!  The Take Five Vacation list:

1. Relaxation is bliss.  Sometimes you just have to sit back and read or drink wine or stare at the water and the wildlife.  Selfies required.  BTW, orange is my favorite color so when I found this awesome beach towel, I had to have it.  And this suit is so old it's ridiculous.  White fish on the orange tankini. Yes, please.  I can't part with it.

2. Water, water everywhere....and that's how I like it.  There is nothing more restful than water.  I could sit by the water all day for the rest of my life and never be bored. I have views from our "front porch." The sunset and Jamie in his kayak.  I had just finished swimming was sitting in the deck chair while he kept kayaking looking for fish.  Ah, the simple life.

3. Wildlife is your friend. Okay, so I have birds, but there were other animals present.  The first picture is a bald eagle.  Jamie stared at it for an inordinate amount of time while I kayaked about.  It's a tad hard to see, but trust us, it was worth watching.  Truly majestic when it took off.

The area in which we stay is quite shallow so you need to be careful when you are in the water not to run your kayak up on a huge hidden boulder.  Birds tend to flock to these locations and don't seem to mind kayakers coming up on them.

4. Find an activity you love and it won't be a workout. That's what "they" say.  It's true.  I could swim and kayak all day.  Both are excellent fitness activities.  I never really notice that it's a fitness activity until the next day when I'm sore.  Honestly, does this look like the face of someone who is engaged in a fitness activity?

5. Where will we retire?  Can it be next week?  There was a house not far from our cottage that I fell in love with.  It looked like a very old home, not the usual modern lake houses you see.  This is the view from the water.  It didn't look inhabited.  I said we would need to look into that.

Lighthouses have captivated me for years.  I am not sure if it's the mystery and the intrigue or what.  We were next to Lighthouse Park and it was nice to see the lighthouse when we were kayaking and swimming.  The park itself is very nice and offers trails to walk.

 It is possible to unplug.  We left feeling completing rejuvenated.  I was able to return to work with renewed vigor.  We already talked about returning the next year.  One week away from everyone and everything is doable and recommended by me.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Cycle The Erie Canal

I haven't posted my Take Five in a few weeks.  Things have been a tad hectic at work and I've been traveling quite extensively.  I have a week or so off before I leave town again.

I was reminded of an amazing trip I took last year - Cycle the Erie Canal trail.  You start in Buffalo and end in Albany and average about 50 or so miles per day.  Most of the cycling is on the Erie Canal Trail but some is on roads because the trail is not complete across the state.  This is the largest fundraiser of the year for Parks and Trails New York.  It is also intended to serve as an awareness campaign of the trail itself.  Many places, as I mentioned, are incomplete or are in bad shape.  I would love to see a completed trail and would do the trip again in a second.

The 2015 event kicked off yesterday.  The cyclists would have started this morning from Medina, New York on their way to the next stop in Pittsford, New York.

I want to note my five favorite memories and photos from last year.  Amy Moritz, Bona alumna,  Buffalo News sports writer, blogger ( - byline to the finish line), former wellness coach, and friend enjoyed the trip with me.  She wrote an excellent piece for The Buffalo News Refresh section this past Saturday.  We are also planning something for summer 2016 so stay tuned for that!

The one and only time I have been hosed down
On our third day it was pouring rain at the start of the day.  Pouring rain.  We had to cycle anyway because you have to get to the next point.  Unless there is a thunderstorm, you suffer through.  At first I was pissed that we had to struggle in the rain.  Then I embraced it.  It became my favorite day of the ride.  You got to see the canal and the canal trail in a very different way.  You had to figure out how to maneuver through mud and yuck on the trail.  I wore a white rain jacket as you can see below.  It was sparkling clean throughout.  Someone asked me how it stayed so clean when the rest of me didn't?  I have no damn idea.

At one of our rest stops a gentleman was manning a hose to wash some of the dirt off of our bikes to ungunk our gears and chain, etc.  He looked at me and asked me if I wanted him to hose me off.  To be fair, he asked everyone so I wasn't special.  Um, yes, please.

Each night we camped and each morning we packed up.  I dubbed our "tent city," BonaTenture because Amy and I are both Bona alumnae.  Comfy Campers is a God-send.  We paid extra for someone else to set up our tent each day and take it down each morning.  Brilliant business model.  After a day of cycling and sightseeing, the last thing we wanted to do was set up a tent.  It came with air mattresses, which they inflated and deflated each day, and coffee each morning.  Cheers!

We also met a couple of other Bona alumnae.  We aren't the only two who are crazy!  And it shows the Power of a Bonnie.  We are everywhere.  We run the world.

New York State is incredibly beautiful
Everywhere you turned (literally) you could see idyllic settings.  Barns and farms, fields of crops, former locks now overgrown with greenery, the trail itself, the smooth as glass water.  All are worth the trip.  All photos taken from the Erie Canal trail.

Sense of Humor and History
One of the highlights of the trip was a stop in Seneca Falls.  I was brought to tears as we toured the Women's History Museum.  To think about the battles our ancestors fought to ensure we have the liberties and freedoms we have is moving.  The fight is far from over, but the trip reminded us that we have come a long way and we have what is required to continue the fight.

With Amy Moritz at the Women's History Museum.

The Erie Canal is teeming with history.  While some visits were serious as above, some were tongue-in-cheek.  The picture below is at the Canal Museum in Syracuse.  I thought I would see what this guy is looking at.  It's the museum itself.

The Finish
I was exhausted by the end but also exhilarated.  I biked across New York State.  That's pretty damn good!  And I'd do it again.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Gnocchi and Mushrooms

I purchased some mushrooms last weekend thinking I would use them with a steak we grilled but we did not.

I didn't want them to go to waste so I thought I would whip something up. I had some gnocchi also and Googled recipes to include both.  I then combined several recipes to call my own to great fanfare.  The fanfare was mine, my husband wasn't as excited.  That means that I have some leftovers that will become lunch today.

How I did it:
1 package gnocchi (I use the vacuum-packed fresh gnocchi not dried - in the future I will make my own)
2 containers of mushrooms - your choice. I used shiitake and portobello
1 clove garlic
1 shallot
olive oil
Meyer lemon olive oil (I got a small sample of this in a gift basket I recently received.  I think you could use lemon juice.)
1 T butter
1 t dried basil
1 t dried oregano
White wine
Chicken broth
2 T tomato paste
1 T parsley
1/2 cup parmesan cheese

Boil the gnocchi according to package directions.

Heat olive oil in a large pan - I used about 4 T.  Slice garlic and shallot and add to pan.  Cook until fragrant and soft.  Add 1 T Meyer lemon olive oil.  Add the mushrooms and cook until soft.  Add butter and stir until melted.  Add basil and oregano and stir until blended.  Add white wine and chicken broth, stir to blend and cook about 5 minutes.  Add the tomato paste and stir until blended.
Drain gnocchi and add to the pan.  Stir to coat.  Add cheese and parsley and stir until blended.