Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Crazy Whirlwind Trip

A couple weeks ago I went with Michael on a business trip.
Michael is crazy. Michael likes to do maybe three meetings a day. Michael doesn't mind traveling to different cities every day. We were gone 10 days, took 7 flight segments, stayed in 5 cities and we had a blast.

First stop: Philadelphia.
I had never been to Philadelphia. We were there for exactly 19 hours. For me, at least 8 of those hours were spent sleeping and about 4 were spent working. That left 7 hours for eating and sightseeing. We had lunch across the street at the Four Seasons Hotel. Amazingly delicious, which was to be expected.

We then jumped on the on/off bus (stop located conveniently outside the Four Seasons) and rode it around 1.5 times. It was a beautiful, sunny 68-degree day. Warm for November I would think. We got off, strolled over to the Liberty Bell, took a walk to Reading Terminal Market and shared a Philly Cheesesteak sitting at the counter. We then walked leisurely back to our hotel through City Hall (Occupy Philadelphia), LOVE Park and all that and caught a taxi to the airport. I want to go back. Right now!

Philadelphia Art Museum

Next stop: Chicago
I had never been to Chicago. We had a lovely view of lots of buildings, The Hancock Tower and the lake beyond from our room at the Sofitel Water Tower. Great location. Nice hotel. Bad room service. There is so much great food in Chicago, such a pity that we got in so late and thought room service was our only option. Apparently there was kind of a dive diner (Tempo Cafe) 1/2 block from our hotel that has great late night people watching. Ah, next time! Anyway... Michael had meetings all over the place the next day and took the rental car out at about 7am. It snowed off and on for most of the morning and early afternoon. It didn't stick, but was very pretty.

That evening we went to the The Art Institute of Chicago and saw lots of great art. We had dinner at the museum restaurant: Terzo Piano, conveniently serving dinner only on Thursday evening. I wanted to stroll around Millennium Park, but Michael didn't have a coat. Sheesh.

The next day, we took a two hour tour around Chicago. We got the low down on all the buildings, history, etc... We wanted to take the architecture tour by water, but it was pretty chilly. Chicago was actually the only chilly spot on our trip. After our tour we headed to Lou Malnati's for some deep dish pizza. It was yummy, but oh so filling. We ate half of a small.

We walked quickly back to our hotel (it was chilly), grabbed our car and headed to the airport. A total of 44 hours were spent in Chicago. I definitely want to return.

Third Stop: Cleveland.

We spent the weekend in Cleveland. We got a fantastic rate at the Ritz-Carlton. Yeah, they have a Ritz-Carlton there. I know, I wouldn't have guessed it either. It was nice. Not luxurious, but nice and we had great views from our room of the awesome weather! It was close to 70 and sunny in Cleveland! What luck.

Joey drove his beloved Chevy Chevette into Cleveland and we headed out to The West Side Market. There was quite a selection of meats, cheeses, baked goods, ethnic food, cheap produce and a fun atmosphere. The market has been around for something like 100 years. Steve's Gyros is supposed to be really, really good, but the line was out the door.

After the market I dragged Joey and Michael to A Christmas Story House & Museum. I kid you not, this is #4 on's "Things to Do in Cleveland." West Side Market is #3. In case you were wondering, The USS Cod Submarine Memorial is #1 and a CEMETERY is #6. Gotta LOVE Cleveland!  Funny thing, they did not use the inside of the house for filming, but someone bought the house they had used for the exterior shots (pretty recently) and renovated it to look like the movie set. A guy two houses down sells "parking" for the "Christmas Story House Tour" for $5. Parking is plentiful in the neighborhood. Right outside the house even. Crazyville. We did not take the tour of the "fake" house, but the gift store and museum were a hoot. All in all, worth it to me, but I wouldn't go asking Michael and Joey their opinion :)

That afternoon we took Joey to his favorite Cleveland record/electronics store, Play It Again Sam. Of course everything is used, refurbed, etc... We bought him an old turntable (yes, for playing records) as a belated birthday present. Joey's dorm room has a bit of an 80's thing going on.

For dinner Joey directed us to Happy Dog. I had actually seen this place on The Food Network. We weren't too adventurous, but they have all kinds of great toppings, like: black truffle honey mustard, momocho's habanero sauce, garlic-tomato-basil jam, "alien" pickle relish, chunky peanut butter, french brie cheese.... and so much more. I know everyone is going to want all this great info for their next jaunt to Cleveland!

On Sunday we drove to Oberlin College and had brunch with Joey and his roommate. Joey then gave us a tour and it was another really lovely day. The college looked much more beautiful on a warm day in November with beautifully colored leaves still on the trees and green grass. As opposed to brown/burnt grass, 95 degree temps and 100% humidity in the heat of the summer, which is what we experienced when we dropped him at school August of last year.

Below is the courtyard between the art museum and the art studio building. Joey likes to hang out here.

After almost two days in Cleveland, we flew to La Guardia Airport in NYC, rented a car, and drove to somewhere'sville, NJ. Frankly I cannot remember the name of the place we stayed. It was a nice Marriott though, perhaps Hanover. Anyway, the next day Michael had meetings all over NJ and it was a lovely day: 70 & sunny, again.

And then, we finally made it into the city, Manhattan. We had three glorious days in NYC. We ate, we walked (in the lovely 60 degree evening temperatures), we saw 'Book of Mormon The Musical', we ate some more, we walked some more.

On the last day, it rained. We walked about a mile in the rain to Grand Central Station for the most wonderful crab cakes, clam chowder and lobster rolls I have ever had at Grand Central Oyster Bar & Restaurant NY. Perhaps it was because I was soaking wet and starving, but I am telling you, this food was amazing. Grand Central Station is pretty amazing. NYC is pretty amazing. Other great food to mention: Blue Smoke Restaurant for BBQ, i Trulli for homemade pasta/Italian, Island Burger for amazing burgers and shakes.

On our last night in NYC we saw another musical: Avenue Q. We got half off tickets and it was a fun show, if not a little raunchy (nothing compared to BofM The Musical). We donated $20 to Broadway Cares/Equity Fights Aids and got our picture taken with Trekkie Monster.

Like I said, it was a Crazy Whirlwind Trip!

And Just Like That....

My Baby Turned 18!
It happened over a month ago.
I know, unbelievable.

Sammy, Age 3 months

Sammy, Age 2 years

Sammy, Age 7

Sammy, Age 11

Sammy, Age 13

Sammy, Age 18

It does, it happens just like that. You turn around. A snap of a finger. He's all grown up.

We got it!

A professional photo of Joey that I am affectionately calling his Senior Photo, because I am weird like that and there doesn't seem to be a lot of significance to a Sophomore College Photo.

Anyway, I love it!

Where did it go?

I am speaking of the time, of course. Three months since my last post. Whoa!

I did and I did not finish my canning. I finished some of the things, but not others. It was real trial and error this year and some things worked, some did not.

We got quite a few jars of tomato sauce, but not as many as last year. Many of the tomatoes on the vine did not ripen before cold weather hit. I tried some indoor ripening that, for the most part, worked. I did not go out and buy extra tomatoes this year. The sauce is not as rich and red as I would have liked, but I can fix that in the recipes I make.

I am very excited to announce, we had grapes this year! Lots of them. Unfortunately, my attempt at grape jelly was only a moderate success. At first it would not set, so I gradually added more pectin and then BAM! It was too thick. Oh well. I got five jars and I will be able to use them in recipes. Not sure how spreadable the jelly is for say, peanut butter sandwiches?

Beautiful little grapes from the garden. Our fruit harvest is growing. We now have blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, apples, plums, blackberries (if I don't pull them) & grapes. We are supposed to have kiwi, but I have yet to see any of those on the vine.

I am disappointed in myself that I did not get the time to can the applesauce/apple chutney. I did make a wonderful batch of apple butter, but we still have a bunch of apples in cold storage. I used some for Thanksgiving. They are reaching their limit in terms of storage/freshness. Perhaps this is the weekend for some warm, cinnamon applesauce. I am not excited to pull all the canning supplies back out, but sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do!