Andrew and I spent last weekend in Old Forge, NY, with some friends of ours.  Paola is a classmate of mine at Buffalo State in the Dietetics program, and she and Mark got married this past fall.  Mark grew up going to his family’s place, called ‘The Hut,’ in the Adirondacks.  Old Forge is about four hours from Buffalo and a destination in both the summer and winter months.  The Hut is on a lake, with a beautiful view from the living room.  It’s a cozy, homey-type place–a few bedrooms and bathrooms, a kitchen and living room and fireplace.  It’s decorated with very traditional ‘cabin’ decor–bears, ducks, pine trees, wood accents.

We started our trip with lunch at Betty’s, in downtown Buffalo.  So good.  Can’t wait to meet them there again soon!

We drove up on a Friday afternoon and got in just before dinner.  After unpacking and sitting for a bit, we went out for a nice dinner at one of their local favorite restaurants, where we enjoyed great service and great wine.  I had a truly fantastic dish, the ‘Brazilian Pork,’ which combined juicy pork medallions with a mix of black beans, onions, peppers and green chilies with sweet potato fries.  Very memorable.

The next morning, our only ‘activity’ was to go snow shoeing later on, so we hung around until about lunch time.  So nice to just relax in our jammies!

We ate brunch at a local diner, where Paola and I both ordered the buckwheat pancakes with blueberries and pecans.  Also very good.

Here we are, snow shoeing at a local golf course in about four feet of snow–SO MUCH harder than the snow we’re used to around here.  Talk about a work out!  All four of us were glad to be finished as we neared the parking lot.

We spent the rest of the afternoon either napping (the boys) or relaxing on the couch (the girls), channel surfing, reading and writing.  And snacking.  I wrote a blog about National Nutrition Month to be posted on the Buffalo News (more about that later), and Paola and I caught the end of a sappy rom-com once we relinquished control of the remote from Mark, who’d much rather watch golf.

We went out that night to another favorite spot for dinner, where a bunch of us shared some lobster mac and cheese as an appetizer.  I ordered the chili burger–why I don’t know–and ended up eating it with a fork.  The ceiling of the restaurant was covered with thousands of business cards, but we weren’t able to finds Mark’s dad’s, which he put up there years ago.

Throughout the weekend, snow mobiliers where EVERYWHERE.  It was so neat to see them whizzing across the lake, both day and night, and all the machines parked out in front of stores and bars and such.  I loved that even ‘nicer’ restaurants are very casual, especially this time of year, when pretty much the only appropriate footwear is snow boots.

We turned in early that night–must have been wiped out from the snow shoeing–and slept in the next morning.  With the time change as well, we weren’t all out of bed until well after 10 a.m.  After relaxing a bit, running the laundry and cleaning up, we stopped at another local diner on the way out of town for lunch.  My Rueben sandwich was fantastic, and Paola and I got some bread pudding to-go for the ride home.

We had a great weekend and were so thrilled to spend time with our friends in such a beautiful place.  Sometimes you really have to ‘get away from it all’ and just relax.  Between Andrew’s summer trips to Lake Tippecanoe in Indiana and this year-round getaway in the Adirondacks, it makes me want to have something like that for our kids one day.  Somewhere not too far away to call our own, to make memories, and to get away from it all.

One day.

a valentine/anniversary getaway

As luck would have it, I had a four-day weekend that encompassed Valentine’s Day, the 12th (!!!) anniversary of the day Andrew and I began dating, and President’s Day (a.k.a. two days off of school).  Suffice it to say, we decided to take advantage of the long weekend and get away.

And away we got.  (Except that we managed to see Andrew’s dad–TWICE–on our trip.)  But other than THAT, we got away, and let me tell you–it was a blast.

We chose Ithaca, NY, as it’s just three hours away and somewhat of a ‘destination.’  (Not really, but it was to us.)   Ithaca is a college town, home to Cornell and Ithaca University, which means there’s tons of yummy ethnic eateries and fun things to do.  We scored a great room at the local Marriott, borrowed some snowshoes and started scoping out where we’d eat.

Disclaimer:  We’ve actually been to Ithaca before (myself only a couple times and Andrew has been tons) as his father is from there and his grandmother still lives in a nursing home there.  But, we’ve never really ‘done’ Ithaca, so it was mostly new to us.

And can I just say–Ithaca is my new favorite place.  It’s close, you can’t beat the college town atmosphere, Cornell is absolutely gorgeous and the food options were endless.  I’m already counting the days until we make it a trip in the summer.

We arrived in time for dinner, and as it was Friday, decided to order pizza.  We brought it into the room and watched HGTV on a king bed while sharing a half-hawaiian, half-banana pepper and sausage pizza and birch beer.


I came prepared each morning with things to do in the 2+ hours between the time I wake up and Andrew wakes up.  Necessities include: coffee creamer, snacks, devotions, schoolwork and workout gear.


I’d called ahead and found the local YMCA to be just minutes from our hotel and FREE to me as a Buffalo Y member.  I swam 2,000 yards in 40 minutes before I dashed back to the hotel with wet hair in a snow storm!


We headed to the Ithaca Commons, which is the cute downtown area with shops and eateries, to explore and eat.


Our first stop was Collegetown Bagels, which is part of the Ithaca Bakery chain.  I got a Cayuga Cocoa (hot chocolate with coffee) and a strawberry cheesecake brownie (in honor of Valentine’s Day).  I didn’t need it but every bit was worth it!  Andrew snacked on a cappuccino and TWO bagels.


All day Saturday was the local chili taste-off, in which restaurants brought out vats of different chili and offered tastes in exchange for tickets.  We didn’t taste any, but man, did it smell good outside!

We stopped into multiple outdoor stores (Ithaca is know for its gorges and trails and hiking and such), an organic home store (Ithaca is also pretty crunchy-granola, if you know what I mean) and a paper store.


For a late lunch, we stopped into the famous Moosewood Restaurant, a vegetarian place that is just fantastic.  I can’t say Andrew was their biggest fan, but my meal was wonderful–lasagna with olives and capers!


Andrew did, however, help me with their famous fudge brownie with homemade ice cream.


OK, he did more than ‘help.’


Afterward, we decided to try a walk around Cornell’s campus, but were hampered by a white-out as we drove around.


After some aimless driving around, we decided to stop at the footbridge and brave the snow anyway.


Good thing we did; the snow stopped and we were able to enjoy a (chilly) walk to the famous clock tower.
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So, Andrew thought it would be funny to take pictures of me trying to walk through the snow in my Uggs (who knew I’d need my Sorels to walk around downtown and then on-campus?!)…

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Cornell truly is beautiful.  The architecture is stunning and–as much as I hate to admit it–blows Penn State out of the water.  I can’t wait to go back and really walk the campus.


After a visit with Andrew’s dad, Aunt Kathy and his grandma, we decided Thai would be our cuisine of choice Saturday night.  We tried Taste of Thai and were not disappointed.  In fact, Andrew has already said he’d go back on a future trip.

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Sunday morning, I awoke and went downtown for a massage I’d scheduled.  When planning our weekend, I told Andrew I wanted two things: to swim laps and a massage.  And to go snowshoeing.  Guess that’s three.

After the massage, I grabbed bagels and a blueberry muffin to-go at another Ithaca Bakery location on the way back to the hotel and we enjoyed brunch in bed, with a little HGTV/Food Network.  Our next stop: Hal’s Deli for corned beef before our afternoon of snowshoeing!


Now, I cannot tell you how much I love Reubens.  They are, hands down, my absolute favorite sandwich ever. Perhaps my favorite menu item ever.  It’s pretty hard for me to pass up a Reuben.  So, when we hear of a Jewish deli in town, it’s a must-try.  Between the perfectly not-too-sweet Dr. Brown Black Cherry soda, the tiny waitress who kept calling us ‘honey,’ and the sandwich, I was quite the happy camper.  Andrew liked his sandwich and was a huge fan of the coleslaw–not too creamy with a hint of vinegar and sweetness.


Afterward, we headed out to find a trail for snowshoeing.  Neither of us own snowshoes yet, but I see them in the (perhaps very) near future.  So much fun!




We trudged around, and even up and down a hill, in the woods outside Cornell’s campus.  I really like that its something Andrew and I can do together that doesn’t really take much skill, has almost no risk of injury and requires little equipment or cost.


The local ice cream joint, Purity, is currently undergoing renovations, so they scoop under a red awning out front on the weekends.  Talk about hard-core!  I just about froze while I was waiting for my cookie sundae–I can’t imagine how cold the girls get who have to stand out there for hours!

Andrew surprised my by getting something other than vanilla or the hot apple crisp sundae; he chose Boomberry (a fruity ice cream) in a waffle cone.


We ate the ice cream in the warmth of our car while driving up to Taughannock Falls to see the frozen waterfall.


We would have hiked up to it, but between thawing out after our snowshoe and then eating ice cream, we were done with the cold weather.

After warm showers and naps (that cookie sundae did me IN!) back at the hotel, we got dressed, paid another quick visit to Andrew’s grandma and then headed back to the Commons for dinner.

This time, it was viva Taqueria, a local Mexican place that makes their own chips daily.  THOSE were worth every calorie, I can tell you that much!  Andrew opted for the fajitas (his usual) and I chose a combo platter so I could try an enchilada and a tostada.  You know what the best thing about going for Mexican with Andrew is?  I get his sides!  He doesn’t eat the refried beans, rice or guacamole, all of which always come with fajitas.  My problem:  I like everything, and sometimes what I want doesn’t come with gauc or rice or beans.  We’re just a match made in heaven, aren’t we?


Still feeling full from the night before, I headed down to the hotel’s workout room Monday morning to study and elliptical before we headed back home.  I’ve pretty much become a pro at reading while stepping.


Our last stop before hitting the highway?  Ithaca Bakery–AGAIN.  I wanted to make it three-for-three, and when I was in the day before picking up bagels, I got a huge craving for an eat-in, toasted bagel with veggie cream cheese.  I had to have it.


Cutest little bakery ever.  I tell you what–if we lived in Ithaca, I’d be there all the time.  Andrew got a sticky bun, an everything bagel and a cappuccino, while I opted for a fun coconut-almond americano with a ‘california’ bagel (whole grain, seeds and raisins) topped with veggie cream cheese.  I think I inhaled it.


We had an hour before we hit Corning, NY, which is home to the Corning Museum of Glass (of Pyrex fame) and somewhere I’ve wanted to visit since I used to pass through on my way to visit Andrew from Philadelphia.  Out came the binder again.


At the glass museum, we were able to see displays of glass through the ages:

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We also saw glass-blowing, breaking and flame-throwing demos.  It takes the glass-makers 4-5 years just to become proficient.  It was pretty neat to watch.


We had one last stop before home: the Babcock Ladder Co. in Bath, NY.  Yes, that is my husband examining ladders in their office.


Actually, it’s pretty neat.  Babcock is one of the last-remaining all-wood, family-owned, good-ole’-made-in-the-USA quality ladder companies around.  We’re down a couple step-ladders (the metal ones just end up breaking after awhile) and their prices were incredibly reasonable.


Andrew’s souvenirs:


Holly’s souvenirs:


And, no trip would be complete without the pizza-in-front-of-the-TV-dinner!  Hadrian was too tired from playing at puppy camp all weekend to even beg!


NYC: Sunday

We awoke Easter Sunday in time to go to the early service at Redeemer Presbyterian Church on 83rd and Amsterdam.  Before we went on the trip, I’d messaged a friend from college who used to live in the city and is on staff with Campus Crusade for Christ for a recommendation for a church.  She recommended Redeemer and also mentioned that Cafe Lalo, the one featured in the movie ‘You’ve Got Mail’ was just down the street.  So glad I asked her.

So, we quickly grabbed bananas and coffees at the downstairs awful breakfast (which was packed even at 8 a.m.) and headed to the subway.

We had perfect timing and were blessed to hear a sermon by Dr. Tim Keller, who heads up the three-location Redeemer Church.  He was only preaching at the first service that morning, so I’m glad we were early birds.


Notice the hot-pink scarf: an Easter gift (a.k.a. Italy trip gift) from Andrew.  So glad I brought my trench–it was the perfect light jacket for Sunday morning and I felt so classy 🙂

After the service, we walked about a half-block to Cafe Lalo and were seated right away:




The photo really does not do it justice; it was decorated with French dancing posters and was bright and warm and welcoming.  My friend admitted to me that it had become a ‘date night’ spot for her husband and her, and I bet it would be ours’ if we lived in the city.  I think Andrew loved it more than I did!




We ordered a belgian waffle with cinnamon whipped cream (Andrew) and the ‘Lalo Special,’ a berry-topped frozen-yogurt bowl with a scone of my choice (me) with coffees.  (Note: Andrew liked the cinnamon-whipped cream so much I whipped (haha! I’m so punny) some up this morning to top our pancakes. It’s fantastic–try it with your breakfast carb of choice next time!)


After breakfast and on our way back to the hotel, we had a bit of an adventure on the subway: we got separated!  I knew it was going to happen some time…  Andrew hopped off just as the doors were closing and I couldn’t follow him!  Thankfully, it wasn’t terribly difficult for me to grab another train back and in less than 10 minutes we were reunited.

Our last stop of the trip (sniff, sniff) was Bouchon Bakery:


It’s one of Thomas Keller’s establishments and I’ve been to his Bouchon restaurant in Vegas before.  I just had to have a macaron. Or three.


I chose a three mini-macarons so I could try different flavors: pistachio, chocolate and cassis (kinda like blackberry/raspberry) with a lemon filling). I got my treats to go and we rushed back to the hotel room with just enough time to give each other our Easter baskets:


…and pack up before heading home.

For lunch, I ate a hot-cross bun from Bouchon (hey, it was Easter) with an apple and a cheese stick.


And that’s pretty much where the health-kick ended.  I started with my one Reese’s egg that Andrew got me:


…and munched my way home on jelly beans, popcorn and all sorts of snacks. I blame a too-small lunch and boredom.

I did, however, exhibit great restraint and ate only ONE of my mini-macarons.



If you haven’t had a real macaron before, they are DIVINE.  Seriously.  Lightly crunchy on the outside, and the filling and the inside of each ‘sandwich piece’ is a bit fudgy…oh my.  However, I have no idea where to get one in all of Buffalo.  I’ve had them in Paris and New York City.  Up next on my life ‘to-do’ list: learn how to make macarons.  (Incidentally, those heaps of lightly browned coconut, sometimes dipped in chocolate, are called ‘coconut macarOOns.’)

We got in at about 6:30 on Sunday night and quickly unpacked the car and vacuumed (Andrew) while I ran into Tops for groceries.  However, we quickly found our favorite pizza place was closed (it was Easter Sunday), and just about everywhere else, too.  It was a refreshing reminder of the holiday, after being in NYC where it wasn’t even a blip on the radar.  We settled for one of the only places open–Jim’s Steak Out–and took our cheesesteaks to go and relaxed in front of the TV for the rest of the night.

It’s been a whirlwind week since then, and I still don’t feel like I’ve truly recovered.  In fact, Andrew had a cold all week and now I feel like I’m coming down with it…fantastic.  Why can’t vacations really be vacations?