Sunday, December 28, 2014

Street wisdom

Our trip to Salt Lake City was a great escape to the city.  I loved some of the street wisdom we found along the way.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Food finds in Salt Lake City

Our favorite part of vacation is finding local restaurants.  As soon as we landed, I did a search for the best breakfast places in Salt Lake City and found several really great possibilities.  At the top of the list was the The Park Cafe.  The food was delicious and the atmosphere was just how we like it - crowded, but comfortable.  We always see a short wait as a sign of great food.

While out adventuring, we found a place for dinner - Taco Taco. It was a short walk from our hotel and the food was so delicious.  The customer service was amazing and we loved the selection of delicious tacos.  I am a huge fan of sweet little local places.  The two crosses on the wall were so cool.

Earlier in the day we found the Holiday Craft Market at the Rio Grande Depot in the downtown area.  We found some great food items and enjoyed seeing the historic depot.  After we made a couple of purchases, I realized that we would have to ship a box home because we were buying a lot of liquids and we only brought carry on bags.  We were violating our three ounce rule on several items.
 Some of our favorite finds included the vinegar and marinade from Slide Ridge. We are a little crazy about honey and loved meeting the producer and hearing about his products. We also learned that we can find these items in Whole Foods in Kansas City or Denver.

Our other purchases included some delicious cheese and two half pints of jam.  The story of the jam is really spectacular. The Green Urban Lunch Box harvests fruit from trees in the city for a fruit share program and then some of the fruit is used to make jam that is sold by the non-profit.  We loved the jalapeno plum jam and the pear citrus jam.

I have been a little obsessed with jam since my jam making marathon when I had a bumper crop of peaches delivered by my dad. I started following Food in Jars and have been dreaming about new recipes that I want to try.  This trip gave me a lot of inspiration.

With all of that in mind, when we were faced with our next breakfast decision, a place call Pig and a Jelly Jar was the natural choice. Again, we had a short wait and were really pleased with the food.  I was really taken by the jam. They had a great holiday special where you could choose three jams - one savory and two sweet - and get a gift card.  We chose bacon onion, blueberry lavender, and spiced peach. The gift card also meant that we returned for a second visit.
 We also tried Eggs in the City. This place was great - again, a short wait.  We loved the open kitchen and the space - a converted garage.
One of our other food finds was some flavored balsamic vinegar.  We conducted a self-guided tasting which mainly consisted of us using about a dozen little cups to try as many vinegars and oils as we could.  We walked away with peach and black cherry varieties.  We can't wait to try these with some salads.

Overall, the food finds on this trip were a highlight.  We also loved seeing mountains at every turn - a great change of pace.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Winter vacation

 We have stumbled into a tradition of taking a short vacation in December.  It has turned into our chance to slow down just a bit and get into the holiday spirit.

We had a couple of hotel nights on a gift certificate and that helped us choose our destination - Salt Lake City!

I had been here a few years ago for a conference.  My mom had traveled along and she had the chance to really take in the city.  It was always a place that I wanted to visit and actually see more than the hotel and the airport.

We splurged on a night at the Grand America Hotel.  If there ever was a place that made me think of Eloise, it is this place!

My previous visit happened in the fall and the hotel was beautifully decorated and the city was gorgeous.  This visit - with Christmas decorations and holiday lights - was simply magical.
 We arrived early in the morning - thanks to a 6 a.m. flight and the time difference.  It did mean that we had a 4 a.m. wake up call, but that was ok, I was already awake with a little stomach bug.  Needless to say, we said some prayers and made it through the direct flight from Kansas City to Salt Lake City.

By nightfall, I was feeling much better and finally getting into the Christmas spirit.  I can attribute this to the lights...they were everywhere and so classic and elegant!
 An outdoor tree in the courtyard was a brilliant focal point.
The interior of the hotel was beautifully decorated.  The window displays around the hotel each had a different  holiday theme.  The hotel sponsors a window viewing experience and the chance to earn a cookie by visiting each window and answering a question.  We learned that the viewing of the windows is a family tradition for many in the area.
 Did I mention the beautiful trees and floral arrangements?  There was so much to see and so much to help us feel like the holidays were here.
On Sunday morning, we woke up to a rain shower that had settled in.  I convinced my husband to make the walk from our hotel to the convention center to hear the Morman Tabernacle Choir during the Music and Spoken Word taping.  It was a really beautiful 30 minute session where the audience was directed to be completely silent.  The music was beautiful and the message was so inspiring.  I loved the reminder from the season to "fear not." You can read the message now and a year from now, see the whole service.

More from our adventures soon!

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Fishing and picking blueberries

So, our Canada vacation was certain to include fishing - a lot of fishing.

And, that was great!  I actually enjoyed the fishing a thousand times more than I initially planned.  And, we caught fish! 

The website for our camp said that one of the owners would take us blueberry picking.  As soon as I read this piece of information, I was set on picking blueberries.  I talked my husband and dad into going along.
I had in my head an idea of what picking blueberries might entail.  But, I had no idea that wild blueberries are so small! And, close to the ground!
After driving down some rough back country roads, we pulled over to pick in these sections between rows of trees.  The blueberry plants were about ankle high and really plentiful.
So, my husband was a great sport.  He put on his geeky fisherman hat and as with everything he does, he went after it.  I think he took it as a personal challenge to pick more berries than our host.
My dad was also a super good sport. I have some pretty special guys in my life who will give up an afternoon of fishing to pick blueberries.

Since we have been back, we have made some blueberry muffins with these flavorful, tiny berries.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Potosi Brewery

Our Canada adventures continued as we kept rolling across Wisconsin.

Before we left, my husband had tried to talk me into not planning ahead and just driving until we got tired.  I am not a big fan of not knowing where I am sleeping each night.  (Plus, I really like having a goal and trying to beat the GPS time.) We planned very carefully where we would end each day's driving, but we left to chance where we would eat.

When we were cruising across Wisconsin, we started the debate about stopping for dinner earlier or pushing through to LaCrosse.  A sign for the Potosi Brewery won us over.

We pulled off the highway and drove into a little town...and kept driving.  Just before I started to lose hope, we finally saw this great little set of shops, the brewery and a conference center.
The brewery is nestled next to a hillside and it made the most beautiful backdrop for the building and patio. This was the view that bordered the parking lot. I think this was a little cave or something.
The town felt like a little mountain town.  It was super long and at the edge of town, this little strip of shops came into view.
The brewery was just across the street.
The place was full of history about Potosi beer and the history of brewing in general.
It was nice and cool outside, so we walked through the restaurant, but chose to eat outside. (One of my favorite things!)
The view on the patio was spectacular.  They had a little stage where the host live music and a spring-fed pool.  I was driving, so I only had a little sip of the beer.  Though, my husband gave it high ratings.  The food was phenomenal - great prices and really delicious.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Unexpected discovery - Holy Ghost Grotto

The road trip to Canada took us through a lot of beautiful farm country.  We quickly rolled through Kansas and Nebraska and enjoyed two stops in Iowa.  And, we still had miles to go before we could sleep.  Our plan was to stay in LaCrosse, Wisconsin.

Almost as soon as we rolled into Wisconsin, we found this amazing church in Dickeyville. We drove by the church and it wasn't so much the brick church, but what was beside it.

It was so amazing looking that we drove around the block and decided to stop and walk around. What caught our eye was the grotto.

We learned that the grotto was dedicated in 1930 and was a tribute to God and country.
Everywhere we looked, there was detail. Case in point, the fence and the flowers in the urn.
This was the view that first drew us to stop.  The visitor center was just the beginning.
The brochure told us that "six or seven truck loads of thirty tons each" were used to create the display.
Can you imagine the time and dedication to complete something of this magnitude?
I was especially fond of the little pops of color in some of the sections.  And I loved all of the plants!
Such artful use of color and texture.
Plus, that sky!  I could have taken photos of it all day long.
There were some sections that just really drove home the patriotic theme and I couldn't help but think about how much my mom would love this unusual display.
This was one of my favorite sections.  It was tucked behind the school.

That sky! It was a beautiful, peaceful little place to stop and stretch our legs.

Monday, November 10, 2014

The American Gothic House

How does one survive a nearly 21 hour car ride?

This summer, we took off for a fishing trip in Canada and I had to figure out how to get my husband there with a little bit of sanity.  He's not a huge fan of car time, though he really likes to travel.  This always turns into an interesting balancing act of getting there, but having some fun along the way.

My idea for survival centered on some strategic stops along the way.

On the drive to Canada, we had two stops we wanted to make - a small, small town in Iowa and the Antique Archeology store. We were able to accomplish both.

The small, small town was Eldon, Iowa.  I really wanted to see the American Gothic House. I have always loved the American Gothic painting, so much so that when we visited Chicago a few years ago, a must-see was the original painting at the Art Institute of Chicago.

We cruised into Eldon on schedule, but I must have read the hours wrong on their website.  The visitor center was closed, but we enjoyed the beautiful little garden of native plants and of course, the house!
If you stand in the window outline in the little plaza, you are perfectly positioned to take a parody photo with the house in the background.
The visitor center was surrounded by some beautiful blooms (and a frisbee golf course.  I am sure if we had more time, we would have broken out our frisbees for a round or two. Frisbee golf was a new hobby we picked up this summer).
If you are ever driving through Iowa and want a fun little stop, we highly recommend this little detour.  Try to go when the center is open - they have props you can use to stage the parody photo for real - an opportunity we missed!

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Snow in the forecast

Snow is in the forecast for the coming week.  I have mixed emotions about the onset of winter.

We have been talking wistfully about a snow day - a true snow day when everyone is safe and the roads are impassible and then the sun comes out and melts all the snow before anyone has to go anywhere.  (Ok, we have been delusional about a snow day that doesn't exist.  Our real motivation is just a day at home with a perfectly good excuse to set our own schedule.)

We have also been enjoying a fantastic fall!  We have been blessed with moderate temperatures and beautiful, beautiful trees.  I have been loving every second of the weather and am sad to see it turn colder.

So, winter.  It is coming.  The possibility of snow days are ahead.

Colder temperatures throw us into a flurry of activity - working ahead on chores, extra bedding for the animals, firing up the snow blower, moving things around in the garage to accommodate our vehicles, cleaning up the garden and flower beds, and much more.  The list is always longer than the amount of time we have to give.

Colder temperatures also make me think about scrapbooking - one of my favorite activities when it is too cold to be outside.  Give me a good snow day and I will burn through a pile of pictures.

So, I am trying to organize some photos and supplies for my first scrapbooking marathon.  That led me to some of my favorite pictures from this summer.  Prepare yourself for a few posts about summer fun...just getting to them a few months later.

We went to Canada on a long promised vacation with my dad. We told him for years that we would go fishing with him in Canada - visiting an area near where he has fished with family before. We chose Tall Pines Camp on Wabaskang Lake in Perrault Fall, Ontario.  It was a long drive, but really exciting to be in a new place and to feel like we were "away."

We arrived on the first night in just enough time to see the sunset over the lake. 
We saw a moose on the way to the camp.  My husband - eagle eyes - spotted it right away and served the paparazzi.
We picked up groceries in Canada on the way to the camp.  I geeked out over the food labels.  The cabin has some cooking utensils, including a cast iron skillet.  It was a new experience to cook on cast iron for the week.
Our encounters with wildlife were some of the highlights.  My dad is a nature guy, so he loved everything.  There were little pairs of loons - some with babies - on the lake and we had several families of ducks near the docks by our cabin.
One of my favorite experiences was seeing bald eagles.
The lake was really beautiful.  We had rain and cool temperatures, but it wasn't nearly as cool as I had expected. We also caught some fish.  I enjoyed the fishing so much more than I thought I would.
We had to go check out the falls that are the namesake for the lake.  Everything was really, really beautiful and peaceful.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Alpaca yarn giveaway and sale!

Happy November!

In celebration of making it through October and the beautiful fall, we are doing two things...

1.  Giving away a small "sampling" of alpaca yarn.   When we receive our yarn back from the mill, we usually have smaller skeins that are the end of the run.  There isn't quite enough for a full skein, so the mill packages whatever is left into these cute mini skeins.  We like to give these away for people who want to sample working with alpaca fiber.

So, we are giving this set of three mini skeins!  These are all natural, no dyes.

If you want to be considered for the giveaway, leave a comment on the Facebook post or this blog post. Tell us what you plan to do with the yarn or make with it.  We will randomly draw someone on December 1.

2.  Offering a sale on all of our alpaca yarn that we have on hand (not any that we have in consignment locations).  Each skein is $15 (not $18-22.50 as usual) and tax is included. This is for the month of November only.

If you have anyone on your list who is a knitter or weaver, this is a great holiday gift idea!  I am really thinking a lot about the holidays because someone told me the countdown until Christmas.  I have forgotten the exact number of days, but I do remember the small sense of panic I felt.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Plant geek: O'Hare Urban Garden

  I made it to the airport with plenty of time for my return trip home.  The extra breathing room gave me a few minutes to check out one of my favorite places at Chicago O'Hare - the urban garden near gate G.

It was super early, but really full of passengers.  It makes me think that the secret is out.  It's a quiet place to work, though the chairs are not super comfortable and the one outlet I could find was not working.  (In the traveler's world, electric power is everything.  People scout out and guard outlets like they are gold.)

It was fun to see the growing tubes and all of the different varieties of herbs and greens.
 If you are toward G, just look up for the signs and you may even be able to see the plants. There is seating all around the outside of the garden.
I am really fascinated by how they set up the growing structures.
 The signage tells explains that they use the plants in some of the airport restaurants.
I found a place to set up and work and was enjoying the quiet and relative dark space.  And, then, the lights came on!