Visit with Scott and Gwen - September 2011

In mid-September Larry and I made a whirlwind trip to New Jersey, Connecticut and New York, to visit family and friends. We managed to get everything in but it was sooo whirlwind it was too quick - wish we could have stayed longer.

Our first leg of the trip was a stop in Edgewater, NJ (next to the GW bridge and across the Hudson from NYC) to visit Scott and Gwen. We love visiting with the "Sgwotts" and especially when we are able to trek into NYC and explore, eat and just soak in the city.

We spent 2 nights with Scott and Gwen. Friday night we managed to swing a trip to La Vecchia Napoli ( in Edgewater, NJ.

Photos of La Vecchia Napoli, Edgewater
This photo of La Vecchia Napoli is courtesy of TripAdvisor

Scott and Gwen are regulars at this fabulous little Italian restaurant. The owners are so nice and you just feel that you are at home - fabulous food. I always order Linguine and Clams - best in the city! :)

Saturday we drove into NYC for the day. We managed to find a parking lot that wasn't ridiculous (I guess by NYC standards) and just walked around and took in the sites.

One stop was Eataly (, which is located down by the Flat Iron building. It's this amazing food market - just beautiful. Although, I will say it was too crammed with people, which I know is a good thing, but definitely hard to work your way through with all these people.

Since it was lunch time, we went up to the roof of Eataly to Birreria (, a restaurant and brewery. It was really nice to be on the roof, taking in the sun and enjoying the people watching.

Photos of Eataly, New York City
This photo of Eataly is courtesy of TripAdvisor

Unfortunately, the cheese and meat plate and salads we ordered were really pricey. Maybe, by NYC standards it's OK, but for us it seemed a lot of money for not that much food. But it was very tasty.

As we headed into evening we went to one of our favorite restaurants - La Palapa ( which we always try to go to when we're in town. Great Mexican food. Unfortunately, without fail, I always fill up on their fabulous guac and chips before my entree (grilled shrimp) arrives - and then I'm completely stuffed!

The visit with Scott and Gwen was way too short...but were on our way to CT to visit friends and family for part 2 of our trip.

Crystal Lake 4th of July Parade - July 2011

I will fully admit that I am a latent parade-phile. It must be me being incredibly shy as a kid and walking in Redding, CT's parade as a Girl Scout - I vividly remember wanting to break free of the line and run to higher ground towards "freedom."

So I've been avoiding parades like the plague...until we moved to Crystal Lake. They are practically unavoidable since the parade route is smack in front of our house. So...I've learned to embrace and even enjoy the parades. Hey, as long as I don't have to be in them, I can "safely" enjoy them from the sidelines, or in our case our front porch.

This year Larry and I decided to once again host a little BBQ after the parade. We thought we had a "brilliant" plan to set things up in the front yard and avoid the mosquitoes in the back. And our plan would have worked had we not made one MAJOR error - I'll get to that in a minute...

The plan was for my parents, Hope and Greg and their kids and Bill and June (family) to stop by after the parade if they could make it.

In the beginning of the parade a guy stopped by and asked us if he could leave his bike in our driveway during the parade. We didn't even give it a thought and said yes.

The parade came and went and we started to get ready for the BBQ.

Well, Mr. Bike Man returned for his bike and since it was really hot out, Larry and I thought it would be nice to ask if he wanted a beer.

Well.....1 hour later...alhough it felt like eternity...Mr. Bike Man was still there! He wasn't talking to anyone, just texted away to someone, not budging. We started to get a bit nervous and trying to figure out what to do. Even some of our guests thought he was a friend...we couldn't explain anything until he left, which wasn't happening.

So finally, we decided to pack up the food, as a hint, and that finally worked.

Note to's nice to be nice...but maybe next time we need to set some parameters or give someone a to go drink!

Cruise to Mexico - June 2011

The four of us arrived at the Port of New Orleans on time and ready for our new adventure. Gwen and Scott had already been cruising, but Larry and I were newbies.

I will say that if you are planning on going on a cruise, if you can afford it, go for a suite. Not only is the room a very nice size, all the suites get speedy boarding and departure privileges - I tell you this is the way to travel!

I honestly think I would have had a mini nervous breakdown if we had to wait in line - I swear the lines went on forever for the regular boarding.

The cruise itself was an experience and I definitely would want to do it again, but maybe next time not on Carnival. It's not that it was bad, it's just that it was a little too 20s-something partying - not really our speed.

The room was nice and big, but I'm still trying to figure out how Carnival can say it was recently updated - it looked kind of tired to me.

Unfortunately on the first night Scott started to feel ill and subsequently came down with a bad bacterial infection for the whole cruise. But I will say despite the fact that he didn't feel well, he was a real trooper and came out for dinner etc.

We mainly hung out on our balcony because, honestly, the areas where you would want to go to, the pool, miniature golf, etc., were incredibly stuffed with people.

My only other complaint is that we booked a cruise with only one stop. We did this on purpose because we weren't sure we'd like cruising, but it seemed kind of goofy to go all the way down to Mexico, stop at a port for 6 hours and then head back!

Our one port was Puerta Maya, Mexico. I believe were we actually docked was a few miles away from the actual town. The port had this carefully crafted tourist area, where you could really only see what they wanted you to see - it was surrounded by walls blocking your view of the actual town. After debarking Larry and I managed to walk off site and get a look of town - definitely a hard-hit area. Hopefully tourism helps keep some of the money in the town itself, because it was definitely a poor area.

The tourist area was just that. People were a bit too pushy for my taste for you to buy something. I was actually really looking forward to going to the jewelry shops because they had Tanzanite (my favorite), but it just seemed like a rip off. It could have been fine, but it just made me too nervous to buy something and then have to worry that I was being ripped off. Although, I did buy some beautiful black pearls for next to nothing.

The cruise was a great opportunity to de-stress, eat, take in the sun and hang out with Scott and Gwen.

It was a great time, although we wish Scott wasn't sick. We'll have to have a "makeup" trip for Scott - nothing like having a good excuse to travel! :)

Here's to our next adventure with the Sgwotts!

New Orleans - June 2011

For my 40th birthday, Larry surprised me with a cruise.

We'd never been on one before and I must say despite the fact that we used a travel agent to book the still was a daunting process to decide where we were going, when etc.

The "known" factors were we were traveling in June and that we were going with Scott and Gwen, our travel buddies whom we always have a fabulous time with.

So after going round and round of where we were going to go, we decided to go to the Western Caribbean. What sealed the deal was that we'd be leaving out of New Orleans - a favorite of ours. Larry, Scott and I had been there, but not Gwen. So we thought, "Let's kill two birds with one stone" - go to New Orleans for a couple of nights and then the cruise. Perfect plan.

It was a perfect plan until IL down to LA was hit rain and it began to flood! Apparently I was very naive about flooding, because I thought "OK, if floods and then it takes a day or two to subside." Well, it apparently doesn't. It takes time to crest and then to subside, leaving, unfortunately potential disaster in its wake.

So by the time we were ready to drive towards New Orleans, our "half-way point" of Tunica, MS, was under water! We love Tunica. It's this amazing town with casinos, literally in the middle of cotton fields. It's about 20 miles south of Memphis and a great little junket if you are passing through or want to try your hand at lady luck.

So Tunica was out and we decided to to go via Nashville - slightly out of the way, but since we love Nashville, we were game. We decided to stay in Franklin, TN again since we had such a nice time there in the Spring. That's what Larry and I love to do - find little cities and towns on our trips - it makes for new adventures and the promise of finding potential great restaurants and shopping!

So despite our serpentine route to New Orleans, we made it almost on time to meet up with Scott and Gwen.

It was nice to see that New Orleans was on it's way to recovery from the hurricane, but it seemed a little worse for the wear. But it seems that New Orleans is a rough and tumble kind of place, so I suspect it will bounce back.

We stayed at the beautiful W Hotel in the French Quarter. As you can see in the slide show above, the hotel has this gorgeous and very private courtyard. Larry and I were trying to figure out how to copy it for our backyard. The appeal other than the fact that it was stunning? No grass or weeds to pull!

We spent our time in New Orleans pretty much walking around and eating. And despite the fact that it was in the 90s, which I hate, for some odd reason it didn't bother me.

We made sure Gwen got a good taste of the city with stops on Bourbon Street, Nola (yum!), beignets at the French Market, Jackson Square, pedis for Gwen and I and MORE food! What's not to love.

It was a great couple of days in New on to the cruise!

Franklin, TN – Our Favorite New Destination - May & June 2011

Larry and I have a new favorite get-away destination: Franklin, TN. I’ve been reading about it for some time: it always seems to be written up in Southern Living or the now defunct Cottage Living (sniff, sniff, sob, sob). So I added it to my “Places we need to go to” binder.

We were there two times recently – once in May and another time in June.
We are huge fans of Nashville, which is about 20 minutes from Franklin, so it’s a great side trip if you’re in Nashville or in my opinion can be a destination in and of itself - it was actually the site of the Battle of Franklin duirng the Civil War (OK, I looked that up, but we have family who went there and knew about the history).

Franklin offers great shopping for the home and cute boutiques. And you have plenty of fabulous dining options.

The town is just darling – if we lived in the area I could see us living in Franklin and commuting to Nashville for work. It’s has a great small town feel with, yet has plenty to offer.

I can see why magazines have showcased this town – it’s a little piece of heaven, with gorgeous homes, yummy places to eat and will certainly satisfy your shopping fix.

If you have time, you should also visit Leiper’s Fork – about 8 miles away from Franklin. It’s a beautiful drive from Franklin to Leiper’s Fork: rolling hills, horse farms, stunning old homes – my kind of area!

Although we quickly visited Leiper’s Fork – OK, I was starved and even a cute little town couldn’t dissuade me from finding food! – we were able to, albeit it very quickly, see it’s charm. It’s literally a ½ block of artisan shops and restaurants. There was the original Puckett's which we tried at their restaurant in Nashville (it’s also in Franklin) – and it just looked like a great place to have beer, BBQ and relax in the country while listening to music.

It’s definitely located off the beaten path – but Larry and I love that and usually find the best food/towns/etc. by traveling the back roads.