“Where is Human Nature So Weak as in the Bookstore?” – Henry Ward Beecher

I love to read! I’ve also been a member of the most wonderful co-ed, young professionals book club (filled with the smartest and most fun people in Rochester who all just happen to love a good book, tasty food, delicious drinks, arts and culture, and parties/socializing just as much as I do!) for the past three years. I’ve been able to dive into some really great reads through book club (and have made some truly awesome friends), but outside of book club picks, I just haven’t been reading nearly as much as I’d like to. A very exciting but very busy job, lots of travel, adult responsibilities, and maintaining hobbies and relationships with family and friends will do that to you. Somehow – as much as I hate to admit it – reading just seemed to fall lower and lower on my list of priorities amid other demands, necessities, and desires. So, this year, I made a list of 21 books I’ve been eager to enjoy and that I think I can, reasonably, make time for in 2016. It was really tough to narrow down the long list of books I’m itching to read to just these 21, but there are plenty of years ahead to delve into the ones that didn’t make it onto this year’s list for one reason or another. Alas, in no particular order, my 2016 reading list is:

The History of Love
All the Light We Cannot See
What Alice Forgot
Queen of the Fall
To Kill a Mockingbird
Go Set a Watchman
N.W.
The Mercy of Thin Air
A Sleepwalker’s Guide to Dancing
Church of Marvels
Night Vale
Yes Please
Cannery Row
Neverwhere
Landline
A Tale for the Time Being
My Accidental Jihad
Persepolis
Geek Love
The Shadow of the Wind
The Big Oyster

I post this list partially to hold myself accountable (I’m off to a good start! I’ve finished All the Light We Cannot See and am about halfway through both The History of Love and What Alice Forgot, and our book club meeting for Queen of the Fall – which is also the “If all of Rochester read the same book…” book for 2016 – is on March 3rd, so I have to finish that one by then), partially to see what others who have read these books think of them, and partially to hear what my friends and family are planning to read this year.

I’d love to hear what you have read recently and highly recommend, and what you are very excited to read in the near future…please share!

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Dresses, Junk Food, and Boy Bands

A few weeks ago, my good friend and bowling league buddy (yes, we’re in a bowling league…those still exist) and I were reminiscing between downed pins and delightful, greasy platters of tater tots and chicken finger sandwiches and jack & cokes about our high school days – music, fashion, prom…PROM. And then we, and the other women on our league, talked about nothing but our proms and prom dresses and prom shoes and prom accessories and prom dress shopping experiences and wedding dresses and wedding dress shopping experiences for the remainder of our games that night. By the time we left the bowling alley, Bethany and I had hatched a plan to do what any awesome, sane, grown, married, career minded, family women would do…drive to the mall listening to our favorite boy band the entire way and try on prom dresses.

And we did.

On Sunday we left all our responsibilities behind us (and for that I think we owe a pretty significant ‘thank you’ and ‘you rock’ to Bethany’s husband for walking in the front door from work and immediately being on daddy duty to their two young daughters and one needy pup for the remainder of the day while Bethany and I went off to shop like care-free teenagers), plopped our favorite Backstreet Boys CD into the CD player of Bethany’s car, drove to the mall, ate Marble Slab ice cream and Auntie Anne’s pretzels and lemonade, and went nuts in Lord & Taylor, in search of the most fabulous (and also hideous) formal wear we could get our hands on.

It was glorious.

Seriously, you wouldn’t believe how much fun we had. This mental health day was a very-much needed, excellent idea.

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We learned that Bethany looks amazing in mermaid gowns (which she previously thought were not a good look for her) and that she can rock super low-cut v-neck dresses with a sheer overlay like no other, and that the sheer-waisted black and white dress I tried on as a complete joke (just to see how horrendous and immodest it was) was actually the most comfortable, flattering, and fantastic dress for me! We also learned that most pant-suits are hilarious, that there are some super ugly dresses for sale out there that multiple someones must have approved of (for what reason, we cannot fathom) before they hit the racks, and that we wished we had a spare $300 to spend on unnecessary dresses…and somewhere to wear them to. We also re-remembered (though I know we never forgot in the first place) how delicious Auntie Anne’s pretzels are, and why we loved boy bands.

But, really, if you need a mental health day, grab a great friend, step back in time a decade, and go prom (or cruise or gala) dress shopping.

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Cactus Makes Perfect

This week I took a short trip to Lamberton Conservatory (a.k.a. my new winter reading nook!) in Rochester’s Highland Park. I’ve passed by the conservatory dozens of times in the past four years, but someone finally posted a picture of the inside of it. All you had to do was tell me there were cactus in there, people! If I’d known, I’d have gone in years ago! I’m a sucker for cacti. After all, you can take the girl out of Texas, but she’ll always love cacti, tacos, and Blue Bell.

This is the perfect place to spend a few hours during the bitter winter months because it’s toasty warm and dry in there, which is really the only thing Rochesterians crave in January (and soup). At $3 for a single visit or $10 for an annual pass, the price is right too. Also, there are dozens of lazy turtles and sweet little quail who live in the conservatory to keep you company. While I was there, I saw an older gentleman reading his book on a bench by the Spanish moss, and I realized he was a genius. I intend to plant myself on the oversized chair in the Southwest room, surrounded by cactus, with the next book on my reading list, ASAP.

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On the topic of cactus, these two adorable pieces, the Medium Format Memory Tunic in Cacti and the Cacti and Time Again Watch, both from Modcloth have totally had my attention lately. I think my wardrobe needs them!

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Do you have a favorite reading nook in your city?

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Christmas in Tuscany

When you’ve neglected your dear blog for six long months, the only way to come crawling back to your loyal readership is with the sincerest of apologies and a darn good post to make up for it. And so, I present “Christmas in Tuscany: A slideshow”. Obviously, it was terrible. I definitely wouldn’t recommend it. Especially not the olives. Or pastries. Or cheese. Or wine. Or wild boar salami. Or gelato. Or the Tuscan countryside. Or the art. Or the architecture. Nope, nothing magical here. I’m sure you’ll agree, but I’ll let you draw your own conclusions. Just in case. Anyway, turn on your speakers, hit play, and expand to full screen view using the button on the bottom right of the video frame to check out all the reasons why you should absolutely never visit Italy, ever:

For real though, while I could probably do without the adventure of driving on the world’s most narrow, sharp, and winding roads (in pitch darkness, while coated in a persistent blanket of thick fog, with an overlay of terror and nausea, and a Renault Twizy going 3x the speed limit 2 feet behind you before finally deciding to pass illegally on the narrowest of one-lane roads with a steep cliff just inches to the right), those hairpin curves snaking up and down the hills and valleys of central Tuscany did lead to some pretty stunning sights.

Our villa was in Strada in Chianti (see it here), and we visited Florence, Lucca, Pisa, Arezzo, Monteriggioni, Siena, Greve in Chianti, and Milan.

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Another Year

It seems like there are a lot of August babies among my family, Ted’s family, and my circle of friends. Late August babies specifically. I bet you I could list off at least 15 close friends or family members with birthdays in the last half of August. In other words, I’m in good company with some of my favorite folks!

I’ll be turning 29 this year. And I’m looking forward to it! I don’t dread growing older. The thought of an upcoming birthday doesn’t fill me with horror, dis-ease, worry, sadness, anger, avoidance, or even apathy. It’s an honor and a blessing to see another year; to celebrate in the presence of my dear family and friends or whoever might be joining me that day; to think back with awe and nostalgia over 28 years well lived. 28 years with more than my fair share of happiness, love, blessings and opportunities; to be grateful for who I am, what I have, who I have, and to be thankful that I’m here to experience more of this world and all the adventures, ups, and downs that come with it. And to consider the ways I can continue to grow personally and try to make the world a better place in the next year. That’s gift enough. I like birthdays. I like what they mean. I like what they stand for. I like what they celebrate. And I like TO celebrate; mine and others!

One of the things Ted always teases me about is how childlike I am at heart. I have the giddiness of an 8-year-old in so many ways, and one of those ways is birthdays. I still wake up excited for them! I still make a birthday list every year, even though I know birthdays are really about something so much more wonderful than material gifts. And I think about cakes and candles and celebrations and cards and friends and balloons and wrapping paper and surprises. And I don’t know that I’ll ever stop making a birthday list. Not that I need any of the items I may put on said list. Not that I couldn’t save up my own money to buy those things on my own one day. And definitely not that I expect to receive them, or anything else, on my birthday. Seeing another year among those I cherish is enough. But it’s part of the excitement; part of the tradition; part of the fun.

And so, my birthday list:

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 {New Balance Women’s W980 Boracay Running Shoe in Teal/Yellow, size 10 B(M), $120, available on Amazon and shoes.com}

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{Boy Meets World, the complete series DVD set, $50, available on Amazon}

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{Try the World annual subscription, 6 boxes delivered over 12 months for $200, available on trytheworld.com}
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Something practical and useful, something entertaining and comforting, and something surprising and adventurous – gifts that keep on giving throughout the year.

Ah, to dream!

We all think about it (okay, maybe not all, but most of us think about it maybe just a little bit…right? It’s not just me?)…so, what’s on your birthday list?

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Summer On

SUMMER IS HERE.

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In other words, life has been in busy, full, blossoming swing lately! And, as a direct result (despite having plenty to share!), my blogging has silently fallen away to the back-burner as my days have filled up with people and activities, and my attention to summery things has bloomed.

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Most importantly, Ted is home for summer! And with that there’s an abundance of long and eagerly awaited drive-in movies and dinner dates with friends and baseball games and rounds of mini golf and theme park trips and bike rides and disc golf games in the park and beer and ice cream and board games and window shopping and afternoon jogs and Parenthood episode marathons and Saturday mornings at the market and a million other wonderful little things to enjoy. Not that there hasn’t been long (sometimes exhilarating and sometime gruesome) days at work directing our Shakespeare summer conservatory program or financial planning meetings or doctors appointments or puppet shipping logistics or theatre renovation woes (for both of us) or trip scheduling and budgeting sessions or silently sneaking glances at the wall calendar and dreading what I know is coming way too fast. Believe me, it’s all there. It’s all a blur, all tumbled up and mixed together; sometimes beautiful and sometimes overwhelming. And a lot to re-adjust to too. But mostly, it’s good. It’s summer. It’s here. He’s here.

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I’ll share our summery adventures on here one of these days (if I’m being honest, I really mean in September, not one of these upcoming days), but for now we’re alive and hanging in there. For now we’re together and the summer I’ve been waiting impatiently for for the past nine months is passing too, too quickly. Like all summers do. For now, all is well in our little family. Hope it is for you too. Summer on, friends!

 

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A Weekend Getaway to Niagara-on-the-Lake

Three girlfriends and I took a wonderful and whimsical weekend getaway to Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario for the Shaw Festival this past weekend. It was pure bliss!

We stayed at the beautiful Highbrook B&B run by Ken and Joanne. They were lovely hosts and excellent cooks! The B&B was an easy and convenient 7 minute walk into town, and our weekend there was nothing short of luxurious, warm and welcoming, comfortable, immaculately clean, artfully decorated, and fun. We especially appreciated the Kurig for warm frothy beverages and delicious freshly baked banana muffins and lemon loaf directly outside our bedroom doors in the morning, access to wifi, complimentary snacks, a nightly dish of dark chocolates, and a guest fridge for us to keep the two bottles of wine Chelsea’s awesome husband, Andrew, sweetly asked Ken to surprise us with upon our arrival on Friday evening, and the private hot tub on the back patio that we made fine use of each night after we returned from the theatre…with glasses of wine in hand, of course. If you’re looking for a stunning B&B in Niagara-on-the-Lake, look no further! This place takes the cake. And the breakfasts….drool-worthy! They were everything we’d hoped for and more. And I’m missing that glorious hot tub already.

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11350423_478805775628782_563485044686731965_n{The 9 photos above are from Highbrook B&B’s website and Facebook page. My own photos of the place definitely did not do it justice – these were a much worthier choice and more accurately depict our heavenly weekend accommodations}

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IMG_2891{We ventured out each morning, good and full from the baked goods, warm drinks, hearty and flavorful homemade breakfasts, and fruit salads we devoured. Those home fries were to die for, the bacon was splendid, the salted tomatoes perfectly ripe, the bread freshly baked, and the Gruyère and asparagus frittata a real treat}

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IMG_2698{For obvious reasons, I don’t have pictures of theatres or the plays we enjoyed at the Shaw Festival, but we saw Peter and the Starcatcher at the Royal George Theatre, Top Girls at the Court Theatre, and You Never Can Tell at the Royal George Theatre. They were all great shows, but what stood out to us the most in each production was the clever, inventive use of creative and whimsical staging. They were all so uniquely and gorgeously staged – from the costumes, to the scenic, lighting, sound, and property designs, to the colors and textures, to the projections, to the direction and how the cast and creative team used the space to tell each story. Really bold, interesting choices all around in each of the productions that were worth the artistic risk. With each show there were many exciting, unexpected, gorgeous, and fantastic somethings to fall in love with. Lots of really fun moments in Peter in the Starcatcher, especially!}

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IMG_2730{Fish n’ chips – with salt and malt vinegar, of course – for dinner, mango gelato inside a giant frozen mango for lunch, fresh hot poutine in the park – fries, gravy, and cheese curdy goodness, and a smattering of treats I brought home to savor – strawberry rhubarb wine, blueberry cinnamon wine, vidal icewine, lemon curd, Devonshire clotted cream, butter shortbread, and dark chocolates filled with maple icewine}

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IMG_2896{Tempting tapas – brushetta board, lobster cake, goat cheese and onion tartlet, gnocchi porcini, and lemon curd tart – and a shared bottle of Riesling-Gewurztraminer for dinner from Oliv Tapas Bar and Restaurant at Strewn Winery. The food was rich and incredibly flavorful due to the multiple varieties of flavored olive oils and balsamics used in each dish. Everything was superb, but my favorites were the ones that used the blood orange olive oil! At their tasting room in town I fell in love with the grapefruit, cilantro, chocolate jalapeno, and bacon and fig oils and balsamics. They have great flavor profiles and I’ve been enlightened to the many ways oil and balsamic can be used in cooking and baking!}

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IMG_2714{Sunday morning we took a Good Morning Cycle Tour with Niagara Wine Tours International and we had a fantastic time! The weather was sunny, 77 degrees, and just a little breezy. In other words, utterly perfect! We rode on the stunning Niagara Parkway trail that runs along the Niagara River and stopped at three wineries – each with a very different style from the last – for about 24 tastings, including icewine. Our tour guide, Martin, was awesome, had some great stories to share, and was funny, too. Along the way he shared the history of the area with us, rode us past some really neat historical things that we would have completely missed out on learning about and seeing otherwise, and explained a lot about vineyard pruning, wine making, and grape growing as well. The 16 kilometer bike route along the parkway, on the public roads past miles of vineyards, and through shaded forest bike trails was gorgeous. I especially loved biking on the country roads with rows and rows of grapes surrounding us on either side. It felt right out of a lovely Italian movie. Any bottles of wine we purchased – hello, icewine! – were left at the wineries with our names on them and a van came by after we rode off to take it back to the company’s storefront in town for us so we never had to worry about trying to haul our wine purchases around with us while biking….they just made it too easy to buy delicious wine, these people! The cycle & wine tour was a splendid way to cap off our girls weekend. Now, in about two weeks time, I’m looking forward to enjoying these wines, as well as the wines I collected from the Keuka Lake trail while my parents were in town, with Ted}

Verdict: Get thee to Niagara-on-the-Lake and the Shaw Festival this summer!

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When Spring Turns to Summer

Things have been slightly less adventurous, but still pretty darn busy, on the home front since my parents visited nearly two weeks ago. Summer is always busy, isn’t it? We have these very chill, lullaby images in our heads of lazy summer days spent running through sprinklers and reading books in hammocks and churning homemade ice cream and embarking on bike trips or hikes with our buddies between visits to the zoo and planetarium, in all our copious spare time. And there is a certain amount of that. But summers as an adult are definitely a different ball game than the summers of my childhood. Anyway, here’s a few small highlights of what the last part of May and early part of June have brought:

IMG_2577{Many beautiful several mile canal-side and lake-side runs with my bi-weekly running buddy and her pup. Sometimes we stop for creamy, dreamy Pittsford Farm Dairy lemon chiffon custard after a run. You know, to refuel…}

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IMG_2592{Martini is “so big!”}

IMG_2574{Much to my delight, my funny co-workers have started making use of my Shakespearean word magnets on our temporary office door…theatre renovations are gearing up to start soon…eek! It’s going to be a wild few months while the theatre is under construction, with hopefully stunning, world-class results!}

IMG_2580{A pair of stupid-soft and perfectly fitting overalls arrived in my mailbox from my sister. They’re so awesome I can hardly stand it! I’m bringing overalls back this summer, y’all…}

IMG_2587{Delicious, relaxing breakfast at Harvest Cafe on a Saturday morning before a busy day ahead!}

IMG_2591{This little piggy may have gone a bit overboard at the public market. I can’t help it that NY has such fantastic, fresh, local produce that demands to be eaten! A lot of awesome rhubarb recipes, tasty breaded asparagus fries, and a killer ratatouille were in my future when this photo was taken…I just didn’t know it yet!}

IMG_2615{I have a real obsession with rhubarb…don’t send help}

IMG_2661{My first rhubarb creation of the season: a classic rhubarb crisp flavored with fresh vanilla bean and zested orange peel. It’s everything I hoped for and more! On future rhubarb menus are a rhubarb-gin sorbet I’ve been lusting after for weeks now (need an ice cream maker ASAP! Please send help!), lots of neat rhubarb drinks, and a bunch of adventurous rhubarb desserts!}

IMG_2620{One of my first and best friends in Rochester, Kristen, moved to Vegas last summer and I’ve been missing her terribly these past nine months. Our sushi date was wonderful and I love that we can always pick right back up where we left off. We really “get” each other – through thick and thin. Our monthly hour-long phone dates help, but there’s nothing as sweet as having her back in town for a visit!}

 I’m looking forward to seeing what else summer has in store!

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Short Visit, Long Memories: Part III

My parents came to town for a week over Memorial Day weekend and, I have to say, it was the best. The week they were here was simply wonderful! We drank a bottle of wine, ate custard or grape pie (it’s a Finger Lakes thing), and played cards every single night. We ate Greek, Italian, German, American, and more at a bunch of fantastic local restaurants, took a long and lazy stroll through Highland Park, made lots of guacamole, did Friday night Bingo (I can hear you laughing from 600 miles away…it’s a big thing up here!), went to the market for rhubarb and fresh-cut lilacs, visited many ice cream parlors and apple markets, had a family movie night, saw a play at the theatre, spent a day on the Keuka Lake wine trail, and cruised the scenic Erie Canal on a charter boat with margaritas in hand. Clearly, I want them to come back immediately.

In case you missed it, click here for Part I and here for Part II.

Below are our photos from the 3-hour Colonial Belle scenic cruise of the Erie Canal that’s part history lesson (very interesting canal history and you get to go through a lock and back to see firsthand how that works) and part relaxing river cruise (cue the mellow music and strawberry-peach margaritas!). I’ve been on this particular cruise twice now and have loved it both times. It totally helps if you go on a beautiful spring day before it’s too hot out. That day we also enjoyed our fresh-cut lilacs from the market, made a tasty dinner of wine, cheese, crackers, guacamole, olives, and salami, chopped some rhubarb, and did our usual post-dinner bottle of wine, plate of grape pie, and round of cards. It was a perfect day!

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Thanks for coming Mom and Dad! I loved having you and you are welcome anytime! Come back soon! And everyone else: you’re long overdue for a visit! ;)

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Short Visit, Long Memories: Part II

My parents came to town for a week over Memorial Day weekend and, I have to say, it was the best. The week they were here was simply wonderful! We drank a bottle of wine, ate custard or grape pie (it’s a Finger Lakes thing), and played cards every single night. We ate Greek, Italian, German, American, and more at a bunch of fantastic local restaurants, took a long and lazy stroll through Highland Park, made lots of guacamole, did Friday night Bingo (I can hear you laughing from 600 miles away…it’s a big thing up here!), went to the market for rhubarb and fresh-cut lilacs, visited many ice cream parlors and apple markets, had a family movie night, saw a play at the theatre, spent a day on the Keuka Lake wine trail, and cruised the scenic Erie Canal on a charter boat with margaritas in hand. Clearly, I want them to come back immediately.

If you missed Part I, you can view it here.

Below is our morning at the Rochester Public Market where we ogled all the tasty, fresh, local upstate NY produce and came home with a beautifully fragrant bunch of just-cut lilacs (which only last a day or two after cutting, unfortunately) and about 12 bundles of freshly picked rhubarb (my culinary obsession, if you didn’t know) from my resident rhubarb guy. Mom took a bunch of it back home to Texas since limp rhubarb runs about $8 lb. there. When in NY, you stock up on excellent rhubarb for cheap!

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Afterward, we piled in the car for our day trip to the stunning Keuka Lake Wine Trail. The trip down was nothing short of divine! Really, the views around Keuka Lake are absolutely splendid and the weather that day was mild, breezy, sunny, and generally unbeatable! The wineries are up in the hills surrounding the lake and, in addition to a wide array of truly fantastic wines, the wineries around this particular lake have the most incredible views from their tasting rooms. We visited 4 out of the dozens of wineries (Dr. Konstantin Frank, Keuka Spring Vineyards, Keuka Lake Vineyard, and Rooster Hill Vineyards), tasted somewhere between 24 and 36 wines each, had lunch at Bully Hill Vineyard’s restaurant that boasts a killer view of the lake and equally killer food (the best Texas brisket sandwich I’ve has outside of Texas, ever!), did a wine and gourmet chocolate tasting at Keuka Lake Vineyard (highly recommended!), and collectively took home about 15 bottles of wine that day alone. There are many more wineries around this lake we wanted to try…but that just means we’ll have to return for round 2 this summer…and my parents will just have to come back for another visit!

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IMG_2456{I don’t remember what size bottle this is, but it’s about 4x the size of a standard wine bottle…and I think I need it}

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IMG_2483{It may not look like much, but it was remarkably delicious. A tender, flavorful brisket is an art!}

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IMG_2491{This tasting room view at Keuka Spring is so fabulous I can hardly stand it!}

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IMG_2518{I hope you noticed the cat I captured strolling right through this field of cows. I took this picture from the passenger seat of our car going 60 mph. I wanted a picture of the sweet cows grazing in the field and was later surprised to see this picture had been photobombed by a cat! Love it!}

IMG_2545{9 of the 15 bottles of wine my parents bought. They took home 10 of them in their 2 carry-on sized suitcases and managed to make sure both bags weighed in under 46 lbs each and none of the bottles broke on the flight home. That’s true skill! We drank the other 5 bottles. They were delicious}

More to come tomorrow; stay tuned!

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About

Welcome to Newlyweds in New York!

I'm Lara, a native Texan in a newlywed state of mind enjoying wedded bliss and the adventurous life in Rochester, New York with my husband Ted. We are proud owners of the Green Bay Packers and both work in the professional theatre industry - me in the artistic realm and Ted on the production scene - where, rest assured, there is never a dull moment. We met in Lansing, Michigan, wed in Door County, Wisconsin, started our married life in Cincinnati, Ohio, and have now made our way to the Roc City. I love the arts, traveling, the great outdoors, cooking, eating, discovering all the awesome things to do in upstate New York, adventuring, animals, and schmoozin’ with our family and friends. Follow along with us as we navigate this crazy/beautiful life together!

Currently…

Anticipating - Some meaningful personal projects, a list of good books to read, our next vacation, and being a part of creating exciting theatre!

Craving - Hearty winter soups and stews.

Creating - Blurb books to hold our photo memories and a watercolor project!

Loving - Friends, family, my home, my job, great theatre, and Rochester!

Planning - Not much right now for once...and it feels awesome!

Reading - All the Light We Cannot See, and The History of Love

Theatre - To Kill a Mockingbird - all day, everyday for the next 2 months!

Thinking - Of warm baths and tall, fat glasses of wine

Watching - Boy Meets World (I'm moving on to season 6 of 7!)

Wishing - For more of the same, because life is beautiful

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