I certainly don’t mind getting my hands dirty and “roughing it” when the occasion calls for it, but when looking to take some time off this summer, I knew I wanted to spend it outdoors but still be a bit pampered.
I had looked at Camp Orenda for years but never had the ability to book a stay.While I still debated doing it this year, I went for it and LOVED IT. I can’t recommend Camp Orenda enough for those looking for an Adirondacks experience.
The site has various canvas tents that are set up like hotel rooms. The plush Eddie Bauer comforters and fleece blankets were heavenly! There are also ceiling fans and electric heaters.
Base camp contains the gear tent, creekside pavilion, backcountry kitchen and fire pit. The gear shack has everything you may need: hiking trail information; life vests, paddles and dry bags; water bottles; mountain bikes and helmets, and more! There are also lots of goodies that you can purchase to take a piece of Orenda home with you. The creekside pavilion has a cooler to store beverages, lemonade, ice tea and trail mix to enjoy anytime. There are picnic tables, rocking chairs and stools overlooking the creek. A cabinet holds board games, cards and blankets. This was my on-site office because it was closest to the wifi router in the gear shack. The backcountry kitchen is another pavilion with an outdoor kitchen where the staff provides all the meals. Coffee, hot water (with tea and cocoa) and water is available, and the meals served are UNREAL - more on the food later. The fire pit almost always has a fire crackling and is surrounded by Adirondack chairs. It’s the perfect spot to relax with a good book during the day or a s’more at night. There is also another pavilion with hammocks if you need yet another perfect spot to unwind. This area sits right on the creek. At the top of the camp is an area for ax throwing and archery; I didn’t check this space out, but I think it’s pretty cool they have it.
I took advantage of the nearby access to Garnet Lake and took a Kayak out on my second day. It was very quiet and serene. Orenda provides kayaks and canoes right at the water that you can take out whenever. I kayaked south on the lake away from any houses. There wasn’t another soul on the water. I had some mellow music playing softly, a drink in my hand and the sun on my face and just coasted for a bit. I can’t explain how peaceful it was. At one point a loon was calling and that, apart from my music and the smallest of waves, was the only sound I could hear.
There is a bathhouse up the hill from base camp that has two bathroom stalls and a central sink. The toilet seats are heated, which was nicer than I could imagine when I was up early on chilly mornings. There are little cubbies for each cabin if visitors want to store items there. The shower is further up the hill on the other side and has a very large changing area and shower space, complete with a rain head spout and tons of hooks for items. Shampoo, conditioner, body wash and lotion are all provided. They are an eco-friendly line and smell amazing!
Every meal at Orenda is provided. And let me tell you, you aren’t getting dinners this good anywhere else. Some of the best food! It is farm-to-table food and pretty much all locally sourced. The breakfast spread included two types of cereal, yogurt, fruit, granola, hard-boiled eggs, coffee cake, muffins, pastries and these egg and scallion creations that were really good. For lunch, you fill out a form at breakfast and then they have your lunch waiting for you when you want to grab it. If you leave late, you can pack it with you. I was an early hiker, so I grabbed it whenever I got done hiking and back to camp. You choose between a few types of wraps, Boar’s Head meat and cheeses, vegetables and condiments. There are a bunch of bags of chips to grab, fruit and cold candy bars in the fridge (I couldn’t resist those!).
And for dinner, I will repeat, there were the most delicious meals! The first night they served up hamburgers with greens, bacon, blue cheese, fried egg and homemade brioche rolls and homemade french fries. They also had some sort of veggie dish on the side and you could help yourself to condiments like ketchup, mustard and a garlic aioli. On night number two we were served the best pork chop I’ve ever had with an apple mint chutney, turmeric quinoa with veggies, asparagus, garden salad with homemade dressing, homemade sourdough bread and a maple butter to go with it. I was spoiled with the best meal the final night because I was the lone camper. It started with a caesar salad (with homemade dressing and sourdough croutons, of course) then I had steak cooked PERFECTLY with a chimichurri sauce, which I didn’t know what that was but oh my goodness was it amazing and now I need to know how to make it! I had green beans and rice with some seasoning (that I can’t remember) with peppers on the side. I had no problem clearing my plate. Dessert every night was s’mores by the campfire.
Everyone at Camp Orenda was incredibly nice and helpful. Being a solo traveler, I always felt safe, cared for and special. I can’t say enough about the staff at Orenda. The other two groups that were there for part of my stay were the nicest, great people, too.
I am no doubt going back to Orenda next year. I wanted to push myself with hiking, which I did, but next year will be more about relaxing. Maybe just two hikes instead of four and definitely more time spent on the water. Don’t hesitate to book a stay at Camp Orenda. It is worth every penny and more.
Feel free to reach out if you have any questions about my stay!
…And I must go." I had that John Muir quote stuck in my head all week leading up to my solo hiking trip to the Adirondacks!
My goal for this trip was to log 20-25 miles in four days and I succeeded with 21.62 total miles and a total elevation gain of 3,698 feet. My GPS tracker was a little different than what some signs said for trail lengths, but overall it was fairly close.
I was in the southern Adirondacks, so no high peaks this trip, but they are now something I definitely would like to go back and tackle some day!
Day 1: Round Pond
I had big goals to go in and do a summit once I arrived to the area, but after driving all day I realized it would be smarter for a less strenuous hike. Therefore, I headed out for Round Pond. It was just under five miles and fairly easy with a few decent climbs. All the trails I went on were very well-marked, which I noticed and appreciated right away. This out-and-back trail takes you to a serene pond where you hear birds and the occasional loon and that’s it! It was very peaceful
Day 2: Crane Mountain
I loved this hike! Most markers and sites list this loop trail as four miles, but mine was less. I always check out AllTrails comments before hikes, and I agree that counter-clockwise following red-blue-red markers was the way to go. The ascent comes quickly and it’s a rocky, steep climb to the summit, but the rest of the loop was easy with the last 1.5 miles trekking through the woods along a small stream. The view at the top is amazing and every bit worth the climb!
I will add, I was quite proud of myself on this hike because I do not care for heights. When I had to summit Mount Mansfield in Vermont I was a mess at the final climb, and it took me a while to get comfortable getting up treestands. I did my research and knew what I was getting into for this hike. A tall ladder is part of the trail towards the top - and I climbed it easily with no fear! Sometimes, if you fear something, you have to jump in and face it, and that’s what I did. Although I still won’t go near any edges on mountaintops, I am much more comfortable and confident throughout any part of the climb.
Day 3: Peaked Mountain
To be honest, this hike wasn’t my favorite. I think Crane spoiled me from the day before. This was a seven mile out and back and the summit didn't come until the end, and it seemed to take much longer to finally get to the top. The beginning portion of this trail was very tranquil through woods mostly following a small brook, so the sounds of water flowing over rocks accompanies you for a lot of the way. I ran into a flock of baby turkeys up near the top, so that was cool, but overall I probably wouldn’t do Peaked again.
Day 4: OK Slip Falls
I FLEW on this hike on my final day. It was a relatively flat trail that ended with a spectacular waterfall. I wasn’t sure where to go on the trail to get closer since the blue markers ended and there were some yellow painted hashes, so I stopped where the blue markers stopped and headed back out. I was a little antsy to get on the road, so I didn’t want to waste too much time trying to figure it all out. From what I read in my research, the trip down to the falls is extremely hazardous and dangerous, so that was another reason I stayed on the overlook and went no further. It was the perfect, easy trail to end my trip on. A great trail for beginners.
Again, I am no expert, but for the casual hiker, these items have worked well for me and kept me feeling safe and well-prepared. Doing research before you go is crucial. I always read about trails I’m interested in before I do them so I am not caught off guard and know what to expect. I think that is another very important part of being a responsible hiker and outdoorswoman!
For those that don’t know, the National Park Service has a passport program that I found out about in 2017 and have been hooked ever since. You can buy these little passports that contain all the NPS sites and when you visit a site, you can get a stamp with the date in your passport. You can also collect annual regional and national stickers or stamps to add to the booklet. It’s a fun little way to keep track of where you’ve been and incentive to visit more!
While I was down in the Lancaster, Pennsylvania area recently for a wedding, I was looking around the area to see what was nearby to check out to get the most out of a quick trip. To my enjoyment, Valley Forge was just 15 minutes away! So I visited the site on my way out of town. There is a ten-mile encampment driving tour you can do with nine stops, so it was perfect for me to explore that day. The first stop is the visitor’s center where you can get your stamp and walk through a quick museum on the history of the site and its larger meaning.
Stop No. 2 is Muhlenburg Brigade. Here, there are a bunch of reconstructed huts that you can enter to see how the soldiers lived while stationed there. There are many such scattered around the site, but this is the best place to explore them. A nice gentleman pointed out a reconstructed redoubt to me that I would have missed otherwise. It was very cool to see how they were built and used and what a great location it was as it sits atop a hill with long views stretching into the distance.
Stop No. 3 is the National Memorial Arch, a beautiful piece of architecture and a great photo op with the flag waving in the background on a beautiful summer day.
Stop No. 4 is the Wayne Statue, where the Pennsylvania commander looks longingly toward his home miles away.
Stop No. 5 is Washington’s Quarters. This is a large area on the site that is well worth getting out of the car and taking the time to walk around. It contains a few buildings and a great statue of Washington, made as a replica of one of the most famous of the founding fathers and the one Washington himself said resembled him best. Unfortunately, the buildings were closed by the time I arrived, so I couldn’t go inside, but I still loved roaming around this stop.
On my way to the next stop I passed the Soldiers of New Jersey Monument. I didn't see any monuments or markers dedicated to soldiers from New York, but I also wasn't able to see everything too well while driving.
Stop No. 6 is Redoubt 3. If I wouldn’t have seen the redoubt at the second stop, I wouldn’t have understood this one as much. I am very thankful, again, to the gentleman that pointed it out to me early on! This redoubt has not been reconstructed but enough exists to see how it was built and where it stood.
Stop No. 7 is Artillery Park and a beautiful location amongst an open field and a few trees with cannon on display. It is a reminder of the everyday fear of attack these soldiers had while stationed here, on top of the excruciatingly difficult conditions they were forced to live in.
Stop No. 8 is the Steuben Statue, Varnum’s Picnic Area and Varnum’s Quarters. The area where the statue is a pretty overlook onto the Grand Parade. There is also a walking trail down in the Grand Parade that looked interesting but I didn’t have time for. I also didn’t have time to check out the picnic area here, but I walked over to the quarters (although this too, was closed).
Stop No. 9, the final stop, is the Washington Memorial Chapel, a beautiful, more modern church. Again, as being short on time, I did not go in the church and the gift shop was closed, but the architecture was gorgeous and I enjoyed a quick walk around.
On the way out is the Patriots of African Descent Monument that I slowed down to check while driving past but didn’t get out to grab a photo.
Valley Forge National Site was well-worth the trip! I wish I had a full day to spend there to bike along the paved paths and to walk along the trails. I know there was a lot more to take in that I missed, but I am so glad I was able to check it out while in the area! I highly recommend it.
Hello again. It seems at the start of every year I start up this blog again only for it to die off again in a few months. But, this time I’ve devised a different plan. Since I post fairly regularly on Instagram and Twitter but rarely on Facebook, I thought I would do a monthly update to keep me on schedule and share with those who are only on Facebook.
It was a rough start to the new year. Let’s just say I was at a pretty low point due to some personal situations I had no control over. But I’m glad to say by the middle of the month I started feeling like myself again. I had wanted a sparkly, fun new year, but was curled up on the couch alone instead. Certainly an Instagram vs. reality situation.
On December 15, the Bills hosted a playoff game against the hated Patriots. It was a Saturday night game in below freezing temperatures - and I went and it was AMAZING! I was about 12 rows up on an endzone, great seats with some big plays happening right in front of us. I was so bundled up and yelling and dancing that I never got cold. It was one of the most perfect games you could ever see a team play and, as a lifelong fan, it is something I will never forget and am SO happy that I was there in true Bills Mafia style to witness it live.
Although it was a cold and snowy January, I enjoyed some time outdoors. Clear, cold days are sometimes the most beautiful. Thankfully we’ve had some snow so I’ve been able to hunt a few times. The day the Bills played in the division playoffs in Kansas City, I took a walk along the canal to get some energy out. The snow was supposed to stop in the afternoon, but clearly by the photos you can see it was snowing and blowing quite intensely. I still enjoyed getting out for a bit and getting a little cardio in. Unfortunately, the football game was one I’d like to forget…
After I finally got settled into my new place, I had my parents over for dinner and made two delicious Half Baked Harvest recipes. For dinner, I made her French onion pasta without the prosciutto. I had made this before and was craving it, so I made it again and decided to share. So good!! Those fresh herbs in there with the onion and creamy cheese is perfect. For dessert, I made maple cookie pie. It is basically a pecan pie-like filling with ooey, gooey chocolate. The maple taste seemed to get overpowered by the chocolate, so when I make it again I will probably leave the chocolate out. So easy to make and very yummy. Everything was so good that I forgot to take pictures before it was devoured!
I wound out the month by taking a day to myself in Rochester. First, I did a thing I’ve never done before: ate at a restaurant by myself. I had brunch at the Brown Hound inside the Memorial Art Gallery. I don’t know what I was so afraid of. I sat at the bar and chatted with the staff and really enjoyed myself. I had a cider mimosa and a breakfast poutine, which was a special that day. I can never say no to poutine! Everything was delicious and the staff was really great. Definitely worth a return trip.
I then walked around the MAG. It was my first time here. I hope more people in the area visit the museum. It’s crazy to think I’ve driven by the MAG so many times without ever knowing that it contained Monet, Warhol, Rockwell, Rubens, Matisse and so many amazing artists. They had a cool little room for kids that was themed with activities for their main gallery. I like that they include that space to keep kids interested and involved.
After the MAG I went right down the road to the Eastman House and Museum, another first that I had passed by plenty of times. They had two fantastic exhibitions on display. The first was From an Untouched Landscape by James Taylor that focused on the removal of Aboriginal culture from Australia. The main exhibition was I Believe I’ll Run by Joshua Rashaad McFadden. It comprises seven different series that explore various genres such as social documentary, reportage and fine art. I really enjoyed McFadden’s work. I particularly liked Evidence, Unrest in America, After Selma and A Lynching’s Long Shadow. I believe the exhibition is at Eastman until June. Now, during Black History Month, would be a great time to get out to see the work while taking time to reflect on its meanings.
I love old houses so I loved to see the Eastman house meticulously kept as it was in all its grandeur. The library was one of my dreams! A beautiful space. I plan on going back in the spring/summer when the grounds are all in bloom.
Speaking of libraries, one of my favorite parts about my new apartment is that all my books are unpacked and on display! I bought an old settee at an estate sale this summer and it completes the perfect little corner of my apartment.
For book club in January we read Verity by Colleen Hoover. Don’t hate me, but I am not the biggest Colleen Hoover fan. The book wasn’t bad, but I just can’t really seem to adore her books like so many do. I then read The Lincoln Highway by Amor Towles. Towles’ A Gentleman in Moscow is probably in my top ten of favorite books, or up there close. His writing is magnificent. I enjoyed this novel, but I almost had to put it aside early on because it contains one of the most hated characters I’ve ever encountered! I loathed this character. Even when narrative was added to gain sympathy for his actions, I just couldn’t forgive or feel anything for him. I hated him! It took a bit to get over that. Alka Joshi’s The Henna Artist was very good. I will most likely read her follow-up novel down the road. It’s always nice to step into a culture and world outside of the United States, and this novel deeply immersed you in India. Paula Hawkins has written some great stories, but A Slow Fire Burning was perhaps the most forgettable, even though I still enjoyed it! I closed out the month with The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller. I love anything that touches on historical fiction, and love anything close to Ancient Rome. I was torn on my thoughts on this one. The writing was superb, but sometimes it’s hard to get through a fictionalized historical story when it’s different from how your mind has always believed it to be. I look forward to reading Circe at some point to see how it compares.
That wraps up my January. February is already off to a great start. I’ll be back to share in another month.
Come gather around people, wherever you roam….
It’s been a crazy few months. My life has changed so much since my last blog in March and I’ve purposely waited to post an update until all things came to settle and I can talk about EVERYTHING. So, here we go.
As you probably know, I quit my job in Cincinnati last October and moved back home. I had been very unhappy for a while and needed a change. It was a terrifying, big step. Before making that decision, I was in one of the lowest points of my life. I felt stuck, alone, constantly unhappy. I was really struggling. I sought counseling (it helps! Do it!). I retreated within myself (it’s how I cope; I don’t allow myself to be vulnerable). It was bad. I was bad. But I took the first scary step of erasing something that did more harm than good (my job).
So I moved home and everything was magically better, right?! Hell no. Things were better, but still not good. My birthday hit mid-March and I dropped pretty low again. Birthdays are always tough for me, I’m not going to lie. That’s a topic for a different time… I didn’t have a full-time job, I was living with my parents, I never saw my friends. Everything I thought would fall into place hadn’t happened yet. As I said before, I am not good at opening up and dealing with my thoughts and emotions, but I let go and had two open and honest conversations with two different friends. I didn’t hold back and for once outwardly expressed how I felt and what I was going through. Well, it was as if God was listening and rewarded me for letting myself pour out to others. The next week I applied to three jobs and heard back from all three within days. Holy cow.
Fast forward through a crazy few weeks of job interviews and I started working as the Communications Manager at the Diocese of Buffalo. It truly was the perfect position for me at this point in my life. Back when I finally got the courage to seek out counseling, I looked for one who could relate to my Christian religion. An area I was struggling with was my faith. I would look around and see everyone happy and having these cookie cutter lives and I couldn’t understand why I wasn’t like that, too. My faith wavered. I used to rely so heavily on my faith to get me through the dark times, but I just couldn’t find it. It wasn’t lifting me up like it used to. So, when I finally landed my next full-time job and found myself embedded in my home Diocese, I knew God was still there. I was reminded so many times how His plan is there. It is! Even though He may seem so distant and uninvolved, He is working! My months at the Diocese brought me right back into the firm Catholic I always was. It reconnected me with my faith, and I am so grateful for my time there.
That time was cut short only because a position that was ten months in the making finally came to fruition. I had heard of a friend’s retirement back in August 2020 and knew if there was a job back home that would make me happy, that would be it. Fast forward to July 2021 and I am the new Community Schools Public Relations Coordinator at Albion Central. I get to hold the reins on the district’s communications, plus I get to oversee the senior internship class/program. I am so excited to work with kids again! That is the biggest thing I missed after leaving college athletics. I can’t wait to guide and form relationships with more students.
That’s the recap on the job front, but there’s more! When I moved back home, the old Pillars mansion had been bought and remodeled in a vintage French theme. This past winter when I moved back home I got to know the new owners, and this summer I will BE LIVING THERE. Seriously. I get to live in a gorgeous, historic mansion. The owners have to move out for the school year while one finishes law school and they wanted someone to be there to keep an eye on the place. There is a two-bedroom apartment that will be my private headquarters. I am moving in (slowly) as this is posted and have just helped with the first wedding officially as the caretaker.
If this isn’t another sign from above that moving home was the right decision, I don’t know what it is! I wanted to buy a house, but the market is way too wild right now. All of a sudden, this opportunity dropped into my lap just as I decided to end my commute to Buffalo and work right in town. Kerri and Cole have become such good friends and mentors to me and I treasure all the moments spent with them. I consider myself so lucky, not just for them entrusting this estate to me, but for their camaraderie and belief in me. It really was meant to be that we both landed in Albion around the same time.
The last bit of news in this trifecta is that I am heading back to school. I know, not as exciting as the other stuff. When I left Kent State for Cincinnati, I had finished one master’s degree but had a few classes in my PR graduate program to finish. Well, I never had the opportunity to complete it. That unfinished degree always bothered me. I was looking around to see what different schools offered and found Buffalo State’s online master’s in PR. It’s part-time and set up for working professionals. And they are accepting some of my old credits, so in a year and a half I’ll have my second master’s. I am super excited to get that degree!
I’ve been reading a lot this spring and summer, but this post is already too long, so I’ll be back to recap some books soon. If you’ve made it to the bottom of this page, I appreciate it. Make sure you make decisions in life that are the best for YOU. Happiness is the greatest gift. Know that God has a plan and you just have to be patient and trust him. Until next time. xo
It’s been a while since I’ve shared my recent reads, and we are also in film awards season, so it’s a good time to write about those two subjects. I have a long list of classic literature that I want to get through and made some headway at the end of 2020 and beginning of 2021. Do you know I never read “The Catcher in the Rye” or “To Kill a Mockingbird” or “Lord of the Flies” in school? Neither in high school or college! I started with James Baldwin’s “Go Tell It On the Mountain”. First off, I am a HUGE James Baldwin fan. I actually hate that I did not know of him or much about his activism and work until more recently. When I was at a Hank Willis Jr. exhibit at the Cincinnati Art Museum there was a video montage that used mostly all of Baldwin’s words and speeches to narrate. It was amazing. And awe-inspiring. Baldwin is a true treasure.
I then moved on to tackle some James Joyce, starting with “Dubliners” and “A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man”. I liked the short story style of “Dubliners”. Next, I took on “Ulysses”. Now, I’ve read Tolstoy, but Joyce’s “Ulysses” has to be the most difficult book I’ve ever read. The stream of consciousness narrative was difficult to follow and the metaphors and hallucinations of the characters and everything else that makes the book legendary also made it very difficult. It’s not that I did not enjoy and respect it, but I was very glad to be done with it. Certainly a challenge.
The final classic I read was “Brave New World” by Aldous Huxley, which was very good. An excellent dystopian novel for anyone with interest in that genre. Sit it up right beside “A Handmaid’s Tale”. Political and personal preferences aside, I have always enjoyed reading Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard’s Killing series. I knocked off “Killing England” and “Killing of the Rising Sun”.
After those classics and non-fictions, I took a swing back into some fiction. Sue Monk Kidd’s “The Book of Longings” was great. I was hesitant to read it since I don’t fully believe in some of the story, but keeping in mind it is truly fiction made me appreciate the story. It was a good read for Lent, too, because of the view of Jesus’ life, death and personality.
Back in December I joined a book club with some old friends and former high school classmates. Here’s what we’ve read so far:
• “Vox” by Christina Dalcher (eye-opening dystopian novel, very good)
• “Backstage Pass” by Olivia Cummings (steamy romance novel, if you’re into that kind of thing)
• “The Light in Hidden Places” by Sharon Cameron (YA Holocaust novel based on a true story - fantastic read)
• “The Magic Strings of Frankie Presto” by Mitch Albom (great writing and a lot going on to keep you intrigued; good, but not the warmest read)
We already have our April pick plus I’m underway on a new stack of fiction, so I’ll be back with all those reads once I get through them!
In terms of film and documentaries, I have a lot of work to do! The Academy Awards are coming up in a month, so I have some time left but need to get watching! I loved, loved, loved, loved “Mank”. If you haven’t seen or don’t fully understand the film “Citizen Kane”, “Mank” will do nothing for you. But as a movie buff (especially the classics) Mank checked all the boxes for me. I already want to go back and watch it again. Chadwick Boseman is a front-runner for best supporting actor, and it has nothing to do with his passing. His performance in “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” was PHENOMENAL. And I mean that to the extent of every one of those capital letters! A great August Wilson-based film. If you liked “Fences” from a few years ago, check out this one. I already touched on “Soul” in a previous post, so will skip that here (loved it). “The Prom” was eh. Great cast, but nothing earth-shattering. A fun watch. “One Night In Miami” was excellent. I mean, Leslie Odom Jr. can do no wrong in my eyes so it was great to see him in a big film. Loved the whole premise, the dialogue, the acting, everything.
The only nominated documentary I’ve watched so far is “Time”. It was good, but it struggled to hold my interest at times. The message was extremely poignant in our current society. I’m looking forward to watching a few more in the coming weeks.
What have you been reading lately? I’m always open to suggestions to add to my list. Have you watched any movies or documentaries lately? As always, leave a comment and let me know what you think.
The last weekend of February I took a quick trip to Cincinnati to visit friends and take advantage of some awesome exhibits available at the city’s many museums. It was a very, very, much needed break. I needed some social interaction and normalcy with friends, and I couldn’t be more thankful for everyone who made time in their weekend to see me. Truly, I appreciated it so much.
One positive of the pandemic is that my membership to the Cincinnati Museum Center is still active because it was extended due to the museum having to shut down for a few months. Their OMNIMAX theater is one of a few across the country and I’ve been very lucky to have seen a few movies there. I checked out Backyard Wilderness, which was about all the nature and life going on right outside your suburban window that you probably have no clue exists! As someone who lives and was raised in a very rural area, I am quite aware of my outside environment, but the film was really kid-friendly and appropriate for the area.
While at the CMC, there was a small exhibit downstairs about the women’s fight for the right to vote, with specific artifacts from Ohio. It fit right in with the four-part class on women in the workplace I had recently finished up and my trip to the Susan B. Anthony House and Museum earlier this year.
The CMC is housed in one of the landmark buildings of Cincinnati. It is worth the trip just to check it out. Originally the Union Terminal, you can still see many facets of the building’s original purpose - a train station. It opened in 1933 and the art deco craze was clearly at a high during that time. You step inside a huge, domed main concourse where there are intricate mosaics on the wall. Navigation signs are still up on the walls in art deco fonts. I love that building.
The main exhibit I was excited to check out while in town was at the Taft Museum of Art. Walk This Way: Footwear from the Stuart Weitzman Collection was amazing for any shoe lover! The collection included everything from boots from the early 19th century to thigh-high red statements from the show Kinky Boots. One of my favorite pairs in the collection was a pair of leather pumps signed by the 1941 New York Yankees (a favorite for obvious reasons). There was also a display of art deco heels that were stunning! I would love wearing any shoes with such beautiful, intricate bottoms!
If it isn’t clear to you yet in this blog, I really love learning. Any chance to check out something historic or thought-provoking, I jump at. Cincinnati offers such a great array of cultural and memorable gems. I miss living so close to all these places, but I am excited to check out some new museums and centers in WNY to fulfill my interests.
During the weeks of Thanksgiving to New Year’s I really let go of my eating well and working out kick, but with the turning of the calendar I am happily back on board. Meal prep has been a huge part of that. It is so much easier to make food in bulk, throw it in containers and then just pull it out of the fridge or freezer when it’s time to eat. I have meal prepped breakfasts, lunches and dinners and plan on doing a lot more of it! Here are a few of my favorite recipes.
BREAKFAST: Although not a meal prep, I tried out a protein pancake recipe I was hesitant about but ended up loving. It’s simple: 2 eggs, 2 scoops protein powder, 1 teaspoon baking powder and 6 tablespoons water or milk. I halved the recipe for two perfect sized pancakes for one person. I used Tone It Up’s vanilla protein powder and ate those just with syrup or mixed in blueberries another day. I also used Tone It Up’s chocolate protein powder and added strawberries on top or mixed in some butterscotch chips. For breakfast meal prep, I made two dozen of these baked oatmeal cups. I again halved the recipes to end up with about four of each kind I wanted to try. Then I threw in some labeled freezer bags and was all set! In the morning, I pull out a bag, unwrap, microwave quick and I have an easy, delicious breakfast. Big fan of these.
LUNCH: With snow and temperatures falling I used up some items into a big pot of chicken noodle soup. I used egg noodles and threw in some carrots, celery and kale. I used a basic recipe I found, but I was not a big fan of it. Not enough flavor. I’ve made chicken noodle soup before and it’s been better, so I will not use the recipe I followed for this batch. Definitely need to find one of the older recipes I used before or create my own next time. Nevertheless, it made a lot, and I separated into containers and grabbed each morning as I left for work. An easy and comforting lunch. When I didn’t do a big meal prep for lunch, I would try to put together my lunch boxes on Sunday for two days and Wednesday for the next two days (since I’m just working Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday right now). Again, preparing ahead makes it so much easier in the mornings!
DINNER: One of my favorite new recipes was this one for honey sesame chicken bowls! I had been craving Chinese food, but had never tried making it before. I did these with basmati rice and carrots. They were amazing and super easy! I did make more sauce each night when I pulled one of these out for dinner since they dried up a bit. But it did not take long at all to heat a little bit more sauce on the stove, so still a quick, simple, healthy and delicious meal.
I also made some venison meatballs with mozzarella cheese in the middle. My dad and I ate these as open-faced meatball subs. I love meatballs because you can make a ton then freeze to grab to throw on any pasta or heat up for a sub any other time. I always choose venison when I can since we have a freezer full and it’s better than beef.
I feel as if I wouldn’t be myself if I didn’t share at least one fabulous Half Baked Harvest recipe that I’ve tried lately. This time, it is her Folded Buffalo Chicken Wraps. Wow. I tried these out on a football Sunday and have made them a few times since. Again, they are super easy but super yummy. I modified her recipe by mixing Boss Sauce or Country Sweet with the chicken and yogurt. I then did shredded lettuce and green onions. Naturally as a Western New Yorker, I went with blue cheese instead of ranch, then rounded it out with cheddar cheese. I thought this would be a recipe that she claims is really easy but would end up a messy disaster, but she was right. They folded up nicely and were one of the best “football foods” I think I’ve ever made. Definitely a new favorite.
I’m always looking for new healthy meal prep ideas, so please share any of your favorites in the comments below! Or if you try any of the above, let me know how they turned out. Most can be modified to suit different tastes and needs - I’d love to hear what you made!
Since film awards shows are coming up (albeit a little later than usual), I have started my yearly trek to watch as many as the nominated films and documentaries as possible. Even though nominations aren’t out yet, it’s clear what some of the frontrunners will be so I can still get started. A few weeks ago I watched the Pixar animated film “Soul”. I loved this movie so much! Pixar usually does no wrong, and this one did not disappoint. The film was a great reminder to appreciate the little, everyday things in life. It also told how you don’t always have some predestined “higher purpose” in life that you constantly are trying to obtain. While striving to be the best of the best and this sought after achievement, you can very easily miss many wonderful things that surround you day by day. It certainly was a great reminder to me to sit back and take in the beauty around me, whether it be a lightly falling snowfall, a red sky at sunrise, Lola sprinting in the new snow, bright red cardinals eating at the bird feeder.... There really is a lot to take in and appreciate.
Also in the past two weeks I completed an EdX online educational series called “Women Have Always Worked” from Columbia University. It was a four-class series that I started back in the spring. I also finished a Harvard EdX course called Women Making History: Ten Objects, Many Stories. I found all five classes fascinating and learned a lot. It made me look in to taking some actual women’s history or gender study classes to work on another degree… but that’s a ways down the road.
Coincidentally it was a great time to learn about the struggle of women over American history and the fight for equality. When I read all the presidential biographies, women were rarely mentioned, and rarely in positions of power and influence. I realize now it was certainly a male-dominated, white-washed version of US history that I received. These classes opened up a whole different side and an entire new way of thinking. These classes also came at a great time in current history as we have elected our first female vice president to office. All very fitting.
I was itching to get out and about so I took a trip to the “city” on another Saturday. My first stop was the Susan B. Anthony House and Museum. It is crazy to me that this amazing woman and so much history is right in Rochester yet I never knew of it or learned much about it before. So, on a snowy Saturday, I trekked over and received a one-on-one tour. The tour guide was great and it was really cool to have a personalized conversation since it was just the two of us. I highly recommend checking out the museum if in the Rochester area. There were great artifacts from the suffragist movement. It was amazing to know Ida B. Wells, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Frederick Douglass and others spent time and put their brains together with Anthony in that house. Goosebumps!
The main visitor center was Susan’s sister’s house while the other was Susan’s. The museum is nestled in a quaint, quiet neighborhood. There is a park right down the block with a statue of Anthony, clearly telling a man how things should be! And I loved that someone also made sure she was warm on the snowy day and gave her a scarf.
After the Susan B. Anthony trip, I grabbed some Chik fil A and Starbucks, perused through Home Goods and a large antique center and then went home. It was really a great day to just get out of the house and get up and around while still staying safe during the pandemic. It fulfilled some little pleasures in my life, too, just as “Soul’s” Joe and 22 taught me to.
“I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.”
It's stating the obvious that after a rough 2020, 2021 isn't off to the best start. I never want to be too political here, and try to use this creative outlet to be positive and share a little joy. So, when thinking of what to write to start off the new year my mind kept focusing on the good. What can we do to spread positivity and try to counteract the hate and negativity? Little things cannot solve everything, but what if every person did one little thing to help someone else? Wouldn't that be a wonderful thing with lasting effect? I'm optimistic enough to think so.
Many people are struggling right now and cannot give back financially. But, there are still ways to support our local communities and help those who are even worse shape than we are. Or for those in the worst shape, ways that they can still give back, spread joy and feel connected and tied to a larger cause. I brainstormed some ways to show some love right in your own community without any financial obligation. Interspersed are some of my favorite quotes from Martin Luther King, Jr., who we remember and honor on this day. Let his words sink in, and let's all show a little love this year.
“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”
1. Clean out your closet and donate clothes to a local organization. When I moved back in with my parents back in October, I was putting things away in the front closet and found a few winter jackets of mine from when I was in high school. Obviously, they have not been worn in more than a decade, but they are still in good shape. I'm sure I'm not the only one who has old clothes or coats hanging around. January is the coldest month on the calendar; I know there are people right here in my own community who would appreciate a warm winter coat right about now. An easy way to give back and help yourself get cleaned and organized, too.
“Every man must decide whether he will walk in the light of creative altruism or in the darkness of destructive selfishness.”
2. Make cards/write letters and send to local nursing home. I know there may be at least one crafter reading this. Pull out your construction paper! Get the kids involved! My heart aches for the elderly community in long-term care facilities that can't receive visits from their loved ones during this pandemic. Even in normal times, there are many that never receive visitors at all. Why not brighten someone's day with a homemade card? No craft supplies? Pull out an old-fashioned pen and paper and jot down a quick message. Tell them who you are, what you do, what your hobbies are. Have your kids do the same and tell what they are learning in school. Bring a smile to someone's face.
“Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?’”
3. Volunteer at local food distributions or soup kitchens. I am in awe every time I see pictures of the cars lined up for the food distributions we have held in my town. The other day on the way to work I saw it first-hand. So many people are in need right now to simply put food on their families' table. I know in my town they are always looking for volunteers to help sort and load the food on these days. Soup kitchens may not be able to operate quite like normal due to COVID-19, but when I've volunteered before I've worked behind the scenes in the stock rooms unpacking and sorting donations. With what is likely an increase in donations during the recent holidays, soup kitchens may be able to have volunteers behind the scenes helping in these areas. A simple phone call could get you that information.
“Man must evolve for all human conflict a method which rejects revenge, aggression and retaliation. The foundation of such a method is love.”
4. Volunteer at the local animal shelter. Our furry friends need love, too! There are many ways to help at shelters where there is limited contact with others. Help clean out kennels. Take a shelter dog for a walk. Spend some time petting cats and getting them better acclimated to new humans. Again, a simple phone call to your local shelter will tell you what you can and cannot do and what kind of help they need. Many also appreciate donations of towels, blankets and comforters. So while you're cleaning out your clothes and coat closets, check your linen closet, too.
“I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality. This is why right, temporarily defeated, is stronger than evil triumphant.”
5. Donate blood / Join Be The Match / Sign up to be an organ donor. There are things we can do today that can significantly help someone else down the road. With the hospitals crowded, blood donations are still vital to keep patients alive and healthy. Years ago one of the teams I worked with introduced me to the organization Be The Match. It registers people to be possible bone marrow transplants. If I remember correctly, you spit in a tube or swab your mouth or something just as easy, and then they enter you into the system and contact you down the road if you ever show up as a potential match for someone who needs a bone marrow transplant. I was just speaking with someone the other day who's husband has been battling cancer; they were left without many options, but then this organization found a match and the husband had a successful treatment this past week. It really works! I was so proud to tell her that I was involved in the organization. If you're uneasy about donating blood or bone marrow, sign up to be an organ donor. Or check that you are. It's amazing how we can help others stay alive after our time has gone.
“Everybody can be great...because anybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace, a soul generated by love.
"To accomplish great things, we must not only act, but also dream; not only plan, but also believe." --Anatole France