My travel schedule hasn't allowed me to cook/bake or get out much, but now that it has finally slowed down for a little bit I was able to get back into the kitchen. The other night I attempted cheesy stuffed shells and they turned out awesome! I didn't follow a recipe, just browsed through a few and then went for it. After boiling the shells, I mixed ricotta, parmesan and mozzarella cheeses together with one egg. For some flavor, I added in salt, pepper, onion power, garlic powder, oregano and basil. Stuff the mixture into the shells, layer some sauce in a baking dish, sprinkle some cheese on top and bake! It's that easy and they certainly were delicious.
I recently joined the Fitbit world, so that, with the combination of the weather warming up a bit, has motivated me to get back outside more. While I was at my parents' the other weekend, I couldn't resist taking my usual walk around the farm. However, it wasn't so warm that morning; the temperature felt like 5 degrees. But, it was still beautiful to get out there.
That was Saturday morning in New York. Monday in Ohio it was 50 degrees! So I took the opportunity to get out on the trail after work, even though it was dark by the time I was able to get done.
Homework has been drowning me lately, which also hasn't helped in keeping me out of the kitchen, out of nature and out of date with my blog. However, with it being Valentine's Day on Tuesday, I'll be cooking up some goodies this week. And I will be going on a hike later today. So, it shouldn't be as long of a break until I am able to write again. For now, back to the school work grind.
It seems like the whole time I have lived in my current apartment, my spare room has been the place where everything I don't have a set spot for goes to live. A few years ago I added my beautiful floating bookshelves; I went out and bought wood planks, sawed, sanded and stained them and then hung them to fill with my prized collection. Those shelves have long become overfilled. So, I recently rearranged to make that fit better. I have had this tall corner desk since college and never use it because the table top fits a laptop and that's just about it. I love to have my work laid out around me so this desk became a dumping ground because it was never practical for me to use. I spent some time on Pinterest narrowing down design ideas and went on a mission recently to find a new desk. I knew exactly what I wanted and what I wanted to spend, and was so extremely pleased to find it in Hobby Lobby for even less than I planned for. Yesterday I spent quite some time sorting through a bunch of junk and doing some rearrange in the spare room. Today I went and got my new desk and some items to decorate it and I couldn't be more pleased with how it turned out. I have such a lovely workspace that I cane now dream away and let my mind roll forward at.
The rest of the room is a work in progress. I need to figure out some storage solutions and rearrange what I still have in there and then I will share that with you once it's complete. For now, I will have to enjoy my little workspace that is perfect for dreaming up new ideas and letting the words flow from my fingertips.
I've decided I need to work on continuing this blog and making it legitimate. So, here I am in the start of a new year, writing away and hoping that someone finds me interesting. With it being a holiday, I of course had to bake up something sweet to bring to a new year's party on the 31st. As usual, I went to Pinterest and searched for what I had in mind and found exactly what I needed - champagne cupcakes! These were very moist and not overly champagne-tasting, but still delicious. The gold glitter sprinkles I went out and got to add to them made them perfect for the new year celebration.
Last year my resolution was to learn Polish. I downloaded this great, free app (DuoLingo) and started off pretty strong before falling off. So, I've picked that up again and am trying to be more consistent with learning the language. When I was in NY for Christmas break, I was surrounded by great Polish food. I had to bring some back to Ohio with me to enjoy longer. For New Year's Day I decided to have a nice, delicious Polish meal to celebrate a little on my own. My grandma sent me back with some charnina and I had a freezer stocked with meat, included some of my dad's homemade kielbasa - the best sausage in the world. Seriously, I've never had anything that has come close!
My main New Year's resolution is to read a biography from every US president from Washington to Reagan in chronological order. I made a list on Amazon of the highest-rated books and figured out that this would mean I would have to read 3.25 books per month this year - a tall order as I am finishing up two Master's degrees and working like crazy. This feat became even more daunting as I opened up the box of the first three books on New Year's Eve and saw how thick they were! I am starting off with a 800+ page biography of Washington by Ron Chernow (yes, the guy that wrote the book on Alexander Hamilton that the huge Broadway show is based off of). I'm trying to read as much as I can in these next few weeks before spring sports and grad school pick up pace later on in the semester. Yesterday I got a great start with 200 pages read. Today, hopefully I'll add on a bunch more. Plus, I have a week-long roadtrip that will have some time to kill. Here's to lofty resolutions!
Finally strung together the footage from our bike trip through Kentucky Bourbon country. Enjoy!
One of the adventurous things I've been a lot better at this summer is exploring the parks around my area. Lola and I went hiking on three consecutive weekends at the Cuyahoga Valley National Park and it is definitely a favorite activity for both of us. I had been on the gravel Towpath a few times, but never the dirt, wilderness paths before our first excursion.
The first time out we checked out the Oak Hill and Plateau Trails for a 5.27 mile roundtrip.
The second time out we parked at the Stanford House and to Brandywine Falls and back. The bridge to connect to the Brandywine Gorge Trail was out, but Lola took full advantage of the short stop to take a nice break and swim in the stream. We logged 4.3 miles on the day.
Our most recent hike started at Kendall Lake. We took the Cross Country Trail, connected to the Salt Run Trail, then took the Lake Trail back to the parking lot. This route had it all - ponds, streams, woods and meadows for a total of 6.56 miles.
We've checked off a lot of the CVNP trails in just three trips. Looks like the weather will be nice again this weekend and some more hiking will be in store!
Four Roses was another very old company, and the main distillery building was a National Historic Landmark. It had a completely different look, with Spanish-style buildings that the original owners fell in love with when they visited California a long time ago. (click the pictures below to enlarge!)
We headed out from Four Roses to get to our last destination of the trip: Woodford Reserve. It was 8 miles to Wild Turkey then another 11 on to Woodford Reserve. We stopped at Wild Turkey and called Hank to pick us up for a few reasons: the long rest made our legs incredibly stiff; the hot midday sun was now beating down; and Woodford's last tour of the day was at 3pm and we wouldn't have made it in time if we biked the whole way. As it was, we ran into the building just as the final tour was called to line up and ready to depart...we made it just in time! Woodford Reserve contained beautiful, old limestone buildings that referenced back to the original owner's Irish heritage. We were so lucky we made this tour because we finally got to see a distillery during production! All were shut down for a few weeks as they normally do in the hottest summer months, so Woodford was the only one where we got to see the whole bourbon-making process at work. It is also the only bourbon distillery that uses a triple-distilled process, as you can see with the three, big, copper distillers below.
Our bourbon bike trip was now complete! We stopped shortly down the road to eat and change, then drove back to Kent and back to reality. In all we biked 75 miles in two days over terrain that none of us ever wish to embark on again! We were able to visit six distilleries and add in some other historical stops along the way. As someone who hates the taste of bourbon and whiskey, I would still highly recommend a weekend trip on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail to anyone! It is a fascinating process rich in history and tradition, and can only be truly and fully experienced here in central Kentucky in the United States. I hope you all enjoyed the recap of the trip. I'm working on a video and should have that up soon! Stay tuned for more adventures and trips along the way...as always, thanks for reading!
I have to start the day 2 post by saying that Friday's ride was probably the most physically exhausting and difficult thing we have done in our memory. The Kentucky hills are so brutal! And we had climbed some big ones! So, with a lot of debate and conversation, we eventually decided to hang up our bikes for the day and let our bodies rest before riding again on Sunday. It worked out well, because we were able to add in another distillery visit and get one we had planned for Sunday out of the way, which left us time to do more tours than we originally had planned.
Wild Turkey was one of my favorites because, of course, its name and logo. It was also really neat for me to see that the company had these old ceramic collectable decanters on display. My grandparents have had these at their bar forever, and I never really knew what they were. I definitely see them with more value now that I've learned more about them and have visited the distillery.
Bubba was our tour guide at Wild Turkey, and he was also great! It truly was hard to find a bad tour guide at any of the places we visited. A bonus at this stop was that I even got to do a little hunting and walked away with two hens :)
For dinner, we headed to a well-known spot in the town and area, the Beaumont Inn. The grounds includes a tavern where we ate that used to be the old carriage house. The food and atmosphere was great. Hank checked a big item off the bucket list by trying Pappy Van Winkle bourbon, which comes from Buffalo Trace and is extremely rare. Bottles of the kind he tried go for a few hundred dollars - very premier stuff and some claim it to be the best and the most expensive bourbon in the world. Very cool moment to watch Hank try and enjoy it! The Beaumont Inn is a very historic building that was originally used as a school. We were able to go in and walk around the first floor. It is preserved to be in its original decor and contains so many amazing antiques and artifacts. I was in heaven! I wished I could step back in time and live there in that beautiful house.
It all started out with this song playing at 5:50am as I was pulling into Heather and Maddi's:
For those of you who don't know, my bike is named White Lightning, so I thought this was a great omen to start the journey!
I have to say Heather's dad Hank is the hero of our trip. He offered to come with us and drive our "safety vehicle," which already has been beyond helpful and needed. He is also a lover of bourbon and a guru, so already after just one day it's been awesome having him with us!
These are some of the Jim Beam tastes we had. The one at the end is an "experimental" one. It's only available in their tasting room for people to try so they can get feedback on whether or not to continue it and make it official.
After our tasting, we had some pork/chicken sliders and some Southern sides at the little cafe there to give us some fuel to start our journey. The meat was all smoked right there outside the cafe, and it was delicious!
After that, it was time to be on our way! After getting a group shot with Jim, of course.
Our ride was pretty uneventful, save for an angry truck, two dog chases and Maddi nearly being annihilated by some chickens. We definitely weren't fully aware of the Kentucky back-road terrain. We anticipated hills, but thought they would be more rolling hills and not such steep grades the whole way. It was just about 25 miles until our first stop while biking: the Heaven Hill Heritage Center.
I was struggling with some dehydration during the last 5 or so miles to Heaven Hill, so it was a good break to get into the AC and chug some water. We decided we were going to take our sweet time the rest of the journey: 23 miles to Maker's Mark. Let's just say the first 2.5 miles out of the Heritage Center was alllll uphill. We struggled a bit, took lots of rests, and eventually called Hank to come get us to pack up a few miles short of our intended length. I said multiple times on the second leg that I will be happy just to ride 100 miles on the weekend...these hills are so tough! For some reference, on my rides all around NE Ohio, the gain usually hit between 600-750ft.; today's total gain was 1,971ft.! We finished at about 43 miles before packing up for the evening. We enjoyed lots of beautiful Kentucky countryside on the ride.
The sun was setting and we were starving, so we went straight into town (Lebanon) and ate at this great local Italian place called Ragetti's. Normally, this much chicken parm would leave me stuffed, but it was devoured quickly and easily! From there we went to our hotel, checked in, showered, stretched and caught some much needed zzzz's.
I've decided this summer (and hopefully beyond) will be all about new adventures and living life spontaneously. I've done a pretty good job with that and now have a 150mile bike trip along the Kentucky Bourbon Trail up next. I've travelled some awesome places this past year for work and am excited to share my adventures of this summer and then once again when season picks back up in late August.
I write constantly for my job and take pictures and videos and keep the public updated on all my teams, but I have found I don't do a very good job updating my family and friends and acquaintances along the way of what I am doing. So, this will be my feeble attempt. I don't know how many people will follow along or care, but, it's worth a shot!
I chose the Latin phrase "semper ad meliora" as the title of my blog because it translates to "always towards better things." Anyone who knows me knows I adore the Latin language and history, and the idea that one should continuously try to improve and better oneself each day at a time seemed fitting.
Please comment along the way! I would love to hear from anyone who may be following my "adventures."
"To accomplish great things, we must not only act, but also dream; not only plan, but also believe." --Anatole France