May 14, 2018

Think Maine for a vacation

Think Maine! People who visit Maine for the first time leave planning their next visit. The choice of places to stay is many from backwoods camping to cozy inns to all-inclusive resorts. Reserve accommodations early during high season. 
1. Driving:  There are a variety of designated by-ways.  The Schoodic National Byway follows the shoreline marked with lighthouses, osprey and eagle nests, views of Cadillac Mountain, and winds it way through scenic seaside villages with quaint 18- and 19-century New England Architecture. There are also two other national byways, an All-American drive, and Maine Scenic Byways. 

2. Acadia National Park: There are several parks but Acadia National Park is the most visited.  The park protects the natural beauty of the highest rocky headlands along the Atlantic coastline of the United States. The area has several diverse habitats and offers a variety of activities.  
3. Lighthouses: Lighthouse aficionados will think they found lighthouse paradise. There are 57 active ones in the state and nine inactive ones. The oldest one in Maine and one of the oldest in the United States is the Portland Head Lighthouse commissioned by George Washington.  Owl’s head is listed as the number one haunted lighthouse in America. Each year the state hosts Maine Open Lighthouse Day, usually in September. 

4. Sailing: Sailing in Maine is a must-do be it for a day or a week. There are a variety of sailing excursions, plus classes for all levels of expertize, and rentals but for the sail of a lifetime spend a week on an historic windjammer.  Maine windjammers were once cargo schooners and are now National Landmarks that provide affordable, all-inclusive vacations. 
5. Hiking: There is a plethora of hiking and backpacking trails but for bragging rights. “I hiked the Appalachian Trail” hike some of Maine’s 288 miles of the Appalachian Trail with sections that range from easy to difficult.  The trail ends at Mount Katahdin. Maine’s portion is considered the Trail’s most challenging, rugged and wildest. 
6. Historic: There are many historic landmarks in Maine besides the several sailing ships including quaint fishing towns, several forts, and  the Norridgework Abenaki (Maine’s native inhabitants) archaeological site.  Visit Campobello where F.R. Roosevelt and family summered. It is now an International Park. 
7. Art: The scenery of Maine has inspired generations of artists including Frederic Edwin Church, Thomas Cole, Georgia O’Keefe, and three generations of the Wyeth family.  Travel Maine’s Art Museum trail that includes stops at nine art museums all within a day’s drive of one another.  Visit Winslow Homer’s studio in Scarborough. 
8. Shopping: Shop ‘til you drop at the many unique shops located in quaint villages offering everything from homemade Maine crafts to antiques. There are many discount stores including the famed LL Bean factory store in Freeport - The “Beaner” is open 24/7/365.
9. Food: Maine is best known for
its lobster.  Learn all about the “cockroach of the sea” on a lobster tour and then dine at one of the many local seaside restaurants ending the meal with a dessert made from wild Maine blueberries.  Satisfy your sweet tooth with some salt water taffy.
10. Unique: Raft one of Maine’s roaring rivers; go on a moose safari; visit St. Anthony’s Greek Orthodox monastery.  Check out the world’s only International Cryptozoology Museum displaying animals scientist deem made up such as Big Foot and Maine’s desert. Don’t miss the world’s only life-size chocolate moose at Len Libby’s Candies.

May 7, 2018

Learning about President Garfield

Ohio is known as the “Mother of Presidents.” Seven United States presidents were born in Ohio plus William Henry Harrison made Ohio his home. On a recent trip to Ohio, John and I had the pleasure of meeting James Garfield. Well, not the original President Garfield but Edward Haney, a Garfield
portrayer. We were in Stow, Ohio and the Brimfield Historical Society and Kelso House Museum was not far away. I contacted them and found that they had a special presentation Thursday evening and as luck would have it the timing was perfect.  We arrived a bit early and Judi Allen from the Historical Society gave us a great house tour. 

Houses have interesting histories just like people. The Kelso
House, built in 1837, was at one time Union House, an inn with a ballroom on the second floor where dances and magic shows were held. Most inns, in the 1800s usually had two entry doors – one for the women and one for the men.  The women were not allowed in the tavern area but had their own sitting
room. My, how times have changed. There are several outside buildings including what was once the public outhouse.

The meeting with “President Garfield” was held in the historical society’s meeting room on the lowest level. 

Garfield personally greeted and introduced himself to individual
guests just as if he was campaigning.  Garfield told about his early days in a log cabin where one night there was banging on the door.  A huge bear had come to call.  His father chased it up a tree, got his rifle, and shot it out of a tree the meat providing meat for many meals and a warm
rug. His father died when he was young leaving his mother to raise the family and work the farm. One day young Garfield was reprimanded for a minor infraction in school. The school master ordered him to go home.  He walked all the way home and then returned to school. “Master Garfield did I not send you home.” “Yes, sir, but you didn’t say I had to stay.”

His dream was to go to sea and see the world. He left school early to earn money by working on a canal boat guiding the mules. “The closest I got to the water was when I fell overboard into the canal and nearly drowned. I decided I should go back to school.” 

Education was important to Garfield’s mother; she saved up enough money so he could attend Western Reserve Eclectic Institute.  He only had enough money for one semester but impressed the faculty and was offered a scholarship. Afraid of accumulating debt he worked many jobs while in school and ended up teaching at the school. 

John and I have visited his home, Lawnfield, where Garfield was known for his front porch speeches. “My wife would graciously meet people at the door but would not let them in the house so I spent a lot of my politicking on the front porch.”

President Garfield’s time as president was short.  He refused to grant an office seeker, Charles Guiteau, a position in the government because he was a “cheat and dishonest.” Guiteau shot Garfield in a Washington train station. President Garfield lingered for three months. Mr. Haney looked like Garfield and made the life of Garfield seem real by telling personal stories. It was an informative evening. The historical society had provided a large buffet of appetizers, desserts with wine that became our dinner. 

Apr 30, 2018

Seven Seas Soup ala San Felipe, Mexico

Several members of our family decided to spend Christmas in San Felipe, where our oldest son has a vacation house. San Felipe is a small, sleepy fishing village on the east coast of the Baja Peninsula, 125 miles south of Calexico. The area had changed from the one and only other time
my husband, John, and I had visited, 20 years earlier. At that time, we stayed at the only motel in the area. (Interestingly, there was a sign in our room that said, “Do not build a fire on the floor.” I guess someone must have tried that or there would have been no need for the sign.) It was obvious that in the intervening 20 years, there had been the beginning of a building boom, but all that changed when the housing bubble burst, as evidenced by the unfinished buildings. Vacation homes in San Felipe are now reasonably priced. 

As for things to do in the area, besides enjoying fishing and water
activities, travelers can visit the Valley of the Giants, where there is a forest of cardón (Pachycereus pringlei), the tallest cacti in the world, found only in the Baja California and Sonoran deserts. The slow-growing plants can reach a height of 60 feet or more and weigh up to 25 tons. When the tide was out in front of our son's vacation home where we were staying, family members went out on the sand to gather clams for dinner. The clams, while small, made an excellent meal.

At one point, we went into the village to a restaurant for dinner, where we had what my son said was his favorite meal while in San Felipe. The dish (about $6) was the Seven Seas Soup served at Chuy’s, a small, restaurant owned by Jesus Lozana and Maria Luisa Guzman. One of their three sons, Gabriel Lozano, is the chef, another one waits on tables, and the other is the bookkeeper.  We were welcomed in the kitchen to watch the soup being prepared. Maria Luisa Guzman also explained how to make the fish balls that go into the soup.

Fish balls 

2 cups boneless white fish, cooked and flaked
2 cups cooked rice
2 tbsp cornstarch, dissolved in 3 tbsp water
1 tsp diced cilantro
1 beaten egg
Salt and pepper to taste

Put all ingredients in a blender. Blend until smooth. Form into 1-inch balls. Set aside.

Seven Seas Soup

1 tbsp butter or cooking oil
½ cup tomato, diced
½ cup onion, diced
½ cup celery, diced
½ green pepper, diced
½ cup carrot, sliced
8 cups fish or chicken broth
1 Tsp garlic
1 Tsp cilantro (save a little for garnish)
Chili pepper, minced, to taste
2 tbsp lemon juice
¼ tsp oyster sauce
1 tsp salt
1 cup baby octopus, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 cup squid, sliced
2 lbs white fish, cut into 2-inch pieces
6 clams
2 medium crabs, cut in half 
6 fish balls 
4 or 5 large shrimp

In a deep pan, heat butter or oil and sauté tomato, onion, celery, pepper and carrots for about one minute. Add broth, garlic, cilantro, chili pepper, lemon juice, oyster sauce and salt. Bring to a boil, then add all seafood except shrimp and cook for about 10 minutes. Add shrimp, and cook until shrimp is pink. To serve, remove seafood with a slotted spoon and place in bowls. Pour broth with veggies over it. Garnish with reserved cilantro and serve.

Apr 23, 2018

Ten things to do in Cincinnati

It is a good time of the year for a road trip to Cincinnati, Ohio. “The Queen City” has a lot to offer visitors in the way of history, nature, and shopping.

1. Get Visual: Visitors entering the Cincinnati Art Museum are
greeted with a suspended blue Chihuly fantasy glass creation and can continue to view the works of Picasso, Chagall, Tiffany, and more all in location. There is no admission fee. Download Art Work’s walking tour to see the many murals scattered throughout the city. 
2. Freedom Museum: The Underground Railroad Freedom Center is the place to open up your mind. The Center celebrates the heroes who created the Underground Railroad; a secret network slaves used to escape to freedom but the center also makes people aware of the 27 million people who are still trying to get their freedom. 
3. Presidential: William Howard Taft was raised in the family’s tradition of hard work, fair play, and public service. Taft’s goal was never to be president but he did want to be Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.  He said, “Presidents come and go but the Supreme Court goes on forever.”  The 27th president was the only person to serve in both offices.  
4. Harriet Beecher Stowe:  According to legend, Abraham Lincoln greeted Stowe in
1862 by saying "So you're the little woman who wrote the book that started this Great War."  Her book, “Uncle Tom’s Cabin,” was an international success and fueled the anti-slavery movement.  The book tells the horrors of slavery and the dangerous path to freedom taken by many runaway slaves.
5. Parks: Not to miss is the Krohn Conservatory in Eden Park,
home to 3,500 plant species from around the world and the popular “Butterfly Show” where thousands of butterflies are free to fly about.  Smale Riverfront Park with P&G Go Vibrantscape is a unique multimedia play area that causes people to exercise without
them knowing it. 
6. Neighborhoods:  They say you haven’t really visited Cincinnati without walking through one of their unique neighborhoods. Over-the-Rhine (OTR) is the largest intact urban history district in the country with unique architecture, great restaurants and microbreweries. ManiStrasse, on the National Historic Register, with cobblestone streets is known for its fun Maifest.
7. Ball Time: See red at The Great American Ball Park, home to
the Cincinnati Reds, baseball’s first professional franchise. It is also home to the Reds Hall of Fame. Paul Brown Stadium is home to the Cincinnati Bengals, a NFL member. Both stadiums are the site of other events such as Cincinnati Music Festival at Paul Brown Stadium.
8. Food: You’ve never had chili until you try Cincinnati Chili: Spaghetti topped with chili and mounds of shredded cheese or try in 4-ways with the addition of beans or onions, or 5-ways with both beans and onions all with a hint of cinnamon.  Don’t be embarrassed ask for a bib! 
9. Shopping: Visitors can shop at Tiffany and
Saks or in one of the many unique shops such as Rookwood Pottery
Co. on Vine Street. No visit to Cincinnati is complete without a stop at Findlay Market to get something to eat. It is the oldest continuously operated public market in Ohio. 
10. And more:  Drive to Tarpis Street to see the fantastical Mushroom House.
Walk across Walk across the Purple People Bridge, a pedestrian-only bridge across the Ohio River, from downtown Cincinnati to Newport, Kentucky where there is a bevy of great eateries and the award-winning aquarium. Enjoy a riverboat ride on the Ohio River. 

Apr 17, 2018

Places to visit in Oswego and Syracuse, NY

This the ‘tween season. Not enough snow for winter fun, not
enough sunny days for hiking and the like but it is perfect for spending an hour or two in a local museum. 

Dedicating an entire day to visiting a museum may be
difficult to schedule but adding an hour to a shopping excursion is easy.  It is a good way to visit the museum that has been on your “must-do” list.  A visit to many local museums can be accomplished in an hour or so. Even if you have visited a museum previously they often change their displays plus many offer special programs especially in the evening. 

Shopping in Oswego? Check out the H. L. White Marine Museum.
It is open year round Monday through Friday from 1 to 5.  Learn about Oswego’s impact on the history of the area. It was a critical player in the French & Indian War, the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812 and the development of the canal system.  Get a glimpse into the lifestyle of the
wealthy of Oswego in the early 20th Century with a visit to the Italianate Richardson Bates House which is open Thursday through Saturday from 1 to 5 pm. Also in Oswego check out the Railroad Museum which is open from noon to 5 pm Saturday and Sunday, May through Labor Day.  Often
overlooked in Oswego is the Tyler Art Gallery at the college and the Tyler Art Gallery at Oswego State Downtown. To my way of thinking the most under-promoted place in Oswego is Safe Haven which tells the story of the 900plus European refugees – many
escapees from concentration camps - who were held during WW II. It is the only place of its kind in the United States. Check out the new Children’s Museum – it is on my list. And, of course there is Fort Ontario which is always an interesting place to visit and the lake views are great. 

Heading to Syracuse? There are a lot of great spots to visit. Just
walking around the Everson Art Museum plaza is interesting.  Many people, on sunny days, spend their lunch time by the pool.  The museum was designed by the famed I. M. Pei.  The Everson has a variety of art experiences and is open until 8 pm on Thursdays and until 9 on the first Friday of
each month.  Art lovers will also want to make frequent visits to ArtRage and Point of Contact to view their changing exhibits. The Onondaga Historical Society Museum is free and has permanent displays on the Underground Railroad and Syracuse China and currently featuring Syracuse Jazz.  There is something for everyone in the museum.  Did you
know Erie Boulevard was originally where the Erie Canal ran through Syracuse? The Weight Lock Museum is another one-of-a-kind museum. Learn how the Erie Canal made New York the Empire State. And, don’t forget the MOST where everyone ends up learning something new about science and technology. 

Heading to Fulton? Open Wednesday, Thursday and Friday from 10 to 3 pm is the often overlooked 1861 John Wells Pratt House Museum. Check out the mid-19th century kitchen and you will have a new appreciation of the conveniences you have today.  There are plenty of other places that make a good one-hour distraction for shopping. Always check to see when they are open and if they have any special programs – especially evening presentations.