Life on the road, and the importance of hospitality

For my Hospitality Industry friends, stay with this post, I promise, it will be worth your while!

It’s been a year since I added this blog and I miss it. I have written 100 entries, at least, in my head as I drive and fly all over the “Great Northeast”. That’s how I always write, first in my head, then at the keyboard. Since my last post, I have accepted a promotion with my full time job with, I am still selling real estate and, of course, writing the Cravings column for HerLife Magazine.

With my new role at, I am back to traveling 3-4 nights a week. I will be the first to admit that the transition, while seamless to the outside world, has been personally a little challenging. A few things have changed since the last time I was a road warrior. The last time I was on the road I was in an unhappy relationship and home was not only an unpleasant place to be, but I was overwhelmed with the chores that I faced when I returned home. It’s tough to come home after 5 days on the road to a sink full of dishes, an overflowing clothes hamper and a pile of trash that needed to go out, especially when that’s not how I left it. Add to that snow and ice removal, lawn and pool care with little or no help from my significant other and you can see why I would rather be on the road.

Currently, I am in a three and a half year relationship with an amazing man. I miss him when I’m gone and I can’t wait to see him when I return. I now come home now to a home that is either exactly how I left it or sometimes better! I also now live in an apartment. I truly love where I live. I look around my 1600 square feet and I love everything I see, whether inside or on my patio (where I am right now!) I love to cook in my kitchen, sleep in my bed, sit on my sofa and shower in my bathroom. I also love walking to my favorite restaurants where everyone knows me, and listening to music from artists I know and who are familiar to me.

I am truly happy both professionally and personally for the first time in I can’t remember when. I am blessed. Here’s the twist, because I love my life, my guy and my home, it’s much tougher being on the road than before. Staying in “Hospitality Properties” 14-16 nights a month, the hospitality I experience really is crucial.

This past week, I spent 3 nights in the Residence Inn on Maple Road in Amherst (Buffalo) NY. I booked this hotel by accident. I thought I was booking another Residence Inn nearby. When I pulled into the parking lot, I noticed it was clearly an older property and it was in a residential area so no walking to restaurants or shops. The units all had outside entrances and some of them were up a flight of stairs (there is no way I am carrying my suitcase up those stairs!), I almost didn’t get out of my car! Eventually, I headed to the front desk and let the desk clerk know I booked this hotel by mistake, but told him if my room was on the bottom level, I would stay. The desk clerk was so welcoming. He confirmed I was on the lower level and assured me that they were happy I was staying with them.

I drove around to my suite and was delighted to find a parking spot right outside my door. I moved my things in, hung up my dresses and unpacked the rest. Within 10 minutes, I received a call from the Front Desk asking if my room was to my satisfaction. They also informed me of the social hour from 6- 7:30 that offered complimentary beer, wine and grilled burgers. Before I headed over, I discovered my ice machine was not working.

I arrived at the social hour and was greeted, not just by the food an beverage host, but also by a member of the management team who asked me if it was my first night staying with them. I said yes and she asked if things were as expected in my suite. I said yes, with the exception of the ice machine. She assured me she would send the maintenance team to my suite promptly. By the time I arrived back to my room, not only was the ice machine fixed, but he filled the bin in my refrigerator/freezer with ice while the machine got to work!

This level of hospitality continued throughout my stay. Every team member was genuinely focused on a wonderful guest experience. From the front office team, to the food and beverage team, to the maintenance team, each one greeted me. Each one asked what they could to do help. The most amazing part was that they all seemed genuinely happy to be there and to make their guest’s experience stellar. The best part was that their attitude was contagious. This carried over to the guest’s attitude, because a positive attitude is contagious. The Residence Inn concept hotels are geared to toward extended stays. Some guests are there for weeks or even months at a time. The staff at this hotel made each one feel like they were the most important guest in the hotel. I watched their interactions and every time they made someone smile, their smile widened.

The spirit of hospitality at this property was an example for the industry.

The hotel I booked by mistake, that was, on the outside, a less glamorous hotel from others I have stayed at, won my heart and I will certainly stay there on my return visits. And yes, I made sure to find the GM of the property to let him know of my experience. This type of hospitality comes from the top down. When I told him of my experience, he welled up with tears. That’s when I knew. His team, wanted my stay to perfect because he wanted it to be perfect. They wanted to make me happy, but they wanted to make him proud!

In my professional bio, I proudly say that I am Disney born and Marriott raised. These two hospitality industry giants taught me a lot. I can say with certainty that this hotel embodies hospitality and Bill Marriott would be proud! If you are traveling to Buffalo, stay here Residence Inn Amhurst I know I will!

A Mother’s Love

It’s been a complicated year for me. It has caused me to reflect on a lot of the relationships in my life, perhaps none quite as complicated as the relationship between between a mother and child.

It starts during pregnancy. Everything the mother does has a direct impact on the child and everything the child does worries the Mom or brings her joy.

I spent much of my children’s childhood as a single mother, so there was no other adult to leave the kids home with. To me, that meant if I wasn’t working, I was with my children. I would get out of work, drive home, all three of my kids would grab their bags that I had packed, or made sure they packed, the night before, and they would pile into our mini-van. They all had different activities; ballet, jazz, football, baseball, cheerleading, basketball, all in different places at different times. If they didn’t have an activity, they would sit in the van with me and we would do homework or talk. When everyone was done for the night, we would head home, lift the lid off the crock pot and have dinner together every night. My friends were the parents of my kid’s friends. My social life consisted of volunteering with my kid’s activities, quick change mom at The Nutcracker, Cheerleading Coach, Football team medic. I loved every minute of it. It was easy to figure out how to be a good mother. Spend time with your kids, be involved in their lives, be their soft landing when the world is cruel and their advocate when the world is really cruel and give them freedom to make certain choices knowing they had a good foundation and be there when they made less than stellar choices to help them learn from them. I made my share of parenting mistakes, but through it all, love was my guide.

I remember when I was the Sales Manager at Longfellows and we had a team building exercise. We had to think of the best team we were ever part of. We had to write down the characteristics of what made our team great. The team that immediately came to mind for me was the team of my kids and I. We cared about each other, we respected each other, we supported each other, we celebrated each other’s successes and we consoled each other during the difficult times.

My children are all adults and it’s harder to know how to be a good mom now. I still want to protect them when the world is cruel, even though I know (and they tell me) they can do it themselves. They all have their own homes and jobs and friends. I love when we can spend time together and I especially love when we all can be together. I don’t know all of their friends anymore and I definitely don’t know all the parents! Sometimes I’ve had to give some tough love so my children could find their own way. This was the toughest part.

I’ve been reflecting on the way the word Mother is used in the English language. Step-mother, Godmother, Grandmother, Mother-in-law, Back-stage Mom, Team Mom, Mother Nature. All of these uses of the word mother are endearing or symbolize a protective or nurturing nature of the relationship when the word mother is added. I am or have been all of these things except Mother Nature (although some would say I was a bit of a nature mom!) and they all had real meaning to me.

Although being a mom to adult children can be worrisome and a challenge at times, it is also source of great joy. Some things are still the same. I still worry about them. When they are sick or when someone hurts them, I want to make it better. I still celebrate their success and am proud to be on their team. I still love sharing meals with them. When my son was home in February, I cooked dinner for everyone. We laughed and caught up on each other’s lives and poked fun at each other, just as we did when they were kids. It was probably the highlight of my year! I also was reminded this past year that the things I say and do still have an impact on my kids, and I also know that I still make parenting mistakes.

There’s no training manual for this role. Luckily, I had a great role model. My mom is amazing. It’s still a learning process for me, but through it all, I know that at the heart of it all is a Mother’s Love, my mom’s love for me, my love for my kids and my daughter’s love for her son. It’s come full circle.

I have a lot to be thankful for this Mother’s Day. And I wish you all a Happy Mother’s Day!

Mill Mates Care

For the past three and a half years I have lived in The Mill in Glens Falls. It’s not just a building. It’s a way of life. The residents in my building come in all shapes and sizes, ages, and walks of life. Living here is like living in a grown up version of a college dorm complete with parties on the roof top, borrowing pantry staples, (and bottles of wine!) and caring about each other like family. If one of us is ill or recovering from surgery, the others check in to see if items are needed from the grocery store or a ride is needed or even to drop off dinner. If one of us is celebrating something like a new job, retirement, the birth of a child or grandchild or a wedding, we all come together to celebrate. While this may be common behavior in suburban neighborhoods, it is rare in a condo or apartment building in an urban setting.

But the caring doesn’t end with the people in our building. One day, one of our Mill Mates was heading out and spied an owl in a tree. The owl was in distress and some birds of prey were circling. Our group of neighbors called the proper authority, and stood guard under the owl until it could be rescued.

At Christmas and again just recently, our gang made it our priority to help the Open Door Mission with their Backpack Program. When kids are in school, those who need it, get a free or reduced price breakfast and lunch. When school is not in session, these kids still need to eat breakfast and lunch. The Open Door Mission ensures that these kids have food for school break. We just finished sorting 4 huge boxes of food. In addition, some residents gave checks to the Open Door Mission to cover any items that are in short supply. I am truly blessed to be surrounded by such a caring group of people.

Recently our building was purchased by Cass Hill Development for $6.95 million. There has been quite a bit of coverage on the sale. As a Realtor, I know logically that the new company bought an asset. I’m sure during their “due diligence” they inspected the physical assets of the building and evaluated the “cap rate”. I have to admit, this building has some wonderful amenities. In my humble opinion, the greatest assets of this building are the people who live here and call this building home and who care for the building, each other and the community we live in. I know, in time, our new landlords will come to understand that as well!

When Did You Stop Clapping For Yourself?

I have had the indescribable pleasure of spending some one on one time with my Grandson the last few weeks. He’s at such a fun age, 21 months old. He loves to sing and dance and play. He does it all with such careless abandon. He doesn’t worry about what others think, he just sings and dances and plays. The best part is, whenever he does something, he claps for himself, saying, “Yay, I did it!” Of course, I can’t help but clap for him and tell him, “Good Job!”

It gave made me pause. I’m sure many of us started life this way. I, like my Grandson, was the first child born to two doting parents and I was the first grandchild on both sides of the family. I have heard stories and seen pictures of me being the center of attention. I have always loved to sing, just like my Dad. He taught me how to sing, but never sang children’s songs, that was my Mom’s job. My Father taught me Frank Sinatra, especially the duets that Frank sang with his daughter, Nancy. He would teach me my (Nancy’s) part and then he would sing his (Frank’s) part. When we were done, he would always tell me what a great job I did. I thought I was the best singer, ever!

As I got older, I remember my Dad taking me to hear my “Uncle Jimmy” sing. He performed in some nightclubs in Queens, where we lived. A few times, I even got to sing with my Dad and my Uncle Jimmy. I still remember the applause. As I got a little older, my cousin Robby learned how to play the organ. He didn’t sing, so we were like Captain and Tennille, he would play and I would sing. We performed countless concerts for our family and they always applauded, of course. I can remember, though, I always had to sing “like a guy”. I now know what that means. My vocal range was much lower than the average female voice and certainly lower than the average female child.

Fast forward, and my family moved upstate. Not New Rochelle, like most people from the city thought, really upstate, to Clifton Park, in between Albany and Saratoga Springs. I made the difficult transition from Catholic School to Public School (and one with a graduation class of over 700)! I was the new girl, with really short hair and I talked funny, my Queens accent.

One of the things I was most excited about was that they had music class AND a school chorus. We didn’t have music class in Catholic School. In Catholic School, our regular teacher would have us write the words to church hymns and we would sing them for 15 minutes or so a week. I transferred into the school in the middle of third grade. I loved music class and I could hardly wait until forth grade when I could join the chorus. I was really excited when I got a solo in the first chorus concert of the year. What I didn’t realize, at the time, is that it was a spoken part. I just knew I got lots of applause! What I also didn’t realize at the time, is that in a children’s chorus, all the voices needed to sound the same, and well, mine didn’t. The chorus teacher took my parents aside at the end of the year and told them not to sign me up for chorus the following year. I will leave that teacher’s name out, but trust me, I remember it well.

That’s when I stopped clapping for myself.

How could I have thought I was a good singer? I was sure everyone was just being nice up until that point. I didn’t sing for two years. I auditioned and got parts in school plays, but I would only try out for the plays, not the musicals. When I got to seventh grade the curriculum mandated that I had to take band, chorus or general music. I didn’t play an instrument and none of the general music classes fit into my schedule. I had to take chorus. Unlike the last time, I was not at all excited for chorus.

During the first few days of chorus, each student had to go up front and the teacher, (Ms. Werker, now Ms. Rose), would play notes to see each student’s range to see what part they should sing. I tried to avoid going up there and I was one of the last kids to be tested. When I sang, Ms. Werker told me what a beautiful ALTO voice I had! As it turned out, many of the boy’s voices had not yet changed and on many songs I sang tenor and even bass! I got a few solos, this time singing ones, and was even selected for Swing Choir, a select group of singers. I continued to sing in High School, in Choraliers, in the Church Choir and Folk Group and actually made money by singing at weddings.

As an adult, I taught Vocal Performance and have sang publicly many times. I have heard applause for my singing frequently, but in the back of my mind, there’s still that nine year old girl who doubts herself. I’ve gone through some changes in the past year, but one of the biggest ones is that I’m finally starting to cheer for myself again. While it’s always nice to hear others cheer you on, the most important person to clap for you is you. So, I will always encourage my Grandson to clap for himself and to say, “I did it”. I value the important lesson my Grandson has taught me. Always clap for yourself, say, “I did it” and dance, sing and play like no one is watching.

The “Fruits” of My Labor, Raspberry Picking

It seems like another lifetime ago that a friend and I, armed with our “free labor”, also known as our children, would go raspberry picking. Now I don’t mean we picked a few pints, no, we picked for days. A lot of folks don’t realize that raspberries get picked twice in a season, once in July and then again in September. We would pick 40-50 pounds a year. We would make regular jam and Captain Morgan- Raspberry Jam. We would also make a Raspberry Honey Mustard Dip for pretzels and a Godiva Liquor and Raspberry Sundae Topping. We would also freeze the fresh berries for use throughout the year. At the holidays, we would give Raspberry Baskets filled with the jams and sauces as gifts for our family and friends.

Life got busy and we stopped picking raspberries, but I never forgot how amazing it was to pick those succulent berries. It wasn’t just about the tasty treats we made. It was also about the time we shared with each other and our children. The kids loved it. I think they ate more than they saved, but the young ones were great for gathering the berries on the lower vines. They learned a lot of important lessons picking berries. They learned to respect the bees and not pick the ones the bees were interested in. They learned the importance of team work. And they learned that you could make things from the gifts that nature provided.

We adults learned a lot too. We learned how therapeutic it was to pick berries. When you pick raspberries, you only think about one thing, picking the biggest and ripest berries you could find. All the troubles of the day melted away as we forged on with our mission. I can’t explain how gratifying it was to have those berries fall into your hand and to watch the bottom of the pail disappear. There was a sense of purpose and accomplishment as we weighed the berries and discovered just how productive we were. We enjoyed the accolades from our family and friends as we shared the fruits of our labor with them. They would ask with anticipation each year if we would be gifting them with our Raspberry Baskets again. One of my fondest memories was of my father. He had Pancreatic Cancer and was undergoing some aggressive treatments. At times, he didn’t have much of an appetite, but he loved our raspberry jam. When nothing else sounded appetizing, he would ask for jars of jam and he would eat it with a spoon, right out of the jar.

It’s been 18 years since I picked raspberries. I woke up this morning and asked my boyfriend if he had any plans for the day. He said no. I suggested we go raspberry picking. At first, he scoffed at the idea, but his love for raspberries got the best of him. We headed to Garden Works in Salem, NY. It was his first time picking raspberries and I wasn’t sure how long he would last. He rose to the task and together, we picked over six pounds of berries in just over an hour. Truth be told, he out picked me! We dropped some off to his parents who love raspberries and we made their day!. We are freezing some, eating some and I have plans for Raspberry Mojitos. We didn’t quite get enough to make jam, but, I am contemplating going back later this week to pick some more to make jam. Once I was out there picking, I remembered why I loved picking raspberries so much, that feel of them dropping into my hand, the way all my cares melted away and all the fond memories of the times we spent picking the berries and the reaction of family and friends to the fruits of my labor. There is a new generation I can show this to, my grandson. I’m hoping he will enjoy picking berries as much as his mom did. I think maybe I’ll do some Raspberry Baskets for Christmas.

Bacon Makes Everything Better

Bacon really does make everything better. It’s the perfect food, really. It’s great as a stand alone or add it to any dish and it contributes saltiness, smokiness, crunch and savory to just about anything. I know most of you are thinking the usual stuff, omelets, quiche and salads. Some of you may be thinking a little outside the usual realm like mac and cheese, quesadillas, or the broth for mussels. I’m talking about things most folks wouldn’t think of. Here are a few I’ve either made or someone has made for me.

Maple syrup glazed bacon as a topping/garnish for ice cream. I’m not big on sweet desserts, but I’ll give into the maple syrup to get the salty, crunchy bacon to add texture to the creaminess of ice cream any day! Cook the bacon on parchment lined cookie sheets. During the last few minutes of cooking, brush the bacon with maple syrup. Yum. Yum.

Brussel Sprouts cooked in bacon fat with bacon lardons. This dish can make even a veggie hater love Brussel Sprouts when they are prepared thinly sliced, sautéed in the bacon fat and shallots until tender, then topped with bacon lardons, shaved parmesan and a poached egg. Pure perfection. I am taking this one to a new level this year, I am growing my own Brussel Sprouts on my balcony!

Bacon wrapped peaches. Yes, you heard that right! I saw it on the food network, but they provided no guidance as to how to make them. Well, I figured it out. Slice one ripe peach into 12 slices. Par cook the bacon in the micro wave to where it is pliable, not crunchy. Cut the slices in half. Wrap each peach slice in a half piece of bacon. Place it with the end of the bacon side down on a cookie sheet lined with parchment and cook it in the oven at 350′ for 30 mins. That’s it. When I tell people about it, they make a confused face for about two seconds and then their face turns into a smile that says “oh yeah” and they dive in. I’m sure it would work for other stone fruits as well, but I’m so hooked on the peaches!

I should note that, for health reasons, I always use uncured bacon. I either buy slab bacon at the meat counter or excellent quality packaged bacon at the grocery. With bacon, it’s about the quality, not the quantity for me.

I would love to hear what you have made or eaten!

Don’t Miss These Tips for Track Season in Saratoga

The thoroughbred racetrack in Saratoga Springs is said to be one of the most beautiful racetracks in the country, if not the world. For some of us, it’s a quick drive, but others come to the area just for the racing season. If you are visiting Saratoga this season, here are some local insights.

If you are like me, you want to enjoy a nice cigar. The best place to buy cigars in Saratoga Springs is the The Adirondack Cigar Shoppe. They have a great selection of cigars and a friendly, knowledgeable staff. You can enjoy a cigar in their comfortable lounge or take your cigar with you to the racetrack or next door to Gaffney’s outdoor patio to enjoy a cocktail and some music.

Staying at a hotel or renting a house and you need to stock your own bar? You need to visit Purdy’s Discount Wine and Liquor. There is an abundance of choices and the prices are the best in Saratoga Springs.

While at the track, I have two favorite places to eat. The first is Pies on Wheels. The Chef/Owner is David Britton. For many years, he was the Chef/Owner of Springwater Bistro on Union Avenue in Saratoga Springs. If you like thin, crispy artisan pizza, you will love Pies on Wheels. In the mood for the best burger at the track? Look no further than Shake Shack. The only Shake Shack in New York, north of Woodbury is open at the racetrack, only during racing season. I’m hoping they will open a year round location soon, but in the meantime, this is a must during racing season.

Ladies, if you are gearing up for a night on the town and you need a blow-out or an updo, my favorite is Simplicity, A Salon. There are lots of reasons to love this salon. The stylists all stay current on products, trends and techniques. The salon is conveniently located in the bottom floor of the Embassy Suites, so there is plenty of parking and you can even book your appointment on line!

Saratoga Polo is the second oldest polo field in the United States. The matches are on Fridays and Sundays at 5:30 p.m. so it’s the perfect place to continue the equine experience. There are two ways to enjoy polo. The General Admission side is laid back and casual. You park your car right on the side of the field and host your own tailgate party. The VIP side is more of the “Pretty Woman” experience. Spectators dress to impress, there are box seats and tables, complete with food and beverage service. After the third chucker (think of it like half-time), no matter what side you sit on, be sure to help repair the field, by stomping the divots. At the end of the match, there is a ceremony for the winners and the runners up, (there are no losers in polo!). You can watch the The Noble Art of Sabrage as they open a bottle of champagne with a sword!

If you are looking to stock up on provisions or some great “grab and go” meals to bring back to your hotel or rental home, I recommend The Fresh Market or Healthy Living Market. Both have a great selection of cheeses, meats, seafood, produce, snacks and beers. They also both have complete meals already prepared that you can take with you. Healthy Living also has a wine and liquor store and a big gluten free section.

There are so many great restaurants in Saratoga Springs, too many to mention, something for everyone. If you need a recommendation in Saratoga Springs, message me I will help you chose one to fit what you are looking for. They are all hopping during racing season, so here are a few places to visit if you want to avoid the crowds.

Just a short ride, in neighboring Ballston Spa is Sunset Cafe. This Southwest fusion restaurant is known for smoked chicken and salmon, pulled pork, brisket, corn chowder and killer Margaritas.

Slightly farther South in the Village of Round Lake is Lake Ridge Restaurant. Stop on the way to the track for lunch or after the track for dinner. The menu has something for everyone and everything is delicious! Their wine, beer and cocktail menu is reason enough to visit, but my favorite thing is the Artichoke Souffle.

If you are in the mood for classically prepared French cuisine, head just a few minutes north to Chez Pierre. This hidden gem has a neon replica of the Eiffel Tower out front and food is decadent. Be sure to save room for the Crepes Suzette, prepared table side, for dessert. If you are lucky, you may even get to hear Pierrette, one of the owners sing for you in her native tongue.

Venture a little farther North and you will be in my neck of the woods, Glens Falls. There a several great restaurants to chose from but one of my favorites is Morgan and Company. The setting is an old mansion, converted into a restaurant. They have the most incredible outdoor dining porch, complete with an outdoor bar. The entrees change seasonally and I’ve never had anything I didn’t love, but my favorite thing to do is sit at the bar and enjoy a glass of wine or a cocktail and share some appetizers. I love the glazed spare ribs, the sea salt fries and the hummus platter.

If you would like more of my secret spots or recommendations, message me, and I will be happy to help. If you would like to rent a house for a weekend, a week or the season in Saratoga Springs, I can help with that as well.


Seriously? You’re Gluten Free?

Mary's Hand Gathered EggsSome of my friends have been gluten free for years. Some have an allergy to gluten, a few have Celiac’s Disease. Many of my friends, over the years have experimented with the concept of not eating gluten for a few days, weeks or months for various reasons. Some have actually stuck with it long term.

Since I am a big fan of bread and pasta, albeit the whole grain variety, I could not imagine going gluten free unless I absolutely had to! I, along with a good friend of mine, have raised over $200,000 for local charities by offering to cook dinner for 6 or 8 in people’s homes, as a live auction item. The minute someone said one of the group was gluten free, I asked them to please invite someone else. Frankly, I didn’t understand the whole gluten thing and it scared me. I’ll be honest, other than Celiac’s Disease, I thought the whole thing was a crock, but I wasn’t sure.

A little over a year and half ago, I started to have problems with my back and my hip. A lot of it was due to my age and the fact I spent so many years in a physically demanding career in the hospitality industry. As a result, I have a lot of inflammation in my back and hips. My pain is sometimes unbearable. I can not take NSAIDs like Advil, Motrin or Aleve, they upset my stomach. The only other pharmaceutical option to reduce inflammation is steroids. I tried a few rounds of that and I hated the side effects. I turned to the internet for alternative solutions and kept coming back to the two things, add turmeric to my diet and remove gluten from my diet. So, I went to my favorite natural foods store and bought turmeric. I added it to everything I could think of; dressings, marinades, sauces and dips. You name it, I added turmeric to it. It did help some. So then there was this gluten thing…….

I was still skeptical, but I did my research. Many of my close family members have auto immune issues and I have them, to a lessor degree. Inflammation is a big factor. My close family members also have a lot of bone and joint issues. Again, inflammation. And a few family members have depression issues. Inflammation was listed as a contributing factor. I couldn’t ignore it anymore, inflammation was a contributing factor to so much of my family medical history issues. Reluctantly, I decided I needed to give gluten free a try.

I researched gluten free diets. Everything I read said I needed to give it three weeks to really rid my body of gluten to see if it had an impact. I’ll admit, I took short cuts. I just eliminated it from my diet without really finding acceptable substitutes like finding gluten free free restaurants, GF products etc. After all, I was only doing it for three weeks. I started to feel better. Now, let’s be real, eliminating gluten did not undue years of wear an tear on my body, but it did significantly lessen the pain. At the end of the three weeks, I thought, maybe it was all in my head. So, for one week, I went back to eating gluten. If I had any doubt the impact of gluten on my pain, that week told me all I needed to know. I’ve been gluten free ever since.

I’m a foodie. I write about food for a magazine, I blog here about food, I love to cook everything from scratch, I love dining out and, don’t forget, I love breads and pasta. So, this is where things got real. I needed to find alternatives for cooking and baking at home. I bought a few books, experimented with some good gluten free items in the grocery stores and on line. The reality is, the toughest part is when I don’t eat at home. I eat out in restaurants, sometimes in my hometown, but often on the road. I would be attending my family reunion. I am often invited to parties or friend’s homes. How do I manage all that? I didn’t want to be “that girl” that announces to everyone that I’m gluten free and expect others to accommodate me.

Today, I started a Facebook page, Upstate NY Gluten Free. I am hoping others will share pictures and recipes and restaurants, so people who travel to the area (and I!) can benefit from others and they can benefit from me. If you go to a concert or festival, tell us where you found gluten free options for food and beverages. Don’t worry, not all of my posts to this blog will be about my gluten free journey, but expect that some of them will! I hope you will follow my journey.

You Can’t Grow That On The Patio

The most certain way to ensure that I will do something is to tell me it can’t be done. This is the first year since I moved into my downtown loft that I haven’t had to do extensive overnight travel, so I decided to expand my patio garden.

Last year I grew basil, tomatoes, red peppers and rosemary. The basil and rosemary worked out well, but the tomatoes had all sorts of issues. They would flower but never set. I read that they needed vibrations to set, (usually bees make this happen), so I would drag my chairs around the patio a few times a day. It worked, the tomatoes set. They would grow beautifully, then for some unknown reason half of the tomato would turn brown before they would ripen. One site said they were over-watered, so I tried watering them less, but more often. Nope. Another said it was some sort of fungus and I bought the recommended fungicide. Nope. So all season, I think I got 8 tomatoes. I made the best bruschetta with those 8 tomatoes and my basil, but it wasn’t really all I imagined it would be. The peppers produced a decent yield, but they were miniatures!

This year, thanks to some friends and family, I was gifted for Mother’s Day two floral planters and a lavender plant. I bought a few flats of pansies for the railing planters on my side patio. That did it for the flowers. Being the practical woman I am, I wanted useful plants, herbs and vegetables. Thanks to my boyfriend’s mom, I have a hanging basket with hundreds of cherry tomatoes that have seemed to set all by themselves and have none of the mysterious brown stuff, and a continuous producing lettuce planter with red leaf and romaine.

I filled two long planters with oregano, thyme, dill, rosemary, basil and sage. They are all thriving and now I am pinteresting ways to preserve them so I will have fresh herbs all winter! I planted red, yellow and green peppers and they seem to be coming in just fine. I also have three kinds of mint. Sweet mint, Chocolate mint and Lemon mint. No brainer, they thrive, no matter what! Great for my infuser pitcher, and a host of adult beverages.

So here’s where the challenge comes in. I love Sweet Onions, Brussel sprouts, Zucchini and Cucumbers. Everyone I asked said those wouldn’t work in a patio garden. So, I knew I had to find a way to make those work. Onions grown under ground, so I put the onions in a really tall, deep, planter and they are coming along nicely, although I think they might be a little crowded and I may have to sacrifice a few for the common good.

Cucumber from my patio garden
Cucumber from my patio garden
As for the cucumbers, first, I bought the plants that produce the mini cucumbers. I like them better anyway. The next challenge is cucumbers need to climb and they don’t seem to like metal at all, so I bought a wooden planter bench with a back and I put it next to a wooden shelf. I am pleased to report, my cucumbers are happily climbing and flowering and several flowers have sprouted cucumbers at the base already! After extended research, I found out that, like the onions, Brussel Sprouts, as long as they are in a deep planter, they will grow well in a planter because they have strong stalks and grow straight up. They are growing well so far, but no stalks yet, I think it’s too early for that.

The biggest challenge is the zucchini. They are also on the planter bench. They are growing like crazy, they have lots of blossoms that this week have begun to form the long squash. Problem is they are getting heavy and are starting to drop. Problem is, I can’t let them touch the ground. The cement will fry my poor little zucchini. So, I am now in search of a mat I can put on the patio that won’t get too hot. I know I will find a way! Just tell me it can’t be done, and I will be grilling those zucchini in no time.

Zucchini from my patio garden
Zucchini from my patio garden

These Mountains, The Adirondacks

These Mountains

I fell in love with these mountains when I was seventeen on a college visit.
I reveled in young love as I hiked these mountains and watched the sunset on the shores of St. Regis Lake.
I let these mountains help heal my first broken heart.
I accepted my diploma with these mountains in the background with my whole life ahead of me.
I found strength in these mountains as my father battled for his life.
I sought comfort in these mountains as my heart broke in a million pieces as I accepted my father’s death.
I returned to these mountains to give back and share my knowledge with a new crop of students.
I enjoyed a labor of love in these mountains as I helped build a company.
I cultivated a project named for one of these mountains.
I learned of the loss of a dear friend in these mountains.
I tried to write a story in these mountains that should not have been written.
I had my entire paradigm shift in these mountains.
I now live at the foothills of these mountains and found the love I didn’t know I needed.
We dance on the roof to Sinatra as we look at these mountains.
We boat on the lake with these mountains all around us.
I am building my own business in these mountains.
I am living the life I love in these mountains and loving the life I live in these mountains.
The Adirondacks. These mountains.