Last Chance For Summer Fun

Last Chance For Summer Fun

Don't Go!

Don’t Go!

Summer is fast coming to an end (for goodness sake, school’s about to start). I’ve always had mixed emotions about this time of year. Pumpkin spice everything is right around the corner, but I always worried whether I provided enough summer fun for our kids.

So, every year, we’d load the kids up in the car and go in search of adventure. One of my favorite trips was when we drove to Vermont in search of Larry, Daryl and Daryl from Newhart (Remember those guys?).

We loved that show and were eager to see Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine. We stayed at a country bed and breakfast, The Bailey Mills. We drove up after getting lost on ‘the scenic route’ and drove up around 11:30 at night. We were all a bit creeped out by the fact the front yard was a revolutionary war cemetery. And, the room we rented came with a ghost. Now, I’ve never professed to being afraid of a ghost, but knowing I’d closed the closet door in the bathroom before I went to bed, and finding it open the next morning was…in a word, spooky.

Photo Courtesy of The Bailey Mills Inn

Photo Courtesy of The Bailey Mills Inn

But the grounds were awesome, and the journey together as a family is still a memory we discuss often. School started about a week after we got home and I sent my kids off on that first day, knowing they’d enjoyed the adventure.

I’m curious what you’d do if confronted by a ghost at a bed and breakfast?

Vacation

Vacation

 

It’s that time of year… Summer has arrived and that means one thing. VACATION!

My favorite place to vacation has always been the beach. Salt air, sand, the sound of sea gulls and waves crashing against the shore, it all feeds my soul.

 

I think it’s one of the very best places to watch a sunrise or sunset. And it’s the first place where I saw a glimpse of how many stars number the sky. You can’t see very many stars, living in the city, but out on a beach at night, in the absence of artificial light, the view is breathtaking.

Growing up, I spent summers at the Jersey shore. (Fun fact: people who go to Jersey beaches don’t “go to the beach,” they go “down the shore.”). I was used the dark blue waters of the Atlantic. But a few years ago, I had the chance to go to Miami, and the ocean there was light, pretty, and clear.

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I’m looking forward to adding other beaches to my list. Give me sun, sand, and surf, and I’m happy.

Cue the Go-Go’s: ūüôā

 

 

What are your favorite places to vacation?

Susan-Sig

My Traveling Circus

My Traveling Circus

As you may already know, we’ve lived in several homes over the 17 years I’ve been married. Last count was around 13. What I don’t always talk about is the menagerie that came with us. Our two Golden Retrievers, Rosie and Jack, have been with us for ten years now, and shared at least nine of those homes.

 

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A young Rosie in Johannesburg

 

They’ve been flown from South Africa to Amsterdam, uncrated in Amsterdam, and then re-crated to resume the flight to Vancouver (where we were waiting for them.)

 

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Both dogs were a big fan of all the water in Vancouver

They were sent ahead of us and flew from Vancouver to Montreal. While we lived in Montreal they joined us on a trip to Maine and another one to Prince Edward Island.

 

 

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Jack disgraced himself in our Vancouver neighbor’s garden

When we left Montreal for Utah, the size of the cargo hold doors on the planes traveling that route meant Rosie and Jack were driven across the States from Montreal all the way to Utah. And finally, when we moved to Colorado, I loaded Rosie and Jack, the new rescue cat, Pepper and my two teens into my car and drove them from Salt Lake City to Denver. So these are some well traveled dogs

 

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Hiking the trails in Utah

 

Why, you ask, would you travel your pets all over the place with you? It’s simple. Like most pet owners, we love them, and more than that, they have provided a sense of stability and normalcy that is so hard to find in a peripatetic lifestyle. Wherever we went, there were the dogs, making whatever house we moved into home. My girls drew a tremendous amount of comfort from having them around. For me, this life can be lonely. We never really stay in one place for long enough for me to put down real roots. But with Rosie and Jack by my side, I have found it easier to settle and never lacked for company.With them lying around the writing cave, they’ve helped me pursue my dream of being¬†a published author. Often, they were the only ones around to share the bad news and the good news.

Last week, in¬†one of those horrible occurrences of Murphy’s Law, both Rosie and Jack were diagnosed with cancer in one week. It’s doubtful if they’ll live through the summer. So, Colorado will be their¬†last trip with us. Devastatingly, they take their next journey¬†without us. I can only send them off with all my love, and so much gratitude for their unequalled friendship.

 

SarahSig

 

 

Eating out . . . side

Eating out . . . side

As we move toward the summer months, my thoughts turn to outdoor dining.

I’ve already fired up my barbecue grill countless times, wafting the scents of burgers, chicken, and those famous Sheboygan bratwurst around the neighborhood.

Fire up the Grill!

 Fire up the Grill!

It’s also the time of year countless restaurants are opening up their outdoor dining facilities.

Table for two please.

Table for two please.

Yes, miss. He is most definitely checking you out.

Yes, miss, he is most definitely checking you out.

 

 

 

 

 

 

And for a truly intimate dining experience, how about a romantic picnic. Pack a basket with sandwiches, snacks, and a chilled bottle of wine and get out into nature.

Another glass please.

Another glass please.

So what’s your favorite outdoor dining experience?

Let me know in the comments down below.

Steve

Dishing the Dirt on Vegas.

Dishing the Dirt on Vegas.

Yes, I know, what happens in Vegas and all that. But I’m going to break that rule right now. Last week the annual RT Book Lovers Convention took place in Vegas, and I attended for the first time. First off, most writers I know are pathologically introverted (myself included), which is not to be confused with being shy. The best definition I’ve heard of introvert vs extrovert, is that an introvert is drained by people, whereas an extrovert feeds on other people’s energy.

So, it was a double whammy. Because first off‚ÄĒVegas! I don’t really have to say too much about that. Secondly, about 3000 readers and writers all clustered together and talking romance novels. The energy was incredible. I met so many wonderful¬†people, readers and writers alike. It was really good for me to emerge from my writing pit and be forced into actual social engagement with people who exist outside of my head.

Highlights for me were meeting so many of the writers I interact with on a daily basis in person.

Me and Jami Denise

Me and Jami Denise

I also met some of the nicest people in gorgeous packages, the cover models. I got to sign my books, which was a blast.  And most of all, meeting and getting to chat with readers.

I’ve always believed that the relationship between readers and writers, especially in the romance genre, is a very intimate one. We write the words, but they come to life in the readers imagination. So, really, we build the story together. Vegas brought this home to me with such clarity. Speaking to readers, getting their input, and seeing their passion for what I do, was like a shot of adrenaline.

Back into the writing pit I go! And I’m taking all those people I met with me.

Going the Distance

Going the Distance

by Xio Axelrod

Next month, I’ll hit the road for the first time this year. And what a doozy of a trip it will be.

The Strip at night, Las Vegas, Nevada, United States of America - getty creative

First up, Las Vegas where I’ll join some of my fellow Spice Aislers at the annual RT Booklovers Convention. It will also be a research trip for me, as I start preliminary work on a new series. I’ve been to Vegas a number of times and every time¬†is different. Not only because there seems to be a new hotel, restaurant, or hot spot for me to try, but because each visit has been for different reasons. The last time, I was there for a mini-writing retreat after the 2014 RWA (Romance Writers of America) conference. And I got my first tattoo.

Guess not everything that happens in Vegas… [Read more…]

Stay-cation, Florida style

Stay-cation, Florida style

We don’t go on a whole lot of family vacations where we are not headed up North to visit friends and family. It’s kind of our thing. But there are times, when we have a few days off, and decide to stay local with the girls to do the Florida thing. Among our favorite places to visit, still, is . . . UNIVERSAL ORLANDO.

IMG_3885Now, not every year, but some years, we splurge and get annual passes for the family.¬† By the time we’ve visited the parks 3 times, we’ve already gotten our money’s worth and then some. Plus, free parking? And we can go any time we feel like it, for as long (or short) as we want, and we don’t stress over it.

Helloooooo.

I’m in.

IMG_1533I could go on and on about every little nook and cranny, inside the parks, but today, I’m focusing on my favorite area. Which, of course, is what I like to refer to as, the park within the parks. AKA, Harry Potter world.

Visit London, with the facade of normalcy on the outside . . .

Find the secret path, and you are escorted to the magical life of J.K. Rowlings vision, on the inside.

IMG_3201It’s flipping extraordinary, guise.

From the first time I stepped into this world, I felt like I was inside the books all over again. It’s Potter perfection.

 

 

 

From Platform 9 and 3 quartahs . . .

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To the train that takes you on more than just a ride to the other half of Universal Studios . . .

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To seeing KREACHER in the window of Sirius Black’s home!

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Our youngest got her wand as a birthday surprise last summer . . .

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The fact that she can perform spells, blows . . . my mind.

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photo - knockturn alley - insidethemagic.net

photo – knockturn alley – insidethemagic.net

To top it all off, she and I went alone once, this year, and we wandered around inside Diagon Alley, inspecting everything we could, got a little lost and don’t you know, we ended up in freaking KNOCKTURN ALLEY, ya’ll.

They literally thought of everything.

The beauty of this area of the parks, though, is so much more than taking a day trip to have fun for a day. It’s all about the details. And the experience, and watching your kids enjoy the magic, while you still can.

IMG_3896I hope they still feel it when they’re my age. I totally do, and I will never stop being grateful to J.K. for all the awesomeness she’s given me and my girls through her writing.

To be able to give that to millions . . . that’s the sweet spot.

*heavy . . . happy sigh*

Hope you enjoyed your trip today!

See ya next time! ūüôā

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Christmastime in the City

Christmastime in the City

I love my hometown, especially during the holiday season. Welcome to Philadelphia. I’m taking you on a tour of not-to-be-missed local traditions.
First up, the Macy’s Christmas Light Show.
The Christmas Light Show and Wanamaker Organ Concert at Macy‚Äôs is a Philadelphia holiday tradition that dates back more than half a century.¬†The store, in Center City (downtown Philly) ‚ÄĒ housed in the historic Wanamaker Building ‚ÄĒ in the Grand Court atrium. You can do your shopping and when your spirits sag, stop and watch snowflakes, ballerinas, snowmen, and angels light up the screen along with the giant Christmas Tree.¬†The finale of the four-story-high light show is accompanied by festive music from the Wanamaker Grand Organ. We visited the light show¬†every year when I was growing up.
Up next, for the history buffs, we have Deck the Alley — Elfreth’s Alley
America’s oldest street, Elfreth’s Alley, decks the halls for the holiday season. Residents of the historic street open their homes to the public on December 5 as carolers and colonial reenactors create a festive mood.¬†It’s a cool place to visit at any time of year, but especially when it’s all dressed up for the holidays.
Food-wise, Philly has more to offer than just cheesesteaks. So let’s go¬†to Reading Terminal Market.
The Reading Terminal Market, at 12th and Arch Streets, (established in 1892) is the nation’s oldest continuously operating farmers’ market. Cool, no? Here, you can find virtually every type of cuisine, (yes, even those cheesesteaks). During the holiday season, the market sets up a very cool holiday railroad. It has fourteen working train lines and miniature scenery of Center City and the countryside, surrounding almost one-third of a mile of track.
Let’s get physical! I’m talking ice skating, of course. ¬†I have two awesome locations for you:
                       
The first is the Blue Cross RiverRink, an Olympic-size skating rink overlooking the Delaware River. During Winterfest, they also have a ski chalet-style lodge and winter garden, a heated tent, holiday trees, and fire pits. 
 
Option two is in¬†the heart of the city at¬†the ice rink at Dilworth Park, right next to City Hall. You’ll skate under great views of the city skyline.
If you’ll be in the city through New Year’s, then a tradition that’s a MUST is the Mummer’s parade on New Year’s Day.¬†
The Mummers Parade dates back to 1901. Men, women and children dressed in colorful, lavish costumes dance, perform, and¬†strut down the one of biggest streets in the city.¬†Mummers belong to more than 40 organized clubs.¬†The clubs split into five divisions: the Comics and Wench Brigades satirize issues; the Fancies wear¬†glamorous outfits; the String Bands play banjoes, saxophones, percussion and other reed and string instruments; and the Fancy Brigades are known for fantastic¬†choreographed performances. The clubs are in it to win it –¬†local bragging rights.
 
You have to see it to truly appreciate and understand: 

This is only a sampling of all the city has to offer for the holidays. Come for a visit!

Happy Holidays,
Susan-Sig
Incredible Dining at the Blind Horse

Incredible Dining at the Blind Horse

Full disclosure: My wife and I don’t always eat out this elegantly, I’m more a burger joint kind of guy. But sometimes you just need to step up your game and step into another world.

That’s what we’ve discovered at the Blind Horse Restaurant and Winery.

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Located just outside of Kohler, Wisconsin, The Blind Horse is more than just a restaurant. It’s a destination, and one well work taking in if you’re anywhere in the area.

 

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This unassuming little house is home to some of the finest cuisine in the area, but it really shouldn’t be your first stop because out behind the restaurant is Restorations Gardens, a fun filled garden/gift shop and the incredible Blind Horse Winery.

 

 

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This late in the season there’s not as much going on at Restoration Gardens, but in spring and summer this is a great place to browse.

Of course, anytime of year is perfect for a stop at the Winery. Excellent wines and a fun filled atmosphere, makes tasting at the The blind Horse Winery a real treat.

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During the warmer months they also feature wine tasting, food, and entertainment on their outdoor patio. Wine and music under the stars is not to be missed, and their pizza is to die for.

But to take your dining to a whole new level, plan an evening inside the restaurant.

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On this particular evening they had a party planned in the main dining room, so I got a picture of this place empty (a rare opportunity).

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We couldn’t resist stopping by the bar for one of their unique cocktail concoctions. I had a Sinatra Smash and my wife enjoyed a Pumpkin Spice Martini.

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Then we were invited to dine in their charming downstairs dining area, something we hadn’t discovered before this visit.

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Courteous service, wonderful atmosphere, and the food – nothing short of amazing.

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We finished the night by sharing our favorite desert, Creme Brulee.

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Now, if you think I’m just using this blog as an excuse to take my favorite girl out for an incredible dining experience, you’re right. I’ll use any excuse to dine here.

 

Bon Appétit

Steve

The Ultimate Test of Wills (AKA Fair Food)

The Ultimate Test of Wills (AKA Fair Food)

About a month ago, I posted on the Spice Aisle that I was headed out to meet with a doctor who specialized in Functional Medicine. (You can read that one here.) Well, the long and short of it is that the doc got back some test results that indicated I’d benefit from this thing called an Anti-Inflammatory Nutrition Plan. Now, it’s only been about five days since I had this chat with said doc, so I’m still learning what this diet entails. But the super-duper, Rhenna translation: Eat natural stuff, and white sugar/white flour are the devil.

Hey…we all have our way to translate things.

Anyhoo…

On Thursday, I started tiptoeing into this diet plan. And by tiptoeing, I mean experimenting with things I might be able to eat without fully committing. By Friday night I was like, “Hey, I might be able to do this!”

And then I woke up Saturday morning and realized hubster and I had agreed to take the kids to the freakin’ fair. AKA – The white sugar and white flour wonderland mecca.

<Insert a high number of explicit and colorful swear words here>

Here’s what I was surrounded by…

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So pretty! All that pink and puffy font detail tells me YUM, YUM, YUM!

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Oh. My. God. Donut Hamburgers. Nirvana.

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Because funnel cakes by themselves weren’t bad enough. Now, let’s incorporate Mexican food, too.

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Are you reading the bottom one? Yes, deep fried watermelon.

 

So, how do you think I did? Well, considering dessert has been a required food group throughout my life (and usually eaten before anything else), I don’t think the tally was too bad:

 

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First stop – Roasted corn on the cob. I even got it without butter. I think something inside me broke a little with that decision.

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I swore I would NEVER eat a turkey leg. And I still didn’t eat that much. I’m not a fan. Turns out, however, my eight-year-old can put one away pretty quick. (And yes, that’s me with dark hair in a ponytail–but that’s for a different blog post.)

Chicken Shish-ka-bob, kindly modeled by my twelve-year-old who threatened penalty of death if I didn't crop her out of the picture.

Chicken Shish-ka-bob, kindly modeled by my twelve-year-old who threatened penalty of death if I didn’t crop her out of the picture.

 

And that’s it! Well, except for the two bites of funnel cake I snagged without even realizing it while I was chatting with the hubster. But I’m giving myself a hallpass for that flub. I was distracted by people watching which is the whole reason we go to the fair anyway.

What about you? When you go to the fair, do you forgo the bad stuff? Or indulge for the special occasion? Have you ever tried to follow this diet? If you have and you know any books that run to the, Meal Plans for the Busy/Lazy Person side of things, please share them in the comments.

Rhenna Morgan