New Kensington, PA

“As America celebrates Memorial Day, we pay tribute to those who have given their lives in our nation’s wars.” – John M. McHugh


Day One

New Kensington, a small American town nestled between other small towns, is a picture of quaint east coast charm. I love it! 

We began the day at a local family run dinner opened for breakfast and lunch. If you go, go early. The place is busy but worth the wait if your interested in starting the day out with comfort breakfast  food and piping hot coffee poured into thick, old fashioned coffee mugs. After a short wait we were seated at an old school Formica table and we ordered biscuits and gravy, home fries, pancakes, eggs and bacon to be shared around the table. 

Three Rivers Sightseeing-Pirate Adventure

Even though the day was a bit overcast and filled with sprinkles we headed to Pittsburgh to see the city on a river cruise. 


This is a great way to see the city and the beautiful cityscapes that surrounds the Three Rivers. Best of all the hour long cruise is narrated with history and humorous trivia. 


And since the kids were with us, we sailed in the afternoon so they got to interact with swashbuckling pirates in the featured Pirate Show! From balloon sword play, to treasure map hunts to finding hidden gold coins, the kids had a fabulous kid friendly time. The cruise was a hit for all ages! 


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It was a great way to experience the city there is something storybook-like about the city. Maybe it’s a combination of history and modernization or, more than likely, my over active imagination. But I love the rolling green hills with tall trees hiding tiny communities tucked here and there, playing peekaboo from the roadside. 

It was a good day! For a little trivia on the city of Pittsburgh follow the link… fascinating!

Day Two: Falling Water



The rain continued to fall intermittently, but living in Alaska for so long I never let the weather deter me from exploring. Plus we had already purchase tickets! 


Ignoring the bucket of green umbrellas for the arriving guests escaping the light sprinkles, we headed out to the manicured trail snaking its way down to an observation turnout. Miss R had wanted to go on a nature hike but the manicured trail didn’t measure up to this Alaskan kid’s idea of a trail. Go figure! No matter, we had fun exploring the lush surroundings and even splashed in some mud puddles. Before long, the sun poked her head out of the clouds chasing away the drizzle. 

I remembered bits and pieces about Frank Lloyd Wright from college but to see the grounds and the home he had designed was breathtaking. Well worth the trip!

Tip: there’s no photography in the house, and in my opinion, save the cost of a ticket to tour the house if you are with kids. It’s much too restrictive and expensive. Instead spend your time enjoying the trails and your money on a souvenir from the gift shop. Post cards work!





Back to Houston 

The trip quickly ended. With a hug and a kiss I said goodbye. 


Today is Memorial Day and a quiet day at the Pittsburgh airport. With a little time before departure I decided to have lunch at Vino Volo, a little wine bar with a scrumptious menu for hungry travelers. Check it out, if you are in the mood to discover new wines. They offer a variety of wine flights just in case.  As I sit here contemplating Memorial Day and all the fallen heroes I realize how blessed I am. 

Thank you to all who have served or are serving in our finest military. I am extremely grateful to all those who have given the ultimate sacrifice for our country!  

Cheers!

❤️

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May’s Travel Update: Pennsylvania 

Hello!

I’m not sure which camp you are in; the early birds or the last minute runners but I tend to lean towards the early birds side of things. And, so happy I did this morning! 


Even though I went to the extra effort to obtain TSA Pre-Check (you haven’t?!? If you travel go right this minute and start your application. I can wait…) this morning the lines at Security snaked around forever. To say it was as slow as molasses is an understatement. 

 Just so happened that they were running everyone through standard screening and on top of that two lanes were down due to maintenance. My heart went out to everyone, including the TSA employees and all of us excited travelers. 

*Happy TSA Highlight. 

Now I know TSA gets a bad rap. I’ve been on the receiving end of curt agents and extra screenings – all for my love of travel. But today I want to tell you about a positive occurrence I witnessed. The friendly gentleman checking boarding passes and identity took extra time and care to help a blind man and his companion through the masses of humanity, with warm patience. His kindness didn’t stop there. He greeted every person with a smile and a warm welcome. When it was my turn to stand in front of the wooden podium I was greeted just as warmly and I couldn’t help myself but I had to tell him how much I appreciated his friendliness and kindness. He gave me a big smile “April Love,”  he drawled, “have a good trip”.  

Now isn’t that a great way to start the Memorial weekend? 

I know you are wondering why in the world am I heading to Pennsylvania for the weekend… well, cuz that’s where Miss R and her mamma is. Plus, I’ve never explored PA and it’s time to check this State off my list of places to visit.  

Who here has an airport ritual? Or am I the only one that is a creature of habit and has a certain routine as I leave TSA?  For me I I grab a cup of coffee from Starbucks (stop hating), and then it’s a bottle of water at the nearest convenience shop, maybe a snack for the plane if I didn’t tuck something into my carry on and then I find my gate. Now if I have time I might go explore the airport. 

A few of my favorite  airports to shop in:

  1. Seattle
  2. Minneapolis 
  3. Paris 

Happy Travels!

Cheers!

❤️

Day Tripin’: Waco, Texas

Hello Waco!

Waco, Texas sits 175 miles from Houston which makes for a nice, easy day tip. My wonderful girlfriend, who grew up in Houston and has shared a wealth of tips and tricks with me as I try to get settled here, invited me to join her for a day trip to Waco. 

I jumped at the opportunity since the popularity of “the Fixer Upper” had me curious about the city that’s situated along the Brazos River and sits between Austin and Dallas. And quite honestly, all I can remember about Waco was brief snippets of not so good news years ago. 

Tip: Get an early start to beat the crowds (and the heat!).

The Magnolia Market at The Silos

This place has something for everyone. From shopping, playing to eating you can spend the whole day at The Silos. 



Arriving at The Silos a little before noon, we fell into a short line outside of the Silos Baking Co. S had told me so much about the yummy treats baked up here during the drive up that it was our very first stop. 

Greeted by a young lady handing out menu ordering cards and tiny pencils I spent the short ten minutes in the que trying to make up my mind on what to pick. Let me tell you it was a struggle. I finally landed on a lemon lavender cupcake. 


And then I arrived at the glass display case… choices, choices…

Oh my. 

On a whim I added a cranberry orange biscuit, reassured by the young lady checking me out,  that  it would be just as delicious tomorrow morning with coffee. She was right! 


Tip: don’t forget to grab a cold lemonade from the case just inside the front door. You won’t be sorry! Especially on a hot Texas day. 


As the afternoon got on the crowds increased, but we were blessed to have arrived when we did since it wasn’t too bad. Heading inside of The Market the first thing I noticed is how big it is. And how BUSY it is. The popularity and marketing makes The Silos the place to be. 



Take your time and wander around. You will find items for your home to apparels. There really is something for everyone. 


Tip: Avoud the long checkout lines! Look for a customer service rep carrying a tablet. They will check you out in the floor if you are paying by credit card! 


Towards the back of the property is the Magnolia Seed +Supply with a quaint garden surrounding it.  Don’t miss out wandering through the garden and spending some time taking it all in. 





Spice Village

The wonderful thing about traveling with a girlfriend is the luxury of exploring little shops. Or large shops like Spice Village, not to far from The Silos. 


After a salad and a cool ice tea, we meanardered our way through Spice Village, a warehouse size of shops all blended together. 

Tip: Be prepared for visual overload! There is something to see everywhere!  And to buy… you can definitely do damage to your pocket book. 


Taking a mental note to cone back after I close on my new house, we left the Spice Village and headed out of town. 
Heritage Homestead 


According the website “Homestead Heritage is an agrarian- and craft-based intentional Christian community. Its literature stresses simplicity, sustainability, self-sufficiency, cooperation, service and quality craftsmanship. It also strives to live in peaceful coexistence with the land, other people and other faiths.” 

S looked up the meaning of “Brazil’s de Dios”. It means hands of God. The beauty of the property reminded me of a small slice of heaven and I can imagine it being cupped gently in the hands of God. Go! You won’t be sorry to escape the rat race of the city. 


Trust me, they live up to that. I could spend all my time wandering grounds here and still not see everything. There is something so tranquil about its peaceful grounds that my whole body seemed to exhale all the stress I’d been carrying from the week. 


Blessed with clouds sheltering us from the Texas heat, we wandered our way about, discovering all the out buildings taking us back in time. I can’t wait to bring Miss R here to watch her face light up in wonder as we watch the weavers weave, the big water wheel driving the mill, and the lump of clay forming magically into a vase under the skillful potter’s hands. 


Outside of the basket weaver’s we paused to watch butterflies dance among flowers. I tried to catch them in a photo but the picture doesn’t do it justice. 



To be honest, I have to say that the mill might be my favorite spot. Stepping off the trail, the mill sits tucked up next to a small river driving a large water wheel. I could watch it for hours. Stepping into the mill, the scent of fresh, milled flour wafts through the air magically sprinkling the air with nostalgia. 


Tip: There are benches in unexpected places begging you to sit down and melt into the scenery. Sit. Relax. Count your blessings. 




After leaving the mill we found the garden. 


S shared with me lots of information about the native plants and flowers to Texas.  It will be a novel adventure when I get the opportunity to plant a few beds in my back yard. 

Tip: Stop at the market just as you are leaving the Homestead. I splurged and bought pancake mix for a future breakfast with Miss R, a delicious marinated feta cheese sure to pair with pasta sublimely and local preserves.  

I could go on and on about this beautiful place. But I’ll leave you with one last tip. They offer classes! How cool is that!?! You can learn to turn a wooden bowl, weave baskets, or spin and weave cotton.  Step back in time. Let go of technology and explore the meaning of craftsmanship.

Calvert

I can see coming back to Waco with the family. Yes, it makes a great day trip but there is so much to explore in Waco it might be a better weekend trip. There was a lot we didn’t see but there will be a next time. 


Oh, before I sign off I want to tell you about a little place to stop along the way if you love chocolate; Cocoamoda Chocolate


We arrived just as they were closing but they were so gracious and served us anyway. 

This little town is a destination in itself.  We arrived too late to Calvert. The shops all close up at 6pm but what I could see on the quiet street is a great place to go hunting for antiques. Stop for chocolate but you may unearth a hidden treasure too in one of the little shop on the Main Street. 

Back to Houston 

This post is a little longer than usual, but I  had so much to share! Hope you get a chance to get out and explore all that Waco has to offer!


Cheers!

❤️

Restless Nights Make for Bumpy Mornings 

“Morning is an important time of day, because how you spend your morning can often tell you what kind of day you are going to have.”
Lemony Snicket, The Blank Book (A Series of Unfortunate Events)


Driving over 60mph on the on ramp to I10, due to a demanding vehicle behind me, wasn’t good enough. Nope. Not here in Houston. The impatient person revved their engine and flew around me, barely keeping it on the road…then breaked suddenly due to the heavy merging traffic! I slowed down amazed at the antics here, trying to not blast the driver with negative thoughts. 

Breathe…. just Breathe…


Good morning, Houston. 
With the time zone change I fielded late night, early morning phone calls from Alaska. Let’s just say that this move is rough on everyone. A little sad, a little frustrated, I finally rolled out of bed and got a very early start praying for everyone, including myself! 


Have you ever had days that make your eye twitch the very first thing? I’ve tried patiently to muddle through things but right now I’m just going to admit to everyone right here, right now, that life is rough at the moment. 

Pray. Breathe through it. Pray some more. 

Stepping onto the 28th floor way too early for most folks, I was greeted by the vultures perched just outside of my cube’s window. It’s time to start the day, the scary vulture eyes watch me. I’m going to name him Moe. 

I ignore Moe and say another prayer. 

Good morning, Houston! 


Cheers!

❤️

Audacious – A Texas Wine Begs You To Relax


http://amzn.to/2ruSUcn

I am blessed to have my car back in my possession. To celebrate I pulled up the TexasTravel website and searched for a day trip and discovered a handful of wineries within easy driving distance. Scanning the list I settled on one and navigated my way to Hwy 290. 

If I had given it much thought I would have looked for an alternative route since I’m not a big fan of 290. But once on the construction laden highway I was committed. Following Siri’s directions  I barreled along with a slew of others escaping the city for the day trying to avoid concrete barriers and rocketing vehicles screaming down the road. 

90 minutes or so later, Pulling off the highway onto a rural road, I felt myself relax into my car seat, letting the country road guide me past ranches towards a tiny vineyard tucked away in the rolling hills. To be honest I have no idea where I am. Am I the only one that sometimes still misses old school paper maps? But where would we be without the marvelous Siri navigation?!?


I finally found the slice of heaven in the Texas Hill Country at Peach Creek Vineyards. Stepping into the cool, dim interior I was warmly greeted and the rules of the tasting deftly explained. 


Choosing to sit outside on their covered patio I selected 5 wines to taste while enjoying the easy rocking chair and letting the view of the vineyard wipe away the stress of 290. 

If you get the chance this is a great way to spend a Saturday afternoon.  I indulged in a cheese plate and sipped a few wines. For $8 you can taste 5 wines from the menu. I made it through  3.5 reds and was pleasantly surprised at the flavorful reds. 

Sadly I had to get back on the road so I didn’t partake in the last tasting. Im a firm believer in drinking responsibly, especially if one is driving! Saying goodbye and tucking the complimentary wine glass and bottle of wine I purchased in my trunk I headed back towards Houston, pretty satisfied with my first exploration of the Hill Country. Can’t wait to see what’s around the next corner! 

Cheers!

❤️

Mister Carwash and Other Houstonian Rites of Passage


My car finally arrived after journeying thousands of miles on boat and truck. It desperately needed a bath. 

Over dinner my girlfriend told me about Mister Carwash on Gessner.  It sounded like the perfect Saturday morning plan. She warned me to arrive early because it gets pretty busy and I’m happy I did. Cars were already lined up and it was only a little after 8a.m.

Mister Carwash has over 30 locations, so the nice guy told me, while convincing me to sign up for the monthly car washing service (with the promise I can cancel at any time). No wonder most of the cars here are shiny! 

In Anchorage, cars are dirt encrusted most of the year and no one blinks an eye. Our roads conditions in Alaska are a bit more rough around the edges compared to this bustling Texas city. 


With coffee in hand, I left my car to be vacuumed and washed, wiping away the evidence of the long journey it had just recently traveled. From the comfy waiting room I can watch the cars glide past the wide windows, the hard working employees working their magic. 

I’m impressed!

You have no idea how  happy I am to be reunited with my car. It’s a small chunk falling into place, reminding me how wonderfully blessed I am with this new chapter in my life. I’m so very blessed and grateful for all that God has given me. Good and bad, it’s been a bit of a challenge but through it all I’m treasuring the days as they unfold. 


My mantra for today is “be present”.  

Be present in all the little moments. Even a Carwash. 


Cheers!

❤️