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!

❤️

Breakup Is Here and Its Beautiful!

“Flour and butter, cream and sugar, words and images — all the ingredients for a rich, tasty story.”
― Rona Simmons, The Quiet Room

Oh my goodness, I’ve been busy. The days are speeding by and I am getting less and less done. On the bright side its getting brighter and warmer and muddier out…Hello, Breakup! The very last one that I will experience. After 25 years I think I’m ready for a real spring.

But Sunday is for baking and I’m taking a few minutes to share pictures from my trip to Iowa (no time to bake this weekend). I just had to test out my son’s kitchen and what better way to do that than bake some cookies for the guys. After being pried out of Trader Joe’s (LOVE that store!) we made it back home, supplied for the next decade or more with pantry staples.

I baked. And fed the guys piping hot cookies straight out of the oven.

Cookies = Love

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Tip: Freeze extras! I made an extra batch to freeze. Wrap the cookies in freezer Ziploc baggies to pull out to enjoy later. Yum!

Cheers!

 

Another Adventure Comes to A Close – Des Moines, Iowa


I must get my hormones in check! The waterworks turned on hugging my son goodbye this morning. Poor guy! 

Heading back to Anchorage, I already miss the guys and our easy going days. To be honest, this trip has flown by too quickly, making me wish for more time. Unfortunately time is something we never get back once it’s spent. 

The guys spoiled me with a beautiful room decorated just for me. It was like stepping into a hotel room. A robe and slippers laid on a scrumptious bed piled high with beautiful bedding. I absolutely loved waking up and falling asleep in in my nest surrounded in dark purple walls contrasted  in white trim. They could rent it out on Air B&B! 


I met Mr. Abraham for the first time. It took a little bit for him to warm to me but by the end of my stay I’d say he will miss me. 

Breakfast at La Mie Bakery Thursday morning was a treat. Go for the pastries! Ignore your diet. This is a lovely spot to indulge your sweet tooth. The place was bustling and tables were filled with happy customers.  I’d personally pass on breakfast although they have a very nice menu. The noise level was over the top competing against the pop music playing. But if shouting over breakfast is your cup of tea eat in. I’d recommend filling a box up with your favorite pastries and heading outside to really enjoy your treat. 

It’s time to board. This flight will take me to Chicago, then to Seattle and on to Anchorage.  I’ll post more as time allows. 

Cheers!

Finding Time in Lost Hours

“But let there be spaces in your togetherness and let the winds of the heavens dance between you. Love one another but make not a bond of love: let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls.” Khalil Gibran

The last few weeks I’ve spent lost in everyday details of a fairly busy life preparing to move. But to be honest, I have also found myself lost between hours, disconnecting myself from the altogether overwhelming list of “to dos”. Instead, because time is so short with Miss R, I have indulged us both in play and overnight stays whenever I can.

“Will you remember me?” I asked her over the new Moana Lego set just recently erected with her momma’s help. She tilted her head, the way she always does when her young mind puzzles through something. She nods and chirps, “of course.”

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My heart hurts thinking about our soon to be separation.

I think ahead to summer vacation and the promised two weeks when my little family will join me in Texas. The “to dos” come crashing all around me and, instead of the momentary sadness of missing my grandchild,  I focus on all the blessings life has bestowed upon me.

Gratitude swells within me. I have worked towards this move for awhile. For years I have yearned for warmer weather, a fresh start and new opportunities. I am so blessed and so grateful for this next chapter in my life. But, being human, I also recognize the sadness, the profound grief, of this imminent move.

My list of “to dos” is calling me. Guess its time to get busy before I get lost in the hours again.

Cheers!

 

 

 

Running With The Reindeer and Other Fur Rondy Adventures

A little known fact I have learned after living in the Last Frontier for over twenty five years is that when the winter sky is clear and brilliant blue the temperature is frigid. Saturday morning was no exception. The below zero temp rose to single digits as we made our way down to see the ice sculptures.

I explained to Miss R as we got our snow gear on that this was love, because this grandma absolutely hates the cold. Thank goodness this will be my last winter here (but that’s another story for another time). But a promise is a promise and it was time for an adventure! So off we went to explore Fur Rondy.

Snow Sculpture Competition

The snow sculptures are down in the Port of Anchorage across from the ULU Factory. A parking lot was converted to temporarily house the snowy artwork. The chilly temperature and icy cold drew people to the one and only food vendor like flies to honey.

With a hot chocolate and warm apple cider in hand we headed up the hill to the carnival.

Even in the arctic there is fun at the carnival. Miss R, impervious to the cold, was in high spirits as her and her mama went fishing – and won two squishy bears that found a home in my pocket for safe keeping. They now reside on my bookshelf keeping Miss R’s other toys company until she visits again.

A bit frozen (at least I was) we headed for home to warm up before I headed back out to 4th Avenue to meet C.

Running With Reindeer

For ten years folks have had the opportunity to run down 4th Avenue with reindeer. Yes, you too could dress up (or wear nothing at all) and run down frozen streets with a herd of reindeer. I had this new Nikon camera and figured it would be a good time to test it shooting racing, walking and snorting animals and humans alike. To be honest – this little Nikon does an OK job but it doesn’t compare to C’s Cannon and her new lens. But I’m an amateur and will continue to test the waters…you will have to let me know I do.

I’m amazed at the participation from the runners to the audience. The Anchorage streets were packed with people enjoying the festival. Despite the frozen chill in the air you wouldn’t know it by all the happy cheering people. This race, presented by the KWHL 106.5 Morning Show and Fur Rondy, raises funds for Toys for Tots.  By the attendance I’m sure they raised a good sum for a great cause!

Cheers!

How My Mother Saw Me

Going through an old file I stumbled upon my mothers papers, yellow and wrinkled from age. She’s been gone now for over 25 years and I still miss her. The loss of someone you love never goes away, it just becomes apart of you – ghostly memories that resurrect themselves, like now.

Slipping into her pages,  I found this hand written draft she wrote an eon ago about me as a little girl. This is how my mother saw me.

Her words are written below. 

Rene is an eight and one half year old girl of mixed blood – white European heritage – with 1/4 Cherokee, Seminole Indian. She weighs 50lbs, is 3 feet 6 inches tall, she wears a size 1 shoe in girls. She has hazel eyes, chestnut brown hair, a powder of big, brown freckles across her snub nose. Rene’s skin is medium light, tans very quickly and rarely sunburns, it is delicate in texture.

Rene slips from a merry little minx to serious studious Miss in a twinkling and in a minute more shes pouring over a trifle, screaching at her brothers or complaining over some imagined hurt to her vanity. She can sit still for an hour but most often she’s moving restlessly about the small apartment, out in the yard or talking for hours on the telephone.

This morning I asked her how old she was. She replayed eight. A moving insight. Most little girls her age would have said almost nine or eight and one half or eight and a half.

– Crystal Thomas Tuchel