Austin, Texas, May 2017

Saturday, May 27th, 2017

Courtney and I travelled to Austin, TX for a week to visit Jack and attend Courtney’s professional organization’s national conference that was conveniently in Austin this year.  We flew to Austin with no troubles arriving at noon after a brief layover in Dallas.  Jack picked us up in the steamy 90 degree heat and we made our way to the AirBNB we stayed in for 3 nights just a block from Jack’s house.  The house was very nice – seemingly brand new with two outside patios and nice everything.  We went to lunch at Torchy’s tacos and had some fantastic tacos, queso and Texas beer. I had a fried avocado taco that torchys20tacos_1451519913358_676388_ver1-0_640_360was great.  We then headed to the grocery store to get some provisions for us and Jack was having dinner at his house so he needed some things as well.  My grocery store genes shine through as I love going to new grocery stores to check them out.  Nice chiles.  Went back to our house and had a much needed siestas for a few hours and then headed to Jack’s for dinner.  Jack has been renting a room at his friend Rick’s house for the past year.  It’s a great East Austin house, very modern with concrete floors, interesting nooks, chickens in the back yard and best of all a smoker loaded with pork belly, pork shoulder and lamb shanks smoking away.  We drank lots of natural wine, beer and had really great tacos with the meat, guac and other goodies.  Courtney and I didn’t last that long walking back to our place around 9:30 and falling asleep.


hello queso
great patio
Austin chickens
learned all about natural wines this week… good stuff

Sunday, May 28th, 2017

Jack came over early and we had breakfast at the house and we drove over to Barton Hills for a walk.  We walked four miles along the river going through different terrains.  One part called the flats was molded rocks with water flowing through – very prehistoric. We stopped at that point on the way back and put our feed in the water.  Nice. It was hot and humid and we forgot to bring water which was really dumb.  We stopped at a place called Shady Grove on the way back because we were dying of thirst and needed some shady-grove-logowater.  Of course we had to have some margaritas and pulled pork nachos too.  Great patio and great watermelon margarita.

Went home and quickly showered up as we were going to a picnic at a friend of Jack’s.  We stopped at the beverage store and got a bottle of natural prosecco and made our way about 15 minutes south of Austin.  It was fun to meet some of Jack’s friends and see lots of babies.  Beautiful, perfect house (of an interior designer) and great food too. We stayed jester_kingabout two hours and then drove about 15 miles more south to the Jester King Brewery.
The brewery was a ranch in almost the middle of nowhere with old ranch buildings and great beer gardens under old live oaks.  They are know for their sour beers so we sampled quite a few and enjoyed sitting in the shade soaking up the hot Texas heat.  We got back around 6:00 just and the rain that was supposed to come the last two days finally arrived.  We were all beat after a long day so hung out watching Netflix and ordered pizza and salad from East Side Pies.

Barton Hills


had to put our feet in… it was so hot
stopped for water but couldn’t pass up the margaritas… duh
contemplating the hue of beers at Jester King
great spot

Monday, May 29th, 2017

After breakfast we drove to Gruene, Texas a little town 45 minutes south of Austin.  It was a block of restored old buildings.  Strolled through a nice garden store where we bought some fancy bee catchers for my Dad and checked out several of the antique stores.  We had lunch at The Gristmill, an old abandonded mill converted to a huge restauruant.   It was a nice spot and filled up quickly.  We were smart to go early.  After a leisurely lunch we walked over to Gruene Hall which advertised itself as the oldest dance  hall in Texas.  Had a few more beers and listened to a pretty good country band.

We chilled out in the afternoon and then walked to Hops and Grain, one of Jack’s favorite 16bnbsll_400x400breweries.  We kept walking around but struck out at the two food trucks we wanted to elchilitologogo to as it was Memorial Day and everything was closed.  We ended up back at our place and ended up getting tacos at home at El Chilito – always a good thing.

piled up stuff at the garden store


chicken fried chicken, catfish and onion rings.  Holy fried goodness.
downtown Gruene, Texas
Chilling at Gruene Hall.  Chicken wire walls.
Listening to the band
assuming the position… great patio at our Airbnb
One of Jack’s favorite places in ATX
Hops and Grain
East Austin stroll at dusk

Tuesday, May 30th, 2017

We got ourselves organized and checked out of the Airbnb around 10:00.  We stopped at Jack’s to pick up some picnic tools and went to the grocery store to pick up food for a picnic.  We drove out to McKinney Falls State Park – only 15 minutes south of the city.  We found a nice spot next to the river/swimming hole and spent the next few hour relaxing in the sun, swimming in the river and rock and having a good picnic.  Great spot and good way to spend the afternoon.  We recognized the spot from a scene in The Leftovers on HBO which we confirmed when we got back to CLE.  Creepy.  Jack dropped us off at the hotel downtown where we stayed for the rest of the week.  We stayed at the Marriott on Congress and East 2nd.  Very nice, new large convention hotel.  We relaxed for a few hours and then met up with Jack again at the open air bar of our hotel on the street and Gunny also met us there for a drink.  We went to Handlebar bar, a block or so away from the hotel for (another) cocktail before dinner. A nice grungy spot on the roof.  We then drove just to the other side of the river for dinner at Odd Duck.  We sat on their great patio and had an amazing meal.  Best meal in a long long time.  Excellent service and excellent waitress who we took all her advice.  Highlights: palomas with sea salt foam, pig face stuffed pretzel, and pork belly.  We had six or seven plates that we split and had some great gelato and fresh peach cobbler.  Great spot.

good morning enoki
Jack’s front yard… love the big agave cactuses all over the place
our amazing spot for the afternoon
another beautiful hot afternoon
traversing the terrain
chilling on the rooftop
the palomas were amazing
pig face stuffed pretzel

Wednesday, May 31st, 2017

Courtney’s conference started today so she was out first thing.  I got some coffee from the way too crowded Starbucks in the hotel and spent the rest of the morning working.  tiger-label-final-a_400x400Around noon I met Jack at Easy Tiger, combination bakery and beer garden that we have been to before, about a ten minute walk.  We sat outside and had some beer and sausages and then walked down dirty 6th.  We stopped at voodoo donuts to see what the fuss was about, just an overpriced donut as far as I can tell.  A few days later there was a line of dozen of people waiting there at 10:00 at night.  We then wandered to a place that Jack had on his radar that happened to be having a free Sicilian wine tasting going on this afternoon.  It was at nice little Italian place called Italic around W6th and Congress.  We sampled five different Sicialian wines. Very nice.  We then made our way back to the hotel but stopped at Mort Subite, a Belgian Beer bar that Jack wanted to check58435-680x1000x0-440x308 out.  We had one quick beer and then back to the hotel for a rest.  We joined a big group of Courtney’s colleagues and went out to dinner at Bangers.  We have been there two other times and it was good as always.

beer at the bar waiting for Jack at lunch time
Sicilian wine tasting? sure why not.


contemplating life in the Belgium beer bar
Platform sticker in the mens room at Bangers.  small world.

Thursday, June 1st, 2017

I went to Cafe Medici, a chee chee coffee shop across the street and had a cappuccino which was 1,000 times better than the Starbucks in the hotel.   I then rented a daily bike and rode over to Franklin’s BBQ to get in line around 9:30AM.   Franklin’s is the famous joint where people come from all fb-logoover the world and wait in line for hours for the best brisket.  We thought we were getting there early but we were towards the end and almost got cut off.  1/2 hour later and we would have gotten the boot.  Doors don’t open until 11:00 and we did not get to the counter until about 12:45.  It was fun though. Everybody brings lawn chairs and coolers of beer.  Jack, Rick and I polished off brisket, turkey, ribs, sausages, beans and Cole slaw with no prob.  The brisket truly is something.  Jack and I spent the rest of the afternoon digesting by the side of the pool.  We tagged along with Courtney to one of the vendor cocktail parties at a bar across the street… Jack and I didn’t last long.  We left the ladies to chat away and went looking for a good place to watch the first Cavs/Warriors game.  We found a nice outside spot on Rainey Street and snagged a table trying to stay away from the Warrior fans.  Courtney and friends joined us later.  It was fun watching the game except they lost.


Our place in line
It started to lightly rain… no problem there were buckets of umbrellas
…almost to the door…
…finally inside.
not a very good pic as the bread is hiding all the meat.  No plates allowed. Everything served on metal trays and butcher paper.
post lunch chill
a great pool on a great day
pre game Warrior fans

Friday, June 2nd, 2017

Scoped out a coffee place called Alta’s Cafe that was looking over Lady Bird Lake and on top of a boat house where crew boats were going in and out.  A nice spot to spend an hour at the beginning of the day.  Connor was flying into Austin that morning so Jack stayed at his house to pack/pick up so I was on my own.  I walked around the lake/river and crossed back at Congress and walked west to check out the Whole Foods store by their HQ. Crazy amazing store with anything you can possibly need.  Courtney called and she was leaving her conference early and wanted to meet at South Congress… opposite direction of where I was.  I hoofed it over and caught up with Courtney and Gunny and had lunch at Guero’s which was good.  Ate inside as it was toasty outside.  I walked back to hotel to relax and Courtney joined me later.  Jack and Connor came over to the hotel and we ubered along with Gunny back to East Austin.  First stop was Whistler’s on East de14f8a3fb0e4bd69acc523e54839de5Sixth with it’s super cool retro bar and East Side King Food Truck.  East Side King is a group of Asian Fusion trucks run by Tom Chef winner Paul Qui.  The boys all had some old fashions, missed happy hour by just a few minutes and we tried a couple dishes that were all great – fried chicken thighs and something else.  We then walked down a couple more blocks to The Liberty where the second East Side King truck lives and had beers and lots of different dishes – Brussels sprouts something, pork belly buns and lots of other good stuff.  Everything was perfect on a perfect night.  Jack discovered in the past that the bartender is a Holzheimer cousin of some sort who we are related to so it was fun to talk to him.  We then walked back downtown walking down 6th St.  Bars and clubs everywhere.  We got down to the Dirty 6th which was just getting started.  Walked down the street and went into the Driscoll but decided to go to one of the rooftops instead.  Ended up somewhere having another beer, listening to a good band, watching Connor work the crowd and enjoying the ATX view. We headed back and Jack and Connor ended going out to see a band somewhere after.

Nice morning spot
Huge bike sculpture on the bank of the river
There miles of paths all along the river/ladybird lake
Happy to be going out again
Crazy Texas flowers
Fried chicken thighs
Fine dining Austin style
Flowers along the sidewalk
Deep fried beets, pork belly buns, Brussels sprouts..
Round 3, 4??
Beautiful night
Still going strong
Great view and fun band

Saturday, June 3rd, 2017

Woke up at 5 Am for a 7:30 am flight.  Got a text in taxi on way to airport that our flight was cancelled.  uh oh. Tried to call but couldn’t get through so we decided to just go to the airport to see what we could do.  Big mistake.  It turned out there were 3 cancelled flight to Dallas, ours were one of them, and there were hundreds of people stuck.  We ended up waiting in line forever finally confirming on phone that we had a flight booked for next morning as that was only option.  So we were able to call hotel and get same room that we were in and were back in our room by 9:00am. Took a nap and then went to a nice French bistro around the corner for a nice late breakfast.  Jack and Connor came back downtown and picked us up and we drove to the Whole Foods to get them lunch and walk around.   We hung out at the pool in the afternoon which turned into bachelorette party central.  We were kind of fooled out and tired from the last few days so we cooked out at Jack’s house.  Good dinner of grilled chicken wings, eggplant, rice and veggies.  A nice way to finish up our trip.  We flew home the next morning with zero problems… of course.

sidewalk outside our hotel
Whole Foods HQ
chilling by the pool
hello chickens
relaxing on Jack’s patio
side dish still life.  grilled eggplant with mint, feta and roasted tomatoes. perfect.

Washington D.C.

Friday, December 18th 2015

We left Euclid around 6:00 AM for a weekend trip to celebrate the wedding of my youngest cousin Julia.  We squeezed six and lots of luggage into the Pilot somehow and had an easy drive to DC in our continued freaky warm weather we have been having.  We arrived at the always awesome Hotel Harrington around 1:00.  Patty P arranged over 8 rooms for all of us for the weekend.  We quickly settled ourselves into our luxurious accommodations and quickly found ourselves at Gordon Biersch – a nice German pub where the great beer made up for the seemingly absence of service.  Connor texted us while we were eating as he just arrived in town via the train so he joined us as well.  We then spent the next several hours bopping around the mall enjoying the sunny weather and the sites of DC.  We went to the National Archives and took a quick peak at the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution; walked through the outdoor sculpture garden; Walked over to the botanical gardens that were decked out for Christmas with lots of poinsettias, trains and Christmas trees and a quick trip into the National History Smithsonian checking out some exhibits and the Hope Diamond.  I love D.C. We wandered back to the hotel for a rest.  Everyone else arrived during the afternoon and we visited and had a beer before getting ready to go out.  We used Uber for the first time Ubering over to Alexandria for the Rehearsal Dinner at Gadsby’s Tavern in Old Town Alexandria – an old Inn built in 1752. Cool place.  It was great to meet up with our Davis cousins and their children who we haven’t seen in a long time.  Cocktail hour was fantastic with platters of fresh oysters, raw clams and beautiful shrimp.  The kids went downstairs for dinner and we were invited to the rehearsal dinner in the upstairs room where we had a great dinner and multiple toasts to the bride and groom.  After dinner we went down to the pub downstairs and met up with all the kids and had a few more drinks.  We ubered back to D.C. and I gathered the brave troops for a midnight monument stroll.  It was a clear, crisp moonlit night.  Perfect time for a walk to the Washington monument, WW2 monument and then the beautiful Lincoln Memorial – sitting on the steps taking it all in.  We didn’t get back until after 2:00 AM.  A long, great day.

Getting primed with some good German beer
In front of the National Archives
posing at the outdoor sculpture garden
skating rink at the sculpture garden
the rotunda of the capital was under scaffolding which was pretty cool to see
The Botanical Gardens were beautiful. Full of poinsettias and models of D.C. monuments made out of natural materials.
Happy to be here at Christmas time
cool pink ones
the always impressive lobby of the Natural History Museum
the Innkeeper of the Gadsby tavern calling everyone to dinner
Les Grandes Dames
Wally toasting the happy couple
nighttime is the best time to explore DC
finding OHIO at WW2 monument
late night selfie with Abe
the best spot

Saturday, December 19th, 2016

Slept in after staying up too late and drinking too much.  Wandered around downtown trying to find somewhere to eat and then finally found the au bon pain we were looking for and had coffee and chocolate croissants along with the Gail clan.  We all then tromped over to the American Smithsonian museum and wandered for about an hour checking out the first ladies, Julia Child’s kitchen, Dorothy’s ruby slippers and other American artifacts.  We then walked across the mall heading to the Jefferson Memorial – my favorite.  We hung out there for awhile and then Claire, Sean and Grace headed back downtown as they were meeting Stephanie and Traber for lunch and we joined the Gails in continuing to walk around the Tidal Basin walking through the FDR monument and the MLK monument.  The FDR is different in the cold weather with all the fountains turned off.  The MLK monument was very powerful in the clear blue sky.  We headed back downtown walking in front of the White House checking out the Christmas trees and then had lunch at a sandwich shop before heading back to HH for a much needed rest before the evening festivities.  We Ubered back to Old Town to the Torpedo Factory where the wedding and reception took place.  It was great to see everyone all dressed up and excited for the wedding.  The wedding was great and Julia was beautiful of course.  This is the second non religious wedding we have been to this year and they both were very meaningful and personal.  Cocktail hour was upstairs in the gallery where there was also a New Orleans Jazz trio playing.  Great venue.  The reception back down stairs was beautiful with really great food: short ribs, Brussels sprouts and sweet potatoes.  All excellent.  Wally gave a great toast as well as both the maid of honor and best man.   A great wedding.  The band didn’t start up until late but I think every single person danced the entire rest of the evening.  The band was great and it was fun fun fun.  We somehow managed to Uber back downtown with only one small Claire mishap and quickly crashed completely exhausted.

Saturday morning squad in front of the American History Museum
a poor confused cherry tree blooming in late December
I think the Jefferson Memorial is the most impressive one
The Gail men taking it all in
one more
Claire and Sean
nice spot
…and the other angle
Sophia and Emily
words at the FDR monument… so true in todays crazy ass times
lined up

a mountain of hope
what a beautiful day
another great spot
cousins all dressed up
cocktail hour jazz
another cousin pose
all smiles all night
dance dance dance
dance dance dance

Sunday, December 20th, 2016

I must admit I don’t remember much of Sunday.  I know I got up and found a Starbucks around the corner.  Courtney and I went for a quick 45 minute walk around the mall and  we left the hotel around 10:00 or so and stopped and had a really bad rest stop late breakfast somewhere and had an uneventful drive back to CLE.  A great weekend and a great start to Julia and Hampton’s married lives.  CHEERS.

one of the really old Smithsonian buildings that hopefully will be rehabbed one of these days

Austin, Texas

Austin, Texas

Tuesday, November 2nd, 2015

My Dad picked up me, Courtney, and Sophie up at 4:00AM for a 5:45 AM flight to Austin where we were spending five days visiting with Jack. We had an easy flight to Dallas but our connecting flight to Austin was delayed by two hours due to fog. Jack picked us up at the airport and we checked into our Airbnb we booked. It was a nice rehabbed cottage just a few blocks from Jack and Rachel’s apartment. We went to lunch at Tamale House East and had great tacos and tamales. I had a chicken mole taco, a pork tamale and a Lone Star 16 ouncer. Sat outside on a nice patio happy to be on vacation. We went back to Jack and Rachel’s apartment after lunch and met their new puppy Remy. A cute little Cavalier Spaniel just a few months old. Took the dog for a walk around their neighborhood – a gentrified neighborhood in process with some old homes mixed with new and newly rehabbed ones. Nice. Jack showed us around his apartment complex which is very nice- outside pool and lounge area, workout and party space. Jack took us to the grocery store. big like everything in Texas, to get a few things and then we went back to our house for a much needed siesta. Around 6:00 we went downtown and met Rachel after work and had dinner at Easy Tiger – an atypical combination of a bakery and a brewery. We sat outside in the beer garden enjoying the nice night. We had a platter of sausages, pretzels, cheese and other goodies and washed it down with some good Texas beer. We headed back to our house and played blackout and in bed by 9:30 after a very long day.

happy to see Jack
It’s not vacation until you have a beer for lunch… eagerly awaiting our tamales
Sophie enjoying her first of many Mexican Coke’s
cool cactus in front of our Airbnb cottage
enjoying the warm Texas night at Easy Tiger
Jack and Rachel’s new dog Remy (and Sophie too)

Wednesday, November 3rd, 2015

After breakfasting chez nous we drove to U of Texas – just a mile away – parked and took a walk around the huge campus. The campus is actually very nice. Huge brown brick buildings with adobe roofs and lots of big southern trees with dripping leaves. Lots of students walking around – all who look so young and un-diverse. It was very odd as we noticed how quiet it was… nobody talking – everyone is plugged into their phones. Kind of weird but status quo. We decided to check out the LBJ library as it was on the campus. We ended up going in and greatly enjoyed the exhibits and films detailing LBJ’s presidency and the amazing things that happened in the late 1960’s during his tenure. They had a recreated oval office and also a Beatles exhibit going on which were both interesting. We visited the LBJ ranch when we were in Texas two years ago so we are becoming LBJophiles. He had a remarkable life during remarkable times. We hit the road to East Austin to get our BBQ on for lunch. We went to Micklethwaith Craft Meats – one of Jack and Rachel’s favorites. We had two big plates of brisket, sausages, ribs, barbacoa and sides of cheesy grits, baked beans, coleslaw, plain white bread and some more Mexican Coke. Everything was great. The brisket was especially noteworthy – fork tender melt in your mouth fattiness perfection. The grits were dreamy. We drove across the river to Barton Springs Park in South Austin to walk off some calories. Austin just got over some flooding and we walked past a bunch of canoes that were trashed from the flooding. Jack had to go to work for the afternoon and evening so he dropped us back off at our house where we relaxed for a couple of hours. We then drove down to South Congress Street to walk around and check out the funky stores. We got ice cream at Amy’s – I had mexican vanilla with hot fudge and Sophie had Texas Sheet cake flavor. It took forever driving back through the rush hour Austin traffic. Rachel came over after work and we ordered pizza from East Side Pies and hung out watching TV.

UT campus
…carried away…
There were these great drippy Live Oaks everywhere.
Beatles exhibit at LBJ library
Fine dining Austin style…. Micklethwaith BBQ…so good.
eagerly awaiting the smokey goodness about to come…
the surreal site of a path of trashed canoes
canoe still life
nice spot on the river
and there was a little kids train going through the park
South Congress Street is full of weird shops… like this one that had a great dead monkey head for sale just in case that’s what you were looking for.

Thursday, November 4th, 2015

Jack came over bright and early and brought breakfast tacos from Vera Cruz All Natural. We drove downtown and walked in a park downtown called the Butler hike and bike trail.  It was an extension of the trail we were on yesterday but we walked around four miles around vastly different areas.  It was getting hot and muggy so we worked up a nice sweat. After the hike we checked out East Austin Succulents which is a nursery that specializes in succulents. Very cool.  Hundreds of different kinds and sizes.  Cool. We were craving some cool drinks so Jack brought us to Hoovers which was down the road from his place where we had margaritas and soul food.  Jack had a beet margarita which was different but tasty. Food was excellent.  I had chicken fried chicken, greens and beans.  Austin is truly the foodie paradise. We dropped Sophie and Courtney off and went to the grocery store to get things for dinner as we were going to grill out at Jack and Rachel’s patio.  After a quick rest we went back to Jack’s apartment and sat outside and their very very nice pool and patio where they have great grills and bars for people to grill out.  We had burgers, kale salad and enjoyed the warm evening outside under the palm trees.  After dinner we played a  hand of knock out with Jack, Rachel and their roommate Ton and then headed back.

start of our hike (staying hydrated)
midway through with a nice view of Downtown
succulent heaven
succulent still life
even the nurseries have trailers
lunch at Hoovers
drinks at Bangers

Friday, November 5th, 2015

Rachel was able to get the day off today so we all went on a road trip to San Antonio for the day.  It was about an hour and a half drive.  Everything was pretty built up between the two cities – all highways and strip malls.  Nothing too Texas about it.  We first went to two missions south of the city.  Mission Espada and then Misson San Juan.  We went to the other two missions a year and a half ago when we were here so this completed our Mission trail.  They are actually fascinating and interesting to poke around.  I like the little chapels that are actually working Catholic parishes.  We then drove into downtown San Antonio and had lunch at Rosario’s.  We ate there last time we were in San Antonio and it has the best Mexican food anywhere.  Their smoked tomato salsa is outstanding.  We then kept the car parked in that neighborhood and walked around the Saint William’s District looking at the old river mansions and then walked the river walk into the downtown touristy area, checked out the Alamo real quick, and then walked back.  We drove back to Austin and got back around 5:00 PM.  Took a quick rest and went to Jack and Rachel’s for cocktails.  We went to dinner at Dai Due where we made a reservation weeks ago as it just landed on Bon Appetit’s top ten new restaurants in the country. And it was just two blocks up from where they lived.  Dai Due is a nice small neighborhood joint that is also a butcher shop.  Meat was the obvious choice so we had a nice board of meats and goodies for an app and then ordered a half of a roast chicken and a huge 3 lb. beef rib to split between all of us.  Everything was excellent as well as the sides that came with it.  The beef rib was especially good – very decadent.  We walked next door to Sugar Mama’s bakeshop to have cupcakes for dessert.  I don’t think we’ve eaten bette than these last few days ever.

Mission Espanada
Mission San Juan
Mission San Juan
Cat’s hanging out at the Mission
The Virgin de Guadelupe
the old gate
the awesome Rosario’s
the Riverwalk is a great, beautiful place
I like all the little foot bridges
one more live oak

Saturday, November 6th 2015

After threatening all week the rain finally arrived and it rained pretty much all morning.  We checked out of house around 10:00 and then hung out at Jack’s for awhile.  We had lunch at a great Japanese place (forgot the name).  Shocker – another great meal.  We then went downtown and browed their nice bookstore, REI and ended things with more ice cream at Amy’s.  Jack and Rachel dropped us off at the airport and we had thankfully non eventful flights to Dallas and to Cleveland.  We arrived in CLE at 11:45 where Claire picked us up.  A great trip.


Cedar Point

Monday, August 5th, 2014
The stars lined up and we were able to organize a two day trip to Cedar Point to celebrate Jack’s birthday, and more importantly to get a way for a few days of mindless fun.  I haven’t been to Cedar Point in three or four years and have been hoping that we could work it in this summer. Me, Jack, Rachel, Grace, Nicole and Sophie (Courtney was still not up for roller coasters just yet post surgery) took off from Euclid at 6:45AM. We were splurging and staying at one of Cedar Point’s hotels on Monday evening so were taking advantage of the early entry.  We arrived at Cedar Point after an easy ride at 8:00 AM.  Checked into the hotel and got our early entry passes.  We grabbed some (nasty) coffee and took a stroll around the grounds of the hotel and down to the beach and then headed to the entrance around 8:30 or so to be ready to storm the gate at 9:00 – already probably 100 people in line when we got there.  We hit the Maverick first – walked on, then went to Millennium for about a 20 minute wait, and then decided to do the Maverick again – as it is awesome thank you very much.  So we were able to get in three big rides in that

Maverick: best coaster ever

first hour.  We would have had to wait probably five hours to do it otherwise.  We spent the rest of the morning in the back of the park – old fashioned cars, Gemini, Magnum (25 years old this year – still awesome!!) all with little lines.  We got a text around 11:00 that our room was ready so we headed back for lunch as we were starving and dying of dehydration already.   We stayed in the Sandcastle Suites which is way on the northern tip of the peninsula.  It was pretty nice – nice grounds, nice pool, standard suite.  We brought lunch meat, rolls, chips and lots of soda and hung out and relaxed for about an hour and a half.  We then took the shuttle to the front of the park to check out the Gatekeeper – the new coaster from last year that I’ve never been on. Very cool looking. Unfortunately we decided to wait in line for it and ended up waiting almost two hours in hot hot hot hot HOT HOT HOT line. Really bad. The ride was OK – nice first hill – but not as good as Maverick or Millennium or Dragster. Definitely not worth waiting in line for two hours in.  We then went on a couple more rides and headed back to the hotel to relax. We hydrated and then spent an hour or so at the pool which was perfect.  We had chili for dinner that I brought along, heating it up in the microwave.  We hit the park again at 7:00.  After going on Raptor and and some others we split up – Grace and Nicole went for the Dragster while Jack, Rachel, Sophie and I hit Mantis, Magnum and a

The Windseeker. Once was enough for me.

couple of other other things. We ended the night, right at 9:55 in the dark on this crazy new huge 300 foot swing ride that I have never been on before. OMG terrifying. Going over the lake with the wind blowing and dark out – what was I thinking. Give me a 300 foot coaster any day.  We finally stopped and ate some amusement park junk food and then walked back to the hotel getting back around 11:15 quickly crashing after a long day.

Tuesday, August 6th, 2014

I woke up around 8ish or so and went out to the pool deck to relax while the kids were still sleeping.  After about an hour and a half I went back and woke Jack and Rachel up and we went for a walk along the campground, down around the water park and then along the boardwalk behind the park.  The girls were STILL sleeping when we got back but got them up and got organized, cleaned up and checked out around 11:00.  We stopped in Huron on the way back at a place called Berardi’s that turned out to be great.  We all had a big late breakfast.  I had some awesome blueberry pancakes and bacon that hit the spot.  We then hit the road and made it home before 2:00.  A great day and a half away.

Ready to go bright and early.
spending the day with their daddy
Rachel and Sophie very nervous for their first ever ride on the Millennium. That first hill is a doozey.
Cedar Point selfie
sweaty but happy girls
crazy woman behind the wheel
old fashioned car hi jinx
flirting with the car boy
last picture of the trip – I left my phone in the room for rest of the day as I didn’t like keeping it in my pocket on the rides. (bonus points for the boy photo bombing our photo though).

San Antonio and Austin, Texas

Wednesday, May 28th 2014

Courtney attended her professional association’s national conference in San Antonio and I was able to tag along and turn it into a semi-affordable get away. I worked a half day on Wednesday and took the Rapid from University Circle to the airport. It is only a 30 minute trip and drops you right in the terminal. After a hurray-it’s-vacation-beer in the terminal I took an easy flight to Houston and since it arrived thirty minutes early I seriously lucked out and got on an earlier flight to San Antonio avoiding the scheduled two hour layover. A quick ten minute taxi from the airport and I joined Courtney who had been there since Monday. We stayed at the Mariott Rivercenter that was right on the river walk and a nice central location. We walked along the Riverwalk and went to a restaurant called Acenar that someone recommended to Courtney. We had a nice table outside, had two humongous margaritas and quickly relaxed into vacation mode. The food was excellent – chips with roasted tomato/tomatillo salsa; I had roasted pork loin with two different mole sauces served over a tamale; Courtney had talapia roasted in a tomato, olive and caper sauce served over cilantro rice. Everything was very good. We strolled around the Riverwalk which is lovely in the evening and stopped at a bar on the river and had one last beer. We made it back to our hotel around 11:00 and quickly crashed.

enjoying are nice and large margaritas
the Riverwalk in the evening
late evening beers

Thursday, May 29th 2014

Courtney was up and off to her conference at 7:30 and I took off exploring. I walked around the Alamo area that is just a block from the hotel and then wandered around and found an old German deli called Schilo’s where I had the perfect breakfast of potato pancakes, apple sauce and a side of bacon. The deli has been their since 1917. It turns out that San Antonio was originally populated by Americans of German descent. After breakfast I walked around downtown walking toward the market square, past the San Antonio cathedral and other interesting buildings. Unfortunately market square – originally a large hay market and downtown market is now a bunch of awful tourist trash. So sad. I walked back along a different leg of the Riverwalk that I hadn’t been on enjoying the beautiful landscaping and bridges. I relaxed at the pool for about an hour and a half until Courtney was done. She was taking a two and a half hour break so we walked south towards the King William District that we wanted to check out. We stopped at Rosario’s, recommended by John and Alyssa for lunch and had another great Mexican meal. The huge place was already packed by 11:50, lots of locals and business people and we had to wait a few minutes. We had more chips and brown spicy salsa that I wish someone would bottle. I had a Dos Equis on draft and a bowl of roasted tomato soup with shredded chicken, avocados and cilantro. Courtney had a chicken enchilada with peanut mole sauce and rice and beans. We then walked around the King William Neighborhood which was full of late 19th century huge mansions – many decrepit and falling apart, many under major rehab, many in very nice shape with great gardens – but all beautiful. Three cheers for preservation – you can’t help but think what Euclid Avenue in Cleveland might be like today if they preserved those mansions that were in this same time period. It’s truly heartbreaking when you see what could have happened like this neighborhood in San Antonio. We discovered that the Riverwalk was right behind us so we walked back that way – learning quickly that everything is so much nicer away from the touristy downtown section. Courtney headed back to her conference and I took a nice little siesta. I headed out towards the San Antonio Art Museum around 3:00 walking along the Riverwalk again for almost 40 minutes – quite a hike but a nice one. The San Antonio art museum was built in the late 1970s from an old Lone Star Brewery. Another preservation success story. I only had an hour and a half to explore the museum but enjoyed my solo expedition especially that I was practically the only one there. Unlikely I really enjoyed the Asian and roman galleries the most. Lots of interesting stuff in interesting settings. I read later that the museum is known for its large collection of Asian Art. I closed the place down and then walked about a block to The Luxury that is an outside bar/food place made out of semi truck carriers. I had a beer, sat on the river waiting to hear from CBH. We decided to go to The Pearl Brewery District – a 15 minute walk from where I was and a quick cab ride for Courtney. I found the Blue Box Bar where we were meeting with a bit of difficulty but Courtney took quite a while to find it. A very fancy hipster kind of bar – I had an old fashioned as it was a happy hour special and Courtney had one of their drafts. We stayed for one drink and then wandered around looking for somewhere to eat. We went to a place called Cured that used to be the admin office of the brewery. A cool space that specialized in cured meats. We had a beet salad and a platter of different cured meats, sausages, vegetables, breads and crackers. All very good and perfect as we were getting a bit fooded out. It will be very interesting to come check out this area in a few years as there is lots of construction. We walked back downtown which was a good 40 minute walk – but beautiful along the river as it was getting dark and the sky was beautiful along with all the flowers , lights and plants. We stopped at an Irish pub on the busy part of the Riverwalk and watched the NBA semifinals that was going on – San Antonio won and the city was loud and excited. We ended up staying longer than we thought we would as they has a fun band playing also that were kind of cheesey but playing fun 80s and 90s music. Very successful day. Had drinks at Five very different places. Walked 13.28 miles!

The Alamo (yes… not too exciting)
San Fernando Cathedral downtown. Built in 1738 – one of the oldest Catholic churches in the United States.
big old trees along the Riverwalk
the salsa at Rosario’s was truly amazing
a mansion along King William Street
another mansion
rosemary all over the walls
Hanging out at the San Antonio Art Museum
great asian collection
ancient roman art in an old brewery
The Luxury – made out of old truck shipping containers
Blue Box Bar
post charcuterie chow down at Cured
old restored building among new apartment buildings
many of the bridges along the Riverwalk had artwork – these are the same fish I saw earlier at the art museum
late night band

Friday, May 30th, 2014
Courtney was a good girl and went to the early sessions of her conference and I walked to the nearby Starbucks and had a coffee and chocolate croissant. I caught up on work for an hour or so and then met Courtney and we asked over to the Alamo which was just a block from the hotel. The Alamo was not terribly interesting, old and dusty, nice big oak tree. Interesting to think that the big modern city was built all around it. We picked up our city bikes that we arranged earlier – $10/day to go station to station but only in an hour. We biked up going through the nice neighborhoods we walked through the previous day and stopped at the Blue Star Arts complex which was yet another beautifully restored old industrial site with galleries, restaurants and bars. It was already seriously HOT so we had to take a break, checked out the artist studio building and got some water. We got back on the backs and biked to the first mission about 30 minutes away. The path was along the rehabbed river where we saw all sorts of birds, turtles, abandoned factories and cool plantings.  We arrived at what we thought was Mission Concepcion, checked in our bikes, and started walking… and walking… a half mile later we got to the actual Mission and saw there was a bike check in point right there….dohhhhh. We walked around the beautiful mission – built in 1755, most of it beautiful ruins but the church is still maintained and is a working church.  We checked out bikes right there this time and got back on the path and went another 30 minutes to the Mission San Jose.  This mission was larger and had an air conditioned visitor center so we cooled down in there for awhile, drinking lots of water and bought some peanuts.  Mission San Jose y San Miguel de Aguayo is was founded in 1720 and is the largest of the San Antonio missions.  Missions were communities set up by the Catholic Spaniards and this was more evident here as the mission walls were still there, you could see the rooms where the natives stayes and there was a working mill still.  The church is well maintained and still in use.  We got back on our bikes and biked back toward town, stopping at the Blue Arts building again for a much needed break and had lunch at the Blue Star Brewery.  We each had an iced cold bottle of coca cola first which was probably the best thing I ever tasted – I think I was a lot more dehydrated that I thought.  Lunch was good – Courtney had a burger and I had pulled pork and we tried some of their beer.  We hopped back on our bikes and had no trouble getting back to our hotel. Quite a journey.  Courtney was a trouper and went to the last sessions of her conference and I took a short siesta and then spent the rest of the afternoon by the pool.  We had no plans for dinner so we went out pretty late, wandered around looking for something and ended up at The Esquire Tavern that looked promising and billed itself as the oldest bar on the River Walk. It was a cool place – dark, retro with a big long bar and booths.  I had a tall can of Lone Star and we weren’t too hungry so split an order of fried avocados and something else – I don’t remember.  We meandered back after a leisurely meal and quickly crashed after a long couple of days.

my favorite breakfast
big old tree inside the Alamo
stopping at the Blue Star Arts Complex on the way to the missions
beauty and decay along the path
Mission Concepcion
Mission San Jose
stairway in Mission San Jose
sweaty selfie
16 ouncer

Saturday, May 31st, 2014

Courtney was up early and out to the first session at 8:00.  I went to Starbucks again, and then went to the car rental place to secure our rental that we arranged earlier.  Courtney only stayed for the one session and was back by 9:30 when we checked out, found the rental car and hit the road bound for Austin.  We first went to the LBJ ranch which was about an hours drive.  It was interesting driving through “Texas Hill Country” – very rural, rolling hills with some beautiful properties.  Much more green than I ever would have thought – very nice.  We found the LBJ ranch with no problem,  first a visitor center and then a driving tour of the ranch stopping at their actual house.  The house tour was seperate and we did stop and by tickets for the guided tour, waiting about 20 minutes wandering around the interesting exhibits in the airport hangar.  The house was very interesting, only open to the public a few years ago – Lady Bird died only in 2007 and always lived here. The house is now restored to what it looked like when LBJ was in the White House – mid 1960s.  It was like walking into our grandparents house.  It was actually pretty emotional. The tour guide we had was excellent which is always a good thing.  I weirdly would say this was my favorite part of our trip.  We got back on the road to Austin, about a 45 minute drive, stopping at Sonic as we hadn’t eaten all day.  We arrived at the Hyatt downtown around 3:00 finding it with no trouble.  We dropped our stuff off and then hit the streets looking for adventures.  Following the advice of the concierge at the hotel we walked towards South Congress Street that he said was cool.  After walking over a mile, crossing a bridge and jussssssst about to turn around as we were convinced the guy told us a lie, we discovered South Congress which was blocks and blocks of cool stores, bars, and restaurants.  We browsed around for an hour or so buying a few things for the kids and then we stopped at a crowded outside bar where a kind of salsa like band was playing, people were dancing and it was a great fun atmosphere. We had a couple of beers and then walked back to the hotel. We upgraded our room to the executive level earlier so we headed to the lounge for hors oeuvres and wine. They had a very nice spread including grilled broccoli rabe, grilled asparagus, artichoke and spinach dip and lots of other things.  We hung out there for about an hour, went to change into our bathing suits and then hung out at the pool for an hour.  After relaxing in our hotel room, showering etc it was already 9:30 so we headed out to East 6th Street – the famous Austin party street.  Bar after bar, all with live bands playing.  Pretty amazing.  Austin is by far the youngest city I have ever been in.  Everybody is under 30.  It is pretty weird.  We walked around for awhile and stopped at BD Riley’s Irish pub for a late night bar food meal – I don’t remember what we ate.  Walking back afterwards the street was really picking up, all the side streets were closed, streets full of people, dancing girls in the windows… it would have been fun if we were about 20 years younger.

big beautiful tree outside LBJ house
a live horse inside a store in Austin with the singe of the band sitting on it
hanging out at a place on South Congress
Austin has to be the food truck capital of the world – they’re everywhere
walking back towards downtown
late night action at the Bat Bar

Sunday, June 1st, 2014

We had breakfast in the executive lounge pretty early, not as good as the evening spread, but good enough.  We started our morning walking towards the State Capital.  We wandered around the grounds and were pleasantly surprised that it was open and we were able to wander around inside the building checking out the rotunda and both the house and the senate chambers.  It was very interesting and they have done a great job restoring the beautiful building.  We then walked past the governors mansion, back down 6th street and then walked down by the river where we were told was a bunch of food trucks and a nice neighborhood.  We found the neighborhood – Rainey Street – very cool – lots of different restaurants, bars, food trucks and we stopped at a place called Bangers that seemed the hot spot. It was prob my favorite place of our trip – a beer garden with long tables everyone sitting together, dogs and kids running around and a great band playing.  Everyone happy.  I had a beer and a bratwurst and Courtney had some sort of eggs benedict dish with lots of good stuff as it was still technically Sunday Brunch time.  I wish we could have stayed longer but the clock was ticking.  We quickly walked back to the hotel, packed up, checked out, got the car and headed back to the San Antonio Airport.

the capital building of Texas
capital rotunda
governor’s mansion
hanging out at Bangers
one more before hitting the road

Our return trip saga:

  • drove to San Antonio no prob – kind of hard to find the car rental return but we did and made it with plenty of time
  • made it to our gate, sat down and right away heard that our flight was cancelled due to mechanical problems and to please return to ticket area to rebook a flight
  • walked very quickly ahead of the very angry mob scene developing and second in line to change flights
  • not able to make it to cleveland, but booked to go to chicago in a few hours and then to Cleveland the next morning
  • arrived in Chicago with no problems, found the hotel they put us up at the airport with some troubles
  • miraculously completed my payroll at 1:00 AM as it was due the next morning as I thought I would be at work in the morning
  • arrived at the airport at 6:00 AM, waited for about THREE *($%$## hours as our flight was delayed about 5 times.
  • finally made it to Cleveland and home around 2:00 PM

Yikes.  Wonderful trip if you don’t count the last 24 hours.

Wisconsin, August 2013

Courtney and Sophia drove up to Wisconsin on Saturday, August 4th leaving early afternoon after the swim championships.  They drove close to Traverse City, spent the night in a hotel and then drove to Camp Hayowentha the next morning to show Sophie.  Sophie liked it a lot and hopefully will be able to go next summer.  They then made their way through the U.P. getting to Wisconsin early evening.  I stayed behind to work and stay with everyone else as everyone was busy.  I flew out on Wednesday afternoon arriving in Rhinelander around 10:00 PM or so.  We stayed through Monday, leaving early and driving all they way home via Chicago.

playing one of our many hands of Sleeping Queens
We went to Bond Falls on Thursday morning. Beautiful as always.
great spot
The weather was very cool for early August. I don’t think it ever got above 70 degrees. It was wonderful.
Up on top of the falls.
We stopped at Bent’s Camp on the way home for lunch. Perfect chicken wings and the best Creamy Dark. We brought two cases home with us as they don’t sell it in Cleveland.
Jute lake in the morning
In the woods looking up towards the house. Everything was nice and green after having more rain this year. Unfortunately this also brought tons of bugs which was no fun.
Sophia and I drove into Minocqua one day to play putt putt
she beat me by way too much
We drove up the the Porcupine Mountains one day which are about a two hour drive north. This is the amazing Lake of the Clouds. Truly breathtaking.
It was a beautiful day.
It is a very remote state park where backpackers were going all over the place. We hope to go backpacking for a day or two next time and stay in one of their remote cabins.
It borders Lake Superior where we explored the deserted beach
Nice form
Craig and Sophia looking for the big one.
An amazing early evening on Jute Lake.
A nice bass caught by the master.
One more.

Grayton Beach, June 2013

Friday, June 14th, 2013

  • Courtney and I missed going to Grayton Beach during Spring Break so we decided to splurge and rented a beach house for a week as the cabins at the state park where we usually stay were booked.  We asked my parents to come along as they have never been in this part of FLA before.  Claire, Sean, Jack, Grace and Sophia are all here as well.
  • Need to note: stopped at a Wendy’s for lunch somewhere in Kentucky that was truly bizarre.  There were at least 4 adult managers walking around the Wendy’s cleaning tables, getting refills, making sure the line went quickly.  When we walked in someone opened the outer door and someone else opened the inner giving us hi  y’all.  Yes we’re in the south but it was really weird.
  • We took two cars leaving our house at 5:00.  Had an uneventful 11 hour drive to Birmingham Alabama where we stayed in a nice Embassy Suites south of the city.  Once there we quickly made our way to Embassy Suites Happy Hour offset with Dad manhattans and decompressed.  We went to a BBQ place around the corner from the hotel called Jim n Nicks that I looked up and it looked pretty good.  We waited about 30 minutes for a table and then all had some good southern barbecue, cheddar biscuits and good sides of collard greens, mac and cheese and beans.  Quickly crashed once back at the hotel.
creaper shot of the creapy Wendys. Three managers waiting to pounce on their Wendy’s patrons. Twighlight Zone.
enjoying Embassy Suites Happy Hour
Me and Soph waiting for dinner in our shades
BBQ waiting and Jim n Nicks

Saturday, June 15th 2013

  • Embassy Suites breakfast at 8:00 and was on the road by 9:30.  4 1/2 hour drive to Grayton Beach after stopping at the MOST HORRIBLE McDonalds of all time on Rt 10 in Florida. Everyone on the way and going home from the Beach was there and the staff was inept to say the least.  Terrible experience.  Don’t go there again.
  • Got to our rental house around 2:00 – unfortunately the cleaning lady was still there and needed more time.  We all walked down to the beach to say hello to the ocean.  The beach and water are great as always and it is just a 5 minute walk down the road to our beach.
  • Got into the house around 3:00 after telling the cleaning lady to not worry about washing the windows or sweeping the pool deck.  She was happy.  House very nice.  Four bedrooms, all with own bathrooms open to large great room with kitchen, dining and living spaces. Nice and chilly A.C. as it is H.O.T. outside with capital letters.  The back has a nice small pool, long of lounge chairs and pool toys.
  • Courtney, Mom and I headed off to the Publix and had no trouble dropping lots of $$ buying first round of groceries and beer.  Lots of beer drinkers.  Came home to everybody having fun in the pool, inventing a game knocking over (lots) of empty beer cans.
  • Had dinner of grilled chicken, brothy noodles, zucchini and of course a publix key lime pie.  Courtney and I went to bed early as we were beat…not sure how long the kids stayed up
hanging out on the beach waiting to get in the house
happy to be on vacation

Sunday, June 16th, 2013

  • Had a breakfast casserole for breakfast and celebrated fathers days.  We quickly lubed up with lots of sunscreen and made our way down to the beach.  It was a nice hot and sunny day.  The ocean was nice and blue and not rough at all.  Started our first sand castle and loving the great sand here.
  • Up for lunch around 1:00, pool, beers, siesta and back to the beach.  Same routine.  Life is tough.  I stoked up the Weber again and we grilled hamburgers, and had corn on the cob and baked beans.
  • Everyone watched the NBA finals after dinner but I was in bed by 9:00 as I was pooped.

Monday, June 17th, 2013

  • Beach in late A.M. after a breakfast of pancakes and bacon.  Beach was hot….it clouded up which was good as most of us were sunburn.
  • Went to Red bar for lunch around 1:30.  I had a bowl of gumbo and a salad with a tomato vinaigrette.  Courtney had a shrimp po boy.  All had good lunches.
  • Spent afternoon in the pool and had a late dinner of tuna melts and salad… which were very good.  Brownies and ice cream and then played dominoes for two hours until 11:00.
checking out the selection at the Red Bar
teen poser
instagram selfie

Tuesday, June 18th, 2013

  • bike ride in AM with Claire, Grace and Sophia to Sea Side for coffee.  Love their latin coffee little store… best coffee anywhere…even when its 85 out at 8:00 in the morning.  Walked on beach, bought blueberries at farmers market
  • went down to beach but storm chased us back to house.  It didn’t end up raining, went back down the beach an hour later and it was beautiful.  The girls and Sean ended up going to Destin shopping but Jack, Dad and I built a great castle and it was a great morning.
  • Back to chill in pool and sandwiches for lunch.
  • Mom made pasta with shrimp, feta and tomatoes for dinner – very good.
my favorite place in the morning
big yawn
chairs on Seaside beach in the morning
Happy sisters
best beach ever. beautiful colors.
the house had a great screened in porch where we cocktail hour took place
enjoying a great pasta and shrimp dinner
best time of day

Wednesday, June 19th, 2013

  • Courtney and I went on an early morning bike ride around Watercolor checking out the nice streets and the humongous houses.  Stopped for coffee in Seaside and relaxed outside.
  • Beach in morning and afternoon – same old same old perfect day.  Nice big sand castle.
  • Got dinner put together and then everyone went down the beach to take pictures.  Although the sunset wasn’t great the light is great to take pictures at that time of the day.
  • Taco dinner with lots of tacos, fixings and spanish rice.  Didn’t eat until 9:00 or so.
enjoying the scenery
green truck on Seaside street
good one
Mom and Dad
requisite Xmas card shot. (good one) (haven’t done xmas cards in prob 5 years)
Jack and Grace
…or is this the Xmas card shot? I like this one too.
l’ensemble du groupe. another good one.
happy jumpers
makes me laugh every time I look at this one!


the #1 sand castle builders on the beach. not even close. we even had groupies come check out our builds every day. beef jerky lady 🙂
tween/teen posers
rapture redux. hee hee.


lovely ladies
best beach EVER

Thursday, June 20th, 2013

  • Courtney, Grace, Mom and I went for a walk down the beach when we woke up around 8:00.  The beach was nice – calm, blue and little wind.  We walked to Grayton Beach and back.  It was hot down there even that early as there was no wind.
  • Courtney, Claire and I went on a drive after breakfast to check out Top Sail State Park – about 10 miles West on 30A. It was mostly a campground – they had some cabins but not as nice as the ones we usually stay in at Grayton Beach.  The Grayton Beach ones are more private.  We stopped at the grocery store to load up on pop and beer and to get a cake for Sean’s birthday which is today.
  • I went down to the beach by myself for about an hour and half and read. (rapture)
  • Everyone was down the beach in the afternoon on a nice bright afternoon.  Sean caught a couple of fish.  We were chased up by rain around 4:00 but we sat in the pool in the pouring rain drinking beer and the rain only lasted about 15 minutes.
  • We somehow got everybody together and out of the house by 5:30 to go to dinner at Stinkys.  We thought if we got there earlier enough we wouldn’t have to wait – but ended up waiting about 1 hour and 15 minutes – not bad at all actually as we sat in the bar in the building next door.  We had a really great dinner, sitting at the long tall table right next to the bar.  I had a dozen raw oysters and a salad and helped Courtney with her great combo of crawfish pot pie, catfish and crabcake – all great.  Sean and Dad each had the Stinky’s stew that was a bouilibaise of great things.
  • Went home and had cake and sang Happy Birthday to Sean.
  • Watched Miami win the NBA finals…..BOOOOOO.
waiting in the bar at Stinkys
table part 1
table part 2 (nice shot Grace)

Friday, June 21st, 2013

  • Grace and I went on a bike ride at 7:00 AM.  Drove through Watercolor again picking out which house I will buy when I win the lottery.  It is quite amazing the houses they are building and they are all beautiful.  Of course stopped for coffee at Seaside, split a chocolate croissant and brought one home for Sophia.  Stripped down when I got back and jumped in the pool.  Yeay vacation.
  • Spent the morning and afternoon on the beach.  It started raining late morning but we just stayed in the pool in the rain drinking beer.  Very nice.
  • Went to Seaside for cocktails and hors d’oeuvres.  Kids got three orders of fried pickles and adults got oysters, steamed shrimp and red royal shrimp.  We sat on the beautiful ocean front pavilion and enjoyed our last evening on the beach.  We ordered pizza after that at a place in Grayton that wasn’t very good and put together a salad with all our leftover.  Packed up the cars.
digging into the oysters
beautiful shrimp. love those Royal Reds.
down the beach one last time

Saturday, June 22nd, 2013

  • Got up early and on the road at 5:05 CST.  Road all the way home… about 15 1/2 hours.  long drive but didn’t run into any problems – good weather and no bad traffic.  We had a great vacation and so happy that we went.

Quebec; May 2013

Friday, May 11, 2013
Courtney and I took off at 5:30 am for a six day journey to celebrate the start of our 25th year of marriage. We had a 9 hour drive to Montreal. It was a pretty painless drive with a bit of rain but nothing too bad. Once we got to Montreal we had a bit of trouble figuring out how to get off the highway to where we wanted to go, overshooting it… TWICE. We ended up finding it a different way all together. We are staying three nights at the Hotel Nelligan in old Montreal. They upgraded us to a suite which was a big room with a fireplace, brick walls and a really nice bathroom with a whirlpool tub.  Very nice. After settling in we went for a walk for about an hour, checking out the surrounding area, Notre Dame , just a block a way and then walked toward downtown toward the arts district. We headed back via china town – sketchy, and came back to relax before dinner. After taking a little snooze and a nice bath we headed off towards dinner in the Latin Quarter. It ended up being farther than I thought – about a half hour walk, but we had a great dinner at L’Express and it was fun to walk through the many different neighborhoods. The restaurant was a french bistro we made a reservation for after reading about it and dinner was great.  I had sorrel soup and then salmon over a bed of spinach.  Courtney had a salad with warm goat cheese and then mushroom ravioli.  Mmmmm. After dinner we had a nice stroll back and went to bed pretty quickly as it was a long day.

Happy to be exploring a new city
Interesting buildings everywhere

Le Vieux Montreal
Looking into L’Express from the street
jar of pickles and mustard for appetizers… good stuff

Saturday, May 11, 2013
After sleeping ok – our street is pretty busy and across from a noisy late night club so it was kind of loud, we had a nice continental breakfast chez hotel. Good coffee, nice dining room and nice selection of food. We took off around 10:00 deciding to head out towards the botanical gardens and Olympic village. We took the subway up and first went to Le Chateau Dufrense which was an old mansion built in 1912 and now preserved as a museum. We had the house to ourselves and enjoyed looking at the beautiful woodwork, windows and craftsmanship. It was odd in that two brothers built it together and it one house with two residents that didn’t connect at all internally. After spending about an hour exploring the house we went to the Montreal botanical gardens which were right across the street. The gardens were very nice with lots of different gardens to explore. A huge place. It was drizzling a bit but that didn’t deter us from walking around for over an hour. You could easily spend more as we barely walked through half of it. We then walked through the old Olympic village which was right there also. The Olympic stadium is HUGE with billions of tons of concrete. It was very 70s modernistic and will be interesting to see how it holds up over the next ten years. It looks like they have rehabbed several of the smaller venues into museums and other structures and there was a brand new planetarium that just opened as well. We hopped back on the metro and got off in the Latin quarter and stopped at Les Trois Brasseurs – a bier pub for a late lunch. After lunch we walked back towards downtown checking out the 21 swings exhibit. They were groups of swings that made music when you swing on them. I read about them last year somewhere so it was cool to see them. We then walked back towards le Vieux looping down towards the other side. It is a great city to explore with amazing buildings everywhere. We passed the restaurant where we had dinner reservations and pushed it back as we had lunch so late. After another nice siesta we relaxed and had a bottle of wine in our room and then went to dinner at Venti Osteria at 8:00.  Venti was a contemporary Italian place, nice and small with lots of locals.  We split an order of crostini with eggpland and tomatoes.  Courtney had a risotto with shiitake mushrooms, cauliflower purée and shaved mushrooms and roasted Brussels sprouts leaves.  I had Porchetta stuffed with cheese, apricots over Gorgonzola polenta.  Mon Dieu!! After a nice long relaxing dinner we strolled around le Vieux and then stopped in the bar at our hotel for a late night beer.

inside le Chateau Dufrense
checking out the ceiling
amazing woodwork, ceilings, tile everywhere
going into the Montreal Botanical Gardens
amazing gardens everywhere
le champion
70’s futuristic architecture
vacation = beer for lunch; bonus points = lunch outside
21 swings

A cool video of this:

contemplating a tatoo
relaxing in our great room
late night bier.

Sunday, May 12, 2013
We slept in a bit this morning, relaxing and reading in bed enjoying having nothing to do. We had breakfast chez l’hotel, I can eat chocolate croissants every morning thank you, and then took off in a rather cloudy, drizzly day. We hopped on the Metro and went up north getting off around McGill University. We were heading towards le Parc du Mont-Royal which is this huge mountain in the middle of the city. We walked around 5 blocks going way up hill and then found the steps leading up to the park. Hundreds of steps. Hundreds and hundreds. Crazy. There were several groups let by trainers running up and down the steps looking like they were all going to die. It was quite impressive what a steep hill it is. At least we were working off some of the beer we have been drinking. We made it up to a park where they had a nice overlook with great views of the city, some nice gardens and an old 1930s era pavilion. It looked like the hill kept going up but we headed back down into the city. Going all downhill we wandered around the cool neighborhood bordering the university and museum and ended up at the art museum which was our goal but was surprised that we ended up right there. Le Musee National des Beaux-Arts du Quebec was actually three different buildings on two sides of a busy street ingeniously connected through tunnels and galleries under the ground. It was a very impressive layout and a very nice museum. We wandered about for an hour or enjoying the large exhibit of Napoleon artifacts, the modern art and the cool displays of furniture. There was also a nice small outdoor sculpture garden. We then wandered back towards downtown walking through the busy shopping district, popping into the Ritz to check it out and then wandering back to Les Halles where we founds a decent pizza place for lunch. We then walked back towards old Montreal, walking through the alleys, going out on the waterfront to enjoy the sun that finally came out and then going back to our hotel to relax. We walked many miles this day. After a nice snooze we headed down to have a drink in the lobby to celebrate mothers day and ending up hanging out for over an hour as the manhattans were tasty. We eavesdropped while having cocktails and heard someone talking about a restaurant close by that was good Mediterranean food and had live jazz. That sounded right up our alley so I went on Opentable and booked us a table at 8:00 which was about 45 minutes away. The restaurant ended up being really nice. We waited about 15 minutes for our table listening to the duo jazz combo that was nice. We had a table right by the window which was nice as we just lingered watching the strollers and enjoying the good food. I had a tasty mushroom risotto and Courtney had a bowl of french onion soup. We strolled around after our dinner… it was cold out, in the 40s and went to bed pretty early.

on top of Mont Royal
the tulips were beautiful everywhere
a wedding party taking pictures outside the musee des beaux arts
bust of Napoleon in front of a window
creepy sculpture
interesting gallery of decorative arts
alley in old montreal
outside our hotel
Mothers Day Manhattan
Un grande bier

Monday, May 13, 2013
We got up around 7, got our stuff together, had another nice petit dejeuner chez hotel and on the road by 8:00. With no troubles we made the 3 hour journey to Quebec City. A nice drive through the country side, lots of farms, everything in French now. We had little trouble finding our way to our hotel: the beautiful le Chateau Frontenac. Very nice. We were able to check in right away and quickly made our way outside exploring. We walked outside for about an hour checking out the village and were happy to stumble upon Chez Temporel for lunch which was hidden in an alley and a tiny place. We each had some good québécois bier, really good sandwiches and salad it really felt like we were somewhere different with everyone speaking French and the whole atmosphere. After lunch we walked around the walls of the city checking out the views. I think Quebec City is one of the few remaining walled cities. It was pretty cool.  We wandered back to our hotel and went swimming in the pool, sitting in the hot tub and reading poolside.  We relaxed in our room having a bottle of wine and felt all fooded out so we decided to just go to the bar in our hotel instead of going out to dinner.  It was a nice, country clubbish bar overlooking the river.  We enjoyed some cocktails and stayed in for the night as the weather was rainy and cold.

our beautiful hotel: le chateau frontenac
town square
typical street in Quebec City
outside the walls of the old city
exploring the alleys
bier with lunch
relaxing at the lounge

Tuesday, May 14th 2013

Woke up to the beautiful sight of sunshine after a previous evening of rain.  We had breakfast in the hotel which was fabulous.  Best breakfast buffet we’ve ever had with everything and anything you could possibly want.  Waiters, good coffee, pastries, bacon, omelets, anything and everything.  After a nice long meal we took off on our adventures.  We walked along the riverfront on the Promenade des Gouverners which had hundreds of steps going up and down high above the river.  This let to the Citadelle which was an old fort that was the central part of the walled city and is now an active military post.  Although you couldn’t walk around much in the middle, just peep in, it was cool to see the old walls and the nice views.  We then continued walking along the river away from the city through a nice park and eventually ending up at the National Museum of Fine Arts of Quebec.  Another beautiful museum with an old traditional wing and a newer addition.  The newer addition was actually a rehabbed 19th century building that was great to wander around in.  After walking around for an hour or so, buying a couple of things in the gift shop we wandered out looking for a place for lunch.  We walked up Le Grand Allee and then went up Avenue Cartier that we read was a nice street with lots of local places.  We ended up going to a pub called Turf-Pub that was kind of a sports bar that was packed.  We had a great lunch of huge sandwiches, salad and of course more bier.  We hung out for quite a while and then walked back towards the old town.  We decided to take our siesta up on the patio area outside of the pool.  Although it was a bit chilly, the sun was out and it was really nice laying out on the chaise lounges.  I fell asleep for awhile and Courtney lounged about reading.  Early evening we walked down to the lower town where we haven’t been yet and wandered around the many quaint streets, shops and along the waterfront.  There wasn’t much going on as it was a chilly Tuesday night.  Again, we weren’t very hungry as we had a huge breakfast and a huge late lunch so we ended up at a local Irish pub, le Pub St-Alexander, where we drank beer, had a plate of cheese and crackers and watched Canadian hockey.  Perfect wrap up for a great trip.

The one side of our hotel was under construction
happy to see the sunshine
sculpture on the art museum steps
new wing of the art museum that was an old factory
looking out over the river
patio outside the art museum… more tulips.
graffiti outside the museum
the little square outside of our hotel
looking up at le Chateau Frontenac
street in the lower town with the funicular in the background
a nice way to spend the evening
one more… it is the most photographed hotel in the world afterall. Bon soir.

Wednesday, May 15th, 2013

We woke up around 5:00 AM and hit the road right away as we had a long journey home.  We said our au revoirs and had an uneventful 12 hour drive home. Long car rides are so much easier with no children!   We enjoyed our long weekend and are excited for our trip next year hopefully to Germany / Austria / Somewhere around those parts.


Toronto: April 4-7, 2013

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Courtney’s cousin Michael got married in Toronto so we made it into a long weekend trip.  We left at 6:45 and had a really easy 4 1/2 hour drive with no problems. We were able to check into Sheraton Town Centre when we arrived at 11:30. It is a nice large business hotel right in the middle of downtown.  We had a room up on 37th floor with a nice view.

After settling in we walked towards the Ontario art museum and stopped for lunch at a place called Sin and Redemption across the street from the museum. It was a small pub with a nice selection of beers. Courtney had a Leffe Blonde and I had a xxx which was from Canada and never heard of. It was very tasty. I had mussels et frites and Courtney had a grilled veggie wrap.  All were good. We visited the art museum for about an hour and a half. It was recently redone by Frank Ghery and the space was very interesting. The 5 story wooden winding staircase going through the atrium was beautiful. I also liked the gallery of Henri Moore sculpture. We then walked towards Yonge / Dundas where we sat in the sun soaking in the heat (it was cold). We walked through the huge Eaton mall which had every store on the face of the earth. They had a really nice book store that we spent some time in as bookstores don’t seem to exist too much any more. We walked through the Union Bay department store and then back to the hotel for a short siesta. We went up to the top floor club lounge for cocktails where the views were great and they had nice appetizers as well. We were deciding if we should go to the Blue Jays game as they were playing the Indians or if we should go out to dinner. As it just didn’t seem like baseball season we opted to go out to dinner instead. I know… big surprise.  We went to  a place called The Spice Route that I picked after perusing Open Table a few days ago. It was on West King, about a 15 minute walk. We had mojitos and then sushi, dumplings and some other asian goodies.  Good stuff and cool place.  After dinner we stopped at this huge camping store that had great stuff. Courtney ended up buying a bag and we bought a Nalgene bottle top. Such excitement. We made it back to the hotel and quickly crashed after a long day.

Interesting art gallery on the way to art museum
Outside of the Ontario Art Gallery. This is the new wing designed by Frank Gehry – a Toronto native.
The inside of the previous shot. Very beautiful space.
I love Courtney’s hair in this one 🙂
The staircase growing up out of the roof.
Detail going up staircase. Every angle was different. So beautiful.
Henri Moore sculpture.
View from our hotel cocktail lounge

Friday, April 5, 2013

We had a nice continental breakfast on the club floor and were out the door by 9:00 to explore. We walked down toward the old part of Toronto, stopping at a coffee shop on the way to recaffeinate and to use wi-fi to make sure the kids were doing what they were supposed to be doing. Our mobiles were on roaming the whole time.  We were communicating with the kids and Courtney’s family who were all coming in at different times via wi-fi text which was kind of a pain when we were out and about. We are indeed spoiled.  We walked through the St. Lawrence market which is a huge city market with lots of produce, meat, flowers and everything. We were there kind of early so there wasn’t much action, but it was a cool place with lots of history.  We then kept walking east to the Distillery district which is a recent rehab of old early 19th century liquor distilleries into several blocks of art galleries, bars, restaurants and shops. Again there wasn’t a whole lot going on as we were there kind of early but a cool place. Lots of construction going on in the area which mostly looked like new housing. There was lots of construction in Toronto which is interesting as we have seen hardly anything over the past several years in our U.S.A.   We hiked it back towards downtown along King Street and then hopped on the subway heading up to the Yorkville neighborhood, about 4 stops or so.  When we figured out where the heck we were once we got off the train we made it outside and it was snowing out.  Yikes.  We walked around window shopping at the stores and wandered around looking for somewhere to have lunch.  We found another pub like place called The Bedford Academy with a fireplace going.  Perfect.  Had beer, and split some soup and a sandwich.  We then walked back toward downtown walking through the University of Toronto,  past the impressive Legislative office, the huge U of Toronto Medical campus and then back to our hotel.  An impressive day of walking.  After settling back in we visited with Courtney’s parents who arrived mid afternoon and then later went to the hotel bar and visited with George and Carrie, Pat and Alan and some of Courtney’s cousins.  I drove to the rehearsal dinner which was about a half an hour drive in busy traffic not knowing where we were going.  We managed to get there with no problems though.  The rehearsal dinner was at Michael and Mahima’s house that they have recently redone.  It was interesting to meet everyone and Mahima’s family, especially her sisters, were all very nice.  Courtney’s Uncle Bob gave a very moving speech as well as some other people.  They had a great spread of Mediterranean food.  We took off around 8:30 along with George and Carrie as we were going to meet John and Alissa at a restaurant downtown at 9:00 as the Kanwit’s were arriving late and were unable to come to the rehearsal dinner.  We made it back to the hotel in half the time but then took a couple wrong turns trying to find the place we were going but made it there around 9:15 where John and Alissa were waiting.  We went to a place called BeerBistro that was really good.  The place was packed at 9:30.  We had greet beers and split some outstanding mussells that were “clambake” mussells with potatoes, beer and cheese.  great.  We had a really nice time catching up with everyone and not having any kids around!

Old and new Toronto.
Checking out the St. Lawrence market
The distillery district
The Bedford Academy where we had lunch
Interesting fence in the park across from the hotel
Uncle Bob giving a toast

Saturday, April 6, 2013

After a good night’s sleep we had breakfast again up on the club level.  We then went to breakfast again, why not, with Courtney’s family to a place a few blocks up called Eggspectation.  Even with the cheesy name it was a nice place and I somehow managed to eat a waffle and Courtney ate something as well.  Again, it was nice to sit and talk with everyone.  We didn’t get out of there until around 11:00 and then went for a walk.  The group wanted to go in the same direction we went the previous day so we walked back towards the market and the distillery district with people dropping off as we kept walking.  It was a beautiful sunny day but still very chilly in the 40s.  It ended up being Courtney and I and John and Alissa and once we made it back to downtown we decided to look for somewhere to grab something to eat as the reception was not until later.   After looking on the internet and wandering around quite a bit we ended up at another pub like place called The Queen and Beaver Public House.  It was very British and the food and the beer was great.  I had some kind of English bitter beer and a BLT made with pork belly and roasted tomatoes that was insane.  Courtney had a pie filled with potatoes and mushrooms that was good as well.  Another great place.  We made it back to the hotel and it was time to get dressed up as we were supposed to meet in the lobby to take pictures.  It didn’t take long and we ended up spending most of the time in the bar.  Our large group boarded a bus at the hotel that took us to the wedding just a few miles away.  The ceremony was an Indian / traditional fusion.  Mahima’s family was all beautifully dressed in saris and other traditional ware as were Michael, Peter and Uncle Bob.  The ceremony was interesting and beautiful.  Mahima sang her vows which was very moving.  The ceremony and following reception were in an old church converted into a party space.  An interesting space.  The ceremony lasted an hour or so followed by the reception.  They had a good band and the food was great.  A line of Indian food and English food.  I only ate the Indian food which was fantastic.  Michael and Mahima sang several times and everyone was happy.  It was a great wedding.

Craig, Courtney, George and John
Cousins ready to go to the wedding
Mahima’s family welcoming Michael’s family to the wedding
Michael getting his feet washed when he entered the church
the wedding ceremony
Michael and Mahima singing with the band
George and Carrie


The beautiful bride singing

Sunday, April 7, 2013

We had a quick breakfast with Alissa and John, everyone else had an earlier flight, and then hit the road around 9:00 or so.  We stopped at Ikea on the way out of Toronto for an hour or so and didn’t do too much damage.  (There are four Ikeas in Toronto! )  We stopped at the duty free store and bought some liquor on the way across the border.  We enjoyed an uneventful drive home and definitely will keep Toronto in mind for future outings as it is such an easy drive and a booming, growing, and cultural city.

Cincinnati, November 2012

We went on a road trip to Cincinnati last weekend to visit Jack. My parents picked me, Sophie and Grace up at home around noon on Friday and we met Claire and Courtney in Strongsville for lunch as they left right from work at noon.  We had a quick Panera lunch and then back on the road arriving at Cincinnati around 5:00.  We stayed at the Embassy Suites in Kentucky across the river as we stayed there last time and enjoyed it.  We got an extra big room as we knew we had a lot of people.  My parents had a room right next to ours.  Sean, Jack and Jenni met us at the hotel and we had a nice cocktail hour in our room having the kids running down to get the free drinks.  We walked across the Roebling bridge to get to the Moerline Lager house where we had dinner. The Roebling bridge was built in 1866 and is the longest suspension bridge when it was built.  It is beautiful and amazing that it is almost 150 years old.

cocktail hour
we had a bar in the room
everybody after dinner
cable detail
close up

Saturday, 9/10/2012

We had Embassy Suites breakfast and then headed out to Jack’s house as Jack, Jenni, Claire and Sean went to U of C after dinner last night and slept there.  Jack is staying in the house next to where he was last year…not as nice but not awful.  We went on a walk around the campus as my parents have never been there before.  We walked for around an hour checking out the impressive new architecture, the football field, the bookstore and enjoyed walking around on a beautiful Saturday morning.

Jack and Sophie in front of his (crumbling) house.
on the U of C campus
Jack and Grandma
There are lots of interesting buildings on the campus

After walking around we drove downtown to check out the Findlay market and had lunch there.  We went back to the hotel and relaxed in the afternoon – watching football, going for a walk outside and drinking more beer.  We went to the Hofbrauhaus for dinner and the kids stayed at the hotel for the night and playing cards and drinking (more) beer.  I think beer was the common theme of the weekend 🙂

the bridge during the day
one more

Sunday, 9/11/12

After another Embassy Suites breakfast we dropped Jack and Sean off at Jack’s house around 11:00, Sean was catching a bus back to Athens, and then we took off.  We stopped at the nice outlets between Cincinnati and Columbus and made it home around 5:00 or so.