Sunday, July 27, 2014

2014 Sarah's Wedding in NH/Cape Cod/James Taylor Concert Trip June

In June 2014, Sarah (our niece)  and Eric were to married in Meredith NH on top of a mountain.  We decided to take the week and travel around New England so we went to the Cape and to a James Taylor concert as well.

The hotel for the wedding was the Inn at Mills Falls in Meredith NH.  We stayed a room with a balcony at Church's Landing.









The wedding ceremony was being held on top of a mountain overlooking Lake Winnipesaukee.  We took a school bus up to the mountain and then took a shuttle down to Castle in the Clouds for the reception.  Sarah made a beautiful bride, the venue was breath taking and it was great to see the family.  


Michael

Meghan, Chev, Kev and Sidney Brennan

Allison Family
View from the Castle in the Clouds

Once the festivities were over, we had time to relax with the family at Church's Landing.  
Maureen  and Kathleen


Michael had 2 favorite spots here.  The one is in the adironback chairs and the other was in the lobby.  

We stayed there for 3 days with Moe and Jim, took a cruise of the lake, read books and ate dinner.  chillaxin time.

We then drove to the Cape to visit Linda and Peter for 2 days.  We visited a lavender farm, took a hike through the marshlands (yes, I exercised), went to Chatham to hear an a cappella group called Hyannis Harmony, ate at BUCA (my fav on Cape), walked around Chatham to shop  and went to a Harwich mariners game.   Doesn't get any better than that for the Cape.  





Our last stop was to see James Taylor at Tanglewood in Lenox MA; our bucket list item.  We stayed at Cranwell Resort.  So, unfortunately, this was the bad part of the trip.  The resort was overpriced; they stuck us on the third floor of an old mansion with NO elevator, and the a/c didn't work.  The worst part was that there was a BAD storm the night of the concert and we had to leave two songs into the concert.  If it only rained, we would have stayed but there was dangerous lightening that kept up until 2am so we didn't get to see him.  

All in all, we had a great time visiting family and venturing around New England.  



2014 10th Anniversary of Underground Book Club at Chautauqua Feb 2014

So, we started a book club 10 years ago with the Junior Women's League and because I could no longer belong to the League (due to my working during the day), we pulled a rogue group out from the League and started our own book club... thus the name Underground Book Club.  We started with about 6 women and the group has grown to about 18 now.  We meet every month and discuss books (yeah right, we drink wine and maybe discuss books).

So, it was the 10th anniversary this year and one of the members has a house in Chautauqua and thought it would be great to have the celebration at her house and one of her neighbors.  So all 13 of us (Kathy T, Trish, Kathy B, Ellen, Adrienne, Fran, Chris, Janet, MaryBeth, Maureen, Kim, and Karen went for the weekend.  We played games, drank wine, went on a sleigh ride around the grounds, drank wine, talked, went to a brewery, drank wine, and went to dinner... and then drank wine again.  Do you get the theme of this?????

We shared this weekend with a cool and well behaved  brown lab named Mocha (ask Ellen..Mocha was so well behaved Ellen didn't pay attention to her glasses which she placed on the ground and you know what happened next).    This was the best GIRL TIME I've had in a long time.

The weather was perfect because it waited until we were there to snow and it snowed while we were on the sleigh ride.  Too great for pics.

view from house

Marybeths cottage house on lake

Marybeth;s house

Sleigh ride


Book Club bylaws and favor that Kathy T made

wine tasting

Southern Tier Brewery

Mocha, the brown lab



2014 Alexandria Trip (march)

Michael and I decided to get away for my birthday weekend because the winter was so damn long.  We didn't want to drive far so we decided to drive 4 hours, visit a stitching exhibit in Virginia, at an estate called Woodlawn and stay in Alexandria. 


We really lucked out because that weekend, the temps warmed up to 70 degrees and the first signs of spring arrived.  
What a great break from the dreaded Pittsburgh winter.


The stitching exhibit at Woodlawn  has been going on for many years and people from all over US submit their prize possessions (stitching projects) to be judged or just viewed.  The exhibit had an unbelievable amount of submissions and the judges favorite was mine, too.  The Santa Claus.  Unfortunately, you are not permitted to take pics so I have none to show you.  The stitches on this was so small that it looked like a photo not a design AND it was stitched by a man!  A bonus was that there was a great cross stitch store right down the street. 


We stayed at the Lorien Hotel and Spa in Alexandria which is a Kimpton Property.  You know we are "lobbyists" which means we love to sit in lobbies, people watch and drink wine so this property met our desire.  Their lobby was comfortable with an outdoor patio and there was free wine from 5p-6p so you can guess which couple was there at 5pm sharp!   Yes, us....  The room was normal size however, the walls were way too thin.  We were able to hear the neighbors conversation on the phone.  WORD FOR WORD.  We complained to the management and they stated that they are trying to remedy the situation but not for the next few months.   Anyway, it was close to the METRO and had 2 great restaurants associated with it.  Brabo and Brado tasting room.   great food.  Had Chicken with Thyme butter and roasted brussel sprouts.
 IT was better than Bouchons which I thought had the best roasted chicken.  Breakfast was interesting as well.  


That night, we decided to sit in an Irish Pub, Murphy's (since it was close to St. Pats Day) and drink black and tans and listen to music. 


Next day, we decided to take the Metro into Washington DC and visit the National Gallery of Art.  The past few months, Michael and I took an art class at the Pittsburgh Museum and studied the famous Dying Gaul.  Wouldn't you know it, that was on exhibit at the Gallery and for only one more day because it was going back to Rome where it hadn't left EVER.  Michael thought it was the coolest thing ever and had me take a million pics (really 3) of him with it, by itself, in the light, etc....




We also saw a Wyeth.  


We ate lunch in the Gallery's cafe and that turned out to be a treat as well.  They were serving Coq au vin.  My fav.

We ended the weekend with a dinner at Lidia's with the boys.  I am blessed!


Goofy boys....






Thursday, December 26, 2013

2013 End of the Year Reflections

End of the year Reflections:  Gratefulness

I am blessed and I appreciate everyday and all of the time I can spend with my family.  My year started negatively with much difficulty because of my job however, all of the transitions that occurred at work have worked out and have improved beyond previous years.  As they say, when God closes a door, he opens a window.  You don't believe it when you are going through it but it is so true.    For this I am grateful.

Serendipity strikes again for the Brennan family.  One of my family members had some symptoms that needed to be checked out by a physician and that lead to them finding that he had a congenital heard defect that might have never been found unless there was problem with it and maybe too late.  So, for this I am truly grateful.  This event has lead me back to my church which I am also happy about it. 

Serendipity or Providence, whatever you want to call it, continues to strike our family in positive ways.  I really feel that its angels that guide me and my family and maybe those angels are my father or father in law that want to protest us.   We don't know but it continually happens.   My son was driving with my husband when a huge deer decided to run in front of his small car.  My husband had just told my son to buckle his seat belt when they hit the deer with huge antlers.  The deer came up over the front of the car and his antlers crashed through my son's windshield.   Shane was saved because he moved quickly to the side so the antlers ended up in the back seat.   (I attribute this to Shane's agility learned as a high school quarterback).    The car was totaled but both Shane and Michael were not injured.  The only issue is that Shane is allergic to deer fur so he had a little of a reaction because the deer's head came through the windshield.  We are blessed!

We were fortunately enough to travel a lot this year, and we celebrated our 25th Anniversary with our family and friends.  We also spent a lot of time with our family and hope that that can continue into the new year. 

What I would like to work on this next year is to be healthier by exercising, doing yoga and losing weight, learn mindfulness (this may take more than a year), attend church more often and learn to SURRENDER TO WHAT IS (that was last year's resolution but need more work).    I think that is what God has been trying to tell me and I am starting to understand that I should leave it all in His hands because I can't control it. 

So, I am looking forward to 2014 with renewed sense of spirit. 

2013 New York at Christmastime

Another item from our bucket list was to visit New York City at Christmastime.  We went for a long weekend in December a day after the lighting of the tree.  Our plans were to visit the museums, do a show and eat at some of the great restaurants.  We had an early flight to New York so that we could make a 7pm showing of Kinky Boots.  We THOUGHT we had plenty of time but that was not the case.  Our flight was delayed from leaving at 9am to 2:30pm.  We arrived in LaGuardia at 4pm only to find out that the luggage carousel was broken which delayed us by another 30mins.  Ok, so it was 4:30pm at that time and we figured we still had time.  Yeah right.  Because all of the flights were delayed, the cab line was 2 hours long so now we were sweating because the show started t 7pm.  We got in the line and this seedy looking man asked us if we wanted to take a car to NYC for $50 per couple.  THIS WAS A DEAL.  We were a little concerned but we knew we didn't have much of a choice.  A group of Toronto fliers were beside us and asked if they could join us.  I felt, ok, there is safety in numbers so this will work so sure, please join us.  We arrived at the hotel (Hyatt at Times Square) at 6:30pm and walked into the theater at 6:55pm.  Whew just in time.  We hoped this was not an indicator of what the weekend was going to be but Kinky Boots turned out to be one of the best shows I've ever seen so I had hope.

The next day we decided to walk to MOMA after a great breakfast across the street from our hotel that looked like an old mafia hangout, BOND 45.  We sat in Kathleen Turner's booth.  We visited the famous tree  

  MOMA had Starry Night which was why we wanted to go to that museum.  We ran through MOMA because it was packed but the original art was breathtaking. 

 

For lunch, we decided to eat at a NY  deli so we started out for Carnegie deli however the line was almost a block long.  We found a deli across the street called BENASH which had a great beef brisket sandwich.  We think just as good however, we will never know.  Since we had gone to NYC 10 years ago, we did not want to visit the typical landmarks so we decided to go to another show that night.  We checked out TIKbooth but they didn't have the shows we wanted to see so we thought we would try the box offices.  We were able to get great seats at Pittsburgh prices for WICKED and MOTOWN for Friday and Saturday night.  This was unbelieveable because we purchased aisle seats 7-9 rows back from the stage at prices we paid for Book of Mormon and Les Mis in Pittsburgh.  Both shows were great and we enjoyed this experience.  We ate our dinners at Amarone in Hell's Kitchen and .  Had great meals. 

On Saturday, we took the tour bus because we wanted to see Brooklyn.  That turned out to be a great idea because we got to see Brooklyn without driving or walking around AND got to visit Little Italy on the way back.  Ate at a great restaurant called Grotta Azur.  Had beef brachiole.  MY FAV.  Now this is where our luck changed.  We decided to take a subway back from Little Italy to Grand Central.  We got on a train but about 10 mins into the ride, the conductor came on and said they we all had to evacuate the train and transfer to another train in another station because there was a police incident on the tracks.  Not sure what it was but it meant we needed to figure out how to get back.  So, NY is famous for cabs, right?  Not right! especially when the subway is shut down, its raining AND its Christmas.  So, we decided to take the bus but the buses do not accept cash.  We needed to find a metro station so we could get a metro card to pay for the bus.   So, we buy the card and as we are trying to figure out where and what bus to catch, a cab unloads a women and we beg the cabbie to take us somewhere near our hotel.  He tells us he getting off work and can't, we beg again and he says ok, get in.  We hurry in and then he pulls up as close as possible to our hotel (which wasn't close) and kind of wants us to jump out quick.  So Michael's hands me cash folded and tells me to give it to him.  I do as I am asked.  As he pulls away, Michael asks we where is the rest of the money?  I say, I gave it to the cabbie.  He says, what, you gave him a $25 tip.  Whatever!!!   We then retreated to our hotel in time to see Motown.

Sunday, we decided to find a breakfast place since our favorite one was closed.  We did and then decided to attend the nearest catholic church for advent services.  The hotel concierge referred us to one that was one street away.  Great!! not very far.  We arrived in plenty of time for the services and realized as we were sitting there that it was a Episcopal church.  Have to say that it was VERY similar to catholic services but MUCH longer.  We were welcomed by the congregation and it was a nice way to end the trip. 

Our flight home was due to leave at 2pm and that flight got delayed by 8 hours.  We arrived home by 12midnight.  Not sure I want to fly anytime soon.  Again, a good trip!

 
 

2013 Brooklyn Brewery Mash

Some of the chefs in Pittsburgh, invited the Brooklyn Brewery to host a dinner in our city introducing Brooklyn Brewery beers so Michael and I  decided to spend a fall afternoon attending this dinner a gentlemans farm in Hampton for a 3 hour beer pairing dinner.  (The owner of the farm is also the owner of a Mexican restaurant at the Strip called Casa Reyna.) 

We arrived at the farm and the beauty of the fall day was all around us.  


Outside of the farm door was the makeshift kitchen with the four Pittsburgh chefs (Cure, E2, etc.) cooking our appetizers.  In side the barn door on the upper level was a bar with bourbon cocktails and unbelievably tasty appetizers.  Also in the barn was a blue grass band just jamming away.  We were happy campers. 





 
 
After an hour of appetizers and cocktails, we proceeded downstairs to be seated for dinner. 





 
 
 
 
Now, I am not a fan of beer however after this dinner I have a new appreciation for the different tastes of beer (lager, flavored, light, dark, etc.).  We met many local Pittsburgh people who are foodies and LOVE living in Pittsburgh.  We sat with a photographer from TABLE magazine, the owner of Casa Reyna and the farm, and the Director of Slow Eats organization.  The Director told us that PIttsburgh's restaurant scene is growing because many young culinary chefs can't afford to own restaurants in the larger cities but they can here so they are opening their restaurants in our great town AND WE ARE THE BENEFACTORS of that. 
 
It was a great day!