{Recipe} Perfect Baby Back Ribs- an art or a science?

There’s nothing worse than a chewy, tough rib! I have had my share of terrible ribs, at home and at restaurants. BUT, when I finally get a finger-licking, out-of-this-world rib, I instantly forget all those bad experience and only hear angels singing from above. It’s a crap-shoot when it comes to ribs. I made it my personal mission to perfect The Rib.

Ribs are prepared in a variety of ways…. smoked or grilled or baked or boiled, dry rub or wet rub, sweet or spicy.  It makes me wonder… is it an art or a science? Should I go with pork or beef? What destroys a rib? I’ve been playing around with ribs for years, and I’ve definitely had some hits and misses. I fondly remember when Nick and his roomie Terry first cooked for me a delectable batch of finger-licking ribs. They had an amazing amount of flavor that was intensified due to slow cooking on a charcoal grill. Apparently, Nick doesn’t remember this 16 years later, but I do. Maybe Terry remembers, too? Those ribs have never been recreated, but I still smile when I think about those good ol’ college cooking days.

After a a few dozen practice rounds, I think I have finally perfected my favorite way to prepare ribs. I only use baby back ribs, as I find that St. Louis style ribs are too meaty and chewy for my taste. Nothing wrong with them- hey, I use to live in St. Louis! I just haven’t found a good way to make them tender or enjoyable at home. I just have better results with baby back. I also allow for some resting time during the process… it’s part of the “art.”

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My Venice Tips

I’ve only been to Venice once, but I learned a handful of things during my trip to this  surreal northern Italian town. My tips for the first time visitor to Venice include:

  1. Book a private water taxi from the airport.

It’s a splurge, but so worth it! There’s something very special about being whisked away from the airport in a private speedboat and approaching the floating city via the water. The taxi will drop you off directly at your hotel or as close to it as possible (an added convenience when you consider your wheeled luggage and the fact that Venice has 400 bridges with a ton of stairs). I recommend booking online ahead of time because it is more expensive at the airport (100 E versus 120 E). There is a bit of a walk to the airport dock, but our boat was waiting for us when we got there. If it’s raining the boat has a covered sitting area.

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  1. Stay in a small hotel off the beaten track, yet close enough to the main sights.

Why? I liked the idea and feel of “going home” for the night. Our small, quaint hotel had that feel. Also, I feel like you get more personalized attention when you stay some place small. We stayed at Locanda la Corte. It has a private dock (yes, it requires one bridge crossing) and a staircase you must scale to get to your room (but the man at the front desk will carry your luggage for you to the room). There’s a garden and courtyard where you can have breakfast or an afternoon drink. Breakfast is included in the room rate and offers meats, cheese, eggs, fruits, toast, cereals, and assorted beverages. Wifi was strong and I had no problem using it in my room (Room 106) The men at the front desk were friendly, helpful, and personable.  If I ever come back to Venice, I’d love to book one of their apartments because I’d enjoy the opportunity to shop and cook in my own kitchen. There’s an abundance of fruits, vegetables, and fish you can buy at various outdoor markets. Our hotel was an 8 minute walk to St. Mark’s Basilica or the Rialto Bridge.

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  1. Reserve “skip the line” vouchers for St. Mark’s Basilica.

I am so glad we did this! The regular line was ridiculously long. There was a “line” for the skip the line, but we were inside within 5 minutes for a mere 2 E per person. The guards do check to see if you are wearing appropriate attire. It was 90-odd degrees so long shorts were fine, but I brought a scarf to cover my shoulders. They have paper gowns to cover your legs or shoulders if dressed inappropriately.

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  1. Get up early and walk the empty streets of Venice.

It’s a different experience seeing the city as it wakes up. The streets are empty, the gondolas are sleeping with their blue covers, and the streets are peacefully quiet except for cooing of pigeons. If you enjoy taking pictures, this is the time to snap photos of the sights since you most likely won’t have any random strangers photobombing you.

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  1. To find the best food, use TripAdvisor instead of picking those touristy places you stumble upon.

It’s downright tempting to pick a café positioned by the Grand Canal or in a popular campo or piazza. I mean who wants to go down a small alley to a 5 table restaurant when they are in Venice for the first time? Well, it wasn’t until after too many lackluster meals and a quick check of their 2-star average review rating on TA that I had this “Ahh-Ha” moment. Yes, I had done my research ahead of time and had addresses of excellent foodie restaurants, but we didn’t eat at those places. We were lured by the ambiance or location of an outdoor, waterfront restaurant, but ultimately we regretted this. Alas, on our final night we did finally make reservations at one of my bookmarked restaurant. Guess what….? IT WAS AMAZING. Lesson learned!

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{Gardening} Plans for 2015

I.am.so.ready.for.warm.weather!

It’s been a very long winter. We’re suffered through the coldest February on record. We’ve survived 119 inches of snow thus far (more than Buffalo and Rochester). Oh, plus it’s nearly Mid-April, and until this week, we still had snow in parts of our yard. Grrr! On a happier note, my crocuses are blooming and they’ve multiplied since last year.

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{Mini Trip Report} Long Weekend in Orlando

Orlando is my hometown. I moved there in the eighties before Universal, MGM, or Animal Kingdom was built. Oh those were the days in central Florida, when I-drive and Disney were smaller yet the main hubs. Things weren’t so crowded or complicated.  Below are some of my favorite destinations/memories during those days…. Anyone from Orlando will know what they are. Sadly, these attractions are long gone. Orlando today is much more overwhelming… there’s more people, lights, sensory overload, and expense.

Photo by Nomeus, 2007 - Flurbex.com


Flash forward to the present day and age. We opted for a long weekend trip to Orlando to see family over Easter and to take advantage of our companion pass on Southwest (which saved us $500 this trip). We stayed in two hotels, rented a car,  ate out for all meals, and squeezed in a day at Islands of Adventure. In short, it was an expensive weekend despite the Southwest advantage and getting a good $10 a day deal  with free gas on an Alamo full sized vehicle. Overall, it was a wonderful trip with plenty of sun and warm weather. That’s what counts as a New Yorker still surrounded by snow.

IOA UNIVERSAL TIPS:

1. In regards to rides, the Express pass is worth it. Or if you don’t mind being split up, try the single rider line. We had neither and only rode two rides. Each was a 60-70 min wait.

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2. Eat lunch at Three Broomsticks. It was efficient and only took 20 minutes to receive our food. We opted for a chicken ribs plate (with roasted corn on cob) and fish and chips. My son had a butter beer and chicken strips. The corn was a little undercooked, but everything else was tasty!

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3.  You can buy your Harry Potter wand and items at the front store to avoid the crowds and mayhem in the small shops in the Harry Potter section. Our hotel actually sold many of the same items, and there wasn’t a 20 person line.

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4. Have fun!

MY HOTEL SUGGESTION: Cabana Bay Beach Hotel

Cons:
-Small rooms and no balcony
-No early check in or checkout givn to us
-Parking fee ($13 per day)
-Breakfast for a fee (8.95 in the diner or try the Starbucks. Hotel room only has a frig)
-Large and spread out (aka lots of walking)

Pros:
+Newer hotel with a fun vibe (bathrooms stocked with VO5 and Zest!)
+Comfy bed
+Lazy river, slide, 2 pools  plus outdoor games like baggo and lawn golf
+Free transport to Universal (5 min ride)
+Affordable price even for a holiday spring weekend: $199 per night

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We will stay here again especially if my son has any say in it. He said it was the best vacation ever.🙂

 

{Trip Report} LAVA LAVA LAVA

NOTE: This trip report details the Big Island portion of our 2 week Hawaiian adventure. To read about Maui, click HERE.

Day Eight:  Even though we had to say goodbye to Maui, a new adventure awaited us on the Big Island. We flew via Hawaiian Airlines (booked for $100 per person via Orbitz.com), and we found the quick flight pleasant and refreshing (mist shoots out from overhead- a welcome after sitting in the hot airport). The plane flew over Maui, so I ‘sorta’ got to see the road to Hana. The staggering terrain looked lush, unpopulated, and very, very green. I determined in that moment to come back and see more of that beautiful island.

We soon lost sight of Maui, flying over the azure waters before making our descent to Kona. The ride was so brief; maybe 20 minutes total flight time- barely enough time for the attendants to pass out juice cups.

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Outdoor baggage claim

We landed on time and pulled right up to the outdoor airport. Literally! We hopped off the plane, walked through a flimsy fence to a covered waiting area. The airport was basically a cluster of pavilions! Xander kept saying “This isn’t an airport.” Our suitcases arrived promptly, and we picked up our Malibu rental from National soon thereafter. The agency had many more fees than Hotwire estimated- $75 more! I wasn’t happy about that.

My first reaction when I saw the Big Island from above was to say “wow!” Its has a unique, unusual, surreal landscape. Rugged black lava rock is everywhere. There’s so much of it that it’s shocking,  and … well, pretty cool.

I spy lava!

I spy lava… AND a peace sign.

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#TBT- Fort Myers Beach vacay, 2012

One of the vacations that I never blogged about was our 2012 trip to Ft. Myers Beach. I think the reason behind it was that as soon as we returned to NY, I began looking for employment. I was prepping my resume, getting my fingerprints, and applying for my license. This trip was  a celebration trip- I was finished with my Master’s of Science in Teaching degree. Granted I had to finish my final project while ON this trip, but once I clicked SEND, I still had half the trip to savor and party like a rockstar.

I love Ft. Myers Beach (FMB). I have been vacationing here since elementary school. During my childhood, FMB was were we went to celebrate the end of the school year and my birthday during Memorial Day weekend. Thus, it seemed fitting for me to celebrate the conclusion of my degree here.

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{Trip Report} Montreal is not Paris

Scenario: It seems sacrilegious to post this report since I haven’t yet publicly documented the Big Island or Sanibel, but I was strongly motivated for some odd reason to write about this most recent adventure. Montreal has been in our sights since we lived in New Hampshire. I had always heard it was a city reminiscent of Paris, so it intrigued me. Last year, I decided we HAD to check it out. Ultimately, Christmas break seemed the most logical considering our remaining vacation time. In the end, we booked a two night stay.

Friday– We loaded the car and set out from NY for Montreal by 9 a.m. With no winter weather to delay us, the four hour drive was quite smooth. Nick wasn’t feeling 100% (too much Christmas egg nog), so I drove the entire way. The wait at the border was less than 10 minutes, and we had a pleasant agent interview us. The 1000 Islands looked quite pretty as we crossed the handful of tall bridges from the USA to Ontario. It is on my list of places to check out one summer. The Canadian portion of the drive was simple thanks to my GPS which still worked in airplane mode since I had downloaded the map prior to crossing the border.
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As we approached the city, the traffic picked up and Nick kept remarking, “It looks like WWIII.” I agree, there were industrial areas, graffiti, trash, and an abundance of train tracks. The gray day did not improve the scenery. We did experience a couple hiccups though once we got to Montreal. I had selected 3 restaurants to try, but once we got to Montreal, they were all closed!
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Closed😦

What a disappointment! In fact, everything seemed to be closed due to the holiday season. We were starved by this point since it was nearly 2pm so we had to settle on a less than desirable place. As expected, the food was subpar and I left most of my poutine untouched. Once we had some sustenance (Nick ate everything on his plate) we were in better spirits to explore this new city.

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{Trip Report} Somewhere Over the Rainbow

Our epic 15 day journey to the alluring, rainbow-infused state of Hawaii is something we shall not forget. It was magical and filled with adventure. It’s a place where “trouble melts like lemon drops.” Here is my brief (?) trip report from our August, 2014 vacation to Maui and the Big Island. IMG_8707x

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Through my Lens: The Essence of Fall Camping

The photographs below are from our recent (and last for the year) camping trip to Old Forge, NY. This quaint little town is a base camp for many Adirondack activities such as paddling, hiking, and scenic train rides. We love it because it’s only a 2 hour drive from our house. The crisp, damp air is always wonderfully refreshing. See you in the spring ADK!

Hurricane Iselle is a comin’

I grew up in Florida. I know a thing about hurricanes. The season lasts for half a year!

Rain and stormy weather is typical during the sticky hot summer months in Florida,  just as is tropical storms and hurricanes. Luckily, I lived in the central part of the state so we had some protection.

Floridians know to have water, batteries, and non perishable food on hand should the power go out. Often times, though, the outages are short lived and the damage is minimal. Typically our pool would be close to overflowing and our screen porch would be put to the test thanks to the high gusts of wind. One time school let us out early. I recall sitting in the half lit school hallway waiting for my mom to pick me up. We went to blockbuster on the way home to stock up on movies. However, it was sunny the rest of the day, and we went to school th next day like nothing had ever happened. Because it didn’t. No hurricane. After I got married, we built a house near Jacksonville Beach; the house came WITH metal storm shutters. Luckily, we never had to use them. Tropical depressions, storms, and hurricanes have only ever been minor inconveniences due to wind and rain. I have never experienced anything severe.  Continue reading