Summer Wind

Today the warm sweet scent of summer whispered through town on the evening breeze. The Sun was slow to retreat and people lingered in the April twilight. I can’t wait for more colorful evenings just like this one.


6 Things to do in Ohio

When you ask friends and neighbors for activities to do in Cleveland, Ohio you discover just how many of them grew up in the midwest. Unfortunately, most of them also end up scratching their heads and racking their brains for suitable midwestern vacation highlights. After a couple long weekends to Cleveland here is my list of inexpensive things to do in the area.

  • Cleveland Museum of Art – There is something for everyone here. My dad enjoyed the impressionist section featuring painters like Claude Monet while my mom enjoyed the realism and attention to detail in the European exhibit. I felt like a kid in a candy store when we arrived at a room dedicated entirely to medieval armor and weaponry. 
  • Coffee and Cake – There are a number of mouth watering bakeries in Historic Little Italy, each with its own specialty. For dessert one evening, we watched the woman behind the counter fill our fresh cannolis with the traditional ricotta filling. It was the freshest and tastiest cannoli I’ve ever had.
  • Take a Hike – The North Chagrin Reservation is a lovely place to immerse yourself in nature. The colors on the trees surrounding Squire’s Castle were just beginning to turn with the chill in the air. The wide green lawn stretching like a royal velvet carpet before the castle is also a fantastic place for people watching. In addition to the regular young families and friendly dog walkers, this is also a prime location to spot outdoor yoga, sword fighting and women in silky floral gowns for their wedding photos. 
  • Gelato – No matter what the weather, it is never too cold for gelato (or sorbetto). This frosty delicacy from Little Italy is an explosion of fruity flavors that call to mind hot summer days and crowded, cobbled European streets. 
  • Servants of Mary Shrine – Thousands of colored tiles make up the mosaic of the world’s largest likeness of Our Lady of Guadeloupe. Located on an idyllic farm, there’s a reverent hush over The Lake of Hope which Mary stands over in eternal prayer.
  • Ghost Walk – This is not Halloween specific. The cemeteries of Cleveland are as much an attraction to the area as the history and art museums. Each family plot and headstone is a work of art, from celtic crosses to warrior angels. I’d love to share a chat with the owners of the names on all those stones over a nice cup of tea. 

What are some of your favorite things to do in Ohio? We’re always looking for new adventures.

POTD: Leading Lines

This post is short and sweet and all about the photo. As I’ve said a number of times on this blog, sometimes you just have to stop and smell the flowers (or appreciate the symmetry in the power lines).

This was one of the views at Sunset Hill Farm. Standing beneath the power lines where the faint crackle of electricity is just discernible over the buzzing of insects, you can look out through the narrow strip of mowed land at sunny, rolling hills. If you look closely you can also see fine green tendrils beginning to creep about the base of the towers, reaching ever skyward. 

One Year Ago…

I packed my life into a U-Haul and went for an 18 hour drive with my dad. Thankfully he volunteered to be behind the wheel for the duration of our trip halfway across the country to get me settled into my new life as a metallurgical engineer in a steel mill on the southern tip of Lake Michigan. Watching the Colorado Rocky Mountains shrink in the rearview mirror, I couldn’t picture what my life would look like when we pulled up to my apartment in Valparaiso, Indiana and in all the days that came after. 

Born and raised in Colorado and having loved every minute of it, I never wanted to be anywhere else. I cherish memories of family camping trips to Utah and spring breaks spent on a sandy Mexico beach but we always came home to Colorado, one of my favorite parts of every vacation. Everywhere I went, there was always family a short 20 minutes away and stony peaks to summit if I ever needed to release any pent up energy. For all of these reasons, I never saw myself leaving. 

During my time in Colorado, there was always a plan; a next step to take and more homework to finish in order to one day graduate with marketable skills that would help to land me a job doing something I enjoy. I was so focused on earning the degree and the job offer that I hardly gave a thought to what the rest of my life would look like once I had them. We hit the road and headed East and for the first time in my life, there was no plan beyond the metallurgical position I was due to begin the following week. I had absolutely no idea what was in store for me in the year that followed. 

People like to talk about traveling out into the world to find themselves. I never bought into this way of thinking. Everything I ever needed was just a few minutes away. Why would I need to find myself? Moving to Indiana didn’t teach me who I am. I’ve always known that. But I do think the change of scenery was the fresh start that I needed to begin owning it. I’m still singing the same tunes I’ve always sung but the volume has been cranked up to 100 percent.

After a year in Indiana, I am more me today than I’ve ever been. I’m doing things that previously went on the back burner because there were more pressing uses of my time than checking off a few bucket list items. I’m constantly learning new skills and trying new things and I’ve made so many friends in my Indiana home. 

One of the best things about growing up in Glenwood Springs was the sense of community present in every interaction. It was a place where everyone knew everyone. You couldn’t go to the grocery store without bumping into a neighbor. Backyard gatherings were full of the smiling, vaguely familiar faces of grown ups holding their hands three feet above the ground in front of them and saying things like ‘I met you when you were this tall.’ Everyone had a story about bottling homemade wine with my grandpa or going to school with my dad.

Although I haven’t been here nearly long enough to develop such long lasting roots, the sense of community those roots imparted has followed me to Valpo. I am once again finding myself caught up in conversations after running into coworkers at the grocery store. Sometimes when I go out for dinner with friends I’ll catch one of the ladies from my shooting league waving an enthusiastic hello from across the restaurant. Bumping into friendly faces reminds me so much of where I came from and everything I’ve achieved since then. It never fails to make my day a little brighter.

Blossoming Valparaiso

This is technically not a Photo of the Day but many photos taken at Ogden Gardens Park in Valparaiso on a beautiful, clear skied Saturday afternoon. The world in springtime is like a high school girl preparing for senior prom. She dusts off the snow that settled in her perfumed hair and dazzles in her favorite floral gown. On this sunny April day, she happily preened for the camera. 

Ogden Gardens Park features a stunning Japanese garden, gazebo, and network of trails where visitors can savor the sunshine. It is the perfect place for a stroll or a picnic and I plan to do both as we move closer to summer. There were people around but everyone adhered to the unspoken library voices rule as each was caught in the soft serenity that hangs over Ogden Gardens Park. Even the kids chasing each other across the lawn refrained from shouting and the dogs on leashes seemed to know that this was not a place for barking. 

This was a wonderful stop on my way to the grocery store even though it’s nowhere near the grocery store. Next time I’ll be sure to bring a book and a picnic sandwich and stay a while. Where do you go to meditate on the beauty in nature? Share your favorite places in the comments.

POTD: Flavors of Indiana (Life Changing Burgers)

Have you ever had a meal so perfectly cooked, seasoned and displayed that you knew your life would never be the same? I remember the burger that changed my life. I was 21 years old, in the middle of my metallurgical internship in the steel mill where I was later hired full time. This was my first time in Indiana and the longest I’d ever been away from my home in Colorado but one of my high school friends came to visit and together we sampled the sites and flavors of the area, starting at the Chesterton European Market and ending at the Industrial Revolution Eatery and Grille after an afternoon touring used bookstores and lazing on the beach at Lake Michigan. With sand still grinding between my toes and hair damp from the lake, I bit into the medium rare masterpiece that forever altered my appreciation for burgers. It was an item on the specials menu and the words “mac and cheese paddy” were in the title. What a truly revolutionary stroke of genius and one that I couldn’t resist.

Since then, I’ve had the chance to explore many more culinary wonders of Indiana. When it comes to burgers there is no shortage of creativity here. Mac and cheese is just one of the toppings which has become a staple to the region. One of my current favorites comes from the Burgerhaus in Valpo and is layered with bacon, smoked Gouda and a fried egg. Every time my parents come to visit we need to clear our dinner schedule for at least one night during their stay because, according to my dad, “the best burgers he’s ever tasted” can only be found at the Burgerhaus. When was the last time a meal shook your reality with the first bite? Share your favorite dinner spots in the comments below.

POTD: Sweet Tooth

What’s your favorite sugary treat? Haribo gummy bears are a staple in my family. These are the perfect stocking stuffer at Christmas time and make an excellent hiking snack when out on the trails. However, it wasn’t until I moved to Indiana that I began to broaden my horizons when it came to these gummy delights. A coworker once mentioned the gummy bear factory in Merrillville and I knew I had to go there. I felt like I’d won a golden ticket the first time my mom and I walked into Albanese. In addition to their famous gummy bears, they also make a huge variety of other sweets that are bound to make your mouth water.

A short self-guided tour walks visitors past a viewing window where they can see fresh gummy bears in the making. My mom and I were a little sad at not to be able to actually enter the factory to see the process up close but we still thoroughly enjoyed our Albanese adventure. It’s impossible not to have a fantastic time when sampling candy of every shape, size and flavor. We were just like two kids in a candy store (we fit right in with the sea of elementary schoolers with their parents). It’s also impossible to leave without buying anything. We couldn’t resist loading up on gummy bears, both regular and sour ones, as well as some chocolate truffles. I will always love finding our traditional German Haribo gummy bears in my Christmas stocking. However, Albanese is definitely worth a visit and my go to for a treat when touring the trails at the Indiana Dunes. 

POTD: The Popcorn Guy!

For the first few months of my new life in Valparaiso I had no idea who Orville Redenbacher was. It wasn’t until my parents came to stay and we visited Orville’s statue in downtown Valpo that my mom reminded me of the significance of Mr. Redenbacher. He’s the popcorn guy! Suddenly the annual Popcorn Fest that I attended in Valpo over the summer made sense. 

Most are familiar with the Gourmet Popping Corn for which Orville is famous. However, what many people don’t know is that Orville was born in Brazil, that is Brazil, IN, situated 55 miles west of Indianapolis. Growing up on his father’s farm Orville developed an interest in popcorn from a young age. He attended Purdue University where he became fascinated by hybrid experimentation and his dream of a popcorn empire was born. This is also where he met his partner, Charlie Bowman. Today Orville remains a local celebrity in Valparaiso and visitors can snap a photo with him in the Central Park Plaza. 

Lights on the Water

Following an excitement filled morning at the University of Notre Dame where we were given a front row seat to all the school pregame festivities, my parents and I decided to slow things down a bit and set out for a quiet afternoon in Michigan City. The Michigan City Lighthouse was recommended to me by a coworker as a Northern Indiana must-see. He strongly suggested we try to catch the lighthouse at sunset, scheduled to occur at precisely 6:12pm on the evening of our visit.  

We arrived several hours before the sun was due to perform its dazzling light show so we entertained ourselves at the Michigan City mall, Lighthouse Place Premium Outlets. My mom and I had a fantastic time touring the shops and bringing my wardrobe a step closer to perfection although my dad was less enthusiastic. He contented himself to wait on a bench by the door and google the scores of the CSM Oredigger football game on his phone. However, we made it up to him when we all crossed the street for dinner at The Polish Peasant with our bags a little heavier and out wallets a little lighter. 

Even before we ordered our food, I felt like I’d stumbled onto a new favorite. It reminded me of my Oma’s tiny kitchen from the decorative plates artfully arranged on the wall to the lace curtains that dappled the honey autumn light filtering through the windows. The red tablecloths and cozy atmosphere mingled perfectly with the warm scents of savory meats and bread fresh out of the oven. Despite only being able to pronounce half of the items on the menu, it was impossible to go wrong. We feasted on a meal of Polish sausage, pierogies, stuffed cabbage, sauerkraut, mashed potatoes; the kind of food that fills up your heart as well as your stomach and would make any sensible Hobbit proud. We loved it so much that we ordered dessert, something we rarely do, knowing full well that we could barely manage another bite.

With full bellies and happy hearts, we made our way to the Lighthouse, still licking powdered sugar from our fingertips. Sunset truly is the best time to view this attraction. Being mid October and off season for tourists, the parking lot and beach were relatively deserted as we walked out to the lighthouse. A stiff wind tugged at our coats and made small waves slap at the edge of the pier. The orange sherbert light sparkling on the churning surface of the water was well worth our cold feet and ruffled hair. The lighthouse itself posed for many photos, regally silhouetted against the flaming horizon fading to ashen blue. Even as the last rays of sun retreated from the rippling waves of Lake Michigan, the tip of the lighthouse winked to life. 

After witnessing this changing of the lights over Lake Michigan, we said goodnight and goodbye to Michigan City and headed for home. A day of food and leisure had left us happily exhausted and we all slept exceedingly well that night.

Tourists on Game Day

Of the many attractions to be found in Indiana, one of the most well-known is the Basilica of the Sacred Heart located at the University of Notre Dame. As such, this particular sight shot to the top of our itinerary when my parents flew in from Colorado to visit for the weekend. The University of Notre Dame is a lush and beautiful campus with its many carved stone doorways and pale brick structures. The spire of the gothic-style Basilica is visible from the highway, outreaching all else in its quest for the heavens. It is reminiscent of the towering cathedrals which are the centerpieces of many historic European old town squares. The arched ceilings of the Basilica are painted royal blue and metallic gold in eternal imitation of a cloudless starry night sky. I felt like an 11 year old at Hogwarts entering the great hall for the first time and looking up. Many biblical characters are also richly portrayed in the exquisite plafond.   

We were thrilled to spend part of our Saturday morning touring this stunning place but what we didn’t know is that Saturday, October 12th was Game Day. Not just any game day. This was a Notre Dame home game against the USC Trojans, the top rival of the fighting Irish. The wide trimmed lawns and student commons were hardly the only green on campus. Toddlers to grandparents flocked to Notre Dame, sporting their proud Irish colors in preparation for the event of the season. The vaulted halls of the Basilica were flooded with emerald as fans thronged to the university for a day of sightseeing and tailgating. 

The electric buzz of pregame anticipation was infectious. The student commons’ were dotted with easy-ups where handwritten signs advertised brats and burgers for sale in support of countless student organizations. The smokey scent of game food sizzling on a grill wafted around every corner and we followed our noses when our stomachs began to growl from all the leisurely strolling about campus. As we bit into our brats, we spotted the crisp uniforms and tall emblemed hats of the marching band as the musicians started assembling and tuning up for the game. 

With all the vivifying excitement surrounding us, my mom didn’t feel right calling it a day until we had stopped in the school bookstore and stocked up on Notre Dame green apparel which she noted with appreciation was a ‘good green.’ As Notre Dame is a D1 school and will never compete against the silver and blue of my beloved Colorado School of Mines Orediggers, I can safely say that my parents and I are now happy and proud to be Notre Dame fans. We plan to explore the Grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes on our next Notre Dame adventure. 

We concluded our Notre Dame outing by being the only people to prematurely leave the campus ahead of  kickoff. Our bus driver, a friendly sort from Chicago chatted us up until we reached the lot where we had paid $30 to park our car for a couple of hours. While families threw footballs and munched on classic tailgate grub, we departed, heading to the next stop on our day’s itinerary — Michigan City.