Summer vacation 2019



Every year my wife and I take a 2 week summer vacation and we rent a cottage on Lake Ontario and open it up to all of our family and friends. This year was our 18th season of doing such, and though not everyone made it, it was a busy and fun time for us. It is our goal during this 2 week period to not only provide a fun time for all, but to also reconnect with friends & family that we don’t always have the time to do when we’re home.

There was a time when we would have between 20 & 30 people at the cottage all at once, and sometimes as many as 10 or more overnight guests. Now we rarely have that many guests at the same time. They spread their visits out over the 2 weeks which gives us more quality time with each of them.

Needless to say, there is great preparation that goes into such an endeavor, and by the time we have everything loaded into the SUV, there is only room for Kate and I. We would love to bring our dog Chloe, but the cottage owners don’t allow dogs, so off to doggie day care & boarding she goes to catch up  with all of her friends! Chloe’s choice for boarding while we’re away is K-9 Kamp. If you have a dog and need either day care and/or boarding, trust me, this is the place to go!

As with most annual events, there are certain foods and traditions that have come to be expected. My wife makes a pasta dish called Rosa Marina, which I only get when we’re at camp, and then I have to share it with everyone!! She also makes a number of other food dishes, but it’s the Rosa Marina that most everyone looks for. And the last few years she started making frozen pudding shooters using various alcohol blends which have become a huge hit with all of the adults. This year she made 5 batches of shooters, which totals approximately 120 individual servings, and there were only a few servings left when it was time for us to leave. All I can say is, “I’m innocent I tell ‘ya!”.

My favorite tradition is the evening trip to the local ice cream stand, known as “The Trolley.” The crew that works there knows and respects my rule that whenever I come in with customers no one is allowed to pay but me. Many people have tried over the years, but the staff has always respected my wishes, and for that I make sure to tip them well! My other rule for The Trolley is that you can order anything you want, in any size that you want, BUT you have to eat all of it! Failure to do so will get your portion downgraded on the next visit, and as one great-niece found out, I don’t forget any infractions of that rule!!


(One of many Trolley visits)

One other tradition we have at camp for our overnight guests is our morning wake-up song. And the official camp wake-up song is Brad Paisley’s “Spaghetti Western Swing”   played at full volume!! It seems to work pretty well, thanks Brad!


(Rise & Shine)

While at the lake, there are certain restaurants that are a must visit for Kate and I. Almost every morning we have breakfast at The Cherry Tree Inn  in Henderson, love their homefries! The staff there are always friendly & welcoming, especially Colleen & Deb. Full disclaimer though, I have had one complaint over the years, and that is that their prices are too LOW!! Seriously, I don’t know how they do it at their current price points and still put out a quality breakfast, AND turn a profit! And if you have little ones with you, Colleen even has a treasure chest filled with toys that the children are allowed to pick from and take home. Where was this place when I was a child??!!


(Colleen & Deb)

When we leave The Cherry Tree Inn we head straight to Chrissy Beanz bakery in Sackets Harbor for a mocha frappachino (with two straws) and a cinnamon stick. And yes, we do this almost every morning as well! The array of coffees, pastries, cookies and desserts are incredible, and the mocha frapp is just like Starbucks USED to make. We sit at one of the outside tables and watch the world go by as we sip our frozen drink and savor the cinnamon stick. And if you’re able to be there just when the cinnamon sticks come out of the oven, then it is truly your lucky day, as it doesn’t get any better than that! Chrissy Beanz is another small business with great staff, and we would like to thank Luke, Alyssa, Chloe and everyone else for doing such a great job during our visits this year.


(Alyssa & Luke of Chrissy Beanz)

The gentleman that owns Chrissy Beanz cafe also owns the restaurant across the street named Tin Pan Galley. His name is Andrew Hanzlian and he has been doing a stellar job with his restaurants for decades. And to truly enjoy all that Tin Pan Galley has to offer, you have to make sure that you visit for Sunday brunch (awesome Bloody Marys & stuffed French toast), lunch (my favorite is the TPG lobster roll), and dinner (best enjoyed on a warm summer night with live music playing). You see, the restaurant has a huge outside dining patio that resembles an old English garden, and my wife and I have had some magical dinners there over the years and we go back every chance we get. And don’t forget dessert, the creme brulee is Kate’s favorite.


(Myself, Rikki, Kate & Anne-lunch at TPG)

So, if we’re so busy restaurant hopping, what are our friends & family doing to occupy their time, not to mention how are we reconnecting with them? Well, as you will see in some of the upcoming pictures, many of them are with us as we traverse from one eatery to the next. But, while at camp we’re busy playing board games, card games, coloring, swimming, kayaking, sunbathing, and yes, you guessed it, eating!!


(Eating while playing cards)



(Kayaking & swimming)


(Sunbathing 101 – Safety first (SPF 50, shaded area, proper clothing)


(Coloring – with adult beverage duly noted)


(Reconnecting over lunch on the shoreline)

And finally, time spent with great people over wonderful meals at some of the best restaurants you will ever visit –


(UMAK with Meghan at Good Fellos in Sackets Harbor)



(Can anyone say The Trolley?)



(Or how about Chrissy Beanz??)


And then there’s family –

We have vacationed in a number of great places over the years, but the stretch of NYS between Southwick Beach to Sackets Harbor along Lake Ontario is the place we return to on a regular basis. That whole area has great views, small businesses, restaurants, people, recreation activities,  and historic places. We hope one day to summer there when we retire, and if not, we still have a host of memories of time spent with family and friends doing what we do best, finding pieces of life’s puzzle. And if you made it to the end of this blog,  as you can see, there were a LOT of pieces!!


(Sunset from cottage shoreline)

As always, thank you for reading, and if you visited us at camp, or you’re in this blog, thank you for being a special piece of our life’s puzzle.


Family in MD


Before we went to Bethany Beach in Delaware, Kate and I stopped to see my Aunt Marilyn, Uncle Hank, their daughter Lisa and her family in Maryland. These are some of my favorite people and ever since they moved to MD we just don’t see enough of them! We made sure to bring them some Hoffman coneys, as they love them but can’t get them in MD. We arrived early enough on Friday that we were able to attend Lisa’s oldest daughter’s school concert, where she, as well as her other classmates, did a great job!

After the concert we all went out to dinner at a local restaurant, The Stonebridge, where Lisa reminded her son Henry to “not over order”. Apparently his eyes are usually bigger than his stomach. When we questioned Henry about this, he said that ordering lots of food was “satisfying”. Well, that gave Kate and I chuckle, and I asked his mother for permission to let him order whatever he wanted, and she agreed. And come to find out, after we had already consumed a mountain of food, Henry and I both like crab cakes, and Henry tells me that this restaurant does a great job with them, so I ordered a plate for him and I to share. They were awesome, but we were so full we could barely finish them. Luckily there was plenty of us there to share with.

My cousin Lisa has a small business in organic farming, Oak Spring Farms. She works hard, and in doing so produces some great products. When we’re in town we usually go to the local farmers’ market on Saturdays where Lisa displays and sells her latest harvest, and my wife always buys some great fruit, vegtables, cheeses & olive oil to take to DE to enjoy while sitting on our balcony.

After the visit to the farmers’ market, we went garage saling with most everyone. Lisa’s youngest, Izzy, was at a friend’s house, and Lisa was working most of the day at the farmers’ market. What I discovered is that Lisa’s other two children, Samatha and Henry, are quite the commsumate garage sale shoppers, including the ability to quickly scan each home’s offerings to determine if there was anything of value that might be of interest to them. Sam found a bag that she liked and her Grandmother made the purchase for her.

We had determined earlier in the day that we would all meet for dinner at my Aunt and Uncle’s house, and then afterwards we would go out for ice cream, my treat. We were out so long at garage sales I was worried that we would be late having dinner, which meant we might not have enough time to go for ice cream, so I made the suggestion that perhaps we should stop and have ice cream before going back home. Needless to say I didn’t get too much resistance to that idea. So that led us to the kids favorite ice cream shop, and another MD small business, Bonkeys. It is housed in an old movie theatre and has a large selection of flavors and various dishes. My one and only rule when it comes to buying ice cream is that you can have ANYTHING that you want, but you have to eat all of it! Needless to say, this was quite a fun surprise for Sam and Henry, especially being their mother was still working at the farmers’ market. (Sorry Lisa, but it was fun!)

We headed back to the house, where we had a great dinner in the screened gazebo with everyone there. And come to find out, Henry’s lacrosse team had won their game earlier in the day, which then qualified them for the championship game the next day, Sunday, which is the day that we were scheduled to leave for Delaware. We had a 3 hour drive to DE, but Lisa told me that Henry’s game was on the way and they would love for us to attend. Just to let you know, I’m not one to deviate from my travel plans, but as long as it was on the way, what the heck.

So, Sunday morning after breakfast Lisa loaded the kids in the car and headed out for the game, with the rest of us to meet them there later. We packed our things, and with my Aunt and Uncle with us, and the GPS locked & loaded, we headed for the venue. It took us an hour to get there, and we made it just before the game started. I had asked Henry before he left who the favored team was, and he confided that his team was, and that it should be a fairly easy victory. Well guess what, someone forgot to tell the other team that!! The opposition took an early lead, and at one point I thought their lead was insurmountable! But after some heart stopping goals and a big push by Henry and his team, they came from behind to win the championship!! What a great afternoon! So we stayed to congratulate the team, took some great pictures, gave hugs all around and said our good-byes.

Kate and I hop into our car, enter our DE hotel into the GPS, figuring we only had a 2 hour drive ahead of us due to the fact that Lisa told us the game was on our way, and as I mentioned earlier we had already traveled for an hour. So imagine our surprise when the GPS informs us that we had a 3 hour drive to reach our destination! Sorry Lisa, but I’m not sure that geographical travel is your forte….lol! But in the end it was all worth it, and Kate and I were so glad that we attended the game, and that they won!

We love to travel, especially when it involves seeing friends and family. But as a small business owner I also enjoy visiting small businesses of all kinds wherever we go. I know how hard these people work, and more times than not, it’s their passion that keeps them going. So please, whenever possible, try to visit at least one small business when you’re traveling, and hopefully you’ll have a great experience, and if you’re a fellow small business owner, you might even meet a kindred spirit.

To my Aunt, Uncle, cousin Lisa and her family, thank you so much for having us! As always, we had a great time and we appreciate your hospitality. And Henry, congrats again on the win! And I hope your grandmother’s phone that you and I paired to her new car has worked out that little dialing glitch…!


And to our friends and family south of MD and DE, yes I know, we’re long overdue for a visit. Missing ‘ya all, and hopefully we’ll see each other soon!

Vacation in Delaware

Delaware_vacation052219Last month my wife and I vacationed in Bethany Beach Delaware. It’s a great area and a reasonable drive from Syracuse. Our hobby is food. My wife reads cookbooks and watches the food channel to learn new recipes and techniques. I am the official taster and sampler of her latest creations, which is one of my favorite things to do!

We arrived at the hotel late on a Sunday night, so we decided to have something to eat at the hotel’s restaurant, which has a veranda that overlooks the boardwalk and ocean. Our waiter that night was Wes, and he did a great job making menu and drink recommendations for us. Everything was great, and we thanked him for making the recommendations that he did. We charged the meal to our room and went upstairs and unpacked.

The next day was a lazy day spent at the hotel pool, and we ate all of our meals at the hotel restaurant again, and lo & behold, Wes waited on us again. We engaged in conversation with him and he mentioned a number of places that we might want to try while we were in town. We again went with some of his menu recommendations and we found everything to be great.

Come Tuesday we decide to have lunch on the veranda, and asked for Wes to be our waiter, to which the restaurant complied. By now the three of us are like old friends and enjoying each other’s company. I asked Wes if he ever takes time off from work, and he said that he rarely does, but that he was off tomorrow night. Well, one thing led to another, and the three of us made a date to go to a restaurant that he recommended that was located in Ocean City MD. We exchanged cell phone numbers and vowed to cover the details of where & when to meet the next day.

Well, as my wife and I were getting ready to leave to meet him in the hotel lobby, Kate expressed her concern that we barely knew this guy, and how did we know that we would be safe? It was a legitimate concern, one that I had but had not voiced to her. Now normally I’m the one who would never of let this happen, but Wes seemed liked a stand up guy, and had shared numerous details of his life with us, and I thought perhaps I should step out of my comfort zone. I assured Kate that all would be fine, as we were meeting him at the hotel bar, in front of numerous co-workers, so there were plenty of witnesses of who we were with should this night out go south, which by the way, we literally headed south to get to the restaurant that he suggested. Just thought I would throw that in there.

In the meantime, he’s talking with his co-workers, and come to find out, they are voicing the same concerns that Kate was! So, as we meet Wes at the restaurant bar and sat down with him to have a drink, and unbeknownst to us, we’re getting the once over by some of his co-workers. I confess to Wes that we might have had some concerns, and he tells us about his coworkers and their concerns, which gave all of us a chuckle!

The three of us leave and head toward the 1st of two restaurants that he recommended. The restaurant’s name is Liquid Assets, and it’s unique in its configuration. It has coolers along one side of the bar filled with six-packs and cases of beer. The other side of the bar has shelves filled with bottles of wine. People stop in just to buy beer or wine, while others come in for the restaurant. The bar is in the middle, between the coolers of beer and shelves of wine. We decided to have drinks and appetizers at the bar. Wes knew most of the staff there, and with that camaraderie came excellent service.

Well we started ordering drinks, and appetizers, and a number of different food items, and it all kept coming all night long. We were having such a great time at our current location that we decided to skip the second restaurant and spend the evening there. The three of us had a great time, not only with each other, but with the bar staff as well, and everyone joined in on the lively conversation. Thankfully my wife volunteered to be the designated driver so we didn’t have to call an Uber.

After Wes and I were quite inebriated the three of us decided to call it a night. Kate loaded us in the car and we headed north and dropped Wes off at his apartment. There were hugs all around and we headed back to our hotel.

The next day Wes conveyed to his co-workers what a great time was had by all, and I shared pictures of the evening with friends and family. Wes waited on us the morning that we were leaving, and he asked if we could have a picture of the three of us before we headed home and we were more than happy to comply.

In case you’re wondering where all of this is going, for me it’s quite simple. It’s never easy for me to step out of my comfort zone, but this time I did. And in doing so, Kate and I met a nice guy, that introduced us to a restaurant with awesome food, that we never would have found on our own, and even if we did, we doubt that we would have stopped in as it’s located in a strip mall. We had a fun evening with lots of laughs and made a new friend along the way.

You know, so many people never give their wait staff the time of day, much less a decent tip. I hope the next time you’re dining out that you take the time to at least learn your waiter’s name, and if time allows, maybe a little something about them. If anyone knows the best restaurants in the area they do, and more times than not they’re more than happy to share that knowledge with you. All you have to do is ask, and in doing so you let them know that they are valued not just for what they can do for you, but as a person as well.

Wishing you a summer filled with good food, good drinks, and lots of family and friends. It doesn’t get any better than that!

And Wes, we’re coming back for another bowl of those mussels!