Saturday, December 21, 2013

Holiday Season Travel Tips!

We decided to go against our better judgement and do a little getaway for the holiday season.  I say against our better judgement because we all know its essentially a nightmare to travel around the Christmas timeframe.  My definition of Christmas travel consists of packed airports, full airplanes, and the high cost of airfare.  Then when you think its over, you find yourself sitting in security check lines with suitcases full of Christmas presents for the relatives, Christmas ‘tis the season to really go crazy! However, I have been traveling long enough to make sure travel during the holidays does not have to be a nightmare.  By following a few tips, things can go far smoother than they ever have before.  

Traveling With Children – What is worse than traveling during Christmas holidays? Traveling with children! (No offense son :P )  We all know that with children, patience is not their best virtue.  Children get antsy and upset when having to wait in long lines or being stuck at the airport with not much to do.  Instead of letting them become agitated, find ways to entertain them.  For the younger children, something as easy as some crayons and a coloring book will help.  Older kids may need an Ipod or a couple of handheld video games to keep them busy.  If nothing seems to work, remind them that Santa is watching, and it would be wise of them to behave. (A classic go to move!)   

Ship Your Christmas Presents – Most people are afraid to mail their holiday packages.  Most are afraid that the post office will get them mixed up and send them to the wrong house.  However, when you put your presents in luggage and have the bags checked, the same thing can happen.  Luggage often gets incorrectly routed, and your presents can land at the wrong destination.  If the present is small, carry it on board the plane with you.  If the presents are large, ship them ahead of time so they arrive at your destination before you do.  Your presents will not get broken or torn by being crammed inside a suitcase and tossed around, and your bags will be a lot lighter to carry to and from your destination.
Fly During the Odd Hours – Everyone knows that flights are busiest during the holiday time of year.  Everyone is going somewhere.  Of course, there is no getting around this, but there is a way around fighting the crowds by flying during the non-peak hours.  Try flying very early in the morning or extremely late at night.  It may be a bit inconvenient, but it saves so much running around and that could be worth it.  Ticket prices will also be less.  Also, by traveling early in the morning or late at night you don’t lose a day of travel getting to your destination.

The holidays are the most traveled times of the year.  Millions of people fly and drive all over the place to share the holidays with their families and loved ones.  It can be a nightmare or you can make your travel plans less stressful by planning ahead and following some of the tips above.  

Have a safe and enjoyable holiday season!  Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!!

-Cliff and Tiff

Monday, November 25, 2013

Gluten-Free Thanksgiving

As you all know now, I was diagnosed with Celiac Disease.  Suddenly, our lives and our diets had to change dramatically.  Fortunately, Cliff and I both enjoy experimenting with new recipes and we found ways to make eating gluten free pleasant, however it was a bit more of a challenge getting our son on board.  However, he is coming around slowly but surely! Then it hit us....The first Thanksgiving since I was diagnosed was coming quick! We needed to find some gluten-free recipes for one of the most important dinners all year!  My parents came over for Thanksgiving dinner and my Mom made the turkey, and I cooked everything else.  Here are a few of the ways I prepared a gluten-free feast that everybody enjoyed!

1) Replace flour with corn starch as a thickener for the gravy. Corn starch is fairly inexpensive, and you can use about half the amount of corn starch as you would wheat flour to get the same consistency.  Comes out great!

2) Use stale gluten-free bread to make stuffing. This is one place where you don’t need to have the most tasty gluten-free bread to make a good dish. Just like regular bread, gluten-free bread can be found on day-old sales. When we found out I had Celiac we began stock up and freeze bits of inexpensive gluten-free bread for a couple weeks prior to Thanksgiving. Then we have all we need to make a great stuffing everyone can enjoy.

3) Make your green bean casserole from scratch.  Start by frying your own onion rings.  Cut onions and dip in a mixture of buttermilk and corn flour.  Flash fry.  Then drain and set aside.  This can be done a day or two in advance if necessary.  Next prepare your own cream sauce the way you would to make scalloped potatoes from scratch.  Add fresh, sliced mushrooms while the sauce is reducing.  Pour this over fresh or frozen green beans.

4) We also enjoy a crustless pumpkin pie.  Rather than using a pie crust, we simply mix the ingredients for the custard, pour it into a glass pie pan and bake as directed.  Really simple, still delicious!

Going gluten free certainly presents challenges.  Use these tips, and no one in your family will miss gluten at all this Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

-Tiff and Cliff

Saturday, November 2, 2013

News about Tiffany

Hi everybody!  I just wanted to make a quick announcement here this morning.  I recently have been having some health issues and have been going to the my doctor to try and figure it out.  I have been having horrible stomach pains amongst other symptoms and the results of all my testing is that I have Celiac Disease.  For those of you who don’t know what it is, it’s a digestive condition triggered by consumption of the protein gluten.  Celiac disease can affect both adults and children.  Although the exact cause of the disease is not known, it often runs in families, causing the body's immune system to overact when foods containing gluten are eaten.  There is no cure for the disease, but carefully following a gluten free diet will manage the symptoms.

Here are some things my doctor told me to help start managing Celiac Disease:

A dietitian can help you plan a nourishing diet that is free of ingredients that contain gluten. It's important that people with celiac disease avoid foods that include wheat, barley, spelt, triticale, rye, semolina, graham flour, bulger, durum, and farina.

The new gluten free diet may seem overwhelming to the person shopping and preparing meals that will not cause the disease to flare up.  It's important to read labels, especially for processed foods.  It's not enough to look for ingredients that contain gluten.  Unless the label specifically states that the product is gluten free, it may have been contaminated during the manufacturing process.

There is no need for a person following a special diet to control celiac disease to feel deprived.  Gluten-Free pasta, cakes, cookies, and breads can be found on the shelves of most grocery stores.  Even gluten free pizza crust is available (THANK GOODNESS!).  If your local market does not carry the items, search at a health food store.  If you don't see what you are looking for, ask if the item can be special ordered.

It's important that everyone in the home understand celiac disease and the importance of following a gluten free diet.  Our son is old enough to understand most of this but he still doesn’t grasp the whole concept of it and is having a little bit of a difficult time with the adjustment of foods in our house.  Because gluten free products are usually more expensive than those containing gluten, it may not be practical to use the alternatives to feed the whole family.  It's important that the items containing the gluten be clearly identified so they are not able to contaminate the safe food products. If the disease is present in a child, (we are going to have our son get tested to see if he has this as well, crossing our fingers he does not!) it is critical that information is understood so than cookies and cakes aren't snacked on in a friend's home or at school.

Celiac disease is diagnosed more often than it was in the past. This, combined with the fact that an increasing number of people are adopting a gluten free lifestyle means that nutritious and tasty gluten free substitutes are becoming less expensive and easier to find!  I am very optimistic about this as its not something that isn’t manageable, and I have a great support system in Cliff and our families.  I know that some days will be more of a challenge than others, but this isn’t going to be something that is going to control me or limit me!

Thank you for allowing me to share this with you and for those of you who also have this please feel free to comment and share your stories, recipes, and ways of dealing with this!

-Tiff and Cliff

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Oh Canada!....Toronto

Amazing art galleries, serene  parks, natural trails and elite shopping centers are just a few options people love to visit when they head to Toronto for an autumn trip.  Visiting this magnificent city in the fall opens up opportunities for people of all ages to experience the beauty and delectable treats that range from rustic to sophisticated.  If you’re planning a fall visit to Toronto, be sure to pack clothes for every type of occasion because you never know where you will end up in this glamorous city!

1.  Visiting the Toronto Islands will appeal to the entire family.  The islands of Toronto offer hiking and walking trails, kayaking opportunities, horseback riding trails and amusement rides for the children(Our son had a blast here!).  Visiting this area of Toronto in the fall will give you a glimpse of the beauty of the autumn colors that offer bold hues of gold, red, green, and orange.  It rivals our beloved Vermont!

2.  If you love sipping cold beer (Me!) and plan on taking a romantic weekend away (Tiff!) to Toronto in the autumn time of the year, you can find some of the best breweries in Canada right in Toronto like the Steam Whistle and Granite Brewery provide a laid-back setting where you can get comfortable and try hearty and cold beers.  I was a huge fan of the “Best Bitter” and “Peculiar” at Granite Brewery!  If you work up an appetite, you’ll be impressed with the food Granite Brewery has to offer.  The Grilled Cheese Bacon Burger is amazing!

3.  Harbourfront Centre is a must-visit for anyone who loves contemporary shopping mixed with a vintage environment.  Refurbishing many of Toronto’s stately and historic buildings, the city has utilized one of the most industrious areas by turning it into a retro-urban shopping and dining arena.  It was a neat little area with a little bit for everyone!

Something else worth noting.  Toronto has been giving a real strong effort to go Green and adopt the eco-friendly lifestyle that my family tries to live!

Tiffany and I had a fantastic getaway with our son in Toronto!  We would certainly like to get back there some time because there is so much to do!  We also would have liked to have gotten to Niagara Falls, but we just ran out of time.  Perhaps this gives us a reason to travel to New York :)  I have heard mixed reviews about the Falls on the American side, so please let me know if you would recommend checking them out from the Canadian or American side!  

-Cliff and Tiff

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Beautiful Maine

We found Maine to be loaded with intriguing family attractions, amazing and fresh seafood, unparalleled scenery, and upscale shopping options.  Not too far of a trip for us traveling from Vermont either!  Visiting the Northeast provides tourists with a chance to experience the best of the Eastern Seaboard by offering windswept beaches, beautiful lighthouses and scenic driving routes through the rural areas of Maine.  Rich in heritage and history, this is a fantastic state for people who have diverse tastes and preferences.

Here are my two cents about Maine:

•           Known for maple farms and sweeping pastures in its rural areas, visiting Maine can offer families some refreshing outdoor opportunities.  Apple orchards and farmers markets are in abundance, and you can also choose to visit wildflower fields to explore the beauty of the state with the entire family.  Outdoors at its finest! :)

•           Embrace the coastal part of Maine in the summer by visiting the historic lighthouses or taking a fishing expedition.  Boat rentals are found at various marinas up and down the shoreline of Maine, or you can also schedule a guided fishing expedition.  Windjammer cruises offer something posh and indulgent for people who prefer the finer things during their vacation getaways.  Maine is also known as an exquisite place to comb beaches.  You can plan on enjoying a relaxing beach picnic while the kids run up and down the shoreline collecting shells and searching for starfish!

•           Golfing and hiking are two popular outdoor sports for Maine locals.  Consider embracing the wild beauty of the state by hiking through one of its rugged and beautiful national parks.  You can follow up this afternoon with a relaxing evening on the golf course before going back to your bed and breakfast to enjoy a cocktail and some fresh Maine lobster.

•           If you love to dine out, you’ll be pleased to find award-winning restaurants throughout the entire state of Maine where the freshest of seafood ranges from scallops, lobster, shrimp and snow crab.  (Tiffany didn’t mind wining and dining with some of these seafood options!)

If you are unsure what type of accommodations you should choose in Maine, bed and breakfast inns are in abundance and offer themed, romantic rooms that take you back in time.  These inns are available in major cities as well as in rural areas.  Planning in advance will also give you an option to rent a beach house if you desire to stay near the coastal portions of Maine.  No matter where you choose to stay, you’ll be sure to find something intimate and relaxing!  Maine is a great place to go for a long weekend or an extended stay!

Have a great trip!

-Cliff and Tiff

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

A Great Responsible Travel Advisor!

Love to travel but don’t have the time or patience to sift through thousands of travel websites? My friend, Robert, is a travel consultant, writer and traveler and would love to help plan your next vacation. I used his services last year when planning a trip to Puerto Rico. He was really helpful in getting us to our destination as eco-friendly as possible and for the best value for our money. Visit his website, theTRAVELER, for details and client testimonials as well as destination information and travel tips.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Thank you Gluten-Free Goddess!!!!!

I was just browsing around for new gluten free recipes and came across this amazing blog!! The blog is Gluten-Free Goddess and as you may have guessed, its all about living a gluten free life!  Karina Allrich is the wonderful woman behind this site.  Check it out if you are GF too, I promise you will love her recipes! :)

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Happy Father's Day!

Happy Father's Day to all Dads out there!

For my son and I, Happy Father's Day to the best husband and father in the world!!!! Cliff is our hero and an exceptional man.

For Father's Day this year we decided to go to Lake Champlain and spend the day there!

We had such a great time!

Cliff, thank you so much for this wonderful life you have given our son and I, we love you so much!!!


Friday, January 18, 2013

Arizona and USGBC!

Arizona is a unique land of adventure.  Filled with history from the Wild West, native American culture, Indian ruins, state parks and a variety of other things to do.  Arizona is a place you can spend a short vacation or a long vacation both as a couple or a family!  These tips will allow you to get the most out of your travel time through this great state.

•           The Grand Canyon – Be sure to visit the Grand Canyon early in the morning for the sunrise or in the evening when the sun is beginning to set.  Absolutely breathtaking!!  The shadows dancing across the canyon and the changing colors are an unforgettable experience.

•           Sedona and Oak Creek Canyon – Once you leave the Flagstaff area, drive south on 89A down through Oak Creek Canyon.  The canyon drive beside the meandering Oak Creek is an experience in nature.  At the bottom of the canyon, the road opens up into the red rock mountains of the tourist town of Sedona.  Jeep rides, horseback rides, swimming, hiking and exploring the canyons, visiting the many art galleries, shopping for Indian jewelry, fishing, camping and picnicking are just a few of the activities that are available in Sedona.  

•           In southern Arizona, Tucson is another place you won’t want to miss.  Museums, canyons to explore, the zoo, horseback riding, an early Catholic mission and theatrical works are just a sample of things you can see and do.  Tons of culture can be found here for everyone!  Also, You won’t want to miss the Old Tucson Studios!  You’ll find the Studios about 25 minutes west of downtown Tucson.  Many of the old western movies were filmed here, and visitors can experience what the Old West was really like.  Step back in time, and experience life in a town on the western frontier.  Steven (our son) loves all the Cops/Robbers, Cowboys/Indians style movies, so he had a blast walking around here!!  He reminded me of a young Duke. ;)

Regardless of your interests, Arizona has things the your entire family will enjoy.  It’s a place where history comes alive, where one can experience the different ecosystems and where cuisine from the various cultures can be tried.  Travel to Arizona is something you will never

***I would also like to make a special note of something that I came across on our travels.  As you know by now I am big on traveling responsibly, green initiatives, and being eco-friendly.  As we were walking about Tucson, I grabbed a local newspaper just to leaf through and see if there were any local music venues or special attractions while we were in town.  This is when I came across an article about the U.S. Green Building Council working on an LEED projects locally in Arizona.  This was something I had never heard of before but I think this is absolutely incredible organization!  If you have some time to look into their website I encourage you to do so.  The organization is all about working to promote buildings that are environmentally responsible, profitable and healthy places to live and work.  Here is just one local project of many they are working on. 

Be Friendly....Eco-Friendly!

-Cliff and Tiff