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My name is Lisa and I'm a crafty girl with wanderlust working as an engineer by day. My blog chronicles projects in my home as well as pictures and stories from my travels.

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Entries in United States (96)

Sunday
Dec072014

Thanksgiving Getaway to Ft. Lauderdale

This year our Thanksgiving plans fell through at the last minute so instead of staying home Frank and I decided to take a quick trip somewhere. In picking a spot we had two criteria: 1) someplace warm and 2) somewhere that we could get inexpensive flights. I dug around a bit and found a great deal on flights from Detroit to Ft. Lauderdale so off we went for a three day trip.

I found a good deal at the W Hotel so we stayed there for our trip. The hotel was beautiful and modern looking inside and out. Getting mimosas at check-in was a nice touch as well.


Our room was pretty with a clean, streamlined look including a nice little seating area.

The best part of the room by far was our balcony with the amazing views. It was spectacular.

The purpose of this trip was to relax, not sightsee so I decided to book a mani/pedi at Bliss Spa in the hotel. It was a nice way to start our trip.

While in town we enjoyed some great food at restaurants within walking distance of the W. For one of breakfasts we walked south to St. Barts Coffee Company. I enjoyed some delicious croissant french toast while Frank had an omelette. The food was inexpensive and the service was fast making it a good breakfast stop.

Another day we headed to H2O Café for brunch which had a nice outdoor seating area with ocean views. The food (blueberry waffles for me, an omelette for Frank) was good, but the best part was definitely the view.

We had a fabulous lunch at S3, which was conveniently located next door.

For out Thanksgiving dinner we ate at Steak 954, splurging on the amazing seafood platter. The meal was so fantastic I didn't mind not eating a traditional turkey dinner.

The boardwalk and beach along the strip where our hotel was located was really pretty and we enjoyed several lovely strolls. We were lucky to have gorgeous weather and didn't miss the cold back home one bit.

We spent a good bit of time relaxing at the pool, soaking up the sun and reading. The weather was really beautiful.

One of the neat things about the pool was the passageway that lead down a flight of stairs through the pool into the lobby. It was a really cool, unique feature.

We also enjoyed some beautiful sunset views. The beach was to the east, but to the west over the Intracoastal Waterway the sunset was quite lovely.

Our impromptu trip may have been short, but it was very relaxing and it was so nice to escape the cold Ann Arbor weather for a few days. It definitely wasn't a traditional Thanksgiving but it was a nice escape for us.

Monday
Nov242014

Relaxing at L'Auberge de Sedona

At the beginning of November my sister and I went on a long weekend getaway to Sedona. She is expecting her first little one in a few months so we wanted to have a trip together before her baby arrives. As part of our relaxing we spent a morning at L'Auberge de Sedona, which is a beautiful resort situated on the banks of the Oak Creek. We started off our visit by getting massages at the spa, L’Apothecary, located in a cute rustic building.

After checking in at the front desk we headed to the women's locker room to change into our robes. I snuck a few pictures with my iPhone when no one else was in there.

From there we headed to the sitting area where we sipped on some tea while waiting for our masseuses.

Our massages, maternity for my sister and deep-tissue for me, were fantastic. After we changed back into our street clothes we headed back to the lobby of the spa. Our masseuses left us notes with the products they had used during our massages in case we wanted to purchase them to take home.

Feeling refreshed from our massages we walked over to the L’Auberge Restaurant on Oak Creek for their Sunday champagne brunch. The setting of the restaurant was fantastic with tiered terraces overlooking the creek. My sister and I got a fantastic table right next to the water.

The bruch buffet was wonderful with a variety of delicious foods. I indulged in a mimosa while my sister enjoyed some sparkling water. I particularly loved the desserts, like the key lime cheesecake and the peanut butter mousse in a chocolate bowl.

One of the cool things about being right on the creek was watching the ducks swim by and wander up on the banks. Pictures just don't do justice to the beauty of it all.

We had a fantastic time relaxing at L'Auberge de Sedona and I would definitely recommend it to anyone visiting Sedona who is in the mood for a little pampering.

Thursday
Sep112014

9/11 Memorial  

As the United States remembers the terrible events that happened on this date thirteen years ago, I wanted to honor today by sharing my visit to the National September 11 Memorial.

Frank and I went to the Memorial last year while we were in New York during the "Interim Operating Period" when construction on nearby World Trade Center projects surrounded the Memorial. Because of this we had to have ticket reservations and wait in line to enter, however as of May of this year visitors can freely enter the Memorial Plaza during its open hours from 7:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily.

The main feature of the Memorial is two enormous waterfalls and reflecting pools which stand in the location of the original twin towers' footprints. The design was intended to symbolize the loss and void left by the terrorist attacks with the sound of the rushing water drowning out the city noise to create a reflective atmosphere. 

 

The most haunting aspect of the memorial is the bronze plates that surround the pools inscribed with the names of the victims of the 2001 and 1993 attacks on the World Trade Center. You can't help but feel overwhelmed by the devastation and loss of life as you walk around the pools looking at the names. Seeing the words "and her unborn child" after a woman's name was particularly gut wrenching. Visitors left remembrances for loved ones by placing flowers in their names and the park staff honors the victims by leaving them a white rose on their birthdays.

The Museum was dedicated and opened to the public in May of this year, but was still under construction when Frank and I visited.

Among the grove of over 400 swamp white oaks in the Memorial Plaza stands a special callery pear tree known as the Survivor Tree. It was found severely damaged in the rubble of Ground Zero in October 2001 and after its recovery was planted at the Memorial in 2010 serving as a living symbol of perseverance and rebirth.  

Visiting the Memorial was profoundly sad. I have the deepest gratitude to the people who serve our country and my heart goes out to all those whose lives were shattered on that terrible day.

Monday
Jul072014

Griffith Observatory 

Last Tuesday while I was in LA on a business trip I finished up work at seven pm. Since I am not one to go to my hotel without some sightseeing fun I decided to visit Griffith Observatory on Mount Hollywood. I had been there a few times before over the years and it is a great place to go for a view over the city.

It was a beautiful evening and it seemed that quite a few other people had the same brilliant idea as I did which meant that I ended up having to park a mile away from Griffith Observatory on Western Canyon Road. Unfortunately, I had just come from work so I was sporting a dress and heels which was not prime attire for hiking up a curving mountain road. I am not known for being deterred by inappropriate footwear (Exhibit A: Hiking up Mount Warning in broken flip flops) so of course I headed off toward the Observatory anyway.

Along the way I had a lovely view of the Hollywood sign as the sun was low in the sky.

Twenty minutes (and quite a few pictures) later I was at Griffith Observatory. Construction on the beautiful Art Deco building began in 1933 and was opened to the public in 1935.

I headed up the stairs to the observation terraces to check out the view. One of the telescopes was open to the public, but the line was incredibly long so I settled for looking out at the horizon instead of peering up into the sky.

I watched as the daylight faded and the city streets below lit up. The view was really quite beautiful.

After the sun set I headed inside to check out the exhibits. There were so many neat displays relating to astronomy and our universe. One of my favorites was a periodic table with actual samples of the elements. I honestly could have wandered around forever but it was getting late and I needed to get to my hotel.

At this point it was pitch black outside. Other sensible people had flashlights with them however I was not so well prepared. Be advised that walking a mile back to your car in the dark with no flashlight wearing four inch wedge heels is not a good idea nor for the faint of heart. 

In the end I got back to my rental car safe and sound with no twisted ankles. Was my unprepared visit a smart thing to do? Decidedly not. Was is worth it? Absolutely.

Griffith Observatory is located at 2800 East Observatory Road in Los Angeles. Admission to the building is free, however there is a fee for planetarium shows. Griffith Observatory is open 10:00 a.m. - 10:00 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday, 12:00 p.m. - 10:00 p.m. from Tuesday through Friday and closed on Mondays.

Wednesday
Jul022014

An Evening at Manhattan Beach

At the beginning of this week I've been on a short trip to LA for work. I flew out on Monday afternoon and had made plans to get dinner with a friend, Don, who had recently moved out to California at 7:30 at the Strand House in Manhattan Beach. The traffic from the airport wasn't as bad as I had anticipated so I ended up getting there early leaving me some time to walk along the beach. I started by strolling out along the Manhattan Beach Pier for some lovely views back at the beach and the surfers trying to catch waves near the pier.

After walking the length of the pier and back I took off my shoes and descended down the stair to walk along the beach. There really is nothing like walking barefoot in the sand.

I walked in the surf soaking up the last remaining rays of sun and breathing in the salty air. It was perfect weather and everything looked gorgeous bathed in the early evening light.

I've never met a sea bird that I didn't take a picture of...

It was time to meet up with Don so I walked back towards the pier and used the public showers to rinse off my sandy feet.


The Strand House is located on Manhattan Beach Boulevard, perched for a perfect view overlooking the ocean.

It was really great to catch up with Don, learn about his move and how he was enjoying settling in. Our dinner was also really delicious. We shared a salad of pickled watermelon and speck, hamachi crudo with avocado, a prosciutto pizza with burrata and arugula and roasted peanut semifreddo with cacao nib cake for dessert. Everything was absolutely fantastic.

In addition to having fun chatting with Don and eating a delicious meal, the view from the restaurant was fantastic. All too soon we were done, the sun had set and it was time to say goodbye to Don.

Before I got in my car and drove to the hotel I couldn't resist one last photo looking out at the pier as I ended the evening.

Thursday
Jun122014

10 Pictures From Fort Myers in March 2014

Frank and me on the Fishing Pier at Fort Myers Beach

This winter was a tough, long one for us in Ann Arbor. We did escape the polar vortex for a long weekend in Florida to visit my grandparents and also stop in Fort Myers where Frank used to visit every spring with his family when he was growing up.

View of Matanzas Pass Bridge from Nervous Nellie's

Although the restaurant that Frank would often grab clam chowder for lunch when he was a kid was gone, another restaurant was in that spot and we stopped there for the largest lobster rolls I've ever seen and a beautiful view of Matanzas Pass Bridge.

Lobster Roll at Nervous Nellie's

After lunch, which was on the harbor side, we walked down Old San Carlos Boulevard toward the Gulf, passing through the little shopping area known as Times Square.

Clock tower at Fort Myers Beach's Time Square

Being a beautiful weekend the beach was packed with people enjoying the sun and water.

Colorful beach umbrellas along Fort Myers Beach

Frank and I walked out on the Fishing Pier for a lovely view back at the beach and a few sea birds as well.

Pelicans on the Fishing Pier at Fort Myers Beach

View looking back at the beach from the Fort Myers Beach Fishing Pier

That afternoon we drove past the house that Frank's grandmother once owned. It was only two blocks from the Caloosahatchee River and every night when they were visiting her they would walk to the river to watch the sunset.

Looking across the Caloosahatchee River

We spent the next morning on Sanibel Island and headed back to Fort Myers in the afternoon. When we drove down McGregor Boulevard with its impressive palm trees flanking each side, Frank told me that when he was little seeing those palm trees meant he was almost to his grandma's house.

Palm trees lining McGregor Boulevard

Our last stop in Fort Myers was downtown where we grabbed lunch at a great deli and walked around a bit admiring the Art Deco buildings before our flight home.

Art deco building in Downtown Fort Myers

Although we weren't in Fort Myers very long it was great to see some of the places that were part of Frank's childhood, plus escaping from the snow didn't hurt, either!

Thursday
Mar062014

Sanibel Island Lighthouse Beach

While Frank and I were in Florida this past weekend we stayed at a hotel in Punta Rassa with a view from our room looking out over the Sanibel Causeway and Sanibel Island. Being so close we decided we had to visit the island for a bit and headed over on Monday morning.

We grabbed a quick, delicious breakfast at Over Easy Cafe (Frank got the Crab and Asparagus Omelet and I got the Sanibel Shrimp Benedict with Grits) and then drove out to Sanibel Island Lighthouse Beach. From the parking lot we walked out to the lighthouse on a trail over a wooden boardwalk.

The lighthouse was built of iron in 1884 with a central cylinder tower surrounded by an open skeletal structure. The design was thought to be able to withstand hurricanes by allowing the high winds to pass through. In 1949 the lighthouse was automated and then electrified with the lens replaced in 1962. The 98 foot tall lighthouse is still operational today, flashing a white light.

Walking along the white sand beach we had a lovely view across the water of Fort Myers with Bonita Springs and Naples in the distance. Prior to a causeway being built in 1963 the only access to the island was by boat or ferry. The current causeway linking the island to mainland Florida was built in 2007 as a replacement to the original.

One of the neat things about visiting the beach was the abundance of birds walking along the shoreline and roosting in the nearby trees.

Rounding the point we came across the T-shaped fishing pier. The pier was packed with people fishing and by the looks of things many of them were having quite a bit of success with their catches. We walked out on the pier for a pretty look back at the island and lighthouse before walking back to our car.

We had a lovely morning at Sanibel Island Lighthouse Beach which wasn't hurt at all by the perfect weather and sunshine. My only regret is that we didn't have more time to relax there.

To get to Sanibel Island Lighthouse Beach from Fort Myers take the Sanibel Causeway to Sanibel Island and head east on Periwinkle Way until you reach the end of the road. At the time of this writing parking is $2 per hour and the cost to cross the causeway is $6.

Wednesday
Feb262014

An Evening in Charleston

Last week I had a very short trip to Charleston for work. It has been ridiculously cold in Michigan this winter so I welcomed the chance to escape the polar vortex even if was just for a day. I left on a early morning flight with the wings of the plane getting de-iced before take off and arrived in Charleston to beautiful, warm, sunny weather.

After our meetings finished my colleagues and I had an hour and a half before our dinner reservation so we headed to downtown Charleston and took a little detour to drive over the New Cooper River Bridge.

I hadn't been to Charleston in nearly fifteen years so I was looking forward to having a chance to see the town again. We started off at The Battery and walked south along East Battery admiring the beautiful homes along the palmetto lined street.  

We next wandered around White Point Garden located at the tip of Charleston peninsula. The area's important history as an artillery battery to protect Charleston Harbor is reflected by the military relics throughout the park. My favorite part about the park was the beautiful old live oak trees that lined all the paths. The early evening light filtering through the leaves was quite lovely.

Leaving the park we wandered through the nearby neighborhood admiring the gorgeous homes. The architecture is amazing and as a lover of old homes I was in heaven. I particularly loved that several of the old lamps continued to use gas.

It was getting close to time for dinner so we drove up to the market district and had a chance to walk by the historic market on the way to the restaurant. The Market Hall was built in 1841 but the historic market dates back over 200 years. By the time we were there the vendors had packed up for the evening but I remember enjoying wandering around when I had visited before.

For dinner we headed to Hank's Seafood Restaurant which is housed in a lovely renovated turn of the century warehouse. We all shared a tower of seafood which was amazing. My favorite dish was a relish of green tomatoes and sweet corn topped with blue cheese and fried oysters. Being down south, I also couldn't resist a slice of pecan pie.

After dinner we walked around a bit enjoying the warm evening and then went to the rooftop of the Market Pavillion Hotel for a nightcap.

The best thing about the rooftop was the view over historic Charleston, particularly of the Customs House. Designed by Ammi B. Young, the Customs House was begun in 1853 but not finished until 1879 due to a hiatus in construction during the Civil War. The building was restored in the 1960s and is now listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

The next morning I was up before dawn to catch an early morning flight and was back to my office before 10 AM. The trip was all too short but it was a nice escape from the bitter cold and I hope I have a chance to visit Charleston again for vacation.

Friday
Nov152013

10 Pictures From Milwaukee in Summer 2013

This past summer I got to spend five days having a little reunion in Milwaukee with my friends, Trisha and Dani. We met when we were living in Japan and the last time all three of us got together was in New York four years ago. Dani, who is British, has spent the last year on a work assignment in Portland so we took advantage of her being state side to visit Trisha in Milwaukee.

We decided to go at the end of June/beginning of July so that we could go to Summerfest. With eleven stages and lasting for eleven days it is the world's largest music festival. We went every night while we were there seeing a crazy variety of acts including Pitbull, Cake, NKOTB, Far East Movement and Boys II Men. It was a great atmosphere and we had an awesome time dancing and enjoying the performances.

View of Summerfest from Marcus Ampitheater

We spent a great deal of time relaxing in restaurants and chatting. We made an art out of eating brunch as well as making frequent stops for afternoon appetizers. I definitely did not go hungry while we were there.

Bloody Mary Trio at The Comet Cafe

While we were in Milwaukee the three of us decided to go skydiving at Skydive Milwaukee. Trisha and her husband had done a Level 1 AFF jump recently and Trisha was excited to go again so Dani and I went with her to do tandem jumps while she did a Level 2 jump. I had never gone before and it was a really neat experience. I couldn't believe how beautiful it was to look over the landscape with an unobstructed view. It was very surreal.

Me Tandem Skydiving Over Milwaukee (picture from Skydive Milwaukee)

We stopped at the Milwaukee Public Market twice while we were in town. We headed there a for wine tasting at Thief Wine which was a lot of fun. We each got a different flight of red wines and tried each other's selections. While we were at the market for the wine tasting we saw the $13.95 lobster dinner special at St. Paul Fish Company so we decided to head back there for dinner a few days later. Delicious!

Milwaukee Public Market

Since Harley Davidson was founded in Milwaukee we had to stop at the Harley Davidson Museum while we were in town. Starting from the power cycle that William S. Harley and Arthur Davidson built in 1903 the museum traced the company's history through the decades. Not being a motorcycle rider I learned a lot of interesting things while I was there. One if the coolest unexpected things for me was that a lot of the very early motorcycles had white tires.

Dani, Me and Trisha at the Harley Davidson Museum

No visit to Milwaukee would be complete without taking a brewery tour so we headed to Lakefront Brewery. Started in 1987 by the Klisch brothers, the brewery has grown over the past twenty-five years reaching a production of over thirty three thousand barrels of beer last year. The tour was very relaxed and fun and we really enjoyed the beer as well.

Filling Kegs at the Lakefront Brewery

On not one, but two afternoons, we relaxed in the sun at Bradford Beach. The beach had a tiki hut with drinks and food and lots of volleyball courts as well. We rented chairs and a cabana and had a great time soaking up the beautiful weather, taking naps and reading. I wish Ann Arbor had a beach! (and a tiki hut!)

Bradford Beach on a Sunny Day

Trisha and I felt it was our duty to have Dani try some classic things that she as a Brit had never tried before like Wisconsin fried cheese curds and PBR. Isn't she lucky to have Trisha and I as friends?

PBR Tall Boys

One of our afternoon stops was to visit the Milwaukee Art Museum. We saw a great special exhibit, 30 Americans, which featured contemporary African American artists and then wandered around the permanent collection. My favorite thing was the Quadracci Pavilion itself. From the outside with its moveable, wing-like sunscreen to the inside with 90-foot-high glass ceilings and lovely views of the lake, it is really a stunning piece of architecture.

Quadracci Pavilion's Windhover Hall at the Milwaukee Art Museum

Although all the sights were awesome we really enjoyed the city itself. We walked all over the place clocking between six to nine miles each day. The Historic Third Ward was especially lovely with its beautiful brick buildings.

Mural on the Mercantile Building in the Historic Third Ward

All in all, the three of us had an awesome time together. It's no wonder that Trisha loves living in Milwaukee. Now we need to make some plans to visit Dani in Portland before she is done with her work assignment!

Wednesday
Sep252013

Kalustyan's 

A few year's ago my friend, Sarah, visited me in Ann Arbor. Her friend and her friend's college friend (both Penn State alumni) happened to coming to Ann Arbor that very same weekend to watch Penn State play Michigan in football. Having a big house all to myself I invited them to also stay at my house and the four of us had a lot of fun making dinner together and hanging out.

Knowing that I love to cook, one of ladies, who was from New York, mentioned that next time I was in New York I should really go to Kalustyan's as she was sure that I would love it. Of course I went on my next trip to the city and ever since I've made it a tradition to stop there every time I am in New York.

Kalustyan's is a specialty food shop that has all sorts of wonderful goodies, especially from India and the Middle East. The narrow aisles are lined floor to ceiling with just about every dry good imaginable. On top of the wonderful selection the prices are really great as well.

The best part of Kastulyan's for me is the amazing selection of bulk spices sold by the bag. The store smells amazingly fragrant with all of the spice smells mingling together.

Frank likes Kastulyan's because it is the only place other than a few expensive online sites that he has been able to buy smoked paprika, which is a staple in his cooking. Just as an example of the extensive selection of spices, the picture below is only showing different types of paprika that Kastulyan's stocks.

Although we could have easily bought out the store, Frank and I settled on getting two large bags of smoked paprika, pickling spice and some chia seeds. I've never made anything with chia seeds before but I thought they would be fun to try.

Before leaving Frank and I headed upstairs for a stop at the deli. Along with olives and cheeses, they also have a selection of vegetarian and meat options that make a great lunch.

Frank and I shared a combination plate of chick peas, grape leaves, a samosa and kasseri cheese. We enjoyed our delicious food while sitting in the window overlooking Lexington Avenue.

The most surprising thing happened after we had paid for our spices and headed outside to hail a taxi. Although I have been to Kalustyan's several times I never noticed before that there was a New York Historical Society plaque outside providing a little background to the building.

It turns out that at that spot on September 20, 1881 Chester A. Arthur took the oath of office to become the 21st President of the United States after President James A. Garfield was assassinated. William Randolph Hearst (inspiration for the famous movie, Citizen Kane) also later lived in the building. Fabulous spices and some history, too!

If you are in New York and love to cook I would definitely recommend a stop at Kalustyan's located at 123 Lexington Avenue. At the time of this writing the hours are Mondays - Saturdays 10am-8pm, Sundays/Holidays 11am-7pm.