Menopause The Musical

It had been awhile since I had gone to see a live play and when my singles group suggested we trek up to Gainesville, Fl to see Menopause, The Musical, I jumped at the chance. Gainesville is about an hours drive from our home base in Ocala. There were 18 of us who caravanned up. It was at least going to be an evening out with the girls.

On the way we had supper at a chain, Carrabas’s, which was actually quite pleasant, and then onward to the Curtis M. Phillips Center on the grounds of the University of Florida Cultural Plaza. The theater was an endowment made in 2000 by retired surgeon Dr. Curtis M. Phillips and opened for business in 2002. Phillips Center, a 1700 seat proscenium hall, with a main floor and balcony, was surprisingly intimate. You could sit anywhere and have an unobstructed view. We were to be seated in the balcony but by some stroke of luck, that area was closed and we ended up about 5 rows back from the stage.

The evening was balmy, and the venue most inviting with the large fountain in front facing the brightly lit glass walled entrance. It was so welcoming and produced an air of excited anticipation.

We were not disappointed. The production was so fun. Set in Bloomingdales, the cast of four “menopausal” women – a professional woman, a soap star, an earth mother and a mid-west housewife had us laughing the whole evening as they told their stories through song and dance to old tunes like” What’s Love Got to do With It”, “Wishin’ and Hopin’ ” and “Good Vibrations” to name just a few. We laughed at their antics, double entendres and at ourselves with self-recognition in some of sketches.

Just one of those feel good shows that left us smiling all the way home. Oh what a night!!

“Rollin’ on the River”

One of the most relaxing times my girlfriends and I had during our visit to Pittsburgh was our leisurely cruise on the Gateway Clipper just checking out the landscapes along the banks of the three rivers – Allegheny, Monongahela and Ohio Rivers! The water splashing along the sides and the cool breeze were a nice backdrop for the scenery. Actually there are five boats in the fleet with a capacity for holding 2,500 passengers.

Alice enjoying the view

We set sail from Station Square on the Monongahela for a one hour guided tour and headed straight for the top deck where we had an unobstructed view of the city. The guide was a font of information as she pointed out the skylines buildings along with tidbits of their history. It occurred to me how much we lose out when we just look at a building without really knowing its importance. It was a mix of old and new architecture and all shapes and sizes. At the point where the three rivers joined, though still under construction, was a gorgeous landscape feature. And right next door the famous Three Rivers Stadium.

In addition to the one hour sightseeing cruise that we took, there are other tours available from a dining cruise to private weddings or corporate events. For more information on the fleet or for reservations visit them at www.gatewayclipper.com.

The Strip District

 

One of the highlights of my visit to Pittsburgh for me was to finally take a look at “The Strip”. Growing up, I wasn’t too familiar with this area of Pittsburgh and, for sure, never visited that part of town. But it always sounded so mysterious and exotic in my  imagination as a child.

Now, as an adult going back to visit, and one who also delights in good foods, I have a keen appreciation for this small, one-half mile square in the northeast downtown area of Pittsburgh. Due to its northern border, the Allegheny River, it proved an ideal place for transporting goods in the early 1800’s and later with trains coming through, it led to brisk industrial development. Wholesaler produce merchants lined the streets with their warehouses. Back in the 1800’s the trains stopped at the streets and unloaded right there. Later in the early 1900’s, the rails were removed along Liberty Avenue downtown and the wholesaler merchants moved to the Strip District close to the railroad yards.

There were as many as 71 wholesaler produce dealers at its peak. While now there are somewhat less, some have expanded, adding restaurants, ethnic food stores and cafes. As we trod along the streets in the district, we were assailed by the smells and sights of seafood, fruits and vegetables being prepared right on the streets to tempt passersby. We ventured into some of the food stores, especially the Italian ones, where I was overwhelmed with the bounty of some of my favorite cheeses, meats , pastas and produce. Made me wish I could transport myself there for my weekly marketing trips. To my dismay, there is nothing like that in Ocala.

Yes, we said these things.  Gotta love Western PA!

Along with the warehouses were lots of quaint old churches, gift and art shops and lot of Pittsburgh “stuff” shops.

Mary, Janice and Alice going in to Lidia’s

Chandeliers like clusters of grapes

Then at days end we feasted at one of The Strip’s restaurants, Lidia’s Pittsburgh, where we enjoyed authentic northern Italian cuisine. I watch Lidia’s cooking show on PBS and was so psyched to be able to actually visit one of her restaurants, in of all places, Pittsburgh! A perfect ending to a busy day.

While the menu was extensive, with all the typical Italian courses, we we unable to have them all as we had just nibbled our way through the strip.  Here is what we selected form the menu and, of course, we sampled each others:

(Sorry, the pictures of the delicious food didn’t turn out.)
INSALATE
Insalata Cesare
Shaved Grana Padano and Focaccia Croutons $7.5
 
Insalata di Rucola
Arugula Salad with Bartlett Pear, Walnuts and Gorgonzola Dolce $9

PASTA
Lidia’s Pasta Trio
Our Signature Dish.  Unlimited Daily Pasta selection served tableside $17
with Caesar Salad and choice of Dessert $29

Gnocchi  
Housemade Potato Dumplings with Braised Duck Ragu $17

And a nice expresso to wash it down!

Finally, we can’t leave the “Burgh” without :

The John Heinz History Center, Pittsburgh, PA

 

To the general populace the word Heinz brings to mind ketchup. But to people from Pittsburgh the Heinz 57 brand is just one of the many claims to fame hailing from Western Pennsylvania. Now an international company with product lines reaching way beyond ketchup, it was founded in a little farm house back in 1869 in nearby Sharpsburg by Henry John Heinz.

While visiting Pittsburgh, The Senator John Heinz History Center was a favorite stop. It is affiliated with the Smithsonian Institution and is the largest history museum in the state. Senator Heinz III, (1938-1991) was a great philanthropist and the museum is a wonderful legacy.

Growing up in the Pittsburgh area, I knew of the things that came from this area, but it wasn’t until this visit that I had a keen appreciation for all ethnic and innovative discoveries for which Pittsburgh is now renown.

The center has 6 floors full of exhibits that tell the story of Western Pennsylvania scanning 250 years. Just to name a few is a display of Jonas Salk discovering the Polio vaccine, the first heart transplant, the invention of the Big Mac, Isaly’s, Kennywood Park, a Heinz chronicle, tracing steamboat travel in the area, coal, steel, a whole floor on Sports – the Steelers and the Pirates, to just name a few.

 

I really felt a sense of pride that I had not experienced growing up there when I just took it all for granted.  Western Pennsylvanians have accomplished much through the years.  One just has to stoll through the halls of this history center to really appreciate the vast scope of their accomplishments and contributions to the world.

Micanopy Fall Harvest Festival

 

This was my first visit to Micanopy, Florida and my first craft festival of the year. I know the word quaint is overused but that is the word I would pick to describe this little town filled with antique shops, casual dining places, bed and breakfasts and restored Victorian houses. The people were friendly and our group of 9 girlfriends just had ourselves a great girl’s day out. It was less than an hour’s drive up I 75 from Ocala, heading north – perfect for a day trip.

The main street, Cholokka Boulevard, was PACKED with over 200 artists, crafters and food vendors. It was so thick with visitors though that it was difficult to see the wares. But we had a good time people watching and soaking up the excitement. Under a big tree near town center an impromptu stage was set up where musicians, dancers, and singers performed during the day that lent an air of gaiety as we strolled along.

This year’s festival went green by asking the food vendors to choose biodegradable products – which made me a fan right away. All the proceeds from the event went to non-profit church, youth and historical organizations to help out with their operating costs.

I am looking forward to returning to Micanopy again to enjoy the town and shops.

The Frick, Pittsburgh, PA

Right in the middle of the hustling streets of Pittsburgh, hidden behind a tree lined fence is The Frick. The complex houses an art museum, a car and carriage museum, a playhouse* a greenhouse and the Clayton – the Frick family home.

To give a little background, Henry Clay Frick was a noted industrialist and art collector. While on his honeymoon with new wife Adelaide, he met Andrew Carnegie and from that meeting they formed a partnership between H. C. Frick and Company and Carnegie Steel Company – the forerunner of United States Steel.

He had a daughter, Helen Clay Frick, who left as legacy, the museum and extensive art.

The day we visited The Frick we entered the grounds though an enormous rod iron gate that was surrounded by a red brick, rose-covered wall that encased the complex. The first building was the Car and Carriage Museum which housed the horse-drawn and horseless carriages the Frick family used during the gilded age.

To the left of that was the Frick Art Museum which I am sorry to say we never got to as we took so long seeing the rest of the compound. I hear the paintings, artifacts, and sculptures range from the 12th to 18th centuries. Something to go back to see!

Mary and Alice – Ready for lunch!

We had a luncheon reservation at The Café at the Frick outside under the awning facing the gardens. It was a wonderfully refined and girlie thing to do and we had such a good time. Teas and a Sunday brunch can also be enjoyed there.

Lunch-carrot and peach soup, crab melt on brioche and lemon tart

One of the fun things we looked at was this darling playhouse*. It was really a full sized cottage that I would love to live in!! It was the playhouse for little Helen. Now it is a gift and museum shop.

Alice, Mary and Janice in front of playhouse

Adjacent to it is a working greenhouse where flowers and vegetables (served at the Café) are grown. Outside there is also a very interesting garden with some unusual plants.

Janice – are giving a tour of the greenhouse?

Lastly, is the Frick family’s late 19th century home called the Clayton where 90% of the furnishings are original. It is beyond what I would call a family home. It is a MANSION. It was closed the day we were there but they do have regular tours. We peeked through the windows and were WOWED!!

Family home

In all we spent an entire morning to early afternoon but we also had afternoon plans in a different part of town and had to leave. Could have made a day of it.

The Frick

7227 Reynolds Street

Pittsburgh, PA 15208

TheFrickPittsburgh.org

Montreal

 From Hyde Park, Vermont to the Canadian border is about 50 miles and on to Montreal it is just over 100 or a quick 2+ hour jaunt. While I was up at Thistlemoon Meadows, we took a day trip up to Montreal. What a treat that was. Who could figure that I could be in a different country in such a short time and it really felt like a different country too. What a difference from the bucolic farms of northern Vermont to the big city of Montreal.

Montreal, the second largest city in Canada next to Quebec, is almost like two cities in one. There is the modern city vibrant with commerce, technology, industry, culture, sports like ice hockey and two airports- one for passengers and one for cargo.

Then there is Old Montreal where we spent our day. Historic architecture, cathedrals like Notre-Dame de Montreal Basilica (which was closed for a wedding but imposing from the outside nonetheless), cobbled streets and a picturesque riverside known as the Old Port. One of the places that was on my must see list was the wonderful  Auberge Hotel, where Jenn and Roberto had previously spent a romantic holiday – complete with a horse drawn carriage ride. But that is another story.

Anyway, I had to take a few pictures of this spot to share with you. From the looks of it that would be an excellent place for a charming getaway.

We had the best time strolling, sightseeing, shopping and eating our way across the city. We walked and we walked and we walked just enjoying the ambiance of the streets. Good thing; we ate hearty too.

We started with lunch at Jardin Nelson with awesome crepes. It was such a sunny day that we opted for eating outdoors in a garden setting that had an enormous inverted umbrella-like canopy overhead. There was even a string trio playing music while we dined. Tres chic!! We had tasty fruit filled concoctions that just hit the spot. Light but satisfying. I think Roberto would have been happy with a big meaty burger for his man-sized appetite, but he was a good sport.

We left there and continued our explorations down to the waterfront where Cirque du Soleil had set up and we could hear the music from their huge tents as we passed by to watch the “guards” march by and to see the touring boats in the water. Quite a lively place.

As the afternoon progressed I finally got the food that I had been so anxious to try – Poutine. Now I had heard about it from Jenn and Roberto but I needed to see it and experience it for myself. Mine was this HUGE plate of fries, covered in sauteed mushrooms and onions and then covered with the best melted cheese. That and a cold brew was just the best ever and I was a happy camper.

By then is was time for our drive back to Vermont. Tired, but certainly filled – both tummy and sensory- we made our way back to the car. Oh right, we did pass by and have an obligatory ice cream for the trip. Maple. Such creamy goodness. From the looks of Jenn’s cone, she made short work of hers! 

I am so happy we took the time to visit Montreal.

Girl’s Reunion – Part Three

 

             Standing:Bill, Dave, Mary, Jan, Carolyn, Bob, Alice            Seated:  Sue, Arlene, Liz

In the first part of this series I shared that we four childhood friends made the decision to gather together for a reunion. And in the second part, we planned the where and the how. In this third section, it has finally happened and there is so much to tell that it will have to come in parts as we spent each day. (If you haven’t seen parts one and two, click the link and see us as we looked THEN!!)

This has had to be one of the best decisions I have made in a very long time. While it took us a lot of planning and time to put this together, I could never have imagined the benefits that I have reaped from spending these precious days with my life long friends. The question it left us with was why it had taken us so long to do this and with the promise to repeat in again- soon. Next time, maybe it will be a cruise.

Our decision to start our first reunion where we had our roots was the right one. I think it added an extra dimension to the emotions we shared at this gathering. Through the years, we’ve had brief visits with one or another but never until this time were the four of us together all at one time since we each began our own life’s journeys decades ago. Alice came in from California, Janice was still in Pennsylvania, about a 40 minute drive from the city, Mary from Maryland. I flew up from Florida and spent the night with Mary, who then let me share a ride with her to the Pittsburgh area.

Upon arriving in the Mon Valley, Mary and I took a quick drive through the small town of Charleroi where we spent our youth. This once thriving, booming place was now pretty much depressed. Our high school was gone along with the favorite drug store where we gathered for cherry cokes after school, and the movie theater, shops and dining spots we frequented were all closed. All our special haunts – gone or in decay. The town was a mere shadow of the place I remembered. It somehow felt like losing a cherished friend as the picture that still remained in my mind faded away to this current image. But we still had the first meeting of the four to look forward to later that afternoon and that buoyed our spirits.

I can’t begin to tell you how it felt to be with them all at the same moment. It felt like four pieces to a puzzle slipping into place. Between the hugs, kisses, tears and laughter I can only describe the moment like a rush of pure JOY. It immediately took me back to how tight we were growing up and felt that same closeness and connection today as then. How rare it is to have friendships so true and long lasting.

We had a lovely first dinner that evening at a spot in  Western Pennsylvania called The Speers Street Grill which we capped off with the group photo. We were a lively party of ten that included Mary’s brother Bob and sister-in-law Sue, Janice’s Mom, Liz, and Alice’s husband Bill along with two of her close friends, Carolyn and Dave, all of whom except Bill were still local. We had lively, fun dinner. The staff provided us with our own little room where we could just be ourselves without worry of disturbing other diners. When we were children, our four families lived within several blocks of each other so our parents were good friends as well. So many of our social events were shared not only with family but with these friends as well. They were really like extended family and we felt as at home in each others homes as we would be in our own. Now, Liz is the last of our parents and it was so special that we could spend time with her this first evening.

Following dinner, Mary, Alice and I followed Jan and Liz back to her home in Jeanette for more visiting and more food before heading to our hotel for the night. Back in the hotel, we winded down and finally said our good nights still high from the evening and looking forward to heading to Pittsburgh in the morning. I fell into contented slumber thinking how lucky am I. For tonight, all was right in my little world.

Montpelier, Vermont

 

Montpelier- the smallest state capitol in the US. With only 8,000 residents it still packs a punch. I can’t compare it to say Burlington. While Burlington is a lively college town, Montpelier is more sedate with a flavor all of its own.

I enjoyed strolling up and down the streets looking at the shops, restaurants, hotels and conference center, cultural venues and government buildings. Very stately, clean, and with an aura of prosperity. Talking to the townies, I got the impression that this is a nice family place to live. Big city look with a small town feel. I am not a fan of big cities, and even though this is an important place, I felt totally comfortable and at ease during our daytrip there.

The folks and shopkeepers were the typically friendly Vermonters -helpful, and courteous.

While our stay there was brief, I would totally visit there again. The only negative according to Jenn and Roberto was that there was not an ice cream shop to be found. We did highlight every trip during my Vermont visit with a stop for some icy treat. So this caused a lapse in our “tradition”. ;-)

High Tea at the Governor’s House

When I was a little girl, my friends and I would often play out make believe scenarios, some of them trying out what in our minds fancy ladies did – like having tea. What we’d always heard was that these ladies would dress up and sit at little tables laden with tea pots and fancy little sandwiches. It seemed quite glamorous. And, if I am to admit it, when I get the chance even now and want to feel really pampered and special, I still enjoy going to or having a tea.

My trip to Hyde Park took an interesting turn when we found just minutes from Jenn and Roberto’s home a former Governor’s Mansion turned Bed and Breakfast where we enjoyed a full English afternoon tea. It was just perfect. The table was set in the library and we were the only guests in the mansion at the time. What a stroke of luck that was for us. We got the royal treatment, too.

The hostess, who owns and runs the whole household herself, served us her own special blend of teas in fine china cups on a white linen topped table. It was quite refined and we found ourselves acting just a little more polite, complete with Roberto’s little pinkie held out when he lifted his tiny cup to sip. It was a riot!

Along with the tea, we were given assorted fancy sandwiches, scones with cream and strawberry jam, pound cake and sweets that she baked that day special for us after we called in our reservation. There was more than we could eat. Imagine taking a doggie bag home from a tea. Okay, that part wasn’t too fancy, but we couldn’t resist and we had a great breakfast next day.

I asked for permission to look into the other downstairs rooms, and we were graciously rewarded with a tour of the entire mansion. It was such a wonderful afternoon. I would enthusiastically recommend this venue for high tea or a romantic getaway weekend in the event you find yourself in this part of Vermont.

Check the website for special events and room packages.

The Governor’s House in Hyde Park

100 Main Street

Hyde Park, Vermont

866-600-6888

 
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