Posted in Travel

Round-Up

A short and sweet round up of our trip – it feels like it lasted for months, in the very best way. We ate so many great things, so many awesome things, sweated A LOT, spent too much money, drove over a thousand miles across Kentucky, went to a drive-thru ATM more than once just for the lolz, and best of all, spent the most time we could with that pair of goofballs. All the heart eyes forever. Next trip cannot come soon enough.

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Posted in Giving, Travel

Start Choppin’

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Imagine the most Christmassy thing you’ve ever done, then triple it – such is a trip to the Christmas tree farm to cut down your own freakin’ Christmas tree. Reader, I almost wet myself with the giddiness.

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Arriving at what looked like a normal farm outside Goshen, Ohio, I discovered that it was actually a Christmas tree plantation! You rock up, they give you a plastic sledge, a polythene sheet and a saw, and they send you off for a wander to find a tree you like the look of. (NB not much happens in Goshen, there’s no reason to go there apart from to buy a Christmas tree).

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All the trees that can be cut down have tickets with their prices on (about $50 for a 7ft tree which is pretty reasonable compared to UK prices, natch). They are topiarised a bit, I think, to give them a good shape.

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It’s a vast place, with trees and trees and trees of all sizes as far as the eye can see. We were tipped off to some “real pretty trees” round the other side of this extremely picturesque lake.

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We found one we liked the look of after a good search and set Jim to work cutting it down (which was surprisingly easy). I am not sure my video upload has worked, but I did get to shout “TIMBERRRRRRRRR” for the first legitimate time of my life which really added to my enthusiasm for the whole caper.

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Then this little guy came for a cuddle and to escort us back to the barn to wrap and pay for our tree.

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Actually, we went inside and drank the free hot chocolate whilst they wrapped the tree for us, of course. We’re civilised. I also bought a genuine handmade quilted proper Folk Art Christmas tree skirt for pennies whilst we were waiting, because although I am civilised, I never miss an opportunity to shop.

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Then, the agonising choice of which wreath to get. We couldn’t decide, so we bought three. They were enormous, and fresh, and smelled divine and were like $20. Amazing.
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It was just all so QUAINT and I almost died of Christmas twee right there and then.

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Once we’d finished up in the barn, we went back outside and lo and behold, some strapping all-American chaps had tied the tree to the top of tiny Anne’s massive truck. We all clambered in and went to Frisch’s for lunch. SUCH FUN.

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Did you win the Nice Cup Of Tea giveaway? If you are Jenny from The Gingerbread House, then yes, yes, you did. Email me your address to [mrspiquante at gmail dot com]!

Top marks if you knew that the title of this post refers to this:

Posted in Travel

Giving Thanks

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So, Thanksgiving. What a uniquely American experience that was. I arrived in America a few days beforehand and all anyone could talk about, family, friends, strangers in shops was – “what will you be eating?”. Not what are you doing for Thanksgiving – oh, no, “give me a full rundown of menu items so we can compare notes”. This is very much my kind of holiday.

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Everyone in Cincinnati at least has a wide and varied range of turkey and/or pumpkin-related decorative items for the occasion – I am not sure when they go up, but I can tell you that at the stroke of midnight on Thanksgiving Thursday, a team of silent elves apparently appears to spirit them away to the basement and replace them will full-on Christmas decoration. My cousin’s house was very tastefully decorated with little turkeys and autumnal accents around her spacious pad, like a Martha Stewart spread, I was most envious.

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I really did not expect KISS to feature in my Thanksgiving, but as I sat in a very comfortable armchair between eating bouts, watching the Macy’s Parade, there they were, in all their facepainted glory, Gene Simmons getting his tongue out in a very sleety New York especially. The parade seems to consist of a bunch of giant blimps in various shapes and sizes, 85,000 marching bands and a whole bunch of people I have never heard of looking cold in a variety of coats, most likely available at Macy’s. I mostly loved the adverts, American adverts are so much more entertaining than ours.

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And then – dinner. The big event. It was truly delicious, though some items are a little questionable – e.g. sweet potato and marshmallow casserole. Pretty delectable on its own, but oddly out of place with a turkey dinner. See also: pickled watermelon rind and croissants. Crazy Yanks.

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My cousins though made it such a special and memorable day for us. After we’d stuffed ourselves silly, it was time for the National Dog Show from Philadelphia and a few cocktails. Most civilised.

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I’m very thankful for my American family – both my great uncle Sam on the left there (he of the biscuit factory managing) who is sadly no longer with us, and my cousins, Anne and Jim who so graciously host us when we visit and are really the best fun. I’m so lucky to have them.

On a different note, the stationEry giveaway winner, picked at random, is…Claire from Claireabelle Makes! Whoop-la! Please email me your address to [mrspiquante at gmail dot com] and I’ll get that off to you.

Posted in Giving, Travel

Eat It

It’s no secret that quite a lot of my time spent in America is spent eating. It truly is the land of plenty – so much to choose from, but only 3 meals a day to fit it into. Creativity is required to fit everything in. Before we go over, usually Anne, my cousin, will ask us for a list of “must-eats”, so she can plan a loose schedule to take in as many of the spots on our wishlist as possible. Anne, like me, is a professional planner, we love a list, and we love to tick things off it!

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Skyline Chili is one of the must-do things in Cincinnati. The city is famous for its chili, but it’s not chili as you know it. It’s spiced with cinnamon, cloves and other strange things to give it a slightly sweet but definitely savoury taste. Some critics have described it as “quintessentially American”, others have called it “the worst regional American food” there is, but it’s a definite must-experience when you’re dining in Cincinnati. Traditionally for our family, it’s a lunchtime thing – we’ll meet Anne from work and have Skyline at the restaurant next to her office, and also it’s an on-the-way-to-the-airport snack to fortify you for a transatlantic flight.

 

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ihop, or International House Of Pancakes to give it its Sunday name, is another place frequently on our list. Who knew there were so many breakfast options? I particularly like breakfast in America as they are a) so accommodating with substitutions, no eggs, etc b) are quite happy for you to order a bunch of sides c) their bacon is just the best and d) you can have as many drinks refills as you like and then they’ll give you another drink in a cup to go at no extra charge.

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Mulled cider for breakfast? Aye, go on then. Start your day off with a festive swing. I usually have these chicken florentine crepes and they are just amazing, though not all that to look at.

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New to me this time – Frisch’s Big Boy:

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The tartare sauce is the thing here – it’s mighty tasty. A bit like Big Mac sauce but way better. Their onion rings were a solid 7/10.

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And of course, no trip to the States is complete without at least one visit to Five Guys, the best burgers there are. Their first Scottish location opened in Glasgow last week though, so now it may drop off the list, as we’ll be able to go whenever we like – yay! Not yet though, as apparently the queues are horrendous. I think it’s worth waiting for, they’re really delicious, good quality, well-cooked and I just like their ethos.

I’m probably not finished talking about food yet, but for now, I’ll leave it there. The Crafty Lass, you’re the winner of the Christmas giveaway!

Posted in I Like, Travel

Nashville

I think I did pretty well on Blog Every Day In May, but towards the end, I was just too busy to keep up. I enjoyed it though and I hope to keep up more frequent postings (ha!).

One thing I’ve done over the weekend, whilst I was stuck at home, glued to my work laptop, was catch up on the 10 episodes of the TV show Nashville that I had stored up in our Sky+ box.

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I originally started watching it as we were going to real-life Nashville and thought it might be cool to recognise a few places – don’t fall into that trap. This is not real-life Nashville, it’s glossy, superstar Nashville. Real Nashville is trashy, crass and over the top – a bit like a country music Blackpool.

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But I digress. I’ve become quite hooked on the show – so many twists in the plot! And everyone has amazing hair and, dare I say it, I kinda like a bit of country music. Catch up with it on 4OD if you’re in the UK. So good.

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We had a pretty good time in Nashville, but it was so different from what I expected. I didn’t expect it to be so, well, tacky. Perhaps a Friday night during Spring Break is not the best time to experience it, but it was stuffed to the gunwhales with hen and stag parties, as well as an odd mixture of tiny pre-teen cheerleaders who were in town for some sort of national competition.

We did get to visit an authentic honky tonk though and had a fun night at Robert’s, where we saw the house band, Brazilbilly. Good times.

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It was pretty packed! We got a table on the balcony though and had a great view. Next day, we returned downtown and visited the Country Music Hall of Fame, which is still pretty interesting even if you’re not into that kind of thing. The costumes are pretty amazing!

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We also visited Hatch Show Print, which I will have to post about separately and share my swag from!

I’m not sure I’d hurry back – the small town of Franklin was much nicer. It’s not far from Nashville and has a really nice relaxed atmosphere, lots of little independent shops and restaurants and was generally more my vibe. I’ve realised writing this that there are loads of things I’ve not posted about from our trip, so I should really sort out my photos and get on with that.

Posted in Living, Travel

One Fine Stay

I read about One Fine Stay on a blog I read the other day – I can’t remember where now, but I have had a pleasant half hour looking at all the awesome apartments to rent by the night in New York and London. It’s not cheap but oh, they’re beautiful.  Here’s a few of my NYC favourites.

>> Norfolk Street >> East 8th Street >> 1st Avenue >> Washington Street >> Bedford Street >> Gramercy Park North >> Union Square <<

I have serious home envy now.