Anniversary Trip to the Finger Lakes

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Back in the beginning of June, Ryan and I took a long weekend to the Finger Lakes in NY to celebrate our first wedding anniversary. We explored the back country roads, went swimming, did a boat ride, and went to 13 wineries and breweries. Yes, 13! 

You know when you visit a place and it just feels like home? That’s what our trips to the Finger Lakes feel like. It’s peaceful, relaxing, and laid back. Everyone we meet is so welcoming and treats you like family. We love exploring the small old-fashioned feeling towns and of course trying all the different types of wine. One of my favorite things is the fact that it is never crowded. You go to a winery and there are usually only a few other couples there. There’s no traffic and no wait at restaurants. It feels like a private secret escape!

This was our second time visiting the Finger Lakes region (the wine country of New York that is named after the many long and narrow lakes that spread out across the environment like fingers.) There are hundreds of wineries spread across the region, making it the Napa Valley of the East Coast. They are known for their Rieslings and ice wines. 

Last summer we stayed at a bed and breakfast on Canandaigua Lake  that was also a wildlife refuge. We hiked the gorge at Watkins Glen and did the wine trails on Keuka and Canadaigua Lake.

This year we rented a lovely little waterfront cottage on a little Waneta Lake, which is perfectly located between two of the larger lakes, Keuka and Seneca. 

We left eastern PA early Saturday morning and arrived in Hammondsport, NY at lunchtime. We went straight to our favorite place to eat on Keuka Lake – Bully Hill VineyardsThey have a beautiful covered patio overlooking the lake and awesome food. Their wine tastings are also really fun! This is Ryan’s favorite winery.

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 After lunch and a wine tasting, we drove down the road to the next winery on our itinerary: Dr. Konstantin FrankHands down the best wine we’ve tasted in the region. Also the best tasting experience. Unlike most vineyards, their tasting is free and they are very knowledgable about the wines and the wine making process. We have nicknamed it Dr. Frankensteins. Beautiful view too! 

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Next we hit Ravines Wine Cellars, which was a small yet nice winery.

We wrapped up our afternoon at McGregor Vineyard. This Scottish themed winery was the nicest wine tasting experience we have ever had. They led us into a private room where we got our own cozy table. Instead of speeding us through the tasting, they left us alone after pouring each of our wine selections. We were also treated to a lovely spread of cheese, fruit and bread. We loved it here so much that we stayed and enjoyed a glass of wine and more cheese. This is truly a hidden gem off of Keuka Lake!

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After a pleasant experience at McGregor’s we made our way to our cottage. Just a short 8 minute drive later and we arrived. We found this lovely studio cottage on AirBnB for a great deal. The owners live next door and supplied us with a filling breakfast each morning as well as the use of their dock and kayaks. It was perfect. Just look how cute!

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After settling in we sat by the water for a bit and enjoyed some wine on our porch. I had the perfect getaway read, “Happy to Be Alive, Because” written by fellow blogger Chelsea at The Girl Who Loved to Write.

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(headband by Chelsea as well! Buy your own at Pretty Lovely Littles)

That evening we enjoyed cocktails and appetizers at Snug Harbor and then dinner at Union Block in downtown Hammondsport (voted one of America’s coolest small towns!) After dinner we headed back home to crack open a bottle of wine from McGregor’s. 

Sunday we were greeted with breakfast waiting for us on our front porch. 

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After breakfast and a few cups of coffee we took the kayaks out on the lake. Remember when I said the area is so peaceful? Well we had the ENTIRE lake to ourselves. It was so beautiful. We kayaked around for a bit and just spent some time floating out in the middle of the lake. 

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Afterwards we showered and headed out to Seneca Lake for the day. First we hit up Glenora Wine Cellars where we did a tasting and purchased a bottle of champagne to drink later that night. We then had lunch down in Watkins Glen at Seneca Harbor StationIt was a little too touristy for my tastes with bland overpriced food, but the view was very nice. We choose to eat there because we had 2 p.m. tickets for a local boat cruise up the lake. 

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We were one of 6 passengers on boat tour. It was a short one hour cruise and it was nice to see the biggest Finger Lake (Seneca Lake) from the water. 

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(looking at Hector Falls from the water)

After the boat tour we got in a car and got ready to hit the east side of Seneca Lake and do some damage on the wine trail. But first we stopped for some photos at Hector Falls.

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We then hit the following wineries:

Atwater Vineyards: Very  good wine, good views, good prices but a little silly about their rules. Unlike every other winery we have been to, they insisted that we couldn’t buy a bottle on site, open it and only drink one glass out of it. They said it was NY state law that we had to finish the whole bottle. That was not the case at any other winery. 

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We finished up the afternoon at Wagner Vineyards and Brewerya large winery and brewery with excellent views of the lake. It was a much more relaxed/party environment. Ryan really enjoyed their beer tasting and brought home a make your own six-pack while I scored two bottles of wine. 

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As we started the 30 minute trek back to our cottage we decided to forgo our previously scheduled evening plans. We had brought some fancier clothes and planned on a nicer dinner out to celebrate our first anniversary. Instead we decided to make a pit stop at a local grocery store and pick up some appetizers and have dinner out on our dock while we watched the sunset. 

Best decision ever.

We had an amazing night with the best view. We stayed out and chatted under the stars into the night and then headed back to the cottage. 

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Monday morning, being our actual anniversary day we had dessert for breakfast! Yes, we froze the top layer of our wedding cake and saved it for this occasion. 

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The pink champagne cake still tasted really good! We were dorks and fed each other cake and made our wishes for our second year of marriage. 

After soaking in the last views of our lake. Yes it has now become “our” lake, we packed up and checked out of the cottage and headed back over to the eastern side of Seneca Lake for a day of more wine tasting. 

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We hit up:

 Chateau LaFayette Reneau: Excellent wine, a little pricier. Nice customer service and a beautiful location. We had the place to ourselves.

Leidenfrost Vineyards: A German themed winery with a relaxed environment complete with a winery dog!!! We enjoyed a bottle of a good spicy Gewürztraminer out on the sunny deck. Again, we had the place to ourselves. 

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Hazlelitt 1852 VineyardsNext we popped into the fun Hazletlitt compound. This place was huge, with a big outdoor concert venue as well. This was the only place we had to wait for a tasting all weekend, not bad though. It has a fun Jimmy Buffett like environment. Cheaper prices for what I’d call “boat wine” or “porch sippin wine”. We picked up some champagne and some “travel” bottles of red. 

At this point we were starving so when we drove past a little farmers market that advertised Cheese Tastings we had to stop. We got to taste over 50 different kinds of cheeses. So , so, so good!

Red Newt This winery and cafe are a little off the beaten path, but so worth it! The wine is a bit pricier, but you can tell. (I swear I’m not a wine snob!). They had some of the best reds. After doing  a tasting we had lunch on their lovely patio. Let me tell you, BEST GRILLED CHEESE I EVER HAD. I could eat it for the rest of my life. 

Two Goats Brewing After lunch we popped into this little brewery. They don’t do tastings but they sell their own beer as well as other varieties. Ryan enjoyed one of their lagers and I enjoyed a hard cider. Fun place!

Finger Lakes Distilling Oddly, we finished our Finger Lakes weekend off at a distillery. Ryan and I (but mostly Ryan) tasted some vodka and whiskey. It was interesting to hear their process and look around the distilling company. 

It was a perfect weekend and on the drive home we started to dream about coming back sometime in fall to see the foliage and be there for the harvest. Truly a romantic escape that is on the cheaper side. I’ve always been dubbed as a beach girl and I’m surprised at how much I have fallen in love with the lakes and the mountains and the serene environment. 

Before our trips I researched for hours regarding which wineries and towns to visit and where to eat and stay. There are literally hundreds of wineries and you only have so much time.

Here is a summary listing of where we went and what we did:

Wineries

Keuka Lake:

Bully Hill Vineyards (western side)

Dr. Konstantin Frank (western side)

Ravines Wine Cellars (eastern side)

McGregor Vineyard (eastern side)

Seneca Lake:

Glenora Wine Cellars (western side)

Atwater Vineyards (eastern side)

Chateau LaFayette Reneau (eastern side)

Wagner Vineyards and Brewery (eastern side)

Leidenfrost Vineyards (eastern side)

Hazlelitt 1852 Vineyards (eastern side)

Red Newt (eastern side)

Two Goats Brewing (eastern side)

Finger Lakes Distilling (eastern side)

Where We Ate:

Bully Hill Vineyards (Hammondsport, Keuka Lake)

Snug Harbor (Hammondsport, Keuka Lake)

Union Block Italian Bistro (Hammondsport, Keuka Lake)

 Seneca Harbor Station (Watkins Glen, Seneca Lake)

Red Newt (Hector, Seneca Lake)

xoxo Katie

5 Friday Favorites – Gifts that Give Back

Five Friday Favorites

gifts that give back

It’s November 1, and do you know what that means? It’s officially okay to start thinking about Christmas! It’s been trying to push its way to the forefront of our minds since early October. Which even I can agree is a little to early. Give pumpkins a chance! But now that Halloween is over – it’s time to get ready for the most magical time of the year!

Halloween into Christmas

We love Christmas around here. In fact, I caught Ryan listening to Christmas music last Sunday while prepping dinner and lately every time I trek down into our basement, I swear I can hear the Christmas decorations begging me to take them out to play!

I’ve already started my Christmas shopping and thought I’d share some of my finds from stores that give back to charitable organizations. You’re going to be buying gifts anyways – why not give a gift that also gives support to those desperately in need? The benefits are three-fold – you’ll feel good about purchasing the gift, the receiver will receive a unique gift, and someone in need will be receiving support and motivation. Spread the love this holiday season!

There are SO many charitable organizations that sell gifts whose proceeds benefit their cause. It was hard to select my top 5. I based them all on the level of their donation. All of the products below donate at least 50% of the proceeds to their cause.  Here are 5 amazing organizations to add to your holiday shopping list!

1. Haiti Babi

 Baby Blankets – Perfect for the new mother

haiti babi blanket

Did you know that 1 in 10 children in Haiti live in an orphanage? Each purchase of a baby blanket employs a woman in Haiti in order for her to care for and educate her own children so they do not have to be sent to an orphanage. Help empower women whose empowerement will impact their family and community.  

2. Caring Cowls

Beautiful homemade  and fashionable acrylic scarves

caring cowls scarf

Caring Cowls is a small Etsy shop that made trendy and made to order scarves. All proceeds go to a charity. Currently, Caring Cowls is funding for Action Against Hunger. (A different charity is selected each year) I’ve ordered a scarf for myself and can’t wait to receive it!

3. One Hope Wine

Moderately priced wine

one hope wine

The perfect hostess gift of item to buy for that hard to shop for boss or friend who has it all – wine! One Hope sells a plethora of moderately priced wine and donates 50% of the proceeds go to charitable organizations and causes including:  breast cancer prevention and treatment, pediatric AIDS prevention and treatment, Autism research and treatment , US forest preservation and protection, and ending childhood hunger.  Since 2007, 1 million dollars have been raised. Drink up!

4. The Giving Keys

Motivational jewelry

The Giving KeysThe Giving Key is a organziation who employs and aids those who are looking to transition out of homelessness. They collect used keys and hand stamp them with motivational words, like Fearless, Believe, Hope, Love, and Breathe. When the wearer of the key encounters someone else who needs the message on the key, they give it away and then send us the story of their key being paid forward.

Founder Caitlin Crosby sums it up best, “I think its fascinating that pounding out positive words, over and over for hours can improve a persons well-being, hope and motivation. And when you know that each unique key is being paid forward and passed around the world to people who need a little inspiration… well, that makes all of us feel so grateful; makes us understand that we are part of a love movement.”

5. Threads by The Shine Project 

The Shine Project Threads by The Shine Project sells trendy and beautiful jewelry hand-made by at risk youths. 1 in 5 American children live in poverty. The Shine Project focus is on education. They employ at risk youth that wish to break the cycle and to attend college. Your purchase will directly impact a student. Each purchase helps to fund a young adult’s college education and empowers them to have hope and strive to accomplish their dreams.

Together, we can bring change! What other charitable organizations do you love to shop at? Please share and happy holidays.

Love each other.

xoxo katie

Five Friday Favorites 9-27-2013

Five Friday Favorites

Dedicating Friday to a list of 5 of my favorite things from this week. And because I love alliteration so much, they all must start with F.  Fun!

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Free Yourself

The dangers of social media – I wish I could give up social media – but I know I never will. I just love stalking everyone’s photos too much. That’s pretty much my favorite of social media, the photos. But yet, I find myself on Facebook and twitter way longer than I should be, wasting precious moments of my life. I’m guilty as the rest of the world – taking pictures of my food and stupid selfies.  How far will it go? I hope that in 10 years we’ll look back at this time and laugh to ourselves, “Remember when we were so obsessed with checking our phones every single minute? Remember when we could barely look our friends in the eye because it was so not the norm? Remember when we didn’t let ourselves feel feelings because we were so concerned with the feelings of others. Remember when we couldn’t prove that something happened unless it was documented on social media? I bet the leaves wouldn’t even have changed colors if we didn’t take 200 pictures of them. Remember when nothing was sacred? Remember when we forgot to live our lives?” I really hope that happens.

Inspired by this  post by a fellow “real” blogger Glennon: Six Reasons Social Media is Dangerous For Me  

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Flabbergasted

An open letter to the parents of the Stephentown 300

I’m just simply shocked that this happened. 300 students broke into NFL Brian Holloway’s home for an “epic” house party and destroyed his home. Worse – they documented all of the party preparations and party happenings on social media. It is estimated that there is over $20,000 in damages  and countless items were stolen. Even more shocking; Holloway refused to arrest any of the children. He’d rather help them from making such devastating choices in the future. You can view his personal website, including photos from the damage and screenshots from the students twitter updates here: http://www.helpmesave300.com/

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Fall TV

On a less serious note, all my friends are back on TV! Excited for:

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Fun Find!

Wine Cork Candles

wine cork candles

cute captioning

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We recently did a weekend in the Finger Lakes, NY wine country, and came home with a lot of souvenir wine bottles. I know you can use a simple taper in your wine bottle, but I found these on Amazon and thought they were so fun and cute!  What a great way to showcase your favorite wine bottles and memories. I think they’ll be perfect for outdoor occasions especially – just may want to fill the bottle with sand so it doesn’t tip over. A cheap gift for your wine lover friend. You can buy them on Amazon for under $12.00

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FICTION

The Light Between Oceans

I was memorized by the beauty of this book. Haunting, tragic, and beautiful all at the same time.

The Light Between Oceans

Have a nice weekend!

xoxo katie

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