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Roadtrip to the Kentucky Bourbon Trail

By:  Nicole

As much as we love traveling internationally, sometimes we forget what gems we have in our own backyard. We experienced one of those treasures this weekend. With a drive southbound– down I-65 through Indianapolis & Louisville, and a short ride on I-64, we discovered Kentucky Bourbon Country. This was going to be a weekend of bluegrass, bourbon distillery tours and southern cuisine.

Our home base would be Woodford Inn, located in the historical town of Versailles, Kentucky. Our drive took us through gorgeous farmlands dotted with renowned stables known to bear champion Kentucky thoroughbreds and Kentucky Derby winners.

When we arrived, much to our surprise, a band was setting up on the front lawn for an evening of bluegrass music under the old oak trees! After a long day of driving, we decided to relax outside while enjoying good southern cuisine via Addie’s Restaurant at the Inn, along with flavorful southern beats provided by Shades of Grass. Area folks arrived and settled themselves on the lawn outside of the Inn. Shades of Grass plays a variety blend of bluegrass and country music. It was a beautiful evening.

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After a restful stay at the inn, we embarked to the Woodford Reserve Distillery the next morning.  Woodford is surrounded by endless green rolling hills and a short ride from the Inn. The Woodford reserve distillery is a national historic landmark as the distillery has been in existence for about 200 years! They only produce small batches of bourbon that are aged in the last stone warehouse in America. We really enjoyed our tour here.

A late lunch of crawfish pie and fried oysters at Rick’s White Light Diner in Frankfort was just what we needed after the tour and tasting at Woodford. Most of the meat served at RWLD is from Kentucky family farmers and all of the seafood is fresh from US coasts. Rick stands behind the organic way of cuisine. The diner has been featured on Diners, Drive-ins and Dives with host Guy Fieri who left his trademark signature on the diner wall.

We needed to walk off our fulfilling lunches so we drove to Midway for the Francisco’s Farm Arts
Festival. The farm is at Equus Run Vineyards, the official licensee of the 138th Kentucky Derby Commemorative Wines. The juried fine art festival was spread out across the vineyard. It made for an enjoyable afternoon strolling among the vines and art with a cool glass of chardonnay.

The drive back to the Inn from the arts festival took us through rolling pastures and oak tree lined roadways. With the windows down, we were immersed in the spirit of horse country. Tomorrow we were going to explore Makers Mark Distillery.

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Vegetable adirondack chairs at the farm

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By: Jen

Driving westbound out of Chicago for a couple of hours means one of two things for us– a soccer tournament or visiting the farm! Two totally different experiences yet there is a subtle connection. A healthful diet leads to a healthful body which in turn moves with ease to tackle the most challenging of sports maneuvers.

We love to visit the farm and I love to paint for Kelley Road Farms. The Vegetable Adirondack chairs were born out of love for everything sustainable at the farm. Each chair back has its own fluid mosaic patterning of nature’s bounty. The arms represent the wide open midwestern skies and the face of the chairs beckon you to explore the endless fields.

Our very good friends are the proprietors of Kelley Road Farms in Caledonia, IL. Their mission is rooted in the time honored knowledge of cooking through family life. All of their adventures incorporate their own naturally-grown produce as a signature ingredient. They grow their own vegetables without the use of chemicals or pesticides and incorporate additional local produce and organic ingredients to round out their authentic food creations. The future is very bright for Tom and Drew as they continue to build their facility, research and develop their product line and bring their vision into the marketplace.

Pull out your adirondacks and enjoy the calm and peaceful days of summer!

The boys of summer are all on the pitch during euro2012

By: Jen

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Years ago, after arriving at our local field for youth “football” training, I took special notice of our houseguest, a young English coach who was staying with us while he was working in America. He was in a state of shock– his face ashen. A local international footballer showed up to this training session. An incredible athlete was sitting on the sidelines to enjoy a beautiful summer day with his family.

“Don’t you know that back in England, if commoners were this close to an athlete of this stature, that he would be mauled with cameras and autograph seekers?!”
“Really?” I responded, not understanding the magnitude of the moment for this young coach.
I looked in my new friend’s eyes and said “You are going to do just fine with your session. Carry on like you always do and it will be okay”.

That week came and went, but it gave me a glimpse into “the beautiful game.” As an American, I had no idea how much I would grow to love the sport of soccer, er… I mean “football”. Nicole and I attended our first international match with close friends during the 1996 Atlanta Olympics. It was Mexico v. Africa. The pageantry of the fans was alluring. We developed a taste for the game. That match poster is proudly framed at home!

As years have unfolded, football has brought much joy into life. The “full on” tour of Camp Nou in Barcelona is a religious experience. Seeing Lionel Messi play before your eyes is mesmerizing. I would have never taken it as seriously as I did except that two of our footballer friends had “strongly recommended” going. How did they know we would love it so much? My son, kissing the pylons of the stadium upon departure, saying “See you next time!”

Don’t get me wrong. I realize there is a very dark side to the game which is lightly illustrated in the book “How Soccer Explains the World” by Frank Foer. There are so many varying opinions on the violence, racism or mega bucks that are infused by outside investors into any particular club. “The Two Escobars” is a chilling documentary on the state of affairs in Colombia during the 1990’s when drug cartels mixed with the obsession of football.

There is nothing better during World Cup or euro2012 to be in the market and strike up a conversation with a complete stranger because they see the jersey you are wearing. There is so much community in this game, a passion that I don’t see in other sports. The boys of summer couldn’t have come at a better time! There is nothing more desirable than sneaking in a mid-day match to see who advances in the tournament. Facebook bristles with commentary from friends we have made across the globe. It’s downright fun to be involved. For those die-hard American football and baseball sports fans, I have one thing to say in response to your “glorified kick-ball” opinion. You are so, so mistaken.

In honor of the euro2012 matches, I’m including a list of “nicknames” for each of the participating teams. Some names are very lively and filled with passion and some not so much. I particularly enjoy the cross section of group three. Nothing brings a bigger smile to my face than when I see that secret message printed on the inside of the Netherlands jersey, just opposite of the logo on the breast of the shirt… Oranje Leeuwen (Orange Lions)…

It makes football laundry a little more enjoyable for this soccer mom.

Group 1
Russia- Sbornaya (National Team)
Czech Republic- Nároďák (The National Team)
Poland- Bialo Czerwoni (The Whites and Reds)
Greece- To Piratiko (The Pirate Ship)

Group 2
Germany- Nationalmannschaft (National Team)
Portugal- Selecção das Quinas (National Team of Shields)
Demark- Danish Dynamite, Olsen-Banden (The Olsen Gang)
Netherlands- The Oranje (The Orange), Clockwork Orange

Group 3
Spain- La Furia Roja (The Red Fury)
Croatia- Vatreni (The Fiery Boys)
Italy- Azzuri, (Sky Blues)
Republic of Ireland (The Boys in Green)

Group 4
France- (Les Bleus)
England- (The Three Lions)
Ukraine- Zbirna (National Team)
Sweden- Blågult (The Blues and Yellows), Kronos (The Crowns)

June Vegetable Garden

As promised in the Vegetable Garden Box DIY post last month, I have new photos to show you of the progress in the garden so far. A couple of un-seasonal hot days gave all the plants a jolt and the cool nights have been rewarding to the tender lettuces. Everything is coming along nicely except for some pesky beetle that has been creating havoc on our eggplants. We even cheated and prematurely picked some baby zucchinis that we toasted up on the grill. Delish!

Did you plant a vegetable garden this year? Have you harvested any veggies yet?

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Shopping for Fabrics in Paris

By: Nicole

Wherever my travels may take me, I always make it a point to seek out a local fabric store. A couple yards of fabric can be the perfect souvenir. During a quick trip to Paris, I found myself exploring the fabric shops in the Paris neighborhood of Montemarte (18e); Anvers Metro stop. The Montemarte fabric shops are scattered over a couple blocks at the foot of the Sacré Coeur Basilica gardens. Many of the shops offer similar items but you can easily spend a good part of the day exploring this area.

Montemarte Paris France

Sacre-Coeur Basilica

Start your day at Sacre-Coeur and enjoy one of the best views of Paris from the Basilica’s front entrance. After your visit, walk down the stairs through the park and you have arrived! Montemarte – the discount fabric district!

Before you start shopping, familiarize yourself with some specifics:
Tissus = fabric
Coupons = remnants
vente en gros = wholesale only
vente en detail = open for retail customers

I started at Marché Saint-Pierre. Five floors of sewing heaven, everything and anything you could possibly be looking for as their website states.  Shop associates are standing by and ready to cut your fabric requirements.

2008-08-11_c_Déballage Marché Saint-Pierre-01

2008-08-11_c_Déballage Marché Saint-Pierre-01 (Photo credit: pakitt)

Across the street from Marché Saint-Pierre is Tissus Reine. Also a large store, expect to peruse through 3 floors of fabric closeouts. What you see in the store today may not be there tomorrow, as with all of the remnant (“Coupons”) shops.

Tissus Reine

Tissus Reine

Just down the street from Tissus Reine at 2 Rue Livingstone, is Moline. Moline actually stretches the equilivent of several fabric shops. As with most of the fabric shops, bolts of fabric and bins of remnants stacked up near the shop entrances entice you into another fabric haven. It was here that I purchased finely woven pink & cocoa plaid wool that is reminiscent of Coco Chanel.

Moline

Moline

My last stop for the day was MBF Décoration at 10 rue d’Orsel. This is a tiny upholstery fabric shop where I purchased a gorgeous multi-color confetti pattern on a white background. I have plans on using this material for a festive summer clutch purse.

MBF Décoration

MBF Décoration

If you plan on traveling to Paris with the intention of fabric shopping, I recommend traveling to the Montemarte neighborhood. Tucked in between the fabric shops are your haberdasheries & notion speciality shops. You can easily spend the day here as there are many cafes and coffee shops to give you a good break before your next stop.

Be sure to say bonjour or merci to the shop assistant upon entering or exiting their establishment.

Traveling to Paris for some fabric shopping? I would love to know where you ventured, what you purchased and what you will be designing with your fabulous fabric from France!

Walking from his studio home to the Louvre… a day with Eugène Delacroix.

Tackling the Louvre can be an immense challenge. On my last trip to Paris, I decided to start my day at the espresso bar followed by a metro ride to The Place de Furstenberg where Eugene resided from 1857 through his death in 1863. Musée National Eugène Delacroix is located right off of this square within the Saint-Germain-des-Prés neighborhood. Commuting from the Opera District to the leafy and quiet neighborhood where this small museum resides, becomes soothing for the soul. The decibel level dwindles upon your arrival. It is here where you can quietly study the life of this great artist.

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Paintings, drawings and engravings are displayed throughout the museum along with collected items from Eugene’s trip to Northern Africa in 1832. Although Eugene was not an avid traveler, Morocco proved to be life changing. He produced thousands of watercolors during his stay. This body of work served him well as he referred back to these compositions for future paintings. New explorations led to radical changes in his artistry. Four of these seven journals are archived at the Louvre and at Chantilly.

The rest of the day was spent walking through the Rive Gauche to and over the River Seine to discover Eugene’s work in the Louvre. Rather than running like a crazy person to see the Mona Lisa, I visited Room 77 on the first floor of the Denon Wing where Delacroix’s massive works can be found.

Liberty Leading the People, Eugène Delacroix

Liberty Leading the People, Eugène Delacroix

Exploring the home and studio, soaking in the street life of the left bank and then entering the gallery where Delacroix’s pieces are exhibited, makes for an impactful experience that is all about Romanticism. More Delacroix works can be found in the Sully Wing as well as a ceiling mural in the Apollo Gallery within the Denon Wing.

Admission to the Musée National Eugène Delacroix is included on the same day you’ve purchased a ticket for admission to the Louvre. If you have purchased a Paris Museum Pass, it is my recommendation to enter the museum at the Passage Richelieu on the north side of the museum to avoid long queues. You will see a small entrance with guards. Enter here with your pass and after check-in, proceed down the escalators and you are in the museum. It’s that easy.

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