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Switzerland and Germany

Swiss chard is my new favorite vegetable. It’s colorful and tasty. It’s spinach’s cooler cousin. We harvested lots of chard from our friend Jean’s garden. Jean and Gordon are friends of Dan’s, and they were generous enough to let us plug in at their house in Spokane.

Jean's Garden

Picking chard in Jean's garden

After that, we headed down to Leavenworth, a Bavarian themed town with craggy peaks, plenty of wineries and a beautiful river running through it.

Do you ever find yourself in a place, wishing you could share it with somebody who isn’t there? That’s the feeling I got in this town. It made me think of my dad’s side of the family, who takes a trip to Gatlinburg, Tennessee every year. They would LOVE this town. Apparently all of the Microsoft execs love the town, too. Just a couple hours from Redmond, it’s nicknamed Microsoft’s Playground.


Leavenworth town


Kirby lost a hub cap; battle wound.

Wine Tasting

Fourteen wine tasting rooms in town

Port Wine

Port wine sipper!

Wenatchee River

Wenatchee River


Schnitzel, red cabbage & spaetzle

Accordion Player

Accordion Player @ Andreas Keller


After a day in Cleveland, the Chicago area seemed like a good stopping point. We visited our friend and FBI agent, Adam. (That’s the real FBI, not a Female Body Inspector.) After a bike ride and some conversation about the place, we found ourselves on a little auto tour of Gary, Indiana.

This was another one of those eye-opening moments for me on the trip. There is much to say, but I will just comment on the sheer infrastructure of this once-booming steel town. Roofs collapsing; beautiful old churches with trees growing out of them; every building in disarray. I’m not sure if I was too amazed or too scared, but, camera in hand, I didn’t take a single photo.

Then, and on a much lighter note, we visited our friends Kyle and Megan at their beautiful house in the Chicago burbs. Who says spontaneity goes out the window when you’re pregnant? We went on a last minute trip to Megan’s folks’ place in New Buffalo. A charming Italian dinner, a few cocktails and “California Songs” were all we needed to take our minds off the looming road ahead.

New Buffalo

Terry, Kyle, Megan and future baby Emma on Lake Michigan

“California Songs” are a collection of albums put together by Megan’s uncle. All of the albums are compilations of artists who were influenced by the Beach Boys. There are hundreds of albums. This was a fabulous continuation of my Rock Hall kick, and the cd’s have provided some good ear candy along I-90.

Just a quick stop off at Two Toots (a train restaurant for kids, of course) so we could see Tim, Emily and the kids one last time, and we’re officially headed West! Thank you to everyone who continues to make our journey so amazing.

Eating and Leaning in New York State

Post-Canada, we were Buffalo-bound with the family for a reunion and tour of Carol and Dan’s home turf. It was neat to see where they grew up, pay our respects to Terry’s grandparents, and meet some of the extended family at the reunion.

I discovered that Buffalo is another one of America’s great eating cities. We ate Buffalo wings in the place where Buffalo wings were invented, and we partook in the delicious tradition that is “beef on weck” (thinly sliced beef on a salted kummelweck roll, and don’t forget the horseradish.)

Beef on Weck from Schwabl's

Beef on Weck from Schwabl's, in business since 1837

the family

The family at the house where Dan grew up

I would promise to stop blogging about food except that I know we are heading to the coast and have some fresh seafood in our near future. I suppose culinary exploration is a natural side effect of traveling across the U.S.  No complaints from me.

After the family reunion on Saturday, we veered east to the Adirondacks. The range is stunning, and dotted with little lake towns throughout. We did a mountain bike ride just outside of Lake Placid and settled in for our backpacking trip the next day.

Heeding the warnings from The Mountaineer in Keene Valley, we rented our bear barrel, packed our bags and charged out in the Gothics area. This was our first time staying in a lean-to! I’ve seen these many times on hikes in the East, but have never camped in one. We somehow avoided the forecasted rain, but were still grateful for the lean-to with all the morning dew.

sweet swimming holes

Terry at one of the sweet swimming holes in ADK

John's Brook

John's Brook

Range Trail heading towards Gothics

spooky range trail adk

our lean-to

Our own personal lean-to

Just south of there, we had a quick stint in the Catskills, in the cute town of Saugerties. Thanks to Brigid for letting us stop and plug in at her lovely home there. New York is a beautiful state in so many ways. And we aren’t even done with her yet!


Just kidding. This post will not be about Joey McIntyre and friends, although I did hear New Kids were touring this summer. (My advice? Give it up, Old Kids.)

This post is about NOTL –  Niagra on the Lake. This colorful little town has a lot to boast. It’s on Lake Ontario. The Niagra River flows nearby. Niagra Falls is just 20 miles away. It’s surrounded by wineries, theaters, and has some really good eats.

We were lucky to spend some nice days with Terry’s family in NOTL. We took in the scenery, some ice cream and a few glasses of wine. We laughed over and over watching the kids (and Uncle T) belly flop into the backyard pool. We rode our bikes along the river to the falls, and enjoyed lunch in their mist. Thanks, Carol & Dan for the lovely stay here.

Carol & Kim

Carol & Kim at the house on Shakespeare Lane.

High Tech Kids

High tech kids on their iPad

Niagra River

Biking to Niagra Falls

Niagra Falls

That boat where you get soaked.

Niagra Falls

Looking down river from Niagra Falls


The Willows

Back to what I was saying about camp…

The Willows is the camp on my dad’s side of the family. Like a lot of things in Cincy, it’s just up the river. Same concept, but in many ways different from Sharp’s. I have funny memories of my sister, cousins and I getting into mischief down there. Who needs TV and video games when you have great places like these growing up?



Little Aubrie. It was her 2nd birthday.


The old swing


I dare the kids to waterballoon themselves.

waterballoons 2

The girls decide to go for it.


The building in front of which Grandpa used to take all of the timed family photos. I swear he never made it there before the flash.


The old piano. Might have been through a flood or two.

g-ma and dad

G-Ma and Dad keepin' it real in spite of the heat.

full deck

Does anybody, really?

Someday, A Green Thumb

I came home to discover that my mom has a green thumb! Who knew? Barb’s Deck Garden is a nice little sanctuary right out the back door. So much can be grown in pots… cucumber, zucchini, tomatoes, peppers, strawberries, herbs. You name it. She’s even got some pumpkins in pots.

moms deck garden

Lots of pretty colors

It’s certainly a hobby to aspire to, once one does not live in a van. But for now my mobile garden consists of the two tiniest little succulents I could find. I have manged to keep them alive. I did not say they were flourishing, mind you. But alive nonetheless, and succeeding at making the van feel a bit more like home.

Just Away Down the River

Our Cincinnati trips always involve bouncing back and forth between our parents’ houses. On the other end of the 275 belt loop and just over the Indiana border (where gambling and fireworks are legal) is the fun little town of Lawrenceburg. Terry’s parents’ neighborhood, Hidden Valley Lake, is a real gem, and one of the best places I know of to just relax. I have truly loved having the time to read and chill on this trip.

But it’s not all Frankie Goes to Hollywood. The people there love to play, too, as evidenced by the boats, tubes, slip and slides, volleyball, hiking trails, beaches and more, all without leaving the neighborhood. Beyond the hood, there are free weekly concerts, casino boats, even a ski resort. A few of our highlights were a nice evening kayak trip, hot and sweaty golf, and dinner at historic Whiskys.

Full Moon Over HIdden Valley Lake

Full moon over Hidden Valley Lake

music on the river

Terry & Mom at the Thursday Music on the River Concert


A little evening kayaking and birding

chillin at hvl

Chillin' out maxin' at HVL

Golf with David

Golf with David in Dearborn County


Where, if you eat everything on your plate, you get to ride the pony.

Goin’ Down to Camp

A few years back at my bridal shower, we played a game where my sister had asked Terry some questions and I had to give the answer I thought he chose. Wasn’t that a famous tv game show back in the day? One of the questions they asked was “what is Emily’s favorite place in Cincinnati?” Easy. We both got that one: camp.

Camp is a place on the river where all of the family can gather. To get away from the house. To get outside. To watch the boats and barges float by. To play a game of volleyball, drink a few suds and feel the breeze under the walnut trees.

Actually, my parents met at the “old camps”. The short version is that their camps were next to one another’s and they would join together for volleyball games. The rest is history. A fire destroyed those camps but both sides of my family still have camps on the river. One is Sharp’s Camp and the other is The Willows. Here are some pictures of Sharp’s.

The Docks

The Docks

tube wars

Tube Wars: Terry & Zack

Mom and Me

Mom and Me

Kelly & Niki

Kelly & Niki on the Pontoon

the docks

This picture looks serene but floating docks on the fluctuating Ohio can be a real pain.

4th of July Parade

The annual 4th of July street parade


Minutes before the real volleyball game and my dad tearing his achilles tendon...yowch!


Yikes! Somebody adjust my camera settings. It's definitely lush down there but not quite this neon.

Pappy Bob

Pappy Bob on his tractor

Terry and Fosky

Terry and Fosky on the house boat

houseboat hosts

Our house boat hosts, Sandy & Jerry