Finger Lakes Soap Co.

This past week I had an opportunity to go to Van Etten, NY. Of course my first thought was seeing the fall foliage along the way. This time of year the hills of the Finger Lakes region are dotted with red, gold and orange. The views are breathtaking!

As I was driving along I passed a sign for Finger Lakes Soap Co. Of course I was intrigued and had to stop. Boy was I happy I did! This cute, little shop is worth checking out.

When you walk in, the amazing smells will instantly surround you! As you would expect from the name, they have a variety of soaps but I also found candles, shampoo’s and so much more.

The scents are all made with a local twist. The Macintosh apple hand soap smells like you just bit into a juicy apple plucked right from the tree. I couldn’t resist bringing a bottle home!

If you are looking to take a relaxing drive to do some leaf peeping, head toward Van Etten. These winding back roads are perfect for viewing the fall colors and they will take you right by the Finger Lakes Soap Co. Do yourself a favor and stop in to look around and smell the delicious scents. If you want to check them out before you go their website is http://www.fingerlakessoap.com

A funny little side note – I realized after I got back home, the hand soap in my bathroom was made by the Finger Lakes Soap Co. I bought it at a winery over the summer. It smells amazing!

Thanks for exploring with me – Shelly

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Chamberlain Acres Indoor Market

After a very busy Saturday this past weekend, I decided to spend Sunday relaxing while shopping. Whenever possible, I shop local and it doesn’t get much more local than the farmers market at Chamberlain Acres.

The Chamberlain Acres nursery and garden center is located at 824 Broadway St. Elmira, NY. When you arrive you will see a large Victorian home. Trust me and follow the driveway leading behind the home. As you make the turn you will see a beautiful flower nursery expanding in front of you.

The market runs every Sunday, year round. You will find it located inside a greenhouse in the middle of the three acre flower garden. The setting is beautiful and very tranquil giving you a relaxed setting to stroll around and check out locally made goods. When the weather takes an unpleasant turn you will stay warm and dry inside this large greenhouse full of vendors.

This past Sunday I found handmade scarves and hats, hand painted holiday decorations and lots of beautiful mums perfect for fall decorating.

I had a very interesting conversation with Amy from SteAmy Farms LLC. Amy and her husband Steve produce honey in Woodhull, NY. She was very informative about all the health benefits of honey. I tasted several flavors, which were all yummy, while she told me honey can also be used as a face cleaner or to heal cuts. I never knew that! She is a fountain of information. Be sure to stop by and chat with her.

As I made my way around I came to the booth for Seneca Sunrise Coffee. They have a large variety of coffee infused items such as Coffee Infused Maple Syrup. If you are a coffee fanatic you need to check them out.

While I was there I saw several people making their own hand-painted pottery. Artist Colleen McCall will direct you in the technique to paint your own plate or bowl. You can free hand your own design or use a pattern to trace on the clay and then color it in. The completed ones are beautiful!

I was told the vendors do change from time to time so you will want to go back for a few visits to make sure you see all this area has to offer. There is amazing talent right here in our own backyard. For more information visit their website at http://www.chamberlainacres.com.

If you are looking for a true, locally made experience you need to take a drive to the Chamberlain Acres Farmers Market. With the fall foliage really starting to pop you can take a beautiful drive down 352 along the Chemung River to get there. Remember to keep you eyes open for a bald eagle. They have been spotted in the Big Flats and Elmira area around the river.

Thanks for exploring with me – Shelly

Flying Down A Mountain

Today we decided to go exploring at Greek Peak Ski Resort in Cortland, NY. I know what you are thinking, “Why would you go to a ski resort when there’s no snow on the ground”? Well let me tell you; this place is awesome!

We started with the mountain coaster. This little plastic car can really fly! There is a height requirement for riding by yourself. I barely made it!

The guy running the ride straps you in, tells you the lever is the brake and sends you on your way up the mountain. The ride up is very peaceful and pretty. You can look around at all the fall foliage. I was told I could keep my phone out on the way up but once I see the brown building at the top I have to put it away quick. And they weren’t joking!

Once you crest the top you go down quick! That little, yellow car flies with twists and turns back down the side of the mountain. It is so cool to watch the blur of yellow and golden leaves go flying by.

After the mountain coaster we headed over to the zip line course. You will need reservations to do the zip line. This is a popular one so make sure you sign up a few days in advance. There were 11 people in our group and three guides. They were very entertaining and definitely added to the fun of the adventure.

We started by getting all the safety gear on. There are several harnesses, a helmet and you carry your zip line trolley with you from line to line. To say the least you are loaded down with lots of heavy equipment. Then we head out for the four line course.

The best news is the first line is right outside the door from the prep room. You walk outside and you are there. They hook you on the line and off you go! The ride is awesome! You are flying over the tree tops. It is such an amazing feeling! Until you reach the landing. Be forewarned…when you are coming in for the landing the guide will give you a hand signal to pull your legs up and lean back in your harness because you are going to hit a spring loaded pad that is a jarring, sudden stop. Then you bounce a few times before the guide gets you stopped and unhooked.

To reach the second line we took the “magic carpet” or conveyor belt up the side of the mountain. It’s a slow moving belt but to be honest it is difficult to keep your balance since it is going up hill and you are loaded down with gear. You do have the option of walking up the hill if you want.

Once you reach the top you are at the platform for the next line. This one is longer than the first one so you have more time to enjoy looking at the fall foliage below you as you fly by.

To reach line three its a short hike back to the conveyor belt and then back up the hill. This line is shorter but much faster than the first two. When you land this time you walk down a short platform and you are at the start of Line four.

Line four was by far my favorite. It is the longest one and the highest one. You really get to soar on this one! From start to finish it took almost two hours to complete the four line course. It was such an amazing experience. I highly recommend it you try it!

At the Greek Peak Adventure Center they also offer an Aerial course (High Ropes) and a Eurobungy Trampoline. You can purchase package tickets or pay an individual price for each adventure. You will want to check availability during the winter time.

A tip for you – we found out after we got there on Saturday’s they offered a 20% discount if you wear plaid or flannel. Check online for their specials before you go.

Thanks for exploring with me – Shelly

I ran Corning’s Wineglass Marathon

A heavy mist blankets the air as I walk to my car. I tell myself I must be crazy for doing this. It’s 5:00 am. The world is still sleeping around me as I drive. After parking in Corning its a short walk to a row of buses. As I climb on-board I can feel the nervous excitement in the air. I think to myself, “This is it. Once this bus pulls away I’m committed. There’s no turning back now!” And then we are off.

The bus is taking us to Campbell High School where we will start our 13.1 mile trek back to Market St. in Corning. There are other runners who will go all the way to Bath for the full marathon, 26.2 miles. I wish them good luck as I exit the bus. Who knows, maybe someday I will work up the nerve to continue the trip to Bath but for today my goal is to complete my first half marathon.

As we enter the school there are hundreds of other runners getting ready. Some are sitting on the gym floor relaxing. Others are stretching and warming up. The air is electrified and intense with nervous chatter of “I hope I can do this” and “We have trained for this”. The buzz of encouragement is all around.

The start time is drawing near so they move us outside to the starting line. There are pace runners holding signs showing the time for that section. While training for this race, me and my running partner, Dawn, have been averaging just over three hours. We decided to get in the two and a half hour pace pack hoping this will push us and help us to stay on pace for three hours. To be realistic we set a goal to finish in three and a half hours.

As I wait at the starting line I feel my palms start to sweat. My stomach is rolling with waves of nausea and I question for the hundredth time if I should have gone to the bathroom one more time. No matter how many races I do I always feel sick while waiting at the starting line. There is something about that moment when you are surrounded by hundreds of people yet you feel so alone and anxious. And just when you think oh God I might throw up the gun goes off and we start moving.

With hundreds of people moving around me I feel myself being pulled into motion. We are packed together so the first half mile or so is pretty slow. As people spread out our pace picks up and we settle in.

For me the first mile is always the hardest. I never know if my body is going to loosen up and go or tighten up and fight me the whole way. Thankfully, everything loosened up and we set a nice even pace.

By mile three the sun is up and I can feel the sweat trickling down my neck. It is time to start shedding some layers. The side of the road is a sea of color from the multitude of sweatshirts people are tossing aside. I also see gloves and hats scattered around as we continue on. The wineglass marathon collects these items and donates them to a homeless shelter so these items will not be left to litter the roadside.

At mile six I am feeling really good. So far we are keeping pace with the 2.5 hour pack. To be honest I am ecstatic about this. I really thought I would have walked or slowed down by this point. One thing that really helped keep us moving is the app on our phone where friends keep sending us songs and sayings of encouragement. It is really cool to hear the Rocky theme song just start playing or someone yelling “you got this” when you are running out of energy. I am so thankful to my friends who sent hundreds of messages to keep us inspired and moving.

The course from Campbell to Corning is fairly flat. The first half takes you past several farms and lots of cornfields. There are water stations set up along the way. I have learned from running multiple 5K’s don’t drink the water. Swish it around your mouth and spit it out. When I drink the water I feel it sloshing around in my stomach for the rest of the race. It is a horrible feeling.

As we move closer to Corning things are going good and then came mile nine. This is where I hit a wall! I knew from training that mile nine was always my enemy. We are still in the two and a half hour pace pack at this point. Now we decide to slow down some and even walk a little bit. My body is tightening up and starting to ache. The doubts come barreling in like a locomotive. And then like an angel in the dark I see it. Just ahead there is a lady handing out popsicles. I will never know her name but I can never thank her enough! I slowly ate my popcicle as I walked mile nine. This little bit of a sugar lift gave me the boost I needed to keep moving.

As we hit mile ten we told ourselves this is just another 5K. We can do this! We picked up the pace again. At this point we are just ahead of the three hour pace pack. The course is now moving through Painted Post and goes into a park. The park is filled with people cheering us on. It is just the motivation I needed at this point. There were multiple signs with sayings like “You can do it!”, “Just keep moving!” and my personal favorite “Smile! You paid to do this!”. Mile ten was behind us in no time.

Now we are in Corning closing in on the finish. As I turn the corner to enter Market Street, I can see the finish line up ahead. The street is lined with people cheering us on. My heart speeds up as I realize I am actually going to do this! And then I hear “Go Mamaw!” I look over and see my family shouting and waving. I am not one to cry but seeing them made the tears start to run down my face.

And then I cross the finish line! I can’t begin to describe the feeling of excitement, astonishment and relief that flowed over me at that moment. It is one of those moments you need to experience to truly understand. I have a whole new respect for people who train and push their bodies to their maximum limit yet still find an inner strength to go just one step more.

That was two years ago when I completed my first and only, so far, half marathon. Now thousands of runners are getting ready to run that same course again this weekend. If you are running the Wineglass this weekend I wish you all the best. If you are not running then please consider going out and encouraging the runners. Believe me having people cheer you on will lift you up and keep you moving!

Thanks for exploring with me – Shelly

Apple Picking Fun!

The epitome of fall family fun in the Finger Lakes region has to be apple picking so this weekend we loaded up the car and headed off to Reisinger Apple Farm. Located on Apple Lane in Watkins Glen you will find acres of apple trees, over 20 different varieties of apples are available on over 10,000 trees. Make sure you check the schedule to know which apples are ready. You can check their website at http://www.reisingersapplecountry.com to see the list for “Now Picking”. We wanted the Snapdragons which were ripe this past weekend.

To make it easier for roaming around the orchards they have wagons to pull the smaller kids. The older kids will find a cute playground area with plenty of photo opportunities including the obligatory big chair. There are also hay bales just right for climbing all over. Then it is off to pick apples! We strolled through acres of different trees looking for the perfect red, juicy, ripe apple. We found lots! My grandson loved to taste test them as he went. He would give us the thumbs up when he found the perfect one. Then we would pick several from that tree to fill up our bag. I can smell the apple pie baking already!

At Reisinger’s you will find pumpkins, squash, apple cider and much more to go along with your apples. There is even a beautiful flower garden you can walk through and pick flowers to purchase.

If you are looking for a fun family activity this fall you should definitely put apple picking on your list!

A tip for you – after apple picking at Reisinger’s you can go about a mile down the road and see the Elk Park. I have heard for years they will be opening to the public but so far it is still closed. You can however see some of the Elk from the road so it is worth the trip to check it out. Just look at the beauties we spotted this weekend. As my husband likes to say, NICE RACK!

Thanks for exploring with me – Shelly

I made a glass pumpkin!

If you are looking for a unique fall experience when you are in the Finger Lakes region, it doesn’t get much better than making your own glass pumpkin at The Corning Museum of Glass. Corning Glass, which is found in Corning, NY offers an amazing glass museum, gift shop and hands on experiences at making glass items. It is well worth spending a day to go to a glass show, explore the museum and make your own glass souvenir. This weekend I decided to go to the Corning Studio which is across the parking lot from the actual museum to make a blown glass pumpkin.

Every year, for a limited time, The Corning Museum of Glass offers the public an opportunity to make their own blown glass pumpkins. Since it is limited, make sure you reserve your spot. They do fill up fast so go online and book it early. We signed up several weeks ago at a cost of $32.00 each. Not bad considering they sell the pumpkins in the museum starting around $34.00 and up. And this will be your own creation.

When you arrive you go in the front lobby to sign in. Then you are directed to the studio area. We were in the 2:00 group. You will want to go a few minutes early to pick out your colors from the display. For our pumpkins we were given the option of two colors in the body and one color for the stem. I stayed pretty traditional choosing a red pumpkin with yellow flakes running through it and a green stem. My Mother In Law was more adventurous and went with a purple pumpkin with black flecks and a black stem. There are lots of colors to choose from so you can be as creative as you want.

When its time to start they give you safety googles to wear and if you are like me and like your flip flops, you will be given leather flaps to put over your feet. Basically the rule is no open toed shoes. There are four workstations. Our time slot was full so eight people total. Since me and my Mother In Law were together she went first. I waited outside the plexiglass divider. You can easily see everything and take pictures from there.

The glassblower takes a long, hollow, metal tube and dips it in the melted glass. She starts it out by placing the glass in the oven and heating it to 2100 degrees. She then blows in the tube and rotates it around. Once she gets it started she dips the melted glass in the colors you picked out. Then back in the oven it goes. When she pulls it out this time she puts it in a mold to give it ridges then it is your turn to blow in the tube. To keep it all sanitary they have alcohol swabs to clean the tube and then cardboard cylinders you put over the tube. You then blow in the tube while the glassblower rotates the metal pipe. This expands the melted glass and forms your pumpkin. It is so cool to watch these chunks of glass be formed into a cute pumpkin.

The glassblower will keep warming it in the oven as needed and bringing it back over for you to blow in the tube until the pumpkin is fully formed. Then she adds the stem and twirls it around to make it really cute. At this point the pumpkin is so hot you can’t see the true color. They put the pumpkin in a big oven to cool off slowly and set up. Because of this process you will need to leave it over night. Since we live nearby I went back today to pick ours up. If you are visiting our area the Corning Studio will ship your pumpkin to you.

One tip I will give you if you are planning to go make your own blown glass pumpkin; stop by the Corning Museum gift shop ahead of time. They have lots of already made pumpkins. This will give you an idea of different color combinations. Seeing the finished products will help you decide what you want to do for your own pumpkin.

This is a really awesome experience. When you are in the Finger Lakes area you will definitely want to take a day to explore the museum and make your own glass item. They offer a variety of items all year long so there is always something you can make. I am planning to go back in a couple months to make a Christmas ornament!

Thanks for exploring with me – Shelly

Sunset Hike at Sperr Park

Tucked away in Big Flats, NY is a hiking trail that will give you an amazing sunset view. The trail runs beside a pond that is home to a multitude of wildlife. Tonight the atmosphere was alive with the sounds of birds and other musical creatures. As we made our way down the trail we watched the color display of purple fading to pink then exploding with gold as the sun slowly dipped down to kiss the sky goodnight.

This now beautiful, peaceful park had a somber beginning. State Trooper Andrew J. Sperr was killed in the line of duty in an empty field by two bank robbers. This field is now known as Sperr Park and dedicated to his memory. It has been transformed into a memorial park for Trooper Sperr and other law enforcement who’s lives were lost in the line of duty.

There is a narrow strip of land that branches off the main trail and runs in between the two ponds that make up Sperr Park. This area is full of wildflowers and has a raw, natural beauty. There are benches scattered around this section of the park with memorial plaques to honor law enforcement officers. You will even find a large rock with a plaque in honor of K9 officers. As you make your way around this area, you will come to a large stone engraved with Andrew J. Sperr’s picture and the details of what happened that fateful day, March 1, 2006.

Trooper Sperr’s family and friends have done an amazing job transforming this tragic area into a place of hope and joy. Along with hiking and fishing, there is a pavilion and small playground area for family fun. Throughout the park you find areas with whimsical details that will bring a smile to your face. This is a wonderful place to visit for a hike and to remember the first responders who put their lives on the line everyday.

Thanks for exploring with me – Shelly

Fall Fun in the Finger Lakes

When the air turns crisp and the breathtaking landscape of the region is transformed into a spectacle of color the Finger Lakes region comes alive with fun fall activities. You will find several places for apple picking with the family, pumpkin farms with lots of activities for the kids and what is quickly becoming popular – Corn Mazes!

This weekend I had a chance to try out my first corn maze at Trinity Valley Dairy Farm in Cortland, NY. This farm is super cute and a great place to spend some quality family time. They have a cute gift shop that is full of home made pastries and pies. After picking out the items to take home we are off to try out our hand in the corn maze.

I will admit I thought it would be a quick, kid type thing to do. Boy was I wrong! First of all the maze is designed to look like a barn with a big silo. I guess if you look at it from up above that is what you see. Hats off to the designer that can pull that off! And it is huge! It spreads out over 7 acres of land. Which happens to run up a hill!

When we paid – $7.00 per person – we were given a trivia card. There are 6 stations inside the corn maze. When you find the station you have to answer the question that corresponds with that station. A tip – if you are with a group don’t assume you all have the same questions. There are a variety of cards.

We entered the maze at 11:15 in search of station #1. After twisting, turning and running into multiple dead ends we finally found it. Then up the hill we hiked to find the rest. Once we found #6 over 45 minutes had gone by. Now it was time to head down hill and back toward the exit. We finally made it out at exactly 1 hour! There is a reward for hiking up a hill, getting lost in a corn maze for an hour to answer your trivia questions. You get a fresh made donut! I do have to admit that was one of the best tasting donuts I have ever eaten! Of course it could have been that I was starving from climbing a hill in the hot sun for the past hour. Whatever the case may be it was melt in your mouth delicious!

They do have other kid activities at Trinity Valley Farm. There are wagon rides pulled by a tractor. A small animal petting area with a couple of adorable goats, sheep and calves. There is an awesome climbing area made out of tractor tires and a nice shaded pavilion to sit, relax and enjoy your day at the farm.

Thanks for exploring with me – Shelly

A Day at Seneca Lake Wineries

After yesterday’s exhilarating but exhausting day of exploring the Finger Lakes, today I decided to go for a more relaxing day. If you are looking for laid back, easy going enjoyment it doesn’t get much better than sipping wine while viewing Seneca Lake.

The drive up the left side of Seneca Lake from Watkins Glen is one of the most scenic views you will ever see. Patchwork like swatches of land cover the opposite side as you overlook the lake. The water, dotted with sail boats, sparkles in the sunlight.

We made our first stop at Belhurst Castle for lunch. The food was delicious and the views are phenomenal. We chose to sit outside on the stone patio. They only have five tables outside so we did have a short wait to get a table. If you don’t want to wait they have indoor seating in two different restaurants. Stonecutters is casual dining and Edgar’s Steakhouse is formal. Both offer a castle atmosphere with beautiful woodwork but Edgar’s has more in terms of castle ambience. If you want to enjoy outdoor seating you will need to go to Stonecutters. On a picture perfect day like today, I highly recommend sitting outside and taking in the lake view.

After a relaxing lunch we were off for wine tasting. Seneca Lake offers numerous wineries all featuring a multitude of dry and sweet wines grown and produced right here in the Finger Lakes Region. I chose to start at Seneca Shore Wine Cellars. This winery is known as “Medieval Wines of the Finger Lakes”. The ladies pouring for us told us the story of the Locavore Movement; Eat and Drink Local. A Medieval king knew everyone who grew his grapes and made his wine. His wine was locally grown and locally made by local people. When you walk in you will be greeted by a medieval theme and whimsical creatures. I prefer sweet wine and really liked the Castle Blush.

From here we continued South back toward Watkins Glen. The drive is so peaceful. Be sure to take it all in. To continue our relaxing day we stopped next at Miles Wine Cellars. In my opinion this is the most serene and stately winery in the Finger Lakes. The large columns on the front porch remind me of a Southern Victorian home. It sits high above the lake offering a beautiful lookout view. If you want to get closer to the water they have a boat house bar on the water. My favorite drink here is the wine slushie. Yum! It doesn’t get much better than sipping on a wine slushie while over looking Seneca Lake on a beautiful day.

After relaxing with lunch and wine my next thought is chocolate. I personally like to go to Magnus Ridge Winery just for the chocolate. And oh yeah, the wine is pretty good too! When you walk into Magnus it is like walking into old world France. This winery is elegant and definitely pays extra attention to all the small details. They have large tasting rooms and a cute café. The patio out back is peaceful and relaxing; the perfect place to sip a glass of wine and enjoy their delicious chocolate truffles. It is a perfect way to cap off a relaxing day on Seneca Lake.

Thanks for exploring with me – Shelly