Diddakoi Walt Whitman
Take me home...Stephani's Birthday 2004


It's the big FOUR-OH for Prof-T and we're going to Ithaca!

Saturday, November 6, 2004
Gary was up very early and already showered when I awoke around 5:30. We got ready to go, filled our travel mugs with coffee, petted the kitty and hit the road. It's about a four hour drive to Ithaca, but being early on a Saturday, there was very little traffic. We drove over to the Pennsylvania Turnpike and headed north. We were about ten days too late for the really impressive fall colors, although we did get some nice vistas - between toll booths and road signs.

Toll Booth on the PA Turnpike

Fall colors

Fall colors

We're getting closer

We stopped for gas and to stretch our legs, and called Steph as we crossed the NY state line. It took us almost exactly four hours to get to Ithaca and when we arrived we saw the handiwork of some of Steph's other friends:

Steph's friends at work

Steph's house

Steph's house

Steph's friends at work

Steph's house is lovely - an early 1900's cottage - and she has decorated it so nicely. She gave us the guest suite on the third floor - a little sitting area with a bedroom up in the eaves of the house. After meeting Stephani's pets - Leopold, the rather stand-offish cat, and Deja, the black "Huskador" (Husky/Labrador mix) - we packed up a picnic basket and took off for the Finger Lakes.

There are a growing numbers of wineries along the shores of the Finger Lakes, and Stephani navigated us to a couple of the better ones near Lake Seneca. We stopped at Lamoreaux Landing first, which had a beautiful tasting room. Oh, and some wines. As we pulled up, so did a white stretch SUV, and out poured about a dozen somewhat inebriated looking twenty-somethings. We were invited to go downstairs to a small tasting room overlooking the storage area of the winery. We paid our $1 per person fee and got in a sip or two of an unimpressive Chardonnay before the SUV horde descended on us.

Lamoreaux Landing Winery

We decided to go back upstairs and sampled a couple of other wines. Gary tried an Ice Wine - a sweet dessert wine - and Stephani and I tried a glass of their Sparkling Wine. It didn't seem to have any bubbles, and smelled vaguely like a bottle of vitamins, but other than that, it was the perfect aperitif. Or not. Onward and upward!


Next we went to Standing Stone, a very pretty spot right on the lake. No stretch SUV this time, but there was a small tour bus in the parking lot - luckily they were all in a separate room to do their tasting, so we had a relatively uncrowded spot in which to sample the wines. Our host was a tad deaf and had obviously gone through his spiel once or twenty times. They had a couple of fairly nice wines: Reisling and Gewurtztraminer, which are the grapes that grow best in the Finger Lakes area.

They also had some tasty dipping oils to sample - it reminded us that we hadn't eaten yet. We decided that we would hit one more winery before stopping for lunch.

The award for best winery name goes to Red Newt Cellars! It was a large place, with several tasting bars and a bistro restaurant attached to it. We tried their Gewurtztraminer and their "off-dry" Reisling - as Stephani noted, "off-dry" equals "Fruit Loops in a glass." She was, of course, correct. They had a red wine called "Eft" - the hostess told us that an eft is a teenaged newt.

It is also a really horrible red wine.

All three of us took a sip and quickly poured the rest into the bucket. Luckily they had a Cabernet Sauvignon that was really quite good, so we bought a bottle along with some stuffed newts for Laurie and Sarah.

'She turned me into a newt . . .'

Ah, rosemary!

We stopped outside for Stephani to immerse herself in what looked like rosemary shrubs. Unfortunately they weren't - "They're pointy and smell bad." Two bad things that go worse together!

Ewwww, not rosemary!

A tisket, a tasket

The hostess had given us directions to a picnic area nearby. After a false start, we found it - set amidst the double wides in a trailer park. There were several tables and a firepit, so we laid out our spread and Stephani and Gary tried to get the fire started. The sparklers worked well, but the leaves and twigs were just not cutting it as a fuel source. We opened our bottle of adult newt red wine and tucked into a selection of cheeses, bread, hummus, grapes and pears. It was a lovely day, especially for being Novemeber in upstate New York.

Sparkling Stephani

Yum . . . Adult Red Newt

Roaring Fire


Where there's smoke . . .

Picnic in the (Trailer) Park

After our repast, we packed up the basket and headed back to Ithaca. We stopped at Wegman's grocery store to buy stuff for dinner and then went back to Stephani's house. Poor Deja had been cooped up in her yard all day, so we took her for a walk to the nearby reservoir. The Labrador blood in her was evident by the love of splashing in any available body of water, but it seems the Husky part inhibits the actual "retrieving" gene. Good at chasing and carrying, but not quite there with returning the object. Oh well.




We relaxed for a while and then began prepping for dinner. We (naturally) opened a bottle of Pork, I mean "Domaine Chandon Blanc de Noir Sparkling Wine", to sip while we cooked. I noted Steph's collection of "Hotel Ezra Cornell" champagne glasses. Each spring the students from the Cornell Hotel School run the Statler Hotel on campus for a weekend. Since Stephani is one of the professors/lecturers at the Hotel School, she is involved in the event and has accumulated "Hotel Ezra Cornell" logo glasses and plates throughout the years.

Gary and Deja

For dinner, Gary made his stuffed crab cakes, which we served with sauteed mushrooms and leeks and a green salad with vanilla balsamic dressing. And a bottle of Dry Creek Sauvignon Blanc in memory of Stephani's "ex-husband" Frank Dice, tasting room gigalo from a past Trollop Fest. Delicious!

After dinner, we opened presents: Stephani gave us a lovely glass vase as a house warming present and we gave her a set of champagne flutes - and they all matched! We cleaned up and watched "LA Story" and went to bed well sated.

Sunday, November 7, 2004
Stephani was already up and out with Deja when I came downstairs around 7:00. We made coffee and tea and sat around reading the New York Times (me) and grading student papers (Steph). After Gary got up we went out for breakfast - to the Manos Diner!

For those uninitiated to "Mystery Science Theater 3000", it is a show that takes really bad old B-Movies and plays they while offering a running (hysterical) commentary. "Manos - The Hands of Fate," has been consistently voted one of the worst movies ever made, but MST3K has made it into a cult classic. The plot is summarized by a commenter on IMDB.com as follows:

Bland couple and their daughter get lost on their way to a vacation spot and end up spending the night at a creepy, run-down shack owned by "The Master." Handyman Torgo tries to talk them out of it, but the huge, loudmouth jerk of a husband insists despite the protests of his wife. The dog gets killed, Torgo tries to feel up the wife and little Debbie the daughter stumbles across the resting place of The Master, his wives and a very large Doberman.

Manos has been a Trollop favorite for years, so when I was checking around for restaurants in Ithaca (before we decided to cook at Chez Stephani) I found the Manos Diner. We had to go!

Manos - The Diner of Fate

Manos - The Diner of Fate

We went back to the house, collected our things - and the case of Simi 2001 Cabernet Sauvignon show Stephani had been storing for me - said goodbye to Steph and Deja, and hit the road. We made good time getting back - about 3 1/2 hours - listening to the Eagles lose to the Steelers on the radio. Other than that, it was a great weekend!