24 March 2017

Review: Eleni’s Greek Taverna – Springfield VA

Category: Reviews — Posted by Michael at 1336

Eleni’s is an authentic Greek restaurant with some Greek Diner mixed in. I could probably end this review right here because who could pass up that winning combination? As soon as you walk in, the atmosphere and décor are unmistakably Greek. Then you notice the counter and realize that they serve breakfast all day long along with a big selection of classic diner sandwiches, etc. I’m sure the breakfast and sandwiches are good, but we were there for the Greek food so that’s what we ordered.

We started out with a trio of appetizers. The saganaki was flambéed tableside, just as it should be and it was delicious. The spanakopita and tiropita we equally as good. The portion sizes of all three dishes were much larger than we expected! After eating my salad (which was also surprisingly large), I had one of my favorite Greek dishes, pastitsio,. It too was delicious. It was baked just right. The bechemel on top was properly browned without being dried out and the meat/pasta was properly spiced. All of our dishes came with a side of fasolakia (string beans in tomato sauce with oil and herbs).

Add a very friendly staff to the incredible food and my only complaint is that Eleni’s is so far away from home. Although it’s probably good for my waistline that they’re 150 miles away!

Speaking of location, one note on getting to this place… It’s tucked in the far back corner of the shopping center facing the back of another building, so it’s not easily visible from the street. Just turn into the Concord Shopping Center and you’ll eventually find it.

12 March 2017

Twenty Years Already?

Category: Life,Site Updates — Posted by Michael at 1522

Everyone likes milestones that end in zero. Whether it’s a birthday or anniversary counted in years, months or days, if it ends in a zero, people like to celebrate it. So, I feel only right to mention that this website has been hanging around on the web for 20 years now. What started out as a free set of webpages on AOL when I was in high school has slowly grown over the years. I don’t pay as much attention to it as I did years ago; haven’t revamped in quite a while and I still maintain it using mostly static HTML pages (except this blog section which runs on WordPress), which no one really does anymore. I keep saying that I’m going to redo the entire site using a content management system, but I don’t know when I’ll get around to that for real. It certainly will make managing the huge photos section easier.

Speaking of the photos on the site, they’re the main reason it still exists. They’re what most people come here to see. At last count, there were about 7500 photos spanning 18 years of travel, family events and any of photos that I felt were worth sharing at the time. Why aren’t there 20 years of photos? Well, prior to that no one was using a digital camera! Hell, when I started posting photos I was actually using a camera that took floppy disks! Read more about that here.

Anyway, if you want to feel nostalgic about how old this site is and how far it’s come along, take a look a page that’s having its own 10th anniversary. I created it commemoration of another round number anniversary, 10 years. It shows what the site originally looked like and how it progressed during its first decade. If you think the site seems dated now, take a look at what it used to look like! I would make another retrospective for 20 years, but honestly, it hasn’t changed much since then. It’s just grown some.

As always, thanks for checking out the site. As long as I continue to hear from enough people who enjoy it, I’ll keep maintaining it and will try to continue to keep it going for another 20 years.

15 January 2017

Canadian Maritimes Videos Posted

Category: Photography,Site Updates — Posted by Michael at 1953

Just in case you couldn’t figure it out from all of the tweets, Google+ posts and YouTube notifications that were generated earlier today, I finally uploaded the videos I took during my trip to the Canadian Maritimes back in August. There are 2 videos from the Digby Scallop Days festival in Nova Scotia and 4 from the bagpipe and Celtic/Highland dancing show (Highland Thunder) that we went to at the College of Piping & Celtic Performing Arts of Canada in PEI.

Take a moment to check them out here and if you haven’t seen my photos from that trip, those are available too. Also, if you’ve never considered a trip to the Canadian Maritimes, I highly recommend it.

13 January 2017

Lake Wallenpaupack Photos

Category: Photography,Site Updates — Posted by Michael at 1218

Lackawaxen RiverI just posted the last of my photos from 2016. Back in October, we spent a long weekend at Lake Wallenpaupack, a man-made lake in the Northern Poconos created as a reservoir for a hydroelectric plant. Because we left in the evening after work, we stopped and spent a night at Sands in Bethlehem before heading the rest of the way up to the Poconos. Our first stop was in Honesdale to board a train for a scenic ride along the path of the former Delaware and Hudson Canal to check out the beautiful Fall foliage. We then headed to Hawley to check in to our motel right across the street from the lake. We sent much of the weekend walking and driving around the lake and exploring downtown Hawley. Along the way we found time to stop at a few very cool diners. After heading out of town, on our way home, we went to a cider mill because nothing says Fall like a cider mill. Then we visited the home of the first chief of the US Forest Service, Grey Towers. It’s now a national historic landmark and museum. All in all, it was a slower paced, more relaxing vacation than we usually like to take, but it was still a lot of fun.

Check out the photos right here. Enjoy!

29 November 2016

Looking back at Gatlinburg

Category: Photography,Randomness — Posted by Michael at 2211

Seeing the news today about the horrific wildfire affecting Gatlinburg, Tennessee and surrounding area is heartbreaking. I vacationed there 2 years ago. It’s a truly fun tourist destination. I’m at least happy to hear that Emergency Management officials initial report that Ober Gatlinburg ski resort had been destroyed turned out to be false.

This seems like a good time to take a look at my photos from Gatlinburg when it wasn’t the frightening disaster area it is right now.

22 November 2016

Turkey Brining Time

Category: Cooking/Food — Posted by Michael at 1645

How are you preparing your turkey for Thanksgiving this year? If you’re not brining it, I suggest you rethink that. Yes, this post is my annual reposting of my turkey brining tutorial. It’s nothing fancy because brining your bird is not a complicated process even though

Check out my instructions and recipe here. I even made a few minor updates this year. After all, refining your technique is what cooking is about.

Enjoy and feel free to let me know how it turns out.

07 October 2016

Review: The Black Olive – Voorhees Twp NJ

Category: Reviews — Posted by Michael at 1612

The atmosphere and service at Black Olive was great. Our waiter was very attentive and the space feels much bigger than it is thanks to some cool modern design choices. The acoustics aren’t the greatest, but really, have you ever been in a quiet Greek restaurant?

Moving onto the most important part, the food, I would sum up my first meal here as not bad. It was not the best Greek food I’ve ever eaten, but it was not terrible by any means. I love Greek food. So as far as the staples go, I know how they should taste. I know every restaurant puts their own spin on things but I felt like most of the food here was bland. It seemed as though the chef was trying to conserve his limited supply of spices.

We started out with the saganaki which was delicious. It was not flambéed tableside with ouzo as I’ve enjoyed in some other restaurants, but I certainly can’t hold that against them. The spanakopita was good, but instead of being layered as it usually is prepared, it was more of a roll where all of the filling was wrapped with layers of phyllo. The phyllo was nice and crispy, but the filling lacked the depth of flavor that you’d expect.

The house salad was unique and very tasty. The whole salad was finely shredded which I’ve not seen before. I ordered the pastitsio, my favorite Greek entrée. The dish was bland and a bit dry. The béchamel formed a solid cap on top of the pasta. For dessert, we had baklava and ekmek kataifi. While not bad, they too were generally lacking in flavor.

I’d like to think it was just someone in the kitchen being stingy with herbs and spices the night I was there and maybe it would be better next time. This is certainly not a restaurant that I’d refuse to try again, but reading similar comments in other reviews makes me think our meal might be the norm.

03 July 2016

Chicago Photos

Category: Life,None,Photography,Site Updates — Posted by Michael at 1339

Chicago TheatreI finally posted my MANY photos from my trip to Chicago.

Chicago is one of those places that I’ve been familiar with through the years mainly because of so many various TV shows set there. As a kid I watched Perfect Strangers (anyone remember TGIF?). In high school and college it was ER and Chicago Hope. Then more recently it’s been NBC’s Chicago Fire, Chicago PD and Chicago Med. On top of this, I feel like I know Chicago and the rest of Chicagoland because I’ve been a loyal listener of the Eric & Kathy morning show on WTMX in Chicago for well over a decade. However, I’d never actually been to the Windy City. This trip finally corrected that.

We spent 7 days in Chicago. We stayed right downtown in the Loop, a block south of the river. Over the course of the week, we walked approximately 50 miles, climbed 201 flights of stairs and road the L 22 times. Needless to say, we covered much of the city (at least the downtown area) while even finding time to spend a relaxing evening with a cousin who lives out there.

To say that Chicago is an incredible food city is an understatement. My normal diet was suspended for the week as we check out the best places to get real Chicago deep dish pizza, Chicago dogs and Italian beef along with stops at Harry Caray’s and Mike Ditka’s. Oh, and don’t forget the Portillo’s chocolate cake.

Check out all of the photos plus some videos and a list of our many great dining experiences right here.

20 June 2016

Washington State Photos

Category: Photography,Site Updates — Posted by Michael at 2005

Puget Sounds, Silverdale WAWhile in Washington State for business, I stayed at the Silverdale Beach Hotel. My room had a nice view of the Puget Sound. During my week there, I snapped a few photos from my balcony and from the shoreline of the Sound. There’s also one photo from Poulsbo where we went for dinner one night.

Take a look at these photos here.

19 June 2016

Photos from Alexandria, Virginia

Category: Photography,Site Updates — Posted by Michael at 1539

Christ Church, Alexandria VAWhile visiting my cousin in the Northern Virginia suburbs of DC, we made an excursion to Alexandria. Besides walking the historic streets of the city, we took a tour of Christ Church. The significance of this building is that George Washington was a member of it as was Robert E Lee. You can sit in President Washington’s seat which has also supported the butts of the last 20 US presidents (except President Obama as of yet) plus Winston Churchill. Talk about sitting on history!

Check out the photos right here!

Remembering my Dad on Father’s Day

Category: Life,Randomness — Posted by Michael at 1326

emilgatti.comWith both my father and my grandfather gone from the world now, Father’s Day is just another day on the calendar from here on out. However, it’s also a good day to take a moment to remember my father. The easiest way to do that is to take a look at the memorial website that I created when he passed away. It’s a static website (unless anyone submits new memories to be posted) that remains as a tribute to to him.

The site can be found at emilgatti.com.

17 June 2016

Review: Village Grille – Williamstown NJ

Category: Reviews — Posted by Michael at 2044

When you think of a restaurant in an Amish market you think of simple homemade comfort food. That is exactly what this restaurant’s predecessor used to serve. A visit to the Village Grille, however, yielded only food that tasted like it came out of the frozen foods aisle of the supermarket. I was sorely disappointed. I ordered the pulled pork sandwich because the old proprietor used to smoke his own meats and they were delicious. The little bit of meat on the sandwich that was placed in front of me this time looked and tasted much like the stuff that comes in plastic tubs in the refrigerated aisle of the supermarket. The rest of the meal was not much better. Thankfully the Amish market the Village Grille is located in sells great meats and much more so I can make my own meals at home.

08 April 2016

COLD Jim Thorpe Winterfest Photos

Category: Photography,Site Updates — Posted by Michael at 1955

Jim ThorpeI just posted an album of photos from The Jim Thorpe Winterfest back in February. 3 years ago, we went to the annual festival. It’s a fun event that encompasses the entire downtown area of this quaint little mountain town. We decided to go back this year since we had a free long weekend. The big difference from last time was that this time the temperature throughout the weekend was 5 degrees below zero with a wind chill of -24!!! I like the cold, but this was painful cold unless you had the right gear on. I’m quite happy that I bought a new LL Bean parka last Fall.

There was an ice carver and a wood carver creating sculptures on the street. There’s a “mug walk” where you purchase a mug and them show it at a bunch of stores throughout the town and they give you some small item in return. It’s a fun way to get people into every little shop. Of course, our favorite shop is the Country Cottage where the “pickle lady” resides. She makes the best pickles you’ll ever try. This year, the Lehigh Gorge Scenic Railroad was also running. We took an excursion on that which made for a fun break from the bitter cold.

Check out the photos here. You may need to put a coat on to look at them.

06 April 2016

Scranton Photo Album

Category: Photography,Site Updates — Posted by Michael at 2054

McDade ParkWhile in the Poconos for the Jim Thorpe Winterfest, we headed up to Scranton for the day to visit the Pennsylvania Anthracite Heritage Museum. I highly recommend stopping in if you ever get the chance. The history and heritage of the miners and their families is a fascinating tale. Living as close as we do to the PA coal mining region, I’m sorry I haven’t explored it more. I hope to head back up there one day and take the coal mine tour since it was closed for the winter. We also visited the Historic Scranton Iron Furnaces. It was here that we realized that we did not wear enough layers for the subzero temperatures and after exploring the furnaces we headed directly to the nearest Wal-Mart for additional hand warmers and thermal underwear!

On the way back down to the hotel in Lehighton, we made a stop at Mohegan Sun Pocono (formerly Pocono Downs) in Wilkes-Barre for dinner and a little gambling.

You can see the photos from our day in Scranton here.

06 March 2016

Mythbusters Finale

Category: Randomness — Posted by Michael at 0017

I’m not usually one to get sappy or emotional over the ending of a TV series (ok, maybe The West Wing a long time ago) but the final episode of MythBusters was tonight and it’s truly the end of a great era. It started more “water cooler” conversations than can be counted. It’s put so many words and terms into public view. I mean, really, who would know what ballistics gel or ANFO is if not for seeing it on MythBusters.

It’s also given us catch phrases that stuck with us. Who could ever forget “Jamie wants big boom,” “Am I missing an eyebrow?” or “When in doubt, C4!” Of course, my favorites are still “I reject your reality and substitute my own,” “Failure is always an option,” and “Anything worth doing is worth overdoing!”As much fun as it it to see the guys (sometimes gratuitously) blow things up, there was a more important role played by MythBusters over the past 13 years. Adam and Jamie showed us that the scientific method can be fun and rewarding. They also showed that almost any problem can be worked out and resolved using science, engineering and patience.

In particular, they taught the younger generation (or two) that this might be something they want to do for a living. I guarantee that our country and many others around the world have MANY more scientists and engineers because of MythBusters and I’m sure there are so many more students at every level studying science, technology, engineering or math (aka STEM) right now because Adam and Jamie taught them it’s fun, exciting and cool.

Think about that… A TV show that was meant to entertain, educate and have fun with common myths and misperceptions, starring two guys that none of us had heard of 13 years ago, managed to play a real part in shaping the future of the science and engineering communities. Who would have thought that was possible? Well, OK, I know who thought that… every single one of us who ran into work or school on 24 Jan 2003 and said “OMG, you have to see this cool new show that was on Discovery Channel last night!!!”

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