squires castle

Squire’s Castle, North Chagrin Reservation, Willoughby Hills, OH

Some build castles
of stone and mortar
and brick and clay
on top of hills
overlooking fields and valleys and streams.

They want to tell the world
they are rich and powerful
and should be looked up to
and should be seen
and should be honored and admired and revered.

But the very best castles
are the ones that are built
with love and compassion
with respect and dignity
with humbleness and grace.

They are built in the fields and the valleys and streams.
The everyday experiences of life.

They are life.

They are the good life.

The life well lived.
The life well loved.
The best castle of all.

Cheers & Hugs,

The above pictured castle was one I visited this past weekend with a few “princesses” that I love.  Thanks for showing me the true meaning of castles… of life… of friendship… of love…. Pam, Anna,  and Joan… ❤

Learn more about Squire’s Castle here.

We Will be Known Forever by the Tracks we Leave – Couples Camp Weekend Shenanigans

Couples Camp Invitation cover 2014

What would life be like without great friends?  I sure don’t want to know, and am so fortunate to have some of the best of the best.  This weekend, Marty and I went away with some of our dearest – to our 1st Annual Couples Camp Weekend Retreat.

Hopefully the first of many.  No matter where we roam…

I went away for the weekend without my computer – but not without my camera! 🙂

I hope you will enjoy my little tribute to our wonderful weekend.

My BFF, Jill, was the head organizer of our shenanigans, and in her words:  “Todd, a member of the Chopped Chaps (and a.k.a.Rocco Scarfazzi) and I, a member of the Chopped Chicks (and a.k.a. Mama Rosa) highly recommend that all of our friends coordinate a Couple’s Camp weekend. Great fun. Lots of laughter. Many life stories shared. And the realization that life long friends and connections are priceless! So go make some memories!”

Here was our agenda (as prepared by Jill):

Couples Camp Invite Page 2 Activities

After a relaxing Friday evening, drinks and snacks and belly laughs until our cheeks hurt, we all trickled into the kitchen Saturday morning, fueled up with some coffee, and prepared to compete in a battle of “CHOPPED!”


I made aprons for the “Chopped Chaps”

chopped chaps

and the “Chopped Chicks”

chopped chicks

and prepared three basket rounds of competitive food fun.

Basket #1 was Breakfast Fare and the Chaps and Chicks were challenged to create a breakfast dish using the following basket ingredients:

Basket Round 1: Breakfast Fare

Link Sausage
Green Onions
Sharp Cheddar Cheese
Bacon Cheddar Potato Chips

Basket 1

Though the guys were “poo-pooing” us in the beginning, they rose to the challenge, and even admitted to having fun!

chap 1

The chicks were quite that strategists and competitors.

chicks 2b

They created a beautiful and delicious frittata for Round 1.

chicks 1

While the men created a scrumptious scramble.

chaps 1

that even contained the words “Hideaway” written in cheddar cheese….

hideaway chopped 1

in honor of the name of the resort we stayed at…

camp sign

a beautiful vacation home tucked in the wooded hills (I didn’t know there were such hills in Ohio!) near Columbus, Ohio compliments of Jill’s dear (and who we fondly refer to as a bit “crazy”) Aunt Alice and Uncle Eric, and cousins Maggie and Tom.  THANK YOU so much!


The chicks won Round 1 with their fabulous fritatta!

chicks win 1

On to Round 2 for Brunch Fare:

Basket Round 2: Brunch Fare

Pasta Sauce
Peppercorn Bacon
Cheese and Garlic Croutons

chopped 2

chicks 2

Mary thought a little red wine might “enhance” the sauce.

chicks 2a

chaps 2

but alas the Chaps won Round 2.  (Per Judge Marty keep in mind!)

chaps 2b

Round 3 brought on the Dessert Challenge:

Basket Round 3: Dessert

Whole Wheat Pop Cakes
Biscoff Spread
Vanilla Yogurt
Vanilla Cream Soda
Sour Patch Peaches

chopped 3

With one win for each side, the competition was getting fierce!

chopped 3 intensity

And both teams pulled out all the guns!  The chicks made these amazing parfaits.

chicks 3a

The chaps created these masterpieces.

chaps 3a

And the Chaps took the Gold!

chopped champs

Judge Marty could not resist eating the entire dessert, which was enhanced ever so “slightly” with Amaretto…

chopped judge

Even Jim impressed himself with the dessert the Chaps came through with!


The Chicks were so close behind.  We all enjoyed every morsel of every one of our three meals (all before noon!)

chopped chicks runners up





Then it was time to burn off some of those calories and get out in the beautiful Fall sunshine.  The guys decided to go for some quad/mule rides.


quad jim

quad todd

quad marty

mule glenn

And us Chicks took a walk.

road to camp

which way

walk 4

walk 2

chick walk

walk 5

After a few hours of sunshine and fresh air, we decided to do a “good deed” in honor of National “Make a Difference Day” by preparing some Thanksgiving holiday craft kits for the daycare students of SHIM (South Hills Interfaith Ministry), Aunt Alice’s favorite charity.


caring craft 2

caring craft 1

caring craft 3

A little Wine and Cheese Party seemed most appropriate to cap off a great afternoon.


Then it was time for dinner time shenanigans:  A Murder Mystery Dinner Party hosted by Mama Rosa (Jill), who fed us Italian zuppa and some chicken and traditional lasagna.  We were instructed to arrive as our pre-assigned characters to dinner for an evening of Pasta, Passion and Pistols…

You can see below from left to right:  The French guy, Bo Jalais (Glenn) who wanted to takeover the family winery; the tough young sister, Angel Roni (yours truly) who was caught up in the mob; the maid turned pregnant girlfriend (Mary), the twin brother (Todd) who came to America to touch base with his family, Father Al Fredo (Jim) who listened to everyone‘s confessions, Mama Rosa (Jill) the family Matriarch, Claire Voyant (Pam), the family’s psychic counsel; and Marco Roni (Marty), the soccer loving, knife wielding baby of the family.

cc 2014 group silly shot


jill bub



glenn pam

group shot

Yep – we ate some more, drank some more, laughed A LOT more, and solved the mystery.  It was great fun.

Thank you so much Aunt Alice, Eric, Maggie and Tom for allowing us to crash your little paradise in the woods for the weekend.

As the living room mantle so aptly puts it:  “We will be known forever by the tracks we leave…”

We hope we left some good ones.

tracks we leave

Cheers & Hugs,