So Much to See and Do in Bellevue! Part 2

By Sara Tantillo, AAFCS Professional Development Manager

IMG_4851Tuesday started bright and early, with a walk around Bellevue to take a look at the site for this year’s “FCS Completes the Circle” Fun Run/Walk, a beautiful park near our conference hotel. Once we had our morning walk, we hopped in the car and headed into Seattle for a busy and fun-filled day!

We began the day at the Starbucks Reserve Roastery & Tasting Room, a one-of-a-kind space where they roast IMG_4863several different kinds of beans, offer exclusive roasts and give you the chance to try brand new and unique food and drinks. The excursion that includes a visit to the Roastery will give
you a chance to learn about how coffee is grown, selected, and roasted, along with a tasting session and tour of the Roastery. We met with Events Specialist Renee Frechin, to get a quick tour along with a lesson on the many ways to brew coffee! Once we’d finished the “work” part of our visit, we grabbed breakfast—lattes with a coffee exclusive to the Roastery, Paradeisi, and two breakfast sandwiches—one with fennel sausage, spinach, and egg, and one with squash and sprouts! Delicious!

IMG_4867Our next stop was the iconic Pike Place Market. Seattle is very walkable, so we took a stroll down to the Market, located right on the Elliott Bay. Pike Place was established in 1907 to allow farmers to sell directly to consumers and prevent price-gouging by wholesalers. The commitment to providing the community with local produce, fish and meats, and goods remains today. Eventually stores, arcades, and restaurants were added—including the very first Starbucks. There’s more to Pike Place than the famous Pike Place Fish Market—fruit and vegetable vendors, cheeses, chocolate and other desserts, pasta, and many artisans! Private Events Coordinator Ashley Coggins walked us through the Market and gave us a taste of the tour, and then we spent some time exploring on our own—we had to stop each other from buying perishable items, since we had to fly home, but we definitely picked up some non-perishables in a few of the stores!

IMG_4868After Pike Place, we continued our walk through the city—stopping briefly to admire these vintage sewing machines used as a window display! Our next stop was at the Seattle Architectural Foundation, where we met with Grace Travaglini to discuss the Art Deco tour of the city. We’re so excited about this tour, which will give you a chance to see many of the buildings with Art Deco influences, while getting a taste of the city on foot!

IMG_4874.JPGOnce we finished at the Foundation, it was time to head over to Seattle Center, home to some of the city’s best museums! We stopped for lunch at the Seattle Center Armory, where those who are attending the Global Perspectives on Wellness excursion will eat. The Armory contains many local eateries—and attendees with have the chance to select their favorite! We had delicious and healthy salads at Plum Pantry, a vegan restaurant where you can also get fresh juices; smoothies; “protein rich bowls” with grains, legumes, veggies and more; pasta; soup; and sandwiches. Of course, we had to take a moment to get a quick shot with the Space Needle!

097After lunch we headed over to the Nordic Heritage Museum, which showcases Seattle’s vibrant history of Nordic immigrants. Adult Education Coordinator Jeremy Ehrlich showed us around the museum, both in the public galleries and a few “backstage” peeks! We were very excited to see their textiles collection, and excursion attendees will enjoy a lesson on historic Nordic clothing along with one on preservation of textiles.

114Once we finished our visit to the museum, we headed right back to the Seattle Center to visit one of my favorite museums of all time, Chihuly Garden & Glass. We were lucky enough to enjoy a full tour of the museum with Tourism Development Sales Manager Lisa Schmidt, who gave us lots of info about glass artist Dale Chihuly—but also allowed us to quietly experience the majesty of his work! We were able to explore both inside and outside, where the glass pieces integrate seamlessly with the vegetation.

128After a stop in the gift shop (of course!), Lisa sent us on our way over to the Space Needle. The Space Needle will be an “add-on” option to the tour of Garden & Glass on Saturday—you’ll tour the museum with everyone else, but stay longer to head up 520 feet to the Observation Deck, where you’ll enjoy 360 degree views of the city. I’m a wee bit afraid of heights—but the deck is so safe that it didn’t bother me at all!

By this time, the sun had set—both literally and metaphorically on our visit! The Space Needle was our last stop on the trip. The Gates Foundation, located a short walk from the Seattle Center, will also be part of the Global Perspectives on Wellness excursion—but we were not able to fit a visit into our packed schedule!

Finally, it was time for dinner! We headed over to my favorite Mexican restaurant, Agua Verde. If you’re taking the time to explore Seattle, I highly recommend it—particularly the Bacalao tacos, but also the mango quesadilla—if you’re eating on your own, make sure you get a half portion, as the quesadillas are huge!

IMG_4906After dinner, we headed back to the hotel, packed up our souvenirs, and headed straight to bed, as we had to leave the hotel at 5am—as you can tell from this blurry photo! We were sorry to say goodbye to Bellevue, but so excited to get into planning this year’s conference! We are SO looking forward to the 107th Annual Conference—and we hope you are too! As well, this year we have a comprehensive rundown on our website of many of the things to do in Bellevue and Seattle—along with a few fantastic deals to help you extend your trip!

Registration for the conference is now open—and the early-bird pricing is good through April 15th.  Please visit our conference site to learn more, and we hope to see you in Bellevue!

So Much to See and Do in Bellevue! Part 1

By Sara Tantillo, AAFCS Professional Development Manager

In early November 2015, Director of Professional Development and Market Research Daila Boufford and I traveled to Bellevue, Washington, to check out the AAFCS 107th Annual Conference hotel–the Hyatt Regency Bellevue on Seattle’s Eastside, learn more about the city and its surroundings, and visit the sites of our educational excursions. We had a wonderful time, and we’re so excited to share what we’ve learned with you!


The view from the Hyatt!

This year we once again were able to spend two days in the city, which allowed us to spend more time at the excursion sites and go into more detail with our hotel contacts! Daila flew into Seattle-Tacoma International Airport on Sunday night, which is just about a half hour from the hotel depending on traffic. We rented a car as we had so many places to visit, but you’ll be able to save money using our deal with Shuttle Express! If you’re planning on spending some time exploring the area on your own—and we recommend that you take a few extra days to do so—we also have a great deal with Hertz Rent-a-Car. As I have friends who live in the area, I came in early for a visit, and explored Tacoma–only an hour away–and its nearby park, Point Defiance! Well worth the trip, if you have time. Of course, taxis are also readily available at the airport. Sunday night, we both arrived at the hotel and headed right to bed, since we knew the next few days would be long!

Benedict 1We got up Monday morning bright and early—ready to meet with our hotel and AV representatives. We ate at one of the hotel’s restaurants, Eques—it just serves breakfast and brunch, but boy does it do that well! It opens early—6:30am on weekdays—so you’ll have time to start the day with a great breakfast before your conference day begins! Daila and I sampled their signature Eggs Benedict. There are multiple versions to choose from and they were all fantastic! We recommend that you make a reservation—the restaurant gets pretty busy when there’s a conference happening! After breakfast, we headed out to explore the space—and we’re so excited with what we saw! It’s a gorgeous hotel that highlights the natural beauty of the Seattle area.

One of our favorite spaces was the Foyer of the Grand Ballroom, where we’ll be holding “Elevate Your Health,” our welcome reception on Wednesday afternoon (4-6pm). The spacious foyer offers scenic views of downtown Bellevue.

IMG_4806.JPGAfter touring the meeting space with our Hyatt rep, we headed over to Uwajimaya, our first excursion location visit, to eat lunch! Uwajimaya is an Asian grocery that has its roots in Seattle. Its first location opened in 1928. The Bellevue location is a bit newer—only 30 years old—but has deep roots in the community and we’re excited to be holding an excursion there! The café options at Uwajimaya are extensive! There is quite a bit of sushi and sashimi available, but you can also try some great hot entrees. Once we ate, we sat down with Store Manager Hiroshi Hibi and discussed the store’s origins, how they work with their community, and how he and his department managers will be sharing information about culture, business, nutrition, food waste, and more during the excursion tour. If you enjoy Asian cuisine or if you are curious to know more about the culture and sustainable practices in many Asian countries, this tour is for you!

033.JPGAfter we finished up with Hiroshi, we did a bit of shopping—I came home with a gyoza press and tea infuser for myself, and some great Christmas gifts! We then headed over to the Bellevue Botanical Garden. Two of the volunteer docents gave us a lovely tour, where we learned about how the Garden was founded and how the unique climate in the Seattle area supports a vast array of vegetation. While it’s hard to see the full beauty of a botanical garden in the winter, the alpine garden was flourishing, and may of the fuchsia plants were still in bloom. We were especially lucky—not only did we see a few beautiful hummingbirds, which we don’t see out on the East Coast, we caught a glimpse of a bald eagle up above the trees! It was breathtaking.

After a quick gift shop stop—museums and botanical gardens have the cutest gifts!—we headed back to the hotel to drop our things and explore the area before meeting with the Annual Conference Local Advisory Committee for dinner.

Chihuly chandelier.jpgThe hotel is connected by several skybridges to different shopping and eating locations. We headed out to the Bellevue Collection to check out some local shops and see what the city has to offer! The Bellevue Collection is made up of three different spaces—Bellevue Place, the location of our hotel and several different fantastic restaurants; Lincoln Square; and Bellevue Square, our final destination! The first bridge from the hotel takes you to Lincoln Square, where you can find several different restaurants, along with a bowling alley, billiards lounge, and movie theater. We came back there for dinner—but more about that later. After a quick stop in Lucky Strike Lane to see whether it might be a good location for a group night out, we headed over the next bridge to Bellevue Square, the mall—of course, stopping on the way to admire a gorgeous chandelier fixture by glass artist Dale Chihuly!

IMG_4847.JPGBellevue Square holds many “normal” mall stores—there’s a Macy’s and Crate and Barrel attached to the main mall space, there are plenty of clothing stores like American Eagle, Chico’s, Talbots, and Ann Taylor, there is the ubiquitous Apple Store, and of course a Williams-Sonoma—but this mall also holds a Tesla store! There are also a few PNW-specific stores, like the Seattle Team Shop. We were pretty excited to head into jcoco, a pop-up chocolate shop by the Seattle Chocolate Company! They sell unique, all-natural chocolate bars with chocolate sourcIMG_4850.JPGed from all over the world—inspired by fashion, in many cases! Not only is jcoco a unique chocolate company—they are also very much about giving back to the community. With each chocolate bar purchased, they donate a healthy meal to someone who would otherwise go hungry, through food banks all over the US where their products are sold. The pop-up may not be there any longer by the time you visit—but jcoco products are available at Sea-Tac airport and the Made in Washington store in Bellevue, along with other locations all over Washington—and possibly in your state as well! I came home with a chocolate sampler—if you get the chance, I HIGHLY recommend the peanut strawberry baobab bar, as well as the agave quinoa sesame seed bar.

Once we finished exploring, we headed back to the hotel to meet a group of our local members for dinner. This year’s committee has been working tirelessly to bring you a fantastic experience—you may remember all the samples and info they had to offer at their booth last year in Jacksonville! Hopefully you’ve seen many of the tidbits about the state in the newsletters—and stay tuned for many more! We’ll also have quite a bit of information on the website regarding things to do in the area before and after your visit.

Dinner picWe met up with Co-Chairs LynDee Lombardo and Vivian Baglien, along with Karen Bergh, WAFCS president; Donna Graham, WAFCS affiliate officer and leader of the Community of Business & Entrepreneurship; and one of Vivien’s students, Kathryn Stephenson. We walked right across the street to Maggiano’s Little Italy, where we had an absolutely delicious dinner—learning more about each of our members and quite a bit about Washington state. Maggiano’s was one of many easily walkable restaurants—several of which are located within the hotel itself!

After dinner, we headed back to the hotel for a good night’s sleep as we knew we’d be heading out bright and early!

Stay tuned for part two of our blog, which will talk about our second day in Washington, when we headed into Seattle—just a 20-minute drive—to visit the rest of our excursion locations!

Getting Ready for Jax – Part Two

By Sara Tantillo, AAFCS Professional Development Manager

Thanks for coming back to read more about our trip to Jacksonville!

andrewTuesday started bright and early, with breakfast at Trellises again—they have a great breakfast buffet, perfect for a hearty start to the day. We then headed over to Jacksonville Landing for the start of our Jacksonville Top to Bottom Tour—part of AdLib Tours!  Owner Gary Sass led the tour—dressed up as Andrew Jackson, the city’s namesake!  While Gary holds this tour regularly, our version will be specifically focused toward FCS. Gary took us all over the city—from the underground tunnels to the city’s highest point!  We learned so much about Jacksonville, and got quite a walk in! The Top to Bottom excursion at conference will pick up and drop off right at the hotel—remember to wear comfortable shoes!

We stopped for lunch at a great and affordable Thai restaurant, Indochine—check it out if you have time. I recommend the green curry, along with the Thai coffee. Daila got the Pad Thai, and recommends that as well!

textilesAfter lunch we headed over to Interiors Trading Company (ITC), a wholesale retailer for Interior Designers and Decorators. Jennifer Bean met with us and gave us a quick tour, with information about their suppliers, how the company works, and more!  We think this will be a great option for anyone who works in the industry, as well as those who are just interested in looking at the wholesale side of textiles and interior design.  ITC expanded from just one location to three in Florida, so we will have the opportunity to learn about that process and how it has increased access to a myriad of textile options.

Sara Tantillo (left) talks with Kim Pomar (right) about Cummer Gardens.

Sara Tantillo (left) talks with Kim Pomar (right) about Cummer Gardens.

After our visit at ITC, we headed over to our final excursion location, the Cummer Museum of Art and Gardens!  The Cummer is home to art spanning the ages, from 2100 B.C.E. through the 21st century, and its collection is just amazing. Most of the excursion will be focused on its two fantastic gardens, an Italian and an English garden, which were developed by members of the Cummer family. Attendees will also enjoy time for individual exploration of the museum and grounds. And remember—check out the gift shop to head home with some great souvenirs!

mealwithlacWe finished up our trip to Jacksonville by dining with Lina Ingraham and Eleanor Cavanah, co-chairs of the Annual Conference Local Arrangements Committee. It was so nice to chat about plans for the conference, and learn even more about the city!

We are SO looking forward to the 106th Annual Conference—and we hope you are too!  Registration is OPEN—learn more at!

Getting Ready for Jax – Part One

By Sara Tantillo, AAFCS Professional Development Manager

In mid-November, Daila Boufford and I traveled to Jacksonville (Jax) to check out the site for the 2015 AAFCS Annual Conference.  We were excited to learn more about the hotel, the city, and preview the educational excursions planned for conference.  We had a fantastic time, and we are eager to share what we learned with you!

sculptureDaila and I flew into Jacksonville International Airport on Sunday night—the picture at left shows one of the beautiful sculptures you walk by on the way out of the building. Be sure to take a moment to look at the featured art as you exit.  Taxis are readily available, and we will also have great discount deals on rental cars and shuttles! We arrived at the hotel, the Hyatt Regency Jacksonville Riverfront,  and headed right to bed, since we knew the next few days would be long—but did take a moment to appreciate our great view of the St. Johns River before collapsing into the very comfortable Hyatt beds.

We got up Monday morning bright and early—ready to meet with our hotel and AV representatives, along with a rep from Visit Jacksonville!  We ate at one of the hotel’s restaurants, Trellises—the shrimp and grits is quite a generous portion and we had a great breakfast! Afterwards we embarked on a tour of the facility. The Hyatt Jacksonville is a gorgeous space that is going to be the perfect place for our 2015 Conference.

One of our favorite spaces was the River Terrace, where we’ll be holding the “Sun and Sandals” Welcome Reception on Wednesday night! It opens onto a patio that overlooks the river, and is a beautiful spot to take in the views of Jacksonville.   Be sure to arrive early enough on Wednesday to attend this event, which will showcase some of the tasty recipes the South has to offer.  A ticket to the event is included in full and Thursday-only registrations, but please plan to bring your checkbook, as we will be raising funds to further awareness of Family and Consumer Sciences.

After exploring the hotel, we walked down the riverfront to Jacksonville Landing—a two-minute walk—where we enjoyed some delicious Mexican food al fresco! There are many restaurants to choose from, along with shopping options.  If you’d like to explore restaurants and shopping on the South Bank, you can catch a water taxi nearby.


L to R: Melanie Thomas, Duval County Extension office, and Phyllis Stafford, volunteer

After lunch, we headed over to the Duval County Extension office, to visit the Canning Center. While the Canning Center is associated with the Extension office, it’s run entirely by volunteers, which is a big endeavor! The space holds canning equipment for both jarred items and canned items. Members of the community can schedule an appointment with the volunteers and come in to can their own produce or other items. The Center also holds classes throughout the year, with the gift classes during holidays being the most popular!  This visit was one of our most inspiring excursion visits—we added a canning class with local produce on Wednesday as part of our Food Safety & Processing Tour, which will visit the Beaver Street Fisheries, the Farmers’ Market, and the Canning Center. We will offer a shorter trail mix canning class on Saturday, which will cover the basics of canning. Wednesday excursion attendees will also spend time in the Urban Garden, learning from a Master Gardener.

historyOnce we were done at the Canning Center—and we did not want to leave!—we headed down to historic Amelia Island. We began our time there at the Amelia Island History Museum, meeting with Tour Coordinator Thea Seagraves and learning about the history of the area.  Eight flags have flown over Amelia Island—can you guess which ones? The museum is located in a space that used to be a jail—and they use the space very creatively. It’s fun for all ages! Be sure to visit the gift shop—in my experience, museum gift shops are the best!

Next, we headed into Fernandina Beach, where the walking tour of the town’s historic buildings will be held, and where attendees will have time to explore!  The town, right on the water, is very quaint and offers a variety of small shops and eating options.  Excursion attendees will receive a Visa gift card, which can be spent at any of the many restaurants. Daila and I stopped for a mid-afternoon snack at Amelia Island Coffee and shared an Island cookie.  It was delicious, and the perfect stop on a cold and rainy evening (not weather to expect in June!).

We made it an early evening and headed back to the hotel to get some rest, as we knew Tuesday would be even busier!

Check back next week to read Part Two of my blog post.  Registration will be opening very soon, so stay tuned!

Overcoming the Barriers to Family Mealtime

fiese-300-32_smallBy Barbara H. Fiese, PhD, Professor and Director, Family Resiliency Center, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Do your mealtimes feel like a pressure cooker? Running around to grab last-minute ingredients, making sure that everyone is home on time, remembering to take frozen entrées out of the freezer the night before? For many families, dining at home has become just “one more thing” they feel like they have to do and would rather avoid. How did we get here?

For many people, dining in with their family is viewed as both a blessing and a curse. Focus groups of parents of young children and adolescents have identified common barriers to sharing meals at home. Dealing with picky eating, siblings fighting at the table, getting help from a partner, coming up with new meal plans, balancing work/life stress, and budgeting are a few of the typical comments made by families today. In today’s hectic and frenetic fast-paced world, how can families be encouraged to slow down and dine at home given these barriers?

First, it might help to take a reality check. Dining-in need not be an elaborate affair. Family meals typically last about 18-20 minutes. These are not long drawn-out events that require all the world’s problems be solved in one sitting. Rather, they are brief interludes for checking in, catching up, and conversing. Indeed, it is the opportunity to share the news of the day that parents find the most rewarding aspects of sharing meals (and the part that teens often find the most embarrassing).

Second, there are health benefits to sharing meals at home. Meals served at home tend to be lower in fat, contain more vegetables, and contain fewer calories per serving than those eaten away from home. In addition, families that share meals three or more times per week tend to have children who are of healthier weight, eat more fresh fruits and vegetables, and reduce the odds of being obese or developing eating disorders. Of course, we cannot say that sharing meals at home causes these positive health benefits, but the association remains strong across multiple studies.

Third, eating together provides an opportunity to instill traditions that can be carried onto the next generation. Although my son often rolled his eyes when asked to be home for dinner as a teenager, he soon came to look forward to sharing meals as a family ritual. He is now the cook in his family and is creating his own traditions.

The Family Resiliency Center at the University of Illinois has created a series of public service announcements to help families deal with some of the common mealtime barriers, such as picky eating, and to promote healthy mealtime practices, such as cooking together as a family. These videos are publicly available through the Mealtime Minutes initiative, Each announcement includes the statement “Don’t do it just for them—do it for you too.” Celebrate Family & Consumer Sciences Day by “Dining In” on December 3rd and perhaps a new tradition will extend throughout the year as you find new ways to benefit from this healthy practice.

Fond Memories from the Tantillo Kitchen

By Sara Tantillo, AAFCS Professional Development Manager

Tantillo Chicken Soup

Tantillo Chicken Soup

When I was a kid, I was always in the kitchen helping my mom prepare dinner—or at least asking her endless questions about it! I think she taught me to cook just so that I’d stop talking for a few minutes. Both of my parents worked until 5 or 5:30pm each night, and had a commute home, but most nights we ate together, and most weekends. Over my childhood, their jobs and commutes varied—so sometimes my dad was home first, and sometimes my mom was. Once I hit 13 or 14, I was the one home first, and would get dinner started on days when they’d be home a bit later—I’d make the pasta, or heat up the chicken soup we’d prepared and frozen, or put the potatoes on to bake. As I got older, I’d do more—or everything, when I wanted to try out the recipes from my 9th grade cooking class!

Three meals that I used to cook with my parents stick out in my mind: chicken soup, meatballs, and lasagna. While I have the “sick day” connection to Campbell’s Chicken Soup that so many of us have, nothing makes me feel better like my mom’s chicken soup, which I make giant pots of and freeze for the days when I’m just too sick to cook to this day. It’s full of barley, rice, noodles, and of course tons of chicken and vegetables, and is pretty easy—just a lot of chopping and throwing into a pot! Plus I always loved pulling apart the whole chicken after we brought it out of the pot, and sneaking a piece here and there. It’s a soup that stands up to freezing well, and is very hearty and healthy!

My dad’s family is Italian, so we have lots of passed-down recipes with measurements like “a coffee cup full of breadcrumbs.” My mom has always made my grandma’s meatballs—and shaping them to be baked was one of the things she had me doing from when I was very little. Spaghetti and meatballs and meatball subs were always a treat! My dad takes over when it comes to lasagna—and heaven forbid you interrupt him while he’s working! It’s quite a process—he refuses to use the no-boil noodles, so we end up with counters covered with carefully laid out cooked noodles on paper towels. I always loved watching as he made a batch of sauce, mixed up the ricotta, and layered everything in the pan—and LOVED the result. I’ve followed his example and make lasagna every few months—though I will admit that I cheat and use the no-boil noodles. In my defense, I live in an apartment and don’t have nearly the necessary counter space! Plus, the last time I made a batch I used ricotta and mozzarella that I’d made myself, so I think that makes up for the noodle cheat.

Cooking and eating together was always a great experience for my family—it gave us a chance to talk about our days at work and school, and to connect and learn from each other. Helping my parents from a young age taught me the fundamentals of cooking and nutrition, and about how rewarding making a meal can be–and those lessons have stuck with me to this day—whether I’m cooking on my own, hosting a “make your own pizza” party, or helping prepare holiday meals at my parents’ home. They’ll be cooking on Family & Consumer Sciences Day, December 3rd, as will I and many of my friends—I hope you’ll join us!

Tantillo Chicken Soup Recipe


5 ribs celery, chopped

3 carrots, chopped

2 onions, chopped

(1) 3-lb whole chicken

1 c. brown rice

½ c. barley

4 bay leaves

½ lb egg noodles

Fill a large pot about ¾ full of water, and put in all ingredients other than egg noodles. You may put the chicken in the pot first while you chop other ingredients.  Cook for approximately one hour, then remove chicken. Skim fat off of the surface of the soup if preferred. Let chicken cool, then pull chicken apart and return to the pot.  You may reserve one chicken breast for sandwiches or another meal if you like, or put all chicken into the soup. Once chicken has been returned to the pot, add egg noodles and cook for 20 minutes.

This soup is great with dumplings or a hearty bread, and with a bit of Romano cheese grated on top. It freezes well, though you may want to add a bit  of water or chicken broth when reheating.

Inside Our St. Louis Excursions! (Part 2 of a 2-Part Series)

By Sara Tantillo, AAFCS Professional Development Manager

Thanks for coming back to hear about more great sights to see in St. Louis!


Our next stop was the Missouri Botanical Garden, where Tourism Manager Gene Peimann took us on a tram tour of the Garden, which was being set up for their holiday illuminations show. Unfortunately we missed the exhibition by just a few days—but it looked like it was going to be gorgeous! With 79 acres of exhibits, it would take many visits to see all the beautiful attractions, especially since several are ever-changing. We particularly enjoyed the Grigg Nanjing Friendship Chinese Garden, with many donations straight from China, including a beautiful carved pavilion!

chihlyThe Garden has so much to offer that we encourage you to visit before or after Conference along with joining AAFCS for the Sustainability at the Missouri Botanical Garden excursion on Saturday morning. You’ll learn more about their sustainability efforts in beautiful surroundings. Be sure to take note of the beautiful Chihuly chandelier in the main lobby, leftover from their “Glass in the Garden” exhibit in  2006. Dale Chihuly is one of my favorite artists, so I was so excited to recognize his work! (If you live in the Seattle area, make sure to visit the Chihuly museum near the Space Needle, Chihuly Garden and Glass. It’s worth it!)

ravioliOur last stop of the day was at the Hill, one of the most famous neighborhoods in St. Louis. Hill native and tour guide for the Tour of the Hill excursion Joe DeGregorio met us at the famous Mama Toscano’s—where their specialty is the city’s signature “toasted ravioli.” We enjoyed a quick taste (be sure to try yours with marinara sauce!), and then Joe took us on an abbreviated tour of the neighborhood—one that will of course last much longer on the excursion. chocolateSince it was almost closing time, we hurried over to local business Chocolate Chocolate Chocolate Company, where we were able to walk through their factory floor, see how the chocolate is made, and enjoy a sample! For chocolate lovers like ourselves, this was very exciting! After our visit, we headed over to take a look at several of the local restaurants, since the group will be lunching at one of the authentic Italian establishments—and chose Favazza’s, for both its fantastic menu and the great atmosphere. If only we’d had the time to eat dinner there! Even though it was getting dark, Joe was able to bring us to a few more places—a great local gift shop, and a wonderful Italian grocery that brought back memories of the Italian Market in Philadelphia, near where I grew up.  I wish I’d had room in my carry-on to bring home some delicious Italian specialties!

archAfter our long day, we headed back to the hotel for some well-deserved rest! But our visits were not done—the next day, we walked right across the street to the Gateway Arch, part of our Gateway Arch and Architecture tour. While we didn’t have too much time before our flights, we were able to take a quick look at the museum—and we know that the ranger-led tour will be fantastic. Once we had a chance to take a look at all the museum had to offer, we headed over to one of the other parts of the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial, the Old Courthouse. While we were there, we watched a short film on the Dred Scott case—which was heard in that very courthouse! This extremely important case had wide-reaching implications and acted as an indirect catalyst for the Civil War. The Old Courthouse is another stop on the Gateway Arch and Architecture tour.

Remember, the Architecture tour does NOT include a tram tour up the arch—but you can make reservations for one at any time of the day! If you’re going on the tour, you may even be able to squeeze in the first trip of the day.

courthouseThe Old Courthouse was our last stop on our whirlwind visit to St. Louis—and it was a great one! Sad to go, we headed back to the airport, which is a convenient 20 minutes away from the hotel.

We had so much fun in St. Louis, and it was very clear how much passion residents have for their city! We’re so excited for you to explore St. Louis and to check out what the city—and the conference—has to offer. We’re working hard here at AAFCS to make sure this is one of our best conferences yet—see you in St. Louis!