Nicely done America (Day 3)


As I write this, I'm chugging water and eating a corn muffin for dinner. Exotic right? Well, my dinner is about one bazillion times less exciting and pretty as my day was.

But, hey... I'm in YOSEMITE and it's Day 3.

Newsflash? It's pretty great. But I'm oddly sore from a combo of driving for almost 5 hours straight and then ambling around the rest of the day in my hiking boots. Don't worry I didn't hike in the least-ish.

When I was attempting to plan this adventure, I discovered that the Ansel Adams Gallery in the Valley offers half day photography classes. I was super excited ... and then realized that their phone was broken and there was no way to get in touch with them to schedule the class. Luckily, when I arrived today and checked in at the gallery.... I was 30 minutes early for a class.

I've always been a person that took pictures on the automatic setting. I'm lazy. But this class was a great opportunity to ask questions and learn a few things. Plus, it was really fun trying to avoid getting smacked by the guy who carried his tripod the entire time. Here are a few of the things I learned about: aperture, f-stop, histogram, white balance, blowout (not related to hair), playing with texture, depth of field and lens filters. I didn't walk away from the class with any stellar pictures but it was more about "experimentation" than "becoming Ansel Adams". Although if I was going to become Ansel Adams, I'd make sure my shop had a working phone and email address.
playing with white balance ... and some really big rocks
After the class, I checked into my lodging at the Yosemite Lodge at the Falls. Its most definitely in a National Park and I miss my Hilton bedding. This just isn't the same :) I also managed to make it to the Tunnel View in time for Sunset. For the special occasion, I broke out my new tripod .... that I bought at one of the 23 Targets I passed on my way here from SF. Nothing says prepared like unwrapping your new tripod next to a group of people talking shop.

So in brief here are a few special moments in the day:
  • making it just in time for photo class (and knocking an item off my bucket list)
  • rocking out to country music with the windows down anytime I was in the car
  • eating some cheez-its watching sunset at Tunnel View ... and by "some" ... I mean excessive amount
  • finding out that bears will eat my cheez-its if I leave them in the car overnight
Note: one thing I did today was take a picture of what I was looking at every hour that I was active.  I'm going to try and remember to keep this going and compile them all at the end of the adventure. There is also a solid chance that this project ends before lunch tomorrow...

The Adventure Begins (Day 1 and 2)


I've pretty much only planned this adventure only 24 hours in advance. I'll say that a lot in the next few posts. But on day 1 of this journey, I checked into the Hilton Union Square Hotel .... in the midst of a 4,000 person Halloween party. I'm not a fan of Halloween. I don't like the skanky girl costumes. I hate masks. I can't get on board with all the drinking.

So, I can't even begin to describe the insanity that was the lobby, or the effort it took to get an elevator, or the redic costumes that I saw. Hint? A woman in her 40s, not skinny, in black fishnets and booty shorts.... with red pasties.... and that's it.

But, I pulled my "Diamond Status" card and got my room for free because they didn't tell me that they were hosting a gigantic drunken event in the hotel when I booked my room.

Day 2: San Francisco
I woke up super early since my body still thinks it is +3 hours. So, technically.... technically ... I slept until 9:30 in the morning which is super late for me. But, in San Francisco time I woke up before the sunrise. For about 30 seconds, I googled "best place to see sunrise in San Fran" and then realized I'd much rather have coffee in bed. So that's what I did.
However, after I left the bed I covered a lot of tourist-y ground in this hilly wonder of a city. In the interest of getting some sleep tonight, I'm going to make a list. But let's be honest... I'd probably make a list anyway.
  • walked through Chinatown and Nob Hill to Lombard Street
  • walked to Ghirardelli Square
  • took the Cable Car back from Fisherman's Wharf to Union Square area 
After a morning of walking and exploring, I was whisked away by my friends Caitlin and Matt. Always an excellent host, Caitlin made sure to show me the hot spots of SF and some good bacon. (She knows me too well). For a late breakfast, we ate at the Bean Bag Cafe where they serve tasty crepes and my favorite Niman Ranch bacon.
 After the tasty eats, we drove to Caitlin's house via all the hot spots... and by hot spots I mean we saw the "Full House" houses, the house that was in "Mrs. Doubtfire" and the Palace of Fine Arts. We also toured the Marina area and picked up some impulse buy bacon from Marina Meats.

I could continue to detail out the rest of the day but instead I'll summarize with a few of the great highlights:
  • going to Caitlin's favorite coffee shop for ice coffee ... and seeing that she's ranked #5 out of all their customers in loyalty
  • relaxing in the apartment and watching Tivo'd JEOPARDY episodes and yelling out the answers
  • eating Chicken Pot Pie dinner outside at The Grove .... and getting it all over myself as I devoured the crust
Another great thing about today? I got to try Uber for the first time, which was great since SF seems to have zero cabs and I didn't feel like wandering the streets looking for one to get back to my hotel. Super impressed with the service. Yes, it was not in the least bit free, but as a solo female in an unfamiliar city it was a great option for getting home.

On the books for tomorrow? DRIVING TO YOSEMITE.


Tasty Pretzel Tots


On Wednesday, I tweeted that I would only make myself some soft pretzel tots if I went for a run on Thursday. It was very well intentioned. I really thought I would go for the run.

But then it rained.

And. I got some cavities filled.

So, instead I felt sorry for myself and gummed a BLT while watching the second half of "Georgia Rules" with Lindsey Lohan on Thursday afternoon. I've had better moments for sure. Although I'm pretty sure in this moment, I'm one million times better than LiLo has been for the past 5 mugshots.

As a result, there was no running. There was just pretzel tots.

The tots were super easy to make, especially since I didn't really care about perfection. I just wanted some warm tots to eat on the couch for Thursday night NBC TV. Goal = achieved.

A few notes... I got this recipe from "A Cozy Kitchen" and the lovely lady behind it cares a lot more than I do (at least yesterday) about perfection. So she used a stand mixer, I used my hand. She evenly rolled the dough out, I haphazardly cut it. She dipped them in mustard, I threw them in my mouth.

The one downside to these tasty delights? They are best right out of the oven. So, I'm not sure about entertaining with them. Perhaps, you can do all the prep work and just put them in the oven right before you want to eat them?
You decide. But, regardless.... you'll love them.

Soft Pretzel Tots (Recipe tweaked from A Cozy Kitchen)
Makes 80ish tasty tots
1 1/2 cups warm (110 to 115 degrees F) water
1 tablespoon sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 package active dry yeast
4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 ounces unsalted butter, melted
Vegetable oil or PAM spray
10 cups water
2/3 cup baking soda
1 large egg yolk beaten with 1 tablespoon water
Pretzel salt or coarse Sea Salt
  1. Combine the water, sugar and kosher salt in the bowl of a stand mixer and sprinkle the yeast on top. Allow to sit for 5 minutes or until the mixture begins to foam. 
  2. Add the flour and butter to the bowl and mix that sucker right up. If you have a stand mixer, awesome. If not, like me, use what you got. After the dough has "formed", remove the dough from the bowl, clean the bowl and then oil it well. Return the dough to the bowl, cover with plastic wrap and sit in a warm place for approximately 50 to 55 minutes or until the dough has doubled in size.
  3. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Line 2 half-sheet pans with parchment paper and lightly brush with the vegetable oil. Set aside.
  4. Bring the 10 cups of water and the baking soda to a rolling boil in an 8-quart saucepan or roasting pan.
  5. In the meantime, divide the dough up into manageable sections (4 works well). Roll out each section and cut into 1-inch pieces. You can leave them as is, or roll them into dainty little balls to make them all more uniform.
  6. Place the tots into the boiling water for 30 seconds. I went for 5-ish at a time because I am impatient. Using a slotted spatula like tool it was really easy.
  7. Return the tots to the pan and brush with the egg yolk mixture... and sprinkle with salt.
  8. Bake about 12-14 minutes.... or until you like how dark they are.
... and that's it.

Pancetta is my friend


Several several several weeks ago I wrote about some of my favorite moments of the summer.... and that included Hurricane Waffles. I actually can't believe Hurricane Waffles was like a lifetime ago. Time flies when you're having fun... or perhaps just when you're flying.

Hurricane Waffles were inspired by this Cupcakes and Cashmere post that I stumbled upon. I'm a sucker for bacon-ish products and I happen to know how salty delicious pancetta is... so this seemed like a clear winner.
The recipe is simple enough... except one thing that makes it awesome is also my nemesis .... whipped egg whites. Yes, they are back. I'd say this effort to "gently fold" in the egg whites went about as well as the last time.
In general, the pancetta peach waffles went off without a hitch. There was a slight issue learning how much batter was required to fill the waffle maker without overfilling .... but that's the nature of the waffle beast. 

Now for some steps on how to make this happen...

Shopping List (tweaked from this recipe)
2 2/3 cups flour
8 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
4 teaspoons sugar
4 eggs, separated
1 cup butter, melted
3 1/2 cups milk
Package of Pancetta (from the fancy meats section of your grocery store)
As many peaches as you want   
  1. Mix all of the dry ingredients in a big bowl (trust me on this).
  2. Separate the eggs and add the yolks to the dry mixture. After blended, add the milk and butter to this mixture as well.
  3. Turn on your skillet or pan or whatever you want, and crisp up that pancetta. This doesn't take a long time. If you get the pancetta circles, don't waste your time cutting it up since you can break it apart after its crispy.
  4. For the egg whites, whip those suckers until they have stiff peaks-ish. Try and be more patient than I was. After you've got some stiff peaks fold the "peaks" into the other mixture.
  5. Now that you have your waffle mixture... spoon some of that into your hot waffle iron business. Sprinkle the pancetta on top.
  6. And. Done.
Basically at least. 
If you manage to wait until the waffle is cooked, you will be rewarded with a tasty wonderful breakfast. 

Sidenote: I made a variation of this again this past weekend. Although I cheated... big time. I pretty much just wanted pancetta and syrup so I followed the Bisquick waffle recipe. Instead of using oil, I just put in a stick of butter. Makes sense right?

Whatever. The only person that had both batches besides me, my mom, said that she might have liked the Bisquick one better. I think she was just being nice... but the Bisquick one was quite delish.

The Beach Rocks


I'm a master of procrastination. 

Instead of working on my new apartment or planning my upcoming West Coast trip.... I've watching entire seasons of sitcoms and played with family pictures. It's oddly fascinating looking at pictures of my parents before I existed. It's almost as though they couldn't possibly exist without me.

I've also walked the beach multiple times a day. Yesterday evening was a little bit gray but it still seemed oddly pretty. Most certainly a fall day. I really enjoy the "sea level" perspective and with all the small rocks on the shore between tides, it just seemed unique in a way.

But for real. 

Tomorrow, I will work on my apartment ... and I will book some hotels.

Big Ole Red Barn


Every time my brother sees me he asks if I'm enjoying "retirement". Saturday was a mix of productive retirement and Bravo tv.

Last weekend, I made a trip to World's End in Hingham, and it didn't disappoint. This weekend, I went to Weir River Farm in Hingham. It also didn't disappoint, but in a very different way. 

I've been wanting to go to WRF for quite awhile. Pretty much anytime you need to leave my hometown and go anywhere, you need to drive past this farm on your way to Route 3. A bright red barn sits atop a big hill and there are farm animals that roam the pasture. It's the epitome of picturesque. For reals.

Saturday was Open Barnyard Day at WRF. If this seems like an activity that would appeal to preschoolers and cute little blonde children... as opposed to 28 year old single females.... you'd be right. I was certainly in the minority. But whatever, that didn't hold me back.
Highlights of the farm:
  • llama named Penelope
  • crazy wide sheep ... that I think are pregnant (or just oddly fat)
  • Fergie the 900 pound momma pig (and her 8 piglets that weigh 700 lbs each)
  • climbing rocks with little brother
  • all the little blonde children
There were these adorably blonde pre-teens that watched over Fergie and her babes. It only got slightly awkward when I tried to figure out how Fergie got pregnant when I didn't see any male pigs around. The cute blonde girls (in Hunter boots no less) informed me that they bring in a pig to do the deed.... and his name is Sir Robert.
You'd think after all this fresh air I wouldn't have eaten *nearly* an entire box of Kraft Mac and Cheese.... but I did. What else was I supposed to eat while I watched hours of M.A.S.H. and Bravo tv? Fruit? I don't think so.

Next Life Chapter


I took this picture yesterday morning on my walk by the beach 

Yesterday was my last day at my job. 

I really think its the first job I've ever quit. I've had a handful of jobs over the years (bookstore employee, lifeguard, auditor, graduate assistant, etc) but I don't think I've honestly ever "quit" really before. This was my first time. One of my friend's asked me if I was nervous to quit and my honest response was no. When you know something isn't right and you've given it a fair shot, you aren't nervous.

I have nearly a month off before my next job starts and I'm really excited for a few things. One of which is the next month off. The second of which is my first day at my new job. I have a friend that I talk to regularly that has only really known me in this "uncomfortable" job state. It almost feels as though they've never really known the "real me". The real me is moderately obsessed with maximizing Hilton Diamond Points but would also rather live for making dinner in my kitchen and not getting take out every Monday from Bertucci's. I wonder if this friend will notice a difference in me. This job has kept me from being me.

It truly feels like the world is my oyster.



I love technology there are no two ways about it.
So, when on Monday I left my cellphone in the Philly Airport bathroom.... I knew it would be an issue.
But, there are a lot of things I do besides use the phone to make calls. So, I decided to make a brief list of all the things I couldn't do while I'm phone less.
  • check in on Foursquare at the Philly Airport Police Station.... while I was completing a police report
  • use my phone for directions to work from the airport. yes this was my 16th week traveling here, but there is an odd sense of comfort knowing that if I got lost. I could help myself 'get found'.
  • take my daily work picture.
  • call anyone. do you know how expensive it is to make calls from a hotel room?
  • text any bffs (or enemies)
  • track runs on RunKeeper
Oddly enough, I haven't really minded it. The only thing I minded was losing about two weeks of pictures on my cellphone. It's been nice to not worry about charging and having an excuse to just be me and not call anyone.

I did learn however that Philadelphia has multiple "Lost & Found" places. If you think that filing a police report (thanks Officer Monte!) and simply aggressively calling the Airport Communication Center will get you your phone back, you will be wrong. In addition to the Airport Lost and Found, there is also a L&F for TSA and one for each airline. Oddly enough, I'm still a little optimistic that I'm going to get my phone back one of these days. I have no reason for my optimism, just a slight faith that Philadelphia International Airport won't be able to completely take it from me.

Tomorrow morning I'll have access to an old Blackberry that I could activate and use until my new phone comes (sshhhh ... it's an iPhone).... but I'm tempted in a weird way to not activate. Live life a little less connected for a week or so. It's kind of nice.

Here is a list of all the places I would have checked-in on Foursquare during this "phone"-less period in my life:
- Airport Communication Center (M, Th)
- Philadelphia Airport Police Station (M, Th)
- Hertz (M, Th)
- Hertz Shuttle (Th)
- Wegmans (M, T)
- Work (M, T, W, Th)
- Homewood Suites - Valley Forge (M, T, W, Th)
- Bertuccis (M)
- Target (T)
- Olive Garden (W)
- Post Office (Th)
- Philadelphia Airport (Th)
- TSA Center - Lost & Found (Th)
- US Air - Communication Center (Th)
- Auntie Annie's (Th)
- Cibo (Th)

Foliage Fun


My family jokes that when I'm not traveling I have a hard time leaving the neighborhood. Since my failed attempt to move into the North End, it could be easily assumed that I'd spend the weekend in the fetal position on the couch.... but I didn't. I actually got out and explored an area I'd never been to before, "World's End" in Hingham.

Spoiler alert: it didn't disappoint.

The weather was just so awesome this weekend that it would have been hard to stay inside guilt free. World's End comes with its fair share of walking ... and hills. Frankly, I'm surprised by the number of baby strollers I saw there because there is no way I'd be hauling anything other than myself up those hills. Is that selfish? Perhaps.

I'm pretty sure these pictures don't capture any of the hills but perhaps you'll enjoy the ocean / foliage / tractors?
 this place had like a lot of benches. which is awesome.
 I don't know this family, but that kid was pretty cute being hauled around by his dad.
A map and a BLT. It's all a girl needs in the world. 
 After taking these two pictures of whatever type of farming equipment this is.... I noticed a lot of poison ivy. This will probably be a test of whether or not I get reactions from poison ivy. I didn't even realize poison ivy was a threat in the Fall.
 I got moderately attacked by thorny bushes to get this water shot... but I think it's worth it for these faux looking clouds.
It was super windy here for some reason. I would consider myself someone with pretty decent balance. I did not exhibit great balance taking this picture. I almost fell off my rock twice - and by almost I mean that I fell once.

 All in all. I consider this suburban adventure a win. I procured the Trustees of the Reservation membership from a Gilt Boston sale and it's been worth it. I definetly would never make back my membership fees (retail value like $45ish / year) but I really enjoyed my afternoon taking in the foliage and "rolling hills".

If I want to fit in the next time I come here, I'll be sure to bring the following: a spouse, a young baby and a dog. Also, a Subaru would help. The parking lot was filled with them.

There is a slim chance of me bringing any of the aforementioned subjects with me on another visit to World's End. I'll probably just bring another BLT and a friend.

North End: Take One.


So on Friday, I tried to move into the North End. 

It did not go as planed. 

I won't give you all the great details but suffice to say:
  • Crazy Rain.
  • the landlord decided to install new floors. he didn't finish. there was a saw in the living room
  • the parking permit I paid for did not force anyone to move. The police came... and towed zero cars.
  • an old lady told me that having the cars towed wouldn't be the best way to move into the neighborhood. She asked if I wanted "Mikey" to move his bike. I told her I had no idea who Mikey was.
  • the landlord decided that he didn't want to hire cleaners to come in because that would be "cosmetic"
  • my couch didn't exactly fit .... and now has a red stain on it.
and the kicker went something like this:

me: oh hi Joe [landlord] what are you doing waiting outside? Thanks for holding the door.
Joe: oh i'm waiting for a fridge
me: well thats exciting. big day. new tenant and a fridge.
Joe: yep.
Joe: so are you planning on staying today?
me: no, remember the saw in the living room.
Joe: .... riiight. ok, well I have some stuff in your fridge.
me: ..... wait, what?

Pretty much the end of the conversation. The fridge is FILLED. So, I'm going to leave all my stuff there and try again next weekend. I figure it'll take me two tries to make this work.
 Doesn't everyone want a saw in their living room?
Who wants dinner? Joe the Landlord is cooking... or at least supplying the groceries

11,111 Miles


This past Monday the odometer on my car hit 88, 888 miles. 

That seems monumental right?

I don't remember many of the other "historic" turns of the odometer, but I do remember the exact moment that I hit 77,777.  It was August 23, 2009. I was just about to finish my summer internship in New Jersey and was visiting my then boyfriend in Philadelphia. Life seemed pretty great.

On Monday during my return trip from an epic weekend in Vermont, I hit the 88, 888 mile mark. It seemed like a pretty big milestone. Thanks to the traffic I was sitting in on 93 South, I had a bit of time to reflect on where I'd been in those 11, 111 miles.

So here are some numbers and moments that occured in those 11, 111 miles:
  • graduated with my MBA and moved out of Brighton ... and into my parent's house
  • drove to the farmer's market weekly during the summer of 2010
  • drove to Christmas Cove in Maine for Labor Day 2010
  • drove to the train station to take the NYC Acela for 23 weeks
  • drove to Vermont for New Years 2010 (or is it 2011?)
  • drove to the Airport for a billion flights to Philly (15 weeks?)
  • drove to Maine for Labor Day 2011
and most recently drove to Vermont for an epic-ly awesome foliage filled weekend of great times.

In hindsight, I kinda of feel like that's not enough trips for 11k in miles... but instead I'll just be happy that the car doesn't record my voice when I'm singing at the top of my lungs. I only ever sing in the car. Never in a house. Never in the shower. Only in the car.

Sidenote: this car has been with me since I got my driver's license in high school. So I've had it for almost like 11 years? (math seems hard right now). That's a whole lot of ice coffees, loops by the beach, and Skittles spilled under the seat.

Quick Hello


It's Monday and the end of a busy travel day.

I have a lot of personal goals this week that I'd like to accomplish... but here is a quick summary of my weekend. Since everyone loves bullet points, I'm going to use them. If you don't like bullet points, leave my blog immediately. (Actually please don't. You'd miss my interweb humor and beach pictures)

Weekend Accomplishments:
  • Cleaned out my Tivo. I love me some Modern Family, Happy Endings, The Office, Parks & Rec ....
  • Went to the Boston College Football game. Another loss. Le sad BC. Please pull it together. I believe in you, but I have a hard time motivating for games when you don't motivate for the points.
  • Made bunches and bunches of cookies. My favorite recipe and they are addicting. I had to fend of family members who know how alluring and addictive my trademark delights are.
  • Attempted lasagna for the first time. Lesson learned? More sauce. In the spirit of my good friend Meghan, I made artichoke lasagna. Thankfully my dad and little brother don't really know what artichokes are otherwise they'd probably protest and eat around them. Since they don't know what they are.... they now have dinner for a few nights this week.
  • Ran zero times. I was just too tired all weekend. Silly travel and allergies.
It almost doesn't need to be said.... but I walked the beach as much as possible. The lighting was super neat on Sunday morning and that is when I took this picture I included above. I have several more from that day that I'll include over time, but spoiler alert... the clouds were crazy neat.

I'm in NYC this week and its so refreshing. I hope to try and get to a few of my favorite spots, like the High Line Park and Union Square Greenmarket, before I venture back into suburbia. We'll see. I am a sucker for flowers and carbs ... and morning sunlight. Let's make it happen.
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