The Girl's Guide to Homelessness

Brianna Karp does not fit the "typical" picture of homelessness. True, her upbringing was a bit rough as the daughter of a sexually-abusive man and a psychologically tortured mother. Her childhood was far from ideal and had certain damaging effects on her sense of self and self-esteem. But she was an educated woman, someone with a job and an apartment and a whole life for herself. Not the kind of person anyone would associate with people begging for change on street corners and sleeping through winter on park benches.

And then the recession hit. And the company for which Brianna worked was forced to lay off more than half of their 500-plus employees. And she hit financial rock-bottom and had to move back to her abusive and destructive parental home. Which was when Karp realized that anything was better than going back to the distorted and debilitating place she had come from.

The Girl's Guide to Homelessness chronicles Brianna Karp's unique journey into and through homelessness. When her biological father passes away, she is lucky enough to inherit a trailer which she parks in a Walmart parking lot for months at a time for temporary shelter. Brianna still has a laptop from her more fortunate days, perfect for searching for jobs using Starbucks' internet connection. And this internet access also proves crucial in helping her find a wide and welcoming virtual world populated by the homeless.

Karp's story is about the reality of homelessness and the varied forms it may take. She repeatedly stresses that her homeless experience is a rather exceptional and particularly cushiony one. Nonetheless, her status as an officially homeless individual remains the same, and Karp has utilized her resources as a homeless woman to the best of her ability. For one, she started a blog about her experience, from which this book was actually born. And her access to basic technologies like a computer, a cell phone, and the internet allowed her to seek employment, to make connections with fellow homeless bloggers, and to meet a particularly important figure from the virtual homeless community who truly shapes her life in unimaginable ways. It allowed her to put a face to homelessness, to dispel the myths, and to become a true activist for the oft-silenced community.

This isn't necessarily a book of strategies for surviving homelessness, nor is it purely an account of how a homeless 20-something copes with day to day life without a permanent residence in modern America. I almost feel that the book's title is a bit misleading since The Girl's Guide to Homelessness is primarily a memoir of Brianna Karp's often unbelievable and endlessly inspiring life. Family drama, career aspirations, personal demons, and the trials and tribulations of love all play important roles in Brianna's story. Part of her point is that, remarkably enough, these seemingly "normal" concerns are still of great concern to the homeless. Brianna's story speaks to the variability of the experience of homelessness but also just how close and accessible it is to us all - she puts a human, relatable face on one of society's most misunderstood populations.

Karp closes out her story with grace, hope, and gratitude. Despite the struggles of being a homeless person, were it not for this experience, she would never have forged the support network that offers her a sense of home and belonging no matter where she physically or geographically finds herself. This book would never have been published and her life's work as an activist for the homeless would not have been discovered. Brianna raises lots of issues of particular importance to the homeless community, but The Girl's Guide also teaches a lot of useful lessons about life in general through Brianna's tremendous story. This memoir isn't a saddening tale of human suffering, but rather a hopeful and entertaining ode to the goodness inherent in all people and life's remarkable ability to surprise and delight us.


Week in Review

Excited to see some new growth after saving this shrub from near-death!

Backyard garden zucchini plant teeming with ants

Louie basking in the sun while enjoying discarded vegetable plants.

A perfect Sunday morning breakfast - peanut butter oatmeal with fresh berries!


Homemade Italian Doughnuts

I went through a phase where I was obsessed with creating the perfect authentic Red Velvet Donut. Though my final product was ultimately based upon a variety of recipes specifically designed for maximum red velvet flavor, I never really looked into authentic methods of doughnut preparation.
The idea of at-home doughnuts struck again one Sunday morning while watching Giada de Laurentiis make some Italian doughnuts, known as zeppole, with a coffee-flavored glaze. I couldn't help but notice that her method was entirely different from the one that I had utilized just a few weeks prior. Being the doughnut-lover that I am, I couldn't let this recipe go ignored.
Giada's doughnuts are made primarily on the stove top. She begins by thinning out melted butter with some water, then adding in the sugar and flour and cooking the dough, all on top of the stove. The final addition is 4 eggs, which are mixed in one by one off the heat. This technique looked so much easier to me than I would ever have imagined. And it created some much more authentic doughnuts than those of the red velvet variety which I made on my first attempt. 
Since I'm still a doughnut-making novice, I simply copied the recipes without any alterations. Maybe in the future I'll develop my own doughnut-making methods but for now, I'm sticking to directions from the experts.
The one change I did make to Giada's original recipe was the glaze. I'm not a coffee person - in fact, I really can't stand the flavor of the stuff and her glaze contained espresso. Instead, I sprinkled some extra sugar on top of the doughnuts as soon as they came out of the oil. I also sought out a chocolate glaze recipe from Mr. Alton Brown if you'd rather go the chocolate route. Whether you go with the original glaze, plain old sugar, or Alton's version, these doughnuts are sure to please! 

Homemade Italian Donuts with Chocolate Glaze
Donut Ingredients
4 ounces (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces, at room temperature
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup all-purpose flour
3 eggs
1 egg yolk
2 teaspoons lemon zest (from 1 lemon)
Vegetable oil, for frying
Glaze Ingredients
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1/4 cup whole milk, warmed
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
2 cups confectioners' sugar, sifted

To make the doughnuts: 
1. In a medium saucepan, combine the butter, water, sugar, and salt over medium heat. Bring to a rolling boil, stirring occasionally. Boil for 10 seconds. 
2. Remove the pan from the heat and add the flour. Using a wooded spoon, quickly stir the mixture until all the flour is fully incorporated and forms a thick dough.
3. Return the pan to the heat and stir continuously for 2 minutes. 
4. Scrape the mixture into a stand mixture fitted with a paddle attachment. With the machine running on medium speed, add the eggs and egg yolk, 1 at a time until fully incorporated. Beat the mixture for 4 to 5 minutes until thick and glossy. 
5. Add the lemon zest and beat until smooth. 
6. Refrigerate the dough for 15 minutes.
7. In a large heavy-bottomed saucepan, pour in enough oil to fill the pan about a third of the way. Heat over medium heat until a deep-frying thermometer inserted in the oil reaches 375 degrees F. (If you don't have a thermometer a cube of bread will brown in a couple of minutes.)
8. Using a small ice cream scoop or 2 small spoons, carefully drop scoops (about 1 tablespoon) of the dough into the oil. (Do not crowd the pan!) Cook for 3 to 3 1/2 minutes, turning occasionally, until the doughnuts are golden and puffed. Drain on paper towels. (I sprinkled them with extra sugar as soon as they were removed from the oil for a little extra sweetness!)
9. Repeat until all of the dough has been used. When the doughnuts are cool enough to handle, dip the top halves in the glaze.
To make the glaze: 
1. Combine butter, milk, corn syrup, and vanilla in medium saucepan and heat over medium heat until butter is melted.
2. Decrease the heat to low, add the chocolate, and whisk until melted.
3. Turn off heat, add the powdered sugar, and whisk until smooth.
4. Place the mixture over a bowl of warm water and dip the doughnuts immediately. 
5. Allow glaze to set for 30 minutes before serving. Enjoy!


Making It: Radical Home Ec for a Post-Consumer World

I randomly found Kelly Coyne and Erik Knutzen's Making It: Radical Home Ec for a Post-Consumer World while browsing the "Just Arrived" shelves at my library - and I cannot express how glad I am to have picked this one up! Making It has recipes and how-tos for every product you could possibly need to clean house, feed yourself, maintain good hygiene, and stay healthy. It is a complete idiots' guide to the handmade, homemade, sustainable lifestyle, and Koyne and Knutzen's procedures are outlined with simplicity, clarity, and even troubleshooting suggestions. Flipping through the projects contained therein, I kept saying to myself "I want to do this one!" and "I have to make that!" My noisy excitement was probably a bit annoying to Mike who was trying to focus on the baseball game, but I just couldn't help myself.

Coyne and Knutzen break their projects down based upon the time it takes to produce them. So there are step-by-step guides for simple everyday necessities, like homemade soaps and shampoos, as well as instructions for long-term undertakings, like composting or building a chicken coop. This makes it super easy to start by taking up one or two relatively simple projects, as they encourage, before slowly building your radical home-ec repertoire. And the book covers a wide range of projects necessary for any individual who wants to live a clean and healthy life, from cooking basics to house cleaning products, preparing staple meals to homemade hygiene, gardening to herbal medicines.

So why join this "post-consumer" movement? Why take the time to do it yourself, follow these instructional guides, and rather than simply buy products from the convenience store? Well first of all, making it yourself is ultimately the cheapest route to go. So much of the money we spend on household products goes toward packaging. By purchasing the necessary ingredients in bulk and then whipping up the product ourselves, we can avoid the added manufacturing, shipping, and packaging costs. Plus, you're not wasting gas money running to the store when it's shower time and you realize you've run out of conditioner. And buying ingredients in bulk reduces their price per ounce, so the larger quantity of olive oil, though more expensive up front, will save you money in the long run.

There's also a great sense of satisfaction from doing it yourself. I love to work with my hands but even more so, I love to create things that are functional and useful. It is deeply rewarding to enjoy food grown by hand in your own backyard, or to successfully whip up a relaxing soap mixture. I believe that the pleasure of having the skills to do a task is far superior to that of having the money to buy a product.

Health is another valid concern to anyone who uses commercial cleaners, processed foods, and chemical-based hygiene products. The projects in Making It avoid harsh, questionable, and dangerous chemicals that could cause untold harm to you or your family. I would much prefer to a product composed of a few ingredients with which I am familiar than one whose ingredients list is long and dominated by difficult to pronounce components. There are a lot of dangerous substances that we introduce to our bodies and our homes these days without knowing the full implications or consequences. The guides contained in Making It assure much safer and more friendly products.

This book is proof that becoming a producer instead of a consumer is affordable, accessible, and doable. I never realized how simple it could be to take a shower using not a single store-bought product - if I'd have known, I would have advocated homemade soap long ago! Coyne and Knutzen make it unbelievably easy to reverse your consumption trends and regain a sense of self-reliance. Even if you love your hair products and can't imagine living without them, that doesn't mean there isn't some recipe for production in here that is conducive to your lifestyle.

I'm a huge library goer and, as a fan of being a self-producer rather than a consumer, generally avoid purchasing books that I could just as easily access for free. Making It, however, may ironically enough be the exception to this rule for me. It's a veritable bible for anyone who wants to become a homemaker in a whole new sense of the world, and I count myself one among post-consumer homemakers for sure.

In the coming months I plan to grow my own sweet potato vine; make homemade lotions, shampoos, conditions, shaving creams, soaps, and lip balms; use homemade laundry detergent; and convert to chemical-free household cleaning products. Though I'm usually one to become easily overwhelmed by a long to-do list, Making It has made this list of projects totally easy to tackle for me. Rather than feeling daunted by converting to these sustainable alternatives to consumer products, I am highly excited and full of anticipation to see how the process unfolds. I'll be sure to report back on my efforts but, in the meantime, go get your hands on a copy of this book. It is not to be missed for the eco-conscious, concerned, healthy, DIY-oriented, handy, sustainably-minded individual!


Midnight in Paris

Mike and I had the pleasure of seeing Woody Allen's latest film "Midnight in Paris" at the local independent theater. We'd heard great reviews and are both fans of Woody's work, but were a bit skeptical about Owen Wilson starring in a Woody Allen film. Turns out, he was perfectly cast in this delightful romantic comedy.

Set in France, the story follows a young engaged couple on their trip to Paris. Wilson plays Gil, a hopeless romantic who absolutely loves Paris, especially in the rain, and Innes, spoiled and yearning to return home to Los Angeles, is portrayed by a blonde Rachel McAdams. Innes is constantly belittling her fiance for his plans to write a great novel and his idealistic look at life, while Gil tags along seemingly oblivious to his soon-to-be-wife's disdain.

One evening when the two go their separate ways after a wine tasting, Gil to wander the streets of Paris in search of their hotel, and Innes off to go dancing with a pretentious couple she knew from college, Gil discovers a whole new side of Paris after midnight. As Gil falls further under the city's magical spell, he grows increasingly distant from the materialistic, spoiled, and unimaginative Innes. I won't elaborate much beyond this in the hopes that readers will go see the movie and be delighted by what happens next for Gil. But I will give you this little tidbit: moviegoers can definitely benefit by brushing up on their knowledge of 1920's literary figures for this one!

I haven't seen too many of Allen's more recent films so watching a Woody Allen movie without Woody himself as lead actor is still a bit of a shock to me. But Wilson was a surprisingly good stand-in as the slightly neurotic, bumbling, and overly nostalgic Gil. It was easy to find traces of Allen in this movie but I found it to be almost more widely appealing as a romantic comedy than some of Woody's films tend to be.

If you get the chance, I highly recommend catching "Midnight in Paris" at your local indie theater! It's a great improvement over the standard date night romantic comedy and I can't think of a better word to sum the whole film up than delightful!


Weekly Recap & An Introduction to Louie!

It's been a while since I've had a weekly recap on account of honeymooning and such, but it's great to get back into the swing of things. I have plenty of photos to share from the past few weeks, but first I wanted to take a moment to introduce to thing that has most captured my attention these past few weeks - my new dog Louie!

Driving home from the SPCA, Louie was nothing but smiles and kisses in the car!

She is a loving and adorable 6 month-old pit bull mix that Mike and I adopted from the SPCA earlier this month. While roaming the aisles of the kennel, we were confronted with a seemingly endless number of adorable dogs begging us to take them home with their puppy dog eyes and enthusiastic tail wags. When we came to Louie's cell (she was known as Tiki back then), we couldn't resist this overwhelmingly sweet-natured girl who was simply dying to meet with anyone that passed her by. She was trying to lick our hands beneath the kennel door and getting herself all worked up while we stood by reading her info. We just couldn't resist her charm!

Louie is pretty good in the car although she insisted on occupying the front seat on our first solo hike together!

There's plenty of debate over the safety of owning pit bulls, and the SPCA does a great job of properly and thoroughly informing potential pit owners about the breed while dispelling the myths that give these wonderful companions a bad name. I won't regale you with all I learned from the literature that we had to take home, but I would like to do my small part to help reverse the negativity felt towards pits. First of all, they were bred and raised to fight other dogs, not humans. They were actually originally selected to be fighting dogs because of how well they interacted with, listened, and responded to humans. This made for good training and deep trust between owners and their dogs. Most of the attacks you hear about today involving pit bulls and humans are a result of the cruel and malicious environments in which many of these dogs grow up. It has become a cultural cycle of sorts. Pits are known for the negative traits that are fostered in them because of the way they are raised to fight. People with an interest in dog fighting are then drawn to them, raise them to be fighters, and further perpetuate the stereotype and the danger. Plenty of other people in the market for a pet shy away from these dogs since they are deemed undesirable, leaving a vast excess of pits in need of homes. In this way, there are plenty of people who really want, love, and care about dogs but are unlikely to take home a pit, and these dogs become pets to inexperienced, cruel, and/or poorly intentioned owners.

Louie is the sweetest dog I have ever met, and I've met quite a few as a dog-walker, -sitter, and -owner. She attacks myself and Mike with love from time to time, but has shown no aggressive tendencies towards any humans, dogs, or other animals we have encountered. By giving her plenty of training, attention, positive reinforcement, and exposure to people, animals, and situations of all sorts, we are ensuring that she will be a friendly, well-adjusted, and reliable companion animal.

It's been pretty difficult to get a still shot of this energetic little girl.

In just a few short weeks, we can already see that Louie is just that and will only prove to be more so in the future. We continually find ourselves remarking over how wonderful of a puppy she is, beyond all of our hopes and expectations. The only time we've ever heard her bark is in her sleep. She's quiet and cooperative when we kennel train her, playful when we're energetic, and calm when she sees us settled down. Louie is, in every negative respect, simply a puppy learning her way into doghood. Besides a tendency to bite during these puppy teething days and a few potty-training accidents, she has been a true joy to own! When we brought her home, Louie had a case of kennel cough and a scar that required medication - she actually even took one of the pills straight out of my hand without any cheese, peanut butter, or other such concealing food item! Mike and I brag about her constantly, but we just can't help but find ourselves pleasantly surprised by her Louie's excellent behavior and kind nature again and again!

While fighting a fever and a case of kennel cough, Louie was a little more tired than usual. Thankfully we got her through it with some medication and a bunch of rest!

All of the workers to whom we spoke at the SPCA were pit owners with nothing but wonderful things to say about the breed. Each and every one of them told us that they would never get another breed of dog again. These are probably especially loving dog-owners if their lives' work is with the SPCA, but that is what it all comes down to: the environment in which a dog is raised. True, pit bulls do have an instinct to finish a fight with which nearly all other breeds are not born. But pits are no more or less likely to instigate fights than a dog of any other breed. As long as pit owners are well informed and conscientious, the situation should never arise in which his or her dog is engaged in a fight and is able to act on that finishing instinct. Providing a dog with a loving home, positive training, requisite exercise, and adequate exposure to all sorts of experiences and living beings is essential to raising any breed of puppy into a wonderful, well-behaved, friendly adult dog. And that's the end of my diatribe on the pit bull. Thank you for sticking with me!

Here are just a few more shots from a week of good, fresh, almost-summer eating!

A scrumptious rainbow of heirloom tomatoes, all ready for some good eating!

Garden-fresh herbs brighten up weeknight dinners like nothing else.

A most beautiful avocado! Perfect for adorning egg sandwiches!

And I'll end this post with a sweet little cover of "Do You Believe in Magic" performed by The Format. I was pleasantly surprised when I heard this song on the end of a Format mix CD I had made and it became an instant repeat. Perfect for sunny day driving with the windows down, this is a great song for this time of year!


Simple Portobello Burger

Apologies for the abundance of road trip posts lately! I had so much I wanted to record and share, for those of you who are interested but also for Mike and I to be able to look back on years from now when our memories of our honeymoon have faded. Thanks for putting up with all of them and I promise to be back into my regular weekly reviews, recipes, book reviews, and the like!

Although I am truly a great lover of food, sometimes I find myself in a gastronomic funk. The same meals just seem to repeat themselves over and over in my kitchen no matter how many exotic grocery stores I go to or unusual ingredients I purchase.

I was recently in one such slump and turned to some old food magazines in the hopes of finding something delicious and innovative to break out of the string of Italian pasta dishes and gourmet sandwiches that were dominating my diet. And I came across the portabello burger. Not an entirely foreign concept (in fact, it could be considered another take on the gourmet sandwich) but a relatively novel and absolutely delicious one for me!

This vegetarian burger couldn't be easier to prepare and the results are surprisingly delicious for such little effort. I buffed up my burger with sliced avocado, caramelized red onion, and roasted red peppers, but give whatever suits your fancy a try! The variety of flavors I chose were dictated by what I had on hand but they complimented my burger perfectly!

Simple Portobello Burger

  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 medium red onion, sliced in rounds
  • 1 Tbsp granulated sugar
  • 2 portobello mushrooms
  • 2 kaiser rolls (any variety of roll will do!)
  • 1 avocado, sliced
  • 1/4 cup roasted red pepper slices
  • Salt and pepper to taste


1. Heat a grill pan or large frying pan over medium to low heat. Heat 1 Tbsp olive oil and add sliced red onion. Salt and sprinkle with granulated sugar and allow to caramelize about 10 minutes.
2. Remove stems and gills from mushrooms. Brush tops and bottoms with remaining olive oil and add to grill pan. Season with salt and pepper.  
3. Cook portabellos for 3 to 4 minutes on each side. 
4. Arrange mushroom burgers on rolls with avocado, caramelized onions, and roasted red peppers. Enjoy!

*I apologize for the poor quality of these photos. I was a bit rushed in capturing this dish and realized just how much I sacrificed quality for my impatience only when viewing them on my computer!


Road Trip Review Day 6: Augusta, Lake Winnipesaukee, Farmington

Our final full day of road trip fun took us out of Maine and back through New Hampshire, Massachusetts, and Connecticut. It was a pretty heavy day for driving, especially since we weren't especially sure of our destination and ended up on some backroads heading toward undecided-upon locales.

One thing that we discovered about road trips is, in the planning, you've got to save something good for last. We debated hitting the Adironack Moutnains, the Bethel Woods Museums (all about Woodstock), and driving through Vermont. None of these were places that either Mike or myself were dying to see. I had been looking forward to Maine, particularly Acadia, for the entire trip while Mike's highlights were all Boston and seeing Chris Rock on Broadway. Once we got those major stops out of the way, we grew a bit tired of all the driving and few of the remaining sights seemed nearly as appealing in comparison.

That's not to say that we were no longer enjoying ourselves - in fact, far from it. Rather, the excitement of New England was wearing off a bit as lack of sleep, poor eating habits, and excessive amounts of time behind the wheel caught up with us.

Anyway, our final plan took us down through the aforementioned states: Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, and Connecticut. We had passed through or stopped in all of these places before, but this time we went a further inland route to see a different part of the state. Our first stop out of Augusta was a tiny little place in Litchfield, ME called Country Cafe. We were looking for Sunday breakfast a little early in Augusta and struggling to find anyplace that was open at 9:00 am when we headed out. As we left the big city in search of a roadside offering, we took an exit that led us to backcountry roads and Litchfield. After driving a few miles with nothing by way of breakfast around, we came to an intersection with a big sign for an inn and restaurant. There were a few buildings around but none with signs on them to differentiate itself as the advertised inn. We did, however, see a parking lot by what looked to be a house standing a few yards from a tall sign for pepsi. A look through the window on the back door indicated that there were patrons inside and yes in fact they were eating. Not a sign on the restaurant, which looked more like a quaint doublewide home than an eatery, let us know it was a delicious place to eat, but we lucked out by poking our heads in.

This little place, which we learned was called the Country Cafe, couldn't have had more than 6 tables and 5 bar seats in the place. It was tiny, homey, bustling, and adorable. This was delicious diner-style fare downhome in grandma's kitchen. The place was very unassuming but was absolutely delectable. Mike tried a Neptune omelet with scallops, shrimp, and lobster that was decidedly to-die-for. My choice was some blueberry pancakes which were easily twice the size of my head. The food was excellent, the atmosphere homey, and the price could not be beat. I doubt the place even has a website but it is definitely worth visiting!

After a hearty breakfast we headed to Lake Winnipesaukee, New Hampshire. It was a gorgeous drive through this vacation spot with gorgeous lakefront homes and small shops and restaurants along the way. We got a few shots of the river but otherwise didn't spend too much time at the lake. We did hit a craft gallery known as Yikes! in search of a bathroom that was definitely worth poking around in. This place was huge with American-made crafts of all sorts. From woodwork to pottery, jewelry, photography, metal pieces, even homemade soaps and condiments, this was a gift-buying hotspot and a decorator's dream. I sadly didn't buy anything but was in heaven as we browsed the shop. We stopped into a nearby ice cream shop and cafe for a veggie-laden sandwich and were on our way.

Lake Winnipesaukee

Mirror Lake

Mirror Lake

From there we pretty much drove our hearts out until early evening. Through Massachusetts we went, with a short detour to Walden Pond. The state park was $5 to get in so we opted out. Pretty much I wanted to get a look at the pond and a drive by would suffice for me. This detour also took us through central Concord which was a quaint but obviously affluent area that offered a pleasing drive nonetheless.

We debated where to stay for some time. Originally our thought was that we'd end our trip with a stay at an inn or bed and breakfast. Mike suggested doing such which surprised me at first. Though it is such a hallmark of New England's tourism industry, the B&B culture wasn't what I imagined would be Mike's cup of tea. Turns out, it wasn't - he was more into the idea of an included breakfast I think. When we looked online for relatively affordable B&B's in the area, the room photos were downright creepy. Mike kept the jokes coming as room after room sprouted gingham, quilts, horrendous wallpaper, and the like. Though I was a bit hesitant to stay at a B&B because of the supposed constant chitchat with owners and fellow patrons, even I was appalled at the decor in most of these places. So we decided that maybe this wasn't for us.

But serendipitous events led us to a stay at the quaint but classy and classic Farmington Inn in Connecticut that night. We originally planned to stay at a fancy hotel in downtown Hartford, however directions from our trusty coupon book were highly inadequate and we decided the frustration wasn't worth it, as we didn't even know how nice these accommodations would be. The Farmington Inn was also in the coupon book so we figured we would give it a try. Turns out, this place was one of four historic and renowned Connecticut inns and was exactly what we had in mind: friendly but not overly-so, classy furnishings with charm and an old-fashioned feel. We rested in comfort and peace that night and finally found a place where the free breakfast was actually worth taking advantage of. It doesn't take too much to impress us but some of these places advertised a free hot breakfast spread that was so unappetizing, I would have paid not to eat it.

The Farmington Inn, complete with on-site tailor's shop and salon.

Our classic inn room.

And so ended the exciting and noteworthy portion of our trip. Our next day was mostly driving home with few stops in our eagerness to see our cat again. Though we originally had intended to be on the road for closer to two weeks, we had a nice weeklong trip with about a week without work at home to get a new dog and spend time together simply relaxing. Road trips are full of fun and a great way to see plenty of things at one time. And in New England, all destinations are so close that you can see five cities in a single day, something to which we were not highly accustomed. But road trips are also not conducive to full relaxation since you're constantly trying to find accommodations for the night, navigate oft-confusing country backroads, and determine what sights are worth seeing. We saw everything we wanted to see and were ready to head home, so we did. The money saved, the gas not consumed, and those attractions left undiscovered will be saved for next time, as this surely is not the last road trip Mike and I will take together. We were able to get a taste of it all and enjoy one another's company for 7 days on end with scarcely a moment apart. It was the perfect honeymoon for us and I'm glad that I've been able to record it all in my blog so the memories can stay fresh, though there was still plenty of anecdotes I refrained from sharing in an effort not to bore the eyes off readers. Thanks for following us on this New England honeymoon road trip!


Road Trip Review Day 5: Portland, Acadia, Bar Harbor, Augusta

Day five was spent entirely in Maine which has quickly become my favorite state of all those we’ve visited on this trip and our last. The road from Portland to Acadia was dotted with thrift stores, antique shops, art galleries, and doggie daycare centers. A wide array of independently-owned restaurants was to be found in Bar Harbor, where we spent our afternoon, as well as a healthy selection of ice cream and sweet shops, including Ben and Bill’s Chocolate Emporium, named Maine’s Best Ice Cream Shop in USA Today. 
But apart from the shopping and eating, Maine is home to Acadia National Park, easily one of the most beautiful and scenic areas which I have ever visited. The Park Loop Road offers stunning photo opportunities at every turn and even offers access to the top of Cadillac Mountain at an elevation of 1528 ft. We drove around capturing the gorgeous setting, a cerulean blue sky dotted with clouds alighting upon the vast waters of the harbor and the Atlantic Ocean. The vibrant greenery of the wooded mountains that make up much of Acadia’s grounds were more beautiful than those of local Maryland parks with which I am familiar, free as they are of invasive species, choking vines, and the like. Even on major interstates such as I-95, the trees lining the roadside are picturesque unlike most of the highways in my area whose native plant life stands in competition to the invasive weeds. But I digress. Maine is gorgeous and there’s little I can do by way of words or photography to truly capture the beauty of this state.

But I’m getting a bit ahead of myself. Mike and I started the morning off with Tony’s Donuts, a renowned bakery in Portland. I enjoyed a bavarian donut as well as their famous molasses variety, a donut with a subtle but enjoyable flavor. Mike had a chocolate twist and a blueberry donut, both also delicious. The building itself is unprepossessing and unassuming as can be, but the delicacies created within far surpass nearly any of the kind I’ve tasted before.

The donuts in all their glory.

Molasses donut perfection!

Then we headed to Acadia. We started our visit off with a drive along the Park Loop Road to see the sights and acquaint ourselves with Mount Desert Island, where we spent the vast majority of our time. The weather was absolutely perfect for our photographic excursion and we could see far out over the Atlantic Ocean and to some of the other Acadian peaks. Our drive lead us to Jordan’s Pond and we hiked the 3 mile trail surrounding the lake which offers beautiful views out over the water. Mike and I, accustomed to the humid early June temperatures of Maryland, were surprised by the chilly Maine weather, with the temperature barely rising above 60 degrees during our visit. But the cool was a welcome relief after the first few steamy days of our trip.

The first overlook we came to on the Park Loop Rd. Little did we know, this was probably the most underwhelming view of all the ones we would see throughout the course of the day.

An overlook nearing the summit of Cadillac Mountain. An absolutely breathtaking view.

The Cadillac Mountain Summit looking out over the Atlantic. These photos really don't do the view much justice.

Jordan Pond

Acadia flora and fauna.

Abundant ferns were to be found alongside Acadia's trails.

This boardwalk popped up on the last leg of the trail and was a seemingly never-ending feature for the last 10 minutes of our hike. I did appreciate that all structures built on the trail, such as this boardwalk and any bridges, were created out of renewable resources, primarily wood.

We decided to fill up after our hike in nearby Bar Harbor. This is another one of those adorable historic districts that really draws a tourist crowd. There were plenty of souvenir shops selling Bar Harbor, Maine, and Acadia T-shirts, Christmas stores galore, ice creameries, candy shops, and tons of jewelry to pour through. We settled on a nice early dinner at The Carmen Verandah Club, ordering Maine’s most famous delicacy, lobster. I had a lobster bisque and Mike had an amazing Lobster Mac-n-Cheese with huge hunks of bright red lobster meat larger than any I’d ever seen before. Then we wandered the quaint but bustling streets of Bar Harbor, bought candy from Ben and Bill’s, explored a unique woodworking shop, and searched for cheap souvenir sweatshirts with which to warm up because we were poorly outfitted for the chill in the air. 
In addition to plenty of lobstery goodness, we started our meal off with some delicious sweet potato fries drizzled with honey mustard. We had a very healthy day as you can see!

Ben and Bill's Chocolate Emporium in Bar Harbor.

From there we headed east for the final leg of our trip through New Hampshire and Vermont. But before leaving the Bar Harbor area, we stopped at Pirate’s Cove for not one but two rounds of Adventure Mini Golf. The place offered two separate courses and, being the golf lover that he is, Mike decided to play a good two rounds. I can’t say I had quite as much fun as him, but then again I’m not nearly as good of a putter as he is and I’m a bit of a sore loser.
On the drive to our stay for the night, we were continually impressed by Maine’s breathtaking scenery, adorable small towns, and surplus of inn’s and B&B’s. The state is full of charming places and people, which we got another taste of that night. We stopped at a Quality Inn around 9:00 pm and asked if there was anywhere nearby that we could get some blueberry pie. The overly-enthusiastic receptionist called a local restaurant to check and they invited us over, even though they were closing in just 30 minutes. 

The restaurant was called Slates and it was absolutely heavenly. This was quite literally the restaurant the restaurant of my dreams with an excellent menu and the best blueberry pie I’ve ever tasted to boot. But what really stole the show for my was the ambience of the whole place. Located in a historic little strip of shops called Hallowell in Augusta, Slates was full of colorful wall murals, the gentle sounds of a live guitarist, candles and Christmas lights strung all around. It was romantic, whimsical, artistic, and classic in a way that I’ve never seen before. This was the kind of place I had been hoping to find in nearly every small town we visited. I just wish I had enough room to eat more than just blueberry pie a la mode!

Enroute to the hotel, we also passed the Belfast Curling Club. I didn't know such places existed and begged Mike to turn around after we flew by the place so I could take a few photos.


Road Trip Review Day 4: Boston, Gloucester, Portland

Mike started off our fourth day of honeymoon bliss in Boston. We went to a great little cafe near Boston University called the Crispy Crepes Cafe. It specializes in classic French crepes but also has a great traditional American breakfast menu and a variety of Mediterranean lunch offerings. I went for a Nutella, strawberry and banana crepe that was easily one of the best I've ever had. It was a great college cafe and I highly recommend it to anyone in the Boston area looking for a delicious and simple meal!

Then we headed to Fenway Park for an official tour of the nation's second oldest ballpark. It was definitely a beautiful stadium and witness the unique, diehard Red Sox culture firsthand. Though our tour guide left a bit to be desired in the narration department, we enjoyed ourselves, learned a few things, and got quite a lot of photos and footage of the park. Mike was all smiles while we wanted Fenway and I couldn't help but enjoy myself too!

Teammates statue outside of Gate B.

A view of the stadium from atop the Green Monster.

Glorious and classic Fenway Park.

After concluding our tour, we hurried out of Boston to go whale watching in Gloucester. It's something I've always wanted to do and I saw a pamphlet for it while browsing a visitor center. Unfortunately, the woman working the whale watching ticket booth did not seem the least bit sorry that the 1:30 pm tour which was advertised on all promotional materials and for which we showed up was instead a 9:00 am tour. So that plan fell a bit flat.

We made the most of our visit to the unique shore town of Gloucester. There was a nice historic Main St. full of shops, restaurants, and galleries. Though the area was a bit more of a tourist attraction than some of the other historic districts we had visited already, it was still a great place to browse around. I especially enjoyed all the consignment shops, and then we had a perfect lunch at Topside Grill and Pub. Despite the disappointing change in plans, I'm glad it added Gloucester to our itinerary!

Mike posing with my Kiwi Melon Bellini at lunch.

A delicious Gloucester Main Lobster Roll made up for missing the whale watching tour.

Then we headed up north. A little 5-mile stint through New Hampshire through us into Maine. We stopped at a nice hotel just outside of Portland and spent the latter part of the afternoon in the gym, the jacuzzi, and the indoor pool. It was nice to relax and do some more traditional honeymoon things for once, even if it wasn't at a fancy resort or spa. But our accommodations at the Fireside Inn were lovely, affordable, convenient, and came with complimentary Whoopie Pies!

Then we headed out for the city. It just happened to be First Friday in Portland's art district so a bunch of the galleries were open late and the streets were packed. We saw bikers parading the streets, local artists selling their fare, wannabe troubadours belting their tunes, and breakdancers drawing traffic-stopping crowds. Among others, we visited the SPACE Gallery which was hosting a "Draw Your Face Off Event." The center of the space was set up with tables and local artists brought all their tools to the gallery. The walls were hung with string and clips so that the artists could churn out work after work to hang on the walls. Then patrons could select whatever pieces they liked straight off the wall for a flat fee of $20 a piece. It was an interesting concept and a crazy crowded event but I loved seeing the artists, watching them create in the midst of so much chaos, people-watching amongst the artsy hipsters of Portland, and viewing all the final products from such a wide range of skilled creators. Mike and I left with a pencil drawing of a hillside of Portland buildings and a quirky painting of a pig. Though this was by far my favorite art space, it was also great to stop in the Portland Museum of Art and see their biennial exhibit.

It was a slightly overwhelming time to be in Portland so we didn't stay out amongst the crowds too late. A quick trip down to hear the live entertainment in the bar at the hotel sent us back up to our room for a quiet end to our Friday evening enjoying free whoopie pies and planning for the next few days.


Road Trip Review Day 3: Mystic, Westerly, Boston

Our lovely stay in Mystic, Connecticut's Hampton Inn and Suites gave way to another great day that took us up to Boston, Massachusetts. We wandered the streets of Mystic in the morning. It's a beautiful port city containing the world's most famous pizza joint, Mystic Pizza, or at least that's what they say. It was an absolutely gorgeous morning so, even though the shops weren't open for the day and there were few breakfast offerings, we thoroughly enjoyed our stroll around the quaint streets and imagined a relaxing week-long Mystic vacation in the future.

Then we headed on the road toward Rhode Island. Since it is the Ocean State, we figured it'd be a good place to hit the beach. We went to the beaches in Westerly, one of the most Eastern towns in the state. It was such a refreshing ocean locale. I'm used to the crowded with people, over-developed and polluted shores of Ocean City, MD. Though I'm sure much of the lack of people could be attributed to the fact that it isn't quite beach season yet in early June, the Rhode Island beaches were still private, quiet, and gorgeous. There were plenty of lots you had to pay for to park in, so we just kept driving to see what we came to. The state park charged $12 for out-of-state vehicles to access the beach, so we zipped on past. As the road we were traveling turned into more of a residential area, we found a 30-minute-parking-limit area where you could stop for free and admire the coast. There was a beach of sorts but it was piled with boulders and was extremely narrow, which I imagine our earlier but more costly offerings were not. Nonetheless, as we clambered down the rocks to the shore we realized it was too cold to simply sit on the beach all day, but we could definitely take in this gorgeous view for free and feel fully satisfied. So Mike and I had a half hour of fun climbing on the rocks, taking picture and video, and attempting to dip our feet in the ice cold water. It was a nice little stop that invigorated us on our search for a lunch spot.

It's about time I started to utilize my camera's self-timer feature!

This search for lunch was an extremely disappointing one at that. We headed into nearby Providence to check out the city and hopefully find a nice healthy lunch option. We went with little planning or forethought, which maybe explains why we were so vastly disappointed, but nothing struck our fancy. We drove through East Providence, a cute area with nothing more than pizza joints and local businesses. Then we headed to the Main St through RISD but were a little underwhelmed by our options there, especially since so many of the store fronts seemed to be empty. So we continued on through and made it to Pawtucket, which was another disappointment. Finally we decided to just hop back on 95 and drive. It was nearly an hour and a half after we set out on our journey for the perfect lunch when we finally came to a shopping center with a Dunkin Donuts and an Italian fast food place called Papa Gino's. Gino's it was. We would have preferred a small town, an independently-owned restaurant, something with a little more personality. But we were hungry and tired and desperate. The food wasn't bad and at least they offered free lollipops!

When we hit the road again we decided to drive into Boston, another scary venture if you know a thing or two about the streets of Boston, to stay at a Howard Johnson just a block from Fenway Park. This HoJo was connected to a Chinese restaurant and made for an interesting night. The coupon we saw advertised $99 a night rooms, but add on the unadvertised $20 parking fee and tax and the room, the worst that we stayed in, cost more than any other at $139 total. It offered us plenty of laughs though from the mirrored wall in our room to the brownish-green color of the cloudy pool water that a staff member relentlessly and fruitlessly tried to clean of floating debris.

A glimpse of Fenway from the HoJo window.
Despite the glare in this photo, this HoJo pool would never in any context be an appealing place to swim. 

After our early check-in we roamed the streets of Fenway and Mike, loyal Orioles fan that he is, thought it'd be a good idea to buy a Red Sox's hat. We had dinner at a lovely and delicious Indian restaurant, then headed to Harvard Square with the intention of hitting a comedy show. Traffic had another plan in mind for us so we ended up strolling the grounds in and around the college, browsing through cavernous bookstores, and sipping tea in a cute coffee spot in town. It was a picturesque but strangely surreal place. Thoughts of my recent college days came to mind but any comparisons to Harvard's campus were shattered by the tourists (Mike and myself at times included) taking pictures of the buildings, statues, and the like. It was a gorgeous place and we really enjoyed the Harvard Square area, which only further escalated our already-high opinion of Boston, even if our accommodations weren't the best we had seen.

Crossing the Harvard Bridge on our way to Harvard Square.

The only photo on Harvard's campus that is good enough to share. I'll blame it on the dusk lighting. But it truly is a gorgeous and majestic university campus.
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