Sunday, February 24, 2013

I Love Boston Project: JFK Museum and Addis Red Sea

Did you think I forgot the I Love Boston Project? I didn't! I just needed a little Staycation to get back to it. 

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On Thursday Eric and I decided to go check out the JFK Museum. I hadn't been there since I was probably in second or third grade on a Brownies field trip. All I could remember was an awesome dollhouse version of the White House, which was probably a special exhibit because it was not still there, sadly. 

The museum begins with a 20 minute movie which gives some history of JFK, particularly about his life leading up to the presidency. From there, you can explore the museum. The first exhibits we saw were about Kennedy's campaign path. It was actually even more fun to see since we so recently had a presidential campaign. 

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There are many things that I think are fascinating about John F. Kennedy. But, one thing that was so evident in all the exhibits in the museum is just how many important historical events occurred during his short presidency. The museum is filled with information and artifacts from The Civil Rights Movement, the first American going into Space, the Cuban Missile Crisis, and the Berlin Wall construction. It's actually crazy when you really think about it. Another really cool thing that I personally love, is the Kennedy was the first president to really bring funding and attention to special education/ rights and support for people with intellectual disabilities. 

Kennedy's notes during a meeting about the Cuban Missile Crisis. 

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The Berlin Wall:

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Beyond all the historical events, the Kennedy family is so fascinating to me. I loved all of the exhibits about Jackie, and the additions of Caroline and John John's artifacts. 

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This photo below exemplifies what I love most about kids. All the adults are so serious, probably discussing any of those crazy things that happened during this presidency, and there is John-John just playing under the desk. 

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At the end of the museum, there is huge room with all glass windows and a beautiful view of Boston...

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After the museum, Eric and I drove about ten minutes to the South End of Boston. There we tried a restaurant we have been wanting to try for awhile called Addis Red Sea, which serves Ethiopian food! Addis Red Sea is located across the street from one of my favorite South End restaurants Picco. The atmosphere was really cool inside, it was in a basement and the tables and chairs were definitely not like anything I've ever seen before...

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 We started with some Kenyan beer called Tusker. It was delicious.

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We split an order of Dabo, which is an Ethiopian bread that is spiced with cumin. Eric also ordered a Sambusa, a pastry filled with ground beef, cumin, garlic, onions and nutmeg. They also have vegetarian Sambusas… but obviously Eric was not going to have that :) 

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For our meals, I ordered a chicken dish with a ginger/garlic flavor called Doro Tibs. Eric ordered a beef dish called Gored Gored. The coolest part about the meal is that the entrees are served on a special bread called injera. This injera (and the extra on the side) is what you use to pick up and eat your food, there are no utensils. 

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I love bread, so being "forced" to eat extra bread in order to eat my food is great enough in itself. Also, the meal itself, both the chicken and the lentil salad on the side were delicious. 

It was definitely a unique meal and we will be back, I'm sure. 

Does anyone else find the Kennedy family fascinating or is that just the Massachusetts girl in me?

What is the most unique kind of food you have ever tried? 







Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Portland ME: Where to Eat and Sleep

In case you missed it, I posted yesterday about what to do in Portland Maine in the winter :) Next up: where to eat and sleep while you are in Portland. 

Until recently, I did not know that Portland is considered a "foodie" city. There are SO many great restaurants to try that we didn't even come close to doing it justice is one weekend. If you are looking for more recommendations, I highly recommend a blog called Map and Menu. The writers live near Portland and have tried many more restaurants up there than I have. I also got a lot of other recommendations for things to do from that blog, so definitely check it out!

On our first night, Eric and I decided to get Thai food at a restaurant called Boda. It's located right in downtown Portland, and we were able to find a parking space on the street, but they also have a parking lot. We had double great luck between our parking space and the amazing spot they gave us right by the window at our table. Boda is one of those restaurants that is a lot of fun just to be inside, even before you start eating. They also have lots of fun drinks. Eric got a funky Mai Tai type of drink and I got a Magno Madness, which was served in a martini glass. Eric started with the chicken stuffed tofu soup, and then ordered the Beef Panaeng, both of which he loved and ate before I could even attempt a photo. I ordered the Woon-Set Pat Thai, which was pad thai wrapped in an egg omelet. Unfortunately all I got was a blurry iPhoto photo, but you can get the idea...

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The meal was very reasonably priced, and I think if you even slightly like Thai-inspired food, it should be on your must-go list in Portland.

Our Sunday lunch (and only lunch Portland) was spent at Sebago Brewing Company. We really just wanted to try the beer and weren't expecting much from the food. However, I ended up with a super delicious, very light on the mayo, lobster roll and sweet potato fries. Clearly, I have no complaints!

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For dinner on Sunday, we had all sort of ideas of where we wanted to go. In particular, we wanted to try Miyake (Japanese) or Paciarino (Italian). However, it was really cold on Sunday. It was also a blizzard. A cold, blizzard with insane wind. It was impossible to stand outside for even a minute or two. So, our grand plans of walking around Portland (which we did the next day) were impossible on Sunday. So we ended up back at our hotel earlier than we expected to on Sunday night and since the roads were not great, decided not to go back downtown. But never fear, the amazing restaurants extend to Cape Elizabeth where we were staying! We ate dinner in our hotel at a restaurant called Sea Glass. We knew the food was going to be amazing because we had a little snack there the day earlier, and our breakfast was delicious. It definitely lived up to our expectations and I can only imagine the view in the summer months makes the food even better. I started with the vegan butternut squash soup, followed by the Gulf of Maine Seafood and Lobster Paella. 

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Yes, it was as amazing as it looks. For dessert, Eric and I split the Warm Callebaut Chocolate Pudding Cake. We don't usually order dessert, but it was Eric's birthday. We ordered a lot, and this meal still came to a really reasonable price (though a good amount more than Boda, this is more of a splurge meal type of place). I can't imagine anywhere we were planning to go in downtown Portland would've been more delicious, but who knows :) 


Once you have ate yourself into a food coma, you will need somewhere to sleep and I have a couple of Portland recommendations. Since this trip was Eric's Christmas present to me, he found a beautiful hotel for us to stay at in Cape Elizabeth called Inn by the Sea. I consider myself a pretty good judge of hotels and this one was definitely one of the best. I've already mentioned how good the food was, and that was only the beginning of a really great hotel. Our room was beautiful, with a nice King bed, a beautiful view of the ocean and a warm fireplace. I didn't see any rooms other than ours, but I know the hotel offers lots of suites and other options so I can only imagine they are all really nice. 

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I've found that one of the big differences between a fine hotel and a really nice hotel is the bathroom, and this bathroom did not disappoint. I'm not kidding when I say it was the biggest/nicest shower I've ever had the pleasure of using. Seriously, I could've done yoga in the shower. Is that a thing? 

Eric was smart and got the bed and breakfast package, and you really should too if you stay there, if for no other reason than the french toast. French toast with caramel sauce. 

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Plus, as if the food alone is not reason enough to eat breakfast there, the view is not bad either. Try to picture the gray in the background being ocean, because that is what it was when it wasn't a foggy blizzard. 

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Also, if you can actually afford to stay at this place in the summer, there is a beautiful beach just a short walk down the path. Since Eric and I will never be staying at this place in the summer, we checked out the beach in the winter...

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That was on the "warmer" non blizzard day. Ha. My final thought on how great this hotel was: the customer service was amazing. Everyone we met there was nice from checking in, to people in the hall, to the restaurant, everyone. We also had to change our reservation after we had already made it, and they let us change with no problem and put our deposit towards our later stay. I kind of want to move into this hotel.

However, if you want a more budget friendly hotel (especially during the summer when Inn by the Sea becomes really luxury in price) or want to stay in downtown Portland, I'm going to recommend the Marriott Residence Inn. We didn't stay at this hotel ourselves, but we did see it when we were visiting downtown and the location cannot be beat. It's right on the water, and you can literally fall out of the hotel to Shipyard Brewery and Sebago Brewing Company. When it's not a freezing cold blizzard, I think you could walk almost anywhere you would want to go in Portland from here. Also, we stayed at the Marriott Residence Inn in Portsmouth, NH on the way home from our Maine trip and we were seriously impressed. I know it's not the same hotel, but the reviews are similar and I think most people would enjoy the separate living space and kitchen area. We are hoping to bring Eric's siblings up to Portland with us the next time and we will most likely stay here so that we can take the train up and not even think about driving. It also would be worth looking into the Hampton Inn, which is located right near the Marriott and actually has Sebago Brewing Company in the same building. 


What do you look for in a hotel? What is your favorite hotel you have ever stayed at?  


Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Portland ME: What To Do on a Winter Weekend

Eric and I are on vacation this week and we just returned from a long weekend up in Portland, Maine. Somehow, I had never been there before but I will definitely be back again. It's only 2 hours from Boston! This little trip also revived my love for trip blogging, so I am planning to do two posts about this trip and also create a travel page this week so if you want to read about any of my trips for any reason (recommendations or otherwise) they will all be in one easy to find place. See? I am already adding things to the Staycation To Do List! Fun things, I swear.  

I know it seems like Maine is more of a summer destination, and don't get me wrong, Maine in summer is beautiful. But if you don't want to fight traffic and crowds, I personally think Maine has a lot to offer in the winter months. 


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One of the major reasons that Eric and I wanted to visit Portland was to check out some of the many famous breweries up there. We started out at Allagash Brewing Company on Saturday afternoon when we first arrived in Maine. It was super crowded, so if you want to do this tasting and tour, definitely book ahead. The beginning of the tour started at the bar, where we were given 4 different beers to taste. My favorites were the white and the grand cru. The guys don't the tasting were funny, they clearly loved their job and had been drinking all day, so I guess what's not to love? 


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As you can see, they give you a good amount of each beer. After the tasting, they lead us into the back to give us a tour. I have to admit that I don't pay a ton of attention on these tours anymore, but it did seem like an informative tour. Lots of people asked intelligent questions and the brewer was good at answering all of them. 

The next brewery we visited was Shipyard, which is quite famous in the Boston area at least. They are open on Sundays and you don't need a reservation to go on the tours. They run every hour on the hour. This tour was significantly more low key. It starts with a brief video, and then they lead you into the space where you can see the brewing happen. It was much quicker than the Allagash tour, and ends rather than starts with a tasting at the bar area. 

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They gave smaller pours, but had more different varieties to try out. I tried a really yummy Apple Pie flavor, and Eric and I left the store with lots of Pumpkin beer! 

Right after, we walked about three minutes to get to the Sebago Brewing Company, which is actually a brew pub in the Portland location. Since we were hungry, it made sense to eat there and I'm glad we did because I had a really delicious lobster roll that made me feel like it was summer even though it was well below zero degrees outside. We also ordered a flight of beers so we could try some of the different kinds they have to offer. There were lots of IPAs which I am usually not a fan of, but they were actually all pretty good. 

The last brewery we visited before leaving on Monday was actually not a brewery at all, but Maine Mead Works. They give tours as well, but we just did a tasting. In case you are wondering, Mead is actually wine but it is made with honey. I tried it several years ago in Ireland and while the taste was nice, it was a bit too sweet for me to have more than a small tasting. At Maine Mead Works though, they actually want it to be a wine that you can drink all night so it was not overly sweet and really just tastes like a great wine with a hint of honey in it. I loved the semi-sweet and the blueberry. 

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Are you starting to wonder if the only thing to do in Maine in winter is drink? Don't worry, it's not. There is actually a lot more to do. 

Lighthouse Visits

Just a short drive outside of Portland, in a beautiful area called Cape Elizabeth, are some beautiful lighthouses. Even in the winter, they are worth a stop for a view of each lighthouse, the snow on the ground and the ocean view background.

Two Lights 

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Portland Head Light

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I don't really like shopping, and I'm particularly not a big shopper on vacation because I'd rather spent money on experiences. But, it's worth stopping into a couple of local stores in downtown Portland. The first recommendation I have is called Longfellow Books. I can't resist a good bookstore, and after reading that Longfellow books lost a lot of it's inventory to a pipe burst a few weeks ago, I knew I had to support them...

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I ended up buying two books for my students, and both Eric and I enjoyed browsing all the inventory that was still left. 


Eric and I did have much time to enjoy Portland's Museums but there are many to choose from including Portland Museum of Art, Children's Museum and Theater of Maine, and African Museum of Culture. However, the museum Eric most wanted to go to on his birthday was called the International Cryptozoology Museum. In case you have no idea what that means (I didn't), it's a museum dedicated to "yet to be discovered" animals, such as the Lochness Monster, Big Foot etc. Eric has a fascination with these creatures, which you may remember from our extensive adventures to swim with Nessie in Loch Ness and Champ up in Burlington Vermont. The museum was small, but did have some cool stuff, especially if you are someone who is interested in this sort of thing :) 

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I think Eric just likes the idea that there are creatures way bigger than him out there...

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Have I convinced you to take a trip up to Portland, Maine yet? I'll be back tomorrow to tell you where to stay and eat while you are there. Portland has a huge foodie culture so there is no shortage of amazing restaurants, even in the off season. 

Do you have any other things you like to do in Portland, Maine? If you've never been… tell me everything you know about Crytozoology, or a fun place to visit from where you live :) 



Thursday, February 14, 2013


Hello all- and Happy Valentine's Day. My day at work was the WORST. My class this year + sugar + excitement = disaster. Luckily, I got home from work, went for a run with Eric and felt infinitely happier. I have the best valentine. 

Tomorrow afternoon marks the beginning of a February Staycation for Eric and I. For the past 3 years on February vacation we have journeyed off to Sedona. Unfortunately, the trip wasn't in the budget this year, so we are going to miss it a lot. It's always a really relaxing trip and breaks up the terrible winter weather we get up here. But, on the other hand, it's nice to not have to worry about getting on a plane, spending money, etc. I was actually a lot more excited about staying home this vacation before I was basically stranded at home for 4 days last weekend because we got close to 30 inches of snow, but anyway! Let's hope that doesn't happen this week!

One of the reasons I like to go somewhere over vacation is that I'm terrible at staying home. When I'm home, but don't have to work, I feel obligated to get crap done around the house. But this vacation I REALLY need a break (yes I realize I just had a vacation 2 months ago, but if you dealt with even the first 10 minutes of my day today, you would understand, I promise). I do have to do a little bit of work unfortunately, but I don't want to spend the rest of my vacation "getting stuff done" and/or feeling guilty if I don't get stuff done. SO, I'm setting a plan of things I want to do… fun things and not so fun things. Then, that's all I'm holding myself to. There will be no other expectations for myself. That is all. Hold me to this please. 


Not-so-fun Things: 

1. Finish report cards. Who planned conferences right after vacation? I hate them. 

2. Clean my car. 

3. Clean off my desk. 

4. Clean out my inbox. 


Fun Things: 

1. Finish reading Little Women. I like this book, so why is it taking me SO long to read? 

2. Go to yoga twice. 

3. See at least 3 friends. 

4. Plan our trip for this summer. Buy plane tickets. 


Do you ever take Staycations? Are you as bad at relaxing as I am? Haha, I hope not! 

Friday, February 1, 2013

Music, Miles, Books and Looks of January/Goals for February

I'm back to tell you about the things that made up my January. First off, I actually met ALL my goals for the month. Wahoo!


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Yes, I am not a movie watcher so me watching a new movie is actually something to write down. I'm most proud of going back to yoga, and actually blogging two times a week! 


Little Things by One Direction I know, I know… I am a teeny bopper. Lisa posted this song last month and I have loved it every since. No shame at all. 

Lego House by Ed Sheeran You may know another song by this artist called "The A Team." I heard this one on the radio on the way home the other day and immediately I was a big fan. 

Every Storm Runs Out of Rain by Gary Allan This is a newer country song that I really enjoy. I have to admit that part of the reason I think is because it reminds me of one of my all time favorite songs, November Rain, not musically but some of the lyrics. 

Runaway Train by Soul Asylum Speaking of totally old school, I heard this on the radio on Sunday morning and it just reminded me of middle school. I love when songs take you back. 



I am not keeping track of mileage at the moment, so I'll just tell you what my workouts have been like this month. I've been running about twice a week, swimming about twice a week and I've finally reintroduced yoga into my life. I've done it at home a couple of times and finally made it to the studio last Saturday. Wahoo. 





I made it through 4 books this month and they were all really good. I've tried to read Room like 4 times now, but I finally got into it this time. I liked Divergent better than Hunger Games, but I haven't read good things about the second book so I'm scared to read it. I've been meaning to read Queen of the Big Time and Those Who Save Us for a long time, and they were both book club picks this month that did not disappoint. I would recommend any of these 4 books if you are looking for something to read next. The two on the right are more "light" reading, and the two on the left are much heavier. All good though. 


I'm not the best at having new looks in the winter, so I don't have much here. But I am obsessed with this pink dress that Caroline got me for Christmas, so I wear it whenever possible! It's from the Juniors section at Nordstrom. 

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 Goals for February

1. Yoga. I want to attend 5 classes, and practice at home 5 times. This will be roughly two times per week, which I think is a good goal for me getting back into it. Who knows, maybe I'll even surpass the goal! 

2. Track my swimming, biking and running miles. It's not quite triathlon season yet, but I would like to get in the habit of recording my workouts again. Plus then I'll have something to put in the miles section of this post :) 

3. Get report cards done without being a stressed out crazy person. This is self explanatory, no? 

4. See at least 2 friends per week. Working out with friends counts. This should help with goal #3. 


What are your goals for the month of February? Do you track your workouts?