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Monthly Archives: August 2015

Friday Night Fooding

It took us a while, but we finally go around to going to Dundas Park Kitchen, voted best cheap eats 2013. The kicker is we used to live so close by to it and now we had to transit out one way*. We looked up the menu online and I had high hopes for dinner. I knew already what I was going to order, there was no question: breakfast sandwich! Brent had been considering the half chicken meal but was dissuaded by a side of soup. I had a bite of his sandwich and I could not for the life of me decide if it was better than mine. We swapped back and forth again, still no verdict. Both sandwiches were amazing, but in different ways too. The chicken in Brent’s sandwich was better than the breakfast sausage in mine, but the toppings, oh man the toppings were amazing. I wolfed it down in no time.

For dessert we had ordered two cookies and a galette (fruit filled pastry with almond). We were too full for the galette, but I could not resist the cookies. The chocolate chip one with a pretzel in the middle was pretty good, but I could do without the pretzel. The chocolate chips were all melty. The birthday cake cookie however, that was the best birthday cake cookie I have ever had. Ever. It was so fresh and chewy and tasted like vanilla cake. I caved and ate the pastry as we walked home, it was a bit dense but the fruit filling was good, especially with the hint of almond flavour.

If I lived closer this would definitely be a regular haunt for me.

 

*this will become a recurring theme until I get used to it

 

 

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Cake Batter x2

You might be thinking I’ve given up my baking/cooking Pinterest project, as I have not posted in forever. I’ve been busy, and avoiding baking as it is starting to have its toll on my poor, poor waistline. No worries, I recently had some more baking excuses! And they happened to be themed: birthday cake! I hate admitting that another year has passed, but I used my birthday and a recent long weekend spent at the cottage as excuses for more baking.

For our weekend at the cottage I made birthday cake blondies from Sally’s Baking Addiction. I was hesitant at first, as the recipe calls for boxed cake mix and I prefer making stuff from scratch. In the end however, I was pressed for time so it worked out well. The recipe is very simple and straight-forward, it takes no time at all. The only trouble is the baking time, it was off for me. My first batch came out a little over-baked and so I reduced the time for the second half. This might be because I was using a toaster oven, but for future bake it for 5 minutes less and check on it. They were delicious and did indeed taste like cake batter. Next time however I will try using yellow cake mix, as I had used vanilla and the flavour of that overpowered the cake batter flavour at times.

Continuing in the birthday cake excuses for birthday vein, I chose to be more adventurous with my second recipe. I decided to attempt to make cake batter truffles. It seemed easy enough plus I had some extra cake mix laying around from a previous recipe and I had just bought sprinkles for the cake batter blondies. The truffle part was easy to make. What they neglect to mention is that the sprinkles will bleed colour into the truffle and onto your hands as you shape them. Then came the hard part: the chocolate coating. Things really fell apart here. It became a terrible mess and I started having flashbacks to that time I tried to make cakepops. It was a kitchen disaster all over again. Really, unless you having awesome kitchen skills, this recipe is not that great and not worth the trouble.

 
 

Cheapest Dinner and Dessert

Now that we have had to start transiting out in one direction, it only makes sense to start stacking our fooding adventures if it makes sense. And so one evening we found ourselves on the subway going to Eglinton West. The plan was to go to Randy’s and grab the best Jamaican patty for dinner. Not exactly our usual dinner style, we ate our beef patties (the chicken and veggie were sold out) as we walked to our next destination: Doce Minho bakery for best Portuguese custard tarts. I kept burning my mouth trying to eat the beef patty, I was hungry and it was delicious. It was difficult to wait for it to cool. It got a bit messy at one point as the filling oozed out when I bit into it. The beef patty had a nice spicy kick to it. The custard tart was only ok. It was by no means better than the ones at Venezia. Those were amazing, I still dream of them sometimes. It might be that the ones from Doce Minho were not warmed up, but even still that would not have closed the gap. So far dinner was very inexpensive, we had not even broken $15. Yet.

We still had one more place to go, dessert stop number two of the evening. La Paloma on St. Clair near Dufferin had recently been voted best gelato. It was a hot summer day and we were already on Dufferin St., it only made sense to go there. I’ve yet to have bad gelato, but would this be better than Dolce Gelato? It is hard to say, really they are on par. At first when I looked at the cup size, small seemed tiny. And even though in a small you could only try one flavour, I decided not to risk it. I was right not to, the scoop was huge and bulging over. It would have been far too much to get the next size up. Of the three flavours (Brent had a medium size and two flavours) the amaretto (i.e.: the one I had chosen) was by far the winner. The gelato cost more than the tarts and the beef patties combined.

It was a long slow walk back home. It took us just over 2 hours to get back. Pretty soon we will have to start transiting both ways.

 

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Connecticut, New York, Massachusetts: Double Loop- Day 10

Sun. July 19, 2015:

Massachusetts- Connecticut- Toronto

I woke up and I was kind of looking forward to going, our bed was like a cement slab and my back was hurting. This time for breakfast I had only gotten yogurt and granola. I started watching The Grand Hotel but then I realized I would need the iPad in the airport, I bailed on watching and instead plugged it in to charge. It was nice to have an afternoon flight, it meant we did not have to rush in the morning. We still had to drive back to Connecticut and return the car. This was the last leg of the trip, our double loop. We had been driving for an hour and no new license plates. Looking at my map it seemed like no one ever leaves West Virginia.

Our car was due back at the rental at noon, we got to the airport at 12:15pm. Brent was all ready to go through security, having forgotten that first we need to get our boarding passes. It was such a small airport that there were no self check-in kiosks. At the ticket counter there was a sign saying that they would be back at 1pm. I back-tracked to the Dunkin’ Donuts I had said there was no time for. Brent wandered off and ended up going back to wait in line. Just as I arrived he was about to go up to the counter, I had impeccable timing. We got through security quickly and had time to spare. We found a pub and had lunch while watching highlights from the PanAm games. We half-joked about delays, though I was secretly worried. We had a delay-free flight back home.

 

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Connecticut, New York, Massachusetts: Double Loop- Day 9

Sat. July 18, 2015:

Massachusetts

The first thing we did in the morning was to Google where the Boston Symphony Orchestra was playing that evening. Based on last night’s ballet, I was starting to think that the Tanglewood Festival was a casual affair. I was right, the dress code (if you can call it that) for the orchestra was “informal”, and I kind of figured that if the concert is taking place somewhere with the word “shed” in the name it would be casual. Breakfast at the hotel flat out sucked. I had a crappy piece of raisin bread toast and a yogurt. There was granola, I tossed some in my yogurt but still- what kind of a hotel doesn’t serve pastries for breakfast?!

Unfortunately for Shakespeare on the Mount, an outdoor performance of Shakespeare as part of Tanglewood, we had to get dressed up real fancy. We had lunch reservations right after, at Blantyre (Inn?). We looked up the weather before heading out, it said no rain until the evening. We grabbed a towel to sit on for the grassy lawn. As we were picking up our tickets at will-call (a tent with a foldable table) we felt a few rain drops. What’s a few rain drops we thought? No rain until the evening the weather service said. At will-call we found out that they rent lawn chairs for $2/each. Much better than trying to get comfy in a dress and heels on a small towel on the grassy knoll. We wound up using the towel as an umbrella when it rained. At first the rain was not that bad, the play went on. It was an abridged version of Hamlet. The rain let up, giving us hope, only to come back with a vengeance. The sky tore open and it just poured rain on us. Off in the distance you could hear peals of thunder. The play was paused and we were ushered into the barn. The company policy was to wait it out for 15 minutes and see if the rain subsided. We were now not only hilariously over-dressed, but soaking wet to boot. In the end we decided to leave, we, the chairs and the towel were soaked. Due to the delay we would have to leave early and we would not have a chance to freshen up before lunch.

I felt silly in the hotel, standing there aiming a hair-dryer at myself. I did not feel like getting undressed as we did not have much time. I briefly considered ironing my clothes to dry it. I had worn heels and thanks to the rain, they had torn up the lawn. There were tufts of grass and mud caked onto my heels. At least I had aerated the lawn for them. In the parking lot of the Blantyre, in our fancy dress clothes, we saw a guy in khakis. I swore I’d be pissed if he ended up going in there dressed like that. (He did).

The hotel was really fancy on the inside, there was a mounted deer head over the fireplace and fancy porcelain figurines and beautiful wooden furniture everywhere. The servers at the restaurant were all dressed like 50s diner waitresses. It was really weird and at odds. We had looked the menu up online earlier, we went in expecting a prix fixe lunch. Luckily they had changed that and we could order a-la carte. A lady at a nearby table had ordered the steak (which had been my prix fixe choice) and it looked like way too much food. Instead we split a cheese plate, which only solidified my thought on cheese plates: they are too risky if you are not an avid all-types-of-cheese lover. The goat cheese was not for me (or you know, wretched). We also ran out of crackers and had to pile on the cheese. For the mains we ordered sandwiches. It was a nice light lunch, even though I got full and could not finish my sandwich. The winner was the grainy mustard in my sandwich. My only complaint was: who serves a sandwich with cheese and doesn’t melt the cheese?! Who does that?! In a ham and cheese sandwich that cheese should be melted! My sandwich did not exactly match with my glass of rose wine, but I had to try something from their huge fancy award-winning wine collection.

We tried watching Lost on Netflix, but Brent was dozing off. I brewed a cup of tea and settled into a comfy chair with my book, Catcher in the Rye and caught on my reading. After a while I got fidgety, Brent woke up, and we went down to the vending machines for some snacks. The stupid machine would not sell me a Snickers bar, it kept telling me to give it the “correct change,” last time I checked vending machines give change. It would also not return my money. After mashing a few buttons I ended up getting a Crispy Kit Kat. Having not learned my lesson, I again tried to buy a Snickers bar. The only thing that ended up working was Famous Amos mini chocolate chip cookies. They were not good. We finished watching Lost, while eating the world’s crappiest snacks.

Afterwards Brent drove me to the outlets, I cracked and could not resist a mini-shopping trip. Partly I used the excuse of having to buy my sister a birthday present. I had no luck with that though. I did buy some workout clothes, which made me feel better about all the bad eating lately. At the Lindor outlet the cashier convinced me to sign up for their loyalty card, saying that of my 5 chocolates I’d get 3 free and the program works in Canada. Then it came time to spell my last name. She laughed and asked me how to pronounce it. When her co-worker walked by she showed it to him, he also laughed.

Brent picked me up an hour later and reported that there was no line-up at Friendly’s. When we got there we realized the line was to the pick-up window outside, not because the place was especially busy. Inside however was a different story, we got one of the last free tables. Maybe it was the dinner rush? The bacon cheeseburger was ok, but it was nothing to rave about. The clear winner was the waffle fries. We had to get ice cream for dessert because Friendly’s advertised itself as an ice cream parlour. There were a lot of options and there was quite the debate. In the end we settled on Friend-Zs (what happens in Canada when it’s zed?). They were like McFlurry’s, and that way we could get them to go. We thought maybe we would get to choose the ice cream base, but nope it was just the same old vanilla soft serve you get everywhere. The Butterfinger one was good, but it was no different than getting a Blizzard. Brent had one with Reese cups and hot fudge, it was way too rich and too many flavours. It was fun trying to feed him as he drove. As we got close to the hotel I could hear the GPS giving directions… from inside the armrest console. Oops. Outside our room, our neighbour was sitting on the hall-porch with a giant magnifying glass reading a book on a music stand.

On our way to the symphony there was a road sign about Tanglewood parking, we followed it, ignoring the GPS and soon realized we were going the wrong way. We managed to get back on track and find the parking lot at The Shed at Tanglewood. There were a lot of people there to see the Boston Symphony Orchestra perform music by Mozart. Apparently there had been general admission tickets available for lawn seating. Thankfully they had not been sold online, and we had seats under the covered roof. In keeping with the spirit of the day, when we had actual outdoor (semi-outdoor) stuff to do, it rained. We wandered the grounds a bit. There was a gorgeous view of the Berkshire Mountains and you could see the rain off in the distance as it started moving closer to us. The performance was great, the conductor was very passionate in a wacky sort of way. he clearly loved the music and loved his job. I felt so cultured, having already been to the ballet and to Shakespeare, now listening to the orchestra (ladeeda).

Leaving Tanglewood the traffic was not bad at all. They had redirected it so that everyone exiting used both lanes. We were driving on the wrong side of the road, it was a bit scary but there were enough other cars that I was entertained by it and I felt British. I ended up having a Sierra Mist craving, sadly there were no gas stations on the route back. It seemed our hotel was full of Tanglewood-goers.

 

 

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Connecticut, New York, Massachusetts: Double Loop- Day 8

Fri. July 17, 2015:

New York- Massachusetts

Breakfast at the hotel was a voucher to be used at a sit-down restaurant. It was free, but it did not feel like it was worth the effort. We had a busy day planned and I relished the chance to instead sleep in and just go to Dunkin’ Donuts on the way instead. The Chips Ahoy iced coffee tasted more like liquid cookies than it did like coffee. That pretty much sealed it for me: no more messing about at Dunkin’ Donuts, it was coffee or bust. You cannot start a day of travelling on an empty stomach, a Chips Ahoy creme donut was just the thing to get the day going. After all, chewy Starbursts were not enough of a breakfast.

Our day started at Fort Montgomery. The admission was free and there was no tour, it was my kind of historic site. I soon found why this was so. There was not much left of the fort, just remains and foundations, as parts of it had burned down after the Revolutionary war. The site seemed small and there were info panels strewn about. They had cannons set up as they would have during the war, facing the Hudson River. It was fun to stand behind the 32 pound cannon and imagine firing at incoming ships. It also provided a nice view of the river. The site turned out to be larger than we had anticipated, it had a trail to a zoo that we did not have time to check out.

We did not have more time at Fort Montgomery, as we were booked on a tour of Westpoint Military Academy. For some reason our tour group consisted mostly (seriously more than 80%) of a smaller sub-tour group of Chinese tourists- I’m not sure why they did not have a private tour, it was a large group. The sub-tour group would rush onto the bus and cut in line as if there was limited seating or the bus would leave them behind. The bus had reserved seating and we were all guaranteed a place. Because it is an active military academy we had tos how our passports, we were not Americans. The tour was good, we drove around campus and stopped at various points. We did not get to see everything, but we did see the main lookouts onto the river. On the tour we found out that this was the site of Fort Clinton. I had seen information about it at Fort Montgomery and wondered why we were not going there. Now I knew. After the last stop we sat near the front of the bus so we could be the first ones off. We wanted to beat the parking lot rush. We almost ran to the car, not just to get out of the parking lot first but also to get to the McDonald’s next door. It was lunch time and we were hungry. The last thing we wanted was to be stuck in line behind a giant tour group.

After we had ordered our food and sat down, a few people from our tour came in. One guy went up to the counter and came back with at least 20 empty cups. He then came back for a few more. I considered getting a sundae, but we had plans to go to a bakery later so I held off. I managed to redeem my free smoothie coupon for a strawberry lemonade instead. It was so good, it had actual lemon wedges and chunks of strawberries in it. The sirloin 1/3lb burger was pretty good, however I had to pick out the onions. I always forget about the onions as I am so focused on “no lettuce, no tomatoes.” I won again in the Minions promo, this time a free medium soda.

We arrived at Storm King Art Centre just after high noon. An outdoor art centre, in the blazing sun, in the middle of summer. At first it was great, it felt like an awesome summer day. I was entranced by the giant sculptures, along in big grassy fields. There were a few that moved gently with the wind, it was serene. Then the water started running low, the sun grew stronger and I became acutely aware of the sunscreen and sweat mixing together as a layer atop my skin. On the map it showed bathrooms at the far end of the big field, we got there only to find port-a-potties with no sign of water fountains. Walking back along the other side of the big field, all I could think about was ice cold water at the main building. I had run out of water, and we were walking in the direction of the sun. I was getting dehydrated and fast, the copious amounts of sweat dripping from me only made matters worse. It was torture to walk by the pond, all I could think of was jumping in and claiming I wanted a better view of the Roy Lichenstein piece. Or that I wanted to gawk at the turtles sitting on the art piece that is a wall running through the pond.

I was getting the sun-crazies, and bad. It was boiling hot outside and I was getting cotton-mouth. As we walked up to the main building we saw a lady posing in front of sculpture while a guy took her picture. He then asked her “you and the sculpture, is that what you want in the photo?” and she answered yes. He replied angrily, “good, because that’s what you got” and he shoved the camera back to her. We were amazed. The inside of the house featured small sculptures. It was nice to be inside and away from the sun, but there was no air-conditioning, just fans. The sculptures felt repetitive and it was not nearly as interesting as the earlier stuff we had seen.

Back outside, no sooner had I refilled my water bottle I had to top it off, as I ended up drinking about half as we walked away from the water fountains. The second half of the art centre was in wooded area, it was much cooler and the area was smaller. The sculptures were not as interesting and some were hard to find, even with our map. We ended up missing a few, but it was hard to tell where we should have gone to see them.

Back in the parking lot I noticed a colourful license plate, but the state name was covered up by the license plate holder. It was driving me nuts, and I never did find out what state it was. The GPS said it was a 2 hour drive to Berkshire Mountain Bakery. I tried to fill my chocolate cravings with chips, but it just was not working. I resorted to passively staring out the window. There weren’t many cars, so my license plate game failed to keep me occupied. We passed a prison but it was hard to see anything. We were driving on the same stretch of road as last time, passing again through Newburgh. I was starting to get sleepy, munching on Doritos kept me awake for a while. Back at the license plate game I only needed 9 more states to complete my map! It felt so close! Brent thought a car with a bike rack on the roof was a cop, it gave me a good laugh. Soon it got boring again, we were passing the same endless row of pylons on the side of the road. We saw a cop backing into a secluded forested spot on the median, facing cars going the other direction. It was the perfect little hidey-hole for him to look for speeders, as he was concealed by all the trees.

Soon enough we were back in Massachusetts and only 20 minutes to go until we arrived at the bakery! It took a little more than that as the bakery was impossible to find. We were going the right way but it seemed like there were just warehouses and then houses, so we turned around and went the other way. The street changed names, so we turned around and kept going. Turns out the bakery is in a warehouse-like building. There was only a small selection of baked goods, as most of the products were bake-at-home and it was more of a wholesale bakery. Brent had a croissant and I had an amazing ginger molasses cookie. We also split a bouchon (like a two-bite brownie only better).

As we got ready for the ballet in our hotel, I wondered just how fancy this was going to be given the name of the theatre was Jacob’s Pillow Dance. Brent Googled it and it turned out we were overdoing it. It was a lot more casual than a fancy ballet. I changed into my maxi skirt instead. On the way there it rained, I was worried because one of the theatre company’s stages is outdoors. The performance was held in what seemed like a former barn, refitted as a theatre. I fit right in with my maxi skirt outfit, everyone else was similarly dressed. The first half of the ballet was OK, there was some contemporary dancing mixed in. During the intermission we wandered around the grounds but there was not much to see. Plus I was getting annoyed because my heels were digging into the ground. The second half was the world premiere of a new show: ballet choreographed to nature sounds. I was not a fan of it. The sound was too quiet and you could hear the dancers as they landed and their ballet shoes squeaking on the stage. We did not stay for the Q&A afterwards. We basically bolted for the parking lot to beat the rush.

We stopped at McDonald’s on the way home for a late dinner. I was too tired and headache-y to go to Friendly’s (which was two doors down from McDonald’s). On the way Brent noticed a street named Premium Outlet Blvd. and commented on how weird it was. As it turns out there was an outlet mall near our hotel! I was tired and my face was slightly burned, all I wanted at McDonald’s was a hot fudge sundae, but no, the machine just had to be broken. I did not have my winning coupon from earlier either, so I settled for 6 piece chicken nuggets (my third choice after ice cream and lemonade of course). While we waited for our food there was a really weird guy checking me out. Brent later said he had ordered a filet-o-fish without the sauce. As we were leaving he checked me out- again. Still craving ice cream, I went to the gas station next door for dessert (so sad). They had a Snickers drumstick ice cream cone, two great things in one! As I was paying, the guy at the gas station asked me if the fun had started yet and smiled. I had no idea what he meant, I just stared at him as he handed me the change.

In the hotel I tried to open my last drink of the trip, a kriek lambic I had been saving. I had forgotten that not only does it have a bottle cap, but underneath that there is a cork. The hotel did not have a corkscrew and so my beer was trapped. The hotel also did not give free conditioner, instead they had placed two shampoos in the bathroom. A great time for me to run out of conditioner. I went to bed thinking about how poofy my hair would be in the morning.

 

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Connecticut, New York, Massachusetts: Double Loop- Day 7

Thurs. July 16, 2015:

Connecticut- New York

I woke up at 7:30am and was not having it, I went right back to sleep until 8:50am at which point I gave up on trying to sleep. There was no coffee maker in the room, therefore I had to order an expensive cup of coffee at our fancy breakfast, as  breakfast was not included. included on the expensive breakfast menu was an $8 bowl of Raisin Bran. Who orders that? Why is that a menu item?! I ordered a stack of lemon blueberry pancakes. I was served an enormous stack of pancakes, it seemed insurmountable. That is, until I cut into one. They only seemed big, but they were so light and fluffy that I managed to eat them all.

We ended up taking the same route as we had on our second day, I recognized the signs as we entered New York state (again). It had been a few days but finally I got a new license plate for my map: Colorado. We passed by a State Trooper who wound up speeding ahead of us, clearly he had bigger fish to fry than us for barely going over the speed limit. The two cops sitting in the median looking for speeders also did not seem to care. Later on we saw the State Trooper again. She had pulled over a guy by a roadwork site. We had seen her following him for a while and we wondered if she had waited until he was near the road work so the fine would be worse. The driver was pissed, he was yelling at her when we drove by.

Our first stop of the day was at Cold Spring, NY, a small town on the Hudson River. There was a walkway under the train tracks to get to the waterfront. There was a pretty view of the river and we could also see the military academy that we would be touring the next day. Brent had mentioned an ice cream shop called Moo Moo’s Creamery, alas they did not open until 1pm. On their website they claimed to be the best in the world, I highly doubt that if they are not even open at 11am. I was starting to crash, I was feeling sleepy and in desperate need of coffee.

There was a fancy plaque welcoming us to historic Sleepy Hollow. As it turns out the Sleepy Hollow cemetery anticipates tourists coming to visit and they have a map with points of interest marked on it. The cemetery was a lot bigger than we had expected. I really thought we would be there maybe 10 minutes, walk up to a few graves, look at the headless horseman bridge, see the Old Dutch Church and we’d be on our way. We had to drive from point to point because it was too far to walk. Additionally we saw Washington Irving’s grave, Chrysler’s mausoleum and a haunted tombstone.

We looked up a Friendly’s on the GPS for lunch. After a 20 minute drive through traffic we got to a crappy plaza with no Friendly’s. On the way we had passed a Smashburger, however the GPS did not recognize it when I tried to search. We set the GPS to take us back to Sleepy Hollow cemetery in the hopes that we would take the same route back.

Success! Smashburger was very similar to other not-so-fast-food burger joints like Five Guys and UnionBurger. They did not have anything too fancy that caught my eye, however the bacon cheeseburger sounded perfect. It was so delicious, however it was also incredibly greasy, it was running down my arm. We decided to split an order of spicy fries. Even though we ordered regular size and split it, it was still too much food. We could barely finish it.

When we got to Philipsburg Manor & Kykuit Information Centre we signed in and got our tickets for the tour. Our bus was boarding in 40 minutes and we had time to kill. We asked if we could go look at Philipsburg Manor, as we had bought tickets for an earlier tour but missed it (Sleepy Hollow cemetery was bigger than we had anticipated, and also worthwhile to see). The lady said we could not just go wander around, it was by tour only. Judging by the panels in the information centre we had not missed much. It was all rebuilt and nothing was original. We also found out about a nearby church that had stained glass by Chagall and Matisse, we noted it for later.

We had to take a shuttle bus to the actual Rockefeller house as it was on a cliff/hill called Kykuit about 15 minutes away. As we waited I scoped out our tour group, they all seemed OK. Except for one handsy-couple who were busy making out. They would continue like this during the entire tour. The longer it continued, the more I grew to hate the guy with his greased back black hair full of dandruff. He could barely go 5 minutes without some form of contact, whether that be touching her hair or stroking her butt or kissing her cheek. It was really grating on my nerves. Thankfully we had an amazing tour guide, time never seemed to drag on. The 2hr 15min flew by. It was only towards the end that things started falling apart. There was one particularly annoying pretentious woman. She was looking at a litho in the Rockefeller’s private art collection, she assumed it was Picasso and wondered how much it would sell for. Upon closer inspection she realized it was in fact a litho by Braque, and completely lost interest in it. She also complained that the private art collection, part of a historic house, was not independently curated. She also saw a cement step that she exclaimed she wanted for her front yard. Then she demanded to know whose initials were carved into it, the tour guide looked at her in confusion and said that she did not know.

After the tour we drove to Union Church in Pocantico Hills. The church was closed for tours as it was after 5pm, so we wandered around the perimeter looking for the windows. Not illuminated it was hard to really appreciate them. Driving over a giant bridge over the Hudson River we were stuck in traffic. It was not the worst thing in the world, as we could see down the river a view of New York City, hazy and far away but still recognizable.

Our hotel was called Best Western on the Hudson. That was a total lie. It was Best Western off the freeway 15 minute drive to the Hudson. Brent went to check in while I waited in the car. In retrospect I wish I had gone with him. The lady at the counter thought he said his name was Ramos. She also thought his middle name was his real first name.

We dropped our bags off in our room and headed back out. We drove down to the river, as our hotel was not right next to it. As always seems to happen when we go on vacation, there was a car show going on downtown. Who goes to Nyack, NY for a car show?! Trying to find parking was a nightmare. We drove down to the river in search of a park, but even that we could not find. The plan was to go back, try and find parking downtown, if that failed we’d go get dinner instead.

We did indeed find a parking spot, probably the only one as there were other people circling near us. I still do not get the appeal of car shows. We wandered through but none of it was even remotely interesting. We kept walking down Main Stn the direction the GPS had said the riverfront park was but we could not find it. On our way back to the car we stopped and asked a cop who was directing traffic as the street had been blocked off. He told us we would have to drive to it, and he pointed south of where we were. Walking back to the car was quite the ordeal, as the sun was sitting above the horizon, glaring at us and bouncing off all the shiny cars. Even with my sunglasses I could barely stand it. Looking at the map on the GPS we got to the park on our, ignoring where it was trying to send us. Turns out the GPS was right to not send us to this park. It was a terrible little plot of grass and cement by the river, barely a park really. We got out of the car, looked at the river and left. It was barely even worth looking at.

Because we were in the middle of nowhere in upstate New York, I was thrilled when the GPS said there was a McDonald’s nearby. I really feared we would have to eat in the hotel (as “downtown” would have been way too busy). We also had yet to go to McDonald’s on our trip. We stopped at Walgreens for the requisite snack purchase: crunchy Reese cups (amazing, they should be readily available everywhere alongside the regular ones) and a small bag of Doritos spicy sweet chili (as opposed to regular sweet chili?). At McDonald’s I had been hoping for some wacky menu items, but the only thing even remotely close to that was mozzarella sticks. I was tempted by the Reese’s McFlurry for dessert but the damn new menus with the calorie count written alongside the food item were working- I was so discouraged (and secretly heartbroken). They had a promotion going on about a recent movie, The Minions and they had instant win prizes on certain items. I ended up winning a small smoothie. I did not feel like waiting in line to try and get a lemonade instead of a smoothie so I put the coupon in my wallet, ensuring a future visit to McDonald’s. On our way out I noticed a sign on the door for a 50-piece box of chicken nuggets. It was tempting, but I think the only way I would sit down to that would be on a dare/challenge. Or if I was unbelievably hungry. Back in the hotel I cracked open the big cider I had been saving, Nine Pin Cider brewed in New York state. It was amazing, easily one of the best ciders I have ever had. I even drew a bunch of hearts in my notebook around that last line.

 

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Connecticut, New York, Massachusetts: Double Loop- Day 6

Wed. July 15, 2015:
Connecticut

Check out from the hotel was at 10am, however Doogie’s Hotdogs & Hamburgers (aka our plans for the start of the day) did not open until 11am and it was only an 18 minute drive away. When we went downstairs for breakfast the turtle had just been fed and was swimming around. Knowing that in an hour and a bit we would be chowing down at Doogie’s, we had a small breakfast. Near our hotel there was a liquor store and Brent had looked up more beers to buy. We walked right past the beer he was looking for. Afterwards we went to Kohl’s across the street so I could get my requisite US-shopping done. I found a gorgeous black maxi skirt on sale.

We got to Doogie’s right as it opened. There were so many choices, even after I narrowed it down to hotdog. I eventually decided on the hotdog named after Man Vs. Food (not to be confused with the Man Vs. Food challenge meal which was two 2-foot long hotdogs, fries and a drink). The hotdogs came in three sizes, I opted for the smallest, which was still a 10 inch hotdog, which felt a little like a cop-out because 2 more inches and it would have been a foot long. It was piled high with chili, peppers and cheese. I tried to have a bite of Brent’s caveman burger, but it was far too big to get everything in one bite. The pulled pork was the clear winner, so much so they could have had a stand-alone pulled pork sandwich on the menu. There were at least two other Brent’s who had placed orders in the restaurant, it was getting confusing.

Satiated, having eaten just the right amount of food, we headed back out. We drove past a seafood restaurant and outside there was a person dressed in a lobster costume with a sign. I felt so sorry for the person, it was already boiling hot outside and it was not even noon yet. As we drove to Woodbury we took the same stretch of highway as we did during our last trip. There was some confusion as to where we were going as all the town names were similar, all ending in –bury. We stopped in Woodbury to check out the main town, and it was small. The main street literally consisted of an IGA and a few antique stores and a white church. New Preston, CT, the next town on our tour of small town Connecticut was slightly better, only because it had a candy store. The sea salt chocolate covered caramels were the best candy we got, although the chocolate covered Oreo came in a close second. It lost points for being dark chocolate not milk. We went into what we thought was an antique shop but it was more like an over-priced and glorified Pier 1. They did have some gorgeous wood cutting boards, but they were $100 and up, which was just ridiculous.

In trying to get to Lake Waramaug, we ended up driving around the entire lake before we found the park itself. We found a bench under a tree and relaxed. I had poured a cooler into a plastic water bottle and enjoyed it while reading Catcher In The Rye while Brent went for a walk. Afterwards we drove to Kent State Falls Par, to hike to the top of a waterfall. I kind of wished I had known about this beforehand, I would not have had the cooler, which on an empty stomach in the glaring sun, was not doing me any favours. It turned out to be more of a stair climb than a hike to the top, plus you could see the waterfall from the parking lot. At the bottom I was annoyed because there were people in the pool at the bottom, wrecking my photos. I joked about tossing in a log at the top of the waterfall to knock them down like bowling pins. At the top there were a bunch of teenagers eating chips and drinking beer in the pool where the waterfall begins, again ruining my photos. I had to stand there and wait for them to duck down to get food before I could snap a decent picture. Even by the water and in the shade, it was still boiling hot outside.

Driving to the second lake of the day, Bantam Lake, we took a lot of twisty and windy roads. It was difficult to write in my notebook and I wound up with a bunch of illegible scribbles. We circled the lake looking for a park but found nothing. We stopped at a gas station to grab some snacks to hold us over. I finally succeeded in getting my Cherry Coke Zero fix and I found the red-packaged Snickers bar I had seen last time I was in the States. Apparently it was full of more nuts than usual. We also grabbed sea salt and garlic Lays chips and a small package of mini Reese’s peanut butter Oreos. From there we set off for the hotel. I was in desperate need of a shower, I was covered in sunscreen and it was starting to annoy me.

The Mayflower Inn was “ritzy-ditzy” according to my travel notes. Upon arrival they offered us champagne. We turned it down as it was not clear if it was complimentary and the last thing we wanted was a surprise bill. From the moment we entered it was almost painfully awkward. They kept offering to take my bags, including my plastic bag full of junk food. Everyone was so prim and properly dressed and there were we, no rolling luggage and carrying our alcohol in a paper bag. After a while though it started to amuse me, just how out of place I felt. We were also the youngest people there, partly because we were in the heart of antique country.

Our room had a fireplace and the bathroom included a free loofah scrub (which did wonders scraping all the sunscreen off in the shower). We had a feather-pillow-top mattress that was high atop a box spring then on a frame. I could not even climb up on it. I had to use the frame as a step to get up.

We went for a walk around the grounds before dinner. We stopped at a PGA-approved (designed?) putting green to practice our golf. It was really just a small square of Astroturf the size of a patio, with five holes. I grabbed a club at random, turns out it was for lefties. I did not think it would make much of a difference, in that I am terrible at golf. The right-handed one barely made things any better. I hit one ball too hard and it went under the bushes. In trying to retrieve it I got a thorn in my thumb. That was more than enough golf for me. There were no Herons at heron Pond. The hedge maze had been taken out. We tried to walk along the path that looped around the property but it had been so poorly maintained in the woodsy part that it was impossible to walk along it. Instead we stopped and watched a woodpecker as he tried to find a good spot on the tree to peck at. I so badly wanted to see him start pecking away, but he was too indecisive and taking forever so I gave up on watching him. On our way back we passed an herb garden, it gave me high hopes for dinner. In the flower garden we saw a bunch of bumble bees. They were all concentrated in one area, apparently on this one type of flower was good. From what I gather, the rest sucked.

On our way back into the hotel I noticed in the foyer that they had the coolest antique of all time. It was a small chest/table that was made to look like a pile of books. I had a slight urge to steal it. Instead I made note of it, and will keep an eye out for one. There was no iron in our room (all the fanciness and no iron?) so Brent could not iron his shirt. Instead he opted for a polo (which meant wearing jeans), making me look over-dressed in my dress. Thankfully I had that black maxi skirt I had bought at Kohl’s. The only problem was that I only had racer back tank tops with me on the trip. I had to make do. The whole stay was already so awkward that a little more did not make a difference. Earlier a woman had brought us a bucket of ice, we had no idea why. We had not asked for it.

The waiter asked us if we wanted tap water or bottled water. But he phrased the question in such a way that he meant if we only wanted water. He did not give us a drinks menu and the next time he came back we had to ask for it. A few other people in the restaurant were also wearing jeans, but we were the only ones sitting inside. Everyone else was on the patio. I ordered the noodles with calamari. It was fun to eat the spiral noodles, but they were drenched in butter and thus prone to slipping off my fork. Brent had ordered the striped bass, even though we had been warned that it may be sold out. After a bite of it, I could understand why it had been almost sold out. It was delicious. The crème brulee however, won the evening.

After dinner we sat around the lounge. We were going to play Scrabble but there was no pencil for score-keeping in the box. We tried to take one from the Pictionary box, but they were all unsharpened and therefore useless. Brent went upstairs to grab one, and came back with a beer as well. Up next we played a game of chess. We were unsure about the set-up of the chess board, and so off Brent went again, to check the rules on the iPad. This time I ensure he returned with one of my coolers. Having lost both Scrabble and chess, I suggested we play checkers. I dominated, with my king pawn, I managed to kill three of Brent’s checkers. It was a wonderful victory. We started watching House of Cards, but I was so sleepy that by 11pm I was ready for bed.

 

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Connecticut, New York, Massachusetts: Double Loop- Day 5

Tues. July 14, 2015:
Massachusetts to Connecticut

Brent woke me up just before 7:00am therefore I did not have to suffer through the agony of an alarm clock. The reason for the early wake-up was that we were headed to the Brimfield Outdoor Antique fair, and if you did not get there early enough, there was no point in going. We got there at 7:30am and actually managed to find parking. Brent had missed the turn into the first parking lot and so we drove on to the second one, which actually ended up being cheaper.

At first it seemed like there were only a few sellers, it was all along a roadside. As we walked further down however we saw how far it stretched, not only down the road but also across the fields away from the road. As we walked we munched on Mega M&Ms for breakfast, they were not much different than regular M&Ms to be honest.

We spent about two hours wandering up and down the fields, and we saw a lot of interesting things. Some of the vendors clearly did not belong there, brand new still in the package Egyptian cotton bed-sheets are NOT antiques. I found a few old books that were interesting but I find it awkward if there is no obvious price because I am no good at haggling and I have no idea what anything is actually worth. We saw some old Dr Pepper crates, alas they would have been a nightmare to transport home. One vendor was selling old gun cartridges and a wooden case for a Winchester repeater that left me nostalgic for Red Dead Redemption. At another stall we found some really creepy old Victorian photographs. UPS had even set up a few stalls scattered throughout, which only tempted me more but it struck me as an expensive endeavour. Especially given the number one thing I wanted to buy was an old wooden blanket box, which is neither small nor light. One guy was selling a giant Dunkin’ Donuts drive-thru sign, I really wish I could have bought it. I had seen someone else eating a donut and it got me, it looked so good. I kept an eye out looking for the donut stall and soon enough I found myself enjoying a delicious apple cider donut. There were a couple of sections that you had to pay an admission fee to enter, but we had already seen so much and storm clouds were looming on the horizon- it was not worth it. On our way back to the car we passed a guy who had written in Sharpie on his shirt PORTER FOR HIRE and he had a dolly tied on a rope to his waist.

We were done, we had seen everything and all before it started raining. We were in the car and set to drive to Connecticut… and it was only 9:30 in the morning. The rest of our plans for the day consisted mainly of food. We were in no rush, so we stopped at a Dunkin’ Donuts so I could get my usual caffeine fix. We split a Chips Ahoy crème donut, as Mega M&Ms don’t make much of a breakfast. We tried to check in at our hotel, but apparently our room would not be ready until noon.

We drove to Shady Glen Dairy for an early lunch. The diner also served breakfast and we were worried that because it was only 11:00am they might not be serving lunch yet. The diner was in a crappy strip mall and easy to miss. Inside it looked more like a diner though. The server was happy that we were not there for breakfast, I guess they were switching over to lunch. The diner was set-up so that the booths were around the prep area and the servers could reach over a low wall and place stuff on the table without having to walk in between tables and around customers. It was an ingenious set-up. Plus we could watch them as they fried up our food. The menu was written out on the wall but we knew beforehand exactly what we wanted: a cheeseburger and a cheesedog (confusingly called a cheesefurter). The hotdog (it was less of a frankfurter, more of a small hotdog) was brilliantly served: it had been cut in half length-wise therefore making more contact with the bun. Like I said, brilliant. The cheese slice had been fried into a crispy slice and added a nice bit of crunch. The burger however, was better. The cheese on its own was not that great, it was much better as part of the entire hotdog/hamburger. Because Shady Glen also advertised itself as an ice cream parlour, with homemade ice cream, I could not resist the chance to order dessert. I had a single scoop of chocolate chip cookie dough and it was amazing. The ice cream was vanilla, with chocolate shavings and teeny-tiny pieces of cookie dough, it mixed well together as a whole. The service was impeccable, we were out of there in less than half an hour.

That being said, we still had time to kill. This was one of those rare meals where it would have been nice if it took long. We wandered around the dollar store next door, gawking at stuff. We found Jurassic Park Mike & Ike’s candies. There was a mystery flavoured dino-egg candy. It was fruity-flavoured just like the others. The banana one was disgusting, I spit it out into a sewer. Afterwards we went to the Stop & Shop grocery store. They had key lime Oreos, but Brent vetoed, saying they sounded gross. And I knew if I got it, I would eat the whole package by the end of the day. This was also the reason I did not buy any Biscoff cookies, as they would not have lasted for even the car ride back to the hotel. They had Ben & Jerry’s core ice cream in Speculoos (i.e.: Biscoff) flavour, but we were not even sure if our hotel room had a fridge or not. The last thing we wanted to do was to eat a pint of ice cream, after our cheese-filled lunch. Especially given that we still had planned to go to two more restaurants that day. To clarify: Shady Glen was intended as a late breakfast/brunch, we still had lunch and dinner plans. At the grocery store I had hit the jackpot: vanilla cupcake flavoured Dunkin’ Donuts and sugar cane Dr Pepper! I also found a tacky American cooler drink: Seagram’s Red, White and Citrus.

The hotel we were staying at was on the wackier side. At the reception desk by the breakfast area there was the hotel owner’s pet turtle, just chilling on a rock in the tank. They also had an arcade with a lot of pinball machines. Turns out the reason for the arcade (at least so it seemed) was that the internet was super slow and sucked. It was the middle of the day, what else could I do but watch Family Feud? Then after that, another episode of Family Feud came on. And so it went until 2:00pm, when there was something else on. It was the perfect time for a nap. I woke up half an hour later, voraciously hungry.

It was time to go to Woody’s for some hotdogs. We decided to look up the menu before leaving and then we noticed that Woody’s closes at 3 in the afternoon. Who does that?! What kind of an eatery closes in the middle of the day?! As a back-up we decided we could go eat there on Sunday before returning the car at noon… apparently that was also not going to happen, as Woody’s is only open when there is a specific football team (the Dolphin’s) playing and the game is on. Worst business plan ever, what terrible hours. And so our dinner plans wound up becoming our lunch-dinner combined plans. Instead we would get a larger size pizza from Randy’s Wooster Street Pizza.

On our way out to the car we stopped in at the arcade for a few games. We started with Street Fighter II. Brent won the first round, I won the second with my button mashing and then lost the third. Brent continued on but eventually lost. It was suspenseful watching him play Pac-Man and basketball pinball. I gave the golf-themed pinball a try, I had no idea what was really going on. I got a score of 14,000 and was unsure if this was a good score or not. Then Brent tried and scored 40,000, which was just shy of the 49,000 needed for a free play. As we left we grabbed some freshly baked cookies. It was too bad we were not there on a weekend, as they also had free popcorn by the reception then.

We placed our pizza order and went next door to the liquor store. Brent looked like he was in heaven, there were walls and walls of beer as far as the eye could see. I found some limbic fruit beers I had not even seen while we were in Belgium. Despite the crappy internet, we decided to try and watch Netflix as we ate our New Haven style pizza. Really the pizza just had a slightly thinner crust and it was more crunchy and burnt along the edges. Thankfully Futurama was on TV and we did not have to resort to using the crappy internet until later on, when we dove into the (now) cold pizza. It was actually not as bad as we had expected. We managed to get through an entire episode of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt without much buffering.

 

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