Friday, September 30, 2011

Best of Key West Continues

After the events described in yesterday's post, our day continued with a trip to the Key Lime Shoppe for some Chocolate Covered Key Lime Pie on a Stick. (Hmm, this is my second blog post that contains chocolate covered pie. Not a bad repeat I guess.) It was delicious!
Stef and I by the water at the Sunset Festival.
Every night in Key West the daylight ends with the Sunset Festival. In addition to the beautiful views of the sun setting over the water, there is also a mini street fair with performers, artisans and people watching. Very fun time.
After the sunset festival we had some pizza and headed up to the rooftop bar at our hotel for a beverage. Patrick, the bartender, made this amazingly smooth Key West Lemonade cocktail that he was willing to share with you:
1 part citrus vodka
1 part raspberry vodka
1 part sour mix
1 part cranberry
Splash of soda water
Shake with ice and serve.

We then headed to our walking ghost tour with Jay from The Original Ghost Tours. I have to say that I was not that scared, which was fine by me - especially after having gone on a really scary one in Savannah that had me putting glasses of water around the room to keep away the ghosts I didn't believe in. It was however, historical and interesting and our tour guide was great. We met him after the tour at a local bar to hear more stories. Somehow that adventure lasted until 5:30am. I can honestly say I can't remember anytime that I stayed out that late. But you only live once and if you go to Key West, why not, right? Thanks for checking in!

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Best of Key West

We packed so much fun into one day that I may need to make it two separate posts - I guess we'll see...
Key West is the end of the line for Route 1 - which runs from here to Maine. This was my first time to this end.
Our next stop of the day was the Hemingway House. We took the guided tour and got to see where Ernest Hemingway did the majority of his writing, in the upstairs room of the carriage house (pictured on the left, I am pretty sure I would write prolifically if I had such a beautiful setting too). Hemingway also had many six-toed cats on the property that he loved. Today there are 44 descendants living on the property, many of them occupying the house pictured on the right (an exact replica of the main home).
We next stopped at the Harry S. Truman Little White House. This was all the more exciting for me considering that we have the Truman Library in Kansas City. Apparently, and rightly so, Truman preferred Key West to Washington, D.C. and spent winters at his other "White House". We had so many other things to see that we didn't go on the tour but I bet it would've been cool!
After that we headed to the Mel Fisher Maritime Museum to learn all about the discovery of the wreckage of the Atocha, a ship bound for Spain from Havana in 1622. The bottom floor of the museum was devoted to that exhibit - note the 78 carat emerald in the top right corner, gold bars and ornate necklace/belt - beautiful! The second floor was devoted to pirates, an English merchant-slaver ship - the Henrietta Marie which sank in 1700 and finally some small displays about Liberia and the American Colonization Society. It was an incredible museum that I would highly recommend. There was also a discount pass available for this museum and the Hemingway House for $23.
Okay, seriously, at this point in the day we were just about to have lunch, so I will stop for now and fill you in on the rest of the day tomorrow. Thanks for stopping by!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Pon-Tuesday

Yesterday was our pontoon boat adventure. The weather was perfect for a day on the water and, despite a lot of jellyfish, snorkeling. Stef & J.M.'s friend, Donahue, took one for the team (statistically speaking) and got stung in the stomach - he referred to himself afterwards as "jelly belly". [In case you wondered, he refused all offers to pee on the sting to take the pain away.]
While snorkeling we saw the 8' tall underwater Jesus off Key Largo - Christ of the Abyss. [Thank you to the Florida Keys website for this lovely photo.]
My lovely hosts, J.M. and Stefanie.
After we left the pontoon adventure, Stef and I drove down to Key West. I am so excited we are going to be spending two days down here. Last year Brian and I made it halfway down the Keys but ran out of time and had to turn back. We checked into our hotel and headed out to explore the town. We ate dinner at Caroline's Cafe and hit up Fat Tuesday's for a frozen beverage (pictured above). We walked around, took in some live music, got a great deal on some flip flops and called it a night. In all it was a pretty perfect day. Thanks for reading along!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Wild Florida

I'm in Miami visiting my good friend Stefanie. The first adventure on the itinerary was biking Shark Valley in the Everglades. We narrowly beat the rain and saw lots of wildlife. I couldn't capture this but dragonflies were racing us on our bikes as we tried to escape the mosquitoes.
Respecting the 15 foot rule, plus not wanting to lose a hand, I posed from a safe distance with an alligator.
After working up an appetite biking, we headed back to downtown Miami for some lunch - tiny $1-$3 sandwiches at 100 Montaditos. I had three little sandwiches - a roasted veggie, a four cheese and an almond/Nutella for dessert. Yum!

During lunch the skies opened up and monsoon-rained on everything. We headed home, hung out and rested up for our pontoon boat adventure tomorrow. Thanks for stopping by!

Monday, September 26, 2011

The Winner and A New Obsession

First off, I just wanted to say thank you to everyone who entered the contest, and to those of you who started following on Google Friend Connect. And now, without further ado:


And then, a site to share with you - Student Universe. This dangerous discount travel site is my first foray into using my newly minted student status (although it's for teachers too, I believe). The site has your regular, run-of-the-mill travel stuff but then it has this feature called FarePlay which allows you to, "Find deals in a new way! You don't need to know where you want to go. Just that you want to go. Tell us where you are leaving from and we'll give you some deals." Thank you Student Universe, don't mind if I do!

Finally, if you have been wondering what I've been up to since quitting my job, you can follow my progress here. Thanks for checking in and have a fabulous week!

Friday, September 23, 2011

Art in Life

Birds on a wire in Williamsburg.
I've been trying to get better at taking good photos. In the past, I have been one of those people who always forgets my camera, usually because I don't like having to carry it around. Now that I am blogging, I've been much better at remembering it and trying to do different things with my pictures - not just taking photos of people for example. When in New York this past weekend, I was taken by all the creative graffiti. It reminded me of a documentary I really like called "Bomb It" about graffiti around the world, you should check it out if you like that sort of thing. Here are some of my favorite shots from NYC:

Jessica finds a friend.
Robot hug.
Too bad B.S. had to take over but the underlying sentiment is still good.
My favorite Picasso-esque building.
Thanks for stopping by. Also, don't forget to register to win the 300th blog post contest. Drawing is on Sunday night!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

The Rest of NYC

On Sunday, we met up with some good friends from college and their 2 year old daughter, Angelina, for some brunch at Bubby's Pie Company. I had been to the Brooklyn location before but this time we visited the original location in Tribeca.
I am sure they make other delicious things at Bubby's, but I am only interested in the pancakes for breakfast, brunch or anytime I can get them. Between our table of 4.5 we ordered three kinds, from left to right: blueberry, sour cream w/strawberries (my pick, so good!) and banana walnut.
After brunch we walked down to see the progress being made on One World Trade (Freedom Tower). We would have liked to have gone in to see the 9/11 Memorial but there aren't visitor passes available until mid-November - so if you are planning on visiting at some point go online and reserve your pass now.
After doing a little shopping in the city, Brian and I headed back to Brooklyn for dinner with Jessica and Brian. (Oh yes, we made it to and from Manhattan on the subway*!) We ate at a delicious Italian place called Fiore. The lighting was a little dim (hence the sort of odd colored food picture) but it was cozy and relaxed. We shared a bottle of wine and this amazing appetizer - Calamaretti fritti con zucchine corccanti (or fried calamari and zucchini). Back at their apartment, Jessica's Brian made us a cocktail, a nice way to end the day.
On Monday Brian and I walked down the street to the Blue Bottle Coffee Co. It reminded me of how nice it would be to walk more places at home, especially good places. For lunch we went to Pies & Thighs with Jessica before we headed to the airport. Pictured is my grilled cheese and Arnold Palmer and Jessica's Chicken Biscuit.
In all, it was a wonderful weekend - cool fall weather, good friends, the general hum of the city, people watching, minimal subway hassles and my second pared down packing challenge a success - had everything I needed and more. Thanks for checking in!

*Our subway travels were made easier by using HopStop, a great suggestion from Jessica. They have other cities besides NYC and helps you plan your route, pick up times, etc. for your public transport/taxi/bike/walking needs.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

300th Post - A Prizepack!

I interrupt my regularly scheduled programming (more on NYC tomorrow) to bring you another blog contest. Hard to believe that 100 more posts have flown out of my keyboard since last time but it's true - today is the 300th post! I just wanted to say thanks again for reading, commenting and following along with my adventures. You mean a lot to me and to say "thank you" the way I like (giving gifts) I bring you my travel essentials prize pack! (Don't worry, blog winner weekend be back soon, it's just on a little break this time around. I also thought it would be nice for my international readers to have a chance to win too!)

Includes:  Laptop Messenger Bag (City Map Print), International SMASH Journal (with three other SMASH items), a GoToob (a new way to travel with liquids, awesome!), $10 Starbucks gift card, Vera Bradley travel jewelry box, Wet Ones and Cottenelle Wipes (must have always!), first aid kit, Coleman soap sheets (so handy), a Schick Intuition razor, yummy 3-pack of spearmint gum, Lonely Planet's Best in Travel 2011 book, a waterproof bag (perfect for your electronics/camera while boating, camping or just walking in the rain), a cool journal, a year's subscription to Budget Travel magazine, Hendrick's Gin playing cards and drink recipe book (an ode to my favorite travel games and craft cocktails) and a year's subscription to the website Workaway.info.
This prize pack can be yours, all you need to do is enter! The rules are easy and it's open to everyone. Here's what you need to do:
  1. Comment on this post with your name and something you like about the blog or something you'd like to see more of in the future. (Yes, you can do both if you'd like.)
  2. Follow the blog with Google Friend Connect (to the right). This will earn you an additional entry in the drawing. (If you have a different username than your actual name [Example: Google user name = Boongal46, real name = Sally] , let me know that when you comment is so I can count it.)
  3. The drawing will be held on Sunday, September 25th, at 10pm (Central Time) so you don't have long!
  4. The winner will be announced on Monday, September 26th!
That's it, pretty easy, good luck!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

A Saturday in New York

After our trip out to Governors Island we headed back to Brooklyn where we enjoyed the rest of our day, mostly eating and hanging out - a perfect Saturday combo for me! Check it out:
This weekly street-fair-meets-food-carts gathering was an eclectic mix of delicacies. From fried anchovies to Indonesian Cashew Brittle your taste-buds could be entertained for hours at Smorgasburg.
Since it was the first day of Oktoberfest, we headed to Radegast Hall & Biergarten for some beer, food and music.
Looking for a some good old-fashioned fun, we headed to The Gutter for some friendly competition. The Brians each won a string but Jessica and I didn't do too shabbily - I even got four strikes in one game!
Across the street from the bowling alley we found this dumpster in the park. I, of course, couldn't resist snapping a photo and sharing it with you. Only in NYC, people. Thanks for checking in!

Monday, September 19, 2011

Reminiscing in New York

I'm not usually one at a loss for words or at a loss for what to do next, etc. However, when we took the ferry out to Governors Island and went ashore to one of my childhood haunts I was a little overwhelmed to say the least. Oddly, I even felt like I might cry. I only lived there for three years but you know how when you're a kid and think things are way more monumental than they really are? Especially during the formative years? Yeah, anyways, it's like that. Here are some photos from the trip out, the rest of the day will be coming tomorrow.

You can rent bikes to ride around the island now, although at $40/hour for this set of wheels we opted for a photo and nothing more. (Brian and Jessica in the front; Brian and I in the back.)
I didn't live here but I do remember playing on this playground a few times with a friend of mine who did. It's sad to see all these big brick buildings falling into disrepair and being used as a firefighter training school.
I rode my bike on this sidewalk many times - and tried desperately from falling into "doggy island" on the right-hand side.
Some remnants from the Coast Guard days on the island still stand for now. The photo on the right was where we went for groceries, haircuts, dry cleaning, etc.
We lived here, in New Brick Village - or at least that's what we called it, having moved previously from "Old Brick Village". The trees are starting to reclaim their land as you can see.
I was so excited to see that you could walk into my old church, St. Cornelius Chapel. But then I was kind of sad that they had taken out the pews and put in a modern art exhibit. Why?
Iconic view from the island - Lady Liberty and the Staten Island Ferry.
Manhattan from the island. (Mom, notice the ferry terminals in the center.) That's it for now, thanks for checking in!

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Eating New York

Okay, I won't really be eating New York but why not try? There are so many great options. Here are some highlights from our first day in the city:

We arrived at around 11am and headed out to pick up some lunch. We walked down to Saltie's, a cute little, nautical themed sandwich shop. I had the delicious tomato salad above with a watermelon juice, a perfect meal.
After lunch Brian, Jessica and I headed out to visit the Lower East Side Tenement Museum. It is available by guided tour only so we picked the "Getting By" tour which focused on life in the tenement house for immigrants during The Panic of 1873 and The Great Depression. It was a very info packed look back at how hard life used to be for immigrants and we talked about how things weren't so different today.
After the hour-long tour, we walked over to the Economy Candy store with floor to ceiling offerings of every candy under the sun including a one pound Sugar Daddy, not that I like Sugar Daddies, but still! I did buy some sour cherries and Bottlecaps, Brian bought some black licorice.
Naturally, after a visit to the candy store we headed to Jessica's favorite cupcake place, Sugar Sweet Sunshine. Best cupcake of my life - Ooey Gooey - dark chocolate cake with chocolate almond butter-cream frosting. I almost went up and bought another but I controlled myself.
Cool graffiti mural across the street from Jessica and Brian's place (yes, this weekend there will be two Brians).
Finally, (my) Brian and I ended the day with a dinner date at Samurai Mama. The Veggie Gyoza was delicious, as was the spicy tuna roll and the spicy ginger margarita. A nice, cozy place for a date even though you are dining at a large table for 30.
A quick checkup on my public transportation progress:  we took a cab from the airport to Jessica and Brian's apartment (no points), we took the subway into the Lower East side and back (+2) - with Jessica (-2). So, the days ends where it began. Better than backsliding I say! Thanks for checking in!

Friday, September 16, 2011

Bits and Bobs

Bit 1 ~ Yesterday I was reading one of my favorite friend's blogs and I kept thinking how genius her post was and how I wanted to share it with anyone who doesn't read her blog. My friends are relocating from KC to Baltimore for ten months and have two of the cutest/smartest/funniest little girls on earth. They wanted to find a way to keep the girls busy so my friend Katie crafted these for them:

These binders are chock full of creative activities and excitement. You can read all the details here.

Bit 2 ~ We are leaving for New York City this morning and best of all I found out that the tickets Brian booked are direct! In addition to our trip out to Governors Island and meeting up with some friends from college, we have wide open spaces of time to enjoy and explore the city. However, I originally had selected the dates to visit on account of this event but after making the plans mentioned I realized that it didn't really fit into the schedule after all, plus we'll save $100 on tickets. It's kind of nice to just show up and see what happens but I can't help but think we might miss out on something.

Bit 3 ~ I just discovered this week that TSA has a blog. If you want to know all they want you to know about TSA you can check it out here.

Bob 1 ~ Last year I got kind of spoiled (okay fine, fully spoiled) and spent Thanksgiving in Lanai, HI with Brian. I realize that with me not working and in school, the budget is not as accommodating of my adventurous ideas for this Thanksgiving. However, I just can't get this place out my head:
This airbnb "private jungle villa with pool", located in Costa Rica, looks like the perfect place to spend a holiday with my hubby. High in the trees and away from it all, for $49/night it's hard to pass up. You can see more photos here and maybe if you book it for Thanksgiving weekend I will have to give up my quest for it by default. My budget will thank you!
Bob 2 ~ This doesn't seem that impressive, Kansas City was just voted #17 in Travel and Leisure's "America's Best Cities for Foodies". Not impressive at all until you look at the cities ahead of it! Whoa, go KC. Yummy!

Bob 3 ~ Hmm, I'm not even sure I know what a bob is. Oh well, thanks for checking in and I hope you have a wonderful weekend!!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Packing Challenge: City Style

Alright, I survived my first pared down packing experiment back in July/August, however in all fairness I was packing for a week in the woods. This had to be the easiest one to start with. I am now heading into round two - a four day weekend in New York City. Shockingly, the city is far more stylish than the middle of the woods. This challenge is compounded with weather (high low 70's/low mid 50's) and the fact that I am not entirely sure what all we'll be up too, which necessitates some flexibility in my wardrobe selections. Here is what I came up with:

Exactly one dozen toiletries - really glad I don't wear makeup, it saves me from lugging around more.
Okay, I realize that three pairs of pants is probably a bit much but I had a regular and a fancy pair of jeans picked out and then I spotted my long forgotten (over the summer) pair of grey cords and had to add them. Then, NYC is going to recognize me by this jacket because I'm only packing one.
Two sweaters and three fancy tanks.
Then we have jammies (shorts and a t-shirt), two other t-shirts, five pairs of socks and three pairs of shoes - all relatively comfortable to walk all over the city in.
I like to pack one "outfit" where I have something planned for the day after I arrive so I at least look put together on one day. I really should have added white tank tops to my post on things I never leave home without.
Finally, I won't be packing into my hiking backpack this time, but am opting for something that will be easy to handle on the subway and the sidewalks. This is the smallest suitcase I have with wheels so I think it will work as a carry-on just fine. I haven't decided what to bring as my other carry-on but I'll probably go with my laptop backpack (hands-free!).
In addition to the 38 items pictured, I am also bringing 7 undergarments, my laptop, camera, iPod, sunglasses, a book, two magazines, my wallet, a small purse, my idea journal, a pack of gum, a couple of granola bars, two shoe bags, one Space Bag for dirty clothes and a pen. This brings me to a grand total of 63 items (including my other carry-on bag, in case you were counting) and a bit of anxiety as I wonder if I packed enough stuff. I am sort of surprised at how hard this is for me but I think it's good practice. Thanks for checking in!