Monday, October 29, 2012


In case you've been living under a rock and/or don't know me and/or don't read my blog on a regular basis (which, I know, is very doubtful), I must preface this post by stating one fact:

Fall is, without fail, the best season in all the land.

Many tend to argue with this stated fact (how one can argue with a fact is beyond me, but whatever) by citing summertime as the best season in all the land... especially in Chicago. But I beg to differ. I mean, clearly those people seem to be conveniently forgetting all about excessive heat and humidity that comes with summertime fun. Ugh.

But fall. Oh fall. The flavors of the season, the colors of the season, the MERRIMENT OF THE SEASON THAT'S RIGHT AROUND THE CORNER?!?!?!?!?

I rest my case.

Anyway, it's been a dream of mine to do a road trip through the New England states in the Fall. Sipping warm cozy beverages, admiring the lovely fall foliage, enjoying the quaintness that IS New England... if that doesn't scream all things happy in the world, I just don't know what does.

Imagine my surprise when I unveiled this grand dream to one of my friends/co-workers who surprisingly responded with the fact that her good friend had the SAME dream?!? Well, OBVIOUSLY we had to seize the opportunity! Carpe diem, if you will.

After much planning (completely on their part... thanks again, Purvi and Rina!)... the fall foliage trip to end all fall foliage trips finally took place!! And I have to say... while I had QUITE high expectations, Maine 100% surpassed all of my expectations. Sigh- it seriously was everything I hoped and dreamed it to be and more!

There were five of us who ended up embarking on this little adventure last weekend (thank GOD it was last weekend and not this weekend... yikes, Mother Nature).  We flew into Boston Friday evening... oh wait, before I begin. Let me introduce the characters that are involved here... I think the pictures can speak for themselves.




And Ruma...

  And, then, well, me. There are pictures of me all over this blog so no need for a separate profile picture. Anyway! Back to the trip!

Okay, so we flew in Friday night (after a slight flight delay) and drove up to Portland, Maine that same night. Did you know that Portland is only a couple of hours away from Boston?? I had no idea. Anyway, it was all very delightful. Check out the COZIEST LITTLE INN THAT WE STAYED IN OUR FIRST NIGHT!!!

Okay- so maybe it was a Howard Johnson. But whatever. Doesn't it SCREAM log cabin-y coziness?!?

Anyway, that Saturday morning, we had some time to just enjoy Portland. Despite the gray skies and drizzle, Portland's quaint, cozy charm was clearly evident.

With lots of cozy, happy beverages...

And a little stalking of local barbers who just happen to be the most adorable men in the world thrown in for good measure...

After perusing the finer offerings of downtown Portland, we hit the road again. While the end destination was Bar Harbor in Acadia National Park (3 hours from Portland), we had a few pit stops along the way...

Obviously, stop #1 had to be the LL Bean store. This thing sounded ridiculous... and it kind of was.

Yes, that is a giant boot.Anyway, it was an interesting enough stop, but none of us were overly wow'ed by it... granted, we had pretty sky-high expectations given the descriptions Rina had found of this place but still. I mean, if you can't kayak in an indoor pond at LL Bean, where CAN you do that?

Anyway, quickly moving on... time to find some lighthouses!

After navigating some windy roads and getting lost just a couple of times (no road trip would be complete without getting lost, right?), we finally found the first lighthouse that we were going to stop at. It was a little windy and slightly drizzly, making the walk to the lighthouse (which we were even questioning as BEING a lighthouse to begin with) a bit treacherous, but we powered through... well, at least for a little bit. But the water was SCARY! So we stopped walking the path about halfway through and turned around.

And we were off again! This time to Bar Harbor, Maine. I was so excited to see this bed and breakfast that we were staying in, I just couldn't WAIT.

And for good reason too. I can safely say that the Inn at Southwest bed and breakfast is one of the best bed and breakfasts...ever. We were greeted by the cutest co-owner (Esther) who had fresh-baked chocolate chip cookies just waiting for us!! Happiness, if you will.

Saturday night was pretty mellow, since everything closes by like 7 PM over there. We just hung out in our cozy bed and breakfast and went to bed early since we had to be up early the next morning... for rock climbing!

Well, some of us went rock climbing (how scaling rocks that are hanging over treacherous waters is appealing to anyone... well, I will certainly never understand).

Others went for little strolls in the forest. CHECK OUT THESE PICTURES!!!

All in all, it was a DELIGHTFUL Sunday morning. I'm so proud/happy for the rock climbers! It was clearly a worthwhile, exhilarating experience. After the morning activities, we reconvened for lunch and... well, a mini photo session apparently (note: I am not posting ALL the photos we took in this one area because... quite frankly, we spent way more time than was healthy posing for pictures in this one location).

I love, love, love pictures of people laughing! It just makes me so HAPPY!

Anyway, after THAT nonsense, we ended up setting off for the peak of Cadillac Mountain to watch a brilliant sunset.

I honestly can't express how peaceful and PERFECT the top of this mountain was. It was just view after view after view. Perfection.

Anyway, amidst that perfection, it was also a tad bit COLD. So we snapped some pictures before heading right back into that heated car of ours to head back to our cozy, cozy bed and breakfast.

Since nothing is really open past like 7 PM in Bar Harbor (at least at this time of year), we decided to order in (two feet of) pizza from the local gas station. How many things are wrong with that sentence? Sigh. Anyway. A story for another time...

And that was Sunday night. We ended up hanging out in the bed and breakfast, eating that pizza and mingling with some of the fellow guests (sigh. They were just so adorable) before calling it a night. We had another early morning on Monday, since we were now beginning the drive back down the state to get back to Boston in time for our evening flights!

After the slightly disappointing "lighthouse" pit stop we'd had on the way to Bar Harbor on Saturday, we figured we needed to give it another go. So the group pinpointed another lighthouse they wanted to check out and we headed straight for it.

Sweet. Success.

It really was quite beautiful. Once that mission was accomplished, we headed back to that car. Next stop? Pit stop in Portsmouth, New Hampshire for lunch and... well, shenanigans.

Sigh. All in all, SUCH a successful trip. I honestly was NOT ready for it to end... I hadn't gotten enough of the fall foliage and cozy beverages!! For next year... and the year after... and the year after... and, well you get the idea, right?

*A HUGE THANK YOU TO ESTHER AND SANDY for making our experience at your Inn at Southwest bed and breakfast one of the best experiences ever! We are truly appreciative of your efforts and hospitality and will DEFINITELY be advertising this place to future visitors of Bar Harbor. :)

**Special thanks to (all of) the photogs on this trip! Purvi, Rina, Ruma and Trang- your pictures were FANTASTIC (iPhones and all... ;))

Monday, October 15, 2012

Pumpkin, Pumpkin EVERYWHERE!!!!

I know, I know- this blog post title may be a bit deceiving. If you are thinking you are going to hear about my weekend adventures at a pumpkin patch, hand-picking out my very own fresh pumpkins to bake some fresh pumpkin pie, scones, breads, muffins... welllll, not exactly.

Here's the thing- I. Love. Fall. Case in point:

FALL!!!!!! - a completely unbiased review
A Road Trip in the Name of Alllll Things Good and Fallll!
Pumpkin Carving Party Time!

Love may be an understatement, actually.

Well, if you know me at all, you also know another great love of mine- Trader Joe's.

Ahhh, HAPPINESS!!! Just typing the grocery store's NAME sends happy little shivers down my spine.

So can you only IMAGINE my reaction when I walked into my neighborhood Trader Joe's a few weeks ago and realized that... well, the flavors of pumpkin had kind of thrown up on Trader Joe's. Shelf after shelf, aisle after aisle... of allllll things PUMPKIN-Y GOODNESS!!!!!!

Now, typically I go into Trader Joe's with complete direction, guidance and purpose. I mean, sure, I take the occasional peek at the latest and greatest goods that TJ's is offering (how can you NOT? EVERYTHING Trader Joe's sells is nothing short of PERFECTION... I'm not kidding), but for the most part, I have my staples that typically guide my way around the store.

I can safely say that the day I discovered all the pumpkin-y goodness that Trader Joe's decided to grace its shelves with was one of the happiest grocery shopping days of my life. You may think I'm exaggerating but I'm not- I'm oddly obsessed with grocery shopping and grocery shopping at Trader Joe's... well, it seriously is one of my happy places. Not gonna lie- sometimes I go to my neighborhood Trader Joe's after a bad day and it simply just cheers me up. So weird.. but then again, that's me.

Anyway, back to that day of pumpkin-y goodness. You better believe I took my own sweet time that day... strolling aisle after aisle, perusing shelf after shelf.. .ensuring that I didn't miss a single pumpkin-y product that I would want to try! Hell, I was even tempted to buy the pumpkin-y dog treats... and I don't even have a dog! (What? I KNOW people who have dogs! I could've just given it to one of them!)

Okay, so maybe I went a little overboard...

And you know what? This wasn't even my first trip to stock up on TJ's pumpkin-y goodness. It was my third... okay, fifth... time to TJ's in the course of like two weeks.

Oh whatever- judge all you want. But may I recommend TRYING each of these TJ's products before judging? Honestly, it is all just so delicious, I don't even know where to begin.

Sure, I'm not really the biggest fan of pancakes or waffles... but yes, there IS a nice little box of pumpkin pancake/waffle mix in the pile there... but WHAT?! Don't pumpkin pancakes just SOUND incredible? And, let's be honest, during one of my TJ's trips last week- they were handing out free samples of pumpkin pancakes... and I have to say. It's singlehandedly changed my feelings/aversion to pancakes. So I simply HAD to buy a whole box of the mix... naturally.

And God, those pumpkin-cranberry scones are just so SOFT and DELICIOUS. The pumpkin is even subtle enough so as not to overwhelm the cranberry part of the scone. 

Hmm- OMG!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! THE PUMPKIN GREEK YOGURT!!!! So I went to TJ's on Saturday (you know, trip #4) and spotted this little treasure of pumpkin-y goodness that I had somehow missed in past trips... but MAN, I was CERTAINLY missing out!! I only bought two pumpkin Greek yogurts on Saturday, just to taste test. Well, clearly the taste test passed... this was seriously like dessert. Which explains... well, my little stockpiled collection after today's trip.

Aaand, holy mother!! Today, I just happened to visit another Trader Joe's to see if they had in stock some of the things my neighborhood Trader Joe's did not... gotta make the Chicago circuit!! I was more than a little bummed to learn that this TJ's was also out of pumpkin spice chai and pumpkin cereal bars... BUT!!! Talk about a sign... I totally stumbled upon some pumpkin-y type of OATMEAL which I have DEFINITELY not seen at my neighborhood TJ's!! It took literally one second of my eyes popping outta my socket to dump that box of oatmeal into my (quickly filling) grocery basket... OMG!!! I LOVE OATMEAL!!! I LOVE PUMPKIN!!! I LOVE TRADER JOE'S!!!! ALL THREE TOGETHER?!?!?!?! HELLO!!!!

Whew. Okay. And let's see, so just a little clarification about the TJ's pumpkin spice chai latte mix that you see in my collection. So I already mentioned that both TJ's I went to were out of pumpkin spice chai... well, it turns out that TJ's is actually out of pumpkin spice chai for the SEASON!! However, I just had to point out that I got to TJ's early enough in the season to have snagged at least ONE package of the pumpkin spice chai latte mix (seriously, I bought this pumpkin spice chai during trip #1 of the pumpkin TJ's shopping spree)... you would think knowing that TJ's is out for the SEASON would encourage me to portion control my pumpkin spice chai intake... but, well, it certainly does not. This sh*t is nothing short of amazing.

Onto the cream cheese... I'd bought that Trader Joe's pumpkin cream cheese a week or so ago (trip #3, if you will) and... again, as with all these other products, it was divine. So I was just chit-chatting with my TJ's grocer (they are all so FRIENDLY!!) during today's trip and he was giving his own little rundown on each pumpkin product he was ringing up (this is why I adore TJ's grocers... they truly believe in the food they are selling!), and at one point he was like "So... I see you don't have the pumpkin cream cheese in your basket... I must say, it's incredible"... to which I immediately scoffed and was like "Oh, don't you worry. I already HAVE that purchased" (I wanted to tack on the term of endearment "silly" to the end of that statement but feared that would be getting a little too comfortable with my TJ's grocer). 

Wow. I was about to go on and on, but I just realized that I'm pretty much writing a dissertation on all things pumpkin and Trader Joe's.

Whew!!! Talk about a flurry of activity.. writing this post just made me SO HAPPY. I really think I could survive on Trader Joe's alone for quite a few months.. I mean, hell, my bathroom products are all starting to be very "Trader Joe's"-y as well! My shampoo, conditioner, lotion (OMG- TJ's Coconut Butter is this lotion-y type thing that SMELLS INCREDIBLE!!!! I legitimately get so excited to finish my showers so I can just gorge my skin with this lotion), well- you get the idea.

But I digress. Okay! Off to make some dinner... hmm, whatEVER will I prepare? ;)