Travel

Pompeii

As I mentioned in my Oregon trip recap post Marisa and I basically stumbled upon the Pompeii exhibit at OMSI (which is still happening, so check it out if you're in the area).

I just wanted to take a few moments and share how deeply affected it left me, which is unusual because I'm not super prone to crying, yet alone crying about people I don't know who died over 1900 years ago.

That's the cleverest thing about this exhibit, which was entirely by design i'm sure. It made the people of Pompeii into real life people not just figures from a history book.

At the start of the exhibit you stand in front of the “gates” of Pompeii, where a staff member explains what you're about to see and mentions that the “4D movie” might not be for those faint of heart (it was a very mild experience, but more on that in a moment). Then a little film plays, some dramatic music sounds, and slowly the doors open.

In you walk and you find yourself in the atrium of a typical Roman house from Pompeii, filled with ancient artifacts. Like this bust that still has some 1900 year old red paint on it:

Portrait Bust of a Young Woman

All of the sculptures had such fine detail you would have sworn they had just been made. It was crazy.

And as you walk through the exhibit they funnel you through the different parts of the town. Marisa was quite interested in the cooking utensils (of which I took no pictures). Once again, the frying pans and colanders looked like they were just bought the other day (from a high end kitchen store!).

There was even an alcove devoted to the brothels of Pompeii (the Romans did enjoy their sex). It was interesting, and didn't glamorize the life the people working there. Though there was a creepy guy who was hanging out in that section watching the brothel movie over and over again. It was odd.

Then these's the 4D movie: i.e. a regular movie about the day Vesuvius erupted only the whole room fills with smoke (water vapor in this case) and the floor shakes to simulate the resultant earthquakes.

All of this is designed to make you think about the people of Pompeii and how they were very much like you and me. They went to the market, they cooked, they had sex, they argued, they ate disgusting fermented fish sauce called garum (the Romans LOVED garum. It strikes me as completely gross), they had indoor plumbing, and heated floors. Not so different from modern folk.

And that's how they really get you in the gut with this:

Pompeii cast

A room with several of the famous Pompeii casts. Casts of what? Well, of the cavities left by the people who were smothered, and killed, by the volcanic ash. These were some of the about 2000 people who didn't get out in time, or who weren't allowed to leave.

There was a slave who archeologists think was left behind to guard his master's house. A mother holding up her child, trying to save it from the ash… and failing. A dog who was tied up in front of the house and left to die. And a man who they think had gathered up all his money and tried to escape, but he ended up dead on the street with his money next to him (the thinking being he had a fatal stumble as he was running away. Perhaps has he turned he head when a building was crumbling next to him).

It was a shocking, and very moving experience. I knew what was coming as we moved through the exhibit, and had read lots about Pompeii so I thought I knew what to expect. But I didn't. These were people, who had lives. And they all died, their last moments filled with terror and confusion. The only thing they knew was they should run as fast as they could; it wasn't fast enough.


Oregon 2017

If you're my friend on Flickr then you already know I spent some time in Oregon recently. It was my mother-in-law's 70th birthday so Marisa arranged for her entire immediate family (her sister and her husband, their kids, her parents, her, and me) to spend some time in Portland and the Oregon coast.

We rented this house:

Oregon Coast

For a couple of reasons. It had the right number of bedrooms, it wasn't too crazy expensive, and it is right on the ocean. What is the point of renting a beach house if you can't see the ocean from almost every room?

This is right out of that gate that you see above:

Oregon Coast

Walk down a little dune and you're on the beach!

Oregon Coast

Growing up I spent the vast majority of my summers on the beach, which has meant that I pretty much have no interest in the beach now. However, spending some time in a beach town felt like coming home! Of course the Oregon coast is very different from the beaches I'm used to on Long Island in New York. You mostly don't swim, which is wacky. And the beaches really don't have that many people on them.

The water is sure pretty though. And it was nice to sleep with the sound of the ocean at night.

Oregon Coast

Once we were done at the Oregon coast it was back to Portland. I only had one requirement: we stay somewhere other than Marisa's parent's place since it was going to be so crowded.

Marisa agreed and decided we should stay on a houseboat! Here's a view of the marina:

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And the awesome bridge down:

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There were all sorts of houseboats docked here. Luckily ours was just straight down the pier, so no need for complicated directions.

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I don't know if this means it was the 14th houseboat in Oregon, but is is a neat picture.

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And here's the houseboat we stayed in! It was very nice, and made me momentarily think that we should buy a houseboat. The reality is probably less attractive than staying on one for a couple of days, but it was nice.

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I've already blogged about the doughnuts on the trip, but here are the Blue Star doughnuts again (very tasty):

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And here's a nice picture of Marisa before she ate her doughnut (and before a nice man at Blue Star gave her a free doughnut because the one she wanted was sold out):

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The sunset over the marina:

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We didn't plan on going to OMSI, which is pretty geared towards kids, but we parked in their parking lot and had to pop in to pay for it. And that's when we discovered they were having a Pompeii exhibit. We had to go.

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A little volcano stamp! I'll write more about the exhibit later.

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The reason we were even near OMSI was so we could walk across the Tilikum Crossing, which is the bridge in the distance.

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And guarded by this sculpture:

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That's what we are looking for! This bridge is only for buses, trams, people, and bikes. No cars, thank you very much. Oh, Portland.

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The bridge is quite striking, as are the views.

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Someone drew little faces on these signs. I approved.

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Then we took a break so Marisa could be famous on TV.

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And followed that by getting some doughnuts.

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And we ended our Oregon trip with a solo excursion (well solo as in Marisa and myself) to Mount Hood, where we stayed at the lovely Timberline Lodge.

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There's Marisa sitting on a fake ski lift.

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We arrived, checked in, and then went for a walk in the twilight. It takes a long time for the sun to set, but we took some pretty good pictures.

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Skilift and trees

Back of the lodge

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Here's Marisa the next morning slightly annoyed that we missed breakfast. Almost every meal we had at the Lodge was great, except for this one. We were both in the mood for breakfast but had just missed it so we had to make due with a crappy turkey sandwich (for Marisa) and a poorly constructed sausage sandwich (for me).

Marisa!

But the lodge rallied by making some good drinks and offering up a sweet little nook we could take over and sip our cocktails and read.

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Then it was time for some hiking!

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We took the ski lift up the mountain, which was terrifying. I've never been skiing, so this was my first time on a lift. As it was moving I was gripping on as tightly as I could thinking it couldn't get much worse. And then the lift stopped! And we were just dangling there. I didn't know they stopped!

I was not a fan. And we walked back down the mountain (though we planned to do that anyway).

There's the lodge!

There was still a good bit of snow, and lots of snowboarders.

Snow and rocks

And the views were great.

So pretty

As was the flora.

Flower detail

I really like this picture:

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Someone was really into stacking rocks.

Mt. Hood and towers

A little mountain side selfie because honestly.

We are so cute

After all that hiking we were tuckered out, so we headed to the Lounge and lounged about reading.

Marisa reads a book and tolerates me.

I couldn't get enough of the views!

Looks like a matte painting

Or of this pizza! And amazingly, I didn't gain any weight on vacation (I lost like .2 pounds, which I was very ok with).

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Some of the doorways were exactly my size.

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A view of were we were reading.

Very cozy places to read!

Some fun facts about the lodge, on the lodge.

That's a big chimney.

And then we headed back to Portland for a day of hanging out. We took a 10pm flight, so we could have some more time in Portland. Of course that included some conveyor belt sushi (with a cameo by my new hat).

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Overall, the trip was great. Marisa planned it very well to allow me some decompressing at the lodge before we headed back to reality. Plus I bought lots of books, so what's not to like?


Powell's Haul #1

Editorial Preview

Any book lover who visits Portland, OR has got to go to at least one Powell's. I went to two whilst I was in Portland, because why not?

The City of Books is their biggest store right in the middle of downtown Portland. It is billed as the largest independent bookstore in the world, and I believe it! They carry something like a million titles. Displaying admirable restraint I purchased 6 books:

Powell's Haul (main store)

One of the things I love about Powell's is the fact they shelve new and used books together. That just makes me happy… and did I mention the mind boggling amount of books they have in that store? It is crazy!

Powell's, like any successful bookstore, also carries a bunch of other things. I picked up this super cool robot pin (though I have no idea where I'm going to put it):

Powell's Fashion Pin

And given who I am, I had to buy this:

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Stay tuned to see what I purchased at the other Powell's I visited. Can you contain your excitement?


Voodoo Maple Bacon Bar

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The other doughnut you have to have while in Portland is from Voodoo Doughnuts. While Blue Star focuses on simplicity, quality, and unique flavor profiles Voodoo answers the question, “How much Capt'n Crunch can you get on a doughnut?”

My go to, pictured above, is the Maple Bacon Bar. As I said to Marisa: the Blue Star is better but I like the Voodoo doughnut more. It just tastes like what I want a doughnut to taste like… and I feel like Blue Star is just a touch pretentious.

Of course, if I could only go to one doughnut place in the world neither of the Portland options would make the cut. I would save that honor for NYC's Doughnut Plant. But I don't want to live in a world where I can only go to one doughnut place.


Western Mass in books

📖 haul

Marisa and I often head up to Western Mass to visit our friends Becky and Eric over Memorial Day weekend, and we did just that this weekend. This was a special trip because we finally got to meet Reed (their son).

Overall, it was a successful and relaxing trip. However, I didn't get much reading done. Bummer.

We did, however, manage to visit three bookstores:

Where I purchased the books pictured above. Did I need any of these books? I don't understand the question.


Jane Smiley on Newgrange

It seems as though I'm not the only writer who visited Newgrange this year. Jane Smiley, a better and more successful writer, did as well and wrote about it for the New York Times (I just wrote about it for my blog):


Newgrange is a popular destination, and tickets are first come first served. It is called a “passage mound” or “passage tomb,” but what is it really? If we are lucky, what we get when we visit an ancient site is a sense of the intelligence that designed and built the structure even if we might not understand what belief system they were acting under. Indeed, perhaps Newgrange is a giant calendar, a giant clock, a giant belief system, built without mortar, lost and present at the same time.


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Papal Vacation: Rehoboth Beach

Given the forecast of millions of Papal pilgrims Marisa and I decided to head the heck out of town last weekend.

The week before the Pope's visit it looked like we made the right call given the signs we were seeing in our neighborhood:

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Papal vacation

So we packed our bags:

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And headed to the beach:


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And looked at the ocean:


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We visited a couple of random stores, one of which had this interesting model:

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We saw a dolphin:

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And tried on some hats:

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Sadly, we missed the yacht rock:

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But we did see the super moon:

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And found some interesting soda:

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And had some almost butter:

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Vermont and Maine

Over the last two weeks I've been on vacation (hurrah for working at a University!). Since Marisa had some book events scheduled in Vermont and Maine she suggested I come along, and a vacation was born!

Sadly, over those two weeks I also had to finish the draft of my latest book (details, details). However, it worked out well since while Marisa was out being famous I could write, write, write (also, thanks to my trusty laptop I could write and edit while we were driving).

Our first stop was the Ben and Jerry's Factory tour:

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I like this motto:

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The Flavor Graveyard is where late lamented flavors go to die.

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The spoils of the tour! Honestly, the tour was fun but it lasts about 15 minutes and you don't see much. But they do give you a free sample.

Then it was off to Montpellier to visit the Vermont State House:

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Ethan Allen, famed for his fine furniture.

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Lincoln. Our tour was lead by a Vermont State representative. Who knew?

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Every governor gets his portrait on the wall of the State House. When this one of Howard Dean was unveiled it was dubbed "L.L. Dean":

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Back to the Bed and Breakfast which was right on the water:

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Then we scoped out Brunswick, ME and visited an indie bookstore:

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And Bull Moose where I bought two mystery packages of books (one marked Sci-Fi and the other marked Star Trek) and got 10 books for $2:

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Returned to the Bed and Breakfast. This place was great, and we had lovely conversations at breakfast. Two old ladies who have been friends for over 50 years have vacationed together here for the last 12 years. Crazy!

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Our dinner views:


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Lobster dip:

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I could have gotten a lobster roll here, or two full lobsters but I opted for the lazy lobster tails. They were great:


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I couldn't resist:

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The next morning included delicious donuts from Frosty's:

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Then it was off to Portland. As we drove to our hotel we passed this place:

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I thought to myself, I wouldn't want to eat there! But Yelp told me that Three Buoys had a great lobster roll so we went there for lunch. Yelp was not wrong:

We went to Eventide Oyster Company for a much more upscale dinner:



The lobster roll was fine, but this ice cream sandwich was really good:


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When in Portland you're super close to L.L. Bean's flagship store which is gigantic and open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. We decided to check it out around 10pm:

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I purchased both of these items.

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I did not purchase this:

When in Portland you have to see a lighthouse. On our way to the lighthouse I had my first Tim Horton's doughnut. It was fine.

This is Fort Williams Park:

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A great time was had by all, and I kind of want to move to a cove in Maine or anywhere in Vermont.


iPhone as plane ticket, a Passbook experience

PassbookiconI rarely venture forth from Center City Philadelphia, let alone the state of Pennsylaniva. However, circumstances conspired to force me to leave the Keystone state for a wedding over the weekend. As luck would have it Apple released iOS 6 with the banner Passbook feature mere days before I was to board my flight. Further proof of my luck: all four of my flights were on United, which is one of the few airlines who support Passbook at this moment (along with American Airlines and Lufthansa). How did it go?

The process

Using Passbook isn't difficult, but there are a lot of steps you have to take to get your eTickets into it:

  1. Launch Passbook and tap the "App Store" button.
  2. Download the United app to your iPhone (if you already have the United app you just start here, but I didn't).
  3. You might be tempted to launch Passbook again and look for a United entry at this point, but don't. You have to launch the United app, log in, and retrieve your reservation if it isn't associated with your United account (my tickets weren't for some reason, but that was easy enough to correct in the United app).
  4. Once you have the trip in the United app you then must wait until you can check into your flight (usually 24 hours before the trip). Check in, using the United app.
  5. When you check in you will have a couple options: you can just display an eTicket within the United app, or you can add your tickets to Passbook. Add them to Passbook and they show up as nicely designed eTickets (on my flight to CA both tickets showed up without a fuss, on my flight back to Philly it took some finagling to get my tickets back into Passbook. I had to "re-import" all my tickets for some reason).
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There you have it, you can use Passbook to get onto your plane (and yes, the actual ticket has a QR code, which I've blurred out in the picture above)!

Lockscreen

Now that your eTickets are in Passbook an alert shows up on your lock screen a few hours before your flight's boarding time. Swipe the notification and the eTicket is displayed with a QR code (if you have a lock code enabled on your phone this process does not require it. The eTicket is displayed without having to enter your PIN or password). One nice touch is that when your iPhone is displaying the eTicket the screen brightness is automatically set to the highest level (I usually keep my screen at 33% brightness) and then goes back to your setting when the eTicket is dismissed (by swiping upwards).

At the airport the friendly TSA folks and gate representatives all have scanners waiting for you. Just hold your iPhone, which is displaying your ticket, up to the scanner and wait for the green light that proves you aren't a security risk (the first time I scanned my ticket the scanner turned red and beeped loudly. I slightly panicked until I realized I had an exit row seat and they had to ask me if I was OK with sitting there… which I was). And that's it, you just used your $500 iPhone to replace a 1 cent paper ticket. Yay, technology!

Worth the hassle?

It seems to me that Passbook is a clever idea, but honestly having my eTicket with the QR code emailed to me (or just using the one displayed in the United app) would have been simpler. Once you get the ticket into Passbook it is a nice experience, but adding stuff to Passbook isn't intuitive. In fact, once I had my 2 tickets to CA in Passbook I didn't have the option to add anything else from within Passbook itself since the App Store button was no longer displayed.


Memorial Day 2011, in Northampton, MA

This year we broke our tradition of escaping Philadelphia to the bucolic surrounds of Lancaster County (read about our past adventures in 2010 here and 2009 here) and instead headed to Northampton, MA to visit Becky and Eric (formerly of Philadelphia).

The trip takes about 5 hours (in our sweet new car) but we decided to break the trip up into two parts by stopping over near Beacon, NY so we could visit the Dia: Beacon.

Dia: Beacon

This is the entrance to the museum, and that's the only picture I could because of copyright restrictions on the art itself (who knew?).

The building is amazing, and the art is pretty mind-bending. I think the organization of the collection could use some work. As someone who isn't an expert on modern art the first two exhibits seemed like cliches (though I am sure they were very fine art). One included a room full of canvases painted white, and the other included materials that needed to be "activated." Activated, in this case, means put them on you and look foolish.

After those galleries, though, the art got really interested. Lots of great sculpture and even some crazy pencil drawings done directly on the museum's walls. If you're ever in the area you should check this museum out (though don't bring a big bag because they won't let you in with it.. as Marisa found out the hard way. Don't worry, she put it back in the car and was allowed into the museum).

Books and rootbeer

Once we were done with the Dia: Beacon we made our way to Northampton to be greeted by our generous hosts. Our first stop was the Montague Bookmill which has a great slogan, "Books you don't need in a place you can't find." I picked up some books and a bottle of root beer.

Northampton, MA farmers' market

The next day found us at the Northampton Farmers Market.

Eric and Becky nabs some goodies

Where Becky found herself some cheese and Eric tracked down a raspberry bush.

Marisa shows off her new bowl

Marisa found herself a big wooden bowl because we need another bowl.

I have no idea what this means

We stopped into this antique store with this rather odd phrase on the window. I still have no idea what it means.

KitKat

Deals and steals is a local discount organic food store (which is like heaven to Marisa). I bought this big Kitkat from Libya.

Marisa gets some maple syrup in a jar

We went to a food co-op and Marisa thrilled at the chance to fill a jar with maple syrup (shortly after this picture was taken I drank all the maple syrup with a straw).

Bridge of Flowers

The Bridge of Flowers was… just as you might expect: a bridge with lots of flowers on it (which someone from a nearby apartment pointed out to us as we took pictures. They shouted from their porch, "They're just flowers!!").

Marisa, Eric, and Becky

Marisa, Eric, and Becky look at glacial potholes.

Spaetzle enjoying my iPad

One thing I don't like about living in our apartment is the strict no pets policy. We enjoyed having some quality time with a nice kitty (and Spaetzle enjoyed playing with my iPad).

Spaetzle from the front

Spaetzle, caught in a rare moment of silence (she is a chatty kitty!).

My grilled pizza

Marisa had the bright idea to grill some pizza. We all thought she was crazy, but she assured us that if we plopped some dough on the grill good things would happen. In the face of our unanimous doubt Marisa did some research and found out that one must oil the dough before placing it on the grill.

The pizza was very good.

Eric is pleased

Eric is a fine grillmaster.

Climbing down

Going down the steps of Bray Tower.

Mmmm

Eric commanded that we think about our ideal sausage the night before we went sausage shopping. Once at the sausage counter I met the sausage I had dreamt of without even knowing it: a chicken cheddar pepperoni sausage. It was mighty tasty.

My book haul

And here's my final book haul. In a rare occurrence I do believe I spent more money on this Memorial Day trip than Marisa did. Who knew?


New York City - Day Three

Sunday was our last day in New York City, and since we had to check out of our hotel at noon and our bus didn't leave until 4:40 we had some time to kill.

Thanks to a suggest by Dave Caolo we checked out the Tenement Museum. No photography of any kind was allowed within the museum itself, so here is where you buy tickets:

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Luckily for us, the Tenement Museum was right by another recommended NYC stop (thanks, Philafoodie), Doughnut Plant:

Doughnut Plant

As you might guess this place is a fancy-pants doughnut shop (the doughnuts are fancy, the shop itself has an industrial vibe going on.. and it is tiny! Though the line moves very quickly):

Doughnut Plant

Doughnut Plant sells two different categories of doughtnuts: yeast and cake. I was planning on ordering one of each type, but then I saw the creme brulee doughnut (which is a yeast doughtnut). This thing was tiny, but very very tasty:

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I also got another yeast doughnut, the vanilla bean. This one was a vanilla-y glazed doughtnut that was really good (read Marisa's thoughts about her peach doughtnut to see the amazing power of Doughtnut Plant):

Vanilla Bean

We then stumbled upon a little outdoors market which included, for some reason, a ping pong table. Some kids were playing each other and this boy was levitating the ball WITH HIS MIND:

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That was all the fun we had time for in New York City. This is Marisa enjoying some of our last moments in the city by standing in the middle of the street like a real New Yorkers. I'm walking here!

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New York City - Day Two in pictures

We woke up hungry, but we wanted to get going. We down to Union Square to check out the green market there. Before we did any serious checking, though we had breakfast at the Coffee Shop (I had pancakes, if you're wondering):

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Mmmm, carrots:

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It wasn't that hot out, but clearly this dog wasn't enjoying being out and about... so he sought some shade under a table:

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Marisa samples some of the local flora:

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Hippy teas:

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I took this picture for Jason Snell (he knows why):

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The Strand, one of my favorite stops in NYC:

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Five days a week for four years I took the subway to this stop:

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To go here:

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Marisa thought my high school was 'fancy.' Well, it is on the Upper Eastside and all:

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Speaking of fancy, we stopped by this little jewelry store (this is one of Tiffany's flagship stores... 6 floors of expensive, shiny things):

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Some lucky girl got a present:

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Then we walked back to the hotel before meeting up with my brother for some dinner. On the way we stopped in at the LEGO store in Rockefeller Center which features some LEGO renditions of some famous Art Deco pieces:

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And then we played checkers on a Microsoft Surface (Marisa beat me):

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Walking down 6th Avenue I snapped this picture... a great end tothe day:

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New York City - Day One in pictures

This is what I saw the entire way to New York on the Megabus (when I wasn't sleeping):

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Then we checked into our hotel room (the lovely person at the front desk bumped us from a room on the 14th floor to one on the 23rd floor) I looked out the window to see this:

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I took this picture at 2pm (that becomes important):

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We stood in line at the Shack Shake starting at 2pm:

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These guys were competing against one another to see who could solve the Rubik's Cube the fastest (any of them would beat me):

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2:30 and still on the Shake Shack line:

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Finally, we can order (this was taken at about 3pm):

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Mmm, the food. It was good, but I don't think it was worth waiting over an hour for:

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After our burger and shake we decided to walk some of that fat off on the Highline:

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We saw some cool looking buildings:

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We enjoyed the fauna high above the streets of NYC:

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Marisa enjoyed the wooden recliners:

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At the candy store we found assorted bunnies:

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And the we went to the top of the Empire State building (see my Empire State Building tip):

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And you can't beat the view:

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Even the view looking up is pretty nice:

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And to round off the evening, some nice smooth jazz 86 floors above the street:

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The only Empire State Building tip you'll ever need

Buy the Express Pass tickets. When you get to the building itself (or the website) you'll wonder, just as I did, whether the extra cost (over double the price) is worth it.

Speaking as someone who opted not to get the Express Pass take my word for it: the extra expense is worth it. The Express Pass allows you to skip all the lines. When you first enter the building you'll go through security and that will make you think all the lines will be quick going.  I will say that the staff at the ESB gets a lot of people moving quickly, but you're still going to be waiting for at least an hour without the Express Pass. Buy it (and don't get the map. You don't need it).


Memorial Day 2010: A Lancaster County weekend in pictures

This was our third time spending Memorial Day in Lancaster County (check out the 2009 version of this post) and it is official: it is now a tradition! Huzzah.

This time we spent the majority of the weekend in the Churchtown Inn's lovely Covered Bridge Cottage. I will admit that I was a little worried about the cottage based on some online reviews, but I don't know what cottage these people stayed at. The Covered Bridge Cottage was fantastic. Well appointed, very cozy, and fast wireless Internet? Who can ask for anything more?

This year I decided to leave my fancy-pants DSLR at home and see if I could take some nice pictures with my little point and shoot camera (I have a Canon PowerShot S90 , which is a great little camera).

All the pictures below were taken with it, and to tell you the truth I didn't miss having my DSLR at all.

We started off with a quick trip to the Lancaster Central Market where Fiesta Sunshine Mix is always in season:

Fiesta Sunshine mix

Then we were off to the lovely town of Lititz, PA to meet Becky and Eric (this is a picture I took of myself waving at them through the cafe window):

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I think it is a state regulation that while you're in Lititz you must visit Wilbur chocolate:

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Becky and Marisa talking about lady things:

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Becky grew up in Lititz, and I grew up in Yonkers, NY. Imagine my surprise to find a little bit of Yonkers in Lititz:

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This was the first of many antique malls we stopped at during the weekend. This floor was a little sparse:

Marisa in an empty antique store

The first of many yard sales we stopped at. Marisa found these boxes of old jars in under 5 seconds:

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One of Marisa's favorite places is this junk store in Columbia, PA. I think it is a little gross, but she loves it (and they've really cleaned it up since last year). Here are a bunch of nails using good old Bethlehem Steel:

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I've taken this same picture every year for three years (2008 version and 2009 version). Here's the 2010 version:

Year 3

Here's the view of the front of the store:

The shop

The happy couple in front of a bridge:

Us

Marisa's newest obsession is Pyrex. She found lots of it:

Marisa grabs as much Pyrex as she can, moments before she makes a break for it.

Marisa is ready to fight that fire with a tiny spatula:

Marisa will show that fire

You kids can keep your iPads, the Kindle DX is my faithful companion (though I did bring my iPad along with me as well):

Kindle DX - because I'm super cool

Baby goat:

A couple of baby goats were escaping

Marisa can find the nearest Goodwill no matter where you place her in this great country of ours. This is the rather unusual Goodwill Discount Center we found in our travels. It was attached to a normal Goodwill that we spent some time in. After about 30 minutes I said to Marisa, "Don't you want to check out the discount center? It is right down this hall." She said, "No, we should go." I knew she was trying to make me happy but I couldn't conceive of stopping and NOT going to the discount center. I'm glad we did because this is what it looked like (and Marisa found a rare Pyrex bowl):

Odd Goodwill

For all your Amish Stuff needs:

Amish Stuff!

Wedding/Honeymoon pictures

Marisa and I got married a couple of months ago and I haven't put up any pictures! We took a bunch both at the wedding itself and during our honeymoon. I've collected some of the pics I like best in this post, but if you want to see them all they are on Flickr:

Here are the ones that I thought I would highlight on the blog:

The Wedding

First, we'll start with the wedding pictures. Most of these were taken by our good friend, and great photographer, Albert Yee (I'll point out which ones weren't!).

Marisa snaps a pic of me

This first picture was taken by yours truly. Marisa thought that perhaps she would have enough time to take her own wedding pictures.

Some random dogs showed up

While Marisa and I were exchanging vows I thought I saw a random dog walk past. But I knew that no one had brought a dog with them. Turns out the neighbor's dogs stopped by to wish us well (this pic was snapped by David Kirpan).

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Ah, the pro pictures begin!

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Marisa has a very large family.

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I don't. Behind me are my brother and mother. Behind Marisa are her parents and her sister.

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Raina played a song before we said our vows.

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About to take the plunge.

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Different people. Different shoes.

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Kissing! In public! Shocking.

Hands, touching hands

My good friend David Kirpan manned my camera during the ceremony and managed to get this picture. Good job, Dave!

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Marisa, being Marisa, made all of our wedding cakes herself. Here you see a destroyed flourless chocolate cake (which we made on Fork You once, video and recipe here).

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My relatives made the trek out to Philadelphia to attend (ain't they nice!).

My mom, her brother Robert, and her sister Maryellen

My mom, her brother, and her sister.

The Honeymoon

Bennington Pottery sign

The whole honeymoon plan was founded on visiting Bennington Potters (for Marisa), and so that was our first stop.

The Goodwill Store

Marisa also loves thrift stores, so we had to go here.

Another moose

All around Bennington they had these painted Moose. This one is the covered bridge moose which features a picture of the bed & breakfast we stayed at painted on its flank (I thought that was pretty cool).

No Service

My iPhone (and Blackberry and wireless data card) got no service for most of the trip, which was actually quite nice.

Steeple

A nice steeple. I just like the way this picture came out.

The Inn

The first place we stayed at in Vermont was the Inn On Covered Bridge Green, which was just lovely. Norman Rockwell used to own this house... though we didn't actually stay in the house proper. There is a little honeymoon cottage in the back (which used to be called the 'corn crib') that we stayed in. I'm certain that Marisa and I will be back to this place again.

Postcard material

This is what was painted on that moose.

Brownies

We left Vermont and went to Lake Placid, New York and stayed at the White Face Lodge, which was very nice indeed. They had brownies waiting for us in our room. You can't beat that!

Lake Placid

I thought this was a picture of Lake Placid, but I'm pretty sure it is actually Lake Mirror... either way it is pretty.

Free bubbly

Since I booked the Honeymoon package we also received some free champagne. It was pretty good.

Marisa with an armful of jars

Of course Marisa bought some jars.

Flag and cannon

And I demanded we visit some historical sites! This is Fort Ticonderoga.

We're cute!

Us being cute.

I assume this is Hurbert

A cannon.

Can you find Marisa?

The Kings Garden which is right next to the Fort. We actually happened to visit when some sort of farmers' market was going on so we managed to buy some vegetables.

Stickers

We also hit the Billings Farm & Museum which is neat (and I only heard about it because I was listening in on someone else's conversation at the Vermont Country Store).

Moo

This was outside of some tourist trap that we ventured into (and where we bought some rare Cabot cheeses that aren't available in these parts).

The Egg

The Egg in Albany, NY. Since we were driving through Albany I thought it would be fun to take the Capitol Building tour.

Library

The Library in the New York State Capitol.

Lights on the Airstream

A string of lights on our Airstream trailer.

North to Alaska

We stayed in an airstream (the one pictured above) at Kate's Lazy Meadow, which is surrounded by beauty. Marisa and I were both glad we only booked one night, however, since the trailer was tiny!

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I thought this was a cool picture.

The Married Couple!

And there we are being cute again!


Memorial Day with the Amish

What's that old saying, "Once is luck, twice is a fluke, three times is a tradition?" If that's true, then our little Memorial Day trips to Lancaster are fast becoming a tradition.

This year we (and Thad/Angie) stayed at Musser's Organic B&B and a good time was had by all.

I'll let the photos do the talking (you can see the whole set on Flickr):

The back of the B&B:

Musser's B&B

The backyard:

The backyard

My favorite picture of the weekend, taken in the city of Lancaster:

Diebold

Marisa at Central Market:

Marisa in Central Market

Would you believe this is the ceiling of the Quilt Museum:

Inside the quilt museum

We spent many hours looking at these:

Antiques

I managed to eat ice cream every day for four days straight (enjoying a Dairy Queen milkshake in this picture):

Sucking down a milkshake

And we went to the Train Museum as well:

This place was pretty big

All in all, a good time was had by all and my Canon G10 took great pictures (I left the XTi at home).


Cherry Blossoms

More Cherry Blossoms

I was in DC last week for the Cable Show (I had no idea there was a trade conference just for the cable industry. Shocking, but true!) and since I am a good son I spent the weekend visiting with my mom.

It just so happened that this weekend was also the high of Cherry Blossom season, and so we decided to motor on down to downtown DC and check out the blossoms for ourselves.

Saturday was a beautiful day, and so about 14 million other people had the same idea as us. Despite the crowds (which were fairly well behaved) my mom and I had a good time walking around, snapping pictures, and chatting.

Sadly, I forgot to charge the battery on my camera before we left, so I wasn't able to take many pictures. You can check out the few that I did snap over at this Flickr set.


On the train to Washington, DC

My Christmas tradition of dallying forth to Waahington to see my mom is once being observed. This time around my brother Sean is joining us.

In fact I am sitting next to him on the train right now. We haven't seen each other in over a year and yet we decided to sit in the quiet car. Such is the McNulty family way. ;)

Oh, and I included the picture in this post to see if the TypePad app still crops pics for some odd reason. On the train to Washington, DC


Zumanity

zumanity.jpgTwitter is a wonderful thing (though some people ascribe to it a little more importance than it warrants). I often think of it as a magical device into which I put my desires and after a certain period of time they materialize.

When I found out that I would be going to Las Vegas for a conference I wanted to figure out what I should do with my non-conference time. I don't drink, smoke, or gamble much... and those are the headline attractions in Vegas (I saw many people doing all three at the same time... at 8am). I turned to Twitter and asked my followers what I should do in Vegas. Someone suggested that I check out a Cirque du Soleil show. I checked out their offerings and figured I would, in fact, see one of their shows.

Shortly after that suggestion the Cirque du Soleil twitter account started following me, and echoed the sentiment that I should check out one of their shows (shocking, I know). In a desperate, and transparent, attempt to cash in on my very minor web celebrity I suggested to the Cirque du Soleil twitterer that they give me two free tickets to a show. Imagine my surprise when they offered to give me media tickets to any show in Vegas (other than Love, which was kind of a bummer because that is the one Marisa really wanted to see). I took them up on the offer, and let Marisa pick the one that we should see. Marisa, being Marisa, decided we should see Zumanity, which is their 'adult show.'

Fast forward a few weeks and I find myself sitting in the audience, next to Marisa, waiting for Zumanity to begin. Marisa turns to me and says, 'Is this going to make you uncomfortable? Hmm, I suppose that is something I should have asked you a couple months ago.' She had a point, but I am a grown man and I can handle a little nudity so I assured Marisa that I would be fine (and I was).

The ushers all wear dresses and T-shirts that make them appear to be naked (you know the ones) and they are pretty darn convincing in a dark theater from far away. The theater itself looks as you would expect from a theater hosting an adult cabaret (it was kind of dark, lots of red velvety fabric).

Before the show starts some of the cast mingles with the crowd, and lets you in on the vibe of the show: audience participation plays a big part. I, personally, hoped that I wouldn't have to be involved with the show and I wasn't (though one of the cast members did rub my belly and say, 'So soft!' I would have been insulted if it weren't true, especially when compared to the fellows in the show. I think they might workout a little bit).

As with all Cirque shows (I assume) there was a healthy mixture of dance, music, and acrobatics. I was particularly impressed by the two women (topless, of course) who did a number of tricks in a small water filled bowl (it was big enough to hold them both, but I wouldn't have believed it was large enough for anyone to dive into, until I saw them both dive into it. It was very cool). The most 'shocking' part of the show is the 'Fighters.' Two guys are on the stage, and they have a fight/dance that makes it clear they aren't each other's fans. It all ends with them kissing, which drew some surprised gasps from the audience (though more applause than gasps).

Would I recommend that you spend at least $69 on a ticket (see what they did there?)? If you aren't offended by topless ladies and men in g-strings dancing about, and the possibility that you might be called onto stage doesn't make you sick then by all means. Marisa and I both had fun, and the show itself is visually stunning (the cast members are talented and good looking, which helps their cause).


Las Vegas and Hoover Dam

Up shot I went to Las Vegas for the week to attend VMworld 2008 (which was a waste of my time, sadly). Marisa flew out Wednesday night and met me in Sin City, and we hung out for awhile (we even relocated to the Ritz Carlton at Lake Las Vegas for the weekend, which was very nice indeed).

Friday we visited Hoover Dam and it was a very good time. Well worth the hour or so drive from Las Vegas. Check out my pictures from my Las Vegas trip to see more.


Visiting Mount Vernon with my mom

Washington StatueThis July I went to visit my mother for her brithday, like a good son. Since it was my mom's birthday I was just for doing anything that tickled her fancy. Turns out she wanted to go to Mount Vernon, George Washington's pad. I was delighted since I like going to crap like that (which, I am sure, means that my future children will hate going to things like that).

Off we went to Mount Vernon, and we found out a number of interesting things about Mr. Washington:


  1. He was shorter than me.

  2. He had lots of slaves.

  3. He wasn't all that interested in being president (he was much happier at Mount Vernon, though he got to spend little time there).

  4. When he died he freed his slaves, though many of them decided to stay at Mount Vernon and act as tour guides to the first wave of American tourists to visit the grounds.

I took lots of pictures, as is my way, and you can see them all here.


Wedding in a barn?

Becky on Brides MagazineMarisa and I headed to Lancaster County in the beautiful Pennsylvania countryside to celebrate the marriage of our two friends Becky and Eric (they met via a combination of a blog post and a Google search. Blogging makes things better!).

The wedding itself was lots of fun, as one might expect from a wedding in a barn. I was worried about what the appropriate attire is for a barn wedding, so I just wore my fancy dress shirt and some nice khakis. It seemed to work.

The highlight of the evening, since the happy couple had actually married themselves with a self uniting marriage license earlier in the day, was the pig race. Seeing 4 cute little pigs run around a track is lots of fun, and I recommend it to everyone.

Check out all my pictures from the happy event here. You might notice that Becky and Eric are in very few of the photos. My only explanation is that whenever I hang out with Becky she tells me not to take her picture, so she has conditioned me not to snap her pic (though this one of Marisa and Becky is very nice indeed. Becky looked great in her blue dress, and Marisa is always pretty).


I'll have the ostrich on wheat, please

My favorite pic of the bunchThis weekend I found myself in Connecticut visiting my dear old friend Glenn (it is hard to believe that we have been friends for over 16 years now... where does all the time go?) and a good time was had by all.

Glenn, as of late, has been getting into guns. You know, going to the firing range and squeezing off a few rounds. As such, he has a new rifle that he needed to get fixed which is how I found myself in a gun shop for the first time ever. The gun shop was kind of neat, since I do think guns are interesting as artifacts (I would never own one myself, but it was an antique or something) but it wasn't anything too exciting (though I did meet a nice doggie).

The real fun began after the gun shop, as it often does. We went on a little adventure to see the Cabela's that recently opened up shop in CT. If you don't know what Cabela's is, you are not alone. I wouldn't have known what it was either, but I had attended a talk by someone who helped with the website so I was hip to the Cabela's.

It is a sort of outdoorsy apparel/accessories super store... and when I say super store I mean super store. This place is HUGE. Take a look at the pictures I took (some people thought it was odd that I was snapping so many pictures, but who cares!).

One of the coolest things, though, was the restaurant which serves all kinds of exotic meats. I was in the sandwich line, looking at the line up of elk, bison, and ostrich trying to decide what to get (I went with the ostrich) but I was shocked when the 4 people ahead of me all ordered tuna salad! I mean, come on people, live a little.

Anyway, I have to grab my Jerky Blaster and some Buck Lickers and get out of here.