What to do in Connecticut: Brunch, art, and apple picking!

Hi friends!

Happy last day of October! I can’t believe how quickly this month has passed. I feel like November really snuck up on me this year haha. Let’s talk about a few favorite things to do in Connecticut!

First up, The Pantry

The Pantry is a rather unassuming little gem. I honestly wouldn’t have known that it is such a popular brunch spot based on the relatively plain exterior. When we started seeing long lines in front, we decided to give it a try. We were NOT disappointed!

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Source: Google Maps

Ever since then, The Pantry has been our favorite spot for breakfast or brunch. The menu is straightforward, the service is fantastic, and the food is incredible. My favorite order (pictured here) is 2 eggs over easy with wheat toast, home fries, and bacon.

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I’ve also tried their french toast and it is stellar –> it’s made from french baguette instead of regular bread, which makes it all the more delectable.

It has that classic “hole in wall” vibe that in my book, adds to its homey appeal. I like the fact that it’s a no frills experience that is all about good food. They do all kinds of breakfast foods, like pancakes, fruit, and lots and lots of great coffee. The prices aren’t too expensive either. Due to their location in the heart of East Rock in New Haven, the Pantry caters mostly to the Yale crowd –> so in general, the prices can fit a student’s wallet.

Inside the restaurant, the tables are small and fairly close together. I can see this as being either cozy or claustrophobic, depending on personal space preferences. I don’t mind the tighter fit at all, but I remember being surprised by it the first time I went.

If you don’t like standing in line, try to get there as early as possible. We arrived at 10:30am and stood in line for about 45 minutes. But there were 4 of us in our group, and so we had to wait for a larger table to open up. A single man who came around the same time only waited about 15 minutes, as a seat opened up quickly at the bar (they have a bar for extra seating, but to my knowledge no alcohol is served). So anyway, if you plan to go for brunch, expect to wait in line. It is just part of the experience! :)

Next up: the Yale Art Gallery

We have been to the gallery several times over the years, and we always enjoy our experience there. The exhibitions are breathtaking! My favorite collection is the ancient art collection from the ancient Mediterranean world.

This photo does not capture the beauty and size of this sculpture… I guess you’ll just have to check it out in person!

They do not allow backpacks or bottles of liquid in the gallery as they increase risk of bumping into or spilling on the art. There are lockers available to people who want to store their stuff somewhere.

I don’t really know what this is but I thought it looked interesting…

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There are multiple floors comprising the gallery. With so much to see, it would be easy to spend hours wandering around and still not see everything. I guess that is an excuse to go back again soon!

The location of the gallery is great, as it is right down the block from multiple restaurants, bars, and coffee shops. It’s the perfect place to go for a walk and see more of the Yale campus. The area is very scenic, with lots of gorgeous architecture to ooh and ahh at.

Parking can sometimes be slightly tricky. There are plenty of garages in New Haven, but they can be slightly expensive if you’re just wanting to go to the gallery for a few hours. A lot of the street parking in the immediate gallery street is 1 hour parking, so we went a couple blocks down to where there are 2 hour street parking spots.

And next up… the Bishops Apple Orchard

Who doesn’t love apple picking in the fall? We haven’t had much in the way of cooler fall temperatures yet, but that won’t stop us from getting out there and doing all the fall activities hah. I even drank a hot pumpkin soy latte on the way to the orchards — nothing says fall like a PSL, right? Except maybe a hot apple cider, which I also drank while at the orchards!

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During our most recent apple picking foray, I discovered a new-to-me apple: the Stayman! Wikipedia describes this as “medium-sized” but all the ones I picked were enormous. The orchard gave us papers describing each of the apples on the grounds. Staymans were described as firm, juicy, crisp, and tart –> the perfect apple, in my opinion! I loaded up my bag with them and have been happily munching on delicious apple ever since.

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My favorite apple is Honeycrisp, and the Stayman is a close second! I love that crunchy bite, it is so satisfying. I love that the Honeycrisp has a bit of sweetness to it too. The Stayman isn’t as sweet, but has plenty of that awesome crispness that will keep me coming back for more. I see Honeycrisp apples in my grocery store all the time, but have never seen Staymans. Anyone know why some apples make it to the local store but others don’t?

Apparently Bishops also has raspberries, blueberries, strawberries, and pairs, but we spent all our time on the apples. Bishops also does wine tastings –> our friends did this and said they loved it. We didn’t get a chance this time around.

The freshly picked apples made for some delicious homemade apple cider and apple sauce. Maybe we’ll do an apple pie with the remaining apples.

Oh, and randomly (or maybe not so random?), there was a fenced off area where some llamas, alpacas, chickens, and goats were hanging out.

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And there ya go, those are some recent favorites that I couldn’t wait to share! The next time you are in Connecticut, check out some of these spots!

Have you seen my prior favorites posts? Here’s one on my favorite place to get my sweat on, and here’s one on my favorite music app! And in case you haven’t seen it, here is my very first favorites post, where I talk about a collection of things I love!

What is your favorite thing to eat for brunch? Do you like museums? What’s your favorite type of apple?

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Advantages of big city life

Hi friends!

Welcome back to another Friday Favorites!

Alright, so remember when I talked about my life in New York City? It occurred to me that between the long commute, weird diet, and bad paintjob, I sorta made it sound like my time in NYC was a never-ending string of disasters.

Sure, there were plenty of fails, but there were also some really awesome aspects too. Let’s talk about those! Here are some of my favorite things about life on one of the busiest islands on our globe…

Public transit. I definitely appreciate the abundance of transportation options to get me where I need to go. When I lived in NYC, I used each of the following at some point: Staten Island’s above-ground train, subways, bus, ferry, taxi, and private car. :) This was before Uber existed, but if Uber was around, I would probably have used it too. I think I payed less than $80 per month for my subway card at the time. Anyone with a car knows that this is waaaay cheaper than monthly car expenses like gas, oil, maintenance, insurance, taxes, tolls, etc…

That walking life. Life as a New Yorker means walking a LOT. Few people have their own cars because cars just complicated your life by a hundred fold. It was totally normal for even the most sedentary desk-worker to walk several miles each day. And you learn pretty quickly to always carry an umbrella or poncho with you for those rainy days. If you like toned calves and being able to easily get your 10,000 steps every day, you will lurv NYC.

The grid structure. This one is slightly random, but I have to say that Manhattan’s grid layout was one of the cool things about the city too. I have lived in cities where the roads aren’t structured into a grid… it’s much harder to figure out how to get anywhere. (Of course, nowadays we all have GPS maps in our smartphones, but didn’t have that luxury over a decade ago!) The grid made it easier for me to get around without getting lost. There were only a couple times where I had to ask strangers for directions — sidenote, I was always pleasantly surprised that everyone was nice about it.

Night life. I’ve never been much of a night owl so I didn’t make it out for the night scene too often. But the few times I did, I found that the night life was everything I had imagined and more. I was invited to a couple events through my Public Relations job. I can honestly say that I was floored each time by the “bigness and brightness” of city nightlife. If you like getting dressed up for a night out, you will love the options the city has to offer!

Celebrity sightings. I felt like scenes for something or other were being filmed on every other block. Sometimes I would see a crowd gathering and snapping photos, and by some 6th sense I would just know there was a celebrity there. My brother once ran into Neil Patrick Harris on the sidewalk and shook his hand! And Wayne Gretsky came to my work. At least I think Wayne Gretsky was his name. It could have been another major hockey player (forgive me, I know nothing about hockey). He was shooting an ad for one of our clients, and all the girls in the office were besotted. <– yes I just used besotted…50 points for Gryffindor! 

Diversity. If you want to overhear conversations in 8 different languages on your commute, you should move to NYC. Every nation is represented in this melting pot of an island! Not only that, but people were so varied in terms of how they dressed, accessorized, and wore makeup. I had stepped into a much more adventurous and bold world compared to my little college life. It was refreshing to be around so many different types of people every day.

Food scene. I went to quite a few awesome restaurants around Manhattan. I was either meeting friends for happy hour, or going out for a work event. The food scene was incredible! You can find every type of cuisine at all hours of the day or night. Relatedly, I love everything about China Town! I’m half Singaporean and truly appreciate any type of Asian cuisine. I could eat Thai, Vietnamese, and Singaporean food at every single meal for the rest of my life. Since childhood, I have also been obsessed with red bean buns (dou sha bao) and pork jerky (bakkwa)!

Broadway. My friend got tickets to The Lion King from his company and invited me to go. It was such a fun night. We ate at the Hard Rock Cafe in Times Square before the show. That was my first Broadway show, and I absolutely loved everything about it. Our seats were so close to the stage. I was mesmerized from start to finish. My favorite scene is the opening number when the actors (dressed in very life-like and life-sized animal costumes) walk down the isle — captivating! In that moment, it struck me that people travel from across the planet to sit where I was sitting.

Free stuff. All summer long, there are free concerts at various spots in the city. It was fun being able to see big names performing! (The town where I live now also has free concerts during the summer, which is nice — but it doesn’t really compare…) There are also a number of museums, zoos, and botanical gardens that are free to the public. You don’t have to spend a ton if you don’t want to! As someone who lived in NYC when I was pretty much broke, I appreciated that there was always something free to do on any given day.

Shopping. I can’t say I did much shopping much during my stint as a New Yorker – after all, I was making an entry level salary. However, I can definitely say I did a fair bit of window-shopping and wishful thinking. There are endless places to spend a dollar in the city.

Check out my other Favorites:

What’s your favorite thing about NYC? 

The one thing you should wrap your lips around

 

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In today’s “Friday Faves,” I’m spilling the beans on one of my very FAVORITE DAYS OF SUMMER!

But first, let’s back up. You know that we have lived in New England for a number of years (Connecticut for 4 years and Massachusetts for 1 year). And Joel spent the first 18 years of his life in Maine.

Between the two of us, we have spent a considerable amount of time in New England. Frankly, I don’t like winter, so it’s a surprise I’ve lasted this long, hah! Over the years, we’ve done a lot of New England-ey things, like hiking, camping, sitting next to various bodies of water, and #alltheDunkins… but this summer we did something totally NEW to us…

We hosted a lobster bake!

(Forgive me for the click-baity title – I really do feel that strongly about lobster.) :)

Being that lobster bakes are usually a summer thing, I debated whether I should post this at all, given that we are now into Fall. But I decided to go ahead with it anyway. After all, this is a day for sharing favorites, and this is TRULY at the top of the list!

When we first started planning the lobster bake, I did a ton of research on the history and the how-to. I had only ever had a “whole lobster” once before in my life, and didn’t know what I was doing :) …still tasted great though.

While reading up on it, I came across this post from the Reluctant Gourmet which presented all the information in a digestible and non-intimidating way. This really helped me to wrap my mind around the task at hand.

I ordered special forks and crackers from Amazon which are designed for seafood. The crackers were handy for breaking into those tough lobster shells. They can also be used for other types of seafood (crab) and, I’m told they can also be used as nut-crackers. As for the little forks, I barely used mine at all. It was a bit fiddly. I saw a few of my friends using their tiny forks expertly though.

I also bought these awesome disposable lobster bibs which were useful for keeping the “juice” off our clothes. They had the added bonus of looking awesome in photos, too! The bibs are probably not a necessity, but added to the theme, since they had big red lobsters printed on them. You could get away with cloth napkins or paper towels tucked into your shirt-neck. Just be careful, lobster can be quite messy! I was definitely glad we had the bibs.

Except for one thing… a design flaw on the bibs is that they would flap around anytime the wind kicked up. We were on the patio, so there was no escaping the wind. If you were indoors this wouldn’t be an issue. For us, it wasn’t a particularly windy day, so this wasn’t a huge issue per se, just a minor annoyance. Maybe the next time I’m bib-shopping, I will look for bibs that tie around the waist, apron-style. :)

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Another thing we bought from Home Depot was an enormous pot so that we could steam the lobsters. Now that we have this gigantic pot, we are thinking up other things to do with it… like maybe, possibly, frying a turkey at some point lol :)

The actual steaming process was pretty simple. You put the lobsters in the pot when they are still alive (this was weird to our friends who had never seen the process before), and steam them. When the shells turn bright red, they are done! Easy. Some of the websites I read beforehand had fancier and more technical ways of assessing “done-ness,”  but it worked pretty well to go by shell color.

I tell you what. The lobster was a mega hit.

Other things on the table included kielbasa sausage, corn on the cob, potatoes, watermelon cornbread/muffins, key-lime pie, and plenty of beer and wine. It was a delicious spread.

Like many get-togethers with our friends, this was potluck style. Everyone’s contributions were spectacular.

My favorite part of the lobster is the claw — not only is it the easiest part to get out of the shell, it is also the tastiest! My least favorite parts were the legs… they require the most work for the least amount of meat — there’s not much in those little legs, is there?

Leftover lobsters were de-shelled and set in the fridge for next-day lobster rolls. For the lobster rolls, we added some salt and fresh lemon juice, mixed it up with the lobster meat, and put it all into a toasted roll with fresh lettuce. Perfection!!! Some recipes also call for mayonnaise, but we didn’t have any. Still tasted amazing.

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Here are some things to keep in mind:

  1. Lobster is messy – put newspaper down on the table to allow for easier cleanup.
  2. Do everything in your power to avoid spilling “lobster juice” ANYWHERE in your house or fridge. It WILL smell like death. And scrubbing every inch of the entire fridge top to bottom is annoying.
  3. Lobster is expensive. Look for deals at stores near you. We hunted around and found that one of our local markets had a sale for $6/lb for the first 10 lbs (then $10/lb after that). We got lobsters that were 1.25 lb each. Bigger ones are more expensive.
  4. Again, lobster is expensive. If your guests are willing to chip in, that can really help. If they don’t offer and you’d rather not ask, maybe consider doing it potluck style where everyone contributes a dish.
  5. Have an alternate option on hand for anyone who doesn’t eat lobster, or is allergic to seafood. We had grilled kielbasa sausage. Yum!

Turns out, hosting a lobster bake was not as difficult as it seemed at first! Plus, not only was the lobster ridiculously delicious, the entire day was also even more fun and special since it was our very first time hosting a lobster bake.

And that is why one of my favorite days of summer is LOBSTER BAKE DAY! We had an absolute b.l.a.s.t. and are already excited to do it again next year!

Have you ever been to a lobster bake? What is your favorite memory from the summer? 

A few of my favorite things!

 

Today I’m sharing some of my favorite things! It’s a random collection of things that I genuinely LOVE.

Oiselle Mac Roga shorts. I’ve mentioned before that I have run 2 marathons. I run almost every day, distances between 6-12 miles depending on the day. These Mac Roga shorts by Oiselle have been my favorite running shorts for a couple years. I own multiple pairs in several different colors. They are comfortable, flattering, and yes, short. I prefer short shorts as there is less fabric to cause chafing problems. Also, when they are short, they don’t do that horrible “riding up” thing in the crotch. They don’t go see-through when wet, which I appreciate. You can tell when the lighter colors are wet/sweaty, so if you don’t like that, stick to darker colors. Oiselle also makes longer versions, like the Roga and Long Roga. I own 2 pairs of the Rogas, which are awesome for casual days.

Jaybird Freedom bluetooth earbuds. I have used bluetooth earbuds for several years, and my favorites so far have been the Freedoms from Jaybird. There is a Jaybird app that allows me to control features like bass, treble, etc. The sound is crystal clear! I always amp up the bass. :) There are also lots of Jaybird playlists that I can access in the app (it links to my spotify). I use them for running mostly, but sometimes I also use them when I’m doing chores around the house. Something to note though…I have owned several pairs of bluetooth earbuds, but none have lasted longer than a year. If my Freedoms last longer than that, I will be even more impressed.

Replica Lazy Sunday Morning perfume. I discovered this perfume about a year ago when I received a free tester from Sephora. I couldn’t believe how beautiful this scent was — simultaneously fresh and gourmand. It never feels heavy or “too much.” I love it during the warmer months. It was definitely my go-to summer perfume this year. I got many compliments while wearing it, which made me feel good lol. One guy asked me what perfume I was wearing because he liked it so much that he wanted to buy the same for his girlfriend lol! It’s pricey, but I happily purchased a big bottle because I love it so much.

Roomba vacuum cleaners. We got our first roomba 6 months ago (we now have 2 of the same model), and I can honestly say I wish I had gotten them years ago. It’s crazy how much dust they pick up, even in rooms that look totally “clean”. When we first got them, I realized that they sometimes choke on computer cables or phone cords if left lying around, and they don’t do well with random socks that are left on the floor. We now store any cables/cords off the floor, and make sure to pick up our socks, and voila, no issues! The roombas have smart sensors, which means they won’t throw themselves off the stairs. One of my favorite things is that can easily navigate under beds and dressers, no more dust bunnies!

Birkenstock sandals. When Birks came back onto the scene several years ago, I didn’t get it. And now here I am, not only wearing them nearly every day, but thoroughly loving them. They give me enough support that I can walk for miles in them with no discomfort. I have had this black pair for several years now, and they just get more comfortable with time. Maybe next summer I will get a pair of these to add to the collection.

Craigslist. I mentioned before that some of our antique furniture was purchased on Craigslist. It is a great way to find amazing deals on pretty much anything. We have sold a few things on Craigslist too, like our old loveseat, a mini fridge, a guitar, and a microwave. Of course you have to exercise caution and be willing to sift through some not-so-great things in order to find the treasures when buying secondhand, but we’ve had some awesome experiences with Craigslist.

Uniball Retractable Gel pens. Another random thing… but these are my favorite pens. Like most people who work in front of a computer, I type more than I write on paper. However, when I need to take notes on paper or write in my journal, these pens are my go-to. They just check all the boxes. I bought a box of 12 on Amazon! Even though I have a giant mug full of random pens that I’ve accumulated, these ones are now the only pens I reach for.

Dutch Blitz. I mentioned before that Joel and I love game nights. One of our favorite games to play is Dutch Blitz! This is a card game of speed and counting! It’s easy to learn and so fun to play. Four people can play with the original set of cards, but there are extender sets too which allow for up to 8 people (the game gets crazy with that many people though). My friends and I used to play this when we were kids, so it brings back all kinds of fuzzy memories. We got our set from Amazon and have brought it out on game nights with our friends – they liked it so much that they bought it too!

These are just a few things I sincerely and truly love. It’s a pretty random list, right? :) But there ya go!

Got any favorites of your own to add to the mix?

Off to a good start, and some things that aren’t my favorite!

 

Welcome back!

I’d say we’re off to a pretty good start, gang.

I talked about things I like to do in my last post, and figured it I’d balance all that positivity out by sharing a few things I dislike (hah!).

Now I don’t exactly want to spiral into a dark hole – it’s a little early for that – so to keep from getting too dismal, let’s focus on just the minor stuff for now.

Bluetooth earbuds that don’t work

Wireless earbuds are an amazing invention. However, mine always die within a year, nomatter how well I take care of them. Granted, I only use them for running, so they get drenched in their daily share of salty sweat. However, the kind I use is supposed to be water resistant, and I always make sure to clean any sweat off them with a damp cloth. Further, I never charge them while they are wet/damp. Despite all of this, I have never had a pair last longer than a year.

New England Winters

Having lived in New England for 4 years, and having zero chance of relocating in the foreseeable future, I have had to come to terms with the fact that each year from December-March, I simply do not want to be outside. I am half Kenyan and half Singaporean, grew up practically on top of the equator (Nairobi), and spent 8 years living in the sweltering land of Texas. Don’t get me wrong, Connecticut has its perks, but winter is most certainly not one of them.

Stinky fridges

A few weeks ago Joel and I hosted our very first lobster bake. It was an absolute blast. We had a couple lobsters left over, and so we put them in the fridge. The next day, we found that some of the “lobster water” had leaked onto the fridge. No big deal, we cleaned it right up. However, the fridge progressively smelled worse and worse over the next few days. No amount of cleaning would get rid of the smell. By the time a week had passed, the stench was almost unbearable. I finally had to take everything out of the fridge, disassemble all the drawers and shelves, and scrub the entire thing top to bottom. The end result was a sparkling, stink-free fridge. Phew! But damn, that smell was real while it lasted.

Getting injured

As I have mentioned, I love to run. All that running has led to more than one injury along the way. I ran my first marathon injured with plantar fasciitis. By the time I realized I was injured, it was too late to do anything about it. The week prior to the race, my podiatrist stuck an enormous needle in my foot and shot me up with cortisone. I finished the race, but it wasn’t until 4 months later that I was able to kick the plantar fasciitis to the curb. Nowadays, I try to train smart, so as to avoid injury. Many lessons learned.

Getting to the season/series finale of an amazing show that you don’t want to end

This has happened more times than I can count, and is always a bit of a bummer. Gracie and Frankie, and Glow are two shows that I can think of where I was left wanting more.

 

Noisy, crowded places

As an introvert, I really do not enjoy being jostled by crowds, or having to yell to be heard. Last Christmas Joel and I were on vacation in the Bahamas, and we were persuaded by some friends we met there to join them at a local parade. It started off fun, but the drunken crowds wore on me after about 30 minutes. It was also super loud, and spectators were packed in very tightly on the sidelines. It was hard moving around and I was almost knocked down more than once. I couldn’t wait to get out of there.

When there are 20 empty ones, but they get on the treadmill right next to you

I always feel weird when the only other person at the gym gets on the machine right next to me. This doesn’t happen often, but has happened enough times that I feel justified commenting on it. It’s weird. I can’t explain why, it just is.

Chafing

Another running-related pet peeve is chafing. I am no stranger to it. I always use anti-chafe balm (my favorite is Body Glide) but every once in a while I still chafe. One of those times was during my second marathon, when it rained the entire time. You’re more prone to chafing when you’re wet, and boy was I ever. I chafed everywhere, even around my neck from the neck-hole of my shirt!

Care to comment?