2019 in Review
Right about now, my Twitter feed is filling up with snarky tweets that #SumsUp2019. Was this year really so bad, or is it easy for people to focus on the things that didn’t go right at the year’s end? This year wasn’t always easy or enjoyable for me, but I think it is easier for me to find and reflect on all of the amazing things that happened this year as opposed to all of the bad things.Continue reading 2019 in Review
10 Lessons I Learned During My First Year of Motherhood
In October, my son, Oliver, celebrated his first birthday. Some days, it still strikes me as surreal that this tiny human exists. Other days, I cannot even remember what life was like without him. All the same, this past year has taught me a lot about parenthood and myself too. Here are just a few of the things I learned:Continue reading 10 Lessons I Learned During My First Year of Motherhood
Family Fun: Slate Run Living Historical Farm
I used to live in Ohio (the Columbus metropolitan area), but that was twenty years ago, and it was much quieter back then. Now, the population seems to have exploded, and driving down to visit family usually means I’m white-knuckling it through congested traffic once I hit Delaware. But, not everything is so urban there. Columbus has a great metro park system, and one of the coolest metro parks is the Slate Run Living Historical Farm (1375 OH-674, Canal Winchester, OH 43110).Continue reading Family Fun: Slate Run Living Historical Farm
Video Diary: An October Park Day
If I thought life moved fast before, adding a child into the mix makes life move in hyper speed. I can’t believe Oliver turns one month in just a few days. Parenthood is by far the hardest thing I’ve ever done, and I haven’t even gotten to the challenging part yet (which I assume is adolescence). I mean, look at him. He’s giving me so much side-eye. It’s like he knows I’m incompetent at this parenthood thing.
- I knew nothing of anxiety before. Those times when I had to talk myself up just to take the laundry down to the laundry unit at the apartment or those times when I had to write out a script before making a phone call seem laughable to me now. That’s nothing compared to the time Oliver spit up so much that milk cake out his nose, and he started choking. Or the first time I had to drive him to a doctor’s appointment by myself. Or you know, bringing him home for the first time.
- Similarly, I don’t think I’ve been so aware of human mortality. I can’t keep track of how many times I check him just to make sure he’s still breathing.
- The advice “sleep when baby sleeps” is good advice assuming baby sleeps anywhere other than your arms. That being said, the stars have aligned these last two days, and I was able to take THREE three-hour naps. I’m handling the exhaustion better (and with almost no caffeine aside from a fun sized candy bar or two). That being said, in the throes of sleep deprivation, I became really frustrated while changing his diaper because he wouldn’t stop wailing, so I said to him, “I’m really mad at you”. I still feel guilty about it even though I know he didn’t hear me on account of his screams were as loud as a space shuttle launching into space.
- Speaking of diapers, I thought I’d be more grossed out by the various bodily fluids my son expels. On to me. Now it’s just mostly annoying because I have to do so much laundry.
- I remember during the first week, I cried during one of Oliver’s five-hour cluster feeding sessions because I had gone from full-time accountant to full-time food bag. Now I realize how hard returning to work will be. I planned to return after six weeks, but I pushed my return date back two weeks. Even that doesn’t seem like a sufficient amount of time, and I can’t help but dwell on how purposeless accounting seems now compared to being a food bag.
The one perk that comes with sleep deprivation (aside from bonding with baby) is I’m spending a lot more time reading. The books that are keeping me company right now are:
Fascism: a Warning by Madeleine Albright: This book isn’t easy to read in the wee hours of the morning, so I wait until my eyelids aren’t drooping to dive in to this non-fiction novel. Albright explores fascism in the early 20th century and draws parallels with contemporary world leaders.
Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers: I bought this book probably two years ago, and I just sat down to start reading it the other night. I wish I would have read this book sooner. So far, I’m loving the blend of fantasy and historical fiction. It reminds me of Skyrim’s Dark Brotherhood if it existed in the high court of Brittany instead.
I’ve also started to work my way through my extensive tea collection hoard. Seriously, I have over 100 different types of tea in my cupboards/pantry/just sitting on my kitchen floor.
Faerie Garden tea from Dryad Tea: Spearmint, Peppermint, Lavender, Heather, Cornflower Petals, Cinnamon (all organic). You can read my review here, but this interesting blend of mint and cinnamon is worth mentioning again
Teaster Marshmallow Tea from Adagio: green rooibos tea, apple pieces, candy sprinkles, vanilla creme flavor, marigold flowers, and apricots. My greatest impulse purchase (this year) occurred around Easter. I had a promotional email from Adagio that prompted me to go on a scavenger hunt on their website for a chance to win a free bag of their Teaster Marshmallow tea. Not only do I not usually drink rooibos tea, but I also did not need any of the other teas I purchased that day (because you know…free shipping). But, OMG this tea! From it’s colorful Easter sprinkles to its vanilla creme flavor— I might be obsessed. A spoonful of sugar takes it to a whole new level. It really is like a marshmallow peep, except there is less self-loathing after finishing a bag of the Teaster Marshmallow tea.
Dawn Tea from Turmeric Tea: Assam Black Tea, Cinnamon, Ginger, Turmeric Root, Cardamom, Black and Pink Pepper Corns. I had high hopes for this tea. Just look at that beautiful blend! I expected it to be spicy and for flavors of cinnamon and ginger to explode on my tongue, but it ended up being a rather mild spiced chai. The dominant flavor was cinnamon, which I can’t complain about though.
Books on my Radar
There is just one book I added to my TBR list this month, which is the Clockmaker’s Daughter by Kate Morton. I’ve seen this book on just about everyone’s instagram feed lately.
From Goodreads: In the summer of 1862, a group of young artists led by the passionate and talented Edward Radcliffe descends upon Birchwood Manor on the banks of the Upper Thames. Their plan: to spend a secluded summer month in a haze of inspiration and creativity. But by the time their stay is over, one woman has been shot dead while another has disappeared; a priceless heirloom is missing; and Edward Radcliffe’s life is in ruins.
Over one hundred and fifty years later, Elodie Winslow, a young archivist in London, uncovers a leather satchel containing two seemingly unrelated items: a sepia photograph of an arresting-looking woman in Victorian clothing, and an artist’s sketchbook containing the drawing of a twin-gabled house on the bend of a river.
Told by multiple voices across time, The Clockmaker’s Daughter is a story of murder, mystery, and thievery, of art, love and loss. And flowing through its pages like a river, is the voice of a woman who stands outside time, whose name has been forgotten by history, but who has watched it all unfold: Birdie Bell, the clockmaker’s daughter.
How was your October? What are you currently reading, and what books did you add to your wishlist this month?
More on Maine | a travel guide to Portland, Maine part 2
Eating donuts, BBQ, pizza slices the size of my head, and playing pinball barely scratch the surface of what we did during our vacation in Maine last year. If you’re planning a trip to Portland, Maine, be sure to check out these places as well:
Where to Stay
Inn at St. John | 939 Congress St. Portland, ME 04102
The Inn at St. John is Portland’s oldest, continuously operated inn. It’s an old, Victorian building located on the northwest side of downtown Portland, which is fairly removed from where most of the restaurants, shops, and nightlife are located– about a 25 minute walk. What initially drew us to this hotel was the price; the Inn at St. John is about $100/night cheaper than the rest of the hotels in the city. What would keep us coming back (aside from the price) is the incredibly kind hotel staff, the most comfortable bed ever, and these cozy bathrobes! The Inn at St. John comes so highly recommended on Trip Advisor and Google, and it’s worth every star. Plus, the savings in hotel accommodations allowed us to splurge in other areas.
Inn at Diamond Cove | 22 McKinley Ct. Portland, ME 04109
We spent a few days in downtown Portland, Maine, and then we hopped a ferry out to Great Diamond Island to stay at the Inn at Diamond Cove. The stars must have aligned because when we arrived, we learned that we got a free upgrade from our King Room to a King Suite. Aside from a king size bed that swallowed us whole and a shower with the dreamiest shower head ever, which would have come with the room we booked, the suite also had a kitchenette stocked with dishes and cookware, a dining area, a balcony, and a living room. I have never stayed in such luxury before, and I swear, it was bigger than the apartment we were living in at the time.
The Inn at Diamond Cove also offers a lot of extra amenities like bicycle rentals (since motor vehicles were not allowed on the island), a recreation room with duckpin bowling, ping pong, and PINBALL(!!!), tennis courts, an indoor basketball court, a pool and hot tub, and so much more.
To top off the experience, Inn at Diamond Cove had some of the nicest staff, and the greeting at the ferry when we arrived set the tone for the customer service experience. One of the staff members helped us load up our luggage into a golf cart and drove us to the hotel; along the way, she gave us a little history about the island and pointed out places to check out as we explored the island ourselves. I also recall spending all evening downstairs at the lobby bar drinking Moscow Mules and chatting with the bartender. (True story: one of them went to school at Western Michigan University, which is my alma mater; small world, right?!)
Where to Eat
Bayside American Cafe | 98 Portland St. Portland, ME 04101
Jon is notorious for packing the wrong kind of shoes for walking during vacation, so by the end of the first day, his feet were aching. Later in the week, when I suggested we walk to Bayside American Cafe for breakfast, which was a mile away from the hotel, he made sure to express his displeasure. And then, when we arrived we discovered we had to stand in line just to get a table at this popular brunch place. The trek and the wait was worth it though; Bayside served the best breakfast we had the pleasure of eating while in Portland. Make sure to try their Classic Eggs Benedict and Rocket Fuel coffee. And if you’re in need of a little hair of the dog, try out their Absolution, which is a mimosa with Absolute Raspberry and a splash of grenadine or the Honeymoon, which is Maine Meadworks wildflower honey mead and Brut champagne.
The 5 Spot | 935 Congress St. Portland, ME 04102
When hunger struck us late at night, and we were too tired to trek to the east side of downtown Portland, we walked next door to the 5 Spot for authentic Philly Cheesesteaks (the kind made with cheese wiz). I also had my first taste of Moxie, which was an experience in itself. Moxie starts out tasting like root beer but then morphs in to something herbaceous and medicinal. I liked it, but I might be in the minority.
Hot Suppa | 703 Congress St. Portland, ME 04102
If you find yourself craving grits while in Maine, make sure to visit Hot Suppa for some Southern-inspired cooking. Even if you’re not craving grits, go to this restaurant and order their impeccable Geechie Boy grits. I also had my first taste of kombucha here; I’ve never seen that on a menu before.
Gelato Fiasco | 425 Fore St. Portland, ME 04101
Is any vacation complete if you don’t consume at least one scoop of ice cream or gelato? Probably not, which is why you should visit Gelato Fiasco. The Gelato Fiasco offers irresistible flavors like Dark Chocolate Sea Salt Caramel Gelato, Maine Wild Blueberry Crisp Gelato, and Torched Marshmallow S’More Gelato. Side note: I just learned that Gelato Fiasco ships their Gelato nationwide. Be still my beating heart!
Inn at Great Diamond Cove (Lobby Bar) | 22 McKinley Ct. Portland, Me 04109
On top of living in luxury for a few days at the Inn at Great Diamond Cove, we also feasted like kings. Jon ordered the lobster roll for lunch and dinner, and if it were offered for breakfast, I’m sure he would have ordered it then too.
Things to Do
Portland Museum of Art | 7 Congress Sq. Portland, ME 04101
The Portland Art Museum is perhaps one of the best art museums I’ve visited. Sure, I’ve been to the Art Institute of Chicago, and sure, that collection is incredible. But, if you’re looking for a well-curated collection that you can view in one day, the Portland Museum of Art has it. I think my favorite part of the PMA collection was the pieces showcasing Maine’s artists.
The Green Hand Book Shop | 661 Congress St. Portland, ME 04101
The Green Hand Book Shop offers an eclectic collection of second-hand books. There seemed to be a book for every kind of customer. I found myself drawn to the children’s book section because it had so many books I remember reading when I was four or five. I didn’t leave empty handed…
Soakology | 511 Congress St. Portland, ME 04101
Remember when I said Jon is notorious for packing the wrong kind of shoes? Well, after dragging him a mile to breakfast, I promised him a foot soak and massage at Soakology. We also got to sip on hot tea while relaxing. Jon had a refreshing ginger mint tea, and I had an enticing pine smoked black tea. Jon experienced a second wind after that, and he wasn’t so grumpy as I dragged him around the city more.
Visiting Maine with my Main Squeeze
I miss Portland, Maine.
I miss flying in to the city and thinking, I don’t think I’ve seen this many pine trees in my life. I miss meandering the streets, exploring the shops, and being overwhelmed by all of restaurant choices. I miss hearing the sound of the ferry horns honking as they entered and exited the harbor. I miss tasting as many of the IPAs on the menu at Salvage BBQ and Slab Sicilian Street Food that our livers could handle and determining that Substance IPA from Bissell Brothers was the best (but still not quite as good as Michigan’s own Two Hearted). I miss how the temperature dropped what felt like 20 degrees the moment we rode the ferry out into Fore River/Casco Bay. I miss having Great Diamond Cove all to myself, or so it seemed, and I miss riding bikes all over the island. I miss the pickles– the weird, mustardy pickles. And the lobster rolls. I miss the lobster rolls too.
We spent most of our days roaming around the city streets in search of pinball machines, comic books, craft beer, and the best restaurants, and we hit the jackpot in Portland:
Featured donuts: Triple Berry, Salted Chocolate, Maine Apple, Allen’s Coffee Brandy, Orange Creamsicle, and Maple Bacon
The Holy Donut | 194 Park Ave. Portland, ME 04102 or 7 Exchange St. Portland, ME 04101
The Holy Donut offers a sweet treat like no other. The key ingredient in their delicious, fried treats…is the potato. Yes, the Holy Donut puts potatoes in their donut dough, which creates this incredible yeast donut/cake donut hybrid. It’s cakey and moist but also fluffy and chewy, and the outside has just the right amount of crispness. Jon and I intended to just buy four donuts, but there were so many enticing choices that we walked out with a six-pack. If you visit the Holy Donut, you must taste the Salted Chocolate donut (which Jon and I fought over), Allen’s Coffee Brandy, and the Orange Creamsicle.
Salvage BBQ | 919 Congress St. Portland, ME 04102
When you visit Maine, you probably wouldn’t think to eat at a BBQ restaurant. Honestly, neither did Jon and I. The only reason Salvage BBQ ended up on our radar is because it was located right next to one of the hotels we stayed at. Thankfully. Their chopped pork sandwich topped with coleslaw and side of mac and cheese was dreamy. Salvage BBQ also offers 17 taps, most of which were Maine microbrews, which is how we discovered Substance IPA from Bissell Brothers. Or, if bourbon is more your taste, they have an extensive selection of bourbon as well.
Slab Sicilian Street Food | 25 Preble St. Portland, ME 04101
I knew I was going to love Slab the moment I saw the restaurant host; he was wearing a pair of lime green hot pants and singing along to Just a Girl by No Doubt. Also, the slices of pizza were as big as my head. Sorry, I shouldn’t say “slice”; they are referred to as “slabs” and serving sizes are measured in pounds. POUNDS. Be sure to order the Crisps and Dip starter with the White Bean dip and the original slab pizza. And if it’s Sunday…try the Hangover Wedge; who knew potatoes on pizza could be so amazing?
Slab also has an extensive drink list of micro brews and ciders. Jon and I both ordered one hard cider and one IPA. Yes…that dark brown liquid in Jon’s glass is not a stout or a porter or a brown ale. It is an IPA. I want to say it was Doom IPA from Founders (a Michigan brewing company); whatever it was, it was over 12% apv, and it tasted like regret.
Coast City Comics | 634 Congress St. Portland, ME 04103
Okay, so we didn’t come to Portland for the nerd culture, but when we found it we were delighted. Coast City Comics had shelves upon shelves of graphic novels, and in the back of the shop, there were several pinball machines waiting for us to spend our quarters. We spent an afternoon here playing games, browsing through graphic novels to add to our collection, and picking out t-shirts featuring artwork from local artists.
It’s been over a year since Jon and I took the much-needed, week-long vacation to Portland, Maine, and not a month goes by where I don’t think about it. It was probably the best vacation I’ve ever taken, and the only reason we ended up there is because airfare to Maine was the cheapest, ha! It is the vacation I measure all future vacations against (which actually kind of sucks because I didn’t anticipate booking THE BEST VACATION EVER on my first try). I think that had less to do with me though and more to do with how incredible the city is.
Our vacation to Portland also encouraged us to set the life goal of visiting every state in the U.S. for vacation. Pre-baby, we had set our sights on visiting Montana or Massachusetts or Alaska next, but now I think we will stay a little closer to home (Ohio? Wisconsin? Indiana?) until Oliver is a little older and won’t wail on airplanes.
What is your favorite vacation experience? Have you ever visited Maine? What are some places you would love to visit for vacation?
Life Lately: the Comeback Kid
When I stepped back from blogging last June, I didn’t think my hiatus would last over a year. Between a death in the family and my promotion at work, I was in dire need of a mental reset, but I ended up burning myself out instead. Everything became so routine, and I couldn’t even bring myself to spend time on a hobby that, in the past, provided me with a creative outlet. However, there were two recent life events that acted as a catalyst for my return to the blogosphere:
- I turned THIRTY this July, and I’ve been looking forward to this decade for the past five years. It’s been this mental milestone of mine that if I could just make it to thirty, things would start falling in to place, and this would be the decade that I discovered Me. (So far, I’m off to a slow start, ha!)
- On October 3, Jon and I welcomed our baby boy, Oliver Robert, into the world. There are few life events that force one to become introspective and to re-assess ones priorities quite like entering the world of parenthood for the first time.
Pardon the bags under my eyes and the disheveled hair, but do I look grown up, yet?
Actually, I attempted to re-brand and create a new blog for my road to self-discovery and motherhood, but it just felt weird. My voice didn’t sound like my voice, and my readers didn’t sound like my readers. It seemed inauthentic and foreign, and so I let the blog sink quietly into the sea of all the other abandoned blogs on the interwebs. Then I spent the last few nights reading through some of my old posts here on Books & Tea, and I realized this is my home on the web. I spent six years creating content here– content that I’m proud of– and I can’t imagine blogging anywhere else. So, here I am, blowing off the dust and brushing away the cobwebs on my blog.
It’s been a while. How have you been? How is your October, so far?
My New Library Still Rubber Stamps the Due Dates On All of the Books
I think the thing that surprised me most about my local library was how many people were there. Then again, in a village of about 3,000 people, what else is there to do on a Saturday morning in the middle of January? This particular Saturday was “balmy”– overcast and nearly 50 degrees. I would have pried open windows, as Michiganders are wont to do during brief spells of unseasonably warm weather, but all of my windows are missing screens. So…I decided to walk to the library instead, which happens to be a short zig-zag away from my house. I mean, it probably took me a whole minute to walk there.
Now, the library I used to visit in the capital city was a big, brand new building with high ceilings, couches, and a fireplace, and you could easily maneuver the stacks without bumping into anyone. My new library is a small brick building tucked beside the fire department. The front lawn is decorated with some awkward scarecrow made out of white fence pieces and a blow-up snowman that looks tacky now that Christmas is a month behind us. Inside is cozy though, perhaps a little dark in some corners, and almost over-stuffed with books, if such a thing were possible. Patrons included a man with a scraggly beard playing on the computers, an elderly woman, who has traced her ancestry back to the 1400s so far, and a middle-aged woman, who had just won $40 on a scratch-off lottery ticket, and the first thing she thought to do with the money was pay her library fine so she could borrow books again.
Even though the selection of books isn’t nearly as vast as my old library, I still managed to spend an hour perusing the stacks. This weekend’s library loot includes:
- Angus, Thongs, and Full-Frontal Snogging by Louise Rennison — I read this over ten years ago when I was still in high school; I wonder if it’s still as funny as I remember.
- Sleeping Giants by Sylvain Neuvel — a sci-fi novel told in interviews, journal entries, transcripts, and news articles. I’ve not had any luck with epistolary novels lately, but we’ll see if this one is different.
- Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz — because it’s about time I catch up with the rest of the book blogosphere!
- Dead Until Dark: Sookie Stackhouse #1 by Charlain Harris — because it’s about time I catch up with the rest of the world!
- the Mental Floss History of the World by Erik Sass and Steve Wiegand — because I’m a nerd.
If you’re a library-goer, what are some of your favorite things about your library?