Friday, July 27, 2012

Especially Canadian

There were surprisingly very few things we found on our short trip to Canada that seemed uniquely Canadian.  Sure, they have some different products than the US but a lot of them seemed to stem from their British ties instead of being authentically Canada-based. 

Maple-Everywhere you went, you could find maple-flavored things.  Donuts, fudge, drinks, cookies.

Raisin Pie/butter pie-This was mentioned on a website as being a Canadian food, but the ones I found were horrendous snack-cake packaged gloopy corn-syrup mini-pies.  I passed on them.

Smarties-These are UK, not Canadian but I DID enjoy them!

Casinos-Wow, it was most likely the area we were in but there seem to be casinos and signs for casinos all over!

Real Canadian Superstore-I was hoping this would be a good place to find some unique items but it was really disappointing.  It kind of made it clear that Canada is pretty much just a more northern USA as far as groceries go.  Macaroni and Cheese IS called Kraft Dinner, though.

Tim Hortons-Just as Dunkin Donuts were thick in the East, Tim Hortons were just about everywhere in Canada.  And their donuts were WAY better!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Uniquely East Coast

One of our favorite things about traveling is finding each area's specialties and regional products. Here is what we found to be uniquely New England:

 Corn Muffins-Corn muffins were EVERYWHERE! As common as blueberry or chocolate chip, they seemed to be a popular choice for breakfast or a snack. Here in the Midwest we generally eat corn muffins on the side of chili, not generally by themselves.  

Greek pizza-It seemed every other pizza place offered Greek pizza, which is apparently most like what we call "pan pizza" baked in a pan to make a thicker, chewy crust.  

Dunkin Donuts-They are EVERYWHERE!!! On every street corner, tucked into every little strip mall and highway rest stop. I do NOT like Dunkin Donuts but as you saw we did make a trip to the very first DD ever opened and I will admit the donut I had was maybe slightly better than the ones at the DD here in Champaign. But our DD are really terrible.

 Polar sparkling water-Oh my! I fell in love with Polar Seltzer! Especially the orange vanilla flavor! And it's not available in this area at all. :(  

Drake's Cakes (Ring Dings, Yodels, Funny Bones)-Owned by Hostess, the Drake's line is uniquely New England. But EW, maybe it's been a while since I've had a Hostess cake but these were so much worse than I remember packaged cakes being. Not something I'll pine for like my beloved Polar water.  

Pink Beans-A canned product I've only seen out East, these are apparently also known as chili beans but canned chili beans here in IL have chili spices added. Pink beans tasted like pinto beans but were a little smaller.  

Black and White/Half Moon cookies-More of a New York thing but these were pretty common in MA, they are a basic vanilla cookie with half chocolate and half vanilla frosting. I knew I wanted to try one out but I was kind of shocked at the variety of the cookies available. Some bakeries made them with a stiff shortbread-type cookie, some made a regular sugar cookie that held its shape and some made really cakey mounded cookies that were more like muffin tops. So I deduced that the name is really about the frosting, there is really not an accepted cookie type.  

Odwalla bars-These are sold here in IL but I KEPT seeing these everywhere in MA, and Odwalla delivery trucks and Odwalla bilboards and advertising. Turns out, there is a distribution center in Woburn, MA.  

Grapenut ice cream and pudding-This flavor was everywhere and it makes no sense. Grapenuts are not a regional product in New England. But they are HUGE ice cream fanatics so maybe it's an extension of that.  

Boston Cream- They'll make Boston Cream anything. Donuts, cupcakes, cookies, ice cream, snack cakes, you name it. I tried it, it was tasty but I wouldn't ask for it for my birthday or anything.  

Fire signals-When we got home, this was one of the first things we looked up to find more info on. There are red boxes on poles EVERYWHERE, on every street, with a signal to pull if there is a fire. They usually have a red light on top too, which comes on when you pull the signal. New England is HEAVILY populated (or as the signs say, "Thickly Settled" so these were meant to keep fires from devastating whole neighborhoods before 911 and the like. The signals are now being removed in some places and in others, they just don't repair them when they break down.  

Congregational Churches-By far the most prevalent denomination we saw during our trip, Congregational churches are nearly non-existent in IL. There seemed to be at least one in every town! Their rainbow flags everywhere were a refreshing site, a rare thing in the Midwest.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Summer Vacation: Day 7 & 8

Friday we left Massachusetts. With our newly-acquired passports in hand, we were ready to head North and cross the border into Canada! I'm pretty sure breakfast was the last of the fruit and probably some oats but there's no picture to document! Lunch in the car was mainly veggies from the fridge that needed eaten up, along with the last of the homemade snack mix.
After we checked in to our hotel, we got a shuttle over to Niagara Falls though we probably could have walked because we could see them from our hotel room. Mike got us an awesome corner room with a view.
We hopped on the Maid of the Mist. With it's snaking, ramped entryway made to hold hundreds of peple I would hate to see this place when it is really busy! It reminded me of the queue areas at DisneyWorld, except not expertly themed to entertain you while you wait. Luckily, we whizzed right through to the boat.
The ponchos were kind of silly! The wind blows it around so much, my head and legs were WET but at least my torso staid dry. It was a complete giggle-fest once the wind and water started whipping around!
After Maid of the Mist, we walked up Clifton Hill (which is like a cross between Las Vegas and a carnival midway) and rode the SkyWheel. I was pretty surprised that Mike agreed to ride but the view is amazing!
Here we are in the Skywheel. Does it look like he's enjoying it or grimacing and gripping the seat for dear life?

That night we watched the illuminated falls from our room and ate dinner which was a combination of things we brought along (Dr. McDougall split pea soup cup) and things we got at a grocery store (veggie spring roll sushi and Smarties).

Saturday morning I enjoyed the hotel's gym, which included some fancy treadmills and free weights. I did some intervals on the treadmill and then did this workout I had printed out. I had packed a band but I also used the free weights since they were there! After a shower and some hotel-room-coffee-pot oatmeal, it was time to pack up and leave. We did manage to catch an episode of The Littlest Hobo on tv so I think we got quite a Canadian experience packed into less than 24 hours.
At lunchtime we stopped at Dagwood's Deli in Lapeer, MI. It was a cute little place and attached to Blondie's Sweet Boutique. I was dubious of the menu which had very few veg options and tentatively asked if they would me make just a cheese sandwich. The sweetest server asked if I was vegetarian and explained that she was too and that they could make a sandwich with all the veggies I wanted and this awesome pesto!
So that's what I had. On marble rye with a pickle on the side. Plus a couple of cookies for the road. Of course, then we had to go and check out the Sweets Boutique and I ended up with a sugar cone filled with mint chocolate chip! Thus began my downward spiral into car snacking hell. I don't even remember any of it but I know I ate far too much just because the drive was kind of long and what else is there to do? But anyway! We got back into town around 7 pm on Saturday and it was SO NICE not to have loads and loads of laundry to do thanks to the washer and dryer in the apartment. This was a fantastic trip, I LOVED having a home base that was more like home than a hotel room! We ticked off quite a few states from our list of places to visit and visited an entirely different country! Next step, a country that is not contiguous to the USA!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Summer Vacation: Day 6

Thursday morning I walked to Spirit Bear yoga to try out their Hour of Pour hot yoga class. I had never done hot yoga before and it was....HOT! I totally forgot to bring a towel with me so my mat was a giant puddle but the heat and humidity let you get SO loose and stretched. Not to mention I am cold-blooded so being surrounded by heat was AWESOME!
On my way home I stopped at the Bakery on the Common to get my slice of traditional Boston Cream Pie!
And somehow I also ended up with a black and white cookie and a HUGE M&M cookie. I ate half the cookie for breakfast! With a bowl of mango, strawberries, honeydew and cantaloupe with a little oatmeal sprinkled on top.
Our destination on this day was Rhode Island. We went to the Culinary Arts Museum at Johnson and Wales University. (Did our vacation have a food theme?)
They have a very large section devoted to the evolution of the diner, from horse-drawn food cart to shiny mod restaurant.
I posed by these waffle irons because my calendar told me the next day (June 29th) was Waffle Iron Day. After the museum, we had lunch at East Side Pockets, which was delicious. I guess I forgot to take a picture though! I had the falafel pocket (which was HUGE!) and shared curly fries with Mike.
After lunch, we were off to the beach! The water was COLD! A day of extreme temperatures, hot yoga cold ocean!
It was a really nice day and the beach was packed. Which was kind of bizarre, not what I expected at all. I'm not sure how often I would go to the beach if it's always this crowded.
After the beach, we drove back to Natick, chilled for a bit and then I changed clothes for Hula Hooping with Wildkat Hoops! A highlight of the trip for me because we do not have any hoop classes here and I've been wanting to try it. It was awesome! Turns out, all those Zumba and Hip Hop Hustle classes have given me hip-swiveling mastery. I am totally making my own hoop!
On the way back from hooping, we made an unplanned stop at the Peace Abbey. We noticed it on the way over and made a note to stop and see what it was all about. Turns out it's all about peace, nonviolence and cruelty-free living.
This statue of Gandhi is surrounded by quotes from sixty peacemakers from around the world.
And behind that there is a statue of Emily the Cow, who escaped from a slaughterhouse and lived at the Peace Abbey. She is surrounded by quotes about vegetarianism and cruelty-free living. We were sad to see that the Peace Abbey is for sale but found out that the memorials are safe and will remain, while the museum contents have been incorporated into the University of Massachusetts Boston.
Dinner for me was a big salad as usual. This time I included some tempe that I sliced up and pan-seared. Silly me, I bought this at Trader Joe's thinking I could take it back with me but I don't think that would work so well since we were off to Canada before heading home! So I had to use it up before we left. This salad also had beets from Trader Joe's and some steamed broccoli and cauliflower on the side. Dessert was that piece of Boston Cream Pie I picked up after yoga! And it was GOOD! So I didn't get to eat it IN Boston but at least it was in Massachusetts. It is the official state dessert after all!

Monday, July 16, 2012

Summer Vacation: Day 5

These are some shots of the trails in Coolidge Woods. It has really lovely, well-tended paths. The weather cooperated and each morning was just a little damp and cool.
On Wednesday I found the fitness stations that I had heard about but couldn't find the day before! So my run was punctuated with dips, pull-ups, sit-ups, box jumps, balance beam and all variety of other fun activities!
It's hard to take pictures of yourself in the woods though. I had to string the camera up in a tree.
Breakfast was the usual fruit plate of kiwi, grapes, raspberries and a peach. I ate part of the WholeSoy & Co. soy yogurt but it was NOT as good as the coconut milk yogurt. And I had a spoonful of Teddie peanut butter that I picked up at the grocery store! This is another product I'd heard about and wanted to try. It's peanut butter, what can I say? It's good but not any better than my favorite natural store brand and their Super Chunky version that I was Super Excited about wasn't any more chunky than the peanut butter I brought along with me! Just goes to show you that you always think the grass is greener on the other side. Until you get there.
Our first activity on Wednesday was whale watching! So we drove to Boston (traffic was not nearly as bad as we had been warned) and got on the boat at the New England Aquarium. On the ride out to where the whales were, we were told about some of the landmarks we could see on shore and we could also watch a movie about whale research. Once we got to the whales, we saw several Humpback Whales including a mom and baby! It was kind of bizarre how there are so many boats out there, all trying to spot and zoom in on whales when they pop up.
I was so glad I dressed warmly, it was windy and chilly out on the water! I had to sit inside most of the time. But see the boat behind us and the upper deck that is uncovered? People sat up there the entire time, even when we were speeding out to site, they had to be SO COLD!
After our whale watching, we visited the Aquarium exhibits. This is a very blurry sea turtle whizzing by.
This adorable sea lion (seal? not sure) was playing with a toy. He kept flinging it around, like a dog!
We had lunch at Legal Seafood. Mike had a lobster roll, which he really enjoyed. I think that might have been the only seafood he ate the whole trip! I had a baked potato and salad, nothing exciting but I wasn't terribly hungry. To tell the truth, the bumpy trip out to the whales had kind of made my tummy flip-flop a little. But at least I didn't throw up like one poor girl on the boat. Ew!
We shared this "Boston Cream Pie" but it was more like tiramisu in its construction. I wanted to have Boston Cream Pie in Boston but after eating this (though it was tasty) I didn't count it was my Boston Cream Pie since it wasn't very traditional! After lunch we did a little shopping at Quincy Market. We didn't actually buy a single thing but we did find a pressed penny machine and got a few new ones for our Penny Passport!
Later on, the town of Natick was having a celebration on the Common (which is what we would call a square or central park). You can see the event behind me, where I got to play plinko, duck pond, Mike got cotton candy, I got a slice of pizza and you might also be able to see the orange braid I got for my hair. This ice cream sandwich was HUMONGOUS! It didn't come from the festivities though, it came from this adorable ice cream shop across the street, Park Street Ice Cream.
Isn't she the cutest? I got to sample Blue Moon ice cream! It tasted like...Juicy Fruit gum? Cherry-vanilla? Tooty-fruity? Not sure, but I'm sure I couldn't eat a whole scoop of it! Instead I got a handmade ice cream sandwich made with chocolate chip cookies and cookies and cream ice cream inside. YUM! I think I saw her put at least 4 scoops of ice cream in that thing!
This place was too cute! I forgot to take a picture the day we were there so this is from Thursday morning so it's closed.
Pizza was not a complete dinner so to make sure I was getting my veggies, I made a salad with beans, cooked some cauliflower and broccoli and had a little watermelon before busting out the ice cream sandwich!

Friday, July 13, 2012

Summer Vacation: Day 4

Tuesday's workout was a run through Coolidge Woods to a nearby park where I did a lower body circuit workout including baseball diamond sprint. FUN! Then I ran back home through the woods.
Breakfast when I got back was oats mixed with the other half of that coconut milk yogurt and some chia seeds, topped with raspberries, strawberries and almonds. And snow peas, baby carrots and watermelon on the side.
First stop-Maine! We went to the Portland Head Light and it rained on us! But it made for very scenic, windswept and overcast seas.
Portland is a fun town with lots of shopping and I got this neat handmade bowl with a thumb loop at Maine Potters Market. I love handmade pottery!
Lunch was at Silly's, an awesome place with TONS of vegan options. I have to give a shout-out to Mike for finding some GREAT places to eat. He always tries to plan ahead (if possible) and make sure they have something interesting for me, so sweet! It was such a cold and rainy day that I started off with their “Homegrown” loose tea blend. It was mainly mint, with coconut and pomegranate. Very tasty!
I had the Bio Diesel Wrap-mango & basil coleslaw, fried tofu, tomatoes, pickles, and warm vegan bbq sauce. It was SUPER good! And really messy. Mike had some pasta dish that was like spicy mac and cheese with sausage on top. He liked it.
On our way home, we stopped at Jim's Ice Cream for a treat! Mike's eating his triple scoop come with Mocha Carmela by the Sea, Chocolate Peanut Butter Swirl and Grapenut. I tasted the Grapenut ice cream, a flavor we knew to expect but were still shocked by how prevalent it is on the East Coast! To me it was meh, nothing to write home about. I had a double scoop cone with Candy Bar World and Chocolate Cookie Monster. Dinner was unremarkable calzones at this place in Natick. No picture. They were big, but not terribly great. The owner was nice and made me a whole wheat crust calzone even thought you're only supposed to be able to get a large pizza with that crust. But the end product (mine had caramelized onions, marinated artichoke, capers, fresh basil, goat cheese and kalamata olives on it) could have used WAY more toppings and was overpriced for what it was. I missed my fresh, bean-topped salad!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Summer Vacation: Day 3

Breakfast on Monday was oatmeal with raspberries, kiwi and an orange. While I won't mourn the fact that we don't have one in our area, one thing I did like at Whole Foods was their huge selection of non-dairy yogurt. I ate half of this plain So Delicious coconut milk yogurt and it was FANTASTIC! Definitely a buy-again if I can find it in our area. My morning exercise was the Sunrise Vinyasa class at Laughing Dog yoga studio. I could just kick myself for forgetting to take a picture! The walls had a great paint treatment that looked like large square panels dry brushed in different directions. We practiced several flows that were new to me, and then we got to do a LOT of inversion work at the wall as well as a backbend series. And I LOVE a studio without mirrors since our gym has mirrors EVERYWHERE and I really rely on them too much for my positioning when I should really concentrate on knowing where my body parts are without looking.
Our first site of the day was a tour at America's Test Kitchen. We love watching America's Test Kitchen and Cook's Country on PBS and we get Cook's Illustrated. Mike found out that ATK was VERY close to where we were going to be. So we set up a tour and when we arrived were only slightly confused by the completely nondescript, unmarked entrance! Our tour guide (Shannon Hatch, assistant editor for Cook's Illustrated and Cook's Country magazines) was just fantastic, answering all of our questions and telling us all about the process of selecting and creating recipes, testing products and publishing magazines and books and putting on two tv shows.
My questions were mainly about how health factors into their recipe creation. (Answer-it doesn't unless they specifically make that a goal in the beginning of the process for that particular recipe.) So at the end of the tour she gave us access to the "leftovers" fridge, but since it was Monday there was slim pickin's. She also gave us some copies of the magazines, including a special edition full of light recipes since that's what I had been interested in. So nice!! I didn't take many good pictures so here is someone who took the tour and took great pictures!
Lunch was at Cutty's, a restaurant opened by some former America's Test Kitchen employees. I had the Eggplant Spuckie sandwich with tomato soup and thought it was tasty (but the eggplant was a bit chewy and it could have used a sharper cheese or perhaps tangier olives). Mike got the Roast Beef 1000 and was WOWED, he loved it!
Then it was off to the Adams National Historical Park for the afternoon. We took yet another form of transportation, a trolley, to get around!
First we toured the Presidential Birthplace, which was nice. Our guide was not terribly great but it was interesting to hear about John Adams growing up and becoming a lawyer, then into politics. etc.
Then the trolley took us to the "Old House", which is the house that Adams bought and lived in when he returned from France. This tour was WAY TOO LONG and boring, mainly about the family, visitors, furnishings, etc.
The only saving grace of this tour was the AWESOMELY FANTASTIC library, shown above. It was amazing but we weren't allowed to take pictures inside so you'll just have to go yourself!
Nearby was the world's first Dunkin Donuts, so we went in and sat at the counter and I had a Boston Creme donut. :)
Dinner was a huge salad of lettuce, red onion, cucumber, beets, celery, red pepper and mushrooms. On top went beans (pink beans, a type I had only seen once we got to Mass.), lemon hummus, and baby carrots. On the side was steamed broccoli and cauliflower, a garlic naan from Trader Joe's and some grapes.