Travel Month: June 2015

Monday, June 29, 2015

Saltwater Farms vineyard from outside
Saltwater Farm Vineyard in Stonington, CT

I've been back in the US for a couple of weeks now and am slowly getting used to driving everywhere and happily investigating the new restaurants and shops that have popped up. It's been very nice to catch up with family, relax at the beach, and do some leisurely work on my blog and freelance business. I'm so happy to finally have some free time to read up on marketing and chat with my sister about running small businesses. I've collected the articles I've been reading on a Pinterest board if you'd like to check them out!

This month I was also supposed to go on a tour of Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty in NYC - something I was pretty excited about, because despite the numerous times I've been to NYC, I've never taken these tours. Unfortunately, Tinggly did not keep up their end of the agreement (book me the tour in exchange for a post about their company and an honest review of their tour). I'm very disappointed in the way that this company behaved and because of this I've decided to completely re-think and revise my collaboration options and the businesses that I choose to work with in the future. I'm also upset to have introduced you guys to a company that doesn't keep their word and I sincerely apologize about this. 

That being said, I'm really excited about the new focus of working with small local businesses - something that I feel strongly about as my parents' owned their own business together for as long as I can remember. If you own a small business and would like to learn more about collaborations options please send me an email at

As for July, I'll be frolicking around New England until the middle of the month. I'm hoping to check out some new restaurants, shops, and towns in this area. If you have any tips I'd absolutely love to hear them!

How was your June? What are your plans for July?

Downtown Niantic, Connecticut

Friday, June 26, 2015

Over the past few years, Niantic has seen an increase in tourism, which has been reflected in the great restaurants and cute shops popping up in the downtown. For visitors to the area I used to suggest heading to the nearby towns of New London or Waterford to eat out; however, Niantic is really getting some great restaurants that should make anyone's stay that much more enjoyable.

Downtown Niantic is very walkable, making it easy to go from any of the beaches (e.g., Hole in the Wall, Crescent, McCooks) to the shops, eateries, and bars downtown.

Where to Shop:

The Book Barn (downtown location on Main Street) is a great place to search for your next beach read or a used dvd for a movie night.

Grace, located on Pennsylvania Ave, is one of my favorite stores in southeastern Connecticut. Just stepping into the store makes you feel like you are on a beach vacation. They sell clothes from sometimes difficult to find designers, decorations for your home, specialty paints (milk and chalk paints), and children's items.

Before returning to the US for a visit, my parents kept mentioning Gum Drops and Lollipops (Main Street) to me. They raved about the selection of candies, the homemade fudge, and the huge ice cream sandwiches. Clearly, this became a must-visit for me and I recently stopped by to pick up some treats for Father's Day. I love the interior and will certainly be heading back for ice cream sometime during this trip.

The Natural Food Store has been open in downtown Niantic for years but recently moved to a new location on 21 Hope Street (behind the movie theater). Though pretty pricey, I head there occasionally for hard to find items.

Where to Eat:

The Crescent Beach Shack is my favorite place to walk to for a quick lunch outdoors while still wearing my swim suit. No shirt or shoes is totally acceptable here.

I've mentioned La Belle Aurore (Pennsylvania Ave) before and this restaurant even held a high rank on my 'Places I'd Like to Visit While in CT' list. Each time I eat at La Belle Aurore I'm incredibly impressed with their fresh, local foods and creative menus. It is just so good.

Cafe Sol (Main Street) is a new restaurant in downtown Niantic that serves breakfast, sandwiches, salads, and coffee made from local ingredients when possible. I recently stopped into Cafe Sol for coffee and would love to go back and enjoy a salad on their huge outdoor patio.

*There are several other restaurants in downtown Niantic. Some I have purposely left out because they aren't my favorite and others I haven't yet tried, so I can't comment on them. If you have any suggestions let me know in the comments!

Cafe Sol

*Please note that these pins on the map are approximate.

Have you visited Niantic? What else would you recommend around town?

Back in the US

Monday, June 22, 2015

I've been living abroad off and on since 2010; however, this is the first year that I've spent a full year without visiting the US at all. Let's just say that there are certainly some things that I've forgotten about the US while living abroad. There are also some things in the US that I'm completely excited to take advantage of while here.

Transportation. It's been a year since I've driven a car. We don't have a care in Vilnius and pretty much everything is within walking distance. I've learned that I don't really like driving and would much prefer to be able to walk everywhere or take public transportation. The area of Connecticut that both J and I are from lacks public transportation and you cannot easily walk from either of our parents' houses to anywhere.

Breakfast and Brunch. Pancakes, french toast, fried eggs, toast, bagels, brewed coffee - oh how I've missed you! I'm going to visit as many breakfast places as possible while home so that I can get my fill of breakfast (especially french toast!). Yum.

Cafes. Where are all of the cafes at? I love working at cafes, but there are so few in this area of Connecticut. Any suggestions?

One-stop shopping. Though I try to do most of my shopping at smaller businesses rather than chains, I really enjoy the ease of being able to pick up several different items in one trip. Let's pretend I need to by aspirin, shampoo, fresh fruit, and spaghetti. In Vilnius, to pick up all of those items I need to visit three difference stores and a farmers' market. In the US I can easily go to only one store, or one store and a farmers' market. Saves on driving and on gas. Perfect.

It's Expensive. Holy moly, guys. I've forgotten how expensive the US can be. This is probably because Lithuania is cheap and I'm used to being about to go out for a huge dinner for 25 Euro. I'm also not used to relying on a car to go everywhere, and though gas is currently cheaper than it has been previously, it certainly adds up. So does car maintenance, eating out, and car insurance. Wow, my wallet is unhappy.

You can follow along with my visit in Connecticut on Instagram!

What have you noticed when you re-visit your home country?

The Gates of Dawn

Friday, June 19, 2015

One of the most tourist-populated streets in Vilnius is Asro Vartu g. (the Gates of Dawn Street), which leads from the City Hall to the Gates of Dawn. The Gates of Dawn is probably the most important religious, cultural, and historical structure in Vilnius (and maybe all of Lithuania?). In the 1500s, under the rule of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, Vilnius was surrounded by a large city wall with several gates that allowed entry and exit to the center of the city. The other gates have since been destroyed, leaving only the Gates of Dawn. In addition to being the only remaining gate (thus being historically significant), the Gates of Dawn contain a small chapel that holds an icon of the Virgin Mary that is believed by some to bestow miracles. Whatever your beliefs, the Gates of Dawn are interesting historically and the icon (shown in a photo below that was taken from outside of the chapel) is beautiful. 

Walking from the City Hall to the Gates of Dawn you pass several other churches (there are SO many churches in Vilnius), numerous shops selling linen or amber and numerous restaurants (that are actually pretty tasty). If you happen to be visiting the Gates of Dawn around a meal time, J suggests paying a visit to Restaurant Medininkai, which he claims has the best goat cheese salad ever. I think I'll have to test it out when we return to Vilnius later this summer...for you know, research purposes. I'll make sure to report back. 

Visiting the Gates of Dawn in Vilnius, Lithuania

The Virgin Mary without Jesus - a famous icon in Vilnius, Lithuania

I've been settling into my visit in Connecticut and adjusting back to the US after a year away. Next week I'll begin sharing pieces of my trip here. If there is anything you would like to learn about Connecticut please let me know!

Would you visit the Gates of Dawn?

10 Reasons to Love Living in Vilnius

Monday, June 15, 2015

Assuming there were no unexpected flight delays I arrived back in the US yesterday for a quick visit with my family. Because I'm probably sleepy and/or out eating a monstrous breakfast with family I've pre-scheduled this week's posts. So, instead of a post about the US, I've written a post about how awesome it is to live in Vilnius. Though I'll be the first to tell you that we had a rough transition when we first moved to Vilnius, it the city (and the country) has grown on us, and honestly, I really enjoy living here.

1) Affordability. Lithuania is an incredibly affordable country to live in or visit. Grocery stores and farmers markets have many affordable options and apartments often come furnished, which certainly helps to lower expenses that accrue from renting. In the Old Town you can expect to pay approximately 600 - 800 Euro for a one bedroom apartment. Additionally, cell phone plans (or pay as you go rates) are very cheap as is fast Wi-Fi (approximately 15 Euro per month for internet and 10 Euro every few months for a pay as you go cell phone)

2) Restaurants. Vilnius has a HUGE selection of restaurants making eating out affordable. Expect to pay about 25 Euro for two for an average priced dinner out: including drinks, an appetizer, two entrees, and two desserts.

3) #CreativeLithuania. Over the past academic year I've made my own slippers in a felting class, visited an outdoor food festival numerous times, created my own (wonky-looking) pottery, visited a craft fair selling goods from local artists, among attending other cool events. If you dig deep you can find really fun classes or events to attend in Vilnius.

4) Craft Fairs. No matter where I am in the world, I always love a good craft fair. Lithuania has an incredible amount of traditional handicrafts that are still produced by small crafters around the country. Craft Fairs take place frequently in the summer, but my favorite is the St. Casmir Festival that takes place right before Easter.

5) Escaping to the Countryside or the Seaside. Lithuania is 40% forest, so it is no surprise that it is easy to get out of the city to explore the countryside. I love visiting Klaipeda and Trakai and I'm itching to visit Druskininki and Saulai.

6) Cafes and Coffee Culture. I find new cafes almost every time I pop out to explore Vilnius. No joke. Lithuanians take their coffee seriously, which means that you can find great coffee.

7) New Friends. What's a new place without making new friends? I'm very thankful for the friends I've made in Vilnius over the past two years!

8) The Spring and Summer. Somehow the gorgeous late spring and summer sun makes you forget the very long and cold winter. Cafes, restaurants, and outdoor events abound, making it even more glorious during the long summer days.

9) Kayaking. I'm a pretty big fan of water sports, especially kayaking and swimming. I don't know of any swimming spots in Vilnius, but it is easy and inexpensive to rent kayaks and head out for a day (or more) on the water.

10) Walkability. Vilnius is a very walkable city and the suburbs are easily reached by local buses (just be sure to always have a valid bus ticket or risk being caught by the bus police - no joke, they are real and serious). J and I don't have a car here, though sometimes it would be nice to have for trips outside of the city, it isn't necessary.

What do you love about your current home? Does Vilnius sound like a place you'd like to live?

Creative Lithuania: Felting Class

Friday, June 12, 2015

Sometimes living in Lithuania can be a challenge (oh those dark winter days!), so I wanted to focus on forgetting about the challenges and enjoying the positives. To do so, I've started a monthly post (the second Friday of each month) that features the more creative side of Lithuania. In previous posts I've written about Uzupis, which is truly a creative mecca. For this series I wanted to focus on creative events, unique aspects of the culture or language, and cool places that I find around Lithuania. Previously I've written about Open Kitchen, the Beer Marathon, a Cat Cafe, the Lithuanian Design BlockPottery ClassCoffee Enthusiasm, and A book fair.   If you have any suggestions of things to check out I'd love to hear them!

If you would like to participate in sharing creative things about where you live, tag your photos on Instagram or tweets on Twitter with #CreativeLithuania or #CreativeLocale. I'd love to see the creative side of every country! I'll share my favorite tweets and photos each month on social media and here on the blog.

I'll be out of Vilnius for part of June and July and am due to have a baby in August, so I'll be putting the #CreativeLithuania posts on hold until October. See you back here then!

Recently, while in search of a cool event, I was invited by some friends to join a slipper felting class that was taking place right in the heart of Vilnius Old Town. When I signed up I had no idea how elaborate the process of making felt slippers was (lets just say that it was really tiring for someone six months pregnant at the time).

The class began with us checking out the different types of slipper shapes to get inspiration for our own pair. Then we each picked out two different colors of wool (one for the inside of the slipper and one for the outside). We then received a short tutorial about the how to make a pattern based on our desired slipper size (based on shoe size). After, we created a pattern that would start us off with a giant slipper that would slowly shrink during the felting process (this allows you to wash the slipper at home in cold water, without fear of it shrinking).  

We were then instructed to carefully place our wool in alternating directions on our patterns. Once we sufficiently piled the wool we put our wool in layers (based on what color you wanted on the outside and inside) and placed it in a shallow tub filled with water (initially cold followed later by boiling water). We then vigorously rubbed our piled wool layers to felt the loose wool together. After hours (no joke) of rubbing this wool our slippers started to take shape and we were able to cut a foot hole into the slipper. Phew! But no - not done yet! We then had to put our slippers on an appropriately sized plastic models and rub them even more. Guys, felting slippers is hard and tedious. At this point I was pretty pooped out and my back was aching (standing all day!), so I broke down and asked for a bit of help rubbing my slippers. <insert grumbling under my breath that these better be the best slippers every>

Like the crafting dunce that I am, I was the last person in class to finish my slippers and even went over the allotted class time (6+ hours!). Oops! It all ended happily though, as I love my slippers and I'm certainly they will keep my feet toasty during the cold Lithuanian winters.

The final product!

You can find this and other felting classes at The Wool House (Vilnos Namai) on Sventaragio g. Classes are generally offered during the weekend but unfortunately there is no online schedule. You need to drop by the store to see what classes are available. This class cost 40 Euro and all materials and instruction were included. This is a great deal if you think about the normal price of these slippers - about 60 Euro for an adult pair. 

What creative events have been going on in your area? Would you spend a full day making felt slippers?

The Best Cafes for Working Outdoors in Vilnius

Monday, June 8, 2015

Its summer, its gorgeous out, but unfortunately you are chained inside to your computer trying to meet a deadline. That can be a real bummer. Lately, I've been in search of a few outdoor cafes where I can do work and enjoy the lovely weather (that has finally arrived in Vilnius). This past week the sun was out, the birds were singing, and I had some deadlines to meet, so I did the difficult task of finding some outdoor spaces to work.

The first on my list, and my favorite if I want to disconnect from the internet for a while, is Poniu Laime (which I happen to call the 'green door bakery') on the corner of Stikliu g. and Zydu g. They have a huge selection of cakes and pre-prepared Lithuanian dishes that make a quick lunch and coffee (that in all honesty is my least favorite of the cafes listed here - too bitter for me). The best part of the cafe is the huge amount of outdoor seats with umbrellas. Outdoors at this cafe you can feel comfortable sitting undisturbed for hours - perfect. Pro tip: arrive early (before 12) and you will have the outdoor seats completely to yourself.

Second on my outdoor cafe exploration is No Sugar on A. Stulginskio g. 22. No Sugar has delicious coffee and a small but reasonable selection of snacks, but is the most expensive cafe of the bunch. No Sugar has free Wi-Fi and a really nice outdoor section with umbrella-shaded tables that you can hog for hours on end.

Last but certainly not least (actually, it is my current favorite cafe in Vilnius) is Taste Map Cafe located on Ciurlionio g. 8. Taste Map has the best coffee, really good sweets (but nothing that is meal-sized), and free Wi-Fi. They also recently added outdoor seats (I purchased the same set from Ikea), but no umbrellas are available for those extra sunny days. If you are on a tight budget, it may be good to know that Taste Map is the cheapest of the bunch.

Just like any other city, Vilnius has a few local drunks and homeless people that can occasionally become pushy, particularly when you are sitting outside. I've never had this problem at any of these three cafes.

How do you take advantage of nice weather when you have deadlines to meet?