Travel Month: August 2015

Monday, August 31, 2015

Personal + Travel


This has been a quiet travel month as I really had to slow down in the last month of my pregnancy - and the baby arrived a few weeks earlier than expected, so I'm glad I did! Yes, the baby is here and we are slowly settling into life with a newborn. 

I have managed to try out a few new places around Vilnius (expect some cafe and restaurant posts soon!). J and I also took a free tour of the Presidential Palace. Currently, J's parents are visiting us and I'm beyond excited to show them around our expat home (and have some help cooking/cleaning!). Yes to visitors! As I settle in with the baby and spend time with my in-laws I'll be a bit slow to respond to comments here and via social media. I'll still be posting Mondays and Fridays though, so stop on by and say hello!

In my lack of travel I've been planning a super road trip through Lithuania for the upcoming October vacation. If you have any advice on where to visit outside of Vilnius do let me know and share your posts in the comments!



A photo posted by Elizabeth (@insearchofs) on



Blogging


This month I've been working really hard on my writing style in my blog posts. Coming from a background in biology and botany I'm used to giving just the facts (ma'am) in my writing. Looking back on older posts I can really see the progress I've been making towards writing more creatively, but am really working on it consciously now. To develop my skills I've been reading a ton of other blogs as well as skimming through the book, Alive in the Writing by Kirin Narayan. Yes, this book was assigned for an anthropology class I took years ago, but it does have some helpful tips for writing with your senses. I'd love to hear any other ways you've used to improve your writing!

I've also been enjoying connecting with both bloggers visiting Vilnius and expats moving to Vilnius. It is such fun for me to meet people who are also enjoying travel through and life in this cool city. If you happen to be passing through or moving in do contact me :)

A photo posted by Elizabeth (@insearchofs) on



Looking Forward To


My parents and K (my sister) will be visiting us in Vilnius for the first time in the middle September. I cannot wait to show them around our expat home. My birthday is also this month and I'm looking forward to going out for dinner with J and baby.

I also have many things to look forward to on the blog! On September 21 I'll be hosting the first of a series of collaborative posts, Traveling Parents' Forum, with five other bloggers to chat about our experiences traveling while pregnant and with children. I'm really excited to be working with these fabulous bloggers as well as reading their experiences. Keep your eyes out for these posts and feel free to ask questions or leave your own feedback in the comments!


A photo posted by Elizabeth (@insearchofs) on

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How was your month? What are you looking forward to in September?

Ice Cream for Dinner

Friday, August 28, 2015

Ice cream for dinner. One of my absolute favorite summer traditions curtesy of my mom. Growing up by the shore, in an area with warm summers, there was certainly no shortage of ice cream shops. Many of the beloved shops from my childhood have since closed or changed hands, only to be replaced by new offerings, many of which boast rich sundaes, homemade ice cream sandwiches, or unique flavor combinations.

The first stop on this tour through frozen dessert land is Gumdrops and Lollipops in downtown Niantic, with their incredible homemade ice cream sandwiches and old fashioned candy shop (or should I say shoppe?). G & L has favorites like Almond Joy, Chocolate, Marshmallow, or special creations of (giant) ice cream sandwiches, floats, and ice cream sodas. Talk about sugar shock!


chocolate and vanilla ice cream from Gumdrops and Lollipops in Niantic, Connecticut

Gumdrops and lollipops exterior



Next up, the land of Milkshake Mondays at Berry's Ice Cream in downtown New London, Connecticut. Seriously though, buy one get one free milkshakes on Mondays. How can you go wrong? At the recommendation of the woman working in the shop, I ordered the Thin Mint milkshake made with chocolate milk. Wow, it actually tasted like eating an ice cream version of the beloved Girl Scout cookie.

Berry's Ice Cream in New London, Connecticut


Are you dying for some ice cream yet?

Probably the coolest of the bunch (at least for a week or so of the year) is Buttonwood Farms in the actual middle of nowhere Griswold, Connecticut. Because of their rural location, Buttonwood Farms has the space to grow 10 acres of bright yellow sunflowers, which draws visitors from all over New England. This year (2015), their sunflower event, which ran from July 18 to July 26, raised 190,659 USD for the Make-A-Wish Foundation. Beautiful flowers, tasty ice cream, AND a good cause - I'm all over that.


Buttonwood Farms in southeastern Connecticut

Sunflowers, charity, and ice cream in connecticut



Last but certainly not least is Michael's Dairy, an old standby in New London, Connecticut. Open since 1938 as a milk processing dairy, Michael's Dairy is now run by students in Mitchell College's Department of Hospitality and Tourism. Cool, right? My favorite ice cream that they serve - Caramel Chocolate Pretzel - I could absolutely go for a scoop of that right now!


Michael's Dairy run by Mitchell College in Connecticut

The exterior of Michael's Dairy


Gumdrops and Lollipops: 334 Main Street, Niantic, CT website (FYI their website plays music - huge pet peeve!)

Berry's Ice Cream: 60 Bank Street, New London, CT website

Buttonwood Farms: 473 Shetucket Turnpike, Griswold, CT website

Michael's Dairy: 629 Montauk Avenue, New London, CT website


Where can you get your favorite ice cream? What is your favorite flavor?

The Land of Healthy Fast Food

Monday, August 24, 2015

Fresh soups, an olive oil filling station, frozen prepared meals, sandwiches made to order? Where is this magical land of healthy fast food?

It's Mystic Market in both Mystic and now in Old Saybrook, Connecticut. Mystic Market is a great spot for a quick, yet healthy meal on the go. They sell delicious prepared items to eat in store and frozen foods, like lasagna, to re-heat at home. The outpost of Mystic Market that recently opened in Old Saybrook is even better than the original. The restaurant is bright, airy, and looks like it came straight out of an interior designer's Instagram or Pinterest page. The food menu is extensive. For a quick lunch on the go, J and I shared a roast beef sandwich on a baguette and a bowl of broccoli cheddar soup. Both were delicious and were prepared quickly enough for anyone in a hurry. We've also previously purchased their frozen lasagna to re-heat for dinner and it was delicious.

With the baby coming any day now I wish there was a place like this in the Vilnius Old Town (maybe it could even deliver?!).





What do you eat when you are on the go?

Fort Griswold and School Trips

Friday, August 21, 2015

A tunnel at Fort Griswold State park in Connecticut

I'm pretty sure that every student in Connecticut has taken a school field trip to both Fort Griswold and Fort Trumbull at some point during their education. I know I've been several times. But just because I visited with school doesn't mean that I remember a whole lot from those trips (does anyone else have a hard time remembering details from elementary and middle school?). One morning J and I were brainstorming free things to do in Connecticut and we remembered back to our school trips and decided that it was high time for a revisit

Fort Griswold (and Fort Trumbull) are historic remainders from battles of the Revolutionary War that took place in Connecticut. The infamous (in CT at least) Benedict Arnold, leading British troops, captured Fort Griswold and killed about half of the American troops patrolling the area on September 6, 1781.

At Fort Griswold State Park you will see remainders of the fort including monuments, cannons, and man-made mounds of earth with tunnels. The park is open year-round and is free. On the grounds you  can also visit a tiny museum (also free) that contains both originals and replicas of artifacts found in the area. J and I also revisited the museum and I was amazed by how small the period clothes were (period clothes and ethnic clothes are my favorite displays in museums).


Monuments at Fort Griswold State Park

The entrance to Fort Griswold State Park

Bennedict Arnold and Fort Griswold

Bees pollinating Asclepus in Connecticut

A memorial to Col. William Ledyard at Fort Griswold

The Fort Griswold grounds


What school trips do you remember? Have you revisited any of the places you visited in school?

Lobstah'

Monday, August 17, 2015

Despite growing up by the shore I've never been a seafood lover. However, J was craving a lobster roll so we headed to the tiny town of Noank, Connecticut and visited not one, but two (!) different restaurants to compare their lobster rolls. This was all for research purposes of course. 

Noank, Connecticut, near the popular tourist destination of Mystic, is a sleepy town right on the Mystic River. Noank has at least three outdoor restaurants that serve seafood so fresh that it's right off the boat. 

First up, we headed to Abbott's Lobster in the Rough, a casual restaurant with both indoor and outdoor seating. Decide on your meal while waiting in the typically long line. Don't worry fellow landlubbers, there are a few options for non-seafood lovers as well, including hot dogs, salads, and burgers. J, a lobster roll aficionado, went for the favorite hot lobster roll, but it didn't quite hit the spot for him because the roll wasn't right (where was the hot dog bun?) and there wasn't nearly enough butter. My hot dog was perfectly fine (nobody can mess up a hot dog!) and my pink lemonade was perfect (the million dollar question - what makes lemonade pink?). FYI Abbott's is BYOB.

Abbott's Lobster in the Rough outdoors

Fresh seafood at Abbott's Lobster in the Rough in Noank, Connecticut

A hot lobster roll at Abbot's seafood in the rough in Noank, Connecticut

Our next stop, just down the street from Abbot's, was Ford's Lobster where we met up with friends. Ford's is a more formal sit down restaurant (though outdoors), so we put our names in and waited for a table for our large party. The wait wasn't so long - and we (well, not me) had wine and beer to tide us over - and soon we were ushered to a large table shaded with umbrellas. Again, J ordered a hot lobster roll (I think it was about 1$ more than at Abbott's) and I went with a Caprese salad. The table also ordered some calamari and oysters to share around the table. Everyone seemed to love their meals, including J, who said that his lobster roll was buttery perfection (and served on the more typical hot dog-like roll). Unfortunately, it was too dark out to take photos of the food, so you'll have to do without a glamour shot of the second lobster roll. FYI Ford's is BYOB, but they will supply glasses.

hot lobster rolls at Ford's Lobster in Noank, Connecticut



Abbott's Lobster in the Rough: 117 Pearl Street, Noank, CT  website

Ford's Lobster: 15 Riverview Ave, Noank, CT  website


Are you a seafood lover like J or a landlubber like me?

6 Cafes in SE Connecticut

Friday, August 14, 2015


Southeastern Connecticut, you are pretty lame when it comes to cafes. And don't even get me started on the cappuccinos! I've been completely spoiled by the awesome coffee culture in Vilnius and missed my time spent in cafes. Though the cafes are few and far between, I did manage to find a few reasonable cafes.

1) Muddy Waters, New London: Okay, I've talked enough about my love for Muddy Waters Cafe so I'll spare you today (posts here and here). Just go there and experience the awesomeness for yourself!





2) Green Marble, Mystic: The Green Marble is a small cafe in downtown Mystic that is always packed with locals and has event posters pinned up all over the walls. They serve brewed coffee and teas, bagels (meh - average), and pastries.



3) Bartlebees, Mystic: I've only been to Bartlebees once because I prefer that atmosphere and coffee at the Green Marble, which is almost directly across the street.

4) Ashlawn Farm Cafe, Old Saybrook: I've had take out coffee from Ashlawn Farm both in their cafe and at a stand at the Coventry Farmers Market. Ashlawn Farms roasts their own coffee, so you can expect some good brews.

5) Yellow House Cafe, Stonington Borough: What a cute cafe and light lunch spot! They had delicious bagels, nice drinks, and a cute atmosphere that I could imagine hunkering down with my laptop do get some work done in.




6) Vault Coffee Roasters, Mystic: A new spot located in Old Mystic Village that roasts their own coffee. Perhaps not a place to sit and work, but certainly a good spot if you need a caffeinated pick me up.

Where is your favorite cafe? What makes you like or dislike a cafe?

His + Hers Camera Bags

Monday, August 10, 2015



Recently, J and I both got new camera bags (him for his birthday and me for Christmas) and we've now tested them out during international trips. It takes me a while to decide if a bag works for me, particularly when traveling internationally. Now that we've both had time to take our bags for a spin I thought that we'd share our opinions in case you are looking to purchase a new camera bag for yourself. I've listed our gear below so you can see if your equipment would fit into either of these bags.

The Gear:

J: Nikon D-200, Roillei (film camera)

Me: iPhone 3 (I think?), GoPro Hero, Olympus Pen Mini

The Bags


J: J’s old LowPro bag was slowly on the way out as the zipper started to break, so I decided a new bag would be a perfect gift. I thought about going with the same bag he used to have, but selfishly decided to pick him out a slightly larger bag, so that I wouldn’t have to carry his extra cameras or a book (a frequent occurrence). After much back and forth I decided on LowPro Passport Sling because of its great reviews and its large but not huge size. The bag has a shock-resistent insert that fits his Nikon and plentiful outer pockets to fit an umbrella or a waterbottle. J likes that it doesn’t scream camera bag and that he is able to easily access his cameras.



Me: I’ve never really been one for a proper camera bag. I always just throw my camera gear into whatever bag I happen to be carrying and go. My parents absolutely kept this in mind when they gave me a Pompidoo bag. It has a padded compartment to keep my Olympus safe, space for my other cameras and a few other items (e.g., a wallet, change purse, lipstick, keys), and even has a little lock and key in case theft is a concern.  I find the bag very comfortable and practical to carry, though I do wish it was bigger so that I could fit a book (a travel essential for me). My other critique is that the strap is too long for me, and I wish it was adjustable so I could create the perfect fit.






What do you look for in a camera bag?

The Best Pasta in Connecticut

Friday, August 7, 2015


Oodles of pasta, rich sauces, and all the cheese make the perfect Italian dish. That’s what I was craving when back in Connecticut (other than delicious Asian food). Lucky for me, Paul’s Pasta in Groton makes fresh pasta and (IMO) has the best fettuccine alfredo with chicken ever. For one of our last meals during our visit in CT, my mom, dad, K (my sister), and J all headed to Paul’s Pasta to get our pasta fill.

J, K, and I all had the fettuccine alfredo with chicken, though K opted for the half portion (the full portion is so large you can eat it for two or three meals!). Of course, we absolutely enjoyed the meal, and I loved it as much for lunch the next day. My dad opted to try something new, a half-portion of the spaghetti pie, which was so huge I couldn’t believe it was only the half portion. My mom got her trusty favorite, a half portion of the lobster ravioli. The meals came with a generous basket full of warm garlic bread for the table to share and we all opted to start with a garden salad (to pretend to ‘make up’ for the cheese heavy meal). I thought that the vinaigrette dressing that I choose was a bit too watery; however, that was the only fault I could find in the meal. 

Okay, okay. I know my title is a bold statement and that many of you may disagree, but of the restaurants I've tried Paul's Pasta is my favorite. What is your favorite fresh pasta place? Where should I try next?

Delicious Italian food in Connecticut

The top restaurants in southeastern Connecticut

Lobster Ravioli


K stuffing her face!


Where is your favorite place to eat fresh pasta? Have you ever made pasta from scratch?

12 Free Things to do in Connecticut

Monday, August 3, 2015



Sticker shock. After spending a full year in Lithuania I couldn't get over the prices of things (mainly food and activities) while visiting Connecticut this summer. To lessen the burden on my wallet (and help the not ideal exchange rate a bit) I searched for free things to do and see in Southeastern Connecticut. Pretty much everything I was able to come up with are outdoor activities, best for a sunny day, but after such a long winter in Vilnius who can blame me to want to be outside?

1) Fort Griswold and Fort Trumbull, located in Groton and New London, are historic sites from the Revolutionary War. They are perfect for simply taking a walk in a green space, or for learning more about the history of the area. Bonus! There is a free museum at Fort Griswold!

The entrance to Fort Griswold State Park in Groton, Connecticut


2) Harkness Park is free to enter after about 6 pm in the summer. Harkness is one of my favorite local parks for picnics and walks on the beach.

3) Many State Forests, including Pachaug State Forest, are free to both enter and park. Pachaug State forest is my favorite of the bunch because of the impressive Rhododendron forest where J proposed. Be sure to visit in July for the gorgeous full display of blooms!

Rhododendron in bloom at Pachaug State Forest in Connecticut


4) Devil's Hopyard State Park has a 60 ft waterfall, hiking trails, and a covered bridge.

5) Vineyards. Connecticut has a whole wine trail made up of about 24 vineyards spread across the state. Though not 100% free if you go for a tasting or buy a bottle of wine (the tasting at Saltwater Farms was 10$), the vineyard grounds are free to enjoy.



Grape vines at Saltwater Marsh Vineyards


6) Groton Long Point has free weekly concerts at Esker Point Beach each Thursday night from 6 to 8 pm. Parking costs 10 bucks, but if you arrive early you can easily find free street parking. Bring a picnic and blanket for the ground to make a night of it.

7) The Connecticut College Arboretum is awesome! Located just a short drive from downtown New London, the arboretum is beautifully landscaped and they offer free guided tours on Saturdays.

The Connecticut College Arboretum is free to visit in Connecticut


8) Concerts in the Wolf Den at Mohegan Sun are free to watch - and they get a surprisingly good musicians. I'm talking Matt Nathanson, LeAnn Rimes, and Grand Funk Railroad. Just check the schedule! Keep in mind that you need to be 21 and have a valid license to enter this area of the casino.

9) I only recently discovered Indian Leap Falls on an in search of with my Dad. It's a beautiful park with old train tracks and a crystal clear waterfall. If you happen to visit Indian Leap Falls be sure to pick up a cheesesteak from Philly's that's just down the road.

Indian Leap Falls in southeastern Connecticut


10) A visit to Buttonwood Farms Ice Cream should definitely be on your free list. Don't get your hopes up - they don't serve free ice cream, but they do plant fields and fields of sunflowers that you can wander through for free.

Buttonwood Farms Ice Cream


11) Old Town Mill in New London is another recent find in a totally unexpected location. Visiting the grounds of the Old Town Mill is free and is absolutely worth a wander if you've never been before.

The Old Town Mill in New London, Connecticut

12) Enjoy a self-guided tour of the awesome street art in downtown New London. While you are in the downtown be sure to pick up a coffee and muffin at Muddy Waters Cafe (42 Bank Street), or eat in one of the delicious restaurants (I'm dying to try Lazy Leopard at 45 Bank Street).



--> Looking for more to do in Connecticut? Check out this list of 50 things to do or click the Connecticut tab at the top of the page. <--


What free things can you do where you live? Expats - have you ever been shocked by prices when visiting home?