Tag Archives: Travel

200th Post about 200 Things About Me

30 Apr

Well here I am at my 200th post. Crazy to think that a lack of employment and a need to complain about life has gotten me here. And by ‘here’ I mean about as broke and weird as I was when I started this, but now with a job that makes me wake up early (I understand that 8 o’clock isn’t really early, but I still hate it)

I decided to celebrate my 200th post by posting 200 random things that haven’t made it into posts and probably never will, but are still pretty significant parts of my life. Included in that are: websites I love, things in general that I hate, places I want to go to, favorites, a bunch of weird stuff.

So check out my list of 200 Erica Things:

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Go Greek! Lamb Kebabs and Tzatziki Sauce

5 Apr

Three years ago, around this time, I was touring Italy and Greece with some really wonderful friends. Ah, I love saying that, it makes me sound like some spoiled rich girl

Me in Mykonos

Obligatory show-off photo

when in reality most of my travel time was spent eating Nutella sandwiches, drinking 3 euro bottles of wine and sleeping in hostels.

So many things stick with me from that trip. Landscapes that I sometimes still can’t believe I actually experienced. I’ll think of scaling cliffs in Mykonos and get chills. Priceless, precious memories that I wouldn’t trade for anything. And then of course, there’s the food.

Since visiting Athens and Mykonos I have become obsessed with Greek food, particularly lamb kebabs which were also a big meal in England. They are the ultimate form of perfection. I can’t even do them justice with words.

Since I am unfortunately not Greek, I don’t have the secrets of Greek cuisine. But Alex and I have put our heads to the cutting board and created an Americanized  version of the lamb kebab that is really simple and really delicious, especially in the summer. Opa!

Lamb Kebab with Tzatziki and Grilled Potato Wedges

Ingredients (feeds three-four)
Tzatziki Sauce
1 tub (16 oz) plain, non-fat Greek yogurt
1/2 large cucumber
1 tablespoon hot sauce
2 teaspoons minced garlic
2 tablespoons Cavender’s All-Purpose Greek seasoning
1/2 teaspoon lemon juice

Kebabs
1 1/2- 2 lbs ground lamb
1 large egg
1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs
2 tablespoons Cavender’s Greek seasoning
1 tablespoon minced garlic
2 tablespoons diced white onion
1 tablespoon salt
1/2 tablespoon pepper
Large pinch of dried rosemary, chopped fine

Potato Wedges
3 large baking potatoes
Kosher salt
Pepper

Olive oil, for grilling
Pita bread
Lettuce, tomato, white onion, cucumber for garnishing

Recipe

Tzatziki
Straining the yogurt
1. Strain the liquid out of your Greek yogurt for about two hours. Now fancy Food Network stars will tell you to do this by purchasing $4 worth of cheese cloth for a two hour little blip on your radar. If you’re cheap like me, you’ll realize this is a crazy thing to do and refuse to do so. So do what I do. Take three paper towels, lightly dampen them, and rubber band them around the top of a bowl. Then use that to strain your yogurt. Use what you got, and feel like you’re in a Bounty commercial in the process. You can also use a very fine mesh strainer.

Chop your cucumbers
2. When all the liquid is out of the yogurt, it will almost appear crumbly, more like Play Dough than yogurt. While you wait, take your cucumber, remove the skin, dice it and then run it into a pulp through a food processor. The cucumber is extremely watery, which is okay. That’s why you’ve strained your yogurt!

Mixing Tzatziki ingredients
3. In a large bowl, combine your yogurt, cucumber, hot sauce, garlic, lemon juice and seasoning. Stir and season to taste. Cover it and let sit for about a half hour, or however long it takes to make the remainder of the meal.

Potato Wedges
Boiling potatoes
1. While the yogurt strains, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Heavily salt the water, then add your potatoes whole with the skins on and par-boil for about 15-20 minutes.

2. Allow the potatoes to cool, then cut then into 1/10 wedges, or as big as the typical steak fry. Drizzle them with olive oil.
My man grilling
3. Grill wedges until crispy on the outside, then place in a warming oven and season with salt, pepper and malt vinegar if desired.

Kebabs
Shaping the lamb kebabs
1. In a large bowl combine the lamb, egg, panko bread crumbs, garlic, onion and spices. Shape the mixture into a shape about the size of a sausage link and slide the kebabs onto metal skewers. You should get about 9 kebabs from 2 pounds of meat.
Opa!
2. Drizzle kebabs lightly with olive oil, then grill for about ten minutes on each side or until the lamb is cooked through. Serve with tzatziki, potato wedges, pita bread and toppings and enjoy!

Click here for printable recipes!

Try This: The Works at Mac’s

1 Mar

There is nothing better to me on a sunny day then settling in at a bar in Philadelphia, having a few beers, and watching a game on tv. Alex and I did that the other day at Mac’s Tavern in Philadelphia (yes, the same Mac’s Tavern that is owned by “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia’s” Rob and Kait McElhenney).

After two or three (or four…or five… who’s counting?) beers Alex and I were feeling a bit starving. This is the reason I love Philadelphia. You can walk into any ordinary bar on any ordinary street and find out-of-this-world food. Unbelievably amazing, ridiculously delicious options that you never thought you would find. Mac’s is no exception. This is the second time I’ve eaten here, but people rave about certain dishes on their menu, like their meatball hoagie and lobster mac and cheese. Alex and I were feeling the buzz and needed something big, greasy and terrible for you, so we opted for The Works.

Ohhhh The Works. The Works. I’m getting emotional just thinking about it. A huge plate of chunky fries smothered in the best gravy you’ve ever had, ginormous slices of steak, thick-cut bacon, onions and mushrooms, then topped with ridiculously gooey mozzarella cheese. It’s like the ultimate drunk food, but classier and better than anything you could ever make drunk.

Life doesn’t get any better than good game, a beer, some food and a bar. Wait… I take that back. It only gets better when you have the french fries of the gods. The servers and bartenders at Mac’s better prepared for me to invade their bar when baseball season starts….

*Note* I did not take a photo of these beauties while I was there, but if someone reads this and decides to share one with me I would love it!

The Caribou Cafe: France in Philadelphia

22 Feb

This weekend Alex and I spent a lovely two nights in Philadelphia. Some may see that as bonkers, since you can literally see the Philly skyline from Alex’s backyard. The thing is, Philadelphia is packed with some of -in my opinion- the most amazing bars and restaurants in the country, a lot of places we have always wanted to go to but never indulged in. So this weekend we threw our seemingly endless saving spree out the window and tried a few of our favorite restaurants, and bars in full, gluttonous, heavenly style.

By our hotel on Walnut Street there was this little cafe that I had never seen before but grabbed my attention right away called the Caribou Cafe. It had adorable outdoor seating, fenced off with a wall of plants. The windows were painted with gold lettering of French foods with lace curtains between each of the light brown wood window sills, and I could see the warm orange paint and people sipping coffees inside.

I was instantly taken to my first morning in Paris during my time studying abroad in London. We had no idea where we were or what we were doing, but we were starving. We got off the metro and turned into the first cafe we could find, a quintessentially French little eatery. There couldn’t have been a more perfect place to have enjoyed my first French meal. Tucked along the Seine, with the Eifel Tower placed perfectly in the background, we enjoyed wine and Croque Monsieurs. It will always serve as my perfectly ideal image of Paris.

The Caribou Cafe instantly took me back to that morning and fed my French obsession. I knew I would love it before I even walked in the door. On our last morning in Philly Alex and I walked over for brunch. Walking through their velvet yellow curtains into the cafe I fell in love all over again. This place is beautiful. The bright orange walls compliment rows of dark tables and chairs and their bar, one of the most gorgeous bars in Philadelphia. On top of the counter sits a champagne bucket with three of their finest bottles sitting on ice and two massive silver lamps, shaped like elegant women, with a wall of more champagne, obscure liquors and beers lining the counters behind. I couldn’t stop gushing the entire time.

The menu is exquisitely French, of course. Escargots, quiche du jour, croque madame and monsieur, crepes, moules frites… oh gosh I shouldn’t keep going. Alex chose eggs benedict on a bed of spinach that he went nuts for, but cooked spinach and I do not get along so I avoided a taste of that. I chose their French Philly cheesesteak, sliced ribeye on brioche, with brie cheese, sauteed mushrooms, honey dijon mustard and a pile of frites. Unbelievable. The ribeye was cooked perfectly, the bread was fresh and toasted and the brie. Oh my gosh, the brie. This was without a doubt one of the best meals I have had this year, and I’m already dying to go back and try more.

I spent so much time planning this weekend and the thing I fell into was one of my favorite and most memorable stops. If you’re a francophile stop by the Caribou Cafe. You will be stunned. Also, they have a free beer deal on FourSquare, so stop by and enjoy a free Kronenburg!

Happy LonDay!

27 Jan

If it was actually 10 a.m. in London three years ago and not today (I know that’s a stretch but it’s how I see it) my plane would have been landing in Heathrow airport for the beginning of my 5 month stint living in London. Which is why every year I celebrate today, LonDay, by being as English as possible. Last year I made bangers and mash, this year I’m going a cheaper route with a Dairy Milk bar and some English Breakfast tea.

I would define myself as an Anglophile. That means someone who is totally obsessed with English culture and England in general. If I had a guaranteed job and some money there would be nothing stopping me from living back in London again. It’s the best place on earth, and I have so many wonderful memories.

Katie, Me, Lizz and Laura outside of the Colosseum in Rome with our European boyfriends

I owe a lot of who I am to my time studying abroad at Kingston University. First of all I would have never really bonded with my boyfriend Alex if it wasn’t for our long, late night talks after trips home from the bar. I mean about 90 percent of the foundation of our relationship began based around my time in London and the fact that he was always there when I needed someone to talk to at 3 in the morning. He was the first person who reached out to me when I landed in London and the first person to reach out to me when I got off the plane in the United States five months later. And then, when he went to London exactly one year later, as much as it hurt, I made sure to be there every night for his trip back home. And I’m not going anywhere.

The friends that I made while studying abroad are an amazing group of individuals that I feel so lucky to have met. People that I never could have imagined deserving to know, and people that made the entire semester the amazing experience that it was. Honestly, I look at the people I met while in England and think “Jeeze, how do these people actually like talking to me still? They must still be buzzed from study abroad.”

Jump shot in front of the Louvre with Sara

I’m lucky to have such adventurous friends. Let’s face it, college-goers, sitting around your friend’s dorm room drinking Natty and watching guys play XBox all weekend isn’t fun. Getting a group of 8 people to hop a bus with you to Edinburgh, Scotland for the weekend? That’s fun. Studying abroad gave me the chance to meet people like me, people who couldn’t sit still long enough to be bored. I’ve never done so much in such a short time, and I loved it. I could have never imagined getting on a boat in the middle of the Greek Islands to go meet up with your friends in Mykonos. Oh what did you do this weekend? Oh, just met up with my friends who were hanging out at a tropical island in Greece. No big dealio.

Camden Town in Greater London

I’m really thankful for London. When I came there for the first time in 2007 I fell in love. I never knew I could have such an emotional attachment to a place, but I did. The city is so amazingly diverse, the people are so genuinely interesting and unique, it’s a place I was meant to live in. When I returned in 2009 I really had no idea what my life was about. I was in between majors and generally tired of being stuck in New Jersey doing the same thing every day. I’m not the type of person who can just settle into a place and sit still, I have to get up and go. London gave me that opportunity every single day. From Central London and Westminster to Notting Hill and Camden and, of course, Chelsea, there were so many different places, all more wonderful than the last. It helped me figure out who I am. Being alone in a new place without the glare of people that thought they understood who I was helped me realize that I wasn’t what everyone just assumed I was supposed to be. It gets harder to see that now, being back in the same situations, but days like today remind me not to give up on who I really am.

If you are currently a student in college, one about to go to college, or a student considering college I cannot stress this enough: study abroad. I guarantee that it will change your life. I have become a more-grounded, understanding and tolerant person because of my time overseas. The world is full of different and unique people that aren’t going to change to fit your standards, and the best way to learn that is by getting on a plane and seeing all that the world has to offer. You don’t get many opportunities in life to just pack up and go, and when you do you better get up and do it. Step away from the frat parties and “Family Guy” reruns for a semester and go meet new people. Make new friends. See sights that you never thought you would. Experience the world. Experience life.

My Wild Weekend

29 Aug

After a totally insane and exhausting work week, I finally got to go on my very, very anticipated trip to Boston with Alex. We’ve had this trip planned for months, and it was really necessary for us to just get away to maintain our sanity.

On 9:30 Thursday morning we got up and got ready to finally go! The ride was so much fun: we actually stopped for lunch at Super Duper Weenie, a hot dog joint in Connecticut that was on Guy Fieri’s “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives.” I don’t think I need to explain how good it was, but yeah it was awesome. Besides that we listened to music, joked and talked about Boston. We were so excited to just be with each other, not worrying about parents calling us to do this or that, no one to interrupt our conversations, just the two of us.

We got to Boston a little late, because driving through the nightmare that is New York City slowed us down. I seriously hate New York City. An eight dollar toll to drive through a bridge that takes 2 hours to get through? Yeah, lets not talk about it. When we got to Boston we had just enough time to get dressed and head out to dinner.

Alex and I are serious foodies. I don’t think I would do as good of a job without him, because he knows how to research and find the best spots to eat. For dinner the first night Alex found The Union Oyster House. The Oyster House is the oldest restaurant in the United States, There is a raw bar there from the 1800’s. It is so old that it is on a tilt from people constantly resting their arms on it. It was one of the most interesting restaurants I’ve ever been to, and it might just be the best damn restaurant in the world.  Raw clams, oysters, New England Clam Chowder, Lobster Newburg… oh my god. I’m telling you, this place is bananas. Get off the computer, drive up to Massachusetts and eat your face off at the Union Oyster House.

Our tour guide

The next day we took a tour of the Freedom Trail. The Freedom Trail is an actual red line that runs about five miles through the city. It leads tourists through the city, taking them to the most significant historical monuments, like the Old North Church or the U.S.S. Constitution. We had this awesome tour guide that took us around to some of the most historical areas of Boston and told us fun little facts. Even when you’re traveling on a budget, I always suggest getting a professional tour of areas that you are interested in: the best part about it is that each tour guide offers new and really interesting historical facts that you can’t find in history books or online. Our tour guide actually had descendants from as far back as Plymouth Rock that he shared facts about. For the price I played I really learned some interesting things that I never about. Boston is a seriously interesting city, and a lot of the things we learned in our history books as kids were really fabricated and fussed about.

I am not ashamed of this.

We stopped for lunch at Wagamama’s. For any and all residents of the Boston area, or anyone living in the United Kingdom/ Europe: GO TO WAGAMAMA’S. I cannot stress this enough. I first found this awesome Asian restaurant when I travelled to the UK in 2007 with my high school class. I mean, it makes friggin gourmet ramen noodles. That should be enough to get a person into the restaurant in the first place. I think I wanted to go there so bad, though, because I hadn’t seen one since my trip to study abroad. I have great memories with great friends at Wagamama’s: meeting up after class every Wednesday night for Yaki Soba then hitting up the bars around the area, we were pretty much always in there. Obviously when we got into the Wagamama’s I had to act like a nutjob, taking a ton of pictures and texting everyone I had ever met while living in the U.K. Plus, Alex, who had also lived in the same area as I had one year after me, had never actually visited one of these wonderful establishments, and I simply couldn’t let him go on living without trying some sick, made to order Asian sensations.

It was around the end of our afternoon that Hurricane Irene got in the way. We went back to the hotel to prepare for our night, flipped on the television, and boom. Oh, the horror, Oh the humanity! Every station was filled with people going absolutely bat-out-of-hell-bonkers over Irene. They had evacuated New York City… seriously? New York City? Is that physically possible? So there goes our ride home, kapoot. Then we find out the hurricane was scheduled to reach our neighborhoods at home by around 2 p.m. the next day, so we had to be home before that. We weren’t done our vacation, it felt like we had just gotten there, but we already had to start wrapping it up.

Yawkey Way

Our last stop of the night was Fenway Park to catch a Red Sox game. I was pretty much exhausted beyond belief and I was still upset from all of this Irene poppycock, so I wasn’t as excited as I wanted to be, but it turned out to be pretty cool anyway. Let me clarify, first and foremost, that I am not a Red Sox fan. I have never been a Red Sox fan and I will never be a Red Sox fan. I am a baseball fan, and since Fenway Park is celebrating 100 years of existence we thought it was a good idea to check out one of the oldest baseball establishments there is. From the outside Fenway is very very cool. It has its own private street, Yawkey Way, that opens up for pre-game drinking, eating and celebrating. Inside Fenway, I thought, was a little less than I expected. It was pretty dirty, pretty old-looking and I thought it could have been kept up much better. But I am biased: my favorite baseball field is only seven years old.

Al and I onboard the U.S.S. Constitution, the oldest active U.S. war ship

The Red Sox got slaughtered by the Oakland A’s, so we left in the middle of the sixth inning to get back to the hotel and get some rest before our 5:30 a.m. wake-up call home. We wanted to see Sam Adams on Saturday, and we wanted to make a stop at another “D.D.D.” restaurant on the way home, but none of that was going to pan out. We were getting ready for a long, rainy, traffic-packed ride home, which didn’t end up being that bad after all. It took us about five hours of smooth driving and clear weather to get home, once we figured out an alternate route that would avoid NYC entirely (thank goodness). We had enough time to stop at Shop Rite (also not as insane as I predicted), make lunch, nap and hang out before the actual hurricane Irene rain started. Even when it did it wasn’t actually that bad. I wasn’t too happy about that: if I had to abandon my vacation plans I expected fire and brimstone from this bitchy hurricane, but now that I look at it with a clear head I realize how lucky we all were to have been safe and sound.

It was a totally crazy and unexpected weekend. Sure it definitely ended too quickly, I could have used another 24 hours of alone time with my man, but we got to spend some really great time together with his family. I feel lucky to have had the time we had together, and even luckier that we are all safe and no harm was done. Plus, with the money we saved cutting our trip short we can afford another mini-vacation in the fall!

Counting Down the Days

21 Aug

Today is my third day out of six days working in a row, so I’m half way there. Half way done my work shift and half way to my vacation! On Thursday Alex and I are driving up to Boston for a couple of days to see a baseball game and just relax.

It is a little tiring to be working six days in a row but it’s pretty great that I am getting the hours and the money, so I really don’t mind one bit. Plus it just gives me more to look forward to once my shift on Wednesday ends and all I have to do is kick back and enjoy my vacation. I am, however, getting some pretty sick cashier’s arms… which is basically when my upper arms get super store from standing there and lifting heavier things like milk and jugs of watermelons and cases of weird organic probiotic drinks. Maybe after enough Kambuchas that means I’ll have some sick muscles and look like this chick…

But probably hopefully not.

So here I am, a couple days from my best friend coming home for a while and from my vacation to Boston! Why Boston, you ask? Well, to be honest it wasn’t our first choice. We knew we needed to get away for a few days, because living at home is one of the most awful things on the planet and we desperately needed a break from being surrounded by people all day every day. We wanted to do a cruise after graduation but we couldn’t find a job early on in the summer and finances kind of cut it back to something way less lavish. Next we knew we wanted to see a famous ballpark. I would rather get eaten by wolves then step food in Yankees Stadium, Chicago was too expensive of a trip to drive and everything else was way too far, so Alex found cheap tickets to Boston and we went from there!

I have a lot to look forward to in the next few days, but right now all I want is for time to start moving faster! I mean this last half hour has moved so slowly that I can’t imagine how the rest of the day will be. Time to wait it out I guess…