My coffee mug reminds me to blog about Quebec

As I was sitting at the kitchen table the other day, coffee mug in hand and halfway through inhaling a biscotti (I know you’re supposed to take your time to enjoy those things, but whatever), I was suddenly reminded of the fact that I have yet to blog about my trip to Quebec this past August. I’m pretty sure I’m experiencing memory lapses because of the stress of the semester. It’s not like this is my first time using the mug I bought in Quebec’s Old Town. There’s French words sprinkled across the entire thing to remind me, for crying out loud.

Realizing I forgot to blog about a trip that I went on 2 months ago.
Image courtesy thedailyquirk.com.

So, here it is, the long-overdue blog post.

Around mid-July, my mother looks up from her iPad and casually says, “Let’s take a trip to Quebec this summer.”

I scoffed at the idea. Not only did we have less than a month to plan this little adventure, but the idea of yet another family road trip gave me a headache. I’m actually quite certain there’s an equation to determine the exact moment during a family vacation that we’ll all start fighting. You take the number of hours trapped in a car whose back seats fail to recline + the number of passengers in the car X the number of minutes you’ve gone without checking your social media sites because you’ve crossed the border and no longer have network connection. Obviously.

Long drives are the worst when I’m not behind the wheel.
Image courtesy of buzzfeed.com.

Next thing you know, I have about 20 browser tabs open, and I’m struggling to find a hotel that will meet my mother’s standards.

“That hotel looks a little cardboard-ish,” she says, head tilted down and glasses perched at the end of her nose as she takes a sip of her coffee and Bailey’s.

“Cardboard-ish?!” I exclaim, ready to abandon my post as travel agent at any moment. I still have yet to figure out what she meant by that description.

Finally, after three hours of comparing booking sites and harping at my father to fork over the money, we were all set to go.

Mid-August rolls around and we pile into the car. My younger brother and I squished into the backseat, and I realized that we still fight like we’re 8 and 12 years old again. Some things never change.

Eight hours and one pit stop at my grandmother’s later, we arrive at our hotel in Quebec. There’s French signs everywhere. What looks like a French-Canadian version of the National Enquirer lingers on a hotel lobby coffee table. Conversations in French are all I hear as I stand waiting for the hotel elevator. And I can’t speak a single sentence of the language.

Image courtesy of rachadams.com.

Thank the good sweet Lord above that almost every single person also spoke English. Their bilingual abilities evidently made me feel like I had been severely lacking in my education. That’s it. Time to fork over the money for Rosetta Stone.

Instead of recounting every detail of a family vacation that consisted of miles of walking, many moments of fighting, and hours of eating, I figured it’s best to let the photos do the talking. With that being said, here are my favorite snapshots of our spur-of-the-moment summer road trip.

My mother, the coffee snob that she is, was craving a cappuccino the moment we set foot in the city. We enjoyed coffee at L'espace MC Chef

My mother, the coffee snob that she is, was craving a cappuccino the moment we set foot in the city. We enjoyed coffee at L’espace MC Chef.

Walking along the boardwalk by Le Chateau Frontenac in Old Town

Walking along the boardwalk by Le Chateau Frontenac in Old Town

Looking up at Le Chateau Frontenac, situated by the St. Lawrence River in Old Town.

Looking up at Le Chateau Frontenac, situated by the St. Lawrence River in Old Town.

Every time we walked by buildings with flowers along the sides, she would shout, "Take a picture of those flowers!"  Here you go, Mom.

Every time we walked by buildings with flowers along the sides, my mom would shout, “Take a picture of those flowers!”
Here you go, Mom. 

We couldn't have asked for better weather when we took a 20-minute trip outside of the city to Montmorency Falls (which happen to be 30 m higher than Niagara Falls).

We couldn’t have asked for better weather when we took a 20-minute trip outside of the city to Montmorency Falls (which happen to be 30 m higher than Niagara Falls).

Shopping in Rue du Petit Champlain. My mother insisted on a photo of my brother and I.

Shopping in Rue du Petit Champlain. My mother insisted on a photo of my brother and I.

Also outside of the city is the Basilica of Sainte Anne de Beaupré, where people have walked in crippled and have come out healed. Walkers, canes, and other helping hands rest near the entrance.

Also outside of the city is the Basilica of Sainte Anne de Beaupré, where people have walked in crippled and have come out healed. Walkers, canes, and other helping hands rest near the entrance.

We thankfully made it back safe and sound across the border. I look forward to heading back to the city soon, but in the meantime, I better start practicing my French.

-Morgan

It’s time to plan a coffee shop road trip

I’m sitting at my kitchen table as I write this blog post thinking, “If only I could pour myself a cup of coffee right now.” Unfortunately, it’s almost 10:30pm, and any amount of caffeine in my system at this hour would result in me watching Bravo TV till the early hours of the morning.

My morning routine summed up in a gif.
Image courtesy of imgur.com.

Coffee is such a staple part of my being that I’m surprised I haven’t written a post about it yet. It’s a welcome aroma after a tough morning workout, an energy-booster during an afternoon slump, and a delicious nightcap after dinner. I purposely ignore all those health cleanses that urge us to cut back from coffee.

Without coffee, “I stop doing the standing.”
Image courtesy of gurl.com.

And we can’t forget the role coffee shops have played in the movies. There wouldn’t be You’ve Got Mail without Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan frequenting the same Starbucks. There wouldn’t be Bridesmaids if Kristen Wiig and Maya Rudolf didn’t bond over a cup of coffee while discussing last night’s activities (Okay, that movie would probably still exist with or without that scene, but you get my point).

At the beginning of the summer, my mother casually mentioned in conversation, “Let’s road trip across the country and stop at all the favorite coffee shops along the way. We’ll go on a Coffee Shop Road Trip.”

Speaking of my mother, it’s important to mention that my friends and I all refer to her as The Coffee Snob, and it’s for a good reason. This is a woman who will want to walk out of a restaurant if she sees a Bunn-O-Matic coffee maker on the counter (apparently, it doesn’t brew a decent cup o’ joe) and who now has her own burr grinder because the store didn’t “grind her coffee beans the correct way.” If I were to hit the wide open road with her, I’d be sure to encounter some top-notch cafes.

Well, the summer flew by, and we didn’t make the time to embark on this road trip. There’s always next year though, which is why it’s time to start compiling a list of coffee shops that we’ll have to travel to if we ever do end up clamoring into the car and heading across the country. Below are three coffee shops that are only the start to what I hope will be a lengthy list:

1. Bird Rock Coffee Roasters

This coffee shop was named Roast Magazine’s 2012 Micro Coffee Roaster of the Year, and they are committed to cultivating sustainable relationships with the farmers who grow their coffee. According to their website, they pay 50-100% over the Fair Trade contract price and focus on helping the farmers produce the best possible coffee through experiments and investment. The shop is located in La Jolla, California with another shop coming soon to Little Italy in San Diego.

Bird Rock's season espresso.  Image courtesy of birdrockcoffee.com.

Bird Rock’s season espresso.
Image courtesy of birdrockcoffee.com.

2. Blue Bottle Coffee 

I’ve been hearing a lot about this coffee company recently, from my mother telling me about its excellence to articles appearing on my Twitter feed. The background story featured on their website is worth the read, and it will make the prices of their bagged coffees a little less intimidating. They have locations on both coasts, so Mom and I would most likely make a pit stop in one of their California locations.

What a beautiful sight.
Image courtesy of bluebottlecoffee.com.

3. Stumptown Coffee

Stumptown is another coffee company that prides itself on the relationships it sustains with the farmers. As they say on their website, “From plant to portafilter, we pay homage to these folks through our own fervent attention to detail at every step.” They have locations in Portland, Los Angeles, New York, and Seattle, so it looks like it’s the West Coast yet again for mom and me. I read a blog post about Stumptown’s resident Camp Coffee Expert and pioneer about how to brew coffee when out in the wilderness that sold me on the prospect of checking out this coffee company.

I need to find a way to get my hands on Stumptown’s Cold Brew. It’s only available in select stores that are, of course, nowhere near me.
Image courtesy of flickr.com.

I can’t wait to add more coffee shops to the list, but it’s now ten minutes to midnight, and I have to be up in six hours. Thank God for my morning cup o’ joe.

-Morgan

My (very) mini road trip to the Adirondacks

Where did the time go? Last time I checked, it was the end of June, and I vehemently said to myself that I would consistently blog over the summer. A big LOL to that idea. But, new waves of motivation are washing over me (at least I’d like to think so) now that I just completed my first few days back at college. With two years under my belt already, I greeted campus in the way you would greet a close friend. It was a welcome sight after three months away.

My reaction now that I look back on my initial goal of consistently blogging this summer.
Image courtesy of blogs.edweek.org

In between interning and working this summer, I took a couple of much-needed road trips. The season still screams “vacation” for me even though it’s been a few years since I’ve had a real “summer vacation.” So, in early August, I took a mini (and I mean mini) road trip up to the Adirondacks. Despite being only up in the northern New York region for a day, the joy of being on the open road in a familiar territory I’ve traveled to since a young age was a nostalgic feeling,

When I was little, my immediate family and relatives would take a yearly camping trip to the Adirondacks, shuffling between places that included Lake George, Long Lake, and Old Forge. When it came time to head to Camp Guggenheim at 13 years old with my cousin of the same age, the mountainous region felt like my second home. Little did I know that this almost 40-year-old Catholic recreational camp would be the reason I’d keep coming back to the mountains.

I’m now too old to attend Guggenheim myself, but some of my close “camp” friends have grown into the role of counselors. How fitting that I now have an excuse to return to the place that played a huge part in my upbringing. I can’t think of a better reason for taking a road trip than visiting old friends.

I ventured to both Saranac Lake and Lake Placid, NY during my short stay and caught up with said friends, some of whom I hadn’t seen in two years. Below are a few pictures from my Adirondack jaunt.

View of Lower Saranac Lake from Camp Guggenheim

View of Lower Saranac Lake from Camp Guggenheim.

Lake Placid Olympic Center, home of the 1980 "Miracle on Ice," at dusk.

Lake Placid Olympic Center, home of the 1980 “Miracle on Ice,” at dusk.

Panoramic view of Mirror Lake in Lake Placid. This is one of many locations for the annual IRONMAN race.

Panoramic view of Mirror Lake in Lake Placid. This is one of many locations for the annual IRONMAN race.

After returning from the place that was home to the 1980 Olympics’ “Miracle on Ice,” I wondered if there were other pop culture connections to the Adirondack region. In recent years, movies including Frozen River, The Place Beyond the Pines, and The Good Shepherd have used the Adirondacks as their filming locations. Melissa Leo, Ryan Gosling, Bradley Cooper, and Robert DeNiro are just a few of the stars who have most likely graced the region with their presence.

The 1980 “Miracle on Ice” brought to the big screen in the movie “Miracle” is one of the many reasons to venture to Lake Placid, NY.
Image courtesy of pinterest.com.

I guess I’m not the only one who loves the winding roads, looming trees, and glistening lakes that are staples of the well-known New York region. The next time there happens to be a movie filming in the area, I’ll try to plan my road trip then in order to catch a glimpse of the A-Listers.

-Morgan

 

 

 

 

Royal Pains is my “new” show of choice

This summer amidst interning and working, I’ve spent a good portion of my break from school binge-watching Netflix. As soon as spring semester ended, I got hooked on The Vampire Diaries, embarrassed as I am to admit it. Then June 6th rolled around, and I’m sure you can guess what show I was attuned to for the next week. Now that I’ve finished the second season of Orange is the New Black, I don’t know what to do with myself.

I danced for joy when OITNB’s second season premiered on Netflix.
Image courtesy of enlightenedmatriarch.blogspot.com.

Then I subsequently cried when I finished the season and realized I have to wait yet another year for season three.
Image courtesy of giphy.com.

Leave it to my grandmother to introduce me to my slowly-growing newest obsession, Royal Pains. Although I’m only four episodes in to the first season, it has officially grabbed my attention. I’m a sucker for any type of medical show, hence my never-ending love for Grey’s Anatomy, and this seems to have the right amount of drama and medical plot line for my liking.

So happy I found another Netflix show I can waste my time watching.
Image courtesy of herb-walsh.tumblr.com.

It doesn’t hurt that Mark Feuerstein is the show’s star. He swept me off my feet the first time I watched the film In Her Shoes, and now I fawn over him every time he comes on the screen.

Swoon.
Image courtesy of tvismypacifier.com.

The show features Feuerstein’s character as a diagnostic surgeon working as a concierge doctor in the Hamptons. Dr. Hank Lawson acts as a Robin Hood of sorts, caring for the rich who desire privacy above everything else and helping the poor who can’t afford to receive medical attention.

The reason I’m writing about Royal Pains is because of the show’s location. Previously, my knowledge of the Hamptons consisted of its mention in the 2004 movie White Chicks where two undercover FBI brothers head to the group of villages as part of  an investigation into the corruption encircling a wealthy elite.

And talk about wealthy. Royal Pains features some of the most gorgeous homes (or should I say mansions?) that serve as the wealthy elite and celebrities’ go-to destinations during the warmer months.

One of the locations seen in the show is the sprawling Oheka Castle located in Huntington, NY. The castle is now worth a reported $110 million and is a top venue for weddings, galas, and other events. Recent renovations have led to the restoration of 70% of the estate with plans to revamp the rest of the property in the future. In addition to Royal Pains, Oheka Castle has served as the backdrop in Citizen Kane and other media productions.

The Oheka Castle serves as the home of a wealthy elite on Royal Pains.
Image courtesy of oheka.com.

Main Street in Southampton also serves as a filming location for the show, displaying its many local stores. There are frequent scenes of Dr. Hank Lawson walking down the street.

Main Street in Southampton.
Image courtesy of trip advisor.com.

 

Other locations on Long Island stand in for Hamptons spots including Oyster Bay and Locust Valley. So, I might as well just tour all of Long Island while I’m at it. Who knows? Maybe I’ll get the opportunity to swoon over Mark Feuerstein in person. Fingers crossed.

-Morgan

 

Do yourself a favor and watch Duke Dumont’s new music video

I used to love watching music videos. In my early teens, I’d watch CMT every morning, relishing in how artists chose to tell a story through the music. I hate to say it, but I rarely watch music videos anymore. It’s not because I no longer appreciate them but because the hands on the clock don’t move slow enough for me to find time to enjoy them.

But recently, I found the time to appreciate a music video again. Thanks to a Buzzfeed article, I discovered a song that not only echoes the excitement of summer, but rejuvenates the feeling of wanderlust I have yet to shake off. It was just what I needed amidst a busy work week.

Producer Duke Dumont’s latest song “I Got You” features tropical-sounding beats and a melody that’ll make you wish you had your toes in the sand. The video is even better than the song itself. After putting on a virtual reality helmet, the star of the video experiences a tropical paradise of beautiful views, crystal-clear waters, and gorgeous beaches that’ll have anyone wishing they were hopping on a plane right now.

I’ve already written about my desire to travel to Thailand, and this video is a reaffirmation of that. Viewers are given a tour of Thailand from Bangkok to Phuket, and the sights are mesmerizing. Below are screenshots from the music video that are just a few of the places featured.

Screenshot courtesy of Duke Dumont's "I Got You" music video

Screenshot courtesy of Duke Dumont’s “I Got You” music video

Screen Shot 2014-06-05 at 4.20.03 PM

Screenshot courtesy of Duke Dumont’s “I Got You” music video

 

Screenshot courtesy of Duke Dumont's "I Got You" music video

Screenshot courtesy of Duke Dumont’s “I Got You” music video

Screen Shot 2014-06-05 at 4.19.07 PM

Screenshot courtesy of Duke Dumont’s “I Got You” music video

It looks like I’m going to have to get back into the habit of watching music videos. Maybe I’ll discover yet another place I need to visit.

-Morgan