Author Archives: AliciaPuputti

Oh the places I’ve been…My favorite travel photos from 2010 – today!

I’ve never been much of a photographer. During college, most of my photos were of my friends and I holding various alcoholic beverages and smiling or making some crazy faces at a most likely tilted camera. Or even worse was in high school, when we used to hold the camera above our heads and take the dreaded “MySpace” selfies or make a tilted “gangsta” peace sign with weird duck faces.  Yeah…a few girls in dresses at a high school, classy New Years party holding drinks with Raspberry Smirnoff and Sprite are super “gangsta.” Although the photos are a little more than slightly embarrassing, they did capture some fun memories, and I would never delete them. I am glad, though, that over the past three years I’ve had the chance to travel to a few amazing destinations and photograph those experiences.

While I was in Aruba a few weeks ago, my memory card that I bought at the start of the second semester of my senior year at BU finally filled up. With no space left on the card, I uploaded all the photos onto my semi-new computer (actually my sister’s old computer that was given to me last year to replace my IBM Thinkpad from 2006) and began to look through them. I realized that there are actually some pretty nice pictures. Take a look at some of my favorites from my travels to Florida, Cape Cod, New Jersey, Las Vegas, London, Paris, Amsterdam, Vermont, Aruba, Tokyo, and Hong Kong over the past 3.5 years. Keep in mind these are in no particular order and were taken mostly on auto settings with my 2010 Canon 10 megapixel point and shoot camera and weren’t edited. Enjoy!

Hong Kong island at night. Taken from Kowloon in July, 2012.

Hong Kong island at night. Taken from Kowloon in July, 2012.

Jan 2010 - Aug 2013 1689 - Copy

A sunset and bottle of wine at Passions on the Beach in Aruba. Taken in August, 2013.

Tokyo, Japan. Taken in July, 2012.

Tokyo, Japan. Taken in July, 2012.

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The Search for the Best Ice Cream in Massachusetts: Rota Springs

SMALL Chocolate Peanut Butter Cookie Dough and Coconut Almond Bar ice cream!

SMALL Chocolate Peanut Butter Cookie Dough and Coconut Almond Bar ice cream!

Nestled in a residential Sterling neighborhood, Rota Springs Farm serves some of the best homemade ice cream in central Massachusetts.  They offer a huge variety of over 50 hard ice cream flavors ranging from classics like vanilla and chocolate to apple pie and cowabunga crunch as well as a number of frozen yogurt, sherbet, and sorbet flavors.  Each month, they also debut a new limited-time flavor.  In July, they were Peanut Butter Cookie Dough and Lavender…Interesting. For those not looking for a simple cup or cone, they also have many different sundaes, frappes, and toppings to chose from. In my opinion, the toppings are totally unnecessary, though.

Rota Springs had been off my radar for quite a while, and I know that I hadn’t visited in several years.  Last weekend, I was thinking of going to Cherry Hill again (which of course I love), but they close at 9:00 pm and there wasn’t enough time to make it there after finishing dinner.  I didn’t want to have to resort to the options that stay open later and get an unoriginal dessert like a Fribble from Friendly’s or a soft serve vanilla cone from McDonalds. Suddenly, I remembered Rota Springs and quickly looked up their closing time. 9:30 pm. Perfect. We had just enough time to make it there.  When we arrived, the lines had died down and were very short.  I stared at the flavor board for a few minutes and decided on two flavors, thinking I was hungry enough for the small size.  I chose a combination  of Chocolate Peanut Butter Cookie Dough and Coconut Almond Bar on a sugar cone.  The cone I received seconds later was overflowing with cool ice cream deliciousness.  As a messy eater, I knew that I couldn’t finish without some disastrous spillage and multiple chocolate stains on my khaki shorts so I asked for a cup and began to feast on my favorite dessert.

I haven’t had coconut ice cream in a long time, and it was worth it to try something new. The Coconut Almond Bar features a coconut ice cream base with coconut flakes, whole almonds, and shaved chocolate. Very good, but definitely not a favorite.  I think with a few more chocolate flakes would have gone a long way, but then again I’m a chocolate addict in addition to being an ice cream addict.  My second flavor, Chocolate Peanut Butter Cookie Dough, was just as amazing as I imagined. Always one of my favorites, this flavor features a chocolate ice cream base with generous chunks of cookie dough, peanut butter swirls, and chocolate chips.  Some many of the best flavors combined into one! It was cool, creamy, and absolutely perfect! I also tried a bite of Greg’s Apple Pie ice cream, which tasted just as it sounds and was a perfect reminder of how Fall will be here before we know it.

In addition to creative and tasty homemade ice cream and letting customers try two flavors in their very LARGE small cup or cone, Rota Springs has a few other positive features.  First of all, they stay open past 9:00 pm, I mean who can really finish their dinner, digest, get to an ice cream shop, and savor their dessert by 9:00 pm? 9:30 isn’t much, but it offers a little additional time that I think is necessary.  Also, the prices are very reasonable and you get much more than you pay for. My small cone was under $4.00 and I was beyond satisfied when I finished. All in all, definitely one of the best ice cream places in Massachusetts.

Next time you’re in central MA, be sure to stop by Rota Springs. I know I will!

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Southern Jersey Shore Favorites, Along with Some “Best Ice Cream” Contenders

Outside of Sunset Pier Restaurant

Outside of Sunset Pier Restaurant

One of my favorite summer trips from the past few years doesn’t involve passports, security lines, or currency exchanges.  Don’t get me wrong, I love travelling internationally and visiting new countries, trying exotic foods, and experiencing cultures that are completely different from ours.  But the semi-regular long weekends at my friend’s parents’ beach house in Sea Isle City, New Jersey has become one of the highlights of my summer.  The relaxed atmosphere combined with the minimal expenses creates the ideal getaway.

Almost every year since graduation, my roommates and I, and possibly a few others make the 6 hour drive from Boston down to southern New Jersey on a Thursday evening.  After some rush hour traffic outside of Boston, the ride is usually smooth from there (except for the times that I’ve accidentally gone over the George Washington bridge…TWICE).  Along the way, we’ll stop for a traditional rest stop dinner, and we’ll arrive at the beach house around 1 or 2 am.  Much better than wasting most of the day driving and inevitably hitting much more traffic.

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, this beach house isn’t some little, rundown house near the beach, it’s a large, new, three-floor home that boasts four bedrooms, quite a few bathrooms, a kitchen with granite countertops and stainless steel appliances, two decks, a grill, a ping pong table, and more.

During the weekend, we’ll spend our days laying in the sun and swimming in ocean at the beach that’s just a five minute walk from the house and most nights we’ll grab some food and drinks from the local grocery store and cook some healthy and delicious meals on the grill.

Since we’re saving so much on transportation and food, and not spending any money on a hotel, there are a few things that I’ll go out and splurge on. Some of my favorites are listed below.

  • Rick’s Breakfast House is one of the best breakfast spots that I’ve been to, not only in New Jersey, but anywhere.  They’re open just for breakfast and lunch and are a popular spot in Sea Isle City with lines out the door on summer weekends.  Luckily, we went on a rainy Friday morning and got right in.  The service was quick, the menu was comprehensive, and the food was delicious.  Usually, I leave a restaurant breakfast completely stuffed and sometimes nauseous. Since I always want both pancakes or French toast and eggs, I’ll end up ordering some monstrosity with multiple pancakes, two eggs, sausage, homefries and toast.  Rick’s offers the perfect solution! A breakfast that’s called the Little One with one pancake, one egg, toast (the extra carbs are mandatory for me because I need to put my eggs on toast), a choice of sausage or bacon, and a choice of homefries or waffle fries. Waffle fries for breakfast, what gets better than that? My meal was perfectly sized and I left the restaurant contently full, happy, and ready for my beach weekend.  For those that are looking for healthier options, Rick’s also offers egg white omelets and fruit sides with berries.
  • Sunset Pier restaurant: One night, Greg and I decided to go out on a little date night.  Looking for a close, inexpensive restaurant, we came across Sunset Pier.  With great TripAdvisor reviews and a location right on the bay a 10 minute walk from the house, Sunset Pier seemed like the ideal restaurant to try.  We arrived in the early evening and were pleasantly surprised to get a table out on the shaded deck without a wait.  The views of the bay were beautiful and I can imagine the sunsets are amazing.  The dinner menu includes reasonably priced appetizers, sandwiches, salads, seafood, and pasta entrées. In the mood for seafood, I ordered a mahi-mahi sandwich, and Greg ordered the Seafood Royale.  My sandwich was tasty, and I had never tried mahi-mahi before so I was happy to try something new.  Greg’s dinner, though, was so delicious. A pile of linguine in a white wine garlic sauce with mussels, clams, scallops, and shrimp. Yum!
  • Waffle Bowl sundae from Marita's

    Waffle Bowl sundae from Marita’s

    Marita’s Homemade Ice Cream: Anyone that I’ve met knows that I love ice cream.  It goes beyond that, though, you could say that I’m addicted to ice cream and I’ll take any chance I get to satisfy my cravings with another cool, sweet scoop of heaven.  Although I’ll eat any type of ice cream or frozen yogurt, homemade hard ice cream is my favorite.  Marita’s offers a wide selection of traditional and specialty ice cream flavors, frozen yogurt, frappes, and more.  I decided on a waffle bowl sundae and ordered it with cookie dough and chocolate chocolate chip ice cream, hot fudge, caramel, whipped cream, and a cherry. Amazing.  Mixing the crushed waffle cone with the ice cream and toppings definitely hit the spot.  Also as a plus, Marita’s has quite a bit of outdoor seating at large tables and benches and stays open late (I believe either 12 or 1 am!).  Who likes ice cream places that close at 9?

  • YoHo Frozen Yogurt:  In addition to traditional ice cream, I’m also always looking for some new self-serve frozen yogurt to try.  With more and more frozen yogurt shops popping up around Boston by the week, I wasn’t surprised to see a few in Sea Isle City.  YoHo is decorated with a bright, modern, beachy theme and serves 10 rotating soft serve flavors and over 30 toppings to choose from.  As I do at most self-serve places, I filled my cup with multiple flavors (chocolate pretzel, vanilla, and chocolate) and topped it with some of my favorites (chocolate chips, crushed waffle cone, M&Ms, and more). The yogurt was sweet and there were toppings in every bite. And frozen yogurt’s healthy…right?!?
  • Atlantic City:  Only a little over 30 minutes from the beach house, Atlantic City is the perfect place to spend a couple of hours one evening.  We headed up there on Saturday night and after arriving at Caesar’s, we spent some time walking along the boardwalk, eating more ice cream, and doing a little bit of gambling. I allowed myself to spend $40 on roulette betting the minimum on red or black or one of the other outside spots, and happily left $50 richer than I came.

One tip I just remembered, always carry cash.  Most of the spots above are cash only, and of course, you never want to get caught in AC without cash and have to use one of their $5-fee ATMs.

Of course, Sea Isle City also offers multiple bars in its downtown area and a bus that travels along the main roads for cheap and quick transportation for a night out drinking.  None of the bars seem too remarkable to me, and this year we chose to stay in and relive our college years with a round of Kings and summer beers.

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The search for the best ice cream in Massachusetts: 16 Handles

My 16 Handles Creation

My 16 Handles Creation

Berry Freeze and J.P. Licks need to watch out.  Competition for the best frozen yogurt in Coolidge Corner is heating up with the  newest addition to the neighborhood, 16 Handles.  The frozen yogurt shop, which is a franchise the national chain, opened on Beacon Street a couple of weeks ago, and I had my first taste of it last weekend.  I’m impressed.

16 Handles’ decor is modern and upbeat, with bright pink chairs and flashing blue lights on the walls.  Yogurt machines with 16 flavors line the walls, and countless containers of toppings fill the space before the register.  The perfect place to meet up with friends for a frozen treat.

Like many other frozen yogurt shops, 16 Handles allows customers to fill and top their own yogurt creations.  Always a plus! They also let customers sample a few flavors before choosing, and my friend and I tried many of the delicious options available.  While every once in a while I’m in the mood for some healthy tart yogurt topped with fruit, most of the time when I’m craving my favorite frozen treat, I’m looking for something sweet and covered in chocolate.  So, I was pleasantly surprised with the sweetness of 16 Handles’ flavors.  Of course they also have healthy, tart, fruity flavors and fruit toppings, but that just wasn’t what I was looking for. Current sweet flavors include birthday cake, chocolate love affair, cookies and cream, salted caramel and more.

I decided on a combination of mocha, chocolate, and creme brulee, and topped it with Butterfinger pieces, cookie dough, chocolate chips, and mini peanut butter cups.  To make a great experience even better, 16 Handles has hot fudge! Not just cold chocolate syrup, but actual hot fudge! Not too many other spots have that option, so needless to say, I was very excited.

My creation was the perfect combination of sweet, chocolately, and creamy.  The yogurt was smooth, the flavors tasted exactly like their names described, and topping choices made it the ideal sundae.

With 16 flavors and around 50 toppings, the options to satisfy your sweet tooth are endless.  I’m sure I’ll be back very soon to try a new combination…My ice cream addiction can only go so long without being satisfied.

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Perfect for a quick weekend away from Boston: Gunstock Mountain

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Instagrammed pic of Gunstock’s great view

With the blizzard of 2013/Nemo blanketing Boston under two feet of snow, my mind is now on snowboarding and heading up to Vermont or New Hampshire for some time on the slopes.  One great destination that is a quick and easy drive from Boston (once the roads are clear) is Gunstock Mountain in New Hampshire.

Greg and I received a great gift from his parents this past Christmas: lift tickets to Gunstock and a stay at the Fireside Inn and Suites in Gilford. We took advantage of that gift a couple of weeks ago and had a great weekend away. Less than a two hour drive from Boston, Gunstock is the perfect commute for a quick getaway.

Typically, for a weekend of snowboarding, I’ll head to one of my favorite bigger mountains in Vermont, like Mount Snow or Killington. Don’t get me wrong, I love those mountains, but Gunstock was a breath of fresh air. The weather that Saturday was perfect for skiing, sunny, temperatures in the 20s, not too windy, but surprisingly the mountain was not very busy.  The conditions were perfect. Only one or two trails that we went down were just slightly icy, and there were no lines for the lifts at all.  It felt like we were able to take 10 times more runs than usual.  To make the day even better, when we headed into the lodge for lunch around 1:00 pm, we quickly found open seats.  Nothing’s worse than getting into the lodge and hoping to relax and eat for a little bit after hours of skiing and having to trudge up and down, back and forth, throughout a lodge to find two open seats.

After splitting a decently tasting and decently priced mountain lunch of a chicken fajita wrap with waffle fries and calm chowder and warming up for a few minutes by the lodge’s roaring fire, we headed back out ready for some more runs. The conditions stayed nice throughout the afternoon, and the sunny skies were the perfect backdrop for the views of the lakes and mountains seen from the summit.

After a long day of snowboarding, we drove a couple of miles to the Fireside Inn and Suites in Gilford. At check in, we were handed homemade whoopie pies, and in the mornings, they served a complimentary continental breakfast. As everyone knows, any free food is a plus in my book.  Other hotel amenities include an indoor pool, hot tub, and a fitness center (not that I used it). Our room was large, comfortable, and clean, ideal for relaxing after a day on the mountain. Add in their affordable rates, and I’m definitely planning on staying there next time!

There are plenty of options for good food around Gunstock Mountain.  Lucky for us, Patrick’s Pub is located right across the street from where we stayed.  Featuring a slightly more formal dinning room and a more casual bar area, Patrick’s Pub boasts a large menu with options for any appetite, a good selection of draft beer, and other tasty drink options. Super hungry after all the snowboarding, we stuffed our faces.  I had baked haddock with a baked potato and veggies, at least I started off decently healthy! And, Greg had prime rib.  For dessert, we decided on chocolate lava cake with vanilla ice cream. Delicious.

On the way home from the mountain, we stuffed ourselves once again. This time at the Tilt’n Diner, located 20 minutes from the mountain.  The diner is decorated in true fifties fashion and has a typical diner menu that includes all-day breakfast, milkshakes, burgers, fries, etc.  My large veggie omelette was incredibly filling and tasty, and, of course, I wanted to finish my breakfast off with some dessert. Greg had been to this diner many times growing up and always talked about how good their Toll House Cookie Pie is.  Needless to say, I was looking forward to this big, warm cookie with ice cream all week.  Unfortunately, we were informed by our server that they were out of the pie! Kind of disappointing. We’ll have to go back so that I can finally try it.

All this writing about snowboarding and food…I’m definitely craving another trip away.  Now, I just need to finish digging my car out of the piles of snow, and maybe we’ll make it skiing again sometime before spring.

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Goals for 2013

2012 was a pretty good year. I traveled to a few amazing places that I’d never been before (Tokyo, Hong Kong, and Aruba), tried some interesting food (blowfish and raw octopus), gained a new hobby (running), and just enjoyed life. As this year ends, and 2013 begins, I’ve been thinking about what to do to make 2013 an even better year. I’m not one to make new year’s resolutions.  Lose 10 pounds, give up ice cream, spend less money…I would probably give up all three by January 4th or 5th when I’ll inevitably step into JP Licks, spend more unnecessary money, and stuff myself with a sundae. Now, goals for fun, that should be something that I  can handle.  Here’s what I’m thinking:

1. Snowboard. With this week’s snow storm, I’m hopeful that this winter will bring more snow than last year. I’ll be heading to Mount Snow tomorrow, and already have plans to go to Okemo, Gunstock, and possibly Killington this season.

2. Run a 10k, or maybe even a half marathon,  if I’m motivated enough. I started running (well technically it was jogging with periods of walking) outside this spring, and was instantly hooked. A long run on a cool spring or fall afternoon is now my favorite stress reliever.  This year, I conquered my first 5k, and now I’m ready for more.  Since I’m up to a little over 6 miles now, I’d love to finish a 10k this year and work towards my goal of a half marathon.

3. Go back to Europe.  More specifically Italy and Spain.  Both countries seem to have such great food, culture, and places to visit. So far, I’ve only been to London, Paris, and Amsterdam in Europe, and I can’t wait to see more!

4. Build up my savings. I know this kind of contradicts my last goal, but I’m confident that I can travel and still put more money into savings. I’ll just have to give up some of my dinners out, ice cream runs, and weekend getaway trips.

5. And, as always, maximize my vacation days.  Maybe I’ll even be able to squeeze in another trip to Aruba.

 

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My ideal fall weekend in and around Boston

View from Sholan Farms

After a summer full of hot, humid weekends spent laying on the beach, a cool but sunny fall weekend spent outdoors is the perfect remedy.  Fall has recently become one of my favorite seasons, and there are endless ways to enjoy it.

My ideal fall weekend begins with friends, dinner, and pumpkin beers at a casual restaurant on Friday night.  My go-to, Sunset Grill & Tap, boasts over 100 beers on tap, including multiple seasonal and pumpkin offerings.  Shipyard Pumpkin with a cinnamon sugar rim is my choice to wash down a feast of nachos and buffalo chicken.

Saturday morning, I wake up and have a delicious breakfast of an egg & cheddar sandwich and coffee, at one of my favorite Brookline spots, Temptations Cafe, and then head outside of the city for a bike ride. Located less than 30 miles west of Boston, the Nashua River Rail Trail is an 11-mile paved bike trail that starts in Ayer and travels through several small Massachusetts towns before reaching the New Hampshire border.  The 22 mile ride through shaded trails is the perfect way to get some much needed exercise before stuffing my face with some more fall food.

Apple picking is another must-do on my list. Nothing beats a couple of McIntosh or Honey Crisp apples, fresh off the the tree, except maybe hot apple crisp fresh out of the oven, covered in cool vanilla ice cream.  This fall, I picked apples at two different orchards in central Massachusetts: one in Harvard, MA near the bike trail I mentioned previously and Sholan Farms in Leominster, MA, where I grew up. Head to the orchards in September for McIntosh or Honey Crisp and in early October for Cortland or Macoun. These apples make great snacks for work, especially when sliced and dipped in peanut butter! On the less healthy side, my favorite apple crisp recipe always makes a satisfying dessert.

Although I love summer because along with it comes the beach, vacations, seafood, ice cream, flip flops, and a laid back atmosphere, its heat and humidity can make it difficult to exercise.  It’s too hot and humid to run outside, and even the air conditioned gym feels too sticky for a workout.  Gross. Fall is my favorite time to head outside. Whether it’s for a long run through the streets of Brookline and along the Riverway near Fenway, or a hike up a local mountain, when it’s a nice fall Sunday I’m ready for an outdoor workout.  This Monday, since I have Columbus Day off, my friend Katie and I are planning on heading up to New Hampshire to hike Mount Monadnock.  The last time I hiked that mountain, I was twelve and my parents were bribing my sister and I with $5 each and lunch at McDonald’s.  Hopefully I’m in good enough shape to do it again.

My ideal fall weekend ends with a trip to a local ice cream shop.  Nope, fall is not too cold to go out for ice cream.  Neither is winter, for that matter.  I’ll trudge through ice, snow, or rain to devour my favorite dessert.  And no, the stuff from the grocery store freezers is never as good. My go-to, J.P. Licks in Coolidge Corner, features different homemade flavors each month, and October has some great ones that I can’t wait to try.  Chocolate Chocolate Chip yogurt, Caramel Apple, Cheesecake Oreo, Pumpkin Custard. Yum! So many reasons to look forward to the weekend. Now I just need to get off the computer and go enjoy it!

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