Roadtrip Revival: Maine

by Lisa Lombardi in ,

Back in 2011, the year of Ye Olde Life-Changing Roadtrip, I made a painful omission to my country-wide route: I didn't stop in Maine.

I know. Now that I live in New England, I'm sure I would get even more crap for that decision today. But in my defense, it was still early spring/practically-still-winter when I departed, and I would have hit Maine in the midst of its chilly, wet defrost. It didn't sound like the ideal time to fall in love with a place — and this seemed like a spot I could really fall for; something right up my outdoors-loving, crusty-old-sea-captain-smitten, low-population-👍  alley.

So I passed. And this summer, I made it my mission to get some Maine-exploring in.

The first toe-dip in the water was a weekend to celebrate my Aunt Barby's birthday (just a week after Momstravaganza weekend, so it was really a Momstravaganza month). First stop: the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens in Boothbay. (What did I tell you about moms and gardens, people?!)

Sidenote: Living just an hour away from my Aunt Barby & Uncle Mike is one of the best things about being in Boston. My aunt is delightfully just like my mom, yet also nothing like my mom (read: she will go hiking with me), and my uncle is just like my dad (curse of being a Mike?), yet also nothing like my dad (read: won't try to convince me to buy a car with the same number of miles on it as my current car). It's Parents 2.0, just a short ride away, and I love it.

The gardens were followed by the main (Maine?) attraction: a Puffin-Watch Cruise. Let's add "birds" to the list of Things Moms Like, shall we?

A word of warning before you go and book your own spot on a Puffin Cruise, because I did zero research and had unreasonably high expectations. Puffins are tiny. They are not — as I assumed — the size of small penguins. And vast swarms of them do not cover the islands that they roost on. (Again, I was imagining penguins.) So... bring your binoculars, people. My camera's zoom lens barely did the trick capturing those orange beaks.

We stopped at Red's Eats in Wiscasset on the way home to try one of their famous lobster rolls. The evening stop was perfect timing, actually, because both times I passed Red's on my later Maine trip, the line was always snaking around the building and into the street. This place is popular. And for good reason, too: their lobster roll is the most gargantuan I've ever seen; a normal-sized bun spilling over with what must be a literal entire lobster's worth of meat. To be honest, it was a little too much after a day that had already been filled with lots of eating, but I totally get the hype.

So. That brings us to two weeks ago, the weekend before the Fourth of July. Because that first peek at Maine was nowhere near enough, I planned an entire road trip dedicated to it. (If you want to see concerning proof of my madness, just check out any Google Doc I create that has to do with travel planning. And prepare to back away slowly.)

I limited myself to just the coast — I only had four days, after all — and prioritized time in Bar Harbor and Portland, since those seemed to have the most things to do. There were some hits, some definite misses, and a whole lotta fog, but it was a beautiful weekend. 

Here was the route:



(That's the abbreviated version.)

I left Portland bright and early (with just ONE dashboard warning light illuminated in the Blueberry — ayyyye) and arrived in Ogunquit in time for a leisurely pre-breakfast walk along the paved Marginal Way cliffside path. It's a little over a mile from the start to the end in Perkin's Cove, where I grabbed an iced coffee for the walk back.

In Kennebunkport, just a half hour away, I had the most satisfying breakfast sandwich ever at H.B. Provisions. (Full disclosure: It's nothing special, but I was really hungry.) H.B.'s is apparently a staple for the locals and does, indeed, feature a framed photo of George W. Bush. on its walls. But I won't hold that against the place.

After wandering a bit more in Kennebunkport, I drove north to Cape Elizabeth to take in the famous Portland Head lighthouse...

...It was a little foggy that day.

The fog continued as I wove my way around the jagged coast, taking a detour to the tiny fishing village of Georgetown to visit an obscure yet highly praised lobster shack I'd read about.

Five Islands Lobster Co. consists of a couple shacks on a pier overlooking the harbor in Georgetown, Maine. I arrived well after lunch time on a foggy Saturday, but the parking lot was still packed. Cars filled the nearby municipal lot, too, so I was forced to leave my SUV on the edge of a residential lawn guarded by an overzealous poodle. No joke.

Is the lobster roll good? Yessir. However, as someone who arrived in Boston almost five years ago having never tasted real lobster — and later choked on one in front of her undying college crush — I've now sampled a decent number of rolls. Five Islands' is good, yes, but it was disappointingly small. I could have easily polished off two. But you can't really beat the ambiance, so... maybe just bolster that roll with any of the other delicious-sounding items on the menu.

YOU GUYS. This is where I stayed for two nights (in Surry, Maine), and I already want to go back. I initially looked for a campsite but was having trouble finding one where I could reserve a spot ahead of time, so I turned to Air BnB. In the end, it was between a teepee on someone's private property and this, the Morgan Bay Zendo.

(Morgan Bay won out because it had a shower, but I'm determined to sleep in a teepee in the future.)

The cabin was exactly as tiny as it looks, with only a twin-sized storage bed, rocking chair, and wood-burning stove inside. Yet as rustic as the accommodations were, I was blown away with how thoughtful and precise the design was. My crappy cell phone pics don't do it justice, but trust me when I tell you that these dudes know their interior decorating and architecture.

In case you couldn't tell, the Zendo is a Buddhist meditation retreat and consists of a main meditation hall, a meeting hall with communal kitchen and showers, and four small rustic cabins. That's not counting the grounds, which include several gardens, a pond inhabited by some very vocal bullfrogs, and the winding path through the woods from the parking lot. (The walk ensures that the location is extra peaceful and secluded, yes, but is also extra terrifying when you get back after dark and remember that you're 100% alone in the middle of nowhere with just the light of your headlamp.)

During my stay, I crossed paths with exactly three people. One was a fellow lodger who I saw for maybe fifteen minutes, and the other two seemed to be a local grandma showing her grandson the weird hippie commune down the road. It was awesome.

I also chose Surry as my home base because it was less than an hour from Bar Harbor, the front yard of Acadia National Park.

The fog was still in full force Sunday morning when I arrived in the harbor, but by the time I finished breakfast at 2 Cats (three words: homemade strawberry butter), it had mostly burned away.

I followed Aunt Barby's advice (she worked at Acadia last season, so she knows her stuff) and hit the Bar Harbor Land Bar first. At low tide, the sand bar connects Mount Desert Island to Bar Island, which is off in the distance in the above photo, hidden by the remaining fog. 

Once I checked Bar Island off my list, I hitched a ride on the shuttle into the park and tackled the Gorham Mountain Trail. During my previous visit to Acadia a couple years ago, I did Cadillac Mountain, Jordan Pond, and couple other well-known ones, so this was my chance to conquer something new and — more importantly — not too lengthy (I had only one day, okay?). The top of Gorham Mountain rewards with views like the above and the kind of sweat that's synonymous with well-earned accomplishment.

After my hike, I relaxed on Sand Beach for a couple hours and then wandered along some more trails until dinner time.

The evening began with a flight at Atlantic Brewing Company, which was followed by a refreshingly different dinner of enchiladas and mole sauce at Havana. (Vacation rule: always take the hot bartender's dinner recommendation.)

Dessert was a mandatory stop at my fave, Mount Desert Island Ice Cream. (Flavors so good, I got it again the next day in Portland.)

The next morning, after a detour to Big Chicken Barn Books & Antiques (oh yes, I did), I headed back south, eventually stopping in Brunswick, Maine, for my second lobster roll of the trip. Haunted by my puny lunch at Five Islands, I made sure to order the large lobster roll at Libby's Market, which looks like a glorified gas station convenience store. But that Yelp rating don't lie, folks. It was goooooood.

I rolled into Portland with enough time to stop at Foundation Brewing Company for a tasting before they closed. Alas, I didn't have the sobriety left in me to head next door to Austin Street Brewery, too, but it's earmarked for next time. (Hot bartender recommended it, after all.)

Dinner was a BBQ bahn mi hot dog from The Thirsty Pig. It's not blurry in real life and I would very much like another one, please.

I celebrated July 4th the best way I know how: with donuts, french fries, and beer.

At The Holy Donut (known for their potato-based donuts), I sampled the ginger-glazed sweet potato, blueberry with blueberry glaze, and dark chocolate with coconut and coconut milk-glazed donuts. Despite mixed reviews of the bakery from friends and fellow travelers, I was a fan. I'm also the farthest thing from a donut connoisseur you can find, though, so take that with a grain of salt.

After attempting to walk off some of the donuts, I circled back to DuckFat just as their doors opened so I could grab an order of their famous duck fat fries to go — along with a salad. (I like food, but I could feel this trip murdering my cholesterol with every passing moment.)

The final stop in Portland was a tour of Allagash Brewing Company, where I got to sample an excellent sour and saison. Probably should have bought a couple bottles, but at this point I was ready to swear off beer and junk food for the foreseeable future.


Hey Maine, let's stay friends, k?

Momstravaganza Weekend

by Lisa Lombardi in

May was all about moms — most importantly, MY mom. Mother's day, her birthday, and her retirement all coincided last month, so it was obvious we had to do something special. That's how most of the Lombardis ended up in Washington, D.C. for Mother's Day weekend and a slew of Carol-centric activities.

Let's take a moment real quick to talk about my mom, because this is my blog and she's awesome. My mom is a hilarious combination of old-school Catholic who also loves raunchy comedies like Wedding Crashers and The Hangover. She always gives my friends big, warm hugs (hers are the best) when she sees them, yet will be even quicker than I to groan if we end up seated near small children in any situation. She has introduced me to fine, Carol-approved ideas such as breakfast cake ("it's healthier if you eat it for breakfast") and taping down the front of your pants for a smoother look. And she passed on to me an unhealthy interest in Zac Efron films, epic eye-rolling abilities, and the worst decision-making skills known to man.

She is the only person I look forward to talking on the phone with, and she is an endless source of entertainment, often because — sorry, mom — she's the butt of many jokes between my brothers and I. But it's all done out of love, I swear!

Most importantly, though, my mom is a source of unending love and support for her kids, even when she's scolding me for swearing too much on this blog or arguing with me over the importance of pointless, outdated, boring wedding rituals. 

Basically, she's the best. So when my dad was going to be in D.C. — where my eldest brother, Matt, lives — for a work event the week of Mother's Day, she decided to come along. And then I decided to fly down. And all of a sudden, four-fifths of the Lombardis were taking D.C. by storm.

Here's what we did:


My mom was super psyched about this art exhibit called "Infinity Mirrors" at the Hirshorn Museum & Sculpture Garden. Apparently, it was kind of a big deal, because all of the free tickets immediately sold out in less than 60 seconds after they were released. No joke. She was quite bummed, because it was the last weekend for the exhibit.

Luckily, I started stalking the Hirshorn Museum on social media and discovered that they were selling tickets for a special evening admission to the exhibit. So we snapped those up, and as soon as we all got to town Friday night (...after taking too long to eat dinner and literally arriving only minutes before our designated timed entrance...), we fulfilled my mom's first wish.

This was the first thing we saw.

My dad and I stood in front of this for a moment. "They're like, stuffed pantyhose?" I ventured. My dad looked dubious. He and my brother, of course, had zero interest in this outing in the first place, so they were trying to ration their jokes for the evening.

Then we entered the next room and saw this.

I stood looking at the chair for a moment, thinking that it kind of looked like it was covered in white sweet potatoes. Then my dad pointed to a sign. "They're dicks!"

Needless to say, my dad and brother used up all of their jokes within the next fifteen minutes.

The actual Infinity Mirrors exhibit was pretty cool, though. (I highly suggest Googling it, as my pictures probably aren't the best representation. Also, they wouldn't let you take pictures in the last room, which was my favorite. Apparently too many people have lost their balance and fallen...)

The Artist. (No one else got my Power Rangers reference.)

The Artist. (No one else got my Power Rangers reference.)



You know who likes gardens? MOMS. It's a fact of life, just like how moms also love Josh Groban and Michael MacDonald. Think about it.

We spent Saturday afternoon poking around various backyards of Georgetown, which were more about fancy landscaping than flowers, and my mom was haaaaaappy. Me, I was more interested in the free refreshments served at the end, but hey: everybody wins.

I even refrained from pushing Matt into several pools. You're welcome.



Being from south Jersey, my mom has a history of rooting for the Phillies. Having been forced to watch an ungodly amount of Phillies baseball at relatives' houses over the past 30 years, I have developed a passionate hatred for them and find great pleasure in rooting for their defeat. Play ball!

Even better than getting to watch the Nationals beat the Phillies, though, was the fact that it was Pups in the Park Night. Dogs. Baseball. Beer. So many good things happening all at once.

I'm having a hard time remembering the last time I was this excited about something.

My brother and I share our curly blonde hair, blue eyes, and a never-ending obsession with one day owning a dog. #goals



We had some good food that weekend, but the best, in my opinion, was the Mother's Day brunch we had at Old Ebbit Grill. I convinced my mom to share the lobster frittata and brioche french toast with me, and I'm still thinking about how good they were, weeks later. Also, the grill has a long history in D.C., dating back to the mid-1800s, and it totally looks like the kind of place where government bigwigs come to knock back a few drinks and make some shady deals. Basically, lots of wood paneling.

After brunch, we spent the rest of the day visiting open houses, because my brother's in the midst of trying to buy a condo somewhere. Luckily, open houses are on my mom's list of interests, along with brunch and ice cream, which came later.

In case you're interested, we also ate at Graffiato (the White House pizza and did not disappoint) and Founding Farmers (a cool mix of decor on the inside, an interesting mix on the menu itself).


It was a pretty solid weekend and, more importantly, I think my mom had a decent time. Just a  reminder, folks: call your moms. It's Sunday.



Cooking for Lazy People: Breakfast Go-Tos

by Lisa Lombardi in

They say that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and for me, this has always felt more like a written-in-stone rule of life than a platitude. Maybe it's because I have been known to wake up at 3 a.m. simply because I was hungry. Maybe it's because I enjoy coffee, but it's always been food that actually gets me going in the morning. Maybe it's because my stomach is a bottomless black pit that doesn't care if I have to leave for work in ten minutes OMG FEED ME NOW.

No matter the reason, the only way I skip breakfast is if I sleep through it. But that doesn't always jive with my reluctance to get up early and my inevitable habit of losing track of time while I do my makeup and simultaneously watch TV.

My solution? Eat breakfast at work. Sounds simple, and it is, once you have a few go-to items that travel easily, keep well, and are quick to grab. Here are mine:


Granola truly is hippie food. It welcomes all, works best within a loose structure, and is usually a little nutty. This is the recipe I follow, but it's incredibly forgiving and allows for customizing based on what you have on hand and what you, personally, enjoy. No flax seed? Whatever. (That stuff took way too long to use up, anyway.) Want more orange flavor? Add a little zest in, along with the juice. It's allllll good, man.

4 cups of oats
1 1/2 cups almonds
1/2 cup pecans
3/4 cup unsweetened coconut flakes
2 tablespoons flax seeds
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup coconut oil
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup orange juice

Heat the oven to 300° F and cook for 30 minutes, pausing to stir the mix at the 15-minute mark so it cooks evenly. When you remove the batch, I find it best to stir once more before leaving it to cool; this way the granola won't stick to the pan.

Once it's ready, I dump the batch into a gallon Ziploc bag and keep it in my desk until it's all gone. Sure, I look like a weirdo, using my mug to scoop granola out of my top drawer and into my bowl of yogurt, but I'm usually too hungry to care.

Adapted from this original recipe.


The oatmeal I knew growing up was mushy, came from a pouch, and only tasted good if you got the brown sugar & cinnamon kind. I'll still eat it, but nowadays, I save those for camping and make my day-to-day oatmeal a bit more substantial.

Want to know why everyone's raving about steel-cut oats? Because they taste better, nerd. The fact that they don't have the consistency of homemade paste alone makes them superior to regular oats, but I admit the longer cooking time is a hassle. So, overnight, no-cook oatmeal is kind of the greatest thing ever.

1 cup steel-cut oats
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ginger
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon cardamom
2 tablespoons ground flax meal
1 tablespoon maple syrup or brown sugar (whichever I have around)
1 1/2 to 2 cups plain almond milk

Mix together and leave to set in the refrigerator overnight.

It took a little trial and error, but these are the ratios that I prefer. Following the original recipe produced something too spicy for my tastes; it required a lot more sugar to even out the taste, so I simply dialed down the spices. Also, the 1:1 ratio of oats to almond milk made it too dry and crunchy; adding more milk really makes a difference. (And serving with crushed pecans and coconut flakes doesn't hurt, either.)

You can make it in any container you'd like, but mason jars make you look extra cool and have the bonus of not exploding in your purse on the way to work. Unlike Trader Joe's chicken marsala with mashed potatoes. THANKS, TJ'S.


Taco Bell has given us many great things in life: cheap, filling food when you're drunk; a life-long hatred of Chihuahuas; and the perfect method for turning a tortilla into a portable carrier of deliciousness.

This one takes more preparation and planning than the other two, but some days, oatmeal and granola just won't cut it. That's when these these packets of deliciousness come in handy.

My friend, Leela, sent me this recipe when I was moaning about my lack of good breakfast options, but I honestly used it more for the assembly directions than the recipe itself. Where they mixed just scrambled eggs, hot sauce, and cheese, I prefer to fill mine with eggs, sauteed onion and red pepper, hash browns, and sausage. (I start with six eggs and just kind of eyeball the rest of the ingredients to make it an even spread.)

Be sure to take a look at the helpful instructional video to master the perfect folding technique. Or to laugh at the horrible video graphics that Taco Bell tortures all its new employees with.

Once you've assembled you're wraps, I recommend placing on a cookie sheet to freeze, and then storing them all together in (you guessed it) yet another gallon Ziploc bag. For best reheating results, first microwave for 1-2 minutes and then finish in a toaster oven or panini press for a crispy exterior.


Happy breakfasting, folks.



Date Night Win: Pie Hard

by Lisa Lombardi in ,

A little over a year ago, I successfully guilted my boyfriend into dating me. I was pretty pleased with myself until I realized that we couldn't just spend all of our time watching episodes of Project Runway or debating the pros and cons of mayonnaise (don't worry, we still do that a lot). 

So, for those of you as inexperienced with this thing called "dating" as I am, I present to you this series of awesome date ideas. First up?

One amazing movie. One delicious pie. Just the way I like it.

One amazing movie. One delicious pie. Just the way I like it.

"Lisa," some of you might be saying, "Baking pie and watching Die Hard isn't romantic." And to that, I'd ask, "But it's awesome, isn't it?"

Some of you may reply, "No." And to those, I'd ask you to kindly leave and never read my blog again.

I have very strong feelings about a handful of things in life: Listening to Journey will never not cheer me up. Moms love Michael McDonald (it's a proven fact). Bread should be its own legitimate food group. The only way time-tested action movies can be improved is by puns and baked goods.

Luckily, my boyfriend shares that last belief with me. So, for one random Friday night, we did Pie Hard: Die Hard & Buttermilk pie.

Tim's Mom's Southern Buttermilk Pie (Makes 1 pie)

2 eggs
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 1/4 cups sugar
3 tablespoons flour
2 teaspoons lemon juice (or more, if you'd like)
1 teaspoons lemon zest
1 1/2 cups buttermilk (room temperature)

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

  1. Separate the egg whites and beat until stiff. Set aside.
  2. Cream together the butter and sugar until soft and fluffy.
  3. Mix in the egg yolks, one at a time, and the flour. 
  4. Continue beating and slowly add the buttermilk.
  5. Stir in the lemon juice and zest.
  6. Gently fold the egg whites into the mixture and pour into a pie shell.
  7. Place the pie on the bottom shelf of the oven and bake at 425 for fifteen minutes. Reduce the temperature to 325 and bake for an additional 30 minutes or until filling is set and doesn't jiggle.
They say lightning never strikes twice...They were wrong!

They say lightning never strikes twice...They were wrong!

Valentine's Day was Pie Hard 2: Pie Harder, in which we enjoyed a viewing of Die Hard 2 paired with chicken pot pie and buttermilk pie.

This time, it's delicious.

This time, it's delicious.

Our one-year anniversary was the most ambitious effort yet: Pie Hard with a Vengeance. Die Hard 3, a variety of mini quiche, steak & ale pie, and coconut key lime pie.

It goes without saying, but don't plan on doing anything more vigorous than going to bed after celebrating in this manner. Enjoy!