P-Town Getaway

by Lisa Lombardi in


This summer's been go, go, go — which has been great for satisfying my restlessness, but not so great for catching up on blogging. Whoops. Let's see if I can remedy that in a whirlwind of updates, shall we?

Sometime during the recent endless replay of dating app intros, it hit me that I've lived in Boston for half a decade. I haven't stayed in one place that long since, well, I was underage and legally had to. And with that realization came this accompanying reality: there's still so much I haven't seen or experienced yet, especially in the greater New England area.

My Maine road trip was a big check off my list, and a few weeks ago, I crossed off another must-experience destination: Provincetown. Situated on the very tip of Cape Cod, P-Town is known for its beautiful beaches, great food, thriving art scene, and gay-friendly community. I've barely even approached the Cape in all my time in Massachusetts, so I was ready to dive in headfirst with a weekend trip to Provincetown.

My partner in crime this time was my buddy, Jamie — someone with a love for planning that almost matches my own, but paired with an easygoing demeanor that's key for travel. Plus, she's goofy and curious and adventurous, so... any outing with her is pretty much guaranteed to be interesting, hilarious, or both.

After much debate, lengthy pro/con lists, and an email chain that may have broken from its own sheer weight at some point, we finalized our strategy:

Warning: The ferry gets pretty windy.

Warning: The ferry gets pretty windy.

METHOD OF TRANSPORTATION: Bay State Cruise Company Fast Ferry ($90 roundtrip + $14 with bike)

Popular topics of conversation in Boston include: the Patriots and/or Tom Brady; now what's wrong with the T?; and traffic. Most often: Cape traffic. I've heard enough wailing about the drive from the city to the Cape to make me pretty much never want to do it, ever. Especially on a weekend in the middle of summer. Plus, isn't there something romantic about traveling by sea? It's like being on the Titanic, only minus the classism and, hopefully, sinking.

Jamie was equally entranced, and we figured Heywe're not going to make a habit of this, so we splurged and ferried our way out Friday evening after work. Pros are, obviously, the coolness factor, but also convenience: the ride was an almost-exact 90 minutes, and delivered us straight to the center of town.

ACCOMMODATIONS: The Outermost Hostel ($40 per person, per night)

Confession: We had originally planned on camping, but hemmed and hawed too long in our decision-making to secure a site for the weekend we wanted. For a hot second, it looked like our P-Town dreams were ruined, but we stumbled upon the second-rate website of what is literally the only hostel in Provincetown, and made it our hail Mary play.

Jamie did the heavy lifting and made numerous calls to the hostel, leaving messages for the owner and praying we'd get a call back. When she finally got a response, she was told that we'd need to provide a credit card number to secure a reservation, but would need to ultimately pay in cash when we arrived. All in all, slightly shady but not terrible.

The night before, I was doing my typical pre-packing obsessing, and tried to look up the hostel so I could see if I needed to bring a towel or not. When I did, I discovered a slew of abysmal guest ratings along with it.

Having now stayed at the Outermost Hostel, here's what I can say about it: the guest complaints I read were all fairly valid, but I think your stay all depends on your expectations. I've stayed in some really nice hostels (in Europe) and some really shit hostels (also, coincidentally, in Europe). We were planning on camping initially, so really, pretty much anything with a bathroom attached was a bit of an upgrade. If you go, just know that you're in for some bare bones accommodations — bare bones, but still very much providing of all the necessities, and with a location (right by the Pilgrim Monument) that really can't be beat for the price. Seriously. If we had camped, we would have wasted so much time walking or riding bikes from the site to town that we definitely would have missed our ferry going home instead of just almost missing our ferry going home. (Blame it on the frosé.)

Note: You don't need to bring a towel! Or sheets or a sleeping bag, for that matter. But you might want to, depending on your germaphobia or thread-count standards. I'd still go back.

THE FUN STUFF

The Canteen:
We started and ended our trip here, and if we had just eaten here for every meal in between, I think I would have been fine with that. A varied menu with interesting takes on the basics (I got to have another bahn mi hot dog! Let's continue this trend.) and a sick back "patio" (you're literally on the beach) make this the perfect chill P-Town grub spot.

Happy Camper:
The Canteen's sister spot, Happy Camper serves coffee, ice cream, and donuts — along with a variety of vintage-inspired merch that'll have you wanting to rewatch Camp Nowhere and Heavy Weights just to keep the camp nostalgia going. We actually discovered this spot via the local farmer's market, where they had a booth set up on Saturday morning, but also visited the brick & mortar shop several times after during our stay.

Mama Matcha Green Bar:
Too often, I find myself eating nothing but overindulgent crap when I'm traveling (see: hot dogs, donuts, endless servings of ice cream. Thanks, Maine.), so I was overjoyed to start our mornings by sampling from two trendy, healthy spots. Mama Matcha served up the prettiest avocado toast I've ever seen, and it was seriously tasty (it includes chopped tomatoes, sprouts, sunflower seeds, and crumbled goat cheese). Think I've officially earned my Millennial Card now.

ScottCakes:
This place was on no one's recommendations list, and we probably would have walked right past had it not been for the fact that (1) it was our dear friend Scott's birthday that weekend, and (2) he and his wife had honeymooned in Provincetown. We simply couldn't resist picking up a t-shirt for him and, well, if they wanted to throw in a free cupcake, we certainly weren't gonna turn that down. Scottcakes serves exactly one type of cupcake, varying only the size (regular or mini); each is plain vanilla with gloopy pink frosting, and each is crazy delicious. If you're like me and your preferred type of birthday cake is boxed funfetti from the grocery store, you'll love ScottCakes.

Grab 'n Go Health Bar:
Had my first-ever acai bowl. Felt super hipster, and then felt super full because those things are huge. Next time, I'll be splitting mine with someone.

Tim-Scapes:
Super cool graphic designs representing a variety of major cities, all for sale as prints, t-shirts, tanks, tote bags, and more. I was seriously tempted to get a Boston or Provincetown one, but in the end, my overflowing t-shirt drawer at home made me decide against shelling out for another. But you should!

Marine Specialities:
It's hard to describe this store, which is nothing like the many boutique shops that also line Commercial Street. Need an irregular top from Urban Outfitters that has just slightly crooked seams? How about random vintage army patches? Camping gear from brands you've never heard of? It's all here, crammed into every available nook and cranny. I could have wandered this place for hours, but it gets crowded easily due to, well, all the stuff.

Post Office Cabaret:
I got the impression that no visit to P-Town was complete without seeing a drag show, and we were enticed by the offer of priority seating at the Caberet since we had grabbed a late lunch there. It's a tiny theater, with short rows of seats that extend waaaaay back... but we were plopped in the very first seats, and didn't need to wait in any line. Thanks, soup & sandwich! We saw Raja: Gawdess, starring one of the winners of RuPaul's Drag Race. I'd probably go for a more traditionally campy show next time, but it was an interesting and entertaining experience, for sure. (Raja's boyfriend in the audience may have been my favorite part.)

Dolphin Fleet Whale Watch:
Our whale watching experience was 100% the highlight of the trip for me, and would be my number-one reason to encourage anyone to visit Provincetown. The Stellwagon Bank National Marine Sanctuary is right off the coast of Provincetown, meaning it's only a short twenty-minute ride to get you to prime whale-viewing territory. In other words, we spent nearly the entire four-hour trip seeing whales, including the famous humpback Salt, who was first spotted in the 1970s and has been a staple in the area since. We were lucky enough to be the first to see her this season, along with a mother and calf that literally swam under our boat and just hung around, playing, for a solid half hour or so. It was the coolest thing I've seen in a long time, and I can't recommend the experience enough.

Race Point Beach & Herring Cove Beach:
Our last day, we finally put our bikes to use and rode out to first Race Point Beach and, later, when we were ready for lunch, Herring Cove Beach. Race Point was the nicer of the two, but Herring Cove had the benefit of a snack bar so... there you go. Neither was particularly crowded, but if you're looking for a more kids-free (yes, please) experience, go with Race Point.

Provincetown, I finally get what all the hype is about. 


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:

PORTSMOUTH, NH
OGUNQUIT, ME
KENNEBUNKPORT, ME
PORT ELIZABETH, ME
GEORGETOWN, ME
SURRY, ME
BAR HARBOR, ME
ELLSWORTH, ME

BRUNSWICK, ME
PORTLAND, ME

(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:
 

HIRSHORN MUSEUM & SCULPTURE GARDEN

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.)

 

GEORGETOWN GARDEN TOUR

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.

 

NATIONALS VS. PHILLIES BASEBALL GAME

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

 

BRUNCH AT OLD EBBIT GRILL (& OPEN HOUSES)

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.

 

 


This is 30.

by Lisa Lombardi in ,


I turned 30 on December 1st. In the words of my Uncle Mike, "Oh, fuck it. Life is over."

Just kidding. It's a weird thing, though. And since a birthday party with all of my closest friends is never an option anymore, I decided to celebrate with a trip to Santa Fe, New Mexico.

This guy came with me. And made it his goal to eat All The Things. (Starting with breakfast at Tune-Up Cafe.)

We stopped at the Tent Rocks National Monument on our way from the airport. Matt was not impressed. I don't care what he thinks.

Matt vs. The Cactus. (The cactus won.)

Kowboyz, home of the most brilliant array of cowboy boots, hats, shirts, and anything else you could ever dream of.

The Santa Fe Railyard. Prettiest trains ever. Also, had the best mini (blue) corn dogs of my life at the Second Street Brewery.

We wandered through all the various levels of Double Take, an awesome vintage store filled with cool treasures. (I found a sweet little lidded basket for keeping my earrings and bracelets in.)

It's my birthday, and I'll go on long drives through the mountains if I want to!

We made it to Cowgirl BBQ and I finally got the t-shirt I always regretted never splurging on when I was a broke intern. (This may have occurred after several beers and shots of whiskey.)

Bye, New Mexico! Thanks for a special birthday. (And, y'know, thanks to my brother for coming with me. As my mother says: "Such a nice boy!")

Other notable stops not photographed for posterity: Cafe Pasqual's, Tecolote, Maria's, Kakawa Chocolate ShopJackalope, and the CVS where I stocked up on medicine to combat the Worst Cold Ever. (Happy birthday, have some germs!)


Summer Checklist: Accomplished

by Lisa Lombardi in , ,


Oh, hi there. Been a while, I know, but I promise it's because I've been busy doing actual things and not because I've been re-watching every episode of Parks & Recreation (that part has only been just recently).

This summer coincided with some big changes, some terrifying revelations, and some venturing outside of my comfort zone (spoiler: I now own a maxi dress). In my attempt to cope with it all, I made it my mission to do as much as possible with my weekends so I could enjoy my summer to the fullest.

It may not have reached Summer of George-level epicness (Adrienne: it is very important to me that you learn this reference), but I think I did pretty good.
 

HOW I SPENT MY SUMMER VACATION
By Lisa Lombardi, age 28

1. Went to the Beach (a lot, actually). It seems like everyone in Boston and the New England area in general has their own opinion regarding which beach is the best — and there are plenty to choose from. North Shore, South Shore, Revere Beach. (Just kidding. No one thinks Revere Beach is the best.) Personally, I always head north to Manchester-by-the-Sea and camp out at Singing Beach. You can get there by car or via the Commuter Rail, it's a beautiful beach, and the town is pretty cute — perfect for walking around when you're done baking in the sun. Parking can be tough; your best bet is to shell out the $25 to park at the train station and walk to the beach. (Go with a group of friends to split the cost.) A daily beach pass is $5, but if you think you'll go multiple times during the summer, spring for a season pass. No, it's not free, but it's worth it. And coming from a cheapskate like me, that means something.
 

2. Saw an Outdoor Concert. Outside the Box is an annual six-day free festival that takes place on the Boston Common, and before this year, I'd never heard of it. Surprisingly, no one I talked to had heard of it, either — but everyone probably should, because it's a pretty sweet deal. In addition to showcasing local performers and putting on family-friendly shows with magicians and dancers, it draws some major acts. This year's big names included Kasey Musgraves, the Gin Blossoms (I KNOW), and, most importantly, Guster. Guster is a Boston-favorite because they started at Tufts, but they're a Lisa-favorite because they were essentially the soundtrack for drives to and from high school with my brother, Kevin. I've loved them ever since and they are AMAZING live. One word: bongos.

3. Got Dressed Up. In addition to seeing one of my good friends get married at the historic Whittemore-Robbins House in Arlington, I scored an impromptu invite to a July 4th wedding that took place at the Boston Tea Party Museum. The best part? I actually had some decent dresses already that were ready to wear. My fellow ladies will understand what a score this is. (Oh, also there was an amazing, patriotic drag queen performance. NBD.)
 

4. Spent Time with the Fam. Summer is the time when the whole clan on my mom's side gets together for a week in New Jersey at my grandparents' house. It typically involves up to six of us — myself, my brothers, and my cousins — camping out in one room on foam sleeping mats, and we spend the week eating, watching way too much pointless TV, and going to the Jersey Shore. Frank Bruni recently wrote a piece in the NY Times that sounded a lot like our annual trip and pretty perfectly summed up its worth.

5. Kayaked on the Charles. Despite its reputation for being pretty filthy and disgusting, I kind of love the Charles River. I've even swam in it. But up until recently, I'd never taken advantage of the rental services offered by Charles River Canoe & Kayak (they have SUPs now, too). The rate for a single kayak is $15 an hour, and you can explore a LOT of the river in that time. Afterward, maybe head to the Cambridge Brewing Company for a late brunch and rehydrate properly with delicious, delicious beer.
 

6. Had a little too much fun. Public Service Announcement: Deep Eddy's Lemon Vodka is dangerous. Also, trying a fish bowl for the first time in my life was probably enough to last me until my mid-life crisis. If anyone knows of good places to dance in Boston where the floor won't still be empty at 10 p.m., let me know, because I'm officially too old to get started any later than that. Remember, the best way to recover the day after is with plenty of water and the Parks & Recreation episode "The Fight."

7. Explored Massachusetts. My lack of car means that I don't really get out of the city much, and when I do, it's because I'm leaving the state. Thanks to Leela, I spent a weekend in the Berkshires region, which essentially boils down to the Massachusetts equivalent of a Michigander's Up North: it's where a bunch of people have vacation homes and a lot of the area is in the middle of nowhere with tons of forests and lakes around. It was beautiful; we ate some great food, explored local attractions, and I scored some choice finds at the local yard sales. Word on the street is that I need to go back in the fall for some quality leaf peeping, though I remain skeptical that New England autumns are really prettier than ours in the Midwest.

8. Returned to my roots. I typically head back to Michigan maaaaaybe twice a year, sometimes for Thanksgiving and always at Christmas — which is sad, because the best time to be in Michigan is definitely the summer. So, this year I made it a priority to get there, and it worked out that I got to see the whole family while I was there. The trip included a jaunt up north to see where my brother Kevin now lives and, because my dad flew us there in his tiny Cessna four-seater, four hours of me desperately trying to focus on my book and squeaking every time we hit some turbulence. Family time!

9. FINALLY went to Brimfield. For the less decor-obsessed than I, allow me to explain: the Brimfield Flea is a massive market of antiques that takes place three times a year in Brimfield, Massachusetts. It's like, the holy grail of flea markets — bloggers, professional interior designers, and editors from shelter mags all flock to it every year, and I've wanted to go since before I even lived in the state. And last Saturday, I DID. It was unbelievably overwhelming and more massive than I ever could have imagined, but it was also really, really fun. No major finds to share with you, because it's really not my scene for shopping (too many options, no time to really think over a decision, prices higher than I'm used to for impulse-buying), but it was so cool just to wander and see all the different things, including: one giant, furry rabbit costume (head only); way too many baby doll/robot hybrids; a full-size covered wagon. Yay, Brimfield!