road trip! quirky apps for quirky stops

There was an upside to our move to (and back from) Chicago last summer: road trips! Having done one cross-country move previously that was all business (as in, drive from Cincinnati to Seattle in just four days), we decided to take our time in our trip back to the Midwest and see a few sites along the way. I knew there were a few places we wanted to stop, like Yellowstone and Deadwood (we’re fans of the short-lived TV series), but otherwise, we used apps to tell us what was nearby as we drove, and stopped when it sounded fun. We like odd destinations, so we relied on two iPhone apps the most: Best Road Trip Ever! and Roadside America. Which one would I recommend? Well, both.

I have been a huge fan of Roadside America since the wee days of the internet, and for the most part, their app does not disappoint. You’ll pay to see more, however — the Roadside America app breaks the U.S. into seven regions. You can choose one region for $2.99. If you want to see all of them, you’ll pay an additional $5.99 (or $1.99 ala carte). The upside of the Roadside America app is that you can find a lot of interesting backstory on many of the destinations — for instance, I would never have thought to go a few miles off track to visit FAST Corp in Sparta, Wisconsin, but thanks to a story on Roadside America, that became one of the highlights of our trip (more on that in a later post).

Where Best Road Trip Ever! takes the lead for us was not only cost — 99 cents gets you the whole shebang — but also its connectivity and easy navigation. We did a lot of driving through mountainous Montana and middle-of-nowhere South Dakota, and we found that even when our mobile coverage was spotty, Best Road Trip Ever! connected more regularly. It also seemed to have more immediate “Here’s what’s close to you right now” options than the Roadside America app. I also like that it lets you mark the places you’ve visited or save future stops in a “Wanna Go!” section. Let’s put it this way: I’m not convinced we would have found Evel Kneivel’s grave, a hilltop park filled with giant dinosaurs built in the 1930s, or an enormous statue of the Green Giant without Best Road Trip Ever! helping us out. And for that, we are grateful.

Next up: reports on some of those weird and wonderful places we visited.

Best Road Trip Ever! art via Propaganda3.


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sweet mother’s day gift: mail-order italian cuore di pane loaf

My mother’s side of the family is Italian, and raised me with an affinity towards baked goods, especially those from DiCamillo Bakery from my hometown of Niagara. Whenever I visit the region, I always buy a loaf or two of their crusty Italian bread to take home and put in the freezer. A toasted slice with a bit of Nutella spread on top takes me back to 30 years in one bite.

I also have use DiCamillo’s mail order site for gifts, and their Cuore di Pane (Heart of Bread) is sure to melt any mother’s heart. The bread itself is delicious — made of candied orange, raisins, dried cherries with a light almond frosting. It goes great with a cup of a coffee. Packaged in gorgeous keepsake box, it’s sure to make any Sunday special. $26 at

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having a party? tin parade’s table banners tell guests where to nosh

We love creating “stations” when we entertain, setting aside different areas for drinks or sweets or savories. But it’s not always easy directing your guests and make sure things don’t get all mixed up through the night. That’s why we instantly fell for these clever table banners by Tin Parade. Not only do they help direct guests where to go, they also are elegant with a touch of attitude. Practical and pretty — what more could a hostess want? We especially love the “I do” one above, that would help any wedding-planning-bride turn a picnic table into something worthy of hors d’oeuvres. Click here to see all of Tin Parade’s table banners, $39 each.

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chair porn: visiting the kelly wearstler-designed viceroy in anguilla

I don’t consider myself a lucky person. I leave casino’s empty handed, my underdog horse never wins and my lottery tickets haven’t paid off yet. All that changed earlier in the year when I bought a raffle ticket at a school fundraiser. “Win a beach vacation!” the sign said. I stopped even though I was rushing for a train, gave the cute kid selling them $20 and my name and hurried on my way, having accomplished a little good deed for the day. You can’t imagine my surprise when I got a call a few weeks later telling me I had won. And the prize was not just any beach vacation, but a few night’s stay in the absolutely stunning Viceroy in Anguilla. This place is James Bond quality beautiful, thanks in part to having been styled by the always tasteful Kelly Wearstler. Muted hues and natural textures preside. One of my favorite treats was discovering the plethora of beautiful chairs sprinkled about the property. Around every column stood another elegant throne. I took some photos of my favorites, including the one above that is a cream colored version of Wearstler’s famed souffle chair. I would be remiss to not share my husband’s take on all these seats though: “They’re pretty to look at, but uncomfortable as hell.” But I always say, never look a free visit to a designer paradise in the mouth. Enjoy!

This driftwood beauty is the one I would bring home if I could. If only it would fit in my suitcase.

These twin “face” chairs had a great view of the ocean… but were a bit surreal for my liking.

Left, a stunning carved spoon chair greets guests in the lobby. Right, a lounger that is more inviting than it is comfy.

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what i’ve been cooking over the holidays — 2012 edition!

Hello friends! Sorry for the light posting this past week. As you can imagine, we’ve been busy cooking, wrapping, playing and making merry. The kitchen has seen a lot of action — thank God we installed that dishwasher this year! Here’s a round up of some of the recipes that have graced our table.

1. Popovers. Always a favorite. Though they’re great for breakfast, served warm with butter, honey and your favorite jams, on Christmas, I serve them with the main course. They go great with a roast beast of any kind, especially if there is gravy in picture.

2. Slow cooked pomegranate short ribs.
I took this recipe from Everyday food and adapted it for my slow cooker. Here’s how. First brown the meat in a skillet. Then place it in a slow cooker with onion, garlic gloves, thyme, red wine and pomegranate juice and cook on slow for five or six hours. Once the meat is falling-apart tender, remove and plate. Make a roux with butter and cornstarch in a sauce pan on the stove, and strain some of the fragrant juice from the slow cooker in, stirring until it turns into a gravy. Pour over the meat and sprinkle it with pomegranate seeds. It was insanely delicious.

3. Braised broccoli rabe. I took another page from Everyday Food and had broccoli rabe as a side dish. This is another favorite in our house. Usually I just saute in it garlic, but this time I cooked it for about ten minutes in a chicken broth and garlic bath. The results were tender and sweet.

4. Parmesan polenta. The other side dish I whipped up was Ina Garten’s parmesan polenta. This is another example of a simple recipe made stunning by using the best ingredients. Into basic polenta you add creme fraiche and freshly grated parmesan. So rich and heavenly, I could eat a whole bowlful.

5. Tiramisu. Since the menu inadvertently evolved into one with Italian flavors, I thought a traditional Tiramisu would be nice way to end the evening. I used a basic recipe from Giada De Laurentiis. Every time I make this I am amazed at how easy it is. As long as you have a stand mixer, and can easily whip up those egg yolks until they are nice and frothy, restaurant-style Tiramisu is a breeze. After a hearty meal, it is light and sweet and has just enough of a coffee flavor to perk things up. Amazing.

What did you serve over the holidays? I’d love the hear about it! — Angela M.

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