high or low: state pillows of our favorite vacationland

We’ve long been a fan of Catstudio‘s embroidered state pillows. They seize the distorted, dreamy memories that float in our heads of vacations gone-by. Handmade with delicate stitching, each one incorporates not only only the character of the state, but also the artisan who made it. It can take up to one week to embroider one pillow! Take for example this Maine pillow, that not only features the prerequisite blueberries and Moose, but also the L.L.Bean flagship store and Stephen King! At $158 a pop, these beauties are in family heirloom territory in both quality and price.

But for $15, what is not to love about this vintage retro state map pillow at Fabricadabra. There’s something decidedly Wes Anderson about it, with all its earnest fisherman, campers and hunters.

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sunbrilla: a beach shelter that leaves umbrellas in the dust

Who ever thought that an umbrella was the best shape to provide shade on the beach? As the sun shifts, there’s always part of your body sticking out, leaving limbs unprotected or blanket companions feeling jilted. Other types of beach tents can be cumbersome and clunky to install — and have you seen the colors they come in? Yuck. It’s enough to make any decor-enthusiast run screaming from the sand. Allow us to introduce you to the Sunbrilla, a colorful fabric roof you can raise whenever it is needed. It is made from 100% cotton and is 95% UV protected (tested by ARPANSA). Available currently in three shades (blue, aqua and yellow) that you can have in strapped to your shoulder by the end of the month. Each comes with two 6ft aluminium poles, one aluminium crossbar, four ropes and four metal pegs and a bag to tote it all in. $180 at Pink Chicken New York.

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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 DiCamillo.com

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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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