What is the Wandering Sister Rating?

1 Wandering Sister = Enter at your own risk, you've been warned.
2 Wandering Sisters = How hungry are you? This place has it's down side.
3 Wandering Sisters = Pretty good place to go, but not for everyone.
4 Wandering Sisters =  Good food. Good service. You won't go wrong.
5 Wandering Sisters = Considering there's only 4 of us... This rating will speak for itself!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

The Cracker Barrel Restaurant

Normally, I offer people reviews and advice on the food at an establishment. This time, I think I'll skip that part. Anyone who is going to the Cracker Barrel either knows the food... or I will go out on a limb and say that you'll enjoy it. It's down home cooking at reasonable prices. I would love to see more to their menu, but they're a big enough chain that I won't bother with that. 
The biggest issue here is the location. This location to be more specific. 
After spending the day in the pouring rain. We were looking forward to dinner at Lady and Son's, the restaurant of the Food Network Queen, Paula Deen. We still had over an hour left to wait, so we decided to check out a local antique shop. Unfortunately when we left the store, the rain started to come down, hard. Being cold, soaked and still having an hour to wait to check in, I said screw it, I really wasn't THAT big of a fan. 
Our search for dinner began on the ride back to our camper. We drove around town as our navigation tried to convince us to turn around at each street. We were in search of a good home cooked BBQ, true to Southern style. I could go into a whole rant on not finding a mom and pop BBQ restaurant in a town like Savanna, but I'll skip that to save on time. 
So, after our 30 mile detour, we ended up 2 miles from our camp, at the Cracker Barrel Family Restaurant. Laughing at the irony of us ending up at the place we intentionally passed up 45 minutes prior, we decided that obviously this was as good as we were going to get as far as a BBQ was concerned. I had hoped for something a little less commercial, but this would have to do. 
We sat down, relieved that we had found a comfortable country environment, sure that our meal would be excellent. What we didn't expect, was Wanda. 
Wanda is very confused as to why she is wandering around this Cracker Barrel. She was obviously let go from her previous job as a Walmart greeter, for being unqualified, and now she wanders around this establishment trying to shoo people away. 
We discussed leaving after our first few encounters with The Wanda, but decided that we were too hungry to go through another 30 mile tour of the city.  Wanda hovered over us as we were pressed to make our final decisions. Obviously she was late for a hot date. 
The food of course was fabulous, the portion and presentation was less than I expected, but we were happy and full when we finished. 
Wanda of course was on top of everything. How one finds a way to be rude at every step of a meal, when there are so many other customers to give the same delightful service to, I have no idea. As we left, I considered doing something that no one with waitressing background considers... I actually considered leaving behind a shinny penny that my daughter found in her pocket. But, alas, Wanda lucked out.
When we left, we were full and satisfied, but unfortunately for Store #52 in Savanna, GA, they still had to spend the evening with dear Wanda. Good luck guys.

If you're going to be in Savanna, and you NEED Cracker Barrel... Just make sure you're not seated in Wanda's section.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009


Yes, the Zensation salad is back at Zaxby's!
An Oriental salad with fried chicken, won tons, honey lime vinaigrette and a vegetable egg roll
If you still have a pulse, you may not have ever heard of this salad, or possibly Zaxby's for that matter. We thoroughly enjoyed the chicken strips, the Texas toast and the spicy fried mushrooms...mmm. But I am afraid that regular visits to Zaxby's might be the end of us. 

The dining area is attractive, clean and very pleasant to be in. The food is served hot and in better portion sizes than I expected. 
We were very unhappy with the fact that they charge you for the sauces. If you are not a fan of their special sauce, you have to pay extra to get a small container of BBQ or Honey Mustard. Things like that in these economic times are just petty. The Zaxby's chain really should reconsider this policy.

This is definitely a restaurant run by high schoolers, so the staff's friendliness was very mixed. 
Good luck all, and enjoy... but keep it limited, we want you back here to check out more fabulous places we visit.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Beef O'Brady's - Pawney Island, SC

What can I say about Beef O'Brady's?  We came to this restaurant by accident, but it ended up being the best experience of our entire trip. At Beef O'Brady's Family Sports Pub, you are welcomed by a warm and friendly staff and a clean and fun environment. The smells from the kitchen will have your mouth watering from the moment you open the door. Seeing as how I was stranded with no obvious time of release, I watch mouthwatering plate after mouthwatering plate pass me by. From the Philly Cheese Steak sandwich to the Fish and Chips, I was assured that whatever my choice, lunch at this establishment promised to be worth the wait.
I waited, out of the cold, for my husband to purchase the needed parts for our trailer. Alas, no luck, we were looking at actually spending the next 24 hours in this parking lot. 
I glanced around at the plates on tables around me and thought... "Okay! Lets eat!" If you have to be stranded for a while, this is the parking lot to do it in. 
I looked over the menu, thinking that I had a minimum of 2 meals here. Now, if you know me, you know that I typically look over a menu as if I have to narrow it down to only one. Well, this time, I lucked out. :)
I had my 2 meals all picked out. Later, I would discover that those efficient boys over at Advanced Auto had different plans for my dinner. 
I was torn between the Frisco Patty Melt, a delicious beef patty with swiss and american cheese, lettuce, tomato, crunchy onions and special sauce on a grilled sourdough bread. I KNOW!  You see why it was in my top 2 right?
Since I had 2 meals, my ultimate choice for lunch was the Baja Shrimp Wrap. Bite sized shrimp, fried to perfection and tossed in a special Beef O'Brady's sauce with coleslaw and tomatoes in a grilled flour tortilla. Yep, and now you know how I made my selection. Just the thought of my lunch makes my mouth water. 

I highly recomend that you locate a Beef O'Brady's near you. However, if at all possible, visit the Pawley Island's location at 
10337 Ocean HWY #17
Pawley Island, SC 29585

Monday, May 18, 2009

Southern Hospitality at it's Finest

As if the Carolinas weren't leaving enough of an impression, we thought we'd add one more lasting memory before we left. We decided before leaving, we would stop off in Charleston for the night. I informed Todd that if we left in time, we could make it to the camp, go see Fort Sumter, have dinner on Restaurant Row, and be good to head out to Savannah the next morning. Obviously, "Planning" does not work in our favor. Being a family that normally operates best, "winging it", we should have thought better of this whole, "running on time" thing we had going this morning. We were only on the road all of 10 minutes, engrosed in our Angels and Demons book on CD, when the truck behind us started honking frantically, trying to get our attention. I saw the man pointing at the the side of our fifth wheel and I tried to follow his pointing to see what all the fuss was about. I saw nothing out of the ordinary. No doors flapping open, no fat cats holding on to the railing with fur flapping in the wind... what was the big deal?We pulled over into the Advanced Auto Parts parking lot (good luck, I'd say). Smoke came flowing out of the tire on the passenger side of the trailer... usually not a good thing. Upon closer inspection, it appeared that something inside the center cap had exploded, leaving smoke and melted plastic all over the tire rim. Being very limited in my knoweledge of the workings of axles, I can only say that bearings and oil should not explode while driving. Apparently, we were too heavy (the trailer, not me).  For those of you who recall the Quakertown incident may remember that I am not in any way comfortable with my husband using a little jack to lift 10,000 lbs, and then crawl underneath. I'm even less comfortable with him doing this on a slope that doesn't work in his favor. But apparently, the memories of playing in the mud in Quakertown left him wanting to play with grease in Pawley's Island, SC.There will be humor in this adventure, some day. There may be many vodka tonics before the humor really shines through, but I'm sure some day we will look back and laugh at our moment of misfortune. 
The one thing in all of this that will stand out over anything else is the people that we have encountered during this adventure. The guys at the Advance Auto Parts were the kindest, most generest individuals I have ever met! I have been to many auto parts stores. (I used to run parts for UTI, an automotive school in AZ) Typically when they don't have a part, they don't have a part. Well, the guys at this location were not willing to accept this. When they found that they did not have the part, they first called every store outside of their ownership to find it. When that failed, they proceeded to search their inventory by hand for other parts that might work. When that failed, the owner then drove to 3 unrelated marine parts stores, finally searching the inventory of the last store, by hand. I have never heard of this kind of customer service, anywhere! 
Seeing as how it has been 6 hours... and counting... We have also had the fortune of meeting the delightful people at Beef O'Brady's, a great Family Sports Pub, right across the parking lot of the Advance Auto Parts, located behind the Waffle House. 
After having parts of our trailer litterally explode, the Pub obviously appealed to me more than the Waffle House when selecting where to have lunch. 
I definately chose correctly! This Family Pub is very attractive and clean. The food was delicious and the staff was caring and courteous. We imposed on their establishment for hours, bringing with us 2 very bored young children. Throughout the day, they continued to refill our drinks and bring us snacks, sympathising for our situation. (They will have their own blog, stay tuned.)

As we entered North Carolina, from Virginia, my spirits were down. I did not want to leave my beloved New England. However the people here in Pawleys Island, South Carolina have restored my spirits. If my adventure has a chance of introducing me to more people like them, I look forward to what lies ahead. 

Many thanks to the crew at Advance Auto Parts and the staff at Beef O'Brady Family Pub!
I suggest you pay them a visit when you're in town.

10337 Ocean HWY #17
Pawley Island, SC 29585

Sunday, May 17, 2009

A Day at the Beach

I awoke this morning with a short person announcing, “Mom. Wake up. It’s 9-8-7. Time to go to the beach.” Boy, how time gets away from you. I had no idea I had slept in so late.

We spent a few hours on the beach, soaking in the rays that periodically snuck through the clouds.  When the rain started to fall, we decided to go in for lunch and a nap. (Well, some of us napped, others impatiently tapped their toes.)

Finally, as the rain had ceased, we decided that we should go back out to enjoy the rest of the day on the beach.

My eight year old promptly planted herself within the tide line and proceeded to dig a hole, searching for ancient shells of species never seen before. (Glad to know that the museum of natural history had some effect.) Being within the tide line, the hole became increasingly difficult to maintain. The dig was beginning to take on the urgency of a fire fighter fighting a great inferno. Even the 3 year old saw that this was not worth continuing, so he rallied me for an invigorating game of ‘Ready Set Go’, in the waves. I remember once playing this game with my father in the waves, but when I played, I was the Jumper. This game started off, completely unruly. Jumps were random, making it impossible to not fall over. I had to inform him of the proper rules to this ocean game.

The point is to avoid the hit of the waives, or the foam that it produces. And since the point is not to pull moms arms out of her shoulder sockets, there has to be some sort of warning prior to jumps. So, we set the pace as “Ready, Set, Go…” jump. In reality, I would say, “Ready, Set, Go”, and he would continue to jump at his own pace.

Back at the dig… With water filling the whole periodically, the eight year old was increasingly frustrated. Not one to accept defeat, she decided to go with the flow and build “another ocean”.

After a good 30 minutes straight of ‘Ready, Set, Go’, the game never loosing its excitement, we had to call it due to rain.

All in all Myrtle Beach has been quite the success. Maybe some day, we’ll be able to come back, maybe even without the rain. (And that’s the last time you’ll ever hear me say that about rain.)

Life is tough

Its hard work, but someone had to do it. How else would you know about the fabulous Myrtle beach, if I were not here telling you about it? I will just have to suck it up and do my job... as I sit in a well selected spot on the beach. 

It's sand, water (at a comfortable temperature, I might ad) and very little sun at this moment.
Yes, life is good, and I am told that there are some sand crabs in need of my inspection. Tata for now!

Friday, May 15, 2009

Ben and Jerry's and the Elusive Candy Bar

Beware! Apparently, somewhere out there is a candy bar called the 7 layer Coconut bar.   
Lift your jaw off the floor and I will continue.... 
Ben and Jerry's went and made an ice cream sundae out of this candy bar. Oh, but they did. I will not be reviewing this. I know you may be shocked, because you're probably thinking, why would I not review such a thing.  Well, I'll tell you. It's a combination of icecream, coconut, chocolate, walnuts, whip cream and whatever other coconut delights live in this alleged candy bar... the combination of such ingredients do not deserve to be insulted by a "Review". These flavors have already embedded themselves onto your tongue, and you will no doubt be looking for Pina Colada mix or an almond joy in your pantry shortly. So, I will leave you with just this brief warning. If you find a Ben and Jerry's, walk quickly. This is not doubt, NOT a "lite" snack and will leave you with coconut dreams for who knows how long.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Colonial Williamsburg, VA

Colonial Williamsburg is  a beautiful city in possibly the most beautiful state in our country. Yes, I know I said this about Pennsylvania, and I don't want to take that back, but WOW, Virginia! (I'm still reserving the right to use this statement again. I've been warned to save judgment for the Carolinas)
We woke up this morning, not really knowing what we were going to do in Williamsburg. We only knew that there was a 301 acre living pre-revolution town waiting for us 3 miles down the road from camp. (This is approximately 2.99 miles further than the railroad tracks... no, I'm not exaggerating.)
So, off we went, to join the colonist of the 17th century. 
As we left, there was a small pause in Todds pulse as I reviewed the price list for attractions. Poor baby, so spoiled by all those free attractions in DC. We decided to tour the city a little before we settled on an option. 
We walked around town, going in and out of shops, tasting delicious samples of cheeses, peanuts and ham. We stopped and listened and towns people interacted in the streets. We admired the Clydesdale's as the periodically marched down the cobble streets. We even had lunch in one of the local pubs. I can only tell you for certain that if we had another day to see everything, and possibly some shoes that were previously broken in, we would have purchased the passes for the city. Running about $55 for adults and $20 for children, it was evident that they would have been well worth the cost. 
Sites that we were unable to get an inside included the Governors mansion, the capitol and many, many shops and homes where towns people acted out duties and events of "real life". Through the windows, you can see wood workers actively building in their shops, women baking in the kitchen and townsfolk holding petitions in the capital.
The buildings are beautifully restored, the costumes are well done. Not at all a cheep look.  The towns folk really immerse themselves into their characters. 
This would be a great place to spend a few days, soaking in the history and life style and then retiring to the beaches of Virginia. 

Information Overload

Well, I am now sitting in my "Cabin", which is what I have instinctively been calling my little house on wheels, in Williamsburg, VA. This location possibly has the slowest WiFi on the planet and try as I might, we are not going to be reminiscing photos of Washington DC during this post... it's just not going to happen. 
However, if I keep going (not posting because of the picture issue), I may explode, and nobody needs that. This is new upholstery in my cabin. 

There is only 2 things that you need to know about visiting Washington DC. First of all, book 5-7 days, at least. We were there 5 days and we had to decide to move on without seeing at least 2-4 days worth of stuff. 
The second thing is, everything is free! Yes, Free. You pay for hotel and food, but nothing more if you don't want to. Tours are available, but seeing it on foot is certainly reasonable. 
I have been to museums and zoos before. I have never been oooed or ahhhed and I have always left thinking... "Well, at least it was good exercise for that $50."
The museums that are located in Washington DC are nothing like the museums you've visited. I don't care if you have been ooed and ahhed somewhere else... believe me, these museums will knock your socks off! And, they'll do it for free!   "I KNOW!!!" (a little Craig Ferguson reference)
Between museums, there are monuments and historical buildings to keep you busy. You can walk along the waters and green landscape, soaking in the enormous historical buildings lining this amazing town for days without getting bored. The sites that you see will leave you breathless, I promise.  Speaking of breathless... As promised, by the time you reach the Lincoln monument... you will be breathless... in every sense of the word. Go ahead, eat whatever you want while you're in Washington, it will be impossible to hold on to any of those calories! (I really could have used a few monuments to walk up today)

I can not stress enough how much we loved our stay in Washington DC. If you ever have the opportunity to visit our capitol, do it, this was an experience we will never forget!

Monday, May 11, 2009

Washington DC Update

Just so that you're aware, we are pausing for a brief intermission. Washington is quite exhausting and thinking and typing at the end of the day are impossible. 

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Moshulu, The Floating Restaurant

I’m sure this is not the last time I will say this on this trip, but Philadelphia is the most incredible city I have seen so far in my life. Now, as I write this, I am about to plan my trip to Washington D.C, so I would like to reserve the right to take it back and re-designate that title.

We stayed in a little town in New Jersey, about 15 miles outside Philadelphia. When we arrived, work was swarming into our email’s, so we decided to take it easy for the evening.

The next day, as we finally headed into town, we decided to tour the outskirt, industrial area of the Philadelphia harbor, going in circles… by “we”, I mean, my psychotic navigation thought we should really soak in the sites of the industrial park.

So, we decided to ignore the retarded little unit and accidentally stumbled upon a very cool old ship in the harbor. As Todd commented on wanting to see it, I noticed that it said restaurant and Bar on the side. “Well…. Hello.”  So, we stopped for lunch aboard the Moshulu. This ship has an amazing history, which you can read about Here, but you would never know about it, just on a visit alone. This ship is missing one major thing… Information. While we were there, we speculated about it being a cruise ship or a grand “Yatch” for the well off of the 19th century. Not knowing it’s age or history, we could only imagine. With a little investigation, we found that this ship is the oldest 4 mast sail boat still afloat today. At one time, it carried coal, copper ore and coke, and in it’s hay day, it won the great grain race of 1939. It has changed hands from country to country since its creation in 1904. The interior is in the design of a luxury liner, which was done in a remodel in 1994, after a fire damaged it in 1989.

The menu at the Moshulu is not by any means extensive, but it’s also not unreasonably priced. You will be able to enjoy fresh salads, wraps and meat entrees during the lunch hours for around $8-$20 (at dinner, you are asked to check your arm and leg at the coat check). We were very pleased with this, considering the atmosphere we were enjoying. We expected to pay much more for less food in this type of place.  

Prior to receiving our food, they brought out a plate with sliced French bread and cute little balls of butter, sprinkled with chives. I wouldn’t have thought to do this, but it was quite tasty.

I ordered the Roasted Vegetable Wrap, which included spinach, peppers, oven dried tomatos, onions and fried eggplant with a basil aoli, and served with Satur Farm Greens and a Green Goddess dressing.  Now, I don’t know what the deal is lately, but if I don’t get a decent salad soon, I’m going to scream. I’m not sure what makes a green goddess dressing, but I wasn’t willing to eat enough to find out. The wrap was more than enough food and made up for the weeds on the side. I almost had the wrap sans fried eggplant, but this would have been a mistake. The combination was excellent. 

Todd, is on a mission to find the perfect burger, so he ordered the ½ lb. Pirme Steak Burger. (Two words that when combined, are sure to be excellent.) This was a ½ lb of quality beef covered in 2 types of cheddar, caramelized onions and a chipotle aioli sauce. I thought the flavor was excellent. Todd was not convinced it was the perfect burger… so the quest continues.

Moshulu… I give you a 4 Wandering Sisters. Even if you’re only looking for a place to just have a cocktail, the atmosphere on this boat is too good to pass up. The food was great, the presentation is excellent, the experience is exceptional…

2 changes would have made this trip a 5…

First, if there was some history of this amazing ship, whether it’s posted or simply explained by the staff.

Second, salad dressings should not be green… unless there’s a lot of blue cheese. Throw some balsamic on there for heaven sake!



Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Hollywood Cafe and Sports Bar

Located at Rt 45 and Elm Ave in Woodbury Heights, NJ, this vintage diner SCREAMS "SEE ME!"
There is no way to not see this place, but if you're heading West on Rt 45, you may never get back to it. Apparently New Jersey is adamantly again turns. Every intersection we came to had big signs stating "No Turns". Six miles down the road we decided we would be rebels and do an illegal turn so that we could get back to this brightly lit, red, Hollywood Diner. 
There are 2 areas to this diner. One being your typical 60's diner setting, the other being a very charming vintage, eclectic sports bar. We chose to sit in the high ceilinged, flat screen filled sports bar area. 
Feeling festive sitting there, I decided to order a draft beer. I asked the waitress if there were any specials going on. She said, "No, not tonight." I thought that was odd since upon entering, you're swarmed by signs everywhere stating all kinds of specials on every night you could imagine. But apparently we had bad timing. I decided to just go with a Samuel Adams Summer ale. Of course, as we were leaving, I saw a hard to miss sign, (from that angle anyways) stating that every Wednesday is $1 Bud and Bud Light Drafts.  Gee, that seems like that would have qualified as a special that night. Not that I was feenin' for a Bud light... but hey, for $1, would have gone in that direction.
I took a few extra minutes to look over the menu, there were quite a few things that appealed to me. When a menu uses such words as "fresh zucchini, asparagus, artichokes and spinach" my taste buds start watering. My eyes wandered over several appealing little entrees, most costing $12-$16, however, prices did range from $6-$25. My husband suggested a wrap that was right up my alley, for around $8, it had chicken and asparagus and all kinds of yummy in it. I almost did it, but I said, "no, I want 'Dinner'." So, I settled on a Fresh Breast of Chicken Balsamico...  Yes, chicken breast, fresh mixed vegetables and a Balsamic red wine sauce. mmmm! My meal came with a side salad and a vegitable (which includes rice and pasta at this establishment... not the vegi's I'm used to, but hey, what the hell?) I went with the Greek salad, which was quite impressive looking. 
The flavor was a little bland and after almost breaking my teeth on the seeded olive, there were a few foul words... Why on earth do restaurants put seeded olives on your salad? Is it really too much to ask for your food to be edible from the get go? This goes for all you restaurant owner out there... just a thought... they do sell pitted kalamata's.
Within minutes, my dinner arrived. Now, I'm not one to complain about fresh vegi's... but why specify "mixed vegi's" and then only throw a few tomato's and LOTS of spinach into the pan, especially when you clearly have all those other vegetables at your disposal? Hey, I'm a fan of almost ALL vegi's, but I was expecting more than this. To ad to my disappointment, it was also a very bland sauce. The only way to get bland out of a balsamic and red wine combo.... wait, how do you make that bland? Clearly they worked very hard at down playing the flavor of this dish.

The atmosphere in this diner is great, I give it a definite A+ for that. Also, if you're suffering from a cold and you're having trouble tasting, you'll never know the difference in good food and this food.
I was a little confused by the Foot Locker uniforms though. I get that it's a sports bar and all, but it is mostly a retro diner, so the uniforms were just off.

Depending on why you're going, and how well your sinuses are working, I give it a 2-3 Wandering Sisters. The atmosphere definitely boosts this reviewers opinion of this one, but the food makes it hard to recommend.

The Old State Capitold building of Connecticut

The Old State Capital building was built in 1872-1879, opening in 1878. This beautiful structure is set in the picturesque Busnell Park, which alone is quite the site. The cost was $2.5 Million to build, made from granite, marble and slate. The Dome is 24k gold leaf. Can you just image your state saying, “Hey, we’re going to need to raise the taxes, just a tad, so that we can erect this solid stone castle for us to meet in every month.” Oh, I’m sure that would go over well.

Well, it may never happen in this day and age, but I’m sure glad it happened in the 19th century. Visiting places like this is my favorite part of this trip.

We were unfortunately late for tours, getting more than we expected from the Mark Twain house. As we arrived, we were informed that the self guided tour pamphlet was available and we could continue on our own. As we walked through the West Atrium, we came into the Hall of Flags. This was the most amazing site of old flags you could ever imagine. Some of the first American flags, so warn that only portions of them remained. I certainly know of a wandering sister who would spend hours in this room alone. We did not have the luxury of time, after all we had mud to play in, in Pennsylvania.

Richard, a security guard at the old state capital build was very helpful during our brief self guided tour. He told me where to go to see all of the high points before we left. If it weren’t for him, I would never have seen the Charter Oak Chair that resides in the State Chamber. History tells that in 1662, King Charles II gave Connecticut a charter, granting it a Colony.  In 1687, the kings’ successor, King James II wished to take back this charter. The governor was said to have hidden the document inside a great white oak tree, which was then known as The Charter Oak tree. 150 years later, this tree was blown down in a terrible storm, and was carved into the chair that the Lieutenant Governor presides in today. The actual Charter is on display across the street in the State library/Museum/Supreme Court building.  I wish I had had time to go see that.

I am going to let the pictures speak for themselves. This building was amazing. If you’re in the area, go check it out. 

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

The Mark Twain house and Museum

Hartford, CT has been a town on our list of Places to see for a while now. Not knowing what to do in Hartford, we did a little research online and found that the 2 places to visit were the Mark Twain house and the Old Capital building.  I’ll cover the Capitol Building in a separate blog.

From the pictures online, the Mark Twain house looked like a very cool old place to go. Seeing as how this was supposed to be a historical adventure and learning experience for the second grade drop out (she was pulled out of school for this long trip), this seemed like a good place to visit.

When driving through Hartford, I must admit, we almost didn’t make it to the Mark Twain house. A few misdirected roads took us down some fairly scary areas of town. However, once we found the house, the environment was quite different. Just don’t leave anything too valuable in the car.

We expected to walk into the house and pay our entrance fee at the door, just like at the Newport Mansions. We were however, pleasantly surprised with our experience.

You enter through a museum building and while waiting for the tour to begin, you are able to wander through a room with a detailed timeline in the life of Samuel Clemens, aka, Mark Twain. Across from this room is a theater where you can watch a video summarizing the life of Samuel. I do recommend that you take the time to watch the video, either before or after the tour.

Our tour was lead by Al, who instructed me to refer to him as Benny if I did not like his presentation. I could have not been more impressed with his knowledge of the home and its occupants though, so he’ll definitely be referred to as “Al” ;)

Al was able to explain so many details about the home and the family, you truly feel like you knew them by the time you leave. There is stenciling done throughout the house on the walls and ceiling, contracted out by Louis Tiffany himself. Designed to mock mother of pearl, leather and gold, the stenciling is detailed and ornate. There is also Tiffany tiles around the fireplace in the dining room which I could not keep my eyes off. The details in the home are absolutely amazing. Paintings, vases and other trinkets around the house were duplicated straight from images taken in the home during the families stay, giving it a quite historically accurate view into the world of Mark Twain.


They run a tight ship at this museum, which helps maintain the integrity of the artifacts in the home, as at least 1/3 of the furniture and décor is original to home when Samuel and his family resided there. You are not allowed to eat, drink, chew gum or think edible thoughts when walking through the home. Ok, you can think about eating, but seriously, skip the gum, you do have to spit it out before you go in.


Our experience at the house was much more impressive than we expected. If you are in the area, take the time to check it out. Tickets for an adult are priced at a very reasonable $14 per person and children, ages 6-12 are $8. 

Allentown, Pennsylvania, Finally....???

I don’t recall where I heard it from, but someone told us that we should visit Historic Allentown, PA. So, after a good several hours of sleep, we all piled in the car to go get lunch in the town that put us through Hell to come see.

As we approached downtown Allentown, we ooed and ahed over the beautiful architecture, noticing that these building must have been very old, because they appeared quite run down. As we drove and drove, up and down streets our "oo" and "ah" turned to “What the…“ and “Lock your doors.”  We continued to look for a place to eat, but that was now a back burner thought to, “How do we leave Allentown?” So, we stopped to buy hot dogs for the grill and headed back to the camper. Even with no cell service, it is still the more appealing option, but that could be the 4 hours of sleep talking.


Next time you accidentally find yourself in Allentown, roll up your windows, lock your doors, and drive quickly to the next town over, Hamilton. They have quite the impressive amusement park there.

Click the title to visit the Dorney Park website.

May 4th

May 4th. The day that will survive the trip as being the most entertaining, frustrating, stressful, exhausting day EVER! (fingers crossed)

The day began with a trip into Hartford to see the Old State Capital building and the Mark Twain house and museum.  We stopped in Downtown Hartford for lunch at Woody’s, a cute little hot dog restaurant located at 915 Main St. in Hartford. I can’t say it was the best hot dog I’ve ever had. However, they did have great selection of hot dogs, hamburgers and a few sandwiches. Todds Philly Hot Dog very tasty.

On from there, we toured some quite scary areas in Hartford and then headed back to the Cabin to get back on the road. The trip from Connecticut to Quakertown, PA was to be the longest so far, 4 hours on the road. So far, we have been visiting our destinations during the day and then driving at night. It’s worked out well up until this point. Last night changed everything.

We arrived at our camp ground in Quakertown just before midnight. We learned 2 things on this leg of the trip that we will never forget. First, our camper is definitely not 12’. While holding our breath we passed through a wooden covered bridge, definitely true to Amish country imaging, which stood a maximum height of 12’1”. As we quietly inched under the cover, Todd and I leaning out our windows, we had a great sigh of relief when we realized that we would not be spending the rest of our night being the stuffing of an old Amish Bridge.

The second lesson of the night was, Pennsylvani,a as beautiful as these green, grassy rolling hills are… they are not ideal for parking a trailer after 3 days of rain.  As we were parking our trailer, Todd pulled into the slot in front of ours to straighten the camper. Well, as it turns out, this slot was left empty for very good reason. The soil in this area of the park is the same consistency of  cake mix. Watery cake mix. We spent the next 5 hours in Hell. If you can imagine, moving 8-9 tons of weight out of cake mix, while it’s raining is not an easy or enjoyable task.

I watched in amazement as the man of the year raised the truck, digging out cake mix from under the tires and wedging boards under the wheels to give traction. We were able to roll the truck about 1-2 feet at a time before each side had to be repositioned. After 5 hours of playing in the mud, we decided maybe this was the night we would stay in a hotel.  Of course, there was 2 problems with this idea. First, we’re in Amish country, Hotels are not on every corner. Second, the problem with hotels is they want you to check out at 11am or pay for another night.

As we drove around in what seemed like circles through Quakertown, the clearings and parking lots started to call our name. After all, we drive with our house behind us and any parking space would have sufficed at this hour. After finding no sign of hotels, (which now makes sense), we decided to try another park located a little north of our destination. We raced the sun in reaching our bed as we pulled in to the park at 6am. Still holding true to his Man of the Year title, I watched, blurry eyed, as Todd hooked up our camper to all the necessary connections… which apparently included building a Coax cable to hook up. Apparently after the night he had, there was no way in hell he would be going to bed without watching some of his beloved news. By 7am, the sun was officially peaking it’s head and we were finally able to craw under the sheets for a brief nap as the cats were also able to come out from hiding.

Monday, May 4, 2009

The Mansions of Newport

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This is not the first time that we have visited these beautiful homes and it is certainly not the last.

Many people know about Newport, RI. I however, knew nothing about it until recently.  For those who are not aware. Newport was considered the place to be by the elite of society in the 19th century. The early 1900’s was considered the Guilded Age in Newport. The main attraction of the town being the “Summer cottages” of the very wealthy of the time.

One can not describe the mansions of Newport. A picture is worth a thousand words, but the amount of gold on the walls in some of these homes, a picture would be worth a million words, and I don’t have that much space. Unfortunately for you, pictures are not allowed in the mansions, so you’ll have to go see them in order to understand why they are so amazing. To look at the pictures you may find online, you would think… “wow, that’s just bad taste.” But in person, these homes are goddy, over the top, chaotic and every bit amazing!  Guided tours, lasting 45 minutes to an hour give you insight into a world that most of us will never know. The beauty and history in these homes are not done justice by a book, or website. Only a personal experience will do in this case.  Most of the homes are filled with original furniture and décor from the original owners from 1892 through 1906. Some artifacts dating back to 400 B.C. Other homes, or partial homes are filled with artifacts or replicas of the items of the period. Either way, the experience is priceless. From stories of summer guests and parties to the well known friends of the family, such as Thomas Edison himself, you will hear all about the lives of The Vanderbilts and other well known wealthy families.


There are about 7 homes in the society home tour. A tour of each house will run you around $20 per person or bundled tickets for a discount. A Society membership for a household will cost you about $90 and the entrance into the homes are free with membship. Now that we’ve visited twice, I would highly recommend paying for a Society membership and visiting every home, at least once or twice.  You will not regret it!


One home is not included in the society tours, as the owner still lives in the home. This would be the Belcourt Castle. An amazing property with a unique story to tell. From the layout of the home and the unique hump in the library, intentionally put there by the lady of the house, to the lights installed by Thomas Edison himself. This home is a DO NOT MISS! Not every tour is child friendly. There are regular tours going on through the day, and then the evening will host a ghost tour or the candle light champagne tour which starts with a glass of champagne or sparkling cider and a toast from the owner of the home. The tour then proceeds and will amaze you with every detail of the house. The fact that the tour is partially lead by the owner of the home, who still resides in the home, gives you such an amazing experience in this tour. This tour will run you about $18 per person, with children under 3 being free.


So, next time you’re looking for the perfect place to vacation, consider the homes of Newport at the top of your list. You will not look at your home (or the fireplace in it) the same again!

Dinner at the Atlantic Beach Club, Middletown, RI

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Right across from Tickets is the Atlantic Beach club. It’s a large building and we weren’t positive that we would actually be allowed in since we weren’t sure if it was a members club or not. But they didn’t shoo us away, so we decided to stick around. We joked about the “No shirt, no shoes, no service” sign on the door, mocking the fact that it didn’t specify pants were a requirement, but then we noticed a second sign that said  “Proper dress required”. So, apparently, pants are optional, but dresses are required.


We were lead to the dining room, separate from the bar, which at this time appeared to be a 50+ night club, loud and hoppin’, (who’da thunk?)  The room was lined with windows, which over looked the ocean… and parking lot.


The waitress immediately came to our table and pored water in the nice goblets, already set, and then disappeared for about 10 minutes. Seeing as how we were one of 3 tables in the large dining area, we aren’t sure where she possibly could have gone. When she finally came back, she brought a lovely plate with olive oil, a mixture of parmesan and peppers, a few drops of balsamic and a few olives. Well, had I had bread, I would have been impressed. A few minutes later, as I was rearranging our delicious little dip, she brought us some of the most delicious French bread I have ever tasted. At this point in the meal, I had high hopes for this dinner.

Our dinners came with a dinner salad, which I chose to try the house made blue cheese dressing. Mostly because there was no Italian or vinaigrette… which I should have found suspicious, but I was blinded by the delicious bread. This might have actually been watered down mayonnaise with a blue cheese chunk in it though, so once again, my greens sat uneaten. No amount of salt or pepper helped in this case.

Since Todd and I have agreed to not order the same dish, so that we can cover more ground on this trip, he ordered the Village Pasta, which was a fetticini with a garlic, wine sauce and Feta and I ordered a simple Chicken Picatta. A perfectly cooked chicken breast covered in a lemon wine sauce and capers and garnished with several baked lemon slices. With it came a helping of asparagus, which was perfect with the lemon wine sauce, and a side of rice… also good with the lemon wine sauce… In fact, we should have lemon wine sauce on everything from here on out. 

Dinner was fabulous… aside from that failed attempt at a decent blue cheese dressing. The service was slow, but the atmosphere was pleasant and relaxing. We did not feel that the wait was an inconvenience because the location was quite pleasant.

I have to give this place a 3 Wandering Sisters. The food was excellent, the portions were perfect and the prices were very reasonable, considering this was a very nice restaurant. My chicken picatta, included a salad and 2 sides, and cost $18.  The pasta included a salad and cost $13. Both kids opted not to have a childs meal, which will run you about $3.50-$5. Instead one had a bowl of clam chowder for $4.50, the other a cup for $3.95. Judging by the size of the cup (being the size of a double shot glass… fork out the extra $.55 for the bowl, it was large enough to be an adult meal.


Lunch at Tickets Bar and Grill

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During several driving tours of Newport, we have passed Tickets Bar and Grill a few times and have said each time, “We should stop there one of these times.” Well, today was that time. Tickets is not a very large place, but the atmosphere inside the restaurant is very comfortable, modern casual. The kitchen has a brick oven for making pizza’s, which normally would be an instant decision for The Todd. Instead, he went out on a limb and ordered the cheese burger. I was instantly attracted to the chicken soft tacos, as I am typically drawn to anything related to a Mexican platter. The kids played it safe with a pizza and chicken fingers. When the waitress asked me if I would like French fries, mashed potatoes or a side salad with my meal, of course I opted for a salad. However, she failed to inform me that this was an additional $1. This still only brought my meal to $9, so I was ok with it. Todd however thought he was getting fries AND a side salad, so he was a little bummed when his fri-less plate arrived. Since the children’s meals were large enough to feed a trucker, he opted not to make the waitress go back for fries.


The presentation of the food was great. I did not expect my 3 little chicken tacos to be perfectly rolled and presented as if I were eating a 5 star restaurant. I was very anxious to dive into my salad since I am typically a fan of most balsamic dressings. Well, balsamic anything really. However, I believe they might not have let the oil mingle with the balsamic for more than a second before putting it on my lettuce. Sadly, I couldn’t finish my salad. I felt fairly certain this was not the lightest part of my meal, in fact the cheese pizza in front of me was very likely less calories than the field greens on my plate.

The chicken soft tacos were in fact roll ups, filled with very tasty marinated chicken and just enough cheese. Not enough cheese if you are The Wino, but just enough if you are trying not to intake more calories than necessary.  On the side of the tacos was sour cream, a tropical salsa and some fresh guacamole. The salsa was great, and very refreshing. The guacamole on the other hand, I believe was made with parsley instead of cilantro… interesting choice… not something I would have done, but it didn’t totally kill it.

In doing my part to make sure that everyone was enjoying a safe meal, I tested everyone’s food. The pizza tasted less than impressive. Having had better pizza from the frozen section of the grocery store, I left that all up to the Todds’ to finish.

I grabbed a fry off of the other plate, (I love fries) and strangely enough, that tasted awfully similar to a corn tortilla. How one accomplishes this, I have no idea. So, no temptation there. I went back to my chicken tacos, which were possibly the best choice on the table.


After we paid the bill, being a measly $28 for the 4 of us… (yes, a great relief from last nights’ meal) we were given little mints, which were excellent and we ended up sneaking 4 more as we left.

I can’t say I would recommend going for a pizza, but I would suggest you check it out when you’re in the area. The atmosphere is very comfortable and clean, the food is served with excellent presentation and in large portions, the prices are very reasonable and the service was good. I’d give it a 3 Wandering Sisters rating based on this visit, only because the meals could have been better. 

Sunday, May 3, 2009

The Barking Crab, Newport, RI

We arrived in Newport around 7:30pm, STARVED! I read of The White Horse Tavern in a guide book and we were anxious to park our mobile chateau and boogy over to the White Horse. When we arrived, we were greeted by a woman who glanced at me, in my jeans and a sweatshirt, and my small children and instructed me to look at the menu before we would be seated, so that we knew what we were getting into. So, we left.

The Barking Crab won out.

This casual crab shack packs quite the character into this large eatery by the warf. There is a bar, which played sports, loudly and two separate inside areas to dine, both facing the warf with large window walls. When the weather permits, there is also a patio in the back, facing the Brick Market Place. At the entrance, there is a list of scheduled entertainment posted.

Immediately upon entering you see three large ‘pools’, stacked in a waterfall tower, filled with live crabs and lobsters. As we waited for our table, a lobster was chosen to become someone’s dinner and a sad little lonely crab sat in the window of the highest pool, looking awfully pathetic. After our face to face encounter with the sea bugs, I decided I would be having something else for dinner… something I hadn’t shared a moment with. This was an easy decision since apparently the down economy has not affected the price of these little bugs.

I started my meal with a Sankaty Light ($4.95) which was on draft. It was a sweet and heavy tasting ale, which made me very suspicious of the word “light”, especially since the tap was shaped like a lighthouse.

Our choices were  very limited for dinner. Either we spent close to $100 to murder one of the sea bugs, or we could get a baked fish plate.  

I chose to get the catch of the day. It consisted of a grilled swordfish steak, served with a vegetable medley of squash, asparagus, artichokes, beef steak tomatoes and capers, with a side of risotto for $25.

My husband ordered the Baked Schrod for $17… that’s right, NOT a burger, which was actually an option. His meal came with a squash and asparagus medley and the risotto.

I was unsure what swordfish tasted like, but one of my goals in this trip is to try new things… plus, she did said the 2 magic words… “Asparagus and artichokes.”

 Our dinner was served on very little plates… for such prices, you’d think you’d get a whole meal. But the flavor was absolutely great. The fish was fresh and, not to sound cliché, but it tasted like chicken. The vegis were perfectly grilled. The risotto was excellent, flavored with lots of basil.

For desert, my husband chose the cheese cake. 

I told him that I was not a cheese cake person, so that would help me not to eat too much of it. Wrong! The cheese cake, as sad and small as it was for $7.50, it was awesome! However, there should have been more of the strawberry glaze that was drizzled on the plate, or possible some fresh strawberry garnish.

Unfortunately our server, as sweet as she was, was very slow and several times disappeared (This bored the short one, and he ended falling asleep in front of his ice cream sunday, included in the $7 childrens meal). We often had to reach out to the bus boy or hostess for assistance. 

In the end, the meal was only Almost satisfying. The selection was poor, the prices were scary, the portions were small, but the presentation and taste was phenomenal. I may not live in the area, but we do plan on visiting Newport in the future. The Barking Crab is very appealing with its location and crab shack atmosphere, but it is not one that I would visit again.

It only receives a 2 Wandering Sisters rating. Go if you must, the food is excellent, but be prepared to spend a fortune for a small plate of food, and try not to make eye contact with the sad little crab in the window of the crab pool.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

LongHorn Steakhouse

In an attempt to celebrate... morn, however you want to put it, the sell of our home in Franklin, we decided that a small shopping spree would be appropriate. It's my Prozac, and my dear husband was doing his best to cheer me up.

After a few dresses and a new pair of shoes for everyone, (only the shoes were for everyone) we decided not to avoid the savory smell of the steakhouse across the way. So, we headed over to the LongHorn Steakhouse for dinner and drinks with a friend and the in-laws.

We started out with a cold Wachusetts Blueberry Ale. 

Cool and refreshing with a hint of fruitiness… I have found one for the favorites list. Then the waitress brought us a basket with a small, warm loaf of a  sweet whole grain bread. Not wanting to be rude, we ate about 3 loafs between the 5 of us.

My husband and I had great intentions when we sat down and started browsing the menu. We had previously discussed how we should order a salad and an entrée everywhere we go and split the two, so that we would retail our girly figure. (Since we both stake claim on my girly figure, it’s referred to as “ours”) However, since I fall into that sad category of comfort eaters, I announced that we should get our own meals, as several of the little cows were screaming my name and since it would be glutinous to order all of them, I thought I could at least taste two of them. After all, my home was recently pulled right out from under me. It was the least I could do.

Our meals started with a Strawberry Pecan salad. Wild greens covered in Pecans, Feta, Strawberries, Mandarin Oranges and Grapes and a strawberry vinaigrette. To top it off, someone sliced 12 red onions (give or take) and strategically hid the salad with them. After removing most of the purple rings, we both agreed that this was a fabulous salad. Although, I could have done without the mandarin oranges, so the short red head at those, as he announced that he “likes salad.”

I was able to narrow my little moo cow meals down to 2 choices. My husbands dinner was the Portobello Peppercorn Filet, a 9oz. filet covered in 7 pepper spices, grilled and covered with Portobello’s sautéed in a cabernet wine glaze, with a side of mashed potatoes. (I was disappointed that there was no garlic mashed potatoes, but the waitress brought a side of garlic sauce to make up for it) My dinner was the Fontina and Wild Mushroom stuffed filet. A dainty little 7 oz filet stuffed with a creamy fontina cheese, roasted peppers and wild mushrooms and served over a roasted garlic cream sauce and a side of asparagus… Well, when you put it like that, how are you supposed to resist?

When our meals arrived, the initial taste test voted Todds filet the clear winner (The steaks did not photograph well). However, a few bites into my steak was when it occurred to me… didn’t I order something with a little more to it? Ah Ha! It was missing it’s stuffing! A dab of cheese in the center will not make up for the missing mushrooms and peppers. I informed the waitress of the mistake and she offered to have another steak brought out to me. I told her that that would not be necessary, but if I could get some of the sautéed mushrooms, that would be great. Instead I received a plate with mushrooms and peppers, covered in fontina cheese and baked to perfection. This little mistake could have been a meal all on it’s own, but combined with the juicy filet and garlic sauce… it was pure heaven.

I would say that this was a very enjoyable visit to the LongHorn Steakhouse, located in Franklin, MA. The service was great, the food was very tasty, and even the mistake on my meal was more than rectified. The environment was cozy and rustic, and the restrooms were clean and well maintained.

All in all, it receives a highly recommended 4 Wandering Sisters rating from this Diva Mom. 

Friday, May 1, 2009

Our New Chapter Begins

After much blood, sweat, tears and a lot of Vodka, I was pried away from my home yesterday. Six months of constantly working on bringing a fire damaged house to life, then 2 ½ hours after showings began, it was sold. I’m told that I am very happy about this, after all it means a whole new chapter in our lives, starting with the adventure across the country.

Every great adventure needs a starting point. Ours is the front yard of my sister in law’s house, a mile down the road from our old house. We’ve threatened to stay here for a few more years, just to finish the trailer. Apparently in order to do this correctly, we need a fully functional movie theater in every room and 7.1 surround sound with a built in sub woofer. I’m just waiting for my west wing to be finished before I’m ready to get on the road.

I started out the day yesterday an emotional wreck, quietly holding back tears… If you know me, you know, I do NOT cry. I hugged a few of my wonderful neighbors and said, “Talk to you later,” because “Good Bye” was not going to come out of my mouth. Receiving our nice little check eased the pain only slightly, so I announced that a shopping might be in order. Shoes didn’t heal the pain… Dresses didn’t do the trick. So we stopped at Village Liquor… That helped a little.  We then decided, we should pretend like we’re celebrating, so we went to the Longhorn Steak house… 

To be continued…

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