24 hours in portland, maine

what was supposed to be a fun-filled, child-free weekend in portland, maine was… well, still fun and, yes, child-free, but not a full weekend as we would have liked.

our friends were getting married in portland, maine so, of course, we had to make a weekend out of it. we anticipated a 3-hour drive per google maps and decided to leave around 9am to get to portland by noon for lunch. the wedding wasn’t until 6pm but we wanted to explore the small city.

it had been incredibly humid and raining on and off for the past week, and that saturday morning was no different. a little rain doesn’t hurt anyone but it was downpouring when we left our house. (we also didn’t leave at our planned 9am time, but rather at 9:50am). right when we got onto the highway, 84-east, there was traffic. and that was the story of our drive up. stop-and-go traffic for the next four hours. yes, four hours. the rain, the weekend traffic, and Dennis’ pit stop to use the bathroom added an extra hour to our drive. (later we found out there was a 10k in portland that day and guster was in town to play a show. these probably contributed to the traffic!)

we had decided to get an airbnb with some friends because 1) there was no hotel room block for weddings, and 2) the hotel rooms that were available were very expensive. the four of us had decided to grab lunch at eventide oyster company in downtown portland and stop by shipyard brewery for a beer before checking into our home.

it wasn’t until we were close to eventide that a friend informed me eventide is usually a 2-4 hour wait! can you believe that? who waits that long?? apparently, everyone because when we got there the line snaked out the door and almost down the entire block. it was a wait just to even get in to put our name down!

a passerby remarked that eventide is overrated so then we started wondering if we should go somewhere else. luckily, there was space in the standing room nearby where patrons can stand around to eat and drink. we opted to do that since we were already there. we were really curious to see how good the lobster rolls were and if the long wait is justified.

to start, we ordered four kinds of oysters. i know nothing about oysters except that they are bivalves. (I really enjoyed biology.) i’m actually fairly ambivalent to oysters: i’ll eat them if they’re there but I don’t go out of my way to order them. and dennis despises them, so then there were more for us. the two accoutrements we chose were kimchi ice and horseradish ice. again, not being an oyster aficionado I don’t have much to say but they both tasted fine to me. our server did mention the most popular one is horseradish.

we had also ordered a side of kimchi which we unanimously urge you not to order! that was a huge mistake. all four of us being Koreans, we saw ‘kimchi’ on the menu and we were like, “oh, hey!” no, no, no… please stay away. (seriously though, our friend, Cindy, took ownership of this blunder as she really wanted kimchi. we forgive you.) unless you know kimchi is made by a legit Korean ahjumma, don’t ever order kimchi from a non-korean restaurant! being the daughter of restaurateurs, i should know this and am rightfully ashamed.

back to the eventide kimchi, it was basically pickled cabbage. the coloring was off and I doubt authentic Korean red chili pepper flakes were even used. it was a sad, wilted mess. while we waited for the brown butter lobster rolls to come out, we drank our pints of allagash whites (yum) and I commented how all of Portland’s asians are right here in this establishment. (there seriously was a good amount.) because, you know, maine is like 99.9% white.

the $15 lobster rolls was small imo but absolutely worth the price. of course, the fresh lobster had a large part in the deliciousness but the brown butter was so heavenly. we thought about purchasing second rolls but that would’ve been another $15 each… and we had a wedding to attend in a couple of hours. (we would later regret not buying the extra rolls. more to come later.)

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you can see the sad excuse for kimchi on the left

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sooooo good

I can’t quite justify waiting 2-4 hours just to eat a freaking lobster roll though. I do want to return to eat them again, but will probably just stand instead of waiting an obscene amount of time for a table. if you’re in town, get the brown butter rolls but, again, do not order the kimchi. you have been warned.

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the crowd outside eventide

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everyone is just waiting around

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Dennis among them

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fresh

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this table was reserved. they don’t take reservations less than 6 people.

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unfortunately, the traffic and the wait for a space to open up ate up what little time we had to explore portland a little more. the boys actually did end up going to shipyard brewery while the girls chose to stay home and get ready for the wedding.the house we rented from airbnb was really cute and well-decorated. the owner is a Joanna Gaines fan (she had the magnolia cookbook, and so do I!) and the decor definitely screamed that. we liked everything about the house except it did not have air-conditioning. say what? what house, in this day and age, does not have ac? the guys had booked the house and this was news to them. turns out they failed to notice the ‘no ac’ sign on the ad. it wasn’t unbearably hot at night but still toasty enough where I couldn’t sleep with a blanket on, and I always sleep with a blanket or a thin bedsheet.

other than that, I would definitely rent the house again. it only has 2 bedrooms so not ideal with the children since they sleep in their own bedrooms. but it would be great to return with friends, again.

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workstation on the right when you enter the home

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open floor plan

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I love white kitchens

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huge farmer’s sinks

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note the tiny adirondack chair

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first floor wash

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second floor

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bedroom #1

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bedroom #2

we were all able to ready in time for the wedding! we took an uber to the venue (10-minute drive) so we wouldn’t have to worry about driving back after drinking. it’s a great thing we did because it was so hard to find parking! our friends had driven up from boston and they spent 40 minutes looking for parking, and they were peeved!

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gorgeous yellow dress from rent the runway

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cindy’s dress is from rent the runway, too!

the wedding took place at an irish pub in downtown portland called ri ra. our friends had a private ceremony earlier during the day and were holding a reception for family and friends. the reception took place on the second floor of the pub. I definitely felt out of place as we got out of the uber car because we were so dolled up. people were staring but not unkindly; probably wondering why we were so dressed up for a pub.

it was definitely a very minimal wedding. it just felt like a gathering for friends and family. the food consisted of appetizers all night and there was no cake (sadly, since i have a huge sweet tooth). I had also looked forward to dancing but there wasn’t any music playing either. there were no photo opps so we just took pictures of each other by the dock or at the bar. for a cash bar, the guys seemed to really enjoy downing drinks. i didn’t finish my sangria and i had a glass of pinot grigio before calling it a night.

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hanna, me, and Esther

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one with meagan

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all of us with the bride

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pc: rob

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the lovely couple, rob and cindy

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finally, a decent one

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pc: cindy

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mind you, i was feeling bashful since there was a crowd of people watching

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the bride with her daughter, quinn

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after the wedding ended around 9, a group of us went back to our home to eat and hang out. we ordered 4 boxes of pizza since we were still hungry and the boys also bought beer and wine.

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missing sarah and justin in this photo

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the next morning, we were going to go to holy donut on a friend’s recommendation but good thing I had called! the line was out the door and snaking around the building.. is there a line for everything in portland?!

I was so disappointed because I love doughnuts but it wouldn’t be smart to waste time waiting in line. instead, we went to st. joe’s coffee in scarborough, maine. there ended up being a line here as well (geez louise) but much more manageable than at the holy donut. we ordered breakfast sandwiches and wraps to go since we had a long drive back. (rob and cindy had a 7-hour drive to jersey!)

dennis and I actually drove 20 minutes in the opposite direction to see one of the most photographed lighthouses in the world, portland head light in cape elizabeth. even though dennis was feeling awful, he gamely agreed to go since he knew how disappointed I was about not going to holy donut.

I’m so glad we had gone because the lighthouse was beautiful! a big crowd here as well but that’s expected for a famous lighthouse in the peak summer months. I purchased a few postcards and magnets from the gift shop, and that was more waiting in line.

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dennis putting on a brave face

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lighthouses to visit

we wish we had had more time to explore portland, but it wasn’t worth sticking around for a few more hours knowing we had a nightmare of a drive back. it ended up being 3.5 hours but there was still stop-and-go traffic all the way home.

next time we will have to go an extra day (take a monday or a friday off) because the drive alone with all those cars was infuriating. this was not my first time in portland but the last time I had visited was well over a decade ago.

still, we we enjoyed having an adult-only weekend and catching up with friends. i look forward to going back to portland.

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how to start a book club

I have always been shy. painfully shy in my adolescent years, in fact. as the years passed, the combination of a growing urge to want to be heard and not wanting to hide in the shadows of others encouraged me to be more social. I still am fairly reserved especially around a large group of people, and, to many, this fact may seem more like a revelation. some have expressed doubt that I actually am shy. this may be because I am an extroverted introvert. not quite sure what that means? read here.

as a child, I sought solace in reading. my first distinct memory of reading is when I was around 4 years old. I recall being amazed at how words could bring pictures to life. over the years, I stuck my nose in a book whenever I could. everyone knew me as a bookworm. it got to the point where I kept receiving books as gifts, and though that was appreciated I still wanted toys and dolls like any other child.

still, not much could bring me as much joy as a book could. some of my favorite series growing up were the berenstain bears, the babysitters club, ramona quimby, and sweet valley high. and my all-time favorite book is j.d. salinger’s the catcher in the rye. for those who know me, I did not forget harry potter. that series is in its own category of greatness. I used to just pick up a book from the series and start reading. after the 14th go, I lost count of how many times I had read harry potter and the sorcerer’s stone.

in recent years it has been difficult to find the time and energy to read what with raising two children and this little thing called life. however, the desire to read more books never left my mind. what if i was in a book club? better yet, what if i started one? I had discussed this idea with another mom friend who had been itching to start one as well, so I finally created a group on facebook and invited friends who I thought would be interested.

I began this book club back in january and so far we have read five books. we just started our sixth this week.

when you create a book club, you want to think about these factors:

  1. group setting: where will discussion take place? in person? online?
  2. size of group and its members: do you want a large group or an intimate one? who’s invited? is it an open/closed group?
  3. general rules and guidelines: you want to have some sort of set rules so members know what to expect and how to participate.

here is what I decided for the three factors:

  1. I chose to have my book club as a closed facebook group. I invited friends that I thought would be interested, and I also encouraged them to invite other friends. we decided to have weekly discussions on the group page (mondays at 8:30pm) after having read a set number of pages. after a book is completed, our group meets up in person for a final discussion which involves much laughter, gossiping, eating & imbibing.
  2. I didn’t want the group to be too big but I did invite a large number of people because I wasn’t sure who would be interested and committed enough to participate. we have about 15 people that are in the group but only around 8 that are active. we all agreed that this small group is more to our liking because keeping up with everyone’s responses in the facebook group chat is challenging! the notifications keep going off and we have to find the next comment.
  3. who’s the moderator? there needs to be someone to keep track of the time and the comments. our group poses two questions weekly that pertains to the reading. we spend a half hour on each question (8:30-9pm for question 1 and 9-9:30pm for question 2). if members still want to discuss questions further, we do so after discussion for question 2 is completed. but after 9:30pm, members are free to leave the discussion. in our group, usually the person who volunteers the questions for that week is the moderator for the discussion.

our group is a democracy: we decide everything together such as choosing the next book (members suggest titles and we vote via a poll), how many pages to read for the next “assignment”, changing the date/time of a discussion if necessary, and having members offer to post questions for the reading. the only things I did on my own as an admin & main moderator was to come up with a group name (reading between the wines) and the general rules and guidelines.

as for the rules and guidelines, how strict/lax are you about participation? most of us do participate in every book, but sometimes our schedules don’t permit us enough time to be able to read a set number of pages every week and participate in a group discussion. therefore, we have members joining in the discussion when they can (up-to-date on their reading, of course) or just waiting to join in for the next book.

as for choosing the discussion questions, some books have questions in the back of the book. however, we did find that these questions tend to spoil the book since they’re meant to be used after the book is completed. most of the time, we come up with questions on our own (after one of us has read most or all of the set number of pages) or we use our go-to which is “what is your favorite passage or quote?” personally, I like questions that require the reader to go back into the book to reflect a little more deeply on the reading.

some other general rules to consider are use of offensive and foul language and respecting others’ opinions – these are more of an issue the bigger and more public your group is though.

we also thought it would be to fun to celebrate reading a book by having a meet-up along with food and drinks. most of the time, we meet at a designated restaurant to catch up on each other’s lives, and, of course, to discuss how the book ended. our last meet-up was at my friend, katie’s house since she recently had a baby girl (natalie, age 1.5 months), but usually we try to choose a central location since some of us live an hour away from one another. if we do hold it at someone’s house, it turns into a potluck.

another suggestion for the meet-up is to, at least, have one person bring a copy of the book for group photos. I love to document (clearly) so a group photo is a must! a meet-up is also wonderful to be able to meet other members, some of whom you may only know through the online discussions.

at this point, some of you may be a bit overwhelmed! it does seem like a lot of work initially but once you decide how the group will be managed and run, i promise it will be fun (unintentional rhyming there). and that’s the important part: have fun. you obviously wanted to create, or be part of, a book club because of your love for reading. so, don’t forget the main objective in being a part of one. there really isn’t a point in being a part of something if it’s not enjoyable.

I hope my tips have been helpful in motivating you to start a book club! feel free to share any of your useful advice and even book suggestions!

happy reading!

 

photos from our most recent meet-up (7/29/18)

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1. we forgot the book, and 2. missing courtney and lori

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lemon cake balls made by karen

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taking turns playing with genevieve

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new mama & baby natalie

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me holding our current book

here are the books we’ve read so far:

1. little fires everywhere – celeste ng

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2. the secrets she keeps – michael robotham

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3. tell me i’m wrong – adam croft

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4. landline – rainbow rowell

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5. the alice network – kate quinn

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6. the last mrs. parrish – liv constantine* current book

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