Ever Get Directed to the Hardware Store When You Wanted an Ice Cream Parlor?

Assuming you’ve moved to a new region or gone on vacation, you’ve probably experienced what I like to call “the head tilt” (you probably just tilted your head there, didn’t you?). This is when you ask a question that seems perfectly simple, but the person you are asking tilts their head and looks confused, as if you’ve just randomly decided to start speaking Russian.

Far more sly than accents that are obvious and well-known, you are a victim of your lingo. If you’ve bounced around a lot, you’re used to this. But if not, there are a few things you should know that are giving you away as an “outsider” and confusing the new people you’re talking to.

You may choose to do what you wish with this information. I, for one, might be a little obnoxious and stuck in my ways, and continue to use my messed up New England vocabulary no matter where I live. What can I say, it’s built in and I love it. But, I know as soon as I say something that I might have to explain it. Or, you can choose to rule it out altogether to be nice and allow people to better understand you. It’s your call. But it might be fun to bring a little culture to wherever you go.

Kicking off this series is your New England translation guide. The first word is what a New Englander would say, the second is what the rest of the English-speaking world would understand. We’ll do a different region next time. Between my lovely co-workers and myself, we’ve lived in just about every part of the country – so I promise, it’ll be accurate (even though the call to mess with you guys is kind of tempting).

Note: For those of you using this to find out what other people have been saying, if any word below ends in “er”, replace the sound with “ah” to pronounce it correctly.

  • Bubbler → Drinking Fountain

I’ll never forget the horror on my eighth grade, Texas teacher’s face when I asked where the bubbler was.

  • Wicked → Very

Pretty commonly known, but this wouldn’t be complete without it.

  • Bureau → Dresser

Try shopping for furniture when you move… it’s an experience

  • Cabinet → Milkshake

Seriously, the housewares shopping thing. Nightmare

  • Downcellar → Basement

More of a directional than a place. If you left something in the cellar (sella), you left it “downsella” (spelling is accounting for the accent). But, you wouldn’t say “My house has a downsella”. That’s just wrong.

  • Grinder → Sandwich/Sub

Also more commonly known, but necessary.

  • I’m all set” → I’m good / I’m fine

This is accepted in some regions, but will get you a lot of weird looks in others.

  • Jimmies → Sprinkles

You gotta get the rainbow jimmies on your ice cream cone.

  • No suh!” → No Way

I really thought this would be self-explanatory when I first started moving around… but it wasn’t

  • Packy → Liquor Store

Another one that is used in a couple of places, but will get confused looks in most others.

  • Regular Coffee → With normal amounts of cream and sugar

If you were hoping this would get you coffee with the perfect amounts of cream and sugar, you’re out of luck. You actually have to say “coffee with cream and sugar”. Black coffee is regular coffee. And if you want your coffee “extra extra”, you actually have to say “with extra cream and extra sugar”. I know… it’s the worst. I’m still trying to train my local Florida coffee shops on the right (New England) ways of ordering.

  • Side by each” → Side by side

Yep, we just like being different

  • Stuffie → A Stuffed Clam

Instead of a beyond delicious appetizer, you will be given a stuffed animal in other parts of the country. Or more likely, you will be given a look telling you you’re crazy if you ask for this in a restaurant, like I imagine you would be.


There Is No Hotel Deal Fairy

It has to be one of the most Googled phrases in recent travel history: how to book the best room for the best rate. And while I wish I could say I hadn’t wasted my time doing this… a lot… I have. And the outcome is almost always one of two things. Either the information is completely useless and makes searching “cheap hotel rooms” seem like a revolutionary, Nobel prize worthy idea; or the results are achieved by nothing short of calling out sick from work for two weeks straight, developing a masterful spreadsheet, and probably getting put on some sort of government watch list. But don’t worry, you’ll get the room five dollars cheaper per night (maybe).

So, in response, I’m going to try to give you my version of it. Part of me thinks this is futile, but the other part of me tells me this: I’m better with technology than your average person, but I’ve also had to teach people how to use it. I work full time and I work on a Master’s degree part time. And I will fight you if you think I’m going to waste time doing anything else when I could be watching football. Why should you care? Because that means I’m not going to suggest something so painfully obvious your great grandmother would know to try it, or something so complicated you need a doctorate in engineering to do it. I’m also not going to suggest things that “ain’t nobody got time for”. I welcome your criticism (or loving praise) after you read this.

  1. It’s already time for the tough love.

No matter how good you are at this, how far in advance or last minute you’re looking, or if it’s a Tuesday and the weather is bad – you are not going to get a stellar deal every time. Sometimes, all your tricks and research just lead you to the sad realization that the cost is what it is. But hey, at least you know you’re not getting ripped off by whatever hotel or site you book through.

  1. Analyze your circumstances.

Ask yourself a few key questions before you start looking. Is your trip soon or in the distance? Do you need a specific neighborhood or will anything in the general area do? Do you have the funds to pay up front, or do you need to be able to pay when you check out? Is your trip flexible enough that you’re comfortable booking something the same day you want to check in? These are all important questions, and I will address them in the “Tips” section at the bottom.

  1. Use more than one website. But don’t go crazy.

I know, there’s websites like Kayak and Priceline, as awesome as they may be, that insist you only need to search their site to find the best price. But only trying the deal sites just tells their marketing departments that they’re as brilliant as they think they are. I generally pick one deal website, and then Google something like “hotel specials February 7-9 in Fort Walton Beach”. Sometimes, a coupon or something will pop up. More often, though, I get a big old list of hotels across the top of the page. And now, I compare. Go through your deal site and try to find a price you like. If you don’t see one, find a hotel you like that might be more money than you’d like to spend, but isn’t so far gone you can’t find a better deal.

  1. Compare Simply.

Baby steps here. Let’s assume you’ve now picked a hotel or two (or three or four) from the deal site. Next, go to the hotel’s website itself and run a search. Sometimes, the deal site is better. Sometimes, it’s the same. But other times, you might find that if you select a AAA rate or military rate (from the search box when you’re typing in your dates and number of people…typically in a drop down menu or under “advanced search”), the price ends up being lower than the deal site. Think about it: the deal site can’t assume everyone booking qualifies for a discount. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. Refer to point #1.

  1. Compare Creatively.

Don’t get stuck in a rut. I know you’re probably thinking I’m breaking my time rule here, but the above two steps shouldn’t take you more than five minutes (ten if you’re researching a lot – but you should save that for the end). Quickly skim through and cross reference the deal site’s list with your Google list. Just like Southwest Airlines tickets can only be purchased from their own website, not all hotels allow deal sites to work with them. When you see some on Google that you didn’t on the deal site, do a new search for that hotel. Here’s the best part: quite often, since the hotel is not participating in a deal site, they’ll have some pretty great deals. Especially for multi-night stays.


Now that I’ve given you some ideas, back to those questions I asked you to evaluate in point #2. The best way for you to treat the following bullet points is like a matching quiz in school. Figure out what applies to you based on your answers to the questions, and then take my advice accordingly.

  • If you’re in a situation where the deal site and hotel site are the same price, consider this: deal sites require full payment up front and are rarely refundable; direct hotel sites typically do not actually charge you until check out and have pretty lenient cancellation policies
  • Monitoring the price of a hotel you like over a period of time can typically lead to a decreased rate. If you see it drop, grab it.
  • Many hotels have last minute deals. I don’t mean the week before, I mean the same day you want to check in. You can use the hotel site, deal site, or an app like Hotel Tonight
  • Unless you really can’t afford a hotel at the initial price you find it, don’t play the bargain game if it’s going to really put you in a bind to stay anywhere else
  • Pick up the phone after you’ve found a hotel you like. The vast majority of the time, their best deals are online. But some offer secret promotions you’ll never find out about if you don’t call and ask

The bottom line here is establishing your priorities, then doing what you need to do to achieve them. There might be a lot of stuff here, but if you ask those key questions first, you shouldn’t need to spend more than 15-30 minutes finding the best deal possible for you. Any tips or tricks of your own? Post them here and share the wealth!


Truth or Dare (But It’s Really Just Dare): Airport Edition

The idea of traveling is really exciting. That’s because when we are planning a trip, we tend to think of all the great things we’re going to do once we get there: where we’re going to go, how relaxed we’re going to be, how tan we’re going to get… It’s wonderful. So wonderful that we often forget about the necessary evil required to get to that vacation – the airport.

Unless you almost never fly or are the world’s luckiest person ever, you’ve had the misfortune of dealing with a long layover, a delay and/or a cancellation at least once. Or basically every time you’ve flown, if you’re anything like my sister. I’m willing to bet you’ve tried the usual time-passers: Facebook obsessively, live Tweet about your boredom (some lady just sat down next to me…. great she smells funny… awesome she has terrible taste in music and even worse headphones), watch shows or videos on your phone, listen to music, read a magazine, get a drink at the bar, stare into space, strike up a conversation with a stranger you wish you hadn’t…. blah blah blah. And what makes all this worse is that you feel like you’re stuck with these mind-numbing options because, let’s face it, the airport isn’t exactly the place to do daring, out-of-the-box things. Unless you feel like hanging out in interrogation and spending some time on the “no fly” list, that is.

Well, lucky for you, I have spent more time in an airport than I would like to admit – a misfortune that has allowed me to create a pretty reliable list of things to do when you’re bored at the airport. A list which I have decided to share with you. Just remember, like I said, airport officials aren’t big on having a sense of humor in the workplace… so amuse at your own risk.

  • Greet passengers at a random gate as they disembark the plane.

Stand to the side of the door, and be a little creative. Say things like “I knew you could do it”, offer high-fives, or try to start a slow clap and see if it catches on.

  • Become a character.

Grab a seat at the gate or at the bar and start talking to a stranger. But don’t do this like you normally would. Invent a completely different personality and back story for yourself that seems ridiculous. See if they believe you.

  • Make a baggage claim sign.

Use a generic last name, like Johnson or Clark. Then just stand by baggage claim, holding it up and see if someone approaches you.

  • Work out.

This could be a legitimate way to get some circulation going. Or, you could be fun and get really into it. Stretch out, sprint around the moving sidewalk, do crunches, use water bottles as dumbbells – the more ridiculous the better.

  • Go on a scavenger hunt.

You can do this whether you’re alone or traveling with someone. Make a list of things: the most absurd thing for sale in a gift shop, the least practical novelty shot glass, someone dressed like they forgot they were going into public, a pay phone (good luck), etc. Happy hunting!

  • Walk backwards on the moving sidewalk.

This is one of those “do at your own risk” things. Trust me, it’s fun. But not everyone thinks so.

  • Pick up an accent.

Try out your accent skills while talking to a stranger. See if they call you out on it.

  • Try to figure out who the Air Marshal is at each terminal.

It’s harder than you might think.

  • See if you can talk your way into an airline club lounge.

Challenge accepted.


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Sleep is for Suckers. But so is Powdered Creamer.

Vacations, day trips and long weekends are some of the greatest treats in the world. Way more decadent and exciting than a piece of fudge (I’m not knocking fudge.. I could write a whole story on it. I’m just saying). Going out and having all sorts of adventures that develop into great stories to tell is one of my favorite things to do in life. But, on the contrary, the call to relax while on vacation is loud and clear. So what do I do?

Oh, that’s right – coffee. I am absolutely addicted to coffee.

But here’s the problem on vacation: I don’t know where I am. And while I genuinely enjoy finding local coffee shops with their unique blends and homey touches that combine to make everything just phenomenal, I enjoy doing this AFTER I’ve had my iced coffee I know I can rely on. Because otherwise, who has the energy for that? So, you can imagine my panic when I travel that I’m not going to be able to find a satisfactory cup of coffee to hold me over until I find a fantastic cup of coffee. Just the thought of those places that don’t have iced coffee but think they can trick me by putting hot coffee over ice (worst thing ever) makes me want to stay home and set up shop in the Dunkin drive thru.

While you may find it easy to Google the nearest Dunkin Donuts (no offense to them… I’m a die hard fan), you should live by my rule while you’re on vacation: you can’t go anywhere you can go at home. So, without further adieu, here are a few of the best places to get a coffee when you’re traveling in Florida. Warning: caffeine jitters may occur.

Fort Walton Beach:

Region: North, Panhandle

  • Maas Coffee: This gem in the heart of downtown Fort Walton Beach has a great atmosphere, free WiFi, and truly delicious coffee. Boasting hand-roasted Arabica beans from more than twelve countries, you can really taste the quality and care in your cup. They specialize in everything from regular to snazzy, and even perfected the iced coffee. The only thing that might top the coffee is the gorgeous view of the bay you can get from the relaxation of their outdoor patio. Because as we all know, what good is coffee without something pretty to look at?


Region: South, East Coast

  • Eternity Coffee Roasters: If you love social responsibility and great coffee, this is the place to be. Eternity Coffee has some of the highest quality coffee you can find anywhere, and the taste leaves no doubt! The coffee is roasted in house and customers absolutely rave about the divine scent that fills the shop as a result. Get your coffee to go, or decide to enjoy the atmosphere. Eternity is warm, inviting and comfortable – great for some relaxation, studying or meeting business associates. And for those of you wanting to feel a little fancy (but just a little), try ordering a latte and see what cool design you get in the foam.

Tampa Bay:

Region: Central, West Coast

  • Buddy’s Brew House: With an ambiance as friendly and inviting as its name, it comes as no surprise to patrons that this awesome coffee shop started as a hobby of owner, Dave Ward. With passion comes excellence, and this coffee is truly amazing. They even have a cool refill program that allows you to buy a mason jar for $4 (be honest, you would buy a mason jar even if it didn’t have perks attached to it) and get discounted refills every time you bring it in. We love it!


Region: Central, East Coast (ish)

  • Drunken Monkey Coffee: Ok, clearly we’re a little transparent on this one… we explored it for the name. But, come on, they nailed the whole marketing thing. And they didn’t disappoint. This coffee shop has a distinct feel that is welcoming, free-spirited and enjoyable. The coffee is incredible, top shelf and roasted in-house. And if that wasn’t enough, their food rivals in taste and quality. A great spot for everything from chatting with friends to taking advantage of their free stand up comedy night on Fridays.


Region: North, East Coast

  • The Coffee Grinder: If a regular old coffee shop bores you no matter how great the coffee is, this place is for you. Not one to be considered boring, The Coffee Grinder jams to live music from local DJ’s five days a week. And if you need some visual appeal to go with the treat your ears get, they have some really cool, intriguing art hanging up. Not that we’re professional art procurers, but we don’t seem to be alone in this thought. Of course, not to be outdone, the coffee is delicious and satisfying. With a coffee of the day keeping things interesting, you’ll never get sick of this place.

What’s your favorite? Leave us your comments, questions or input below. We’d love to hear it!



Sandy the Snowman? (Magical Top Hat Not Included)

This could go one of two ways: either you are an absolute weirdo like me and actually like the snow and cold weather… or you hate that stuff, but still secretly want the fun parts of it. I don’t care how you feel about temperatures under 70 and bundling up, but I really think everyone wants to have a snowball fight, build a fort or make a snowman at some point in their life. Am I right?

If I’m wrong, I kindly ask of you to re-assess your version of fun. Building a fort and then using it as a fortress to protect myself from rocketing snowballs is one of my favorite pastimes. It’s seriously awesome no matter how old you are. That being said, if you are reading this because you’re thinking of taking a trip to Florida, you probably think I am out-of-my-tree crazy right now. But I have a point, I promise.

Welcome to ‘Pretending the White, Gulf Coast Beach Sand is Really Snow While Tanning In Your Bathing Suit and Sipping a Pina Colada’ 101. Here, I will teach you all the joys of laughing to your friends and family at home about how warm you are while still texting them pictures of your glorious snowman… with a palm tree in the background.

Step 1: Get yourself a bucket of sand, and a bucket of that emerald green gulf water.

Step 2: Add small amounts of water to the sand until you are able to roll some into a ball

Step 3: Make three balls: Big, Bigger, and Biggest

note: you might not be able to make them quite as large as you can with snow

Step 4: Stack them on top of each other – biggest on the bottom, smallest on the top

Step 5: Decorate! And have a little fun. You can use the traditional materials, or find small seashells for the eyes and mouth, and use one of those long spiraly ones for the nose. Or anything else your creative self comes up with!

Now see, who said you couldn’t have your cake and eat it too? They were clearly wrong. And just to make them more wrong, why don’t you bring some cake and eat it while you look at your snow(sand?)man? Bonus points for sending pictures my way.


So Where’s the Best Lobstah and Chowda Around Here?

We all love going someplace awesome enough that we’re considered a tourist… but we HATE being treated like tourists. It’s a seemingly unavoidable catch 22. Or is it? Get out your notebooks, folks (or just press print), I’m here to rescue you from flagging yourself as the dreaded ‘T-word’. Well, at least when you’re at a Gulf Coast seafood joint, anyway.

Just like you don’t go to Hawaii to snowboard, you don’t come to the Gulf Coast for clam chowda and fresh lobstah – you’re about 1500 miles too far south for that. Different regions have different things they’re known for. And down here, we have some ridiculously amazing seafood. It just might not be the kind you’re expecting. So, here it is – no funny business, no hidden agenda – just a comprehensive guide to our local seafood. Your only job is to go try some, and tell me how astonishingly accurately I described it for you. I dare you.

Popular Preparations:

Fish can be prepared in several different ways. Some fish are great any way, some are better off being single-minded. Here are the most common ones you’ll find on a Gulf Coast sea food menu:

  • Blackened: I promise, the restaurant is not trying to dupe you into buying overcooked fish. This puts a spicy spin on your dish and is my personal favorite. Chefs will create their own blend, typically of butter and Cajun spices, and flavor the fish with it while it cooks to perfection in a cast iron skillet.
  • Grilled: Depending on the restaurant you are at, the method used to grill can create a really diverse number of flavors. If you see the words ‘cedar plank grilled’, try it. It’s phenomenal and just the right amount of smoky. Grilling fish properly locks in juices and will make your mouth water.
  • Broiled: For the health conscious. Broiled is certainly not the most flavorful or interesting way to prepare a fish, but it does not add more fat or sodium, making it ideal for those on a strict diet. But let’s be fair, if you’re on vacation here, live a little!
  • Fried: Quite the contrary of broiled, this is less healthy but absolutely delectable. Each restaurant has their own recipe for breading and/or battering, meaning you’ll get a different flavor everywhere you go. Fried is the way to go for a more casual experience, if you’re getting fish n chips, or if you’re trying a famous po’ boy.


  • Black Grouper: A type of reef fish, it’s great for the seafood beginner and the nutrition lover. It has a mild flavor, can be prepared a wide variety of ways, and doesn’t dry out easily. It has a firm, meaty texture, but it’s also flaky.
    • AKA: Grouper
  • Red Snapper: Also a reef fish and plentiful to the Panhandle, it is similar to Black Grouper. This fish has a mild flavor, doesn’t dry out easily, and is a bit sweet. It has a firm, meaty texture, but it’s also flaky.
    • AKA: Pink Snapper, Vermillion Snapper, B-Line Snapper, Jobfish
  • Mahi Mahi: Not to be confused with the porpoises we all know and love, this fish is tasty with a firm texture. Not very fishy tasting, it is best prepared grilled or blackened.
    • AKA: Dolphin Fish, Dorado
  • Amberjack: A mild game fish, it has a fishier taste than reef fish, though it is not overwhelming. It has firm, flaky texture and is prepared in a variety of ways.
    • AKA: Yellowtail Kingfish, Yellowtail, California Yellowtail, Buri, Kahala ‘opio, Racing Tuna
  • Cobia: With a mild flavor, you will find cobia is an extremely tasty fish that is typically served thick like a steak. It is prepared in many different ways and does not taste fishy. Regarded as one of the absolute favorites by locals.
    • AKA: Lemon Fish, Ling, Crabeater
  • Kingfish & Mackerel: Not for beginners, these fish are tender and flavorful, but quite oily. These are best in dips, but can also be tasty if they are fresh (aka caught that day). In this case, they are typically cut thick like a steak and are best prepared grilled or blackened.
    • AKA: King Mackerel
  • Swordfish: With a moderate flavor that is stronger than most listed above, this fish is light and delicious. Typically served in thicker cuts and prepared a variety of ways.
  • Wahoo: With moderate flavor, this fish is very lean and firm. It is cut into thicker steak filets and is commonly used as the meat in some of the most delicious fish tacos.
    • AKA: Robalo
  • Yellowfin Tuna: The most prized and delicious of tunas, this fish is extremely delicious, mildly fishy, and high in protein. It can be eaten raw, like in sushi, or cooked a variety of ways as a larger steak filet.
    • AKA: Ahi
  • Yellowtail Snapper: This mild fish is delicious and slightly tangy. It has a fluffy texture when pan seared or fried properly. Not an adventurous fish, but not for beginners, either.
    • AKA: Flag, Tail, Rabirubi
  • Flounder: Renowned as one of the top three favorites in the Gulf Coast, this fish is delectable. It has a mild flavor, fine texture and is great for beginners and seasoned sea food lovers. This is great prepared any way, and can really handle a hearty sauce like a bearnaise.
    • AKA: Door Mat, Sand Dab, English Sole, Fluke, Plaice
  • Triggerfish: This guy is extremely flavorful with a distinctive taste. It has a mostly shellfish diet, so it has a hint of that flavor. It is light and flaky, and great prepared blackened, fried or grilled.
    • AKA: Fudpucker
  • Redfish: This fish has a moderate flavor and is not oily. It is a firmer fish and is best grilled, but can also be enjoyed blackened.
    • AKA: Reds, Red Drum, Channel Bass

You’re now armed with the names of some of Florida’s most adored seafood – sure to make you blend right in with the locals. Now go out there, have a little adventure, and make your taste buds love you way more than they do right now.