Evening Lattes and Long Weekends

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cafenerojanuary1Happy Friday (and honestly- it couldn’t have come fast enough for me!) I hope you’re all ready for the weekend!

My birthday is this coming Sunday, and since I worked through this past Monday- which was a holiday for nearly everyone else that I knew- I’ve taken this coming Monday off for a personal day in order to extend my getting-older-celebration another 24 hours. I believe the plan is to head to NYC for an afternoon- but you never know what will happen! Either way- I’m very excited for a long weekend that I hope is filled with good friends, plenty of cake, and a Patriots win over the Steelers.

And if anyone asks- I’m turning 29. Again.

I digress- while I’ve been working a lot this past week- I did take some time to catch up with friends over coffee at Caffè Nero in Jamaica Plain the other night. I really like the atmosphere in the place. It’s nice to sit back and talk in big leather chairs and be surrounded by hundreds of books that stretch up to the ceiling. Any cafe that has it’s own personality is a place I like to pass the time and keep warm.

The cappuccinos were delicious- although it was a little late in the evening for me to partake in any of their incredible-looking desserts.

Next time, for sure.

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Next week I’m going to have the full birthday weekend re-cap up (which may or may not include a review of whatever movie my friends are bringing me to tonight to kick off the festivities!) as well as post detailing my monthly favorites and maybe another recipe post or two- but before I get too ahead of myself- I just wanted to say not only THANK YOU SO MUCH to those who sent me early and warmest birthday wishes- but also that given today’s political undertones- I hope those of you who are angry, afraid, uncertain and/or upset about Trump’s inauguration take some time for yourselves today to do something that makes you happy, makes you smile, and makes you feel safe.

Always try to balance your days with equal measures of positivity and self-love. You deserve that.

Stay safe out there, everyone. Have a good weekend!

xx

Quick Eats: Parmesan Truffle Fries

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Last week, I had mentioned dinner plans I had made with friends at Grass Fed JP in Jamaica Plain- and how their Parmesan truffle fries were so good that they had made me want to try my hand at whipping up a batch of my own. Well, this past weekend- in preparation for the Chiefs/Steelers game (and I’m still pretty bummed out about the Chiefs losing!)– I picked up the handful of ingredients I needed to make my own version.

But here’s the thing- truffle oil is kind of a pain to get. I checked three different stores around where I live and none of them had the stuff. The closest place, a good twenty minutes out of my way- had some priced at about $35 for a small bottle. The oil is apparently like liquid gold and twice as hard to track down.

Fortunately, the internet had plenty of helpful suggestions when it came to substituting other oils for truffle oil that would still keep the fries tasting good. Below is a recipe I scrounged up that originally included truffle oil, but I added some notes for anyone else who has trouble finding some and/or doesn’t want to spend a small fortune to get it.

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WHAT YOU’LL NEED:

  • 3 large russet potatoes (about 2 ½ pounds)
  • 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2-4 tablespoons truffle oil (**or substitute extra virgin olive oil)
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh parsley
  • ¼ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

OKAY, HERE’S WHAT YOU DO:

1. Preheat oven to 425°F

2. Leave the skin on the potatoes. Cut each potato in half the long way, then each half in half the long way. From there, slice the wedges into strips- the width of your choosing depending on how thick you want the fries (I kept mine on the thinner side, but you can cut them into bigger wedges or shoestring pieces if you have the patience!)

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3. In a bowl, toss the cut potatoes with the olive oil, salt and pepper. Lay out flat on a sheet pan and roast in the oven for 15 minutes. Turn each wedge over and roast for about another 15 minutes or until browned and tender.

4. Remove hot fries from sheet pan and place in a large bowl and toss with truffle oil (or extra virgin olive oil), chopped parsley and grated Parmesan.

5. Serve the fries hot and with your preferred dipping sauce on the side.

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Even without truffle oil- these fries tasted so good! They were crisp and full of flavor- and were the perfect pre-game snack to reach for instead of the usual chips, pretzels or crackers. What I like best about making these, apart from the fact that they don’t take long at all to prepare and cook- is that you can be pretty lax with the ingredients. You can substitute oils, add more or less cheese/parsley/salt and pepper/etc. and they’ll still taste great.

Of course, if you have any suggestions for these fries for the next time I prepare them (which will be in like a day or two, probably!) feel free to share! I’m always open to new ideas and suggestions!

xx

POPSUGAR Must Have Box: January 2017

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Good Morning and Happy Monday, everyone! I hope you all had a phenomenal weekend. I’m still recovering from celebrating Saturday night’s Patriots victory- but that’s another story for another day. Before I head off to my office to start another busy work week, I wanted to share what I received in my first POPSUGAR “Must Have Box” of 2017- which arrived a few days ago via USPS.

For those of you who may be new to these types of posts from me, allow me to explain. I was previously enrolled in three monthly subscription box services that I would thoroughly review each and every month. In mid-2016, in an attempt to save myself some money and better budget my finances- I opted out of two of the services and remained enrolled in the one I liked best- POPSUGAR’s “Must Have Box”.

What I love most about the “Must Have Box” is that it isn’t limited to one particular thing/type of product, but instead incorporates all sorts of luxury items each and every month- ranging from beauty, food, home decor, fashion & accessories, books, etc. etc. You never really know what you’re going to get until you open it- so it’s a lovely surprise every month!

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Every month, the items in the box revolve around a selected theme/inspiration- which is detailed (along with descriptions and price points for each product inside the box) on a postcard. January’s items, for example- were inspired by the words NEW, FRESH, DETOX, MOTIVATION, HEALTHY and REVITALIZE.

It sounds perfect for a new year, doesn’t it?

Let’s take a look at what I got!

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The first product I picked up from January’s “Must Have Box” was this lovely tin of peppermint loose leaf tea from Dean & DeLuca. While I’m very much a coffee bean type of girl- I have been slowly but surely trying to incorporate more tea into my diet as a means to cut back on those espresso-withdrawal headaches and late-latte shakes/jitters. Peppermint is one of my favorite flavors, too- so I’m sure I’ll be enjoying this shortly!

Side Note: I checked out Dean & DeLuca’s website to see what else the brand had to offer- and I’m gonna’ need an order of their Champagne Biscuits Roses De Reims as soon as possible.

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At work, I am pretty much a note-taking fiend. I’m constantly jotting things down, writing myself reminders, scribbling down thoughts/times/numbers/etc. so receiving some inspirational stickies from Happy Notes to decorate my (or my co-workers’) desks with was a fun treat. Each note features a cute pick-me-up message and a little decorative doodle on it to help break up the repetitiveness of each day.

Dibs on the “Fiesta Time!” one, though. That has me written all over it.

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And the award for the most amazing scented candle ever goes to… When I first unwrapped this soy candle from Glade and caught a whiff of it’s warm, coconut fragrance- I immediately thought of my last trip to San Diego and couldn’t help but grin. This affordable (and you best believe I’ll be buying more of these!) jar candle seriously smells so lovely- and it’s such an unexpected but pleasant fragrance to have around my home during these chilly months.

I swear, I feel a little warmer every time I light it because it just takes me back to my last weekend at an ocean-side paradise near the Pacific!

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At $85 a bottle, this acid resurfacing peel from GOLDFADEN MD SKINCARE might be one of the most expensive products I’ve ever received in a POPSUGAR “Must Have Box” and I’m very intrigued by it’s super effective- but still gentle on the skin- description. The combination of Lactic acid and Multi-Fruit Enzymes are supposed to provide some serious exfoliation while simultaneously smoothing out the complexion, fine lines/wrinkles, pores and imperfections.

Given how tough the Winter is on my face- I’ll be giving this a try in the coming days. Who knows? It might even make my January Hits List near the end of the month if it works well enough!

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Of course, if I’m going to be using a peel on my face- I’m going to need to keep my hair away from my skin and eyes- and this wrap towel from Daily Concepts is definitely going to come in handy! I’ve had a couple of similar towels like this in the past, and they are terrific and very helpful- especially when applying masks or makeup. I have a lot of curly, unruly hair- but the microfibers in these towels helps reduce frizz and fly-aways while it gently dries my ends and scalp.

Best of all? it doesn’t budge once you wrap/tuck it into place- so you don’t have to do that weird and uncomfortable head-tilt maneuver while you’re getting ready to keep the towel from falling off and ruining your progress.

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I actually got a new yoga mat in a POPSUGAR box last year, and I’ve been using it a lot lately- so this slip-proof and absorbent towel from Manduka is the perfect add-on to cover my mat when I go to get my stretch on and start to sweat but don’t want to slide all over the place while I’m trying to hold my balance.

I’m not exactly graceful by nature, so anything that can help keep me steady (and dry) is always appreciated!

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Like post-it notes, I also rely heavily on calendars- and this floral calendar/notecard pack from May Designs is a beautiful way to keep track of the days. Each card/month features a colorful hand-painted flower pattern, plenty of space on the back to jot down important dates/times- and comes with two plastic holders to keep the cards in place on your desk/tabletop.

I’ve been keeping this particular calendar in my kitchen- and the patterns definitely brighten things up!

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Each month’s POPSUGAR “Must Have Box” usually comes with some additional online perks/coupons, as well. This month’s deal featured a 15% voucher off of any order from Dean & DeLuca (the code itself was digitally covered by me) which means I’ll be getting those Champagne Biscuits Roses De Reims after all!

Overall, I really enjoyed January’s “Must Have Box” and I thought each item I received fit the month’s theme/inspiration perfectly! It was a great collection to kick off a brand new year with- and if this is any indication to the quality POPSUGAR is going to put into their boxes for the remainder of the 2017- I’m very excited to see what’s next!

xx

Bundling Up and Burgers…

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Jamaica Pond, 1/8/17

When you live in New England, making concrete plans between the months of late November through mid-March can be a tricky thing. Our weather is unpredictable, to put it mildly- and snowstorms/blizzards can delay even the most local of get-togethers. If walking along Boston sidewalks is stressful enough- then NOBODY wants to brave driving or public transport to get where they’re going. Nobody.

Such was the case this past Saturday, when Winter Storm Helena rolled through the Northeast and left highway pileups, plow/sanding delays, and dangerously cold temperatures in her wake. The storm seemed to be a surprise birthday present for my best friend Sean- who had made dinner and drinks plans with a large group of us to commemorate his special day well before anyone even knew the storm was coming.

Sadly, Helena hit earlier in the day than expected- leaving me trapped in Central Massachusetts where I had been running some errands until early Sunday morning when the roads were finally clear. I had attempted to get back into Boston in time for Sean’s party- but after the third or fourth time my poor Elantra began fishtailing on the ice was when I eventually gave up and turned back.

That doesn’t mean we didn’t celebrate in our own way, however. Once I was back in the city on Sunday- Sean and I (as well as our friend Stephen) made dinner arrangements at Grass Fed JP, an all-natural burger joint on Centre Street in Jamaica Plain that cooks up some of the best burgers (and truffle fries!) I’ve ever tasted. I went for The Cali Burger and have no regrets. It was delicious.

They also offer up some tasty sounding alcohol-infused milkshakes, but since I was driving- I opted to save trying those for another time (and also it was way too cold out for milkshakes!)

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I’m actually tempted to try my hand and making my own truffle fries this coming weekend- so be on the lookout for a recipe post at some point next week! I doubt they’ll be as awesome as Grass Fed’s, but it’s worth a shot.

After dinner- Sean, Stephen and I popped around the corner to grab our caffeine fix (although I stuck with hot chocolate since I was still running on a jet fuel level espresso I had earlier that afternoon) at 7 Pond Coffee Bar. It’s a cute, quaint, and tiny hole in the wall that you may miss if you blink as you pass it- but if you’re ever in the area- you have to drop in. Their cocoa is some of the best around- and Sean couldn’t get enough of his cappuccino, either!

With hot drinks in hand and Stephen heading off to meet up with his family- Sean and I braved the arctic tundra temperatures to take a quick stroll by Jamaica Pond before eventually retreating to the warmth of my car and then the apartment after we returned to Melrose for some much needed video games and binge-watching on Netflix.

My birthday- the next in line- is a couple of weeks away, and I’m just now picking a place for my friends and I to gather for some food and a couple of cocktails. I have a few ideas in mind- but here’s hoping Mother Nature doesn’t intervene and disrupt everything again!

As part of my “blog more/create more content” pledge for 2017- I’m going to start highlighting more of my favorite local eateries, too. Whether they’re old favorites or new finds- I’m always looking for recommendations for good food and enjoy sharing them with others, too. Grass Fed JP & 7 Pond Coffee Bar are just the tip of the iceberg of excellent places to check out in the Boston area!

Have a great weekend, everyone!

xx

Review: Elizavecca Milky Piggy Carbonated Bubble Clay Mask

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For 2017, I made a list of products- skin care, hair care, makeup, nail polish, etc.- that I’ve been meaning to try and review in detail as part of my resolution to blog more often and include more content. For inspiration and assistance with compiling my “To Try” list, I turned to my social media and fell down the YouTube beauty blogging rabbit hole. If you ever have a snowy or rainy Sunday afternoon to get lost in that part of the limitless (and sometimes downright weird) vlogging world- I highly recommend it. There’s definitely a lot to see.

I digress. One product has been on my radar for a few months now- arriving at my door from Amazon last week- and I finally got to try it this past weekend in-between shoveling my way out of the aftermath of Winter Storm Helena (and I’ll post about that later on this week!)

Elizavecca, a South Korean skincare company- has a long list of masks/serums/creams/SPFs to detoxify, nurture and brighten the skin- almost all of which feature an adorable cartoon pig on the packaging. I’ve been fascinated by Korean skincare products for quite some time now- especially since they seem to work really and ridiculously well based on every review I’ve read and every video I’ve watched.

Out of all of Elizavecca’s products, however- the “Milky Piggy Carbonated Bubble Clay Mask” was the one that not only looked the most effective for someone with occasionally problematic skin like mine- but the most fun, too!

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I can’t speak/read/write Korean, so figuring this out for the first time could have been intimidating to someone like me had I gone into this without doing any research, first. Thankfully, though- Amazon’s order page included detailed instructions on how to use the mask- and I felt confident enough after watching countless YouTube reviews/tutorials on the product that I knew what I was doing and could pull this off without incident or injury.

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I didn’t want to leave the product uncovered for too long, since I think part of it is activated by being exposed to the air- but the texture was definitely bizarre. It was almost like tapioca pudding in that it was bouncy and jiggly- but had little bits of coarseness mixed in it, as well. The mask came with a tiny spatula to apply it with so that potentially germ-ridden fingers wouldn’t contaminate the product that remains in the jar in-between uses- although I did find the spatula a bit tricky to use at times- especially when it came time to get the mask around my nose and temples (where I usually see the most blackheads/breakouts).

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The mask should be applied to a cleansed, dry face. It might be hard to tell by the picture above since I don’t have a lot of visible acne- but prior to putting this mask on, I had some serious blackheads around my nose and forehead. Winter has been pretty brutal with my skin these past few weeks, especially in New England where the weather is just as unpredictable as our driving- drying me out with frigid temperatures and causing my skin to overcompensate with excess oil one day and then the next day leaving my face dewy and shiny from humidity and even warmer weather- and when combined with my heavier serums and moisturizers I typically use this time of year? I see a lot of little blemishes and pimples spring up and they drive me absolutely crazy.

I washed my face as usual and patted it dry with a towel before I slicked my hair back and began applying this mask. I’ve heard different amounts of time to leave it on- ranging from anywhere to 10/15 minutes to 45 minutes- so I decided to settle halfway and use the Milky Piggy Carbonated Bubble Clay Mask for a half hour.

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Immediately, this stuff started bubbling up- even as I was still applying it! Once I had it covering as much of my face as possible (where I could still breathe normally, of course)– I set the timer and sat down to wait it out. The mask definitely tickled as it fizzed, but it didn’t hurt or itch or anything. As the minutes ticked away, I did have to use a cotton swap to move some of the foam away from my eyes and nose since the bubbles were starting to overtake vital senses and functions- but I admit I was having a lot of fun watching my face look more and more like the moon emoji.

And you bet I took selfies. How could I not? Look at it! For those who follow my Instagram– you may have caught my Insta-Story where I was laughing so hard that the bubbles went all over me.

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After 15 minutes, I rubbed the foam/bubbles into my skin to let the product set and further clean my pores. It began bubbling again- just as big as the first application in certain areas- but already my skin began feeling very refreshed and thoroughly cleansed. My face tingled, but there was no discomfort at all. It actually felt really nice.

I let the mask bubble and set for another 10 minutes before I finally rinsed it off with lukewarm water and patted my face dry with a towel.

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To my amazement, my blackheads were gone. Not smaller, not “less noticeable”- but completely and totally cleaned out. My skin felt INCREDIBLE and had a really nice glow to it. It was soft, refreshed, and not dried out at all. I followed up with a quick sweep of my micellar water on a cotton pad to take away any of the mask I might have missed while rinsing my face and a couple of pumps of a lightweight moisturizer/sunscreen so I could go out and face the day and the post-snowstorm temperatures- but I was head over heels in love with this mask and blown away over how well it worked. So much, in fact- that I raved about it for a good ten minutes during brunch later that day.

Anything that causes me to stop stuffing brunch into my face long enough to discuss it at length is worth the attention. Trust me. I take my brunching very seriously.

While I typically use sheet masks 1-2 times a week to replenish and treat my skin after a long day at work, I think I’ll be keeping this mask’s usage to a once a week minimum- because it cleans SO well that I wouldn’t want it to dry out my skin by applying it more than necessary.

I give this mask two thumbs up for sure and cannot recommend it enough to those of you out there who have blemish-prone skin like mine or are just looking for something quick, fun, and easy to give your face a really deep clean and get any and all oil, dirt and makeup out of your pores.

I think I’ve found my new Sunday morning beauty ritual!

You can purchase Elizavecca Milky Piggy Carbonated Bubble Clay Mask HERE

xx

Hello, 2017…

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New Year’s Eve, Vermont. 12/31/16

Good Morning and Happy (Belated) New Year, everyone! I hope you all had a wonderful holiday weekend ushering in 2017! I’ve been preoccupied at my office the past couple of days, staying busy and on top of my first-of-the-year workload- but before I dove into that, I spent an exquisite weekend in Springfield, Vermont savoring some much needed peace and quiet at one of my favorite New England getaway destinations- The Hartness House.

The Hartness House is a former Victorian-style mansion (which belonged to James and Lena Hartness) turned inn that is a popular destination for locals’ weddings, formal functions, and for skiers and snowboarders to lay their heads for a night before hitting the slopes in the early mornings. My first trip to The Hartness House was when I was about eight or nine years old. My parents brought me up for a weekend during the holiday season and I quickly fell in love with the house, the surrounding gardens, and the underground tunnels that lead to the gigantic Hartness Equatorial Turret Telescope on the property (James was a big fan of astronomy, as it turns out.)

One of my most vivid memories of my first trip to the inn, however- was sitting in front of the fireplace and a massive Christmas tree in a large library area and reading a book undisturbed while my parents sat nearby and played board games. And then, of course- was the food. The inn boasted an impressive menu and talented kitchen staff. My family and I were so thrilled with our first initial visit that we ended up making a few more stops there throughout the next few years.

So when it came time to make plans for New Year’s Eve, and the idea of doing anything other than fall off the grid for a few days and relax was enough to make my head spin- I thought of re-visiting one of my fondest childhood memories and booked Lena Hartness’ suite for the New Year’s weekend. I had heard the inn had gone through some renovations and a change of ownership in recent years- so I wasn’t sure what to expect- but my mind was immediately put at ease when I first walked in and saw the main hall in all it’s splendor (and still decorated from Christmas!)

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Every room- including mine- was adorned with Christmas trees. It was such a nice treat to walk into- and right away the staff were so unbelievably friendly and accommodating. On New Year’s Eve, as the clock ticked closer and closer to midnight- I crept down to the inn’s tavern to grab a drink and a bite to eat. Not only did I get those things, but I got some funky 2017 glasses, a tiara and a confetti popper from the ladies who were bartending, too! By the time midnight rolled around- most of the kitchen staff had gathered together with those of us lounging at the bar- including a few locals who had dropped by- to celebrate and share a toast with us. I could not imagine a more pleasant group of new faces to drink champagne and ring in the New Year with!

By the end of the weekend, we were all on a first name basis with each other. Even though I had gone up to the inn solo- I never, not once, felt lonely. Everyone went above and beyond to make me feel welcomed and comfortable during my stay. I’m so grateful for their hospitality and laid-back natures. It was so refreshing.

And remember how good I said the food was when I was a kid? It was even better this time around. The head chef, Nick- is AMAZING– as made evident by my delicious NYE dinner and the follow-up brunches and breakfasts I had during my remaining days there. I couldn’t help but snap a photo of the menu and one of my meals before I dug into it- because it even photographed incredible:

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And while I caught up on plenty of rest at The Hartness House, I did take some time to explore some of the surrounding towns, as well- Charlestown, Rockingham, and Bellows Falls- where I did some antique shopping and marveled at the mountains while I sipped a hot cup of coffee.

I also discovered a lot of abandoned places around the section of Vermont I was traveling around, too- which is going to make for a nice follow-up trip to photograph them once the warm weather rolls around and I don’t have so much snow blocking my views!

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I returned home on Monday, the 2nd- but not before making a pit stop in Melrose to meet up with Sean, grab some Mexican food and catch up since we hadn’t had the chance to see each other since right before Christmas. His birthday is tomorrow- and we’ve got some big plans I can’t wait to get to!

Overall, my New Year’s Eve, New Year’s Day, and Post-New Year’s Day were wonderful and very chill. If anyone reading this should ever find themselves in Vermont- I strongly recommend you make a stop and take a night to rest at The Hartness House. Being there is an experience in itself and you won’t regret it! I promise! Every room is unique and gorgeous in it’s own way, the staff are an absolute joy, the food cannot be beat- and it’s the perfect spot if you just want to get away for a little while. I came home feeling positively refreshed, radiant- and ready to take on the new year!

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Not a bad start to 2017, if I do say so myself!

xx

2016: In a Nutshell.

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(.gif via Tumblr.)

Whenever I go to write one of my annual year-end wrap-up posts, I like to take a look back on the last one I put together- not only to track my progress with the resolutions I had set for myself and adjust any of the ones I didn’t accomplish so that I can try to complete them again- but to also see what events/news changed over the course of the year that followed, too.

Oddly enough, this little snippet from New Year’s Eve in 2015 caught my eye:

Indeed, I’m a little anxious for 2016. Not necessarily in a bad way, but I’m eager for it to begin- not only because it marks the year I will be turning thirty (gasp!) and I’m actually quite excited to enter a new decade of my life with all the wisdom I’ve gained over the past ten years of laughter, tears, triumphs, tragedies and PLENTY of mistakes (and believe me- I’ll have a post up with all of those juicy details and some well-intentioned advice within a couple of weeks just for the occasion!) but because, overall- 2015 was a bit rough for me- and I don’t believe it would be an exaggeration to say it was possibly one of the more difficult years I’ve had since my father’s untimely death in 2012.

Of course, had I known exactly what a dumpster fire 2016 would turn out to be- I never would have taken a moment of 2015 for granted.

Listen: 2016 had good moments. Even the most awful of years have them- and I’m truly grateful they were peppered across the past twelve months. Indeed, my turning 30 was a joyous and wildly celebrated occasion by both friends and family alike. One of my best friends got married to a wonderful guy whom she loves very much. I had an amazing vacation in Las Vegas and San Diego and another (and equally amazing) mini-vacation in Virginia and around D.C. I excelled in my career, I spent time with old friends I hadn’t seen in a very long time (including my long-time West Coast family- Tom, Andrea and their beautiful baby boy, Lorenzo!) I met new and incredible people, and traveled to new & different places- some local and some not-so-local- that I would have otherwise overlooked or missed entirely during my somewhat sporadic days off from my job. Plus, “Captain America: Civil War” came out this year- and that was awesome, right?

But 2016’s rough patches often overshadowed the good times- and not just for me- but for a lot of other people, too.

The biggest blow came at the beginning of Summer when I ended a 7-year relationship (which tied into a 15 year-friendship) that I documented here on “Legally Redhead” shortly after the dust had finally settled. Although in my heart of hearts I know it was for the best and that I had made the right decision to cut the man who had hurt me and betrayed my trust beyond comprehension out of my life entirely- it was still an agonizing ordeal that really screwed me up emotionally and mentally for a long time after the fact. I would be lying if I said that it still doesn’t sting just a little bit when I look back on it- and although I formed a new friendship with another woman who had been hurt by the same guy at the exact same time, which was really the only silver lining to the whole mess of a situation- it was still devastating and draining to me in so many ways.

The breakup had a negative ripple effect into some of my longtime close friendships with a couple of different guys in my life, too. Men I’d known for years and who I thought I had a mutual understanding and respect with suddenly tried to swoop in and become romantically (or just plain physically) involved with me despite my working through a considerable amount of pain and anguish and making things downright uncomfortable and confusing at times. It goes without saying that I’ve been cleaning house and “taking out the trash” in certain aspects of my life for the past few months- actively trying to rid myself and surroundings of people whom I feel have a negative impact on me, my life, my progress, and my overall happiness. It all ties into my resolutions for 2017- which I’ll get to in a bit.

This past year also saw my encounter some financial setbacks due to unforeseen circumstances. A change in my living situation stood to help me save more money, however my old car finally dying once and for all caused a considerable amount of stress when I had to rush out to purchase a new one in order to get myself to/from work and my daily activities. Although I adore my new Elantra- the extra payment every month definitely hurts whenever I dare look at my bank account statements- which isn’t exactly ideal for someone trying to budget a move to the West Coast. I’ve been putting in a lot of overtime at work to help make up some of the funds- and with a recent change in my schedule that provides me a but more flexibility- I’m hoping it will all become easier to manage in the coming months and new year.

Before I jump into my hopes, goals and aspirations for 2017- I wanted to take a look back at this past year that was: the headlines, the trends, and the odds  & ends that made up a wild and unpredictable 12 months that I don’t think any of us are going to forget anytime soon.

This is 2016, in a nutshell:

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(Image via People)

What the actual f*ck, America?!: In one of the most stunning upsets in politics and in history in general, former reality TV star, corrupt businessman and present-day puppet to Vladimir Putin (with absolutely no control over his temper- a brilliant combination if there ever was one)- Donald Trump actually convinced people that despite multiple scandals and bankruptcies- he was somehow fit to run a country and was elected President of the United States after a long, volatile, and downright ugly campaign against actual experienced politician, Hillary Clinton. Since then, each and every day’s news headlines just seem to be “oh God, did he really just do/say that?” and sure enough- he did.

I wrote about my feelings on the election results back in November- so reiterating my disgust with Trump, the people he has surrounded himself with, and his supporters isn’t necessary at this point- but I’m hoping that the recent findings of his ties to Russia, Putin, and their proven interference with the election changes the course of this sham of a decision and this embarrassment of a “leader” (and even bigger embarrassment of a man) gets impeached A.S.A.P.

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(Image via New York Times)

What the actual f*ck, England?: Not that it helps me feel any better, but America wasn’t the only country who lost their collective minds this past year. In another shocking development- the United Kingdom willingly opted out of remaining in the European Union- “breaking free” after campaigns filled with fear-mongering and anti-immigration sentiments were concocted by those leading the brigade to abandon the EU- and which also played a role in the public assassination of Parliament member Jo Cox- and thus changed their country’s course forever.

Immediate changes included David Cameron stepping down as Prime Minister and the pound quickly (and alarmingly) losing it’s value- although long-term consequences are still up in the air and many are left feeling uncertain about their futures and the future of their economy, national security, livelihoods, healthcare, etc.

We know how you feel, England. You can come sit with us. Let’s talk about it.

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(Images via various news sources)

Who DIDN’T die this year?: If you’re reading this, then congratulations- you’re alive- and that’s more than so many beloved musicians, actors/actresses, sports legends and cultural icons can say after 2016. I had a feeling things were going to be bad this year when David Bowie and Alan Rickman passed away unexpectedly within days of each other- but I never anticipated someone like Prince (I wrote about my feelings on his passing here) or Anton Yelchin to go in the horrible ways they did, either. It felt like we were losing people we loved and admired left and right in 2016- and even as I type this- I’m afraid someone else will leave us before I get the chance to publish this post. That’s how frequently it’s been happening.

I know we’re going to lose people in 2017, too. It’s inevitable- but I really, really hope that the losses are few and that most folks get to stick around and enjoy more days ahead just a little longer.

[EDITED TO ADD] Since starting this post, I’ve had to add two additional celebrities to the collage- George Michael and Carrie Fisher. That’s how brutal this year has been.

[EDITED TO ADD II] Rest in Peace, Debbie Reynolds.

(Image via CBS News)

(Image via CBS News)

Flint, Michigan poisoned it’s own residents: Although the contaminated water crisis in Flint, Michigan started back in 2014- the rest of the Nation didn’t really hear much about it until this year. Following officials’ failure to properly apply corrosion inhibitors after changing the source of Flint’s water supply- the area’s drinking water became contaminated with high levels of lead and dangerous neurotoxins. To date, it’s possible 10 people have died due to complications stemming from ailments caused by ingesting the water- and up to 12,000 children have been exposed to the elevated lead amounts- which can cause serious health issues in the future.

Flint was declared to be in a State of Emergency back in January, with officials scrambling to solve the problem at it’s source- and criminal indictments have come down on negligent members in the Department of Environmental Quality and Michigan’s Department of Health and Human Services- but many residents to this day still do not have access to clean drinking water. It’s completely unacceptable and the crisis serves as a painful reminder that we are not being diligent enough in keeping people- especially kids- safe.

(Image via CNN)

(Image via CNN)

This waste of Oxygen got a slap on the wrists for being a rapist: Oh, to be a wealthy white male in 2016. You can get away with pretty much anything- including raping an unconscious woman behind a dumpster until two good Samaritans find you and pin your ass on the ground while they wait for the police arrive to put you in cuffs. Such was the case of Brock Turner- a student athlete at Stanford University who was sentenced to six months in prison (but only served three) after he was spotted sexually assaulting an unconscious woman following a house/fraternity party in 2015. Although a jury found Turner guilty of three felonies at the end of his Spring 2016 trial- Judge Aaron Persky handed down one of the lightest sentences imaginable- citing his concern that prison may have had a harmful effect on this piece of shit.

The decision was, understandably, met with harsh criticism and protest. Turner has been banned from competing in any USA Swimming event, and his father faced backlash and public shaming for crude and irresponsible remarks he’d made about the crime following the sentencing. Perhaps the only good thing to come from such a despicable series of events was the victim’s pull-no-punches impact statement- which has since gone viral and has shined a light on the ongoing epidemic of on-campus sexual assaults throughout colleges and universities across the country.

(Image via NY Mag)

(Image via NY Mag)

Oh my God, this gorilla: Back in May, following a toddler climbing into the gorilla enclosure at the Cincinnati Zoo- the attraction’s 17-year old gorilla, Harambe- was shot and killed by staff after he’d grabbed at and started to drag the child around. Officials at the zoo explained that there was no other option as the toddler’s safety was in jeopardy when Harambe reportedly became more and more agitated at the panic and hysteria from the onlooking crowd that had gathered. The entire incident was captured on video and uploaded onto the internet where it spread like wildfire across social media.

Tragic? Absolutely. Infuriating? Of course (who doesn’t keep enough of an eye on their child to not catch them climbing a four-foot-high fence and crawling through bushes at a wild animal enclosure?)– but I don’t think any of us expected the memes that followed. Each tribute to Harambe was so over-the-top, so inappropriately funny with it’s exaggerated sincerity- that poor Harambe easily became one of the most recognizable memes to emerge from 2016- spanning across the internet, television, and music alike.

But really, all joking aside- if you take your child to a zoo- watch them carefully, for f*ck’s sake.

(Image via NPR)

(Image via NPR)

Our hearts broke for Orlando: On June 12, 2016- the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, Florida became the site of the deadliest terror attack on American soil since 9/11 and the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history following an attack by a lone gunman with ties to ISIS that left 49 people dead and 53 injured- most of which were members of the LGBT and Latino Community. In the immediate aftermath of the attack, Facebook implemented their “Safety Check” feature for the first time in America which allowed those in the area to notify friends, family members and followers that they were out of harm’s way- as stories of courage and bravery amid the chaos from survivors who had risked their lives to help others began to trickle out to various news outlets.

In the aftermath of the shooting, gun control was once again brought to the forefront of political debates and arguments on all facets of social media- and the nation rallied together to voice their support for the victims’ families, the survivors, and for the LGBT Community. The club has since been purchased by the city of Orlando with plans to convert it into a memorial to honor those who had lost their lives while simply trying to have a fun night out dancing and being who they were.

(Image via NYMag)

(Image via NYMag)

Do you believe in miracles?: Coming from Boston, where I witnessed the Red Sox break their own curse back in 2004- nothing gave me more of a thrill than watching the nail-biter, edge-of-your-seat final game in the 2016 World Series, where the Chicago Cubs looked to clinch their first series win since 1908 against the Cleveland Indians (who hadn’t won a series since 1948). With a tie-up that lead to extra innings, a rain delay, and the game running well into the late night hours- seeing the Cubs finally come back and win the whole thing was one of the few truly touching and inspiring sports moments- and moments in general- of 2016.

And although I’m not a Cubs fan by any means- it was an absolute joy to see how happy their supporters and the city of Chicago were following the victory- including a parade that was attended by nearly five million people. I wish I could have been there!

(Image via Variety)

(Image via Variety)

“Hamilton” reigned supreme: Although this Broadway musical made it’s debut in early 2015, it took the show being nominated for- and then winning- 11 of 16 Tony Awards for a lot of people to stop and take notice. Written by and initially starring Lin-Manuel Miranda as the lead role, “Hamilton” tells the story of the life and death of Alexander Hamilton with some of the catchiest songs imaginable- making it infinitely more entertaining than anything I ever watched or read about in history class.

The show took off in 2016- selling out months and months in advance and sparking both a national touring production set to hit the road in 2017 and an overseas residency in the West End in London. Getting tickets for the show is like trying to get the golden ticket to Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory- but I’m hopeful I’ll get to see it someday without having to sell my car to afford it.

I mean, if anyone reading this has tickets and wants to just casually slide them over to me- I won’t mind…

(Image via Huffington Post)

(Image via Huffington Post)

The Pipeline was thankfully stopped: With the largest gathering of Indian tribes in over 100 years and the eyes of the world watching- it was announced on December 4th that the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL for short) would be halted. The pipeline, being built throughout parts of North Dakota- was set to assist with the carrying of crude oil across 1,172 miles. It was discovered after a re-route through the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation, however- that the pipeline not only threatened the tribe’s water supply, but could contaminate their sacred burial grounds, as well.

Protests against the DAPL gradually began to gain momentum in the Spring of 2016- eventually growing to a full-blown movement with thousands of people standing with the tribe come Summer and Fall, however supporters of the pipeline retaliated- using attack dogs, high-powered water cannons (in frigid temperatures) and alleged concussion grenades to try and shut the protests down in order to clear the area and resume the building of the pipeline. The lead-up to the December 4th decision was looking grim, indeed- but the halt of the pipeline’s construction serves as a victory for the Sioux tribe. I’m hoping their land stays protected.

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It feels like there is SO MUCH MORE news that needs to be discussed- and I’m absolutely sure I’m missing some key events/headlines- but the above-listed stories are the ones that come to mind whenever I think about this past year. They are the ones that either impacted me and my life directly, or stood out more prominently over these last twelve months.

Of course, there were some other brief, not-so-major stories that should get some recognition, too. As always in my year-end “In a Nutshell” review, here’s the Honorable Mentions:

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– HONORABLE MENTIONS – 

– Creepy clowns were a horrible, horrible thing: You know how sometimes stories go viral on the internet but there’s never any proof that the events in question ever really happened and it all just seems too absurd to be true? That’s how I felt at the first reports that people were dressing up like clowns (of the circus variety) and terrorizing people around the country by chasing them or running up to their stopped vehicles- sometimes with weapons to make it all the more frightening- as some sort of deranged prank. That was, until- my friend spotted one in Nevada. Then another friend saw one in New Hampshire, and then another and another- and although I still haven’t seen any clowns running around and causing chaos with my own eyes- it was enough to briefly make National news and even resulted in a statement from the White House.

– Pokémon Go got people out of their houses (and occasionally hit by cars): If there was one thing in 2016 that could cause our divided Nation to come together as one- it was chasing cartoon monsters with our phones. 2016 saw the debut of Pokémon Go, an app that allowed people to capture Pokémon using just their mobile device and their own two feet and surroundings. Pokémon would randomly spring up in yards, on subways,  in bathtubs- and random buildings (usually unbeknownst to the owners) would occasionally be designated as gyms where players could gather to battle their Pokémon together. The game caught on like crazy- resulting in more than one incident where someone chased a Pikachu into moving traffic and got tossed up over someone’s hood- but at least it got people moving, right?

– Notorious older cases were thrust back into the limelight: With FX’s debut of their mini-true crime series, “The People Vs. O.J. Simpson” getting critical acclaim (I didn’t see the appeal- and I was much more invested in and moved by ESPN’s “O.J.: Made In America” documentary released earlier this Summer that better tackled subjects like the racial divide in the country leading up to and following the murders of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman- as well as really focusing on the victims themselves)– our morbid fascination with brutal “cold” cases  was reignited. Along with the resurgence of interest in the O.J. Simpson rial was the still unsolved murder of JonBenét Ramsey- whose mysterious death shook the nation twenty years ago. Both cases saw multiple TV specials, mini-movies, and magazine cover speculation throughout 2016.

– It was not a good year for Samsung: As an owner of a Samsung Galaxy 7- nothing made me side-eye more than when I heard the Samsung Galaxy Note 7s were experiencing technical difficulties this year. Specifically- they were exploding- and after a massive recall, their replacement models were exploding, too. A battery flaw in the phones were causing more than one person to have to stop, drop and roll when their Note 7 would randomly burst into flames or blow up- which made the TSA screening process in the airport all that much more faster and enjoyable. The problem became so big that Samsung ended up discontinuing the model all together- and are attempting to save face with the Note 8s which are due to debut (and hopefully will have an attached fire extinguisher with it) in Spring 2017.

– There were some kick-ass (and some guilty pleasure) comebacks this year: Whoever thought that a science fiction/horror series set in the 1980s could be so good? I’m talking about “Stranger Things”, of course. The Netflix based series- which brought Winona Ryder back into our homes and hearts- developed a cult like following in 2016 and for good reason. It was well-written, brilliantly acted, and the story was filled with all sorts of nostalgia that hit you right in your feelings. Also making a comeback this year via Netflix? “Full House”- only the follow-up to the cringe-inducing family comedy from the late 80s & mid 90s was called “Fuller House” and focused on the grown-up Tanner girls (sans-Michelle because the Olsen Twins couldn’t make an appearance) raising their own families. The star of “Fuller House”- much like the original version- was, is and will always be Kimmy Gibler, though.

Both “Stranger Things” and “Fuller House” have been renewed for additional seasons.

– Ryan Lochte remained painfully stupid: Olympic medalist and shameless buffoon Ryan Lochte had everyone talking this year following a fact check on his fabricated story of being robbed at gunpoint by a group of armed men with police badges while in Brazil for the 2016 Summer Olympics. As it turns out, a security guard had wielded a gun at Ryan and his friends after their drunken vandalism of a gas station bathroom. Surveillance footage from the gas station corroborated the security guard’s version of events- and it was quickly established that no armed robbery ever took place.

As a result of his dumbass behavior- Lochte was suspended from swimming for ten months and lost a bunch of endorsement deals- reduced to appearing on ‘Dancing with The Stars’ to pass the time. I knew there was a reason I liked Michael Phelps better.

– LEO FINALLY GOT HIS OSCAR: Much like the Cubs winning The World Series, another curse was broken this year: The DiCaprio Curse. For years, poor Leonardo DiCaprio poured blood, swear and tears into his roles and performances- and nearly every year he’d get nominated for an Academy Award only to get snubbed at the last possible second. This year, he finally got to hear his name read from the envelope and hold his very own gold statue for his performance in “The Revenant”. Although I’m going to miss the Leo/Oscar memes- I was genuinely and truly happy for him. He looked so relieved that he wouldn’t have to actually die in his next role to score a win.

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And there it is! 2016 in a nutshell! What a crazy year, right? Just looking back on everything is enough to make my head spin- but now that it’s (thankfully) over- it’s time to look ahead towards 2017.

I’ve been contemplating my resolutions for the upcoming year for a while now: editing them, erasing them, re-writing them, editing them some more- but I think I’ve finally got them in order and just the way I want- and I’m ready to share each of them with everyone. 2017 is the year I turn it all around. I’m determined and driven and I’m ready for it.

1. Get healthy and in good shape again: After my early Summer break-up and the months of stress that followed it- I won’t deny that I let myself go. Although I had spikes of energy where I’d work out, eat healthy and get enough sleep to get me feeling like a normal and semi-functioning human being again- I’d often sink back into a depressed slump of eating too much junk food, staying up too late, and not really wanting to get off my couch much unless it was absolutely necessary (and even then- I’d stall.) I don’t feel as great as I did when I actively took care of myself and as a result- I don’t feel I look as good, either. That changes this coming year. Now that the holiday feasting and partying is over- I’ve got my meal and fitness programs planned, my bedroom has been re-vamped so I can get the most restful nights of sleep imaginable- and I’ve taken up meditation and yoga to help melt away any residual stress from my work or personal life. I’ll be chronicling my journey here on “Legally Redhead” as I bounce back and get into the best shape of my life again.

2. Spend more time on my own: It’s not that I’m anti-social. Quite the opposite, in fact- but grief was hard to work through in 2016 when I was consistently surrounded by people at all times and I feel like I lost pieces of myself as a result. In 2017, I plan on taking some time now and then to enjoy my own company and really focus more on rediscovering myself, my interests, my talents and the world around me on solo trips and outings, or even just watching a movie or playing a video game on my own in the comforts of my living room. That’s not to say I won’t spend time with anyone ever again or anything- but I really do think it’s important to have private time now and then, too. You have to be comfortable on your own and confident with yourself before you can truly be comfortable and confident with others.

3. Get organized!: Another consequential setback of falling into a depression earlier this year? Good Lord, did my work and personal space get cluttered! Even my email inbox was a mess for a while, and I’m still getting things tidied up! In 2017, everything that has a place is going in said place- and everything that doesn’t is getting donated or trashed. I was given a beautiful new monthly planner for Christmas, and I’ve already been laying out my upcoming appointments, deadlines, and scheduled social events to keep me in check so I’ll never run late or fall behind again. I’ve always prided myself on staying on top of tasks- and this coming year is when that talent shines through again!

4. Focus on blogging and take ‘Legally Redhead’ to the next level: While I did have some quality posts this year, ones that I’m quite proud of- I admittedly slacked on the blogging front these past few months- mostly due in part to me being extremely distracted with all that was happening around me and in my personal life. Writing was temporarily put on the back burner and for someone like me who takes such pleasure in creating content- that’s simply unacceptable. In 2017, I have big blogging plans I’m looking forward to starting and seeing through. More partnerships, more posts that cover a wider range of topics (while still featuring plenty of the usual stuff!), and more utilizing social media. “Legally Redhead” will be getting a makeover soon to make navigation a bit easier- and I’m excited at new networking prospects that are coming up! Even if I’m not a redhead anymore- I truly love writing this blog and I’m so thankful for everyone who reads it and supports it. I want to put out the best possible stuff for you all and I hope you all enjoy what I have in store during the coming year!

5. Get my finances in order: A move to the West Coast costs money, as do trips to New Orleans, Nashville and all the other places I want to visit in the next year or so- and with a new car throwing a bit of a wrench in my plans- I’d like to save more money in 2017 and better balance my budget. I know it’s going to take a bit of practice to get back into the swing of things now that I have an extra expense to take into consideration- but I’m confident I can do it and store plenty of money away to go on my next great adventure- and working hard will make it all the more enjoyable when I do!

Those are the big ones I’m going to strive for in 2017! There are some random ones, too- like “get my motorcycle license”, “don’t date assholes” and “visit/tour Paisley Park”, for example- but the above five are the ones I truly want to focus on since I feel they will bring me the most peace, satisfaction and happiness in the new year.

And with all that being said- I’m heading up to Vermont for an extended weekend in a Victorian mansion-turned-bed & breakfast to quietly see out 2016 and peacefully usher in 2017 while lounging in front of a fireplace and getting lost in a good book by myself. I wanted to hold off on sharing my New Year’s Eve plans until the last possible minute- since sometimes things can get compromised or intruded upon- but it all looks good to go and I can’t wait to kick off the new year in a new way!

I hope you all have a safe and joyous New Year! If 2016 was a good year for you, and I’m sure it was for some- then I hope your good fortune and happiness continues well into 2017.

And if your 2016 was less than satisfactory, like it was for so many- myself included- then here’s to better, brighter, and much more wonderful days ahead! You made it all the way to this point- even if it feels like you barely got here and even if you’re completely and utterly exhausted- and that’s a feat in itself. Be proud of yourself for surviving such a tough twelve months and making it to the end!

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See you all in 2017!

xox

Top 10 Photographs of 2016

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Combing through all of my photos from this past year has been a trip. I’ve been to so many incredible places, have met and spent time with equally incredible people- and have been fortunate enough to occasionally just be in right moment at the right time to catch a perfect shot. Narrowing down hundreds of photos to just ten, and then ranking them proved to be quite a challenge- but this is one of two year-end traditions here on ‘Legally Redhead’. The other, my “In a Nutshell” post that will summarize 2016 in it’s excruciatingly long entirety- will be up tomorrow! I wanted to do this the right way, after all!

All but two of these photos were taken by me (and the two in question have me in them and were taken by other people)– and most are from my travels around New England and across the country this past year. It’s been a lot of fun re-visiting those moments and memories as I organized these pictures for this post- and I hope everyone enjoys them as much as I do!

Without further delay, here are my ten favorite photographs from 2016.

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#10: Coney Island (July 5th)

In the early, sunny morning hours following the 4th- my best friend Sean and I hopped a train bound to New York City for a day out together. The original plan had been to try and get a crazy elaborate milkshake at Black Tap Craft Burgers & Beer and maybe hang around Central Park for a while- but we ended up riding the subway all the way to Coney Island, instead. I had never been- and Sean hadn’t been since he was a kid.

On the agenda was riding the famous and historic Cyclone roller coaster and strolling the boardwalk for a couple of hours. The weather was perfect, it wasn’t too crowded- and I snapped this quick photo of the Cyclone before we headed back to the subway so we could catch a quick dinner near Grand Central Station before our train departed for home. This is a nice memento from such a beautiful day.

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#9: Negan(ette) & Eugene (July 30th)

Some of the most fun I had in 2016 was cosplaying as Negan from ‘The Walking Dead’, and when you combine that aforementioned fun with the hilarity that Josh McDermitt (who plays Eugene on the show) brings each and every time he’s in town- you’ve got the making for a pretty epic photo- even if the roles are reversed and he’s the one holding Lucille! This phone selfie, taken by Josh, was taken at the ‘Walker Stalker’ convention this past Summer when it rolled through Boston for a long weekend. It was my first time wearing my Negan costume- and it was a big hit.

There were a lot of photos from that weekend- but this is by far my favorite. It never fails to make me grin. I had so much fun and I can’t wait to go back next year if it returns to Boston!

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#8: Last Night in The Chelsea Apartment (July 23rd)

I swear, not all of my favorite photos are from July of this past year- but a lot was going on then- including saying goodbye to the beautiful apartment in Chelsea following some unforeseen circumstances with the landlord selling the place and booting all the tenants out per the buyer/developer’s request. After a “moving out” party, which involved my friends and I eating way too much pizza and drinking way too much alcohol- I snapped this photo at sunset from the balcony that overlooked the Mystic River, the Tobin Bridge, and the Boston skyline. It had been unbelievably hot out that night- and a thunderstorm was blowing in from the West- making the sky explode with pinks, purples and oranges.

It was a bittersweet scene, really- and I couldn’t think of a better send-off to a place my friends and I hung out hats for years and years.

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#7: “Didn’t they film The Shining here?” (April 23rd)

Back in the beginning of Spring, Sean and I decided to take a weekend road trip up to the White Mountains in New Hampshire and spend a couple of days at the (allegedly haunted) Mount Washington Hotel- which eerily resembled The Overlook Hotel from “The Shining”. The history of the hotel is fascinating, and the entire place was stunning inside and out- complete with a former speakeasy-turned-fully-functioning-bar, restaurants, a cafe, movie theater, arcade, indoor swimming pool, spacious conference areas, etc.- and Sean and I opted to stay up all hours to explore as much as we could in-between zip-lining over and repelling down huge trees in the still-snowy mountains.

This photo was taken on our last day at the resort, from across the road that leads up to the hotel. I thought it was such a beautiful scene with the mountains looming behind it. I’d love to go back in 2017!

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#6: Overlooking The Atlantic (January 1st)

I spent last New Year’s Eve and this past New Year’s Day on the island of Nantucket- drinking champagne, dancing the night away, and then trekking through the quiet cobblestone streets and taking in the views of the big, beautiful houses and the ocean until it was time to catch a ferry back to my car in Hyannis. Sean captured this photo of me by one of the lighthouses on the island and I think it sums up the “aimless wanderer and avid traveler” part of my personality perfectly- beanie on my head and backpack stuffed with my belongings.

Even though it was January, we were on the waterfront, and it was cloudy out- the weather wasn’t too chilly or windy that day- and it felt nice being outdoors. I miss Nantucket, and since it’s technically the off-season for tourists, I think I’ll head back for a visit soon!

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#5: Stop & Enjoy The Foliage (October 11th)

After a stressful Summer and a long return flight home from San Diego a few days earlier, it felt nice to take a day to stroll through the pretty, picturesque New England Autumn scenery- which always brings me so much calm and comfort. I stopped to take this photo on a cloudless, brisk afternoon hike through Sudbury, Massachusetts before heading to a friend’s apartment for dinner plans we had made. While most of the trees were only just starting to turn various shades of oranges, reds and yellows- this one was already in full-blown Fall mode- and I thought it looked gorgeous against the blue sky.

When I eventually leave New England- it’s days like that one that I will miss the most.

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#4: San Diego After Dark (October 5th)

On my last night of my Fall vacation in San Diego, during one of my usual “but I don’t want to leave!” bouts of sadness at the prospect of having to return to chilly Massachusetts the following morning- I went for a late night stroll around downtown and The Gaslamp Quarter and came across these illuminated palm trees not far from the convention center (where San Diego Comic-Con is held.) There wasn’t another single soul around apart from me, so I basked in the light and their leaves and snapped this photo with my cell phone to look back on whenever I got homesick for the West Coast.

It was a lovely night and an unexpected find to wrap up my trip.

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#3: The Most Bizarre Snowstorm Imaginable (February 5th)

Growing up in New England, I’m no stranger to unusual and unpredictable weather. Blizzards? Heat waves? Tornadoes? Hurricanes? I’ve seen just about everything- but the freakish snowstorm that blew through the area in early February and covered EVERYTHING with a heavy blanket of snow that stuck to the trees like glue was something new to me. I captured this photo in my mother’s driveway, where literally INCHES of snow clung to every single part of every single branch instead of simply falling to the ground- making her neighborhood look like a weird, cartoon version of a Winter wonderland.

High winds blew all of that snow off the branches that very same night- but it was really neat looking as the sun began to set and this is one of my favorite photos I took of it as I was losing daylight. It really was something to behold.

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#2: “I see London…” (September 30th)

What can I say about my Vegas trip at the end of September, apart from that it was incredible? Seeing one of my favorite bands perform one of my favorite albums at the venue it was named after was just surreal- and sharing the experience with people I simply adore and cherish and who have become lifelong friends and family made it all the better. I couldn’t resist taking a photo of the Sam’s Town sign with the marquee advertising The Killers weekend performances there. I completely had a fangirl moment the very first time that I saw it (I had never been before!) and needed to commemorate the occasion.

Side Note: Don’t ever drink too much whiskey in Sam’s Town. Yikes. I’m still feeling that one.

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#1: “The Echoes They Left Behind…” (October 18th)

Leave it to me to have something completely morbid and maybe a little depressing at the top of the list- but I’m still not over this discovery of discarded grave markers Sean and I found thrown away in the woods on the outskirts of what was formerly the Danvers State Hospital/Asylum. Each marker represents a person with a past, a life, a family somewhere- and their death- and to see these things just heaved into the woods like trash was a sobering moment for me. I’ve been photographing abandoned buildings and places for years- and sometimes you see some pretty messed up stuff- but this admittedly got to me and made me a bit emotional.

I took this photo not only because I couldn’t believe what I had seen- but as a reminder that those who lived and died within Danvers’ walls shouldn’t be forgotten.

And there they are- my top ten photographs from the year. Looking back, I really did travel to some gorgeous and exciting places- a tradition I hope to continue well into 2017 where I plan to take even more pictures and make it even harder on myself to narrow them down come the New Year’s Eve before 2018 starts- but I shouldn’t get ahead of myself.

Here’s to documenting the finer moments of 2016 and keeping the memories they’ve left in my heart and mind forever!

xx

December Hits List!

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With only a handful of days left in December and in 2016, period- I’ve been spending the last week or so wrapping up my end-of-the-year tasks at work and gearing up for bigger, better, and brighter things for 2017- including some long overdue maintenance here on “Legally Redhead”. I’m really looking forward to expanding my corner of the blog-o-sphere, freshening up my layout, working on some new content- and partnering with some exciting people. I have big goals and this coming New Year is when I reach them! I can feel it!

But before I get too ahead of myself (it is unfortunately still 2016, after all)– I wanted to share some of my favorite things from this past month. Some of the items/products I photographed were Christmas presents I received and immediately fell head-over-heels for- and the others are the random odds and ends that helped make this month a December to remember.

First things first- my stuff!

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My brother and sister-in-law completely blew my mind this past Christmas when they surprised me with a brand new Kate Spade bag/tote. I’ve been using my brown duck bag from one of my POPSUGAR “Must Have” boxes since September since the color/pattern matched my Fall wardrobe perfectly- but this black and white design is going to look so lovely with my Winter wardrobe (and Spring, and Summer, and Fall…)!

Plus, this holds pretty much EVERYTHING and then some- which is exactly what I need this time of year when I tend to overload myself with my cold weather accessories. Seriously- how perfect is this?

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Keeping up with the color scheme of the Kate Spade bag, my other brother, sister-in-law and niece picked up some awesome accessories for me- including this Wet Brush. Now, I’d heard all sorts of amazing things about these brushes before- but I’d never gotten around to actually trying one with my thick mass of curly hair ’til now and OH MY GOD it’s awesome. Where were these things when I was a kid and my mom was practically ripping my hair out to style me for school?!

Wet or dry- the bristles on this brush glide through my hair with no tangling, pulling or pain. My hair looks shinier and feels so much softer and healthier once I’m done brushing it out with this and I am kicking myself for not caving and picking up one of these lifesavers sooner!

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Shout-out to my cousins for combining my love of s’mores, red velvet-flavored anything, and all-in-one baking jars for a seriously delicious present this past Christmas. I really adore these mug desserts (and you can keep the glasses when you’re done!) especially because they look just so darn pretty! I’ve been compiling a list of things I want to bake when the next inevitable cold snap and snowstorm rolls through (New Years Eve is the next one, I’ve heard!) and these are at the top of the list. I can’t wait to stuff my face with these.

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I’ve been treating myself to deep-cleansing mud masks twice a week for a while now, but that doesn’t mean I neglect other delicate areas of my face. I’ve been obsessed with these eye and lip masks from Sephora lately. They really do hydrate and nourish underneath my eyes and my pout- which take a beating this time of year with the cold weather.

My skin looks brighter, smoother, and feels softer- and I don’t have to load up on eye creams and chapstick as much as I usually do!

Those were just a few of the things I was able to photograph for this month’s “Hits List”- but a couple of other things made the cut, too!

– TECH/APPS –

  • Electric Shovels – We had a surprisingly severe snowstorm a little more than a week ago (it was supposed to only be a dusting but turned into much more) which left my car stuck in my driveway and the roads difficult to navigate over. It seemed like a good time as any to try the electric shovel my uncle had given me- which cut my time outdoors in half. That thing HAULS ASS. It’s like a miniature snow plow for people who don’t necessarily have the space for one- and I had cleared my driveway, walkway, and some of the road in a fraction of the time it would have taken me with just a regular shovel. If you live in a Wintery area- I highly recommend one!

– MISCELLANEOUS –

  • Going Blonde – Yes, you read that right. I’ve been gradually lightening my hair over the past few weeks with help from my amazing long-time stylist, Barbara, in an attempt to get blonde enough where I can color my hair a shimmering rose gold tone. I really wanted to start 2017 completely different- including an entirely new look- and the transformation from bright red, to brunette, to light brown with bright blonde highlights has been such a trip to watch unfold! I know this blog being titled “Legally Redhead” is a bit dated with this recent change to my hair color- but I’m pretty sure calling it “Legally Blonde” wouldn’t exactly fly (especially with Hollywood!)
  • Getting my 2017 Resolutions in Order – I’m so excited for a new year and all the opportunities that come with it. I’ve been compiling my “In a Nutshell’ post for 2016, which includes looking to the future- and it feels remarkable to actually have goals and hopes again after what turned out to be a dreary and soul-sucking year. I’m really looking forward to sharing my resolutions for the coming year with everyone on New Year’s Eve!

And I think that’s it for my December hits. Here’s hoping I find some new things to love and adore in January of 2017!

xx

POPSUGAR Must Have Box: December 2016

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Happy Monday, everyone! I hope those of you who celebrated Christmas had a wonderful holiday weekend! I know I did- spending a couple of relaxing days with my family eating way too much food and exchanging lots of presents. I’m back to work this morning, wrapping up a couple of things at the office before New Years Eve- and putting the finishing touches on my last posts of 2016.

My December “Must Have” box from POPSUGAR arrived over this past weekend after a shipping delay, and I wasted no time in tearing it open and getting ridiculously giddy over what was inside before I laid out each product/item beside the Christmas tree to take a few photos.

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I knew December’s box would have a seasonal, “festive” theme- since nearly every December subscription box does- but this month’s assortment of items were also inspired by SNOWY, WHITE, MINIMALIST, GIVING and CELEBRATIONS. Christmas boxes are my second-favorite ones to receive after Autumn-themed ones, so I was really excited to see what was included in this last collection of the year.

Let’s take a look at what I got!

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I honestly can never get enough of these “all-in-one” baking kits that I usually see at farmers markets and general stores around the holidays. They make great gifts and when used correctly- they really are delicious treats. I got a couple from relatives this year, and I’m really excited to bake them AND this cookie mix kit from Sisters’ Gourmet. The only thing I need to create these chocolate chip cookies are eggs and butter- so I know what I’ll be doing on the next snowy day we have here in New England!

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Although I’ve been gradually making changes to my hair color/style- it’s still considered color-treated and as such, I have to remain pretty diligent on keeping an eye on the products I use. I haven’t had the chance to try this serum from DESSANGE Professional Hair Luxury– but it smells lovely and I’m hoping it gives me the same shine I’ve seen people raving about in online reviews of the brand/product.

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I am coveting cranberry shades lately, so this pill-shaped container of matte red from Winky Lux is my new favorite. The shade, “Bunny”, goes on super smooth and stays in place all day (and night!) This has quickly become one of my go-to hues for the holidays and for the Winter in general because of how comfortable it feels and for how pigmented it is. Side note: Winky Lux has a couple of purple, blue and green shades that I’d actually really, really like to experiment with. They look so interesting!

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Much like lipsticks, I can never have enough jewelry, either- so when I saw this circular silver & white snowfall pendant from BaubleBar– I was really excited to start pairing it with my oversized sweaters and fancier holiday dresses now that I’m heading back to work post-Christmas. This pendant is so simple, but eye-catching- and it works well with some of my other everyday silver necklaces, too. This is going to be making regular appearances in my outfits for the next couple of months.

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I don’t typically wear my hair in up-dos that often- maybe once or twice a year for special occasions- but I’ll definitely be making an exception so that I can integrate these sparkly hair clips from Mane Message into my style. I think these will give my hairstyle just the right amount of subtle sparkle to keep me looking and feeling festive without overdoing it- which is always good.

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With a retail value of $67, this porcelain catchall and ring dish from Odeme is one of the most beautiful home decor items I’ve ever received from POPSUGAR. I’m finishing up renovations on my bathroom and vanity area, and the simple black and white design of this set is going to match the room perfectly when it’s done. This might be my favorite item in this month’s “Must Have” box. I simply love it and am blown away by it’s quality!

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Finally, this month’s digital goodies came courtesy of Mane Message (20% off of an online order) and Sisters Gourmet (also 20% off of any order). The codes have been erased for photographing/posting purposes and I do plan on using both of them before the end of 2016!

Overall, I enjoyed the last “Must Have” box of 2016. The porcelain set and the lipstick were definitely the highlights for me- but the necklace and the cookie mix were also wonderful additions!

Here’s to another year of being surprised and impressed by POPSUGAR in 2017!

xx