“It’s time we all reach out for something new – that means you too.”

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Image via Martin Homent - www.martinhoment.com

Image via Martin Homent – http://www.martinhoment.com

Today/Tonight’s blog post was supposed to be a review of my April GlossyBox- but given the circumstances- I thought I’d take the opportunity to pay tribute to an unparalleled genius, a musical and cultural icon, and a man who has inspired and who will continue to inspire me throughout my life, instead.

2016 has been pretty brutal with the celebrity deaths so far. David Bowie and Alan Rickman dying within days of each other back in January was a one-two combo that sent music and movie fans alike reeling  in shock and sadness- and just this past week the world bid farewell to both Doris Roberts and former WWF/WWE star and sports entertainment pioneer Joan “Chyna” Laurer.

However, yesterday’s announcement of the unexpected and premature passing of Prince Rogers Nelson made the world feel as though it had come to a standstill- and I think many people are still trying to regain their bearings- myself included.

I was brought up in a musically diverse household- something I’m so very proud of and so grateful for because I was able to learn, absorb and appreciate different types of artistry and cultures from a very young age. My father was a former drummer and classic rock/Beatles buff. My mother loved MoTown and jazz. My two older brothers’ tastes ranged anywhere from heavy metal, 80s hair bands, punk and ska- and the occasional foray into gangsta’ rap- which went over about as well as you’d expect in our predominantly conservative, suburban neighborhood where we grew up.

And while all of our tastes were definitely different- my family collectively loved certain artists. Michael Jackson and Whitney Houston come to mind almost immediately- and so does Prince.

I was born in 1986- two years after ‘Purple Rain’ well, reigned supreme- both at the box office and on the charts- but much like Michael Jackson’s ‘Thriller’- ‘Purple Rain’ was an album that was on heavy rotation in my household from as far back as I can remember. If ‘Billie Jean’ was the song that had made me want to take dance classes as a child- then ‘When Doves Cry’ was the one that had made me want to play guitar when I was still pint-sized. The album just had that affect on me- and when I was finally old enough to watch the movie and actually understand it’s plot and it’s characters (shout-out to Morris Day- who I love oh so much!)– I fully grasped why it was such a big deal to so many in the two years before I was even on this Earth.

It was art- and it made the music take on an even more profound meaning when you saw how it intertwined with the story and the struggles of “The Kid”.

Via Tumblr

Via Tumblr

‘Purple Rain’ was the thing that got me hooked on Prince when I was still a young girl- and his ever-evolving music, image, style, and overall cool, mysterious and provocative demeanor KEPT me hooked. Every song, every album, and every performance I’d catch on television was electric and innovative. Prince not only broke racial, gender and sexual barriers- but he made it look so effortless while he did it. He was one of, if not THE ONLY man who could rock lace, ruffles, eyeliner and high-heeled ankle boots (or ass-less chaps- because we all remember that one) with such unabashed confidence- but still be irresistible and desirable while he did it.

Prince re-defined and re-constructed any previous established tropes of masculinity and played a definitive role in my own sexuality and my preferences in men as I grew up. Fun, TMI fact- the song ‘Cream’ was playing when I lost my virginity- which was really the only redeemable moment in what was otherwise an awkward, fumbling disaster (I wish I could have personally thanked Prince for that one, honestly.)

And through Prince I discovered so many other unique, talented musicians and performers- each with their own style and visions to bring to the table. A whole new world of music and art was opened up to me- and it was through that exploration into his protégés and his collaborations that I learned more about myself and about a scene where it truly felt like anyone and everyone could be themselves and still belong. We all had a place there. We were all welcome.

For someone like me- someone who never felt like I really belonged anywhere for a very long time- this was a huge deal.

Prince and his music united people like that- in a way that I truly feel only someone as brilliant and as eccentric as him, could. He was one of a kind and a trailblazer through and through. Everyone has a favorite Prince song- a song they shamelessly sing along to in the shower, or in their car, or one that gets them out on the floor to dance or pushes them to work out a little harder at the gym to because it’s so funky that you can’t NOT move or groove to it. Ask anyone what theirs is- and I swear to you- they will have one (if not more than one.)

And even through moments of unusual or unexpected behavior- like briefly changing his name to a symbol, or his strict policies on fans sharing his music, or his dabbles into social media- Prince remained endearing, charismatic, and cool. Where many artists struggle to maintain their relevance in pop culture- Prince never had to try. He was always a constant fixture- omnipresent in a way- which makes his death all the more horrible for the people who knew him personally and the fans who adored him. Despite his incredible body of work over these past decades- it feels as though we’ve been left with a void that none of us are quite sure how to fill except by looking back, reminiscing and listening to those very same songs that first made us fall in love with him all those years ago.

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Since the news broke of his passing, people around the world have been sharing their favorite Prince songs/memories/performances. I’ve re-watched his amazing guitar solo during a cover of ‘While My Guitar Gently Weeps’ at the 2004 Rock N’ Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony, I’ve teared up during clips of his perfect Super Bowl halftime performance from 2007 (a set I locked my then-boyfriend at the time out of the house to see so that he wouldn’t interrupt it in any capacity because I’m pretty sure he was jealous of my affection for Prince) and I have laughed watching Dave Chappelle re-enact Charlie Murphy’s tale of the time Prince and The Revolution completely schooled him and his friends during a game of basketball (Game. Blouses.)

Even MTV, VH1, and BET have done the unexpected and have started showing music videos- HIS music videos- again as a tribute and a nostalgic nod to an era gone by- lost to reality TV shows and scripted teen comedies/dramas.

And through it all, there are a few things that remain perfectly clear and consistent: Prince’s otherworldly talent as a musician is undeniable. His prowess as a songwriter is unmatched, and his influence- not just on music and pop culture but on the world itself- is something that we may never get to see again in our lifetimes.

When Michael Jackson and Whitney Houston died, it felt as though an important and integral part of most of our childhoods went right along with them- and the pain of losing people who had shaped us, inspired us, and influenced us so much was, at times- too much to bear- especially given the tragic circumstances of their deaths.

With Prince’s passing- the pain is just as real and just as raw- like a scab that has been picked away at a still healing wound- but his death feels less like the loss of a fond childhood memory we clung to dearly and more like the loss of a close friend or family member. One who was always around- even when they weren’t physically there before our eyes. We have been robbed of a unique and truly incredible artist and presence in this world. Someone who still had so much more to share with us all and someone who still had so much time to continue evolving, inspiring and changing history as we knew it.

In these coming days as fans mourn, remember the man and the music, and cope- let me share what I’ve learned from Prince and from being a lifelong fan:

Never be afraid or ashamed to be yourself. Never be afraid or ashamed to test and break boundaries. Never be afraid or ashamed to venture outside the “norm” and do things your own way. Free yourself of the standards and/or expectations that others have set for you and do things the way you want to do them.

Do what feels right to you- and don’t apologize for it.

And create- as much as you can and as often as you can- and don’t stop creating.

PrinceTributesThe world is a little less purple today.

Rest in Peace you wild, brilliant, inspiring genius. You will be missed so much and by so many.

Be good to one another.

xx

February Hits List!

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Good Morning and Happy 50%-Off-Valentine’s-Day-Candy-Day, everyone!

With temperatures staying consistently in the negatives since Friday night, and wind chill statistics causing a statewide safety alert- even in the afternoons when the sun has been shining brightly- I’ve been in a bit of a hibernation mode over this past weekend- only stepping outdoors if it was absolutely necessary (I’ve even forgone my usual coffee/tea runs at my local cafe!) Poor Oliver, who loves rolling around in the snow unlike any dog I’ve ever known in my life- has refused to go anywhere near the door when it comes time for him to take his daily walk. He wants no part of it.

Of course, a couple of days spent mostly confined to hot baths and warm blankets isn’t all bad. It’s given me a chance to catch up on my e-mails, update and re-organize my makeup collection- and prepare my monthly “Hits List” post for February!

This month I admittedly got a little swept up in ‘Valentine’s Day Fever’. I’m not talking about not-so-subtlety hinting to the guy I’ve been seeing for a romantic, candle-lit three-course dinner or six dozen roses or anything like that, since that’s never really been my thing- but I’ve picked up a couple of holiday-inspired finds in recent days and my current, mostly-neutral makeup and wardrobe color palette has been flushed with touches of romantic pinks, ravishing reds, and bold purples throughout February so far.

Like I did in my first ‘Hits List’ post last month, I’m going to start with my products and pieces, first- and then move onto the other stuff that couldn’t quite be photographed properly for this month’s collection!

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Starting in the bottom, left-hand corner of my laid out spread for February are my Valentine’s-inspired products from Lush Cosmetics. Not too long ago, I ran out of my absolute favorite lip scrub of all time, Lush’s ‘Popcorn’ scrub- and I was looking to replenish my little tub by re-ordering online. Instead, I saw this limited edition mandarin/cherry infused version, ‘The Kiss’ (with edible hearts mixed in it!) and knew I had to have it. It works incredible, tastes delicious, and the hearts are pretty fun. I’m not even going to deny it.

To pair with the scrub, I also purchased it’s matching lip gloss of the same name- which applies like and has the same moisturizing texture of a lip balm. I like that it doesn’t feel sticky/tacky on my lips and that the light pink color is really, really faint- since I tend to apply this a lot in the car or at work and don’t want to have it all over my face.

Finally, nothing says Valentine’s Day quite like Lush’s ‘Sex Bomb’ bath bomb! The last time I used this floral-scented moisturizing bomb was when I was in Las Vegas last October and wanted to unwind after a long day in the desert on the strip in the gigantic bathtub inside my hotel room. It’s been really nice having a couple of these on hand- especially when it’s been so frigid outside! I leave my bath feeling relaxed, refreshed, and with touchable soft skin.

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Moving upwards are two pieces from my wardrobe I’ve been adoring lately. The first is a knitted and embellished headband that I’ve been using to keep my ears and scalp warm when I’ve been in need of a break from my Winter hat collection. This thing definitely comes in handy in-between stylist appointments since it covers up my roots really well, but it’s also versatile since I can wear it indoors, too (just as long as I push it back behind my ears!)

Next up is my new favorite pair of leggings, the ‘King of Hearts’ printed stretchy design from Black Milk Clothing! It’s been a while since I’ve made a BMC purchase, but I saw these leggings and couldn’t resist. I love a good statement piece- something that is unique, comfortable, and really stands out- and these met all the requirements. I’ve been pairing these with my favorite slouchy black sweater and my black leather ankle boots in recent weeks and I get stopped wherever I go so people can take a look at them! I posted a photo of me sporting these over on my Instagram, if anyone wants to see how the print looks when it’s on!

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Moving a little to the right on the spread-out of this month’s favorites are these three crystals (rose quartz, amethyst, and obsidian) I recently obtained from a spirituality-centered store in Western Massachusetts. Now, I’m not an expert when it comes to crystals, their uses or meanings- but I like to keep an open mind- and I’ve been placing these around my home and my work space (or holding them in my hand when I’m being absent-minded or driving since they’re smooth and cool to the touch) and they’ve just been nice to have within reach. I’d like to pick up some larger ones for decorative purposes in the future, but these pocket-sized ones are good for now.

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Next up are my three “go-to” beauty products for the month of February. While January was all about nudes, light browns, and grays- I’ve been infusing my lids, lips and cheeks with more pink/red shades. My favorite shadow palette to create the perfect “romantic” inspired look has got to be my Urban Decay ‘Naked3;’ mirrored compact. I love blending the shimmer and matte rose and gold tones with my neutral shadows. It just gives my eyes such a beautiful sparkle that will be a nice way to transition into Spring (if it ever arrives!)

One of my all-time favorite drug store finds that I keep re-purchasing are these Color Sensational Creamy Matte lipsticks from Maybelline. They’re long-lasting, highly pigmented, non-drying, and affordable. While a nice bold red lip has become my trademark of sorts- I’ve changed it up a bit for this month and have been wearing a more subtle rose shade that works well with my ‘Naked3’ palette and my overall fair complexion.

Of course, I wanted to have a fun pop of color somewhere in my everyday look, and I turned to my longtime favorite ‘Hypnotic’ nail polish from Sephora’s Formula X line to give my digits a burst of beautiful, prismatic purple to brighten things up. I swear, I don’t have any kind of endorsement deal with Sephora or Formula X for constantly plugging the polish. I just absolutely love the longevity, range of shades and overall quality of the line.

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I was fortunate to have more than one Valentine this year in the form of friends and family- and in true V-Day tradition- those friends and family made sure I had plenty of chocolate to get me through the end of the month. This box (and bear!) was a gift from my aunt, uncle, and cousins- and I managed to hold off on eating each piece until I knew I had a decent photo of the not-destroyed box. Talk about willpower!

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I’ve been making my own juices and smoothies lately (anything with mango is an automatic favorite for me!) but on those mornings when I don’t have the time or the ingredients- I’ve been turning to Naked Juice to keep me going. My favorite is the ‘Green Machine’ beverage– a mix of fruits and vegetables (but thankfully tastes more fruity and sweet) but I’m also quite fond of the banana-chocolate smoothie and the orange-mango juice. I stock up on these weekly to bring with me to work or when I’m on the run. They’re delicious!

And last, but certainly not least- ‘THE WALKING DEAD’ IS BACK, YOU GUYS! Can we talk about last night’s mid-season premiere? I need to talk about it. At length. In detail. With lots of flailing and unintentionally raising my voice in excitement. I’M SO HAPPY.

But I digress- this past Christmas, my best friend Sean not only bought me a real Samurai sword designed to look just like Michonne’s (and there haven’t been any injuries or extensive property damage when I’ve swung it around for fun, by the way)– but he also picked up this “Mrs. Daryl Dixon” wallet for me, too! My current wallet, which I’ve had for roughly seven or eight years now- is in it’s final stages of falling apart- so I’ll be switching over my IDs, cards, and cash over to this hard-cover clutch-style one this week! It’s quite fitting, after all.

My friends know me so well.

And now, onto the other things I’ve been loving this month!

– MUSIC/MOVIES –

  • ‘Deadpool’, ‘Zoolander 2’, ‘The Witch’ and ‘Triple 9’ February has proven to be the month filled with movies that I really want to see. Although ‘Triple 9’ isn’t out for a couple of weeks and ‘The Witch’ is out later this week- that gives me plenty of time to get caught up on ‘Deadpool’ (I might go see it today since I have the day off!) and ‘Zoolander 2’- which is surely the guiltiest pleasure out of the four. Sean and I re-watched the first ‘Zoolander’ over the weekend to refresh our memories, and it stands up to the test of time. I’m really excited to see how ridiculous the sequel is.
  • #TeamIronMan and #TeamCap – While Marvel fans are flying high on ‘Deadpool’s record breaking success at the box office so far, I’m still reeling from the most recent trailer for ‘Captain America: Civil War’ that aired during the Super Bowl and the resulting hashtags that took off on social media afterwards (I’m Team Cap all the way, for the record.) Tickets for San Diego Comic-Con go on sale this coming weekend, and if I can get in- I have a feeling I’ll be creating a Bucky Barnes/Winter Soldier costume for the occasion…

I’ll probably make a Bucky Barnes/Winter Soldier costume anyway, but that’s besides the point…

  • ‘Off The Wall’ – I’m a huge Michael Jackson fan, so it goes without saying that I thoroughly enjoyed Spike Lee’s documentary that premiered on Showtime earlier this month which details the making of Michael’s pre-‘Thriller’ album and broke down it’s brilliance and catchy-ness track by track. With commentary from fellow musicians, producers, choreographers, celebrities and Michael’s friends & family- it was a really interesting look inside the mind of a late, great genius during a tumultuous era and one of my favorite records to put on when I’m having a glum day and/or want to dance.

– TECH/APPS –

  • The Oculus Rift Virtual Reality Headset – Sean had received an Oculus Rift headset from his parents for Christmas last year, and whenever I get the chance- you best believe I have a ball playing with it. Over the past couple of weeks I’ve been having way too much fun blowing my mind with horror games and short animations/films. Maybe I’m just showing my age here, but the technology is seriously incredible- unlike anything I’ve ever seen before. I’ve been recording my friends playing the game ‘Sisters’ (it involves creepy dolls and a power outage- need I say more?) and their terrified reactions are always priceless. I’m thinking of getting my own headset eventually- but only in the hopes that there will be an influx of zombie-themed games by the time I do. I want to really feel like I’m in that post-apocalypse setting, you know?
  • CLUE – Ladies, this one is for you. If you’re on a funky form of birth control (that isn’t the pill) or if you’re off birth control and you’re trying to monitor your cycle- you’re gonna’ love this app- which is completely free for the iPhone and Android. CLUE allows you to enter daily stats on your body’s behavior- from your mood to your complexion to your food cravings and your amount of sleep per night/energy levels- to make it 110% easier to be prepared for your impending period or ovulation. It takes a few weeks of daily data entry to get an accurate calendar established, but once you do- you’re golden. You’ll never be caught off guard again! I’ve been using this for a couple of months now and it’s been really, really helpful to me to better understand my body.

– MISCELLANEOUS –

  • Hey, New Yorkers – are you familiar with NeXT Stop Project? For those who haven’t heard of it, it’s a MetroCard recycling service of sorts. You can mail in your low balance MetroCards to the address provided on the website, and the service combines the low fares into full fares for subway riders in need. Pretty cool, right? I only recently heard about it after going through some of my own MetroCards I’ve accumulated from weekend stays in NYC over the past few months and didn’t know what to do with them. I’ve since mailed them in- and I hope they can help someone get to where they need to be on time! I don’t know for sure if Boston has a similar program for the T, but if not- they should definitely look into it.
  • The Lush Spas in NYC & Philadelphia have a Beatles-inspired treatment – I know I’ve already talked at length about my recent Lush purchases, but I’ve been meaning to share this for a while and thought I may as well do it now! At my last job, booking any sort of spa treatment always proved to be difficult since I typically only had weekends off and spas were either fully booked or closed on those days. I’ve known about Lush’s ‘Hard Days Night’ treatment since it was launched circa 2014, but until now booking the service was nothing more than an unlikely dream.

But now, with a new work schedule that includes a weekday off, too- I’m actually able to book the service- and much sooner than I expected! I’m working out the appointment details now- but I cannot wait to share the experience with you all once I go!

  • Starbucks’ ‘Molten Chocolate Cake Latte’ – If 50% off Valentine’s Day candy isn’t enough chocolate for you, may I recommend what could very well be one of the most indulgent treats I’ve allowed myself? For a limited time, Starbucks is offering a line of ‘Molten Chocolate Cake’ beverages (cocoa, lattes, and frappuccinos) to get a pretty good sugar rush. With steamed chocolate milk, chocolate whipped cream, and a shot of chocolate syrup- I think I’ve reached my cocoa quota for the month. I might even have to skip my next cheat day in order to fully recovery from this one.

And I think that’s everything I’ve been loving/coveting throughout February so far! Although it doesn’t feel like it right now, Spring is on it’s way- so I’m sure I’ll have some fun, colorful things to share in March’s “Hits List” post!

And as always- if you have anything you’re crushing/loving/obsessing over this month- feel free to share!

xx

January Hits List!

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For 2016, I thought I’d try something a little different and check in every mid-month to share the products, pieces, food, tech-stuff and anything (and everything!) in-between that I’m coveting and craving for a series I dubbed the ‘Hits List’. I still intend to keep my reflective month’s end ‘In A Nutshell’ posts, of course- since those are more about touching on the personal and emotional milestones I went through over the course of the month- but I thought this would be a fun way to offer a glimpse into the more “every day” part of my life every few weeks. The part typically only seen on my Twitter feed or my Instagram photos.

January for me- thus far- has been about long overdue organization, self-care, and keeping cozy in the ever-changing New England climates (one day it’s warm enough to go outside wearing only a sweater. The next day- it’s like snowshoeing through an Alaskan wilderness.) I have a lot of big plans this coming year, but I’m also still adjusting to my new job and work schedule- and with my birthday only a few days away- I’m trying not to overwhelm myself or prematurely burn myself out by taking on too much at once this month.

For that reason, January’s ‘Hits List’ is pretty low key and laid back.

Let’s get into the products and pieces first!

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Starting in the center of my laid-out belongings is one of my most important and valued little pocket-items: my 2016 planner- gifted to me by my Aunt this past Christmas. I think I have a pretty good memory most of the time, but this booklet has become a lifesaver when it comes to jotting down meetings, appointments, deadlines and other to-dos weeks in advance that I may have otherwise overlooked or forgotten about. It’s also been really helpful at work when I’m trying to remember co-workers phone extensions or office numbers! The size is perfect, since it doesn’t take up a lot of room in my purse- which means I can bring it everywhere with me.

Moving upwards is my new knitted cuffed beanie from Love Your Melon. I am a hat lover- but unfortunately I can rarely, if ever- pull off cute Spring/Summer floppy hats or baseball caps. I always end up looking weird. For that reason, I have a wide assortment of berets and beanies to adore throughout Fall and Winter (and they also keep my head warm, duh!) that I never take off from late September – early April. This year, I wanted something a little more durable and a little heavier- and I turned to the good folks over at LYM for a neutral-toned beanie I could wear with pretty much anything.

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I’ve mentioned LYM on here before, but for those who missed the memo- with every purchase of one of their hats, the company donates one to a child battling cancer. If that’s not a good enough reason to make you want to run out and order one in every color- I don’t know what is. The hats themselves are really great quality, too. They will last you a lifetime if you take care of them!

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Moving onto the yearly casualties of cold and unpredictable Massachusetts Winter weather every year- my hair and my hands. I am a lotion fiend. I vigorously apply it all over every morning after my shower, and then again at night before bed- but for some reason, my hands and my cuticles still take a beating. They always feel stiff, dry, and scratchy to me. Enter these fuzzy hand warmers (which I have dubbed my “Chewbacca Gloves”) that I’ve been putting on, post-hand cream application, each and every time I step outside- even if it’s just to check the mail for thirty seconds. They’re super soft, still allow me to use my phone without complications or annoyances, and they keep my hands toasty and protected from the elements.

I’ve also been obsessively using this ncLA peach-scented cuticle oil morning and night (first introduced to me in one of my POPSUGAR “Must Have” Boxes)– and I’ve noticed a significant decrease in hangnails and dry patches along my fingertips. It’s a miracle oil, and for those interested- it’s available other fragrances, too!

If the shade of my hat and gloves weren’t enough indication that I’ve been sporting nothing but neutral tones these past couple of weeks- then let me introduce you to my current favorite Nail Polish, Sephora Formula X’s nail lacquer in ‘Elite’, from their 2015 Fall collection. It’s a long-lasting mocha color that compliments my current wardrobe and makeup choices perfectly. It goes with anything!

Finally, for my hair- I’ve been doubling down on hair mask applications and ultra-hydrating conditioners in recent days to keep my ends from breaking and my roots from frizzing up- but I’ve also integrated this Hawaiian Kukui Nut oil from OGX into the mix pre (and post!)– styling. It strengthens my hair through and through, gives it an incredible shine, keeps frizz and flyaways at bay- and it smells really good, too!

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While my hands and cuticles might require a little more TLC throughout January- my face remains relentlessly oily/combination at all times. In a way, it’s good- because I don’t have to really change my morning and nightly cleansing and moisturizing regiments too much- which means less hassle and more time. These past few weeks, I’ve been relying on two products to ensure a deep clean, enough hydration (without building up excess oil on my skin) and SPF protection- because even though it’s Winter and most of my time is spent indoors- the sun is still a sneaky, tricky devil.

In the morning, after cleansing my face and applying any serums- I like to slap on some of this Cetaphil moisturizer with SPF 15. It just gives my skin a little something extra when I’m braving frigid temperatures for any amount of time- and it keeps my skin soft and smooth. It’s suitable for all skin types and can be found in pretty much any pharmacy around.

At night, after removing my makeup- I apply this two-in-one mask/exfoliating cleanser from GLAMGLOW. The product applies like a mask, quickly drying on my face- and turns to foam after water is added and massaged into the skin. I swear by this stuff. Not only does it leave my skin feeling super clean without drying it out- but it brings any blemishes to the surface so they can be extracted and dealt with then and there!

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Thanks to POPSUGAR, I’ve also been obsessed with these candles from Capri Blue lately. I’ve ordered a few that I’ve been keeping lit around my home- since they smell clean and crisp and that’s just sort of the refreshing vibe I’ve needed and have been going for since New Years. I’ve kept one lit next to my bed- almost nightly- while I catch up on reading or do any stretches or end-of-the-day meditation in the designated section of my bedroom. These are just really great candles (in a beautiful, reusable tin!)

And now, for the stuff that couldn’t be photographed:

– MUSIC/MOVIES –

  • ‘The Revenant’ – Can we please give Leonardo Dicaprio an Oscar before he dies filming his next movie? ‘The Revenant’, although a little on the long side (by the two hour mark I was getting a little fidgety in my seat), the movie is beautifully shot and can get pretty intense at times. Although Dicaprio doesn’t do much more than crawl, grunt, and cry throughout this film- he’s still mesmerizing to watch. The fact that ‘The Revenant’ has been cleaning house at recent award shows gives me hope that the poor guy’s work will FINALLY be recognized and he can go a little easier on himself.
  • The Last Shadow Puppets – As a longtime fan of Arctic Monkeys, I had no problems falling in love with frontman Alex Turner’s side project- The Last Shadow Puppets- with former The Rascals’ singer, Miles Kane. Their debut album, 2008’s ‘The Age of The Understatement’ was pretty incredible from start to finish- but the band disappeared shortly after it’s release and success until a few days ago when they surprised everyone by dropping their first single, ‘Bad Habits’, off their yet-to-be-released second album. It’s awesome to have new music from them, and I’m hoping for a U.S. tour at some point this year.
  • David Bowie tributes – I was just as shocked and saddened as everyone else to hear of David Bowie’s passing last weekend (and the hits just kept on coming when the late, great Alan Rickman also passed away a few short days later,) but it’s been really touching to see the outpouring of love and admiration for such a brilliant and innovative artist in the form of many special tribute events and celebrations of his life and his work around the city. From karaoke nights, to cover bands, to art exhibits- and even to cupcakes– I’ve been having so much fun dancing and singing along to some of my favorite Bowie songs in recent days with friends and strangers alike.
  • ‘Ash Vs. Evil Dead’ – I’ve only recently caught up and finished the first season of this show (I don’t get the Starz Network- so I’ve been relying on a friend to DVR episodes for me that I binge watch whenever I’m over her apartment) but I’m already itching for the second season. This show- just like the ‘Evil Dead’ film- is campy, gory, and very, very funny. My friends and I have already committed on a group costume inspired by the show’s characters (with me as Kelly because OF COURSE)– so I’m just really excited to see more of it. I think it returns in October, making it the perfect companion series to get into alongside ‘The Walking Dead’ during my favorite time of year!

– TECH/APPS –

  • Lose It! – A free app. available for Android and the iPhone. This carb-counting/exercise monitoring application lets you set weekly/monthly goals for yourself, offers tips, tricks, and challenges- and allows you to scan in the bar codes of any packaged foods you’re eating to automatically calculate it’s nutritional value- to help you reach any and all weight loss goals you’ve set for yourself in 2016. I’ve been using this since New Years, and am already down five pounds by following the daily carb allowance I’ve set for myself since punching in my goals. It’s super convenient and helpful- and to make it fun, the app. encourages you to unlock badges and trophies with every goal met or surpassed.
  • Galaxy Tarot – Another free app. for Android and the iPhone- this one is, as you probably guessed- a Tarot Card reading application. Whether or not you believe in Tarot (or horoscopes or anything,) this one is pretty fun to use with your friends. Apart from giving you the ability to perform detailed readings- the app. also has a ‘Card of the Day’ function that teaches you about one of each of the cards every morning. The app itself is designed beautifully and is easy to control and use. My co-workers and I always have a pretty good time with this one on our lunch breaks.

– MISCELLANEOUS –

  • theSkimm – As I begin the grueling process of the yearly unsubscribing from 99.9% of the e-mailing lists I never wanted to be apart of in the first place (those in-store clerks are ruthless and online shopping has turned my inbox into a nightmare of promotions, sales, special codes, and spam)– I can never unsubscribe from the daily news round-up e-mail, theSkimm. Every morning, before work- this service sends me an e-mail containing quick and witty recaps of news stories from around the world: from politics, entertainment, music, etc. It’s a quick and fun read to stay informed- and I love their occasional book and wine recommendations, too!
  • PureWow.com – Another daily e-mail list I could never shake (and wouldn’t want to) are the fun reads I get from PureWow every day. With recipes I try ALL THE TIME, round-ups of happenings and hot-spots in and around NYC (where I frequent as much as I can) beauty recommendations, gift ideas, and contests- these e-mails make for good reading during my lunch hour or throughout my evening wind-down.
  • Last Message ReceivedThis fascinating Tumblr account is pretty self-explanatory. People anonymously submit the last messages they ever received from friends/family members/ex-boyfriends or ex-girlfriends/etc. either through text or screencaps. Some of the messages are heartbreaking, others can be downright cruel- but each one comes with a story from a real person somewhere in the world. It’s an intimate and sometimes shocking read- but it has really made me think about the people in my life and how I end each of the conversations I have with them. This site just makes me want to reach out and hug some of these people who are hurting so much.

And I think that’s everything for January right now! I’m sure whatever didn’t make this month’s list will be featured in February.

If you have anything you’re crushing/loving/obsessing over this month- feel free to share!

xx

“Hello, 2016” – A Playlist

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The other night, when Sean and I were returning to Boston from Hyannis after our New Year’s Eve/Day celebration in Nantucket- I designated him vehicle DJ while I was behind the wheel and put him in charge of compiling a playlist that would keep me awake (it’s a long drive) without being TOO loud. While he and I have many things in common from our favorite movies, video games, and food- our musical tastes can be pretty different at times- and I wasn’t sure what to expect.

Sean surprised me, though- and put together a 15-song soundtrack of dreamy, dance-able songs that I loved so much- I insisted he share the track listing with me so that I could upload it to my 8Tracks account and share it with everyone!

So here is ‘Hello, 2016’ – a playlist to welcome the New Year! I hope you all enjoy it as much as I did!

– TRACK LISTING –

  • Tame Impala – Let It Happen
  • Arcade Fire – Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)
  • Gossling – Never Expire
  • Beck – Dreams
  • Kylie Minogue – I Was Gonna’ Cancel
  • Florence + The Machine – Spectrum (Say My Name) [Calvin Harris Remix]
  • Nelly Furtado – Powerless (Say What You Want)
  • Tei Shi – Bassically
  • Pompeya – YAHTBMF [POKO COX Remix]
  • Phantogram – Black Out Days
  • ASTR – We Fall Down
  • Kotomi – Swimming
  • Chad Valley – Now That I’m Real (How Does It Feel?)
  • Roosevelt – Sea
  • Paradis – Garde Le Pour Toi

xo

Q&A with Brian Karscig!

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NervousWreckordsEPPartIFor my circle of friends and acquaintances, Brian Karscig needs no introduction. The immensely talented and very charming San Diego-based rocker has been an omnipresent tour de force in my life since I met him in my late teens after a stop he’d made in Boston with his former band- Louis XIV- and throughout sporadic run-ins and encounters at various gigs in California or Las Vegas (usually when the planets would align just right) that span over the course of a little over a decade.

I could probably write a novel about how sweet Brian is, or how his sense of humor is refreshingly razor sharp- but his undeniable talent and his drive as a musician and songwriter need to be addressed properly- especially with the recent release of the first half of a two-part EP, “The Nervous Wreckord: Part I” (available on iTunes now!)

Brian was kind enough (as always!) to recently answer a few of my questions about the album, his songwriting process, and the challenges that come with being one of the hardest working musicians in SoCal.

LR: Every time I’ve seen you or spoken to you, you’ve always been immersed in a project- and sometimes more than one at a time. How do you multi-task all that creativity without burning yourself out? (I’m a multi-tasker, but you’ve got me feeling like an amateur over here.)

BK: Well, honestly, its hit or miss.  I would love to say everything i do turns out AMAZING or “the way i want it too”, but that wouldn’t be entirely true.  There have been cases where i bite off more than i can chew, or miss the mark.  I love recording and writing music.  Everything i do for TNW or any of my music, i tend to search for a connection or a ‘sound’ during the process and put out what really works for me musically.  I have done records for other people where the expectation from the artist is high because they may have heard something that i did that caught a moment of greatness.  Doesn’t always mean that it will happen with other peoples music or sound. Its always hard to want to do things a certain way, but also keeping the opinions of the artist your working with considered. No matter what tho, there is always something to be learned when recording and writing. Whether it be my music or someone else’s.

LR: When it comes to songwriting, and particularly for this EP- what was/is the process like for you? Are you the type of person that keeps a notebook within reach whenever inspiration hits you? Do you immediately retreat into the studio when you’ve got a sound you want to create and stay until it’s finished? Have the songs on this EP been on your mind for a while? How do you get from point A to point B? (that was like, twenty questions in one. Sorry!)

BK: There is no formula really for writing for me personally.  I wish there was, but sometimes its a guitar riff.  A lot of times its a beat in my head.  I can sometimes think of a line or a phrase that speaks to me, and make that a chorus, then write a song around it.  For The Nervous Wreckord (Part I), it all happened really fast.  I just moved to a new house and was setting up Studio Bee for like 2 months.  Just tweaking and trying to get sounds.  I literally would hit record and mess around with pianos, bass lines, delays, until i stumbled upon something unique.  Or something that at least captured my interest, and led me to believe i was on to something new.  All 5 songs were written while they were recorded, then i laid vocals at the very end.  I do have notepads and pieces of napkin with ideas, eq settings, and lyrics on them, but most things happen spontaneously, and thats what i really tried to capture in this record.  When it feels fresh and real, i convince myself that the listener can hear it the way i heard it when coming up with it.  I know that sounds like a stoned response…..it probably is.

LR: This EP is split up into two parts, and you had mentioned the second part would be released early next year. I’m sure with new music you want to put your best foot forward, so was it tricky having to sort of pick which songs people hear now as opposed to later on?

BK: Yes it is.  Songs are like your children.  Its really hard to decide which ones you ‘like’ more than others, because you love all of them in different ways equally.  Part I and II were broken up based on their sound.  Part I songs all seem to go to the same party so to speak. Part II will feel like a party as well….but maybe the after party.

LR: Here’s the cliche “so what types of music are you listening to right now?” question- but I’m genuinely curious and I need some recommendations! What’s been on your playlists lately?

BK: I really love my friends old band called The Deathray Davies. The return of the Drunken Ventriloquist is my favorite record by them at the moment.  i listen to them a lot, but i also listen to the Strokes “Comedown Machine” album lately.  i like listening to classical music for string ideas, but my musical taste is all over the place from pop music, rock music and classical.

LR: On the first half of this EP, what song do you feel was possibly the most challenging to create?

BK: They were all challenging in the beginning since i had no idea where they were going to go.  “This won’t be the same” was the toughest.  I had a 4 piece string section over to the house one day, and they were different players than i usually use on my records.  We spent like 3 hours coming up with string ideas, and in the end, i just wasn’t happy with any of it.  So i took the string arrangement they laid, and flipped it backwards.  It created this weird moody, dark weird movement that i was obsessed with for weeks.  My girlfriend would always ask me, “How are you ever going to make this a song”?  That was the challenge i needed.  So i put a beat to it, a cool bass line and guitar riff and its one of my favorites on the EP.

LR: And finally- are we gonna’ get a tour in 2016? (you know you want to!)

BK: I do want to!  I need to assemble a band (with people who aren’t in 5 other bands) and start to seriously consider that option.  I miss touring so much.

_____________________

I really want to thank Brian for letting me pick at his brilliant brain and taking the time to give me some insight on what it was like creating the EP. It goes without saying that I’m looking forward to the second part of “The Nervous Wreckord” and crossing paths with him again (hopefully!) sooner than later.

Be sure to check out Part I of the EP on iTunes, and to follow Brian and his work as ‘The Nervous Wreckord’, click and like THIS PAGE RIGHT HERE.

xx

Crisp Air and Cozy Sweaters: An Autumn Playlist

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Apart from apple picking, visiting pumpkin patches, photographing the foliage, and watching terrible horror movies throughout the month of October (my ‘Horrors of Netflix’ series returns next month and I couldn’t be more excited to suffer for the sake of satire!) one of my other favorite Fall traditions is crafting a playlist of dreamy, calming, and soothing music to listen to while I go for long, lazy afternoon drives through the leaf-littered roads in Western Massachusetts or for when I bundle up in my favorite faux-leather jacket I’ve had since my late teens and a lightweight scarf and step out into the brisk morning air to grab a hot coffee.

I love putting together playlists in general (see my 8Tracks page for some of the ones I’ve created over the past couple of years!) but Autumn has always been my favorite one to create every year- and this year’s mix was no exception.

Inspired by throwing on an oversized and super-comfy sweater and stepping out into that crisp New England air (that always smells of pumpkins, apples, and spices this time of year,) I’ve selected ten tracks for my Autumn 2015 playlist: ‘Crisp Air and Cozy Sweaters’, featuring songs from Daughter, James Bay, and First Aid Kid- among others!

I hope everyone who gives it a listen enjoys it!

xx

“The Earth is Heating Up – I Still Want You…”

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It’s been a little over 24 hours and I’m still buzzing and beaming from an incredible Monday night at the House of Blues. I had the absolute pleasure and privilege of joining my friend Steven in the lighting pit the other night where I watched him work his magic while Brandon Flowers captivated everyone in the room from the stage.

I’m sure I’ve told this story before, but my very first Killers show was back in 2004 when I was 18. I paid $2 to see the band at a dive of a venue in Boston just as their debut album, “Hot Fuss”, was gaining momentum on the charts. A year later, I met Steven at another Killers’ show in Providence while he was preparing to work- and the rest is history. He’s been one of my dearest friends for just over a decade now and I simply adore him. I really wish I could see him more often, but it’s always a complete blast whenever I do. Monday night was no exception.

The show was incredible, and Steven’s designs and concepts were visually stunning. Prior to his having to report to duty, we had a lovely dinner at the Lansdowne Pub next door to the House of Blues. I was also fortunate enough to meet some of his co-workers (who were all very sweet!) before I took my seat and was blown away by the show. My favorite song off of Brandon’s latest album has got to be “I Can Change”, so to finally hear and see it live was a definite highlight of the night- as were hearing two of my most beloved Killers’ classics “Jenny Was A Friend of Mine” and “Human”.

I didn’t want to obstruct the view of or distract those standing/sitting behind the lighting pit by snapping away with my camera all night, but I did manage to take a few photos of the show here and there.

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My personal favorite.

Steven was also kind enough to give me a set list after the show (I have a bit of a collection of them, as well as some guest passes/ticket stubs at my place. They range from 2005 until now,) which sort of marks my final Killers and Brandon Flowers show of my 20’s- which is incredible (and maybe just a little bit depressing!) I can’t believe how long this music has played a part in my life. Time really does fly- and while I know that nothing lasts forever- I’m really hoping for some more nights like Monday’s when I’m in my 30’s, too!

xo

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My Guide to Boston!

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Whenever friends are visiting from out of town (and sometimes from even out of the country!) they always ask me what there is to do around Boston- and the answer isn’t always easy. I mean, what isn’t there to do around Boston? As bustling and as busy as it is picturesque- Boston has something to offer everyone from all walks of life: rich (and sometimes really insane) history at every turn, breathtaking museums and galleries, incredible restaurants, unique shopping experiences, distinguished and esteemed universities, a thriving night life, plenty of space for those focused on fitness to get their workouts on, a top notch music scene and some championship-hoarding sports teams.

Sure, there are the accents (guilty as chaah’ged,) the not-so-friendly drivers, the mind-boggling roadways, or our questionable and unspoken rules when it comes to parking spaces during snowstorms- and there’s always the comparisons to Boston-centric movies like “The Departed” or “The Town” by those outside the city/state who have never stepped foot in or have met anyone from the Greater Boston area before- but the good outweighs the bad.  Boston is a city filled with some of the brightest, most colorful, brilliant and strongest individuals on the East Coast who never hesitate to band together to show the nation- and the world- how united we truly are in the tougher, more challenging times (like in the days following the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing,) to the happier, more celebratory times (like the rolling rallys following a championship win!)

I first started spending a significant amount of time in Boston when I was 16/17 and my friends (some of whom had cars that barely ran) and I were eager to stay out late and see what the city- just an hour or so outside of our small and quiet town- had to offer a group of teenage troublemakers. As we grew up, Boston became less of a late night and weekend-only destination and more of a second home- until it eventually became an actual home for some of us. Over the course of just over a decade leading up to now, I’ve become a regular at some establishments and am still discovering new places now and then that open up doors to whole new worlds, possibilities, interests- and friends.

While there are SO MANY places to go and things to see in Boston, I thought I’d compile a small list of the ones- some well-known and others more well-kept secrets- that I frequent regularly and encourage others to visit while they’re in town and are looking for a good time (or good food) without spending a ton of money. I’ve also included some of the more “tourist-y” staples, too- because why not? If you’re in the city- you may as well participate in some good old fashioned local goofiness!

I’m really going to miss this place once I eventually head out to San Diego. I really, truly am.

*NOTE: Please keep in mind that the places I’ve listed are just some of my own, personal preferences. If you’re looking for other options around the city- there are a lot of helpful resources available (including Yelp and some of the blogs listed in my sidebar under “Local Lovelies!”) I plan on doing another, updated post like this somewhere down the line where I’ll include different locations- but for now- these are just a few of my favorites!*

Let’s start with what most people ask me about- the food! I like to cook, but I also love trying new food at new places, too. Many of my friends who visit ask me about Quincy Market- which is one of the more busy and tourist-friendly areas to dine in the heart of the city, but in my opinion- you can get a generic slice of pizza or a bowl of clam chowder anywhere (without having to be in such a crowded space.) For an unforgettable “foodie” experience, all you have to do is head off the beaten path- just a little bit. Here’s some of my usual go-to spots to dine out.

DINING (BREAKFAST/BRUNCH)

South End Buttery (314 Shawmut Ave): Although you might have to wait a bit for a table at this cute corner cafe, I promise you it’s worth it. The food is incredible- the perfect way to start a Sunday morning- and I highly recommend the herb and cheese omelette. It’s my favorite. If you don’t have time to sit and dine, the South End Buttery also has an equally delicious and impressive take-out menu.

Kelly’s Diner (674 Broadway – Somerville): If you’re looking for a classic diner experience (or want to nurse a hangover,) with some delicious food and a really friendly staff- then you just need to head a couple miles Northwest to Kelly’s Diner in Somerville. On those mornings where I want to cheat on my diet- just a little- I come here and scarf down pancakes like I mean business.

Masa Restaurant (439 Tremont Street): If you’re in the mood for a breakfast/brunch with a more spicy flare- look no further than Masa. Their Southwestern-inspired menu is unique, affordable- and hits the spot. If you’re looking for a pre-noon kick, their specialty drinks are worth a taste, too.

Cafe Luna (403 Mass Avenue – Cambridge): For solidified brunch plans with a group of friends, consider making a reservation at the Cafe Luna in Cambridge. Their menu is a teeny-tiny bit pricier, but their pancakes and omelettes are so, so worth it! I’m also a big fan of their chocolate stuffed French toast- which completely satisfies my sweet tooth.

DINING (LUNCH/DINNER)

Assaggio (29 Prince Street): Definitely one of my favorite spots for an intimate Italian meal, Assaggio is located right in the middle of the North End- making it perfect for a romantic night out with someone special or for a quiet get together with friends and some wine. Definitely call ahead to make a reservation to save yourself some wait time!

Taquería Jalisco!

Taquería Jalisco!

Taquería Jalisco (293 Bennington Street – East Boston): In San Diego, there’s a Mexican food restaurant called Pokez that I LOVE. I always try to stop there whenever I’m in town because their food is authentic and delicious- and Taquería Jalisco is the East Coast version of that. The restaurant is small- but lively- and their menu is expansive and so, so good.

Beat Hotel (13 Brattle Street – Cambridge): I was recently introduced to this fantastic restaurant located in the heart of Harvard Square, but it has quickly become one of my favorites with it’s ever-changing menu of mouth-watering entrees, specialty drink selections, and live jazz and blues performances. They have brunch options that I have yet to try out- but if it’s as good as their dinner menu- I know I’ll be a big fan.

Wagamama (Quincy Market, Prudential Center, and Harvard Square): There’s nearly a handful of Wagamama’s scattered around the Greater Boston area, which makes it convenient when I have a craving for some of their fresh and filling Japanese food but am not quite mentally or physically prepared to deal with the heavy flow of pedestrian traffic around the Quincy Market area. If you’re looking for a couple of menu suggestions, I enjoy the ebi gyoza, yaki soba, yasai cha han- and any of their raw juices.

Boston Burger Company (1100 Boylston Street):  I’m a carnivore, and sometimes- I just want to devour a delicious, juicy burger. While the BBC offers chicken, soup and salad selections, too- their burgers are hands down some of the most amazing things I’ve ever tasted. I love the Waikiki Beach Burger and the Green Monstah Burger the most, but they’re all fantastic. Pair them with your choice of wedge cut fries and you are in for a meal you won’t regret or forget.

Grasshopper (1 North Beacon Street – Allston): Vegan. Chinese. Food. That’s really all you need to know. To some, the concept might be confusing and maybe mind-blowing, but trust me when I say that you will never, ever regret stopping here. The food is fantastic and filling without that gross “I think I might die” feeling you get with regular Chinese food orders. I can eat an alarming amount of their veggie chicken fingers and best of all? They offer a takeout option. YES!

 DINING (COFFEE/DESSERTS)

 Caffé Vittoria (296 Hanover Street): If you’re craving something sugary and sweet while walking through the North End, you may feel inclined to hop into the ALWAYS RIDICULOUSLY LONG line at Mike’s Pastry to wait for one of their famous cannoli- or, if you want to save yourself some time- you can walk just a few feet down the street and stop in Vittoria for a cappuccino, a piece of tiramisu and take in the charming aesthetic of the cafe. I love gathering here with friends here after a night out or sitting down by myself to sip on espresso and catch up on emails when I have some down time. It’s just a lovely little spot.

The Thinking Cup (165 Tremont Street): Bostonians love their Dunkins, and that’s all well and good- but if you’re looking for something bolder and stronger than whatever ice cream flavor infused coffee D&D is cooking up this week- then I recommend stopping by the Thinking Cup (which also has locations in the North End and Back Bay.) Their coffee is rich and their pastries and sandwiches are fresh- making this place an ideal choice for that early morning brew or evening snack on the go.

Crema Cafe (27 Brattle Street – Cambridge): Crema is another gem located in Harvard Square that boasts a pretty good breakfast and lunch menu, but it’s their coffee and pastry/dessert selection that I rave about the most. I always make it a point to grab an iced chai whenever I’m passing through the square or doing some shopping around Cambridge to keep a little pep in my step- and their coconut macaroons are the stuff dreams are made from. So, so good.

DRINKS (THE 21+ KIND)

McGreevy’s (911 Boylston Street): I swear I’m not putting McGreevy’s at the top of my list just because I’m a big Dropkick Murphys fan (Ken Casey owns the place,) but because they have great drinks (the Pineapple Piper is the best,) awesome specials, a friendly staff- and a ton of historical Red Sox memorabilia on the wall (authentic- NOT cheesy.) It’s a sports bar, so if you’re looking to kick back and watch a game with some good food and a hard drink- this is the spot.

The Junction (110 Dorchester Street – South Boston): Southie gets a bad name sometimes, but if you’re not falling for the tall tales and notoriety often tacked onto this area of the city- it’s a lot of fun to explore. I’m not a big beer connoisseur by any means, but I’ve always enjoyed myself at The Junction when I’ve popped in. The service is good and the atmosphere is welcoming- and you’re guaranteed to have a good time if you stop by when there’s any type of sporting event going on.

Tavern at the End of the World (108 Cambridge Street – Charlestown): I love Irish pubs. I love pub food- and I love Charlestown- so TatEotW is a nice stop whenever I’m hanging around Bunker Hill and want to grab some not-so-diet-friendly food and a couple of drinks. This place sometimes has live music and stand-up comedy shows, too- which can be a fun way to end the night.

Highball Lounge (90 Tremont Street): If cocktails (or cocktails with little rubber duckies floating in them) and unique finger foods are more your style, then you’ll love Highball Lounge. With a sprawling space, fancy furniture, board games and occasional live DJs performing- Highball is perfect for bigger get togethers and parties that require a little flare and pizzazz to keep everyone entertained. Also- did I mention the rubber duckies in the drinks? Because I love that.

Sunset Cantina (916 Commonwealth Avenue): In the Summer, and typically before/after I catch a show at the Paradise (more on that later,) I like to swing by Sunset Cantina to grab a margarita and some snacks. This place has such a HUGE menu filled with fantastic drinks and food, and it’s within walking distance from pretty much anything and everything- shops and restaurants, to music venues and the Green Line (in case you have somewhere else you need to be.)

Brick & Mortar (567 Mass Ave – Cambridge): One of my favorite hidden gems in Central Square, B&M lies within exposed brick walls above Central Kitchen. Skilled bartenders mix your poison behind a copper top bar, and the atmosphere is very laid back and relaxed. I like to come here on low-maintenance dates from time to time, and I’m never left disappointed. This is a great spot in Cambridge and worth a visit if you’re in the area.

Jillian’s (145 Ipswich Street): Following shows at the House of Blues down the street, I like to bring people to Jillian’s for a nightcap and some highly competitive pool and/or bowling (highly competitive for me, anyway.) Jillian’s is a three-floor bar equipped with a fully functioning bowling alley. Some nights are busier than others, so I recommend calling ahead if you want to get a couple of games in- but I’ve always had a tremendous amount of fun here every time I’ve stopped by.

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LIVE ENTERTAINMENT

When it comes to live entertainment around the city, Boston has all of your needs covered. With an active theater district, a couple of stadiums and arenas for bigger shows and events, and plenty of smaller venues to house independent artists, comedy, poetry, and everything in-between- all you have to do is look- in any direction, really- and you will find a lengthy list of easily accessible places to go to be entertained.

Paradise Rock Club (967 Commonwealth Avevnue): By far my favorite music venue in Boston, The ‘Dise is a small, intimate venue that has played host to some of my favorite rock artists. The sound carries really well throughout the building, so if you’re standing in front of the stage or you’re up in the balcony area- you’re going to have a great view and hear everything perfectly. I have so many fond memories and have met so many friends while hanging out here.

Middle East (472-480 Massachusetts Avenue – Cambridge): This is another smaller venue in Central Square where I’ve seen plenty of awesome shows and have danced ’til dawn during DJ nights. If you can get past the fact that it can get humid and musty in there (it is basically a cellar, after all,) than you’ll have a lot of fun here. There’s also an upstairs area that houses shows and events, and serves food as well.

The Comedy Studio (1238 Massachusetts Avenue, 4th Floor – Cambridge): Boston has no shortage of comedy clubs, but The Comedy Studio is hands down the best- and not just because I worked there for a while, either! Located above the Hong Kong restaurant in Harvard Square, TCS features some of Boston’s funniest stand-up comedians and plenty of talented up and comers every night. They also serve a mean scorpion bowl. Stop by and tell Rick, the owner- that I said hello!

The Cantab Lounge (738 Massachusetts Ave – Cambridge): If you like poetry readings, both watching and/or participating, then you should head over to the Cantab on Wednesday nights where the venue hosts weekly poetry slams. The lounge also serves as a spot for open mics and live bluegrass and blues shows, too- and serves up drinks and food if you’re looking to make an evening out of the trip to Central Square.

Tunnel (100 Stuart Street): I’m not big on going to dance clubs much these days, at least not as much as I was in my early twenties- and many establishments I used to frequent have long since closed. I’ve been to Tunnel, located inside the W Hotel, a few times- and each time has been fun. I like the atmosphere of the club and the efficiency of the bar staff. The space is tiny, but unless you require a tremendous amount of room to dance- you can make it work. There’s also some seating, and VIP tables are available for reservation.

House of Blues Boston (15 Lansdowne Street): Formerly the Avalon and Axis night clubs (R.I.P.) across from Fenway Park, the HOBBoston serves as a multi-floor bar, concert venue, and night club (if you do, in fact, need a tremendous amount of room to dance.) I’ve seen a lot of great shows here since it’s opening, and it’s just a short walk away from other bars, restaurants, cab stands, and the T- which means you can get back to where you’re staying quickly and safely.

STRETCH YOUR LEGS

I don’t tell every visiting friend or family member to sign up for a gym membership in the city if they’re looking to get a workout, because there’s plenty of places to get some exercise that are both free and picturesque. My friends and I pretty much walk everywhere- reserving our cars and the T for when we need to be at a certain place in a hurry (like work or the airport, for example,) but if you’d rather I list a couple of places where you can run/walk/bicycle/stretch in peace- then here you go!

Commonwealth Avenue Mall (484 Commonwealth Avenue): Located right next to the Public Garden, The Commonwealth Avenue Mall is a strip of trees, greenery, and statues that stretches through Back Bay alongside beautiful brownstone homes and businesses. I love passing through this area at night in the warmer months, and I always see people jogging along the pathway or stretching on the grass. It’s just a clean, pretty area to work out.

Chestnut Hill Reservoir (400 Chestnut Hill Avenue – Brookline): If you want to get a nice walk/run in somewhere that isn’t right smack in the middle of the city, then I recommend the Chestnut Hill Reservoir, which is located within a reasonable distance from Boston College but is still tranquil and scenic enough to make it feel like it’s miles away from civilization. There’s wildlife, plenty of greenery, and space to move around.

Castle Island HarborWalk (2010 Day Boulevard – South Boston): If you want to spend a day at the beach without making the drive to New Hampshire or Cape Cod, then Castle Island is a great destination. Sandy beaches, boating, and plenty of space to run/walk or stretch out on the grass and get some sun- this is a nice spot to spend a Summer afternoon.

SHOPPING

Narrowing down places to shop around Boston was almost as difficult as selecting some of the restaurants I listed above. There’s just so many places scattered around the city where you can find pretty much anything you’re looking for. Instead of doing a shop-by-shop list, which would have required an entirely separate post on my blog- I condensed this part of my guide into areas that feature a variety of stores and items for everyone’s tastes and interests. I hope it’s helpful!

Newbury Street (Back Bay): I have a love/hate relationship with Newbury Street. It’s a great mix of high end boutiques (including Chanel, Tiffany’s, and Armani) and affordable shops (Forever 21, H&M, ALDO, etc.) as well as restaurants and bars, but traffic- both auto and pedestrian- is a nightmare. My best advice if you attempt to brave this very busy area is to take the Green Line to Copley or Hynes Convention Center and learn how to maneuver yourself around and between the slow walkers and the groups of people who walk side by side across the sidewalk and block everyone’s path.

If you can’t take it anymore, the shops at the Prudential Center are only a hop, skip, and a jump away!

Assembly Row (340 Canal Street – Somerville): Relatively new, Assembly Row offers a wide array of shops, restaurants, a movie theater, Boston’s LegoLand, and special events like free riverfront yoga classes and weekly outdoor concerts. This place is great to shop in during the warmer months, and has the same charm as Newbury Street without all of the overcrowding.

Harvard Square (Cambridge): I’ve already mentioned a few places around Harvard Square to dine, drink, and see some live entertainment- but I can’t NOT talk about how the square is a great spot for shopping, too. There’s a lot of eccentric little stores and fantastic finds just waiting to be discovered between more well-known shops. I’m a big fan of Raven’s Used Books and Goorin Bros. Hat Shop, but I’m always being introduced to new things whenever I’m in the area.

Garment District (200 Broadway – Cambridge): Boston has plenty of department stores, but if you want something a little more alternative, unique, and affordable- then you don’t need to look any further than The Garment District. Specializing in buying and re-selling gently worn clothing, GD carefully categorizes their inventory to make it easier for shoppers to find whatever it is they’re looking for- from swimwear to shoes, work clothes to Halloween costumes. There’s seriously SO much to peruse through and they are always updating their stock. Every once in a while you can find a great designer piece for a fraction of the cost- so keep your eyes peeled!

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TOURIST-Y FUN

I can’t give someone a tour of Boston without taking them to at least one “tourist” hot spot. Let’s be real- Boston has a lot of history and even more famous landmarks. While some people may get annoyed with certain places and areas being overtly crowded with out-of-towners stopping to snap selfies or check a map- I think it’s great. I’m proud of my city and I’m always thrilled that other people are taking time to check it out, learn, and experience it firsthand. I encourage tourism as long as visitors are being respectful of the area and of the locals (so no making fun of our accents to our faces, okay? We know they’re obnoxious.)

Here’s a few places I typically bring friends to get the “Boston” experience.

Fenway Park (4 Yawkey Way): The Green Monster, The Cathedral of Boston, and home of the Boston Red Sox- you have to visit Fenway at least once in your lifetime and you have to catch a Sox game there at least twice in that same lifetime. I love this ballpark, overpriced drinks and all- and seeing a home game doesn’t have to cost you an arm and a leg if you don’t mind standing for a few innings or just want to experience your first real sing-along to “Sweet Caroline.” I buy standing only tickets all the time and enjoy myself just as much as the people in the more expensive seats. It’s all about making the most of the event.

The Freedom Trail (Boston Common): Look, The Freedom Trail is boring. I’m just going to say it now. You follow a red line marked on the sidewalk around Boston for a couple of hours and see some historic sites and that’s about it. I know a guy named Rob who is a tour guide- he wears a colonial costume and everything- and even that’s not enough to get me to go through with this more than once- but if you love history and you REALLY want to see  Paul Revere’s house or the Granary Burying Ground- then I say go for it! You’d probably spot these sites while walking to something infinitely more interesting and fun anyway- but by all means- take the tour if you want.

Boston Duck Tours (Museum of Science Driveway): Getting stuck in traffic behind one of these monstrosities is infuriating, no doubt- but I can absolutely understand the appeal of the Duck Tour- especially for those with small children or elderly companions who can’t navigate around Boston on foot quite as easily as others but who still want to see the city. For $35 bucks (adult price) you get an 80 minute tour of Boston- riding around on these bus/boat hybrids that bob and weave through the streets and eventually take a dip into the Charles River while a guide points out places and facts for your listening pleasure.

Cheers (84 Beacon Street): The biggest misconception about ‘Cheers’ is that a lot of visitors seem to think the interior of the bar resembles that of the bar from the television show. It doesn’t. The only thing that is the same is the exterior of the building- but that doesn’t make “Cheers” any less of a fun tourist spot while you’re in the city. With really good food, a lot of memorabilia on the walls, and a gift shop with plenty of assorted “Cheers” themed knick-knacks to buy- this is a must-do while you’re in the city. There’s actually two locations in Boston, but the better of the two is on Beacon Street- in my opinion.

Boston Common (139 Tremont Street): This is actually a spot that both tourists and locals love and appreciate, and is one that I spend a lot of time in on nicer days. Boston Common and the Public Garden- a sprawling park with greenery, sculptures, vendors and areas for live entertainment- is the ideal place to spend an afternoon reading under a tree, having a picnic, playing sports, strolling around, etc. It’s also just minutes away from Downtown Crossing, Newbury Street, the State House, Beacon Hill, and a lot more. I always make it a point to proudly show it off to anyone who is visiting Boston for the first time because they usually fall in love with it right away.

Faneuil Hall (1 Faneuil Hall Square): When passing by Government Center or the Waterfront, I encourage people to admire Faneuil Hall from a distance. It’s lovely to look at but is kind of a mess to walk through unless you’re in the area later on at night after the street performers and vendors have gone home for the day and most of the shops have closed. It’s a very, very packed area for pedestrian traffic, but it’s historic and has some intriguing stores and restaurants if you’re feeling brave enough to face the crowd and uneven cobblestone (wear comfortable shoes!) I do admit I really like this area at Christmastime though, when it’s lit up and the gigantic tree has been set up and decorated. It’s very, very pretty!

Museum of Fine Arts (465 Huntington Avenue): Boston has a lot of great museums, and I would have gladly listed them all- but I wanted to feature my favorite of the bunch and that is the MFA, without question. I can spend hours in this place going from room to room and admiring paintings and sculptures and the new exhibits that are set up every few months. It’s a beautiful space with helpful tour guides and stops to rest, shop, and eat whenever you need a break. The museum also has a lot of special events and offers classes, too. You can get a heads up on upcoming activities and exhibits by subscribing to their monthly e-mailed newsletter.

Boston Harbor (1 Long Wharf): Like Boston Common, I enjoy spending time outdoors down by the waterfront on warmer Summer days. There’s plenty of places to sit and watch boats passing by or grab a quick bite to eat- and if you’re not prone to seasickness- you can always kill some time by catching a harbor cruise or by going on a whale watch. I particularly like bringing my friends from England to this area- just so they know where we threw all of that tea that one time (Hi Imogen!)

And there you have it! My guide to Boston. As I stated above- there’s still SO much more to do and see- but I simply cannot list it all! I thought the locations I linked to were a good place to start, and I do intend to write a follow-up in the future- but I hope that this post is helpful to newcomers who are visiting the area for the first time or who are back again and may have missed some of what I’ve listed.

Are you from Boston? Have you visited? Is there anything you think I should add? Do you have any questions about anything I’ve written about or linked to in this post?

Let me know!

HELPFUL LINKS:

CityOfBoston.gov

MBTA.com

Hotels in Boston

ARTSBoston (includes theater and city festival schedules/tickets) 

*IN CASE OF EMERGENCY*A comprehensive list of hospitals and medical centers in and around Boston.

xx

(All photos included in this post are my own.)

In Bloom.

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InBloom20152

I think it’s safe to say that New England completely bypassed Spring and dove straight into Summer this year, what with temperatures hitting the high 70s and 80s nearly every day. It feels like I’ve been rocking rompers and sandals a little prematurely, but I’m not complaining one bit. After the winter we had here- I’ll gladly take scorching temperatures and even humidity any time, any day. Just give me the sunshine. All of it!

The sudden appearance of Summer-esque weather after a brief few days of cooler, Springtime conditions has thrown off the usual time frame of flowers and trees blooming. Some trees are still pretty bare, probably afraid it’ll start snowing all over again- while others are flourishing- like the one pictured above in my mom’s front yard that I photographed this past weekend while her and I spent Mother’s Day together.

I’ve been putting the final touches on some posts (and sitting in front of an oscillating fan) that will be up here at the blog over the course of the next few days- so be sure to check back!- but I also felt inspired by the recent weather to make a little playlist of some fun, freeing, and Summery songs over at my 8Tracks page.

This is “Summer’s In the Air” and it includes tracks by Brandon Flowers, Kristin Diable, and In The Valley Below- among others!

I hope those who give it a listen enjoy it!

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xx

Spring Forward – A Playlist.

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SpringForward2015Good afternoon from my couch, where I’ve been recuperating from a pretty intense battle with a flu that’s been spreading around! I’m slowly on the mend, feeling a little better with each day that passes, but I took yesterday afternoon and today in it’s entirety off from work to rest and stay hydrated. I’m hoping to be back in my office again by tomorrow- since I don’t want to fall behind in my work- but we’ll see how it goes.

With my downtime today, I took the opportunity to go through my 8Tracks account, mending and re-uploading any broken links/songs that I’ve included in some of my playlists I’ve created throughout the past couple of years- so everything should be in working order again.

I also put together a Springtime playlist featuring some upbeat (and dreamy, since I like to keep it balanced,) songs I’ve been listening to as of late as I prepare to come out of hibernation. There’s some Bleachers, some Jenny Lewis, a little bit of BØRNS and Lucius- among others. I hope anyone who gives it a listen enjoys it!

And people say you can’t be productive during a sick day!