Top 10 Photographs of 2016

Comments 2 Standard

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.

topten20163

#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.

topten20168

#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!

topten20169

#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.

topten20162

#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!

topten20167

#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!

topten201610

#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.

topten20166

#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.

topten20161

#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.

topten20164

#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.

topten20165

#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

Day Off Date!

Leave a comment Standard

HBJuly20161

HBJuly20164

With everything that happened in the month of June, I never actually got around to commencing my yearly “Summertime in New England” rite of passage with a weekend away (or in this case, a day trip) to Hampton Beach, New Hampshire. I’d been so distracted, so stressed out, and so swamped with work and personal/relationship matters that I hardly found the time to eat or sleep properly- never mind take an afternoon to head up North and catch some sun and surf.

Last Tuesday, after running some errands that I grossly overestimated would take up the majority of my day- I was pleasantly surprised to find I had a chunk of my afternoon and evening left in front of me to do whatever I pleased. With the sun still beating down and my toes freshly painted a pretty awesome glow-in-the-dark neon coral color- I opted to finally hit the sand and made the mini-trek to Hampton to cruise the coast from Portsmouth, sit by the waves for a couple of hours and finally get my hands on a lobster roll (I EARNED IT) from The Beach Plum.

I may have actually cried from joy while I ate this.

I may have actually cried from joy while I ate this.

After putting myself in a mini-food coma, I stopped by my favorite surf shop along the coast- just a couple miles north from the main section of Hampton’s boardwalk and casino- Cinnamon Rainbows. I always try to make it a point to pop in whenever I’m in the area because they have the cutest assortment of clothes, shoes and accessories- the staff are really friendly- and I like looking at the finished/unfinished surfboards and skateboards they keep near the back of the shop. Crafting those boards takes a level of patience, talent and dedication I wish I had. It’s an art form. Truly.

HBJuly20163

I didn’t go home empty handed, though. I couldn’t resist picking up a new thin, loose-fitting t-shirt to rep the shop (I used to have a tank top I loved that has since been misplaced or shamelessly stolen from my laundry bin by my dog) for when I got back home to the city- and some Sun Bum leave-in color protector spray for my hair because color-treated red hair and salty air/water is a dangerous combination. I love Sun Bum’s products- and this spray is no different. It keeps my hair frizz-free and fade-proof. It smells really nice, too.

HBJuly20165

HBJuly20166

It wasn’t until the sun had started to set when I headed back over towards the boardwalk to pick up some fudge for my mom from one of her favorite candy shops (and a Slush Puppy for myself) and sit by the water again to watch the clouds overhead turn different shades of orange and pink. It was a much needed calm and peaceful moment in my life- which has otherwise been swirling around me like a tornado at times.

I’ve lived by bodies of water my entire life. I grew up near a lake, and I currently live beside a river- but none are as beautiful or as calming for me as the ocean is. I keep telling myself that if and when I ever get myself out to California (or outside Massachusetts, really)– I’m going to be as close to the Pacific as possible. I want to wake up and fall asleep to the sounds of crashing waves every day.

It was a nice day- and today is yet another day off for me. I’ve purposefully avoided making concrete plans since I’d very much like to head back up to the coast for some more sun and sand later on this afternoon (and also get my skee-ball on at the arcade and grab some fried dough)– so we’ll see how that goes!

HBJuly20167

xx

April 2016: In a Nutshell.

Leave a comment Standard

April2016IAN01

How in the world are we already in May?! How did that happen? It feels like Spring only just started (with a little fight from the Winter with some final flurries and sleet a few weeks ago) and Summer is already on the horizon- getting ready to push itself into the picture. I’m still trying to organize and enjoy my Spring wardrobe, for crying out loud!

But before I get ahead of myself and go into all of the things I have planned for May and the impending Summertime fun, I have to tip my hat to April- one of the busiest months I’ve had in a while! The most notable thing about this past month was that I was rarely home for most of it. I had headed down to Virginia and D.C. for a long weekend at the beginning of the month, then divided my time between work and Western Massachusetts (where I ultimately turned down the apartment I had mentioned falling in love with back in March because it’s location was, unfortunately, not convenient enough for my commute to/from work after some research and test navigation)– and rounded out the end of April with a long stay near the base of Mount Washington where I got back in touch with nature in a pretty unexpected and thrilling way.

April2016IAN02

April2016IAN03

Last weekend, Sean and I headed up to Bretton Woods, New Hampshire for a couple of days at the Mount Washington Hotel and Resort– a hotel we’d spotted during a weekend outing in the same area a couple of years ago and had added to our collective “To Do” list ever since. I had this past weekend (as well as this current weekend!) off due to some training at work I had participated in- so we took the opportunity to take a mini-trip together since we’ve both been so busy and preoccupied with our jobs and other plans.

For those who might think the hotel- isolated within a mountain range and with Mount Washington looming not far in the distance- looks a little like something out of ‘The Shining’- you’re not wrong! While the actual Overlook Hotel (really called the Stanley Hotel) is located in Colorado- hotel staff at the Mount Washington Hotel told Sean and I that Stephen King was inspired to pen ‘The Shining’ after a stay there way back when.

And I can see how he’d be inspired. Not only is the resort sprawling and MASSIVE– but it’s still got historical charm, too. The furnishings in the lobby, the outdoor promenades, and even our room- were elegant and old fashioned.

And yeah, the place is rumored to be haunted, too- with the room reported to have the most supernatural activity being just a couple doors down from where Sean and I stayed. We didn’t see any ghosts while we wandered around the property, though- not even late at night when most of the hotel’s common areas were pretty much deserted.

April2016IAN04

April2016IAN05

April2016IAN06

April2016IAN07

The resort had plenty of room to move around and plenty to do- including indoor  & outdoor pools, a spa, gift shops, it’s own post office (!!!), stables for horseback riding, hiking trails, fire pits for roasting marshmallows, a small cinema, a former-speakeasy-turned-underground-bar, a cafe and an arcade- all of which Sean and I explored and took advantage of- and the food the hotel served was pretty incredible, too. After we’d arrived, Sean and I had dinner in one of the main dining halls where I’d all but licked my plate clean after wolfing down a REALLY good meal- and the following morning’s brunch- with a seat overlooking the mountains- was one of the best I’ve had in years (I ate so. much. salmon.)

The entrance to the resort's bar, 'The Cave'.

The entrance to the resort’s bar, ‘The Cave’.

When your hobbies follow you on the road.

When your hobbies follow you on the road.

On Sunday, our last day at the hotel and resort- Sean and I took advantage of the nearby ski area- signing up for an afternoon of hiking, rappelling, and zip-lining through and across the mountain ridges. I’d never rappelled or zip-lined before, but after a couple of hours of adrenaline rushes and dangling REALLY high in the air- I think I got the hang of it. Our tour guides were awesome, supportive, and very funny guys- and Sean and I had a lot of fun getting to know them and the handful of others in our group who had a similar idea and had fearlessly joined along with us.

April2016IAN010

April2016IAN011

Those are just some of the shots of us in action. It was a BLAST- although it got pretty cold up there on the mountaintops!

Sean and I have already vowed to head back to the resort later on this Summer to participate in the warmer-weather activities (horseback riding! Swimming!) we didn’t get around to this time. I’m so excited. I loved the place and I definitely want to go back as soon as possible.

And now with May arriving tomorrow- and the weather FINALLY staying somewhat consistent in recent days/weeks- I’m hoping to spend even more time outdoors and on the road. I have a few more recipes up my sleeve, a couple more ‘Closet Crushes’ to share- as well as my Spring/Summer fitness tips & tricks for anyone else who is looking for some ways to feel a little better post-Winter-blues. I’ve also got a fun giveaway I’m finalizing as a little pick-me-up in preparation for Summer- and a whole lot more to share!

So long, April. You were beautiful, adventurous- and quite daring!

April2016IAN012

April2016IAN013

xx

Seafood Festival: 2015

Leave a comment Standard

SeafoodFestival20151

SeafoodFestival20152

SeafoodFestival20153

SeafoodFestival20154

Every year around this time, for as long as I can remember, I’ve always headed up to Hampton Beach with my family for the annual end-of-the-Summer Seafood Festival. Since my dad passed away a few years ago, I’ve been making the drive with my mom and my cousin Paige (and occasionally with other relatives who were around and wanted to come, too-) for a carefree day of shopping, eating, skee-ball, and strolling the surf before the water gets too cold.

This past Saturday, the three of us got a bright and early start in an attempt to beat traffic (it kind of worked!) and find a decent parking spot (and that sort of worked, too!) before the mid-afternoon crowds descended upon the boardwalk and made it almost impossible to move around and get in and out of the area.

The head start gave us the advantage of being able to do some thorough browsing of the sales racks without bumping elbows with other people over and over- and I found some incredible bargains!

SeafoodFestival20155

I’ve always really liked the look of varsity jackets, especially in the Fall over boot cut jeans and a chunky knit sweater- so when I saw this really nice quality jacket (with a stitched Hampton Beach patch)  for only $10 (!!!!)– I knew I had to snatch it up. I’m so excited to rock this in the coming weeks. I love it!

SeafoodFestival20156

SeafoodFestival20157

I found a couple of really cute, comfortable pieces for work, too. The grey-ish dress above, with fancy-looking embroidery and dark brown decorative buttons- was marked down to $13. I’m going to be layering it over black tights, and maybe over a black turtleneck on colder days since it hangs a little loosely on me.

The black and white skirt, marked down to $8- is made of lightweight material and will also be worn over black tights (and probably paired with a sweater, too.) I like the way it sways with every step I take. It’s fun.

SeafoodFestival20158

I took it easy on accessories this year, opting to skip purchasing any jewelry and picking up this $13 bag, instead. I love the size, which accommodates all of my stuff- and I love the colors. I typically carry deeper-toned bags in the Fall/Winter- like dark browns, navy blues, and hunter greens- but the orange, blue, and pink stripes on this bag are a beautiful combination. I’ll be using this to brighten up my “Colder Months” looks!

SeafoodFestival20159

Finally, I visited the booth for my favorite all-natural soap company, Scentastics, and treated myself to three bars- one of each of their newer fragrances. I love how soft and clean these bars make my skin feel- and they all smell amazing. My favorite of the bunch is ‘Woodstock’, which has a touch of patchouli in it (but it isn’t overpowering.)

SeafoodFestival201510

Of course, a seafood festival doesn’t live up to it’s name if there’s no actual seafood- so prior to leaving Hampton for the evening- we stopped to enjoy some incredible crab cakes and a fresh fish dinner on an outdoor patio right across from the ocean. Everything was delicious, and our server was a sweetheart (and kudos to her for staying calm and composed even though the place was packed!)

As the sun began to sat- my mom, Paige, and I made one final stop before we started for home- a more secluded part of the beach where we watched the waves roll in from the rocks, paid tribute to my dad in our own special way, and wrote silly messages in the sand. It was the perfect way to end what was a really, really nice day.

SeafoodFestival2015111

“We’re gonna’ need a bigger boat.”

Battle of the Beaches

Comments 3 Standard

Yes, I know- Summer 2015 is unfortunately coming to an end. In just a couple more weeks there will be an undeniable chill in the air, the leaves will begin their gradual change from green to orange, red, and yellow- and the pumpkin spice latte will be making it’s triumphant return to coffee shops around the country. Autumn is almost here- and right behind it is sure to be another gruesome Winter- especially for those of us here in New England who typically get buried under feet of snow each and every year.

If you’re like me, you’re trying to savor these final Summer days as much as possible- and that can range from throwing one last backyard BBQ and bonfire with your friends, to heading out for one final weekend at the beach to say goodbye to the season before it’s gone at one of the many popular spots along the coast. If that’s the case- then picking the perfect location might prove to be a little difficult. For that reason, I’ve broken down the pros and cons of two of my longtime favorite beaches: Hampton Beach in New Hampshire, and Old Orchard Beach in Maine.

I’ve been working on this comparison post little by little over the past couple of months, unsure of when to actually publish it, but now seems a good time as any- not just for those who are looking to have a memorable Labor Day weekend- but for those who want to get an early start on planning their 2016 Summer season, too!

First, let’s take a look at the contenders:

HBVsOOV01

Hampton Beach (and my decade-old high tops)

Hampton Beach (New Hampshire)

Having been born and raised in Massachusetts, Hampton Beach was always the go-to Summer destination for my friends and I from the time we were little kids until the time we were old enough to drive ourselves. Just over an hour North of Boston, and about twenty minutes away from scenic Portsmouth, New Hampshire- Hampton Beach is one of the more populated beach destinations during the hotter months- and plays host to multiple restaurants, bars, entertainment venues, arcades, motels and shops that stretch across it’s boardwalk and side streets. While many establishments close in the off-season, certain areas at Hampton Beach stay open year-round- making it ideal for those who want a more quiet and less crowded beach getaway- and who don’t mind colder temperatures.

HBVsOOB03

The Pier, Old Orchard Beach

Old Orchard Beach (Maine)

A little further North from Hampton Beach lies Old Orchard Beach (OOB) in Maine. While considerably less populated than Hampton Beach- OOB offers a more “classic” beach experience- including an old wooden pier that stretches out over the ocean and numerous beach-side surf and souvenir shops mixed in among motels and seafood shacks. My very first trip to OOB was with my best friend in high school when we were both 16. We spent nearly a week there (with minimal supervision) and the place made a lasting impression. So much, in fact- that I’ve been going back regularly- not minding the nearly 2 hour long drive it takes to get there in the least.

I’ve broken down each of these beaches, the good and the bad, into a few different categories. Each one was carefully considered based on my personal experiences at each location, what I’ve seen, and what I’ve liked and haven’t liked. I tried to be as thorough as possible when comparing the two- and I hope it’s helpful!

SCENERY:

I love the ocean in general (it’s my place of zen and inner peace) so having to make a decision as to which beach offers a more pleasant and unobstructed visual of it proved to be a bit difficult. Hampton Beach, with it’s winding roads along the coast past beautiful mansions and gardens, is perfect for those looking for a peaceful drive with breathtaking views- while Old Orchard Beach gives retro-fanatics an eyeful of classic and weathered shops, shacks, and motel-fronts for as far as the eye can see- like something right out of a postcard.

Beach cleanliness comes into account, as well. While cleanup crews work ’round the clock and to the best of their abilities to keep the sand and sidewalks in spotless conditions- sometimes Hampton Beach can feel a little gross. In all the times I’ve been to OOB- I’ve never once hesitated to put my bare toes in the sand, but on more than one occasion while visiting Hampton- I’ve spotted trash (specifically lots of Dunkin’ Donuts cups. Ugh.) strewn across the beach and eventually being picked at by seagulls before anyone bothers to pick it up.

Winner: Old Orchard Beach. As a big fan of Ocean Beach in San Diego, and it’s overall laid-back atmosphere- OOB is the closest thing to it I’ve found thus far here on the East Coast. I love the pier, I love the seaside shops and restaurants, I love the lights from the amusement park and arcades (especially at sunset)-and I really love how clean everything is. OOB may not have the beautiful scenic drive leading to Portsmouth that Hampton Beach offers, but it’s wonderful for long, relaxing walks and for taking photographs.

CROWD CONTROL:

Nobody wants to go to a beach to relax and soak up the sun when they can’t even move without tripping over someone else- and all that traffic just to get there? Ew. While both Hampton Beach and Old Orchard Beach can get crowded (especially during popular Summer holidays like the Fourth of July), OOB is considerably less crowded than Hampton Beach at any given time. Hampton Beach’s pedestrian and automobile traffic can get so heavy that circling the boardwalk just to find a parking spot can take anywhere from a half hour to 45 minutes (sometimes longer.)

If you’re lucky enough to find parking in Hampton and you’re braving the beach-side attractions on foot- be sure to stay close to your party as it’s very easy to get separated in the throngs of people, with pedestrians often spilling out into the roadways due to lack of sidewalk space.

HBVsOOB04

Hampton Beach

Winner: Old Orchard Beach. While the arcade areas and the pier can sometimes get a little packed from time to time- it’s nothing like Hampton Beach’s daily overcrowding. Parking is usually easy to find (and is relatively cheap and easy, unlike Hampton Beach’s standard $20+ parking fees where you’ll be packed into a motel lot like sardines)– and you can move about freely with your friends without risking being separated from them and having to send a series of texts to try and find them.

FOOD:

I love fried dough, clam strips, and soft-serve ice cream as much as the next person- but I can usually only eat them for an afternoon, maximum. If I’m going to be spending a weekend at the beach, I’d like some meal options that I’m not going to regret by the time I’m heading home. OOB has plenty of seaside shacks that serve up lots of fried foods and sweet treats- and sure, a couple of decent beach-side restaurants and bars scattered here and there, too- but Hampton has a ton of great places to eat an actual meal (and the fried goods, too!) along the boardwalk and a couple of miles inland, too- like the Old Salt restaurant or the Beach Plum.

If you’re feeling a little adventurous- you can make that twenty minute drive North to Portsmouth, too- where you’ll find even more dine-in and take-out options.

Winner: Hampton Beach. I can’t recall ever having a bad meal here- be it a more healthy and filling dinner, to a quick mid-afternoon snack. The wait time might be a little long depending on where you go and how crowded it is at the time- but you won’t go hungry in Hampton. There’s simply too many options to prevent that from happening.

SHOPPING:

I don’t do a lot of shopping when I go to the beach, unless it’s the end-of-the-season sale time and I’m stocking up on discounted clothing, jewelry, or bath & beauty products. What could I possibly need to purchase, right? I usually already have my essentials and my bikini packed with me. Even still, I know many people like to shop while they’re on vacation- be it for themselves or others. Like most beaches, OOB has it’s fair share of novelty t-shirt and souvenir shops/stands- which is just fine when you’re looking for quick and cheap gifts in a pinch- but if you want something more thoughtful and maybe a bit more unique- Hampton Beach has you covered.

Amid Hampton’s own sea of cheesy and often unfunny t-shirt, caricature and airbrushing stands- there’s a few hidden gems along the boardwalk like the Deja Vu boutique and The Cow’s Ass (it’s a leather goods store. Just try to look beyond the name.) There is also a shop, Rock Palace, that used to cater to fans of classic rock, 80’s hair metal and the early 90’s grunge movement with t-shirts, collectibles, posters, etc. It’s since been taken over by Insane Clown Posse merchandise- but if you’re feeling daring- you might still be able to find some good stuff in there!

Winner: Hampton Beach. Every Fall during Hampton’s annual Seafood Festival, nearly every store puts their entire inventory on sale in order to make room for the following Summer season’s products. I like to go up and browse because you can find incredible deals on a variety of different things for a fraction of the price. It’s a great time to pick up those things that may have caught your eye in July or August- but without having to pay an arm and a leg for them.

LODGING:

Like the ‘SCENERY’ category- picking a winner for lodging proved to be difficult. Both Hampton Beach and Old Orchard Beach have a wide selection of oceanfront motels and beach-side bungalows that are fairly priced and tended to (meaning the rooms and the grounds aren’t gross.) To make my decision, I factored in the aforementioned crowd control. While Hampton has beautiful rooms for rent that overlook the beach and the boardwalk- getting to and from the motels can be problematic with the pedestrian traffic, and the peaceful sounds of the ocean can often be drowned out by rowdy crowds and screaming kids during and after events in the area.

Old Orchard Beach offers motels that are a short walk to and from the beach- but are also still far away enough from the actual pier and adjacent amusement park where any much needed rest and in-room relaxation won’t be disturbed. Best of all? Parking is so much easier at these locations.

Winner: Old Orchard Beach. I love to walk, so taking a brisk stroll a few blocks to get to where the action is doesn’t bother me at all when I know that I’ll be able to sleep soundly and easily in nice room conditions when I get back- and not have to worry about anything happening to my car in the motel parking lot.

FAMILY ENTERTAINMENT:

The amusement park at Old Orchard Beach

The amusement park at Old Orchard Beach

When I was a little kid, one of the biggest draws to Hampton Beach was it’s indoor amusement park. It didn’t boast a roller coaster or a ferris wheel like Old Orchard Beach does- but there was a merry-go-round, bumper cars, and plenty of smaller, safer rides to keep a kid amused and entertained for hours. Hampton has since done away with that section of the boardwalk, replacing it with a casino for adults only- but the beach still hosts a couple of arcades and an updated playground right on the sand. Every Friday night throughout the Summer- Hampton also has it’s own fireworks display, which is great to watch for all ages if you can secure yourself a spot along the beach- and each Summer visitors are invited to view the annual sand sculpture contest winners- which are pretty incredible most of the time.

If you’re looking to bring your child to the water, let them play some pinball, and use whatever prize tickets they win to trade in for penny candy or a stuffed bear- then they’d probably enjoy Hampton Beach the way I did when I was a kid- but if you plan on spending any time longer than an afternoon or an evening in the area- OOB might be better for you and your family. Old Orchard Beach has an amusement park (with an old wooden roller coaster that I LOVE) and it’s own large arcade- which is perfect when you or your kids need a break from the sand and the sun for a while. Everything is within walking distance from places to eat and motels, too- which is also tremendously convenient.

Winner: Old Orchard Beach. My love of bumper cars aside, and looking at this from the perspective of someone who does not have kids of her own but has watched plenty of parents struggle with fussy toddlers while at Hampton- OOB is a lot more kid-friendly than Hampton Beach is these days. There’s more for kids of all ages to do, and it’s less crowded- which means parents aren’t losing their minds trying to keep track of their little ones as they weave in-between arcade games and carnival rides.

21+ ENTERTAINMENT:

On the flip-side, Hampton Beach is a much better weekend option for the 21+ crowd. Old Orchard Beach has some nice little bars and pubs, including two on the actual pier itself- but Hampton also has the added bonus of the Casino Ballroom, a music venue where some pretty good artists (and some not-so-good ones, let’s be real) have performed throughout the years. With raunchy t-shirts clearly on display along the boardwalk, a popular smoke shop right in the middle of everything, multiple bars, the small casino and the Casino Ballroom easily accessible from nearly every direction-  Hampton Beach is definitely the more adult-friendly option for beach-goers.

Winner: Hampton Beach, by a landslide. While I love Old Orchard Beach’s amusement park and overall relaxed look/feel, I go to Hampton when I want to have a few drinks and sprawl out in the sand with my friends and not have to worry about negatively influencing any small children within the vicinity.

HBVsOOB05

Me hamming it up in OOB, 2014.

SUMMARY:

It was definitely close, but my love of Old Orchard Beach surpassed that of Hampton Beach by just a little bit. OOB is infinitely more laid-back, less-crowded, less expensive, and much cleaner than Hampton Beach presently is- which makes it my favorite destination when I’m just looking to get away and relax for a few days, but Hampton has more to offer foodies and adults looking to have a fun-filled weekend of boozing and shopping- so it really comes down to what exactly it is you’re looking for and for how long you plan to stay.

If you’re from New England and you frequent either one of these beaches- I’d love to hear your opinion. Do you agree or disagree? Are there any other two beaches in the area you think I should compare in a future post? Feel free to leave a comment or contact me!

Have a great Labor Day weekend, everyone!

xo

The 2014 Seafood Fest Mini-Haul.

Leave a comment Standard

Every September, as is tradition (and typically at my mother’s insistence,) her, myself, my cousin, and any other relatives that have an afternoon to kill- meet at her house, pile into one vehicle- and head up to Hampton Beach for their annual Seafood Festival for a day or two. The festival is exactly what it sounds like: a huge three-day gathering along the boardwalk where Hampton’s best restaurants cook up and serve their most delectable dishes and local vendors come to push their end-of-the-season merchandise- usually marked ridiculously low- during a weekend-long sidewalk sale before the beachfront shops board up and close for the Winter.

Although the whole thing is almost always crowded and parking can be downright nightmarish at times- the food is nothing short of incredible and some of the bargains and steals you can find on a wide variety of goods make the trip worth it. In past years, I’ve found so many brilliantly priced pieces of clothing and accessories that have long since become cherished staples in my wardrobe.

My family and I headed up this past Sunday (in two cars this time!) to do a little shopping and sampling. Naturally, we ate our fair share of lobster, crabs, and clams- and my cousin and I couldn’t resist getting in some quality skee-ball and pinball at one of the local arcades- but we took plenty of time to walk from booth to booth, table to table- and pick up some necessities (and some, not so much a necessity,) too.

SeafoodFestHaul20141

SeafoodFestHaul20142

Whenever I go to the Seafood Festival, I make a point to stop by the Scentastics booth. I’ve been a longtime fan of their all-natural soaps and body oils- which are total lifesavers in the winter since they cleanse and condition my skin- leaving it soft, smooth, and lightly fragranced. I stocked up on five soaps this year for the upcoming colder months (after I run out of my pumpkin-scented body washes,) all of which smell heavenly. The company, based out of Vermont- has a wide array of other products available on their website, too- such as air fresheners, chap sticks, hand/body creams, candles, etc- but if you have sensitive skin- they are definitely worth checking out!

SeafoodFestHaul20143

SeafoodFestHaul20144

Although I saw quite a few dresses and tops I was tempted to buy, I kept my purchases to a minimum this year- opting to budget instead of splurge. Apart from the soap, the only other things I picked up on the boardwalk are the two necklaces pictured above- one, a cross to add to my growing collection- and the other, a cow skull, which caught my eye and piqued my interest (I love unusual jewelry!)

Crowds and parking aside, I did have a nice time at the festival this year. I’m sure I’ll be heading back next September for the 2015 one, too.

A Sample of Summer…

Leave a comment Standard

AbandonedHouseMay141

AbandonedHouseMay142

AbandonedHouseMay143

AbandonedHouseMay144

AbandonedHouseMay145

AbandonedHouseMay146

It’s been chilly and rainy outside for most of today, so to keep myself occupied (as well as warm and dry,) I’ve been going through some of my photos from this past Memorial Day weekend. The photos above were taken off of a sleepy, winding road in Rhode Island on Saturday. The house, which had caught my eye early last year when I drove by it after photographing another abandoned location- has been left to be claimed by the elements and the plants growing around and into it. The small barn/garage next to it, which had been standing the last time I’d seen it- has since buckled and somewhat caved in- presumably under the weight of all that snow we had this past Winter.

What I hadn’t noticed my last time in the area, however- was the old, abandoned bus-like vehicle tucked away in the woods across from the house- hidden behind some tall grass and trees. That was a pleasant surprise.

MemorialDay20141

MemorialDay20142

MemorialDay20143

MemorialDay20144

MemorialDay20145

MemorialDay20146

MemorialDay20147

On Memorial Day, I layered my most patriotic (and adorable) crop-top and headed up to Hampton Beach to kick off the 2014 Summer season with an afternoon by the sea. The actual boardwalk was a mob scene, with bumper to bumper traffic and pedestrians everywhere- so I headed North along the coast and found a nice little spot a few miles away where I could park my car, climb over the rocks, and have a peaceful and spectacular view of the water.

I know it feels like Spring only just got here not that long ago, but I’m already excited for Summer. I’m a total beach bunny at heart- and this past weekend was enough of a tease for me to want to go back and just dive right into the ocean instead of sitting on the rocks above it!

Escape to the Coast.

Leave a comment Standard

FebruaryInHampton20141

FebruaryInHampton20142

FebruaryInHampton20143

FebruaryInHampton20144

FebruaryInHampton20145

FebruaryInHampton20146

FebruaryInHampton20147

Good afternoon! I’m home from work early today as a result of- you guessed it- another snowstorm passing through the area and making a mess of the roads. I’m waiting for this latest assault on Massachusetts to pass over, or die down just a little bit, before I head back outside to attempt to shovel what’s been accumulating since mid-morning.

Yesterday, in another bout of cabin fever, I headed up to Hampton, New Hampshire for the afternoon. I anticipated it being a lot colder since ocean + heading North and all- but I’d always been under the impression that the coast never got hit with quite as much snow as those of us inland did (I’m pretty sure I heard someone say that to me once a while back and it just stuck with me as one of those “yeah, that sounds legitimate enough” kind of facts.)

Unfortunately, my attempt to escape the mounds and mounds of snow didn’t work. Hampton was a slushy, icy mess. I usually love walking around the boardwalk in the off-season since the place resembles a post-apocalyptic ghost town and it’s eerily peaceful, but it was difficult to relax since I was so pre-occupied with watching my footing on the frozen over areas outside the closed up shops and arcades.

Above are some of the photos I managed to snap before it got too cold for me to be outdoors any longer, and I sought refuge back in my car with my hot coffee and the heat cranked up as high as it would go.

xx

“So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”

Leave a comment Standard

GreatGatsbyLawnParty1

GreatGatsbyLawnParty2

GreatGatsbyLawnParty3

GreatGatsbyLawnParty4

GreatGatsbyLawnParty5

GreatGatsbyLawnParty6

GreatGatsbyLawnParty7

GreatGatsbyLawnParty8

GreatGatsbyLawnParty9

GreatGatsbyLawnParty10

GreatGatsbyLawnParty11

GreatGatsbyLawnParty12

GreatGatsbyLawnParty13

GreatGatsbyLawnParty14

GreatGatsbyLawnParty15

GreatGatsbyLawnParty16

GreatGatsbyLawnParty17

By all accounts from friends and colleagues who were there, San Diego Comic-Con was outstanding this year, and although my current workload at my job prevented me from attending the festivities this time around, I’ve really enjoyed seeing everyone’s live-updates, photos, videos, and blog posts over the course of the weekend. I may have only been there in spirit this year, but next year I’ll be there- in body AND soul- to geek out with my fellow nerdy brethren!

That’s not to say my weekend was a total loss. I had mentioned in yesterday’s quickie recipe post that I was updating while taking a break from preparing to go to a themed lawn party at Castle Hill in Ipswich, and what a party it was! The Crane Estate threw a 1920s/”Great Gatsby” themed fundraiser at their gorgeous, sprawling property, complete with an area designated for croquet and horseshoe games, Charleston lessons, live jazz bands, a costume contest, vintage vendor booths, a winery tent, and a cafe (that had the most delicious cornbread I’ve ever tasted in my life). I attended with Sean, and most of the afternoon was spent walking the grounds marveling at the scenery and everyone’s beautiful outfits.

I couldn’t find a decent flapper-style dress before the event, and opted for a fitted navy & white polka dotted Betsey Johnson number I picked up a few weeks ago (which, unfortunately, is a size or two too big on me and needs to be taken in just a little bit to fit properly) with some comfortable white, jeweled sandals and a pop of bright red lipstick.

Sean ended up winning a raffle near the end of the night for two tickets to a tour of the estate, including the interior of the mansion. We’re already plotting a day to head up and check it out.

MeAndSamReunited1

MeAndSamReunited2

On Saturday, one of my dearest longtime friends, Sam, came home from her new residence across the country in Portland, Oregon, for a visit for the first time in a year. I spent the day with her and her family in New Hampshire catching up before we hopped in my car and hit the coast for a nice long drive alongside the beach. For the better part of ten years, Sam has been my partner in crime and my confidant- and it was so good to have her back- even it was just for a day. I love her and I’ve missed her so much. I really have to try to head out to Portland before the end of the year to spend a weekend or something with her.

xx

Queen of the Mountain.

Leave a comment Standard

WhiteMountains1

WhiteMountains2

WhiteMountains3

WhiteMountains4

WhiteMountains5

Sean approached me a few weeks ago and asked if I’d be interested in making a trip to the White Mountains in New Hampshire with him and his boyfriend, Paulo, for a day. The only thing he’d planned was a scenic train ride/lunch in the afternoon, but the rest of the day was entirely up to us. I haven’t been to the White Mountains since I was a kid, and so I jumped at the chance to get some fresh air and take in the scenery. It’s been a long time since I’ve been up that way, and I’d all but forgotten that it’s almost intimidating how breathtaking it is there. Every direction you look, for miles and miles, is like something out of a painting or a postcard. I spent most of the drive just staring out my window with my jaw dropped in awe.

We headed out early yesterday morning to get to North Conway in time to catch our train, and although the ride wasn’t as scenic as I had thought it would be, the food was decent and it was still a nice way to pass an hour. I love train rides.

WhiteMountains6

WhiteMountains7

WhiteMountains8

After we arrived back at the station, the three of us decided to keep heading North. While we drove around the curved and winding roads through the valleys- passing hiking trails, cabins, and campgrounds- we saw a group of cars parked by a river, and decided to check it out.

WhiteMountains9

WhiteMountains10

WhiteMountains11

WhiteMountains12

WhiteMountains13

I think our stop at the river may have been my favorite part of the day. It was so hot outside yesterday, but the water was so clean, clear, and cold. There were a few other people there swimming around the quieter areas or riding inflatable tubes through the faster moving water, and we ended up spending a couple of hours there just relaxing on the rocks and going for the occasional refreshing wade (or in Sean’s case, a full-blown swim) in the water.

When we eventually left the river, we once again headed North, towards Mount Washington. We were looking for someplace to grab a coffee and a snack, since we were starting to get a little tired and needed an energy boost, but instead, we found a stream, and proceeded to muster up the strength to scale the side of one of the mountains to get to the waterfall where it was coming from. I had worn a flowy tulle skirt and some flats for the day, (as I hadn’t been expecting to participate in any sort of hiking or rock-climbing), which made getting up to the top of the rocky incline more than a little difficult, but it was worth it for the view alone- even if my shoes got soaked in the process.

WhiteMountains14

WhiteMountains15

WhiteMountains16

WhiteMountains17

WhiteMountains18

We had wanted to keep pushing North, to see how far we could get and what else we could find, but we were losing the daylight and hadn’t exactly come equipped with food, water, fresh clothes, bug spray (I’ve got a couple of mosquito bites that are driving me nuts at the moment)- or even a tent to camp out in, and we reluctantly decided to head back towards Boston.

Overall, it was a really good day. On the ride up, I saw a lot of abandoned buildings I want to go back to and photograph, especially with the natural, picturesque backdrop the mountains and valleys provide, and I’d love more than anything to go for another hike or another swim (with the proper attire, of course) before the Summer is over.

WhiteMountains19

xx