Weekend Warrior

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The weather here in New England is almost always unpredictable, to say the least- and most weather reports are taken with a grain of salt until we actually see snow/rain/sun/tornadoes for ourselves. I knew well before this past weekend that I wanted to go to the beach, regardless of the conditions- so when the scheduled sun was blocked out by the clouds and occasional showers- I didn’t let it stop me. Myself and a couple of friends headed over to Singing Beach in Manchester-By-The-Sea to lounge around on the near-empty landscape and watch the waves roll in for a couple of hours.

It wasn’t anything like laying on Ocean Beach by the Pacific in San Diego- but it’ll do for now.

Apart from a strong gust of wind every so often, it was a pleasantly warm afternoon. We had a small picnic with the snacks we had packed before eventually making our way to Captain Dusty’s Ice Cream for a couple of cones to bring with us as we headed back into the city.

Singing Beach is quickly starting to become one of my favorite Summer spots- not only because it’s impossibly clean and picturesque- but it’s also a lot easier to navigate to and less crowded than some of the other, more popular beaches in New Hampshire or down by the Cape. I’m tempted to do a write-up of the area, similar to my comparison post about Hampton Beach & Old Orchard Beach back in 2015- to assist those visiting for the first time! There’s truly a lot to see and do around the neighborhood. You just have to know where to look and how far to venture!

With Summer 2017 officially underway (albeit delayed because of the rain throughout Memorial Day Weekend kind of messing things up)– I also saw my first Summer blockbuster yesterday with my friend Stef after a late brunch during a long overdue girl date. We made it a regular women’s celebration and saw an afternoon screening of ‘Wonder Woman’- and wow. It was incredible, you guys. I’m not as big on the DC Universe as I am with Marvel- but it completely blew me away. It was powerful, action-packed, funny, sweet, AND heartbreaking- and I’m honestly just so thrilled with how well it’s doing at the box office because I would LOVE sequels.

I might even go see it again later on this week- that’s how much I enjoyed it from start to finish!

Today I’m all about work and getting things done at the office since it’s shaping up to be a pretty busy week. On Wednesday, I’ll have a really awesome and delicious recipe post to share- and then Friday is the date I’m announcing my big blogging news!

Enjoy your Monday, everyone!

xx

Day Off Date!

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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.

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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.

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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!

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xx

Battle of the Beaches

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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:

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

Backyard BBQ

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Good morning! Although today has some somber undertones (today marks three years since my father passed away,) I’m planning to spend the afternoon- graciously freed up by my boss who gave me the day off- with my mother so that neither one of us has to be alone right now. I know my dad would want us to have fun together today- so we’ll be doing some shopping and going out for dinner in-between what I’m sure will be a few tears and plenty of reminiscing.

This past weekend was purely about having silly fun, however- when a group of friends and I spent Saturday afternoon and well into Sunday morning having a backyard BBQ at the waterfront home of our friend’s boyfriend. We all brought a little something to eat (and boy, did I eat so. much. food.) listened to music, made a big slip & slide out of a huge tarp, some dish soap, and a sprinkler- and lit a campfire as the sun began to set.

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My friend Stef had brought her projector, and using an ironed sheet and some extension cords- she managed to rig up a big screen movie theater for us on the back deck so that we could watch terrible horror movies on Netflix (my specialty!) while roasting marshmallows on the fire and passing the bug spray to one another.

I really hope to have more nights like that in the coming weeks. It’s one of my favorite things about the Summer- just laid-back, inexpensive fun with good friends, good food, and a few drinks.

With July underway and 2015 being more than halfway over, I like to re-visit the resolutions I’ve made for myself for the year and map my progress as I move forward through the Summer. It’s a great way to stay focused and refresh yourself on your goals and aspirations for the year so that you don’t give up!

While I’ve definitely been getting into better shape, am far more organized in most aspects of my life than I was prior to New Years- and have low-key been researching different houses and condos in and around the San Diego area for a potential move- I have yet to complete my Route 66 road trip. I have it mapped out, I have the finances (mostly) planned- it’s just a matter of making the time!

I still have a few months left to do it, so I’m not completely discouraged- but I’ve come up with a couple of backup plans for some long-distance vacation destinations should I have to postpone the great cross-country journey until next Summer or Fall when work isn’t so busy. I’ve been eyeing a week in New Orleans this fall, for example- and although I’d like to save a trip to Hawaii to commemorate my turning 30- my wanderlust is kicking in a little, so I have a feeling I might be checking that out sooner than later!

Overall, though- I’d say I’ve made some really great progress with what I set out to accomplish this year. Now that I’ve reflected and have seen how far I’ve come in just a few short months- I’m ready to continue working towards achieving most- if not all- of my resolutions again.

‘Til next time!

xx

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Summer Nights…

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As much as I love my kitchen and as relaxing as a soak in my bathtub can be, my bedroom is by far the most sacred room in my place- not only because it’s where I rest my head at night- but because it’s where I go when I want/need to think and contemplate, cuddle my dog, listen to music without disturbing my neighbors, or dance like a fool to my favorite songs (also without disturbing my neighbors,) or write, draw, and have a good cry- or just sit still in the quiet for a while and not do anything. My bedroom is where I go to find moments of peace after a long day at work or when I come back from a trip and am acclimating to being home again (and maybe recovering from jet lag, depending on where I went.)

For that reason, I like to occasionally update my room to keep it looking and feeling fresh. It could be something minor, like rearranging my furniture a bit, lighting a few candles, or hanging up a new picture- to something a little more time-consuming- like putting a new coat of paint on the walls or performing a major clean-out of my old clothes, shoes, bags, etc.

I was recently inspired by the good folks over at Parachute to share what do I do to prepare my bedroom- my sacred space- for the Summer months. Since I’m currently in the middle of a full-blown bedroom renovation (complete with picking out paint swatches,) I had a few tips and tricks for those who might be trying to prep their own bedrooms for this time of year!

For those who aren’t familiar with Parachute, they are a bedding company based out of  Venice Beach that specialize in creating premium-quality and exceptionally comfortable bedding at a reasonable price that won’t break your bank. Their sheet sets and pillowcases are simple, yet beautiful- and made with the utmost care and precision before they’re delivered right to you!

Parachute also gives back in an awesome way- partnering with Nothing But Nets. With every Venice bedding set that the company sells, a bed-net is donated to a person in need in Africa to protect them from Malaria-carrying mosquitoes (because everyone deserves a good, peaceful- and safe night’s sleep.) Customers who don’t purchase a Venice set can also make a donation at checkout to Nothing But Nets if they choose. It’s an incredible cause and Parachute has really impressed me in a lot of ways since I was introduced to them- not just with their earnest (and cute- because we’ve all wanted to find and recreate hotel style bedding at one point or another after a great vacation) story of how they came to be or the quality of their products- but with their charitable endeavors, too.

But I digress! In the Summer, when the New England days are hot and the nights can get really humid- I focus a lot on my bedding and keeping my room as uncluttered and “light” as possible in order to stay de-stressed and cool as a cucumber while the temperatures rise. Throughout the warmer months, I’m a minimalist with my decor. My heavy blankets and flannel sheets get put into storage bins until the Fall, and I like to make sure my room looks and feels spacious- and always smells crisp and clean- so that I’m refreshed every night when I go to bed and every morning when I wake up to take on the day and beat the heat.

I have four must-haves when it comes to my Summer bedroom look and feel:

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Clockwise from the left:

– Clean Cotton Sheets: There’s nothing worse than tossing and turning all night and sweating bullets because you’ve forgotten to put away any and all fleece and flannel bedding, Although I do keep a duvet folded up and within reach for those rare but still possible nights when the temperatures in New England drop unexpectedly (usually when in the midst of a tropical storm working it’s way up the coast,) my bedding consists of lightweight cotton sheets and pillowcases which are so comfortable and easy to care for.

I try to keep the colors as basic as I can, too- sticking to white, creams, and light blues- so that the overall look of my room is brighter and more Summery as opposed to the Fall and Winter when I have more forest greens, dark browns, and grays splashed across my bed. (Bedding image via Parachute.)

– A Fresh-Scented Candle: As much as I love my heavier pumpkin spice-scents and dessert-fragranced candles in the colder months- the Spring and Summer is all about fresh citrus, light florals, clean, beachy/ocean scents- and soothing lavender. I love walking into my room and being greeted by crisp notes that make me feel refreshed and invigorated. I typically light candles in my bedroom and let them burn while I’m elsewhere in my place so that the fragrance has a chance to really work it’s way around my room and adjacent hallway- and only blow them out before I leave the building or before I go to bed so that my room always smells good! (Candle image via Parachute.)

– A Small Desk Fan: I need some white noise and total darkness to fall asleep soundly. Leaving a radio or the TV on isn’t an option and those “soothing sounds” recordings aren’t quite enough to help me doze off peacefully- but the whirring of a fan does the trick. Not only is the noise soothing to me (and drowns out the sounds of any birds, insects, or unruly neighbors should I leave my window open at night,) but the air circulation keeps me, my pillowcase, and my sheets cool so that I don’t end up waking up feeling sweaty and gross. (Fan image via Pinterest.)

– Cooling Eye Gel: While not technically considered bedroom decor, I do keep a bottle of cooling eye gel and/or cream on my night table at my bedside during the Summer to dab on under and around my eyes before I go to sleep at night. The gel is cold to the touch and soothing to the delicate eye area, which is refreshing when it’s hot and humid in the evenings. It reduces puffiness and redness (definitely important when the pollen is flying around,) and brightens up my face overnight so that I don’t have to weigh my skin down with a ton of concealer the next morning that’s probably going to melt off in the sun anyway! (Eye Gel image via YesTo)

I also really like that it doesn’t thaw out and leak all over my nice cotton sheets the way some refrigerated eye masks tend to do when left out too long- and it stays in place without staining my pillowcases- unlike those cucumber patches and sticky under-eye peels. I simply tap this on, flip through a book or magazine while lounging in front of my fan while it sinks into my skin, and then get some sleep!

Those are my must-haves when it comes to my bedroom in the Summertime, and have been for years! I’m sure if and when the day ever comes where I’m living in a cozy beach-side bungalow, my routine might change a bit (like substituting the desk fan for the natural sounds of waves crashing against the sand, for example-) but while I’m here in New England- just outside a bustling and hot city- these have worked really well for me!

Do you have any bedroom essentials in the Summer? Any rituals? I’d love to hear them!

xoxo

In Bloom.

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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

“Is It Summer Yet?” Giveaway!

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In some of my recent posts, I had hinted at an upcoming giveaway I was putting together in celebration of the Spring and Summer seasons finally arriving after what was undoubtedly one of the worst winters my neck of the woods has seen in a very, very long time. I wanted the giveaway to be seasonal, fun, and have a more personal touch with reflections of some of the items and essentials I covet in the warmer months. I’ve been carefully curating the contents (say that five times fast,) over the past couple of weeks, and I’m excited to announce that it’s finally time to share what one lucky, randomly selected winner will receive in my Summer-themed giveaway!

The “Is It Summer Yet?” giveaway is pretty self-explanatory- consisting of accessories, cosmetics, a bit of home decor- and a little something for the foodies out there. Each item was selected to help jump start a Summer/beachy frame of mind for the winner and are all products that I also own and use regularly every year after I dig myself out of the snow and welcome the sunshine!

*This giveaway IS NOT limited to United States residents only! Since I will be paying for the shipping and handling out of my own pocket- it’s open to those of you across the pond, below (or above) the border, and anywhere in between, too!*

Here’s what’s included:

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Lush’s Ocean Salt Scrub:

The first step to getting glowing Summer-ready skin is exfoliation, and I turn to this incredible face and body salt scrub from Lush to do just that! A scoop of this bright blue, Margarita-scented scrub is enough to gently buff away dead and dry cells, revitalize the surface of my skin, and leave my face, elbows, knees, etc. super smooth.

Bath & Body Works “Cool Amazon Rain” Body Lotion:

After exfoliating, I turn to lightweight body lotions that quickly absorb as they’re applied to keep my skin soft and hydrated all day and night. I love this newer lotion from Bath & Body Works which has an energizing, citrus, “tropical” smell to it.

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Harney & Sons Fresh Brew Iced Tea Tins in Peach and Raspberry Herbal:

I love iced coffee, especially before I go in for a long day at work- but in the warmer months I find myself taking afternoon iced tea breaks, too. These individually packaged fruit-flavored teas- made specifically to be iced- are especially nice and refreshing.

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Good Housekeeping Juices & Smoothies Recipe Book:

Iced coffees and iced teas aside- Summer is also the season of smoothies and healthy juices (and milkshakes and frozen margaritas on “cheat days” from all that healthy eating.) This hardcover book from Good Housekeeping has really great recipes that cover all ends of the frozen-beverage spectrum and will be sure to come in handy when you’re ready to have a picnic, BBQ, camp-out, beach day- or any other outdoor get-together.

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Maybelline “Baby Lips” Lip Balm:

When it comes to my Summer lip care, I stick to the basics. Hydrating glosses in bright corals and pinks, and sunscreen-packed balms. One of my favorites is this colorless “Baby Lips” balm from Maybelline with SPF 20. It keeps my pout soft and smooth for all-day wear and I don’t have to worry about any color fading since it applies clear. I just throw this in my bag on-the-go for quick touch-ups.

Sephora’s Formula X Nail Polish in “Prism” and “Incandescent” :

I love bright, tropical colors on my nails in the Summertime- and this year I find myself already gravitating towards bright blues, greens, and orange tones. I picked out two of my favorites, “Prism,” a metallic turquoise with a hint of pearl, and “Incandescent,” a bright and solid cantaloupe-tone. Both are from the Formula X line at Sephora, which is long-lasting and isn’t packed with harsh chemicals.

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Bumble and Bumble “The Surf Set”:

Despite having coarse and curly hair, I’ve managed to develop a relatively quick and simple step-by-step process to achieving beautiful and healthy-looking “beachy” waves over the past couple of years- no flat-iron required- thanks in part to Bumble and Bumble’s “Surf” line. In this giveaway, I’ve included three travel-sized bottles of the set: the shampoo, conditioner, and my personal favorite- the salt spray- guaranteed to get your hair looking like you’ve spent a day at the ocean.

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Old Navy Mint-Colored Beach Tote:

To store all your giveaway goods, I’ve included this faux-leather, mint colored beach tote from Old Navy. While I definitely love bold colors and floral prints in the Summer- I thought this lovely pastel was too pretty to pass up and would be suitable to carry along in the Spring, too.

Old Navy Sunglasses with UV Protection:

Rounded sunglasses seem to be a big trend this year (whereas last year was the Summer of cat-eye sunglasses,) so I opted to keep the shades simple for anyone’s tastes with this pair of chic rose-hued and thin wired sunglasses from Old Navy. I own a very similar pair, and I’ve been loving them so far! I feel kind of like Penny Lane in “Almost Famous” whenever I have them on.

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Bath & Body Works 3-Wick Candle in “Island Margarita”:

And finally, since I couldn’t include actual alcohol in this giveaway- I settled for the next best thing- this margarita scented candle from Bath & Body Works. With the lime part of the fragrance being the most distinctive, this is a great, slow-burning candle that will make your entire space smell amazing and tropical.

IMPORTANT STUFF:

The giveaway is running from now through midnight (EST) on Monday, April 13th, 2015, after which time a winner will be selected  at random through Rafflecopter and contacted directly to obtain additional information to process shipping. If selected, you’ll have 72 hours to respond to the confirmation e-mail. If I don’t receive a response in that time, I’ll unfortunately have to select another winner, instead!

Nothing in this giveaway can be traded or swapped for something else. What you see is what you’ll be receiving if you win!

HOW TO ENTER:

Like each of my past giveaways, I’ve set up an official page for this one using Rafflecopter – CLICK HERE to head over to it, review the guidelines, and make sure your entries are properly counted!

There are two ways to enter the giveaway and you can do one or both of them!

1. Comment on this post with your name and e-mail address. Please keep in mind that I have comment moderation turned on to avoid spambots- so if your comment doesn’t appear right away; don’t panic! I’ll put it through as soon as I’m able!

2. You can tweet about the giveaway and link back directly to this post or to my homepage: LegallyRedhead.com

Good luck, everyone- and remember to check the Rafflecopter page to make sure your entries have been counted!

xo

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“If you’re fond of sand dunes and salty air…”

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One thing that I’ve learned over the years is that when it comes to going away for a day/weekend- it’s best not to get dragged down with planning every minor detail of your day(s.) During the work week, I depend on plans. I plan what to eat, I plan what to wear, I plan appointments for clients and I plan what files and what paperwork to focus on for a (pre-planned) amount of time. I have been told by many people- friends, family, and colleagues- that I am both the most organized and most meticulous person they know.

So when it comes to my days off and/or vacations, I like to loosen the grip I have on my schedule and just let the chips fall where they may, so to speak. I tend to make one solid plan- like heading to a specific location, seeing a specific attraction, or visiting a specific shop or restaurant- and let the rest of my day(s) and experiences happen from there. It makes it easier to unwind and enjoy myself.

I consider myself blessed to have a tight-knit circle of friends and acquaintances who share a similar view on plans and weekend getaways, too- so when a group of my girlfriends asked me to come along for a spontaneous day at Cape Cod this past weekend, I didn’t hesitate to accept the invitation- because I knew I’d have an incredible time.

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The one solid plan for this particular adventure was to bring our friend Alyssa to a family function at her parents’ vacation home just outside Hyannis. The drive there, although long, was also insanely fun thanks in part to our playlist and the fact that Alyssa brought a bunch of snacks for those of us who were crammed in the backseat of the car. We arrived late in the afternoon, and once Alyssa reached her family’s house- the four of us that were left hit the town with no real destination in mind.

I haven’t been to Hyannis since I was a kid, and even then- my time there was limited to the hotel where my dance studio was staying for a regional competition. I didn’t see the beach and I certainly didn’t see the cute main street lined with bars, restaurants, museums, and stores. That street is where we ended up first this past weekend, grabbing some really good food at Fresh Ketch and sitting outside to people watch before we did a little shopping and ultimately decided to hit the beach as the sun was setting.

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The sand wasn’t scorching by the time we arrived but the water was so warm. I was glad I had decided to wear a lightweight cotton (and tie-dye!) dress since it made wading into the waves a lot easier. The group of us stayed there for a couple of hours, alternating between going in the water and lounging on a blanket to watch the sunset as well as a few different groups who had also come down to the beach set off the last of their stockpiled Fourth of July fireworks.

When Alyssa eventually called us to come meet her for more fireworks- this time viewed from the roof of a nearby yacht club with her family- we gathered up our things and jumped in the car to go. We managed to catch the tail-end of the show, which was still impressive nonetheless- before we went back to her family’s house for cake and goodbyes and then started the long journey home.

It was such a beautiful, perfect, hassle-free day. The scenery was gorgeous, the company was, of course- fantastic- and almost none of it was planned in advance. We just went with it- and it all worked out in our favor.

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Tales From Old Orchard Beach…

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In the Summer before my junior year of high school, I traveled to Maine with my best friend at the time, Kristi, and her mother and step-father for a week long vacation in Old Orchard Beach. It was the first and only time I’d ever been, and it was one of the most memorable vacations I’d ever gone on. Be it because of OOB’s classically cool, old-fashioned pier and boardwalk where we spent most of our time, their amusement park (which includes some pretty outdated rides that don’t feel all that safe but are still a thrill nonetheless,) or the fact that Kristi and I were both mending our broken teen-aged hearts at the time of our trip (and nothing is more devastating or overly dramatic than a broken teen-aged heart.) Whatever the reason, or maybe a combination of all of them- I always look back on that week, and that entire Summer, fondly.

This past weekend, a little more than twelve years later and with a considerably less broken heart, I decided to head back to Old Orchard Beach for a day. Although Kristi, at home with her son (but very much with me in spirit,) was absent- my best friend Sean came with me to enjoy the slightly modified but still very cool pier, and hop on nearly all of the still rickety carnival rides until we thought we were going to throw up our order of boardwalk french fries.

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OOB also has a pretty big arcade, and much like the Summer of 2002, I spent a good amount of time (and quarters) perfecting my skee-ball skills and re-visiting The Simpsons pinball game- which I hadn’t seen in ages. I used to play it ALL THE TIME at Hampton Beach when I was a kid, and then it just disappeared one Summer, never to be seen again until this past weekend. I was so entranced by playing it that Sean ended up snapping a few photos of me, lost in concentration.

When we ran out of quarters, Sean and I combined our measly ticket total and cashed them in for the grand prize of a plastic top, two erasers, and a bouncy ball which undeniably made us the envy of everyone in the arcade:

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Of course, you can’t end a day at the beach without heading down to the actual ocean and without grabbing some homemade ice cream. As the afternoon was coming to an end, I kicked off my flats and sprinted down to the surf by the pier to attempt to re-create a photo that exists somewhere in the abyss that is my old photo albums, of me, posed with a gigantic grin- with the surf and boardwalk behind me. My hair is a lot more red in this most recent photo, and I’m missing my old glasses and sequin-covered tube top- but my expression of sheer giddiness is still very much present.

After I rinsed the sand off of my feet, it was a quick walk back into town to stuff myself with peanut butter cup ice cream while sitting outside a cute little general store/cafe- and then from there- back to the car to head home to Boston as the sun was setting.

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If you live in the area and/or don’t mind a bit of a drive, then I highly recommend visiting Old Orchard Beach. It’s a lot less crowded than some of the other popular New England beach destinations in the Summer, there’s more to do, the beach is clean, parking is convenient and cheap (everything is surprisingly inexpensive, really,) and there’s a lot of cute motels and inns in the area that are within walking distance to the boardwalk and pier. I fell in love with this place twelve years ago and have been kicking myself for not going back sooner- but I’m sure glad I did this past weekend- and I’d like to go again before the Summer is over.

Top 8 Summer Flicks.

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Although the Summer Solstice isn’t until June 21st, I’m already preparing for the season by getting together all of my essentials: Bronzer? Check. Sea-salt spray? Check. Gold eye shadow? Check. Cute wedge sandals and a big beachy hat? Check and check. I’ve even picked up a bright, lightweight tote to make my hustling and bustling around the hot, humid city a little easier through the most sizzling months of the year.

But apart from my wardrobe changing and my makeup regimen getting switched up- one thing that definitely gets me in the Summertime frame of mind is gathering around with friends in front of the A/C (or strategically placed fans,) with a popsicle or frozen yogurt, and watching a good Summer-y movie. Over the years, I’ve accrued a handful of go-to favorites that never get old that I thought I’d share for anyone who needs a break from getting sunkissed for an hour or two- or for an all-night marathon.

So here are my top eight Summer flicks!

DazedAndConfused1. Dazed and Confused (1993)

“AIR RAID!” Matthew McConaughey just looooves those high school girls, Ben Affleck can’t seem to let go of his (two-time) senior bully status, and Parker Posey initiates (and humiliates) the incoming freshman girls by covering them with ketchup, mustard , eggs, and flour while wearing an impressive pair of tube socks. ‘Dazed and Confused’ is a cult classic with a terrific ensemble cast and an awesome soundtrack as the movie depicts the carefree craziness, the hilarious mischief, the innocent crushes, and the poignant coming of age during of the last day of school in the Summer of 1976.

WetHotAmericanSummer2. Wet Hot American Summer (2001)

Another cult classic with an impressive ensemble cast. ‘Wet Hot American Summer’ is one of the funniest, most insane movies of all time. Featuring the likes of Amy Poehler, Molly Shannon, Janeane Garofalo, Christopher Meloni (as Gene- my favorite character,) Michael Ian Black, and Paul Rudd- among so many others- this movie follows the counselors and campers during the last day at Camp Firewood in the Summer of 1981. There’s a talent show, a gay wedding, fridge-humping, sweater-fondling, an inspiring dance segment- and a piece of a sky-lab falling from space that threatens to destroy them all. Years later, and I laugh from start to finish whenever I watch this.

Grease3. Grease (1978)

Although ‘Grease’ doesn’t just take place during the Summer, and instead follows the tumultuous romance between greaser Danny Zuko and good girl Sandy Olsson (as well as he ups and downs of their friends- Rizzo being my #1 girl!) throughout their senior year of high school in the 1950’s- I only ever watch this movie during the Summer. With a ridiculously catchy, can’t-help-but-sing-a-long soundtrack- this movie’s questionable “change yourself for the person you have a crush on” moral/ending was a tad on the ridiculous side- but it’s still a classic nonetheless- and Jeff Conaway was a babe as Kenickie.

TheTexasChainsawMassacre4. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974 & 2003)

You can’t have a Summer movie marathon without one or two good horror movies- and they don’t get much better than ‘The Texas Chainsaw Massacre’, both the 1974 original and the 2003 re-make (which I’m actually a big fan of,)  that needs no introduction. Five teenagers are traveling through desolate Texas when they encounter an unhinged hitchhiker and make the mistake of picking them up- setting in motion a series of horrifying events that include, but are certainly not limited to torture, murder, cannibalism, and power tools. Even though I’ve watched these movies countless times, I still jump and cringe during certain scenes. The sound of the chainsaw gets me every. single. time.

NowAndThen5. Now and Then (1995)

I have a special place in my heart for “Now and Then,” which I watch every Summer with my mom at least once- and have done so since it’s release when I was a kid. The funny, often touching film follows four girlfriends in their small town during the Summer of 1970 when they are coming of age, dealing with changes in their families (divorces, death, etc.) saving money to purchase a tree house, feuding with neighborhood boys, and attempting to solve a murder mystery after a seance gone awry. The movie often fast-forwards to the four friends as adults in the 90’s, where they have reunited in their old neighborhood for the birth of a child and reminisce about the lessons they learned during that Summer and the mistakes they’ve made since. This movie is a tear-jerker for sure, but I love it.

DirtyDancing6. Dirty Dancing (1987)

With moves that make ‘Grease’s’ Danny Zuko look like an amateur, Patrick Swayze’s portrayal as Johnny Castle was nothing short of swoon-worthy, and his chemistry with Jennifer Grey as Frances “Baby” Houseman make them one of my favorite on-screen couples of all time. ‘Dirty Dancing’  follows Baby and her family during their Summer vacation at a failing resort in the Catskills Mountains in 1963. She meets Johnny, the resort’s seasonal dance instructor, and through unfortunate circumstances surrounding his dancing partner- Baby ends up temporarily taking her place- and the two eventually fall in love despite the disapproval of Baby’s family and the meddling of Johnny’s superiors at the resort. Everything works out in the end, though- with a poignant dance number and Baby nailing the lift she’d been too afraid to try earlier in the movie. It’s a beautiful scene that may or may not bring a tear to my eye (it totally does.)

TheSevenYearItch7. The Seven Year Itch (1955)

Hands down one of my favorite and most beloved Marilyn Monroe films, ‘The Seven Year Itch’ has withstood the test of time, still being clever and funny all these years after it’s release. Richard, an ad executive with an overactive imagination, and whose wife and son are vacationing out of town for the Summer, befriends his beautiful new neighbor (played by Monroe.) He develops an innocent attraction to her- never actually leading to anything that would spoil the overall good nature of the film and it’s characters- but his fantasies and paranoia make for some really fun scenes.

LordsOfDogtown8. Lords of Dogtown (2005)

And lastly, a biographical movie with an incredible soundtrack- ‘Lords of Dogtown’ is based on the rise of the Z-Boys, skateboarders who paved the way for extreme sports in the early 1970s in Santa Monica. I saw this in theaters with friends and was not only impressed with the music used throughout the film, but by how beautifully shot this movie was and by the performances from all of the actors- especially the late Heath Ledger’s portrayal of Skip Engblom. Even if you’re not a fan of skateboarding- this is a must-watch.

And there you have it! Eight films that are sure to get you ready for the Summertime. A lot of these titles are currently available on Netflix, should anyone want to watch them right now!

And of course, I am always open to recommendations- so if anyone wants to leave their favorite Summer movies in the comments section- feel free! I’d love to check them out!