Day Off Date!

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ConeyIslandJuly20161

Although I travel to NYC fairly often, and have seen nearly all of the more popular landmarks or attractions (and some of the city’s best well-kept secrets) more than once- there are still a couple of areas I’ve never been to despite barely needing to check my phone’s GPS for directions anymore.

Coney Island is one of those places.

When it comes to Summertime beach-side attractions- all I really need is a boardwalk, some funnel cake, and maybe a couple of old, rickety amusement park rides and I will be perfectly and completely content (which is why I adore Old Orchard Beach so much) so I’m actually a bit surprised I’d put off checking out Coney Island until this past Tuesday- where Sean and I, already planning on going to NYC for the day, anyway- headed all the way down on the D train on a whim.

The original plan was to head into the city specifically to try and grab one of the INSANE milkshakes at Black Tap Craft Burgers & Beer in SoHo (seriously- just Google them and be amazed/horrified/fascinated)– since the weather heading into Manhattan was on the cloudier, rainier side- but once our train into Grand Central started rolling, the sky cleared up and the sun came out. Sean and I decided to embrace the change in the forecast by enjoying some time outdoors while we traveled- and the idea of checking out Coney Island once and for all popped into my head.

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My end game at Coney Island was to ride the Cyclone coaster. It’s been on my bucket list for a while now, although I didn’t think I’d really get around to doing it anytime soon until I was actually buying a ticket and waiting in a brief line to hop in- quoting ‘Captain America’ to Sean the entire time:

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And while neither one of us threw up- I think I may have bruised a rib coming around one of the bends. That thing hauls ass. It has way more kick than I originally gave it credit for- but it was fun! I’m glad I finally got to do it. The older roller coasters will always and forever be the best.

After a spin on the ferris wheel (with a really beautiful view from the top of the city skyline and the ocean)– Sean and I strolled the boardwalk and browsed some gift shops, arcades and food stands before we decided to head back towards Manhattan for dinner and to catch a train home at a reasonable hour since we both had to return to work bright and early on Wednesday morning.

Although we had gotten back into SoHo in what I thought was record time- the line outside Black Tap had already wrapped around the block. Famished at this point, Sean and I ended up popping by GATSBY’s for a pub style dinner that was really good and made the trek back to our train a little easier since I wasn’t stopping every few feet to whine about needing food (and their sweet potato fries are awesome!)

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Although I left NYC without a $15 milkshake smothered in cookies and/or M&Ms- I had a really good day and it was worth being a little groggy at work on Wednesday. It was the perfect way to wrap up my Fourth of July weekend (I even saw fireworks from my window on the train during my ride back home!) and I would absolutely love to go to Coney Island again someday- maybe just to ride the Cyclone until I throw up.

Thanks for another great adventure, NYC!

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xx

Day Off Date!

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BrattleboroMay20161

It’s funny how plans can change in a matter of minutes, or in my case- a matter of hours when driving in a completely different direction.

This past Tuesday, I had every intention of heading to NYC for the afternoon to check out an exhibit and grab an early dinner at one of the many restaurants I’ve bookmarked in recent weeks specifically for my next day trip to the area. I had gotten up early in the morning, showered, packed up my camera, and ate a decent breakfast before hopping in my car and hitting the road-

– where I ended up in Brattleboro, Vermont- instead.

I’m not exactly sure what happened. As I started to drive, winding around the back roads to avoid traffic while en route to my local Starbucks to grab a latte- I started thinking: about work, my plans for the coming days/weeks/months, my friends and family, my finances, the guy I’ve been seeing- pretty much everything- and it got LOUD inside my head while I was thinking.

I mean really loud- like I couldn’t even focus on singing along to the music I was thumping through my car speakers.

I realized that maybe NYC- one of the loudest places ever- may not have been a good option for me and I decided to head to quieter territory up North, instead- continuing driving on the back roads all the way up to Vermont- passing plenty of forests, farms, fields and roadside fruit stands on my way.

I eventually stopped in Brattleboro to stretch my legs, stroll the Main Street area where I perused a few shops and grabbed lunch at BrattleBurger– where I think I may have had one of the best bacon cheeseburgers in my life.

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It was so good (and so was the strawberry lemonade!) that I’m debating putting together a list of my top ten favorite New England burger joints in the next few weeks just to celebrate the place and some of the other spots around the area where I go when I’m craving medium-cooked deliciousness on a bun.

By the time I was ready to head out of town and back towards home, it had started lightly raining in Brattleboro- and the storm followed me all the way to the state lines. Thankfully, I felt rested and rejuvenated by the time I got back to my place. My thoughts didn’t seem or sound so loud anymore- and I think taking such a nice, long drive and spending some time in a quiet, serene area was just what I needed.

Next week, though- I’m hoping to finally get to NYC! Loud or not!

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xx

April Hits List!

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This post is a couple of days late, having just missed the end-of-April deadline I’d set- but I’m not being too harsh on myself considering how busy I was last month. Having the best intentions when it comes to a regular posting schedule is all well and good- but juggling that with the other day-to-day tasks in life, love and leisure can be a bit challenging at times. My hats off to Vloggers who continually create, produce and publish content on a schedule without fail. I don’t know how you all do it without visibly stressing out or losing your composure- but more power to you!

April’s ‘Hits List’ might appear small at first glance- but a lot of these items have helped me tremendously during my past few weekends when traveling out of state- and some of them are just plain old silly fun I’ve been enjoying since the beginning of last month.

Like I’ve done with past installments of this monthly series- I thought I’d start by sharing the items/products that are easier to be displayed and photographed- before I go into things like music, movies, games and television.

Let’s see what made the list last month!

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Carrying over my Springtime/Summertime coconut-scented-everything obsession from body washes, lotions, and candles into my hair styling regimen, these two products- both from OGX– have made my “apply and go” morning hair care routine even more easy and beneficial to my curls these past few weeks. After washing/conditioning my hair and scalp in the shower, I work a few pumps of the clear COCONUT MILK SERUM through my still damp hair to tame frizz and keep my curls glossy and hydrated from root to tip.

After that, I work through the COCONUT CURLS MOUSSE through my hair- again, from root to tip- before letting it air dry. This product defines my curls without making them crunchy or overloaded with sticky product build-up. And of course, both products smell incredible and don’t cause any kind of fading or discoloration to the red dye/highlights I have.

My hair has been looking and feeling on point since I started using both of these products at the beginning of April- effortless but still well put together. I don’t plan on switching up anything in my routine anytime soon- which should make Summer an easy time for styling!

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I am a shameless caffeine addict. I can barely function without my morning latte and the smell of coffee instantaneously puts me in a more relaxed mood- so it seems only fitting that I would turn to my one and only life source by slathering it all over my face/neck/shoulders to combat clogged pores and dryness, right? I have been absolutely LOVING this ‘Cup O’Coffee’ mask/scrub from LUSH lately- and this is a must-have for any other coffee lovers, too!

I typically use this mask 2-3 times a week- mostly in the morning since the scent gives me a nice boost of energy- leaving it on my skin for a good twenty minutes before I gradually rinse/scrub my face by adding warm water. After I pat my skin dry, my face feels smooth and considerably softer- not tight or dried out.

I’m actually running a little low on this product, so I have a feeling I’ll be replenishing within the next week or so.

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When I was in Virginia at the beginning of April, and spending a couple of days in Alexandria- I was quite surprised by how few souvenirs there were to commemorate the little town- especially now that ‘The Walking Dead’ has made the area even more popular. Every gift shop or gas station I stopped by was filled wall-to-wall with Washington D.C. memorabilia- but nothing for Alexandria. No t-shirts. No postcards. Nothing. Nada.

That’s why I was so happy when I spotted this mug on the top of a shelf that was otherwise lined with cheap aluminum replicas of the neighboring National Memorials. I was quick to snatch it up, elated I’d finally found something to mark my brief but wonderful stay- and I’ve been using it to sip my evening tea before bed.

… And maybe also pretending I’m Rick Grimes while I do it- but that’s another story for another day.

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Is there anybody in this world (apart from Robert Downey Jr.) who is more excited about this week’s release of ‘Captain America: Civil War’ than I am? It feels like I’ve been waiting ages for this movie- and all the promotions, appearances, and advertisements have all but turned the days leading up to it finally arriving in theaters into a week-long event in itself. Of course I’ll be there on opening night- popcorn in hand and probably sporting my favorite Winter Soldier hoodie to celebrate!

Knowing how pumped up I am to see the flick, my friends have been picking up assorted odds and ends for me as presents- the most recent being these two FUNKO figurines of Cap and Black Widow to add to my collection. I’ll never get over how cute these things are- although I’m starting to run out of places to display them!

I have a feeling these two will find a home on my desk at work.

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I’m actually surprised I haven’t mentioned Veet up until now considering it’s been a Spring/Summer staple-slash-lifesaver of mine since my Junior year of high school (yes, really.) I use this gel cream hair remover once a week or every couple of weeks in-between touch-up shaving and it keeps my legs (and arms, depending on how fuzzy they’re looking) smooth and stubble free for DAYS with no irritation and no dryness. I swear by this stuff.

I’ve heard complaints from people who have tried NAIR, another similar brand, and stated they were burned or the product just flat-out didn’t work for them- and honestly I’ve experienced similar issues when I’ve used NAIR- but I’ve never had an issue with Veet. As long as you follow the instructions, don’t leave it on for too long, and make sure to exfoliate and apply some lotion after use- this will be your new best friend in the warmer months. I promise you.

And yes, for curious minds- they have other formulas, too- for face, the bikini area, etc. Just make sure to read the directions before use and you should be just fine and silky smooth in no time!

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And finally, since Prince’s passing- I’ve been re-visiting my vinyl collection as I own a couple of his albums through years of thrifting with friends- and seeing some of what I’ve accumulated over time has been a tremendous amount of fun in recent days. My favorite so far, I have to say, is a copy of Michael Jackson’s ‘Thriller’ I bought for about $3 circa 2006/2007 at a Salvation Army near my hometown. Inside the album, I found a series of magazine clippings from the 80s and fan drawings by a girl named Pam (dated 1983) who I can only assume is the previous owner of the record.

Once I’m done re-organizing my collection (and playing ‘Purple Rain’ some more)– I think I’m going to try to track Pam down to return her drawings to her. They’re quite nice!

– MUSIC/MOVIES/TELEVISION –

  • ‘Preacher’ – I should really consider buying stock in AMC these days considering how much they own my Sunday nights. ‘Preacher’, set to debut on May 22nd- stars one of my many man-crushes, Dominic Cooper- and is based on the comic of the same name. The previews look awesome, a little creepy, intense and pretty funny- so I’m really excited to sit down and start watching this one once ‘Fear The Walking Dead’ winds down (I won’t be doing a recap of the season, FYI.)

– TECH/APPS/GAMES –

  • Grand Theft Auto – An oldie but a goodie. My friends and I had taken an indefinite hiatus from blowing each other up and running each other over instead of successfully completing missions in GTAV- using our video gaming time to play scarier and more story-driven games in recent months- but April saw us returning to the land of Los Santos to partake in crime sprees and mass destruction once again. If only the world could hear the laughter coming from our microphones late at night when it’s a free-for-all in the streets and we’re hijacking planes, trains and automobiles.
  • eRewards – This is another website I’ve been affiliated with for quite some time now, but am just getting around to mentioning now. eRewards is a survey site, plain and simple- no strings attached. The company will e-mail you a couple of surveys every few days that range anywhere from five minutes to a half hour to complete- and every survey that is completed/partially completed adds a dollar amount credit to your account. After you’ve accrued some money, you can trade it in for gift cards, restaurant vouchers, frequent flyer miles, etc. I’ve been doing it for a few years and I’ve already gotten plenty of Starbucks gift cards, points towards my airline and hotel chain of choice, Macy’s and American Eagle vouchers, etc.

Best of all? It’s completely free to join and there’s NO spam e-mails. Just the surveys!

I think that’s pretty much it for my April hits. I’ve already started compiling my list for May- which I intend on sharing (on time!) in a few more weeks.

And as always- feel free to share your favorites from last month, too!

xx

April 2016: In a Nutshell.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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xx

State of the Union

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The last time I was in Virginia, and stopped by Washington D.C.- I was on a week-long vacation with my parents during a break in my Summer college classes. We had driven down, which felt like it took 15 hours (when in reality it had only taken a little over six) and stayed at a resort that was- no exaggeration- in the middle of the woods in West Virginia. The closest civilization and WiFi connection was at a rest stop approximately several miles away.

As cut-off as we were- I had a great time. I spent my days hiking, lounging by the pool, playing mini-golf, and watching syndicated ‘Criminal Minds’ episodes on the REALLY old TV I had in my room at the resort- which in hindsight- is not an appropriate program to watch when you’re in a VERY rural, wooded area and no one can hear you scream…

… Anyway! Last week I once again made the trip to Virginia- solo this time (and in a very nice rental car because I didn’t want to put the mileage on my poor little KIA. It’s been through enough!) to stay in tiny- but very pretty- Alexandria. The trip wasn’t solely to enjoy a nice long drive or satisfy my ‘Walking Dead’ fanatic side, of course- but to attend a wedding with my BFF from San Diego, Duncan! His long-time friend Linda, who lives in the Alexandria area- was getting hitched to her now-husband, Arash- and Duncan was flying in for the ceremony.

On Friday, after a few traffic jams (thanks, New Jersey Turnpike)– I arrived in Alexandria just a couple of hours after Duncan’s flight had landed and he had gotten situated. My accommodations were MUCH different than my last stay in Virginia, by the way. I stayed at the Westin Alexandria, where the view was a little less woodsy and a little more populated- and I didn’t have to drive twenty minutes to find places to eat, shop, or check my e-mails.

The view from my hotel room. The Westin, Alexandria.

The view from my hotel room. The Westin, Alexandria.

No sooner had I checked into my room and dropped off my bag when I had to turn right back around and hurry over to Shamshiry in nearby Vienna to meet up with Duncan and introduce myself to the then soon-to-be-newlyweds for the first time at their rehearsal dinner. Arash is from what I quickly discovered is a very big and VERY fun Persian family- so Shamshiry seemed like the ideal place to get everyone together pre-nuptials to eat and toast the couple. I was so happy to see Duncan again (it’s been months) and meet some of he and Linda’s friends.

Also? I’ve never tried Persian food/dishes before- and it was really, really good!

While Friday night had been sunny but cool outside- Saturday morning was a snowy, sleeting, mess. I had opened the curtains to my hotel room, saw what was going on outside- and pretty much just closed them back up immediately and tried to forget about what was happening. THANKFULLY, the snow gradually turned to rain, and then the rain gradually turned into sunshine- and even though it was pretty cold outside for the remainder of the day- the conditions were much better for Linda and Arash’s wedding in the afternoon.

The ceremony was beautiful. I loved Linda’s dress (and the bridesmaids all looked stunning in their matching deep red colors!)  and by the time the actual ceremony had finished- we still had enough time to get over and get approved by security for the reception at Fort Belvoir. Up until now, I’d never been on an actual military base- and I wasn’t sure what to expect- but WOW that place was huge. I didn’t realize bases were pretty much isolated towns- but there was a gas station, a pizza place, a hospital, schools- and a Starbucks (granted, it was closed, but still.)

Reception Hall

Reception Hall

The only thing Fort Belvoir didn’t have was power. The electricity around a section of the base had been unexpectedly cut out by a fallen tree- and part of that section included the Officers Hall where Linda and Arash’s reception was going to take place. Despite a potential disaster- spirits remained high. The Officers Hall was gorgeous, and I think everyone was too busy admiring the scenery (and enjoying the open bar) to really notice that the lights were out. When it started to get darker and darker in the room- and candles seemed to be in high demand- the lights magically turned back on. Just in time.

Duncan and I agreed the snow/sleet and then the power outage would be a memorable (and admittedly pretty funny) story for Linda and Arash to tell years and years from now when talking about their special day.

With the lights back on and the DJs able to play some music- it didn’t take long for the party to kick off. I had SO. MUCH. FUN. dancing with Duncan, his friends, the bridesmaids, and even some of Linda and Arash’s family. The speeches from the best man, the Maid of Honor, and the proud fathers of the bride and groom were really emotional and moving- and even though I didn’t participate in the bouquet toss- I thought one of the little girls walking away with the flowers was a really sweet touch.

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I absolutely love this beautiful glass wine stopper that was wrapped at my seat at the reception. So lovely!

I absolutely love this beautiful glass wine stopper that was wrapped at my seat at the reception. So lovely!

Duncan and I stayed late into the night, but we had a few things to do the following day- and we had to bid farewell to everyone so we could head off base and back into town.

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I was scheduled to drive home on Sunday afternoon, but Duncan and I had wanted to grab brunch with a friend of his who was also in town for the weekend and do a little sight-seeing, first. It’s not every day we get to spend time together- or time in D.C. for that matter- so we wanted to make the most of it.

Although the initial brunch plans fell through- we had managed to grab some great lattes at Bourbon Coffee before we went for a long stroll around the Washington Monument, the National Mall and Reflecting Pool, and The White House. The weather was considerably better throughout the afternoon than it had been in the previous days and when it came time for me to say a tearful goodbye to Duncan and head back to my car- I had left my coat in the backseat and cracked the windows down throughout my eight hour drive home.

Overall I had an INCREDIBLE time. I can’t thank Duncan enough for inviting me to be his guest and being such a gentleman throughout our weekend together (he has perfect manners!)– and I also have to thank Linda and Arash for including me in their most magical of days. Should you two ever see this post- I wish you both nothing but the best as you start this new chapter of your lives together. You’re a beautiful and inspiring couple!

I really do love Virginia and D.C.- and I’d like to go back sooner than later and for a longer stay next time!

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xx

New Year in Nantucket.

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Good morning and Happy New Year, everyone! Although we’re only a couple of short days into 2016- I’m already having such a tremendous amount of fun. Last night was spent in the company of some of my closest and dearest friends at a delicious dinner in Rhode Island for our annual (but very belated!) Friendsgiving/Friends-Mas/Few-Beers-Eve party. It’s not often we can conveniently gather eighteen people in a room to have a sit-down meal together- but we pulled it off and I’m so glad we did! It was a wonderful way to wind down after a hectic holiday season.

Today I’m heading into work to kick off what is sure to be a busy and productive month at my job, but I wanted to share some photos from this past New Year’s Eve- where my best friend Sean and I traveled to Nantucket to ring in the New Year in dazzling style!

After nearly missing our 5 p.m. ferry (gotta’ love I-93 traffic jams)– Sean and I set sail on Thursday evening from Hyannis to the shores of Nantucket- and specifically- The Nantucket Hotel, where we had tickets to the resort’s ‘A Night to Remember’ ball to welcome the new year and an overnight reservation to stay in one of the hotel’s beautiful and spacious rooms.

From the moment Sean and I entered the hotel for the first time (a quick walk from the docks) the staff at the Nantucket Hotel were so friendly, accommodating, and fun. Everyone was in such high spirits and it was impossible not to smile and laugh right along with them.

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The room itself- located in a separate wing away from the rest of the hotel- was perfect for Sean and I. It was quiet, cute, and had a big modern bathroom that the two of us didn’t have to fight over. The rubber ducky by the sink- and the handwritten card (with a little box of chocolate covered raisins!) that was waiting for us on one of the dressers was a nice touch, too.

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I had been under the impression that the ball Sean and I were scheduled to attend following what would prove to be one of the most incredibly delicious dinners I’ve ever eaten in my almost thirty years on this Earth (I’m still craving the butternut bisque. I couldn’t get over it. I almost licked my bowl- that’s how good it was!)– was an early 1900’s themed gala. As it turned out- the evening was inspired by ‘Titanic’. From the White Star Line menu (and the little “Heart of the Ocean” necklace chocolates that were placed on our plates!) to the ballroom-turned-first class promenade deck, or the staff dressed to the nines in their best crew member and ship officer ensembles- to the actual movie ‘Titanic’ being projected on one of the exterior sides of the building- I was stunned and floored in the best way possible at how much effort and detail was put into every conceivable aspect of the evening. It was awe-inspiring.

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And despite the mix-up with the night’s theme- Sean and I were thankfully still dressed quite dapper for the occasion, if I do say so myself! Special shout-out and thank you to Troy who surprised me by gifting me with the vintage cigarette holder I held onto all night. He saw it in an antique shop and thought it would go perfect with my outfit. I love it.

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The ball was filled with folks in the most incredible costumes I’ve ever seen (I especially loved the guy who was walking around with a ‘RMS Titanic’ life preserver on), and the very talented and energetic live band that entertained us all with big band classics and modern favorites did not stop to rest until their final song shortly after 1 a.m. when the event was coming to a close. I danced, drank champagne, ate one-too-many macarons from the dessert buffet, hammed it up in the photo booth set up in one corner of the ballroom and swooned over Jack and Rose’s tragic romance as it graced screens all over the room until the final seconds of 2015 counted down- and into the confetti-covered wee morning hours of January 1st, 2016. (No, they didn’t flood the ballroom at the stroke of midnight to keep up with the theme of the evening.)

Would I do it again? Absolutely. I had the time of my life.

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Sean and I, wanting to get a head start on our New Year’s Day- went to bed shortly after the event ended so that we could get up early enough to enjoy breakfast in the resort (which was also really, really good) and do a little exploring around Nantucket before we had to catch our ferry back to the mainland. Of course, with the area being a mostly Summer-friendly travel destination and the day being a holiday for most people- many businesses and restaurants were closed for the day/season. After stopping by the Brant Point lighthouse to take some photos and the docks for a brisk (and windy!) stroll- we were able to hang our hats and warm up with lattes at the Handlebar Cafe for a little while until we once again headed out to do some exploring.

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After walking down a bike path that I hadn’t spotted during my last visit to Nantucket, Sean and I came across the above-pictured Quaker burial ground just as it was starting to lightly snow/drizzle on the island. Loving historical finds like this, I took a couple of photos of the moss-covered markers alongside the worn down fence before the two of us headed back downtown to charge our phones and grab an early dinner at The Bean (awesome sandwiches!) until we made our way over to the Steamship Authority to catch our ferry and head home.

I’m sometimes superstitious, and I remember hearing somewhere along the way that the manner in which you ring in the New Year and how you spend the first day of the year in terms of your attitude and ambitions is supposedly indicative to how the remainder of your year will be. If that is indeed true- then 2016 is looking pretty promising already. I had an absolute blast greeting it, and the first of the year was a relaxing, serene, peaceful and simply beautiful way to kick it off.

I’m so excited to see what else is in store for the comings days, weeks and months!

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xx

Christmas in Nantucket

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Although I am no stranger to Cape Cod, often visiting a couple of times every other Summer and sporadically throughout the “off-season” (see: Fall/Winter months), it’s been a really, really long time since I stepped foot on the island of Nantucket. So long, in fact- that I can’t quite remember when it actually was. I obviously must have been little the last time I ventured out that way- because my return trip there near the end of last week to visit my cousin who is currently residing and studying on the island was like seeing the small, seaside community with fresh, new eyes for the very first time.

The great thing about beach communities around Christmastime is that they are rarely, if ever crowded. You can walk down the streets without bumping into a handful of people (or a ton of tourists) at any direction and the shops, restaurants, and attractions that remain open year-round are usually priced much more fairly as opposed to mid-June or July when rates go up as available space in hotels or places to eat go down.

But the best part about visiting a beach community this time of year- and specifically Nantucket, which is just gorgeous in it’s own right with it’s cobblestone streets and very old and historic homes and neighborhoods- is that you get to marvel at the beautiful holiday decor the locals take the time to set up.

After hopping off the ferry from Hyannis and greeting my cousin on the dock- my day on the island was essentially a non-stop walking tour through Nantucket’s historic downtown shopping district, along the waterfront and surrounding docks (where I got to see firsthand exactly how seagulls hunt for food and dear God- is it brutal and fascinating at the same time!), and beside a festive-looking and fully-functioning lighthouse.

The weather was unusually warm and sunny for most of the day (I didn’t need a jacket over my sweater!) which made my visit even more enjoyable since I wasn’t freezing with every step I took.

We also stopped for a delicious early dinner at the Rose and Crown as the sun began to set and the temperatures gradually began to drop little by little and before I had to catch my ferry back to the mainland. If anyone visiting the area stops by- I highly recommend their grilled cheeses and bacon jam baguette sandwich- which is what I ordered and proceeded to wolf down shamelessly since it was so good. I think I’ll have to attempt to make my own one of these days.

All in all, I had a beautiful day. It was wonderful to see my cousin again and spend a good amount of time with her since her initial move there a couple of months ago- and I have fallen completely in love with Nantucket. I plan on visiting again shortly after the New Year and hopefully spending an extended weekend there to do more exploring (and shopping!)

Below are just a few of my favorite photos I snapped throughout my stay- but they don’t do the island nearly enough justice. It’s such a beautiful, peaceful place- and many of the locals I encountered were unbelievably friendly!

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xx

My Top 3 Ideal Hospitality Items.

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The view from my hotel room- San Diego, CA.

It goes without saying that I love to travel and try to do it as much as I can. When I’m not jet-setting to the West Coast for a sun-soaked getaway beside the Pacific, catching a train to NYC for a weekend in the city that never sleeps, or trekking up North for some peace and tranquility in rural New Hampshire or Vermont- I’m aimlessly driving to new locations around New England where I spend hours exploring new places and snapping plenty of photos.

I’m the type of person who is planning my next trip while on a return flight/train home from my last one. I just want to see anywhere and everywhere I can!

But of course, with extensive traveling comes the often daunting task of selecting a safe and comfortable place for lodging. Fairmont Hotels, who have luxurious locations all over the globe (including right here in Boston), recently asked me to describe my packing necessities when I’m going away for an overnight trip- and the top 3 hospitality items I wish hotels would provide their guests to make their stays more enjoyable and convenient.

Challenge accepted!

When it comes to packing, all the life-saving essentials are kept close and within reach inside my purse: my wallet, my fully charged phone, lip balm (it’s a necessity. Trust me)– hand cream and a bottle of ibuprofen for those unexpected jet lag-induced headaches or muscle pains. Everything else- the more easy-to-replace stuff (should the airline lose my luggage at any point) like clothing, shampoo, makeup and shoes- are stored away neatly in my suitcase to make my trip through airport security a little faster and much lighter on my shoulders. I’m a habitual gate-crasher, meaning that I’m the person you see in the airport frantically trying to put their shoes back on post-TSA pat-down while simultaneously darting towards their gate five minutes before the flight is scheduled to take off- so the less weight I have to carry during that desperate run- the better.

Of course, once the initial departure adrenaline fades and after I’ve finally reached my destination and retrieved my bags- I’m ready to check into my room and crash- hard- before I eventually freshen up and head out to paint whatever town/city I’m staying in bright red.

Over the years I’ve been fortunate enough to stay in consistently nicer and clean hotels with friendly and accommodating staff (I’ve stayed in some super sketchy dives, too- trust me- but we don’t need to talk about those right now. Or ever. At all.) Some places have exceeded my expectations by adding little and unexpected things/perks to their rooms that have made such a huge difference in my stay- and after careful consideration- I’d like to see more of the following three things in hotel rooms I check into in the future:

UNIVERSAL CHARGING PORTS/PADS: I carry a lot of electronics when I travel. My phone, my digital camera for more professional-looking shots, my tablet to check e-mails and work on posts for any deadlines while I’m away, and my iPod (I’m one of maybe 12 people left in the country who still have a fully-functioning original iPod Nano.) As such, I have to keep track of multiple cords and chargers in my bag- which is a hassle for me when packing and is probably concerning to many a TSA agent who have had to screen my luggage prior to departure. Even more of a hassle? Charging everything at once in my hotel room- where electrical outlets are typically scarce to begin with. I’d love for more hotels to include universal charging ports/pads for multiple electronics in each room- which means I could leave most of the tangled cords at home but not have to worry about running out of juice halfway through my trip.

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The M Resort, Las Vegas.

BETTER TOILETRIES: I’ve never- not once- expected to check into my room, go to take a shower, and be greeted by a full-line of LUSH bath products neatly stacked on the counter top next to the sink (a girl can dream)– but I’m always more inclined to stay at hotels that include decent soaps and shower gels by trusted brands instead of drying and overly-perfumed generic brands with the hotel logo crudely imprinted on them. I’m even MORE inclined to stay at hotels that give me a little something extra to help me relax (looking at you, fancy hotel in NYC that left me a bottle of bubble bath to go with their huge tub, a tube of eye cream, and a really cute eye mask to wear while I slept- and I got to take it home with me!)

AN IN-ROOM DINING MENU THAT DOESN’T BREAK THE BANK OR LEAVE ME STARVING: When I travel, I like to go out and explore- which includes but isn’t limited to checking out local bars and restaurants- but sometimes, JUST SOMETIMES- I want to lay in my hotel room and eat a grilled cheese sandwich at 2 a.m. while watching HBO. This typically happens in California when I’m prone to staying out really and ridiculously late at night. However, I also don’t want to spend $18 for that aforementioned grilled cheese sandwich (which is always half of the size of a regular sandwich for some reason.) It’s like being penalized financially for most dining establishments outside my hotel closing at a reasonable time. Not cool, right? Right. I know room service is expensive- but come on- I just want an ice cream sundae without having to be late with my car insurance payment, you know? Give me something filling and affordable for those late night cravings.

Those, for me- are the “Big 3” in hospitality must-haves, apart from the mandatory cleanliness and spaciousness (and a decent view- if I’m feeling unusually picky.)

Do you have any “Big 3” hotel must-haves for when you travel? Does the room temperature have to be just right? Do you need those special blinds on the windows that block out any and all light from the outside world? Is a mint on the pillow a deal-maker? I’d love to hear ’em!

And thanks for letting me share my list, Fairmont Hotels! Now, about that full-line of LUSH bath products in the rooms….

xx

“Sunsets and Neon Lights…”

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It’s always sort of surreal returning from a vacation on the opposite coast- like I’m re-entering the Earth’s atmosphere for the first time in years. My mind is fuzzy and foggy, my body (usually) aches from long plane rides, and it takes me a couple of days to adjust to the time zone and climate change- especially this time of year where I spend more than a few days in Summer-like temperatures and then return home to Boston where it’s particularly chilly.

I digress- I’m back from a near-week-long trip to fabulous Las Vegas and sunny San Diego! I hit the ground running, having jumped right back into work at my office mere hours after my plane touched down- and I fully admit that I’m way, way behind on my e-mails and messages (but plan to catch up today!) Sometimes it’s just really nice- and healthy- to unplug for a while. I can’t even tell you all how many people I saw during my trip that were so immersed in the screens of their phones/tablets that they were oblivious to everything and everyone else around them (including bumping into so many people/things!) and couldn’t really experience the excitement of Vegas or the beauty of Southern California right there in front of them.

And then there were the planes- where people flat-out REFUSED to stop mindlessly scrolling through Facebook and Twitter (much to the aggravation of the poor flight attendants) before and during take-off. On my flight home, a layover from Nashville to Boston- the man sitting to my side was back on Facebook the second the plane touched down- before we’d even come to a full-stop and pulled up to the gate! He was just furiously scrolling like his very existence depended on it!

It was eye-opening, for sure.

And yes- I occasionally updated Instagram and other social media from time to time during my vacation- but I made a point to have face-to-face interactions and dialogue with the people I care about out West, and whom I don’t get to see nearly as often as I’d like. I highly recommend it for those who plan to be traveling soon (or even just sticking around where you live!) Put the phones/tablets away for just a little while. I promise, all those Facebook photos and Tweets will still be there when you get back!

But here I am getting preachy when I don’t mean to. My apologies!

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The view from our breakfast table!

The view from our breakfast table!

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My main reason for visiting Las Vegas was for my beloved friend Kelsey’s wedding to her very lucky (now) husband, Andrew. I haven’t seen Kelsey since the last time I was in town- roughly 4-5 years ago- but it was so great to be back. I had prepared for endless sunshine and heat stroke- but was pleasantly surprised that there were some clouds during my stay- and even some light rain! I think it followed me from New England.

Kelsey’s wedding took place at the M Resort Spa and Casino, which is also where I stayed with my best friend Sean- who arrived in town a few hours after I did (and who thought I wasn’t coming into Vegas until the day after he got there- which led to a very nice surprise in the lobby when he showed up and I was waiting to help him with his luggage.) The property is beautiful, about 15-20 minutes away from the Las Vegas strip but with an incredible view of the towers and casinos in the distance- so you can actually relax at night without being disturbed by loud music or bright, neon flashing lights in your window.

Sean and I spent a lot of time at the resort, mostly eating- because oh my God the food was amazing- and taking turns swimming in the gigantic bathtub in our room- but he had never been to Vegas before, and I insisted we catch a shuttle to the strip the day before the wedding to do a lengthy casino-to-casino tour so that he could drink in all the fun, tourist-y stuff the city had to offer a couple of geeks like us.

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Sean and I got an early start, heading into town (by the Wynn) and working our way down the strip until we got to the Luxor and Mandalay Bay later on that night before we backtracked to the resort to sleep off a full day of walking, running, sight-seeing, shopping, and riding the roller coaster at New York, New York. Sean got to see his very first fountain show at the Bellagio, while I got to ooh-and-aaah at the interesting decor in The Cosmopolitan (my favorite hotel/casino!)

We didn’t have the time- or the energy- to catch any of the shows taking place at any of the casinos, but I made a mental note to come back as soon as possible to see Britney Spears perform at Planet Hollywood and take a peek at the ‘Absinthe’ show at Caesar’s Palace because if you’re going to go to Vegas, you HAVE to see a show- right?

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Since Kelsey’s wedding took place in the evening, and we had more than enough time to get ready- on Friday morning/afternoon, Sean and I once again headed into town so that he could see a couple more locations we didn’t get the chance to hit the day before- namely The Stratosphere and historic Fremont Street. During our brisk walk, we passed more than one drive-through wedding chapel (and sent our friends and loved ones a photo of the exterior of one particular Elvis-themed church asking them if we should take the plunge and get hitched for fun. The responses were golden.) and plenty of gift shops.

Sean, who has been terrified of heights during the entire 19 years I’ve known him- surprised me when he willingly took the elevator up to the top of the Stratosphere to get a bird’s eye view of the strip- and watch people who had WAY more courage than either of us free-fall jump from the top of the building (a new attraction that hadn’t been there the last time I was in town.) Maybe next time I can convince him to try it with me. I admit- it looked like fun.

Fremont Street, which has always felt delightfully dirty and sketchy to me- was a treat, too. I picked up a couple of SUPER tacky gifts for a few folks back home and ate a pretty fantastic street taco while we bobbed and weaved through the crowds under old neon signs and through historic casinos like The Golden Nugget and the Four Queens. By the time mid-afternoon rolled around- we knew we had to hightail it back in order to make ourselves presentable for Kelsey’s special day.

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The wedding itself was beautiful. Kelsey looked absolutely gorgeous (which isn’t hard for her at all since I consider her to be one of the most stunning girls I know!) and the reception was one of the most fun things I’ve ever attended. It was a pleasure seeing some of our mutual friends (Erica! Beth!) and meeting loads of new people between drinking, dancing, and hijacking the adorable photo booth that was set up to commemorate the occasion. I am truly so, so happy for Kelsey and Andrew- and I wish them a lifetime of happiness, love, and good fortune. I can’t thank them enough for including Sean and I in something so wonderful!

On Saturday, following the wedding reception- Sean headed back to Boston while I continued West to stay in San Diego for a couple of low-key and relaxing days off the grid where I did my usual tour de force of my favorite burger and Mexican food restaurants- and had more than one night of late night drinking with my dear friend, Jimmy. It was the perfect way to unwind and prepare myself for the flight home and subsequent return to work and New England life.

I’m hoping the next time I head out to San Diego, it’ll be to move into a new apartment (fingers crossed!)

But now that I am officially back on the East Coast for the time being- it’s time to catch up on those e-mails, review the subscription boxes that arrived at my door in my absence, prepare to select a winner for my Halloween Giveaway, and get ready to watch a few more awful horror movies on Netflix!

‘Til next time!

xx

Seafood Festival: 2015

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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!

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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!

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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.

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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!

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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.)

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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.

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“We’re gonna’ need a bigger boat.”