Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category

Oh, California

Oh, California. There are so many things that I could say about you. So, so many things.

IMG_68952 weeks in California after being in a small town for the last year is much like being slapped in the face with a large fish. It will boggle your mind for a moment and then confuse the hell out of you. Stop lights? 4 grocery stores in a 2 mile vicinity? Jamba Juice? Starbucks? WHAT IS THIS PLACE!?

IMG_6897I felt super out of place until my dad placed the keys of his large truck in my hand & I had some country music blaring…then it was on like Donkey Kong.

IMG_6976California is such an incredible place to visit. Really. You’d need more than two weeks there to really appreciate it, but I tried my best. Mornings were spent on runs to the beach, sometimes conning my bestie into joining me (Starbucks is the best bribe ever), and afternoons were spent at the beach. What else? We roadtripped to Vegas, tanned, drank more beer than I can even fathom, had girls nights, ate Mexican food, visited a fire station (because I’m 5 years old), admired the local sights & ate our faces off at my parents house. There’s more, but at the risk of damaging my so far pristine reputation (cough, cough), I’ll temporarily forget about it.

10407912_10203050300991977_5796460345515208341_nMiss one eyed Moxie entertained us to no end, especially my 2 year old cousin who is completely enamored with her.

2014-07-21_0002She’s also obsessed with my dad. How adorable are they together!?

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I know I’m completely jumping around here, but there was so much that happened. I turned 25 while I was there (really the actual reason for the trip) & had such an amazing day. It was the first time in 5 years the Fireman hasn’t been with me, but also the first in 5 years that I’ve been with Amy & the rest of my family in California. Win win. We had dinner at the Cliffs in Laguna Beach…literally right on the water. This was the view from dinner. Also, some amazing mojitos & a great live band that entertained us.

10469702_10203050297151881_2409113498966650876_nWe also made the unfortunate mistake of parking about a mile away, on a hill, while all wearing 5 inch heels. Brains do not run in the family, as it turns out.

10410171_10203050301511990_7520663775698132449_nBeing in California for my birthday also meant that I’d be able to participate in my beloved July Fourth shenanigans, including a parade full of Shriners, bands, & hot shirtless guys walking around. Wait, what?

IMG_6997Vegas was…well, Vegas. We spent less than a day there & my, oh my, was it a day. Pool, walking the strip, insane sandwiches at 430 am & delicious vodka tonics.

2014-07-21_0006And dressing like hookers Vegas. Can’t forget that.

IMG_6999And jumping on the beds. Our dad taught us well.

IMG_6995IMG_7011Our uncle overnight us 14 (14!) lobsters, which we tortured the dog with.

2014-07-21_0007But really. Ain’t nobody got time for that.

2014-07-21_0001If you visit my parents, you will receive a large drink within 10 minutes of your arrival. Those few weeks, they were homemade mojitos (literally, I can’t even describe how incredible they were). This man is the master of the mojito. And the lobster. And the ribs. And the macaroni salad.

2014-07-21_0004Also, apparently massive hair runs in the family. Noted.

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These 3 girls were just THE best to let me stay with them for the whole 2 weeks.

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So basically, in summary, California was awesome. Liver pickling, but awesome, nonetheless. Let me rally for a year or so & I’ll be back!

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NYC: World Trade Center

I’ve talked about how 9/11 changed my life here, so I won’t beat a dead horse. I took a trip to NYC a few weeks ago and the World Trade Center memorial was top of my list. Have you ever been? It’s stunning. There are literally no words for it. You’re walking through a maze of skyscrapers and construction, and then, BAM it’s opened up in front of you. The two gaping holes in the earth with the constantly flowing water.

You don’t realize the enormity of it until you approach the walls and see the names engraved in them. The names are grouped by flight, ladder, engine, company…you get the idea. Until I saw the names of the 343 men and women who willingly sacrificed their lives on 9/11, it never really hit me. I ran my fingers over the squads, and tears came to my eyes as I realized that these 343 people right here were why I am who I am. They gave their life so I could live mine. So thank you. Thank you to every single one of you, who went to work on that fateful day expecting to come home to your families at the end of shift.

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Please, please visit this place. It’s such an important piece of history. Have you ever visited it? What did you think?

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Let’s just start off by saying, if you’ve never been to Boston in the spring, you need to experience it. Between the gorgeous blooms and the exuberant air when the Bruins play, it is truly a once a year experience. Last month when I visited, we spent an entire day wandering the North End (also known as Little Italy to those of you who have never been. Seriously, please go. You’ll thank me.)

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There’s just something about those old brick buildings juxtaposed against the modern sky scrapers that makes my heart go pitter patter.

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We started up at Government Center (for those of y’all that are locals, can we talk about the fact that the T stop is going to be under construction for 2 years!?)

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The trees and window boxes were in full bloom and it was 80 degrees; essentially the best kind of day in May. We strolled down the old, winding streets, passing restaurants with lines out the doors, with scents of garlic and basil floating out into the street. Old Italian men sit in front of the cigar shop, soccer games are on full blast in the bars. I remember visiting once after Italy won the World Cup…let’s talk about chaos for a hot minute. It was freaking AWESOME.

2014-05-15_0004After a ridiculously filling lunch at Pizzeria Regina (seriously I’ve talked about it so many times at this point y’all need to go), we walked back out of the North End through the farmers market.

2014-05-15_0006When my BFF lived in Boston, I’d come visit and spend my days walking the city; during farmers market season was my favorite time. All you can hear is the haggling of vendors and the cries of, “lettuce! peaches! apples!” People from every walk of life visit the farmers market and stock up for the week.

2014-05-15_0007Our stroll ended at Faneuil Hall & we headed back to our hotel.

2014-05-15_0009Which was, coincidentally, right across the street from the Boston Public Library. Love that place!

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Boston, you have my heart forever & ever.

2014-05-15_0005Also as a sidenote: I am so lucky to call this girl my friend! So glad you joined our Biology group 10 years ago!!

As far as places to eat in Little Italy (because you know the way to my heart is through my stomach), make sure you go to:

Pizzeria Regina (DUH)
Mike’s Pastry (you’ll wait in line, but their cannolis are out of this world)
Cafe Pompeii (freaking yum)
Ristorante Saraceno (also freaking yum)

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Traveling to Boston

Lately I’ve been feeling rather uninspired. Maybe it’s the weather (not to beat a dead horse or anything – but seriously), or the fact that I’ve been working so much that my days off consist of laundrylaundrylaundry, cooking a decent meal, or remembering to vacuum. Maybe it’s because May is such an in between month; for us it means rain, cold, some warmth, more rain, rinse, repeat, etc.

Regardless, a small trip was in the works for me (ok, it had really been planned for months), and on Friday I headed down to Boston to meet up with my BFF for a friends wedding. For those of you who don’t know, we’re located about 2.5 hours north of B-town, so we’re presented with a few options when traveling there: car, train, or bus. I’m a big fan of driving down (mostly because I heart aggressive drivers [makes me feel like I’m back in California!]), but it’s a huuuuge pain in the butt to find a place for your car; also have you ever seen this infographic?

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Oops, language. But, yeah.

This leaves us with two other options: bus or train. When I’m traveling to Logan, I always take the bus (C&J Trailways is the bombdotcom), since it drops me right at my terminal. I drive down to Dover (45 minutes) and park my car for free in the lot & jump right on. It’s $24 one way to Logan, and $18 one way to South Station in Boston. I literally cannot say enough good things about this company; I’ve never had a problem and we’ve been taking the bus to and from Logan since I was little.

You can also take the Amtrak Downeaster to Boston, but if you’re coming from Dover it will only take you to North Station in Boston; still a great deal at $20 one way. Same idea, drive down and park and jump on the train. They’ve got a cafe car (big fan, the Fireman always gets hungry) & I love just looking out the window as we speed through the fields and backyards. I would have to say that out of all three options, the train is my favorite. When my BFF lived in Boston, I was on it at least once a month going to visit her, and it is really just so easy and fun to take (being on the roads gets boring after the 3rd time).

So there are my favorite ways to get to Boston! Do you have any experience with any of them? Dish!

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Longwood Gardens

Last month, I took a trip to Delaware to visit my cousin during spring break.

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“Delaware?” you say questioningly. Yes, Delaware. It’s gorgeous & warmer than New Hampshire & I adore any chance to see this crazy family of mine.

IMG_8843While I was there, we did a family photo shoot at Longwood Gardens in Pennsylvania. If you haven’t visited there yet and live nearby, DO IT. You won’t regret it.

2014-04-20_0001In the early 1900’s, the land was developed by Pierre duPont, who started piecing the entire gardens together. We started in the conservatory, which was completed in 1973 as a replacement for the 1928 Azalea House. The Conservatory was not only the most incredibly beautiful montage of exotic plants and flowers, but one of the sunniest and best smelling places I’ve ever visited.

2014-04-20_0002My mouth dropped when we walked in. Is this real life? A fern wall? The Orchid Festival had just concluded, but we were lucky enough to see many of the displays still out.

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2014-04-20_0005I mean, really?? So gorgeous!

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2014-04-20_0006My favorite part, though, was the Orchid Room. There was literally every single kind of orchid you could think of in there hanging on the walls.

2014-04-20_0007The orchid on the left is self sustaining, since it catches drops of water in the bottom part of the flower to help nourish it. I loved the pink color of the orchids on the right!

2014-04-20_0008There was an entire section of desert plants (you know I was allllll over those succulents).

2014-04-20_0009I was amazed at how the Conservatory housed at least 4 different climates for all of the different plants.

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2014-04-20_0012Orchids, daisies, roses, cacti, orange trees, blueberry bushes, bonsai trees, banana trees, ranunculus…you name it, they had it.

We walked over to the duPont house after we toured the Conservatory, and he had a small conservatory connecting the original house and the addition he built…I’d love to have a mini conservatory like that! My favorite part was that the 6 foot windows on the sides retract into the ground in the summer!

2014-04-20_0010Just beautiful. I’d HIGHLY recommend Longwood if you’re ever in the area!

And because I can’t let you go there without some amazing restaurant recommendations, we ate at BBC Tavern & Grill in Greenville (try the nachos & cheesesteak egg rolls), Pizza by Elizabeths (order the spinach & artichoke dip & the Shannon pizza {fig jam, gorgonzola cheese & prosciutto} with the champagne Bay Breeze cocktails), & Taverna (hands down, MAKE SURE you get the coal fired vegetables, & if they have it, get the butternut squash ravioli). You’re welcome.

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Packing Shenanigans

Packing. It’s the bane of my existence. I literally put it off until the very last minute because I know it’s going to turn my whole house into a disaster zone. When I went to California last week (two weeks ago? I’m still loopy from the time change), I only took a carry on and my camera bag. Mostly because a) I’m super broke and can’t justify $50 of bag fees for 2 days, and b) my sister has a slight addiction to clothing (and shoes. and jewelry. and purses.), so I knew that I didn’t need much.

As far as how I packed, it was fairly easy. I wrote out an outfit list for every single day that I was there, then pulled all the clothes and selectively purged from there.

clothesThis is what I ended up packing for 2 [techincally 4 because I included my travel clothes) days. Aaaaand this is what I actually wore:

didntwearSo basically, I could have brought half of what I did and been very happy with it. I kind of forgot what 80 degrees feels like, so 3 sweaters was a little bit of overkill. I pretty much wore just tanks, pants and sandals the whole time I was there. For jewelry, I did the same thing, but then ended up just piling everything into a pouch and calling it a day:

jewelryBut as you can see, I wore one necklace out of all of that, wore hoop earrings every day, and borrowed my sisters bracelets. So that was pretty much a wasted space as well. Since I was doing carry on only, I had to be really selective about what kind of liquids I brought on the plane.

IMG_4191I used to throw my massive make up bag in my suitcase along with another bag holding all of my toiletries, but since I created new make up organization, I no longer have that problem! This is all that I ended up taking with me: deodorant, small jar of face wash, skin potions, toothpaste, Nivea moisturizer (I swear by this stuff), powder, spot concealer, eye shadow, liner and mascara. I know that I don’t wear much makeup at all, so I grabbed what I thought I might use (and actually used it all, yay me!).

Shoes, though. I probably could have rethought the shoes a little bit, but a girl’s gotta be prepared.

shoesOrdinarily, I don’t bring running shoes, but we were hiking the wetlands one morning, and I knew that my sister wears shoes 3 sizes smaller than me (seriously!? WHYYYYY!??), so I really had no choice. I always put my shoes in bags when I travel, and over the years I’ve collected these awesome Sephora bags to hold them:

IMG_4197So I bag up my shoes and lay them in the bottom of the suitcase. I then rolled all of my clothes up in bundles and snuggly fitted them into the bag. I used small stuff to fill in the cracks and gaps, and VOILA! All that stuff fit in a carry on sized bag.

Oh, and as far as what I wear on the plane, I always dress in layers. I’m either freezing or melting, so I know that if I layer up, I’ll be happy either way. Also, when I’m flying coast to coast, the weather is never the same (especially when I’m coming home), so I have to be prepared to freeze!

2013-11-13_0001I love my skinny black pants from Old Navy (I got them 3ish years ago, and wish I’d bought more than one pair), and wearing zip up boots is easiest when going through security. Oh, and see that tan bag in the background? There’s my carry on! In retrospect, had I known how much I was going to be jerked around and running through airports, I would have definitely packed in a rolling bag.

So there are some of my best packing tips! Anything to add?

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Friday Four

Guys, last weekend. BLEW. MY. MIND. Remember how on Friday I posted about my BFF’s birthday and then mentioned I had a project up my sleeve? 2013-11-01 21.07.17Surprise! I secretly flew out to California for the weekend (48 hours in a state with a 3 hour time difference plus daylight savings does not a happy body make). My sister and I have kept this secret since August, and I was SO EXCITED to finally make it happen! Despite the fact that it took me 18 hours to get there (2 delayed flights, 2 missed flights, flying into LAX after a shooting, accident on the freeway…basically anything you can think of, it happened), it was so worth the surprise. Since I ended up arriving 6.5 hours later than I was supposed to, we went straight to the bar where Amy was celebrating her birthday to surprise her, and then went to my parents house early the next morning to surprise them! So. Much. Fun. I live for this kind of stuff!! So, without further ado, here are my top 4 favorite moments from last weekend:

1. Surprising Amy. Y’all, she was blown away. In all the years I’ve been doing this, this one was definitely the most gratifying of all. Best birthday present ever.

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2. Surprising my parents! My sister wandered in a 8am on Saturday under the pretense of being bored (I literally had to drag her out of bed to go over, so you can imagine that my mom wasn’t buying it). I then walked in and surprised her, and when my dad came downstairs, I can tell you the last thing he expected was me standing in the kitchen asking about breakfast. Spoiler alert: he made an enormous breakfast. It had been almost a year since we’d seen each other, so a visit was long overdue.

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3. Two of Amy’s friends from college were also visiting, whom I’ve known for about 5 years (gosh, has it been that long? Love those girls!), so we did the whole LA thing…starting off with shopping at Rodeo Drive, obviously (Tiffany’s…amazing), followed by wandering West Hollywood, cocktails at the Abbey, and then the requisite LA traffic, of course. Oh, and the Cheesecake Factory’s Ceasar salad is to die for; also it’s your body weight in salad. You’ve been warned.

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4. Can I round up the whole 48 hours as one of my favorite things? Ok, good. We packed SO MUCH STUFF into two days, which was amazing. We went to LA, walked the wetlands in the morning, went shopping at Ikea, had an enormous family dinner on the last night (9 girls who loved my dad’s food. He was in heaven.), and even managed to squeeze in some couch and wine time. Seriously, one of the best weekends of my year.

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I can’t wait until I get to back in July for my birthday! Counting the days down. Oh, and I got to wear tank tops and shorts the whole time I was there. The Fireman said it snowed while I was gone; I cried a little bit inside when I walked out of Logan into 40 degrees. I am so thankful for my family and friends who live in great locations that I get to visit :). Oh, and I plan on mastering the cocktail I had at the Abbey…be on the lookout for a recipe! Hope y’all have a good weekend!

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Last week, we went on a mini vacation to Peaks Island, Maine. Located a few miles off of Portland, it was so surprisingly gorgeous and lush. I’ve decided that when I win the lottery I’m moving there. Seriously. We rented bicycles and rode around the whole island, hiked a few trails, and stuck our feet in the Atlantic Ocean.

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The water was a little too chilly for me to venture into past my knees, but I enjoyed a few hours reading in the sun while the Fireman rode the whole island loop for a second time. We stayed at The Inn on Peaks, which I’d highly recommend! It’s one of two places to stay on the island (unless you rent a house), and it was close to the ferry, and right on the main street. Plus we had a balcony that overlooked the street and water, and made for a perfect place to relax after a long day with a beer & a great place to drink coffee in the morning.

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During our exploration, we found and hiked the Battery Steele, which was used during WWII as a primary defense for Casco Bay. It was completely cool and completely creepy at the same time. Did y’all ever watch Lost? It was a little like that…this massive building in the middle of a jungle with trees growing on it, and vines choking it out.

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It was so beautiful on the island, and if you’re ever considering visiting, I’d recommend it wholeheartedly!

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Today is my birthday, so the Fireman has all sorts of surprises set up (they started yesterday with flowers delivered at work)! Love that guy.

Have a safe and happy Fourth of July, y’all!!!!

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Let’s just call this the “lost weekend,” shall we? In the beginning of December, my cousin Liz and I visited another cousin at the US Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland. And while it sounds entirely wholesome, I would never encourage you to step foot onto a campus where all of the guys are in uniform. ALL. THE. TIME.

I mean, the yum factor was sky high.

Oh, and the architecture was cool too.

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My cousin gets to live HERE. He says the inside looks like a creepy dorm bathroom with old linoleum floors and bad fluorescent lighting, but WHO CARES?! It’s so darn pretty outside.

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And they have sunsets like this! I’d say bad lighting is worth it.

I am sad to say that I deleted the pictures of our original “hotel” (believe me when I say hotel was stretching it), because I am still fairly certain that our cousin had found a modern day Bates Motel and unwittingly checked us into it. Being the divas that we are (oh, and liking our organs INSIDE OUR BODIES where they belong instead of packed on ice in a cooler on the way to Mexico), we found a Sheraton. Not waking up covered in bed bug bites was divine.

Plus we were next to the mall. Liz likes being able to see the Nordstrom’s sign from her bed.

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Divalicious, amiright??

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For some reason, I appear to be approximately 7.5 months prego. Rest assured, this is not the case; I think I had a big lunch (I also suck at being in pictures, so I’m going to go with that as my Plan B. Hahaha, Plan B? Pregnant? Get it? Never mind).

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There we go. Not prego. And I think we found Liz in a basket somewhere, because she is clearly too pretty to be in our family. But she’s blonde and curses like a sailor, so…I guess she is related.

Oh, and I shouldn’t forget to mention our little clown car.

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For some reason when I reserved a car, I didn’t think that “compact” meant “only up to my boobs.” My bad, guys. I’ve gotta say though, if I lived in a city, I would totally buy this car. Fantastic gas mileage (we barely used half of a tank in a weekend), tons of room, and it WENT. Plus we managed to fit 5 people into it, including these 2 guys:

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Basically 5 people over 5′ 10″. Kind of impressive (and I’m including this picture because my sister likes to look at it; go figure).

You may notice that the Washington Monument has somehow sprung out of Liz’s head because, SURPRISE we decided to take a mini roadtrip to DC. dc

I adore DC. It is just such a beautiful city, and even though nothing has changed there in 23987897 years, I still always learn something when I’m there.

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We also stopped by the Newseum (if you haven’t gone yet, I’d suggest a stop there. AMAZING museum), but didn’t go in since we decided we didn’t want to get stabbed in the dark on the way back to the parking garage.

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I suppose that we’re both being fairly divalicious in this picture, but the light was FABULOUS so how could we not take advantage??

Other things that we did during our stay included but were not limited to:

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1. Getting hopelessly lost in Union Station (even with a map and a detailed phone call as to our cousins location),

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2. Eating quesadillas at 1 am,

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3. Getting lost in Annapolis and then almost getting squished in the drawbridge,

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4. And watching Ravens fireworks from the safety of our locked car in the Baltimore Greyhound bus station (not a place I’d go without a shank).

I mean look at their bathroom graffiti:

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I guess the cursive and pink pen count for some sort of class…

Here’s my conclusion: you should totally go to Annapolis. It’s such a charming city (and guys in uniform, HELLOOOOOO), and it’s so close to everything! I had such a blast that I can’t wait to go back and drink my weight in Starbucks. Oh, and rent a Mazda 2. And go to the Newseum. And DC. That is all.

(Not being perked to talk about the Mazda or the Newseum, they just rock my socks off, and I think they should rock yours off too.)

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