We Bought a Farmhouse

stories of renovation, home decor inspiration & sprinkles of country life

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Summer Vacation: Birthdays & 24 Hours in Boston

I love birthdays. Maybe it's because my mom always made sure my sister and I felt special on our birthdays, or maybe it's just the way I'm wired, but I think birthdays are a big deal. The older you get, the more you realize that your life is the biggest and most amazing present you're ever going to receive, and that's what I celebrate on my birthday. I get another year with my friends and family. Another year of learning life lessons, exploring new things and celebrating accomplishments. A year to reflect on what I want out of life, and figure out ways to make it happen. Another year of food and fun with my husband. Another year just living. That, my friends, should always be celebrated.

Also, I'm not gonna lie, I totally use my birthday as an excuse to splurge. A lot. I consider July my birthday month (I'm that person), and I do things I don't normally do, I buy things I don't normally buy, and I eat things I don't normally eat. As adults, we spend a lot of time telling ourselves what we can't do (can't eat those carbs, can't buy that, can't eat that processed sugar, can't go to bed too late or I'll be a zombie at work). So in July, I spend a lot of time telling myself what I can do (Eat that lobster roll! Have two ice cream cones a day! Skip that morning run and eat - gasp!- cereal!). I eat stupid things my birthday like candy you can buy in any drugstore (and I get really excited about it). I also make sure I get myself a Carvel ice cream cake because nothing, NOTHING, beats the way that frosting tastes. And, most importantly, we travel.

My favorite thing of life is probably being by the ocean. The ocean puts my life into perspective, makes my stupid little stressors about work and everyday hiccups seem so insignificant. One week at the ocean and I'm de-stressed completely. My favorite place to do that is Cape Cod, but today, we'll be talking about a little pit stop we make on our way: Boston.

Since we live in a pretty rural area, trips to the "big city" are even more exciting now. Before spending a week on the Cape, we spend one night in Boston to kick off Birthday Week and also, so this girl can get her shopping fix.

We leave on a Friday morning, super early, as the sun is coming up because we're that excited. We drop Betty off at her doggie sitter's (because she's not really into the beach scene), and we start the drive, talking about how exciting it is in those first few hours of vacation, when you have the whole week in front of you.

We usually make some stops along the way as we get closer to Boston, including a Nordstrom (gotta hit up that anniversary sale!), and this year, we also stopped at the cutest little natural beauty boutique in Newton called The Organic Lab Apothecary. Lately, I've been gravitating more toward eco-friendly and organic beauty products for several different reasons (largely because formulas are so much more advanced and surpassing the performance of mainstream products), so this stop was a really lovely little treat.

For the past three years, we've stayed at the Revere Hotel in Boston, and we love it there. It became our hotel, so to speak. But this year, their prices were creeping up way beyond our budget, and we decided to take the risk by booking on Hotwire. We landed at the Liberty Hotel, and it was a really fun change of scenery. It's an old prison that was renovated into a hotel, and the entire atmosphere was a unique experience with even the littlest of details remind you of its old prison status (in a cool way, though). We did have some hiccups with our stay, including the fact that we were stuck in an awkward handicap accessible room, and the hotel lobby turns into a club scene, complete with a very loud DJ, at 9 p.m. on Friday nights. So we're not sure if we loved our stay or not. But, it was still a different experience that we'll remember.

We're both creatures of habit, in a lot of ways. While I love exploring new options, I become sentimentally attached to things and memories, so much of our Boston (and Cape) trip is very formulaic, and honestly, very touristy (no shame, my friends!). We always stop at Parish Cafe for lunch (oh, the onion rings!) before heading to Newbury St., Prudential Center and Copely Place for shopping. We walk around Boston looking at the beautiful architecture, stop for an ice cream cone and end up somewhere for dinner.

Onion rings and sangria at Parish Cafe.

Newbury Street shopping.

One of my favorite boutiques in Boston is Follain. Their displays are inspiring, and they carry such an amazing mix of luxury, natural bath and beauty products. This is the place to go if you feel like a little at-home pampering session and you're into using organic products. They also have an online shop where you can purchase most of their offerings. This year, I also decided to get some of their liquid hand soaps in their refillable, amber-tinted glass pumps. Our guest bathroom will have bronze accents, so they'll be perfect for that space once we complete it. 

Along the way, we also make a stop at Georgetown Cupcakes. I always pre-order 4-5 cupcakes to make sure I get the flavors I want. They have monthly and daily flavor specials, and because July is the best month ever, they have a chocolate sundae cupcake that's perfect for a Birthday Week splurge. We also decided on some of the more summery flavors, and a few traditional ones as well.

I ended up getting chocolate birthday, vanilla birthday, lemon blueberry and plain lemon.
All were pure perfection.

This year, we decided on Lolita Tequila Bar for dinner because it looked like it could be a unique experience that was also a little cheese. And, it was conveniently located near Newbury Street, our last destination of the day. I felt totally out of place there (because I'm not exactly the coolest person ever, and it was a little like a club scene while we waited for our table). But, once seated, it was a really fun experience. They bring you complimentary grapefruit granita with a splash of tequila as a palate cleanser before you order, and they end your dining experience with complimentary green apple cotton candy with pop rocks. The food we ordered was so, so yummy - the corn bread, street corn and tacos were all delicious (the street corn being my personal favorite, probably because it was covered in cheese). 

Street corn and corn bread at Lolita.

Green apple cotton candy at Lolita.

At the end of the night, like a proper birthday girl, I curl up in the comfy hotel bed, and had my chocolate sundae cupcake as a night cap. This ritual is perfection.

The next morning, like we do every year, we went for a run around Boston. I'm not especially fond of running, but after eating so much the night before, I actually want to do something to burn off whatever extra calories and guilt I can. Plus, this allows us the opportunity to see more of the city. We usually head toward the waterfront and harbor and to at some of the boats and ferries that are docked before heading back to the hotel.

Before leaving for the Cape, we did something new this year. We decided to visit Cambridge and walk around Harvard. I've always wanted to go, if anything, to see quintessential and historical New England architecture. We should have planned this part of the trip better because we were only able to find the law school campus before getting tired and cranky (it was like 90 degrees out that day, I had blisters on my feet from the day before, and we totally had no idea where to walk to to see the whole campus). It was still fun nontheless, but I'd like to go back next year with an actual plan, and maybe a map. Before visiting the campus, however, we did make a quick stop at Bagelsaurus for breakfast (I can't get over it, how cute - bagelsaurus - rahr!). Now every time I have a bagel, I shall call myself Bagelsaur. 

Someone near Harvard. I just liked the building :)

Harvard Law Campus. What, like it's hard?
Wait! I need to take a picture of this logo!

We also stopped at a lovely little natural store called Cambridge Naturals. For anyone interested in natural beauty and lifestyle products, I highly recommend it here. They had so many great brands (John Masters Organics, Little Barn Apothecary, etc.) and some smaller brands I'd never heard of - it was heaven. I bought too much stuff here and regret nothing.

After a lovely Cambridge stroll, we hit up Trader Joe's to pack our car up with the basics for the week, and we drove off to the Cape. Stay tuned!

Soundtrack for the drive: Ramble On, Let Forever Be, The Way You Move, Night Moves

Favorite Summer Things

Not gonna lie, there's not much to report on the house-front. Our bathroom installation is ready for drywall (yay!). But, we decided to finish off our downstairs TV room first so that we can have our comfy sanctuary for relaxing after a long day back before we start to finish the bathroom. The TV room is currently in the drywall process, and we're hoping to have it taped, sanded and re-painted by mid-August.

While all that is happening, there's not much else to talk about. So, today I decided to share some of my favorite summer things. July is my favorite warm-weather month because it's the epitome of summer with July 4 festivities, sunshine days, and - it's my birthday month. Yay! July is also when we take our summer vacation to Cape Cod, and we leave this Friday. So, I've been in full on summer celebration mode as of late, and have a few summer-related things to talk about that I'm enjoying at the moment.

1. Strawberry shortcake. It's not summer until I have strawberry shortcake with buttermilk biscuits and a mound of whipped cream on top. No further explanation is needed with this photo.

2. My new favorite light, refreshing and healthy meal from Inspiralized. I adore this food blog for the best healthy and satisfying recipes, and this zucchini pasta with roasted artichokes and a lemon parmesan dressing is to.die.for. It's been in constant rotation in our weekly dinners, and after we scarf it down, we're always like, "Ohmigawdthatwassogooooooooooood!"

3. Colorful nail polishes. I'm a nail polish junkie (my collection is embarrassingly large), but over the past year while renovating, I haven't worn it as much because it gets ruined so quickly. The past few weeks, however, I've been breaking out some of my favorite summer colors, and putting them on my nails, and they just put a little spring in my step. My favorites are Essie Bikini So Teeny, Essie Mint Candy Apple, Julep Brittany, Julep Isabela, Essie Geranium & Chanel Holiday. The Chanel polish is the one I usually wear on our summer vacation, so it has special priority status.

4. Watermelon tank from J.Crew. It's hard to not have memories of summer BBQs that include streams of watermelon juice running down everyone's hands and arms, and spitting watermelon seeds everywhere, amiright? It's true for me, at least. This tank from J.Crew has tiny beaded watermelons scattered all over, and I was able to snatch it up during a 30% off sale. If this doesn't scream summer, I'm not sure what does. It totally brings a smile to my face when I wear it.

5. Drenched Body Butter. This is by Organic Bath Co., and while it's not really summer-specific, I just discovered it so it'll always remind me of summer now. This is, by and far, the best body butter I've found - and it's organic! I purchased the smaller, travel-friendly size, but during our upcoming stay in Boston, I plan to buy the full size because it's that good. My favorite way to apply it is on slightly damp skin, just after getting out of the shower. It blends in like a dream either way because of the whipped texture, but this method is extra luxurious.

6. Amongst The Waves oil-based perfume. I have such a sensitivity to regular perfumes. If I'm near anyone that's wearing them, it's a guaranteed headache and a possible upset stomach (I'm not high maintenance or anything). I've since gotten into perfumes that are anchored by essential oils, and this one by Olivine is my summer favorite. It's not completely scented with only natural essential oils, but the fragrance has never once given me a headache in the two years I've used it. And, I must include the owner's description of this scent because just reading it, you'll be intoxicated:

Imagine walking on a beach in the heat of the day, your toes still in the surf, the tropical breeze washing over your skin still wet from the ocean. You smell the scent of salt air, the coconut oil on your body, tropical flowers from the lush jungle in the not so far distance. At that moment in time, your spirit is soaring Amongst the Waves.
Inspired by my favorite place in the world– Hanalei, Hawaii, Amongst the Waves captures the ultra relaxed, sensory paradise that is a beach day in this Hawaiian nirvana. With a top note of ocean salt and black coconut, Amongst the Waves melts into a full bodied, floral heart composed of lush stargazer lily, waterlily and tiger lily. These flowers rest on a warm base of clean musk mingling with tonka bean and Arabian sandalwood.
If that doesn't make you want to buy it, then there might be something wrong with you (half kidding). I sniff myself all day when I wear it.

A Quick Front Porch Spruce Up & Blue Shutters

Front porch when we moved in.

Let's talk about how much we're itching to upgrade the curb appeal. We keep thinking we're going to do it. We talk about it all the time. We walk outside and discuss our plans, saying that this Saturday will be the day. And then Sunday rolls around, and it's not done. And then the next week goes by. The next month. When you're installing a bathroom, nothing else gets done.

But, we see our front porch every day, and this year, I decided to just do a few small, easy things to make it look like someone lives here (because honestly, with all the overgrown foliage and general state of the outside, you can't really tell that people dwell here). And then, this past Spring, I also painted our shutters blue to give the exterior a happier facade, and we finally were able to get them all back up. The general exterior of our house needs love - love that we can't provide at the moment. It needs a seriously good power wash, a ton of weeding and general lawn maintenance and a few homey touches to complete it. But, the few small things we did to our front porch area give it enough life to carry us over until we have the time for some serious landscaping.

Starting with our front door! We painted it mint green. And I'm kind of really excited about it. I have a mint green obsession. I want this color in all aspects of my life, and it just makes me happy. I just went for it one day, and it really adds a cheery brightness to the exterior. The color we chose is Carried Away by Benjamin Moore.

Next, we got some hanging flower baskets and a new doormat. Nothing insanely exciting, but it's the little things, you know?

And then, we bought shutters for our porch window, which is actually our kitchen sink window. This was the only window on the front of our house that didn't have shutters, so adding them was a natural decision.

We also added a new sconce light. The existing one wasn't bad, but it just wasn't quit the style we were looking for. So we picked out one that was more bronze (instead of black) and looked a little more cottage-y.

My mom got us these sheep planters as a Christmas gift last year, and they're kind of amazing. I know they're not everyone's cup of tea, but I have a thing for sheep, and these are perfect.

Finally, we made an adjustment to the hanging sign that's attached to the shelf on our porch. I love that our front porch has a shelf - perfect for storing all kinds of yard-related things. When we moved in, a sign that said, "Santa's Helpers" hung from it, and while it was so cute and endearing, and went with our Christmas tree farm, we're not in a place to make the farm a business right now and it didn't make a lot of sense for us. So, we flipped it over, and I decided to paint Welcome on it, on a total whim one night. And I love it. It's not perfect because I have the world's worst penmanship, but I love that it's totally imperfect and homespun.

Shutters when we moved in.

Newly-painted shutters.

Not a terribly dramatic makeover, but it's enough to put a smile on my face for now. We do plan to paint our other front door the same mint green, but we're actually replacing that door completely in the next few months, so no sense it doing it until we get the new one! Finally, when I pull up to our house after work, it looks like people actually live here, and that's such a good thing.