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Sunday, December 31, 2017

Crossing A Major Bucket List Destination Off My List in 2018

It's no secret that Josh and I love the Northeast, especially coastal destinations. We've made it a point to explore as much of this little corner of the world as we can. And as much as we love traveling and want to start to see the rest of the world (we've never even been to Europe), with all these amazing places to visit within four hours from us, it makes it hard to go anywhere else.

It's not the Northeast or a coastal town, but the first major vacation Josh and I took together was Mexico. We've been twice, and our first excursion was Cozumel and the second, the Maya Riviera, staying at all-inclusives both times. We had an absolute blast - there's no vacation quite like laying around at a pool or an ocean all day, and day-drinking right after breakfast because everyone else is. And as much fun as the all-inclusives were, we did venture off our resort grounds quite a bit to experience as much of the culture as we could. We even successfully ordered a meal in Spanish one time (which, for me, was tough seeing as though I never took Spanish classes, so I considered it quite an achievement). We also took the collectivo, got lost on rural streets on our way to a destination, walked through a crocodile pit and swam with the dolphins (of which we have no pictures for the most part because we refused to pay the exorbitant fee for them). We also explored the beauty of Tulum, which was an amazing experience in and of itself.


Thursday, December 7, 2017

The Nantucket Christmas Stroll

This was the trip that almost didn't happen! We booked our inn months ago, and in the chaos of trying to finish our guest room and clean up the house for the holidays, we just kept putting off booking ferry tickets for our excursion to Nantucket for the Christmas Stroll. When we visit Nantucket in the summer, we usually book our ferry 1-2 days prior because want to go on a day with nice weather, so that was also always in the back of our minds. Oh, we have time, we kept saying.

So then, about 9 days before our trip, we finally dedicated time to book our ferry ride, and I kid you not, every ferry was sold out.

We couldn't believe it.

We called all the ferry lines, asked if they had any suggestions. We looked at other ways to get on the island (flights were insanely expensive, not even sure why we looked into it). And finally, after two days of having no luck, we just decided we'd go to the Cape and make the best of everything it had to offer since our inn was non-refundable at this point. The ferry lines told us that sometimes people cancel, and to just keep checking the site, but I was pretty convinced Nantucket wasn't meant to be this year. Sometimes, a ferry out to the island would become available, but no ferry back, and we couldn't risk being on standby and getting stranded on the island (especially because it's pretty expensive).

Then, a few days before leaving, Josh was stalking the Hyline website, and someone cancelled their ticket. He booked us for the 9 a.m. ferry out, and we were able to get a ferry back at 4:40. And so, we were back on track.

We arrived at the Hyline terminal in Hyannis an hour before our ferry departed because we were that excited. We were the second people in line to board, and Josh thought I was crazy for jumping in line in the freezing cold when there was a perfectly good (and warm) sitting area in the terminal. We waited in the line, outside, for 40 minutes, and I was glad I did because the ferry was packed and the line to board got pretty long. We had our pick of any seats on the ferry, so it paid off.



Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Cape Cod At Christmas: Our Stay in Chatham

Years ago, Josh and I started a tradition of traveling during the first weekend of December for a festive, Christmasy getaway to kick off the holiday season. The past few years, we've traveled to New York City, but we found ourselves looking for something new to do this year. If you know me, you know my love for Nantucket runs deep, and I of course, follow quite a few Nantucket-based businesses and photographers on social media. For the past three years or so, I've found myself drooling over their photos of the island at Christmas time during their stroll, so we had a thought this year - let's go to Nantucket! So, we did.

We decided to stay on the mainland, which was mostly for financial reasons. Nantucket is just so expensive, even in the winter! We settled on staying in Chatham, a town we love to visit when we visit in the summer. I was looking for a cozy place to stay that looked like it could be on the set of a Hallmark Christmas movie, and we found it with the Chatham Gables Inn. Their off-peak rates were fairly priced, and the atmosphere seemed to be  nautical, while having that cozy, Christmasy feel. It looked perfect online, and I'm happy to report that it was once we arrived, too.

I'm going to recap the Nantucket Christmas Stroll in another post because I took so many photos, so in this post, I'll begin with our stay in Chatham, and a few other things we did while on the Cape during this time of the year. 

Nantucket isn't easy for us to do as a day trip since it's still about four hours from our home just to get to the ferry, so we made a weekend out of it. We arrived in Chatham on Friday early evening to check into the inn, and guys, this place was spectacular. I'm sure it's beyond lovely in the summer season as well, but the owners, a husband and wife team, did a fantastic job at making this place feel so welcoming and homey for the Christmas season. All the common rooms were decked out for Christmas, complete with garlands, trees, lights and all. It truly was magical. Their dining area was set with red and green plaid table clothes, burlap trees and beautiful dinnerware. Plus, everyday, there were always freshly-made cookies available to snack on, which is always a win in my book. Everything was such a wonderful mix of seaside and Christmas, and we adored it. 



Friday, November 24, 2017

Our Guest Room Reveal: A Farmhouse Christmas Retreat



Guest rooms in our house were one of the spaces I always thought I'd introduce lots of color (let's all have a good laugh now). Much like our bedroom, I wanted all our rooms to have a cottagey feel to them, with a bright-ish paint color on the walls, patchwork quilts, the occasional antique and lots of coziness. About a year ago, I started looking at light green paint swatches for this room, and then different inspiration hit and I was on to other designs that took a lot of different forms. But I landed on one that felt right for this space: an all white bedroom with dark furniture and slightly colorful, but neutral, bedding. 


Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Holiday Gift Guide: Conventional Retailers



I love supporting small businesses, but I will admit, I do sometimes look to other retailers when it comes to buying gifts. I have Amazon Prime, and the convenience alone makes it hard to resist. I do buy small whenever I can, but on the occasion you need to explore conventional retailers, here are some of our picks for gifts.


I have to give a shout out to LL Bean. We shop there all year 'round, but in particular, we find ourselves in our local Bean store a lot during fall and winter. They have amazing quality flannels, socks, winter gear and even home essentials like bedding and dog beds. I could walk in here and likely find something for everyone on my list, including Betty! Our picks from the Bean for gift giving? Our first is flannel jammies. I got Josh a pair last year, and they're wonderful quality and really warm for those super cold winter nights. In fact, just the other night he was wearing them and said they were his favorites. They always have a great color selection so you could go Christmas-y red or traditional and neutral.

Photo courtesy of LL Bean.

A few years back, I got Josh a Bean canvas duffle bag and had his initials monogramed on it, and he uses this thing all the time. It's perfect for weekend trips, and even longer vacations, and it's wonderful quality. The monogramming option makes it extra personalized, too.

Josh's duffle bag that I got him from the Bean years ago.
The monogramming option makes it a great personalized but useful gift.


Neither of us have an LL Bean Fisherman's sweater, but I contemplate getting one every time I'm at a Bean store. They're traditional, they're cozy and they're incredible quality. I personally love them because they're perfectly New England, and they make me think of being in a cabin in Vermont somewhere, reading a book by a fire. Or, sailing on my imaginary boat on the first chilly day of Fall.

Photos courtesy of LL Bean.


For beauty lovers, I really love the Bite Beauty gift sets that the brand comes out with for the holidays. Every year, they release mini lip products in a cute little tin, and since Bite has some of the best lipsticks I've ever used, I feel so confident in giving them as gifts. This year, though, I'm especially partial to the Agave Kisses Set. It features minis of their agave lip mask, lip balm and lip scrub, all of which I've tried, and all of which are truly stands outs. If color is more your style, they also released mini tins of their liquified lipsticks and their cream lipsticks.

The Bite Beauty Agave Kisses set includes small sizes of three amazing lip care products. 


I've been having a love affair with the relatively new RMS cream palettes called Signature Sets. They come in two options, and I purchased the Mod Collection this past summer, which has slightly warmer undertones. RMS is known for being an organic beauty brand with stellar performance, and their cream products are simply amazing. I've been using their individual pots for a few years now, and love them all. Having a lovely white compact with five products to sample is an exciting gift to receive if you love playing with makeup. Plus, her products are infused with coconut oil, making these great for dry, winter skin! My recommendation for anyone on the fence would actually be Pop Collection, simply because the two cheek/lip colors are perfect for a snow-kissed winter look.


This is my own palette in Mod. The Pop palette has slightly brighter colors that are
beautiful for the winter season. 


Perusing on Anthropologie's site, or just walking into a store during the holiday season, you can probably cross quite a few people off your list. I always find really great gifts here that don't disappoint, and this year, I put together a small list of some of the things that stood out to me. 1. The Joy & Cheer Mug caught my eye because of the, well, cheerful design and it struck me as the perfect winter mug for someone who loves shabby chic or colorful cottage decor. 2. This Vintage Ski Loft Ornament isn't an extravagant gift, but it makes me smile when I look at it, and perfect for someone you now who loves to ski. 3. Not that people are eating a ton of ice cream in the winter, but this Copper Ice Cream Scooper kind of makes it worth being extra cold. 4. I see these Night Market Candles in the store each year, and I'm always drawn to the Mulled Wine scent. Also, the vintage illustration on them is so heartwarming. 5. I've had these Monogram Gem Necklaces saved in my cart specifically so I would remember them for the holiday season. I love that they're a bit different than your traditional alphabet pendant, and the colors are so beautiful. 6. I'm not normally one for patterned stemware, but I'm kind of in love with these Monogram Champagne Flutes. Whenever you break out the champagne, it's usually time for a celebration, and these flutes just say "party time" when you look at them. Plus, they come in all letters of the alphabet, so they're also personalized, which makes them even more fun and meaningful.

Photos courtesy of Anthropologie.

I love getting books as gifts, especially books with beautiful photos to admire that I can display on our coffee tables. I have so many books to suggest that I've loved reading over the past year, but today I'm recommending two that are less traditional and more inspirational. The first is the Half Baked Harvest cookbook. I've drooled over her Instagram feed for ages, and I'm so excited that she has a book filled with her mouth-watering recipes. It would be such a lovely display book on a kitchen shelf, and an amazing guide to some serious weekend cooking. Second, I'm sharing another book that I first discovered on Instagram. I've followed Flora Forager for a couple of years now, and she creates art out of botanicals. They're so whimsical and mesmerizing when you see what she uses to create images of birds, trees and other living things. Her book, Flora Forager: A Seasonal Journal Collected from Nature is filled with these images, and I think would be a fun, unique gift to someone who feels inspired by nature.
These could technically fall under small business if you purchase them from a local bookstore, but to be honest, I haven't seen them in smaller shops - Amazon and places like Barnes and Noble are the only places I've found them. But, you are supporting these lovely individuals by purchasing their books, even if you buy them from Amazon.
Photos courtesy of Amazon.


Josh told me about this new thing that was aided in development by Kickstarter, and as soon as he told me about it, I immediately thought it was an amazing and unique gift idea for a vinyl music lover. The RokBlok is a wireless & bluetooth-enabled device that plays a record simply by moving around on top of the record. It sounds crazy, but it's kind of genius. It runs on rechargeable batteries and will wirelessly connect to to a speaker system within a 30-foot radius. I assumed it would retail for more than $200, but they actually cost $99, which I think is a fair price for something rather unique. 
Photo courtesy of RokBlok.

I've gotten Josh a couple of Timex watches over the years, and the Weekender style is the most universal, and also comes in so many styles and price points. Josh loves watches because, in his words, "Guys don't really have a lot of fun accessory options," so he loves that with just two different watch faces he can totally change the look of it by swapping out the bands. I've gotten him several different bands as stocking stuffers for the past few Christmases, and it almost like he's gotten an entirely new watch. The Weekender comes in both men's and women's styles, too.


Photos courtesy of Timex.




I feel like I, personally, can never have enough scarves, and I love receiving them as gifts. I also love giving them. This year, two scarves at J.Crew caught my attention. The first being the Plaid Cape Scarf. Normally, I don't gravitate toward cape-styled, well, anything, but this one drapes like a light sweater and it looks so stylish and so easy to pull off. The second is the Patterned Cashmere Scarf, which is technically in the men's department but really is unisex. I love the navy and red plaid color making it classic for any season, or really, any person. And who doesn't love a little cashmere?



When in doubt, wine is usually a good idea, especially if you're in need of a hostess gift. One of my absolute favorites during the holidays is a red blend by Bogle called Phantom. My mom introduced it to me years ago when I went home for Christmas one year, and we definitely ran to the liquor store to buy more after polishing off two bottles. I'm not a wine expert, and I'm terrible at describing the flavors, but this one is just rich and complex and makes me think of the holidays. I've only ever seen it at liquor stores during the holiday season, and I think I read somewhere that it's a limited release each year, so I always like to snatch a few bottles up right before Thanksgiving to enjoy throughout the next several weeks. 


And that's a wrap on my gift guides for this year! I had a lot of fun putting these lists together, and I hope that it gave at least one person an idea or two. I'm wishing everyone who takes time to read my posts a huge helping of thanks and gratitude, and a wonderful next few days with friends and family. 


Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Small Business Holiday Shopping Guide



If you like to start your Christmas shopping early, then you and I have a lot in common. The older I get, the earlier I start. About four or five years ago, I started to finish all my Christmas shopping by Thanksgiving, and let me tell you, it's allowed me to see the magic of the holiday season in a much bigger way. I'm not stressfully running around for last-minute gifts, waiting in lines at stores, or getting anxious that my Amazon order won't make it in time. I may wait to buy one or two things that I know will go on sale for Black Friday, but other than that, once Thanksgiving comes around, I know I can go into the Christmas season completely stress-free.

Each year I try more and more to buy things from small businesses. This year, I'm doing a holiday shopping guide, in two parts. The first, focusing on shopping small, and second, sharing ideas from more conventional retailers. 

Let us begin by shopping small!



My personal favorite things on this list are from Farmhouse Pottery. They're based in Woodstock, VT, and I drool over their Instagram feed on the regular. What I love about FP is that their pieces are classic, and they can work in any home design, be it rustic, modern, traditional or, you guessed it, farmhouse. I bought my first FP piece this past June, and I'm so smitten with it, and I love that it's handmade in New England. But, beside that, their pieces are truly dreamy. My picks from their shop selection are their 1. Maple syrup and bell pitcher boxed set (who doesn't love to make pancakes in flannel PJ's on a cold winter Sunday morning?), 2. Silo soup mug (for cuddling on the couch on a snowy day with an oversized mug of soup), 3. Milk bottle match striker (for lighting all those winter candles and starting your evening fires), 4. Beehive baker (pricey, but an incredible heirloom-quality, functional piece that can be handed down to generations).

Photos courtesy of Farmhouse Pottery.
If you're feeling like a splurge, you could even purchase a workshop session in their studio in VT. Someday, Josh and I would love to do this - and what a great gift idea for a couple, mother/daughter or best friends weekend getaway, right?

My own first Farmhouse Pottery purchase. 


Those who know me well know that my love for Organic Bath Co. products runs deep. I first discovered their Drenched body butter a few years back, and I've exclusively used it since then. I've also branched out to try their sugar scrubs and their Nourish Night Balm, and all these products continue to be in constant rotation in my bathroom. Going into the winter season, I cannot recommend these enough. The Drenched body butter is the most amazing, moisturizing one I've ever tried, and I personally find the fact that it's fragrance-free amazing so it doesn't irritate me while I sleep. The Nourish Night Balm is perfect for dry skin in the winter, and their sugar scrubs exfoliate your skin, while leaving it incredibly moisturized once you're out of the shower. They also donate a portion of each sale to the Global Soap Project, an organization that provides soap to underdeveloped countries.

Photo courtesy of Organic Bath Co.

I feel like men are more challenging to shop for than women, and that could be because women just use more stuff than men. But while browsing Etsy, I found this shave cream from Moss N Oak, and it sounded like a great little stocking stuffer for men. It's infused with Argan oil, which is my favorite for skincare moisturization, and it's also infused with peppermint, pine and lavender essential oils, which will smell perfectly woodsy and clean for the winter season. Neither Josh or I have tried this, so we can't speak to its quality, but the shop has stellar reviews on Etsy, and I'm awfully intrigued by it.

Photo courtesy of Moss&Oak on Etsy.

If you don't find goats irresistible, then I don't even know who you are. Beekman 1802 has been growing in popularity over the years, but I still consider them a small business, I suppose. I guess you could argue me on that one, but I thought they more so belonged on this list versus a conventional retailer. Whenever I use my Beekman goat tote for groceries, farmer's markets, or sometimes even as a work bag, I get compliments on it. Reusable bags are great for a variety of reasons, as we all know, so get one that's super cute for a farm animal lover in your life. Every season, they change the design, so it's not the same as the one I have, but every design I've seen has been super cute.




One of my favorite types of gifts to give are personalized ones, and Etsy is the best place to find these types of gifts. When I was browsing Christmas decor on Etsy in October, I stumbled upon a shop called Black Butterfly Signs, and they make personalized door mats. For someone who just purchased a home, or really, anyone, a door mat with either their name, or a saying you know they'd like is such a fun gift to give. My personal favorites from this shop are down below (if you have a Seinfeld-obsessed friend or family member, you need to check out bottom right).

Photos courtesy of Black Butterfly Designs.

I also love getting people personalized mugs from Etsy. This past May for my sister's birthday, who is a nurse, I got her a Trauma Llama mug, and it was a hit. I feel like everyone has too many coffee mugs, and yet, not enough at the same time, especially if it's personalized with your name, or a funny saying. A standout Etsy shop for fun coffee/cocoa mugs is Sweet Mint Handmade. They have something for everyone, and their designs/font choice are awesome. Below is a sampling of my favorites from this shop.

Photos courtesy of Sweet Mint Handmade.

You had to know that I would work Cape Cod in here somehow, right? We bought a candle from Cape Cod Soy Candle at a boutique in Chatham a few years ago, and it's so lovely. I mostly bought it because of the beautiful mason jar and label design, but the fragrance is perfection. We got the Cape Cod Cottage scent and love it. I have yet to try any others, but they're always on my wish list. For winter, their Holiday by the Sea scent smells like perfection in a jar.

Photo courtesy of Cape Cod Soy Candle.


Going back to Etsy for a sec, I really love the idea of getting someone an illustration of their home or happy place. Great for new homeowners, or someone who travels to a place that gives them all the feels, if you send in a photo of the home or place, an artist on Etsy can draw or paint it for you. I actually plan to do this for our house because I have the perfect place for an illustration of it. There are so many artists on Etsy, and it's hard to choose just one, especially because it depends on the recipient's style and taste. To give an example, though, here's a house watercolor from an artist, landgpaperco, on Etsy, that I personally admire.

Photo courtesy of landgpaperco.

I love the t-shirts from Sneaky Bacon Tees. My personal favorite is their You Had Me At Pizza tee because, well, I have an obsession with pizza. They have so many funny t-shirts, though, that would make a memorable gift for someone you know.

Photo courtesy of Sneaky Bacon.

Lastly, Josh wanted to chime in and say, "Buy local beer!" For anyone who enjoys a good microbrew, he'll often go out to a brewery near us to grab a growler or a six pack to bring with us while we travel for Christmas, and pour people glasses, or give them as gifts. For us, we live local to Brown's Brewery, and he also grew up close to Southern Tier Brewery (which, by the way, their Warlock beer is hands down the best I've ever had. It's a seasonal beer of epic proportions). Southern Tier can be purchased in a lot of stores now, but these are the varieties we had on hand. So anyhoo, that's his way of gifting a little taste of home.

Beer-y Christmas, everyone!
 
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