Charleston, July 2015

sometimes, you just
need a break. in a
beautiful place. alone.
to figure everything

After making a tough decision over the weekend, now all I want to do is cuddle with my husband (the more hugs, the better!), ignore life, and just be. The weekend can't get here soon enough. (And it's only Monday… *groans*)

Have you ever felt like that?

* Poem from here. Not sure who the original author was.

Boston Eats – Raspberry/Lime Rickey

Photo credit: Amir Nejad via / CC BY-NC-ND

Over the weekend, Justin and I had the opportunity to explore the delicious food of Boston.

Let me first give you a frame of reference:

Atlanta is currently known for their "foodie culture". Restaurants are all about providing a "farm to table" experience which frequently means a new twist on Southern favorites that are altered as the season's change. One example of this is the chicken and dumplings served at JCT Kitchen on the Westside. While you may question how a soup can be considered "new and different", clearly you have not had a look at the menu where the description of "slow cooked chicken leg, buttery house-made dumplings, local vegetables" resides. Rather than providing a simple soup, JCT Kitchen serves everything in parts giving it what Justin and I describe as a European take on a Southern favorite. Is it actually European? … I don't know. I'd have to actually ask a European. In general, though, we tend to think of European food standards as higher (and fancier) than American, so that's where that thought comes from…

Anyway, JCT Kitchen isn't the only restaurant in Atlanta doing that and the European food experience isn't the only type of "farm to table experience" you can have. For example, Farm Burger provides organic burgers made from grass-fed cows that are simply amazing. It is honestly one of the best burgers I have ever had.

So when Justin and I went to Boston, we weren't expecting much in terms of a foodie culture. Obviously, aside from underwater critters (like fish, which I don't eat), we assumed that whatever Bostonians could do Atlantans could do just as easily.

Except I was wrong.

As it turns out, a trip to Faneuil's Hall provided a completely different and unique dining experience unlike any I have ever had in Atlanta. Faneuil's Hall is an outdoor mall where Bostonian's gather to hear music (or play music in some cases – including the piano that sits in the dining hall waiting for passersby, whether age 5 and unknowledgeable about music or age 80 and very knowledgeable about music, to play), eat and drink, and shop. Granted there are definitely some tourist traps in this area of town ($50 for a seafood/steak plate? $10 for macaroni and cheese?), but there are also many other smaller, amazing dining establishments. With so much variety available, there is something perfect for everyone.

During our recent visit, last Friday, Justin and his dad ordered 2 very different lobster rolls while I got a piece of pizza and something called a raspberry/lime rickey. First of all, let me say that my meal was by far the best of the options at the table, hands down. ;) Lobster rolls with too much mayo … or even none at all are just blech. (I don't recommend asking Justin. He's a bit biassed.) Nevertheless, my pizza definitely had a very Italian vibe to it unlike the typical Chicago, New York, or chain style pizza typically found … everywhere … (Pizza Hut ftw?). But beyond that, let me take a moment to talk about my raspberry/lime rickey…

Not quite a lime rickey, but close enough…

Back during the prohibition era (20s) after coke products had just begun selling (I'm from Atlanta. There is no such thing as Pepsi.), people wanted a fresher option from soda fountains, something that was more like a cocktail and less like a soda, without all of the alcohol. A lime rickey, when made correctly had the bite people were looking for. It was both bitter and sweet and was the perfect adult appeal.

"Lime was able to give you a kick. It comes through with that sharp tartness, and has a deeper, more mature bitterness that a lemon is lacking. Having a lime rickey without bourbon is better than, say, spiked lemonade without liquor. It's more of an adult drink even in its soda form." - Taylor Peck

Shortly thereafter, the prohibition era was over, bottled soda became fashionable and soda fountains were a thing of the past. Fresh-tasting drinks took a back burner and even bottled lime rickeys did not have quite the same appeal as lime rickeys made at a soda shop. Coke, once again, prevailed as the dominant soda. This lasted until very recently into the 2000s when soda shops once again began popping up all over the US providing fancy drinks and mocktails to consumers that wanted a more unique and interesting taste experience than regular canned soda could provide.

This is where I come in. :)

Not very hungry as we were looking for a food item I would enjoy at Faneuil Hall, I spotted a brightly colored cocktail/smoothie place, AND I knew what I wanted. Not pizza (though the pizza was very good), not lobster rolls … No. I wanted a sweet drink, and raspberry + lime sounded perfect!

Afterward, as I sipped on the delicious citrus flavored drink that contained bits of actual lime and raspberry to give it texture, I was informed that not only was I drinking a very old style drink, but raspberry/lime rickeys were actually a thing. All of a sudden, I started seeing them all over Boston in restaurants, ice cream shops, and everywhere! What had I been missing out on my whole life?

Immediately upon returning to GA I had Justin make me one. The recipe he used was very simple: sparkling water, sugar, fresh squeezed lime, and squished raspberry. Could it be better? Potentially, yes. If I come across a fantastic recipe in the future, I'll be sure to share with you. :)

In the mean time, did you know about lime rickeys? (Or raspberry/lime rickeys?) Were you holding out on telling me too?! And if you didn't know about them, just promise to make sure you try one next time you are in Boston. Or get one for your kids; they'd love it. :)

Here's a recipe just in case you don't have Boston travel plans in the future.

And an article on the history of the lime rickey.

… And some information on Faneuil Hall. Because.

Do I have any Boston blog readers following my blog? Is there any other great food or restaurants I missed while I was visiting? Share! I'd love to hear. I need to know for my next trip to Boston! :)

Stephanie's Clifford's Everybody Rise

In my quest to read two books a month for 2015, I agreed to read and "chatterbox" about Stephanie Clifford's book Everybody Rise. Knowing that it wasn't necessarily going to be my kind of book, I went into 2015 knowing full well that not everything I read would become a fast favorite. It's par for the course, right? Either way, I also went into the new year acknowledging that new reading material would expose me to new authors, new writing styles, and (hopefully) new vocabulary. Reading books, whether given to me for reviews or chosen off of my Amazon wishlist, would be good for me and enrich my life in a way that only books can. :)

With that being said…

Everybody Rise is the story of Evelyn Beegan's rise to the top of the social ladder. A new hire in NYC, she works for People Like Us and her job is to recruit as many of the elite class as she can. Along with a new wardrobe, she has to put on a facade to prove that she belongs – this means weekend trips to the Hamptons and many, many social events. While Evelyn finds herself more and more engrossed in this new lifestyle, her home life is crumbling. Her father is being investigated by the grand jury for stolen money. If he gets indicted, what will her friend's think? Will she still manage to be successful?

Stephanie Clifford provides a book
 description for Everybody Rise.

I have to say that at first I was very turned off by Evelyn's lifestyle. Even the author seemed a little to posh for me to be reading. While I do love the idea of buying a beautiful dress for new social events every night of the week, I didn't like that Evelyn was pretending to be someone she clearly was not. Purchasing perfume so that you have a particular scent associated with you? Come on!

It became obvious as I continued reading that Evelyn had clearly learned many of her (bad) habits from her mother. For example, Evelyn and her mother convinced Evelyn's father that Evelyn needed money for rent so that she could move to a safer part of town when really she just wanted new clothes for a social event! Who does that? What 20-something goes out into the world, does all of the social events, and then comes home to ask daddy for money? Clearly Stephanie Clifford comes from a very different social class than myself…

All in all, by the end of the book, despite any outrage and anger caused by the book, I actually began to enjoy it. Without saying too much, I felt like Evelyn finally began to find her place in the world … and it wasn't necessarily where she thought it would be.

Stephanie Clifford reads from Everybody Rise.

While I'm not sure I would read any other books by Stephanie Clifford, Everybody Rise was definitely an interesting look at the American dream and what happens when a 20-something's dreams are fulfilled (imho – too soon). It is also a cautionary tale to remind us to carefully consider who our friends are.

So should you read it? Do I recommend it?

Yes and no. I don't agree that it is a must, but if you can get into it, go for it.

Let me put it this way: If you have the choice between buying it, borrowing it, or not reading it at all, I would put it in the borrow category. It's an ok read if you are bored or attempting a challenge (like me), but I wouldn't go out of my way to purchase and read it.

What are your thoughts? Have you read Everybody Rise yet? Is it on your must-read list? I'd love to hear what you think!

Buy Everybody Rise here.

* I received this book in exchange for an honest review. My opinions are my own.

Flight from ATL to LGA

ATL airport @ 6:30AM

Last Thursday Justin and I woke up at an ungodly hour of the morning (2AM) to meet up with my in-laws and get to the airport 2 hours early for our 6AM flight to LGA. We were all excited about going through security because we had pre-check listed on our flight tickets – only to discover that the pre-check line wasn't open yet and we would have to remove our shoes, belts, liquids, and laptops anyway. :( Oh well. 

Of course that was only the beginning. It turns out food places didn't open until 5AM (no breakfast for the hungry … or sugar-highs for the tired) and then when we boarded the plane, there was some sort of hydraulic light that came on in the cockpit meaning we were stuck on the tarmac for an additional 30 minutes. Argh.

When we finally took off, I found myself highly entertained the entire trip … even without the internet to keep me company. This blog post is a summary of what I did … in the wordless form. :)

7AM sunrise

sun reflection on clouds (Forgive the dirty glass – I blame Delta.)

Engine + clouds 

The clouds were almost a landscape themselves…

First views of land + water! (since take off that is.)

Beautiful NY(?) landscape – 20 minutes out from landing…

So excited!

All of the taxis! #HowYouKnowYouAreInNYC (#OrAreThoseBuses?)

Getting closer…

Arrival to LGA @ 8:49AM

And just for fun…

haha. When was the last time you had this much fun on a flight?

Holiday Inn: Historic Downtown – Charleston, SC

image from IHG

Destination: Charleston, SC
Date: July 2015
Hotel: Holiday Inn
Brand: IHG
Elite Status: Spire
# of travelers: 2
nights: 1

Hotel & Brand: Making the Decision

Every year for my birthday, Justin and I travel to Charleston, one of my favorite US cities. I love the combination of beach + city, and the food found here is so so so good! Having spent a lot of money traveling during the 4th of July holiday to Savannah, Justin and I knew that for this getaway we would have to go light on spending. Having just recently opened up the IHG and Chase Sapphire rewards cards, we knew we had plenty of points to stay for a free night at any hotel of our choosing: the biggest question was where did we want to stay?

When I decided on booking the Holiday Inn, I have to admit that I thought if you booked with cash + points, you still received points for your stay. Since IHG was running a promotion to give you double the points (plus with Spire elite status I get 100% bonus points), I felt that staying with IHG would be a lucrative way to save money and earn points at the same time. Unfortunately, with any awards stay, I realized, you do not get points. However, the thought process behind this was mainly why I choose to stay with IHG. Plus, I was still trying to figure out how Chase Sapphire points could be redeemed… more on that in my next hotel stay post. :)

After picking the IHG brand to redeem points with, I had to decide between the downtown location, the river locations, or spots closer to the beach. One of the best things in life is waking up at a hotel on the beach, but given that IHG did not have that option for Charleston, rather than staying a few miles from the beach in a hotel where I would still have to drive to the ocean, I opted for either the more scenic views (near the river) or the downtown location. The deciding factor then became Justin (who preferred downtown) and the best use of points (which, as it turns out, was downtown where we could redeem our points at a higher value – 35,000 for approx. $250/night instead of 35,000 points for approx. $150/night at the river view location).

Getting There & Parking

Justin and I were so busy all the way up until this trip. We were ready for a weekend getaway – looking forward to delicious food and a gorgeous view of the beach. I went to work with Justin on his half work day – Friday – and we left from there around noon to make the 6-hour drive stopping only once at the mall for me to get a haircut. When we finally arrived at the hotel, Justin pulled up beside the door and a valet helped us unload our car. Then we went to check in. As a heads up, valet parking at this hotel is $16/night and there is no self-park option unless you use city parking on the streets.

A few other options for getting there:
• Amtrak + taxi ride, which IHG shows will cost $40 from the Amtrak station.
• airport + taxi ride, which IHG shows will cost $30

The Lobby & Checking In

The Holiday Inn hotel lobby is pretty simple without much decor. You can expect tile floor and a million brochures along with the front desk staff who appear as nice and helpful but really don't do anything to go above and beyond their call of duty. When we checked in, even with the highest elite status available in the IHG program, we were still not offered bottled water, free breakfast, extra points, a snack, or even a room upgrade. *shrugs* Perhaps it's because we used reward points? Anyhow, at least they had our room available and ready for us…

Image from TripAdvisor

Room & View

Justin and I didn't have much time to get settled in since we arrived so late and had reservations at FIG. Nevertheless, we found our accommodations to be typical in size and extraordinarily bland in decor. We did not receive a room with a view (aside from the valet parking area), but our room did have a large tv, a desk, drawers, an extra chair beside the bed, and a small bathroom. Honestly, this hotel screamed "easy to clean" rather than comforting and being a "home away from home".

Hotel Property, Amenities, Free Breakfast, Etc…

Justin and I didn't get around to exploring much of the hotel, so I don't really have a whole lot to share in this section. :-/ The hotel was very basic without too many outdoor areas and even the inside felt a bit cold and unwelcoming (IMHO).

As listed on their site, this hotel offers:

• an outdoor pool
• a fitness center
• on-site laundry facilities
• same day dry cleaning
• free wi-fi

Breakfast here costs $12/person for the buffet, so Justin and I found we could go out to eat (Toast, anyone?) for a cheaper and more enjoyable experience. There was free coffee in the lobby though to get Justin through until we had completed the 10-minute walk to downtown Charleston to our chosen restaurant.

Location & Price

When I originally booked this hotel, I expected an easy walk to downtown Charleston (or at the very least – a trolley like the Hampton Inn Downtown Charleston has). Instead, after putting on high-heeled shoes and attempting to walk to dinner that first night, I discovered the walk was much further than I had anticipated and ended up having to purchase $12 flip flops in downtown Charleston just so that I could make the trip back. (Clearly, I wore the wrong shoes, so I recommend learning from my mistake rather than attempting it yourself!)

Even though the hotel was in walking distance to downtown, I recommend staying at the Hampton Inn or Courtyard Marriott on Meeting Street (for chain hotels) to be that much closer since the prices are about the same as the Holiday Inn. (Plus, having stayed at the Hampton Inn two years ago, I can tell you that I love that particular hotel!)

Overall I have to say that the price ≠ quality in this case. In my opinion, you would get more for your money by staying at the Charleston Riverview Holiday Inn hotel over this one even if you have to drive into the city and pay for parking. Plus, you get a view…

Photo credit: Ron Cogswell via VisualHunt / CC BY

Overall Review
★★★ (average)

One of my first stays at an IHG hotel in Panama City Beach was wonderful, but I'm slowly losing that "loving feeling" the more I stay at other IHGs around the east coast. They all seem to be pretty basic and scoring very high on the average end of hotels. I'm grateful to find them in so many cities and reasonably priced, but I often find myself wishing they would do something just a little extra to make our stays more worthwhile and enjoyable. By taking the initiative to provide a room with a view or making me aware of shuttle service could have taken my stay from "I'm never staying here again" to reconsideration. However, they did not do that. And because of this, in the future, I will most likely choose a different IHG, a privately owned B&B, or the Hampton Inn if I stay in the downtown Charleston area again.

Your Turn

Have you ever stayed in a hotel in downtown Charleston? What are your thoughts on the IHG branded hotels? Are my expectation too high? Do you agree that IHG hotels are boring and bland or have I just been visiting the wrong ones? Feel free to voice your opinion below!

Make-Up & Skincare Monday

Over the past few weeks I've received a few new skincare products to review that I'm going to share with you now.

First, let's talk about the Dickinson's Refreshingly Clean Cleansing Cloths. I love how large these cloths are. They almost remind me of baby wipes; they are super soft and very moist. The product leaves your skin feeling hydrated and refreshed, perfect in hot weather. The one downside I found was the smell. For being "odor free", I found it to be … not. Is that a double negative? … The product has a very distinct unpleasant odor. It's not like lemons or anything refreshing either; instead it smells like moldy paper. Or maybe witch hazel (whatever that smells like!). In the end, I'm not sure if I would buy these in the future. I don't really use face wipes that much, but if I could have these without the strong smell, this would be what I'd use.

Next up, I tried the Vaseline Intensive Care Spray Moisturizer (the aloe soothe version). For someone with dry skin who hates applying lotions (greasy feeling ftl), this was kind of a miracle spray. To test the waters, I first tried it on my dry, cracked heels. Within seconds of rubbing the product in, my skin already looked better, healthier, and happier! Woot! The product is very light on your skin and more wet feeling than greasy, so you feel like you can touch other things right after using it. It has a nice light fruit/floral smell that disappears within seconds. And best of all, the spray cap turns to the left and right so that you can "close" the product when you are done using it to prevent accidental sprays! While I'm not sure yet if this will be a keeper in my super-light skincare routine, I definitely feel like Vaseline has put together a worthwhile product that makes moisturizing easier when you are on the go as often as I am!

One of the products I was most excited about trying was the Oz Naturals Sea Infused Herbal Moisturizer. Shortly after trying their under eye cream last month, they invited me to join their reviewer program and review some of their other products. The Sea Infused moisturizer was my first sample product from that program. I wanted to try it because it's the summer and who wouldn't want to try sea infused anything during the summer? The product comes out like a smooth, thin lotion and smells a bit like sunscreen, which isn't my favorite. And if I use it on my face, I immediately have to grab one of those cleansing cloths to wipe and keep my face from looking and feeling greasy. Overall, as much as I wanted to love this product, I think I will have to keep looking for a great face moisturizer.

After trying all of these moisturizing products, you would think my post would be over, wouldn't you? Except not. Tomoson hooked me up with New Radiance Naturals and their Anti-Aging Eye Gel. Having tried so many others in the past, I wasn't sure whether I would like this product or not. After a few weeks of diligently putting the product on every night, I came to discover that, like many of the others eye care products I've received to try over the past few months, this product was amazing and reduced the dark circles under my eyes quickly and dramatically (as in one use). My only complaint was the smell. It comes out of the bottle in small doses perfect for under eye application, and the product is so smooth and silky feeling. It is not drying to your skin nor is it greasy feeling. My skin felt super hydrated after using, almost like I applied a lotion. I would definitely recommend this product for those searching for an under-eye solution!

Finally, I got to relax and try the Sinful Colors Professional nail polish in southern belle. Be-u-ti-ful. It is definitely a gorgeous dark pink that looks fabulous now, but I imagine it will look even more fabulous in the fall. (Does fall scream dark colors to anyone else?) The brush makes it easy to apply a thin, smooth coat of paint to your nails, and it dries super quick reducing the chance you will get nail polish anywhere you don't want it.

Before going out on the town (or to babysit) I touched up my hair with my NuMe curling iron and I was ready to go! Feeling beautiful and confident is what it's all about, right?

Have you tried any awesome skincare or make-up products recently?

* I received these products for free in exchange for a review. All opinions are 100% my own. Thanks Influenster, Tomoson, and Oz Naturals! :)

Friday Fun

What dreams are made of…

As much as I love you all (and I do! dearly!), Justin and I had to go visit with his family in New Jersey/NYC and Boston this weekend. Terrible life, right? Don't worry though! I will be back on Monday posting again! I hope you all have a fantastic weekend! :)

The Story of Jeffrey MacDonald & A Review of Fatal Vision

In February 1970, Jeffrey MacDonald, a doctor and green beret, woke up in the early hours of the morning in his Fort Bragg apartment in North Carolina to the screams of his wife and children being murdered by hippies who were chanting "Kill the pig!" and "Acid is groovy!" Having been hit with a baseball bat and stabbed multiple times with a knife, Jeffrey MacDonald lost consciousness. When he awoke again, the killers were gone and his family was dead.

(Spoilers ahead.)

Wordy Wednesday

Edisto Island, July 2015

I just love looking back and providing my mid month review. No idea how you all feel about it though. It's kind of fun seeing where I am at and where I've come from looking back month-by-month. Here's where I am and what I am up to this month–

Listening to: TribeTyler.

I first found out about his youtube when he posted his proposal video and it went viral. It was beautiful and very well done – everything I would want in a youtube video and truly an inspiration to me. (If he can create magic with a camera, then maybe one day I will be able to too…) Ever since I saw that video, I've been following his vlog daily as he documents his 20s.

Remembering: and watching video throwbacks recently posted online (on facebook of course!) of my trip to NYC in March 2001. It's crazy seeing how young everyone looks … and the twin towers that fell on 9/11! Insane! Plus, it's kind of fun hearing the tour again. There's a lot I remember, but there is also a lot that I have forgotten.

Planning: Recently, I've been using Native, an app I downloaded on my phone that is free for 2 months using coupon code pizzainmotion if you sign up before August 31st. Native helps with travel planning as you are instant-messaging with a travel planner/concierge. So far, Paul has helped me find a hotel for NYC and Boston, looked into cheap travel for me between the two cities, and helped me research breakfast restaurants at the Hartsfield airport that are open before 6am. While I could definitely do all of this on my own, it's been so nice having the advice of a travel agent. The price tag (without the 2 free months) is a bit expensive, but for what you are getting, it's a very good service and one I would definitely consider using in the future.

On a side note, we are also (still) looking into travel to Europe. Right now we're considering flying to NYC and taking Norwegian (with their super cheap $300 flights) to Copenhagen right after Christmas to celebrate the new year in Europe and stay for ~2 weeks. Of course I'm incredibly indecisive and perhaps I'd rather go next year in July closer to my birthday? *shrugs* The point is: we're going. Someday. If I ever make a decision.

Anxiously Awaiting: I'm sooo looking forward to seeing an amazing view of NYC and I'm ready to see my travel planning put into action.

Interested to Know: what life will be like when my nephew is born. The time is coming!

Keeping A Secret: This blog post was written a week in advance (the 13th) since I knew this week (17-21) was going to be crazy busy for me with packing and getting last minute travel things figured out! Eek!

DIY'ing: nothing at the moment. Can't a girl have a break? ;-)

Reading: Captive by Ashley Smith. It's the true story of a woman whose life was changed after she was held hostage when a criminal broke out of jail, shot a judge, FBI agent, and court secretary in the early 2000s.

Here's a look back at the books I have read so far in 2015:

• the After series by Anna Todd
• A Lion In Paris by Beatrice Alemagna
• I Sold My Soul to the Devil For Vinyls … Pitiful, I Know on Wattpad
• Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen
• Refinery 29 by Piere Gelardi and Christene Barberich
• Frites by Anne de la Forest

• Summer Rain on Wattpad
• Jeni's Splendid Ice Cream at Home by Jeni Britton Bauer
• How to Travel the World on $50 A Day by Matt Kepnes
• Food: A Love Story by Jim Gaffigan

• No Capes on Wattpad
• The Bro Code on Wattpad
• He Wanted the Moon by Mimi Baird

• Cookie Love by Mindy Segal
• Sweetapolita by Rosie Alyeah

• Everything You Ever Wanted by Jillian Lauren
• Salsas & Moles by Deborah Schneider
• Fifth Avenue, 5 A.M. by Sam Wasson
• Seven Spoons by Tara O'Brady

• All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

• Fatal Vision by Joseph McGinnis
Color Mixing Recipes for Watercolor by William F. Powell

• Everybody Rise by Stephanie Clifford

What's going on in your life? Anything exciting?

15 Things to Do In Boston (and Massachusetts)

Serene nightscape of a beautiful city.

On Thursday Justin and I are flying up to NYC followed by a train ride to Boston on Friday morning. While our weekend is looking stressful and busy, I thought I would research a few things to do in Boston (like I did with NYC) that way once we get up there we can refer to it and not fritter away all of our time on research. Hopefully, if you have a trip to Boston planned in the near (or far) future, this list may come in handy to you too. I'll be sure to share after we return what we did, what we enjoyed, and maybe a few things to avoid…

1. See the Mapapparium in the Mary Baker Eddy Library.

Have you ever seen or heard of something like this? Built in the 1930s by Winston Churchill with glass panes that can be removed as the world changes, the Boston community decided in the 1960s to leave the exhibit untouched for future generations as an art piece. In the early 2000s the mapapparium was updated to include LED lights (instead of the 300 40-watt and 60-watt electric light bulbs that were originally used outside the sphere) and a better sound system. The inside of the mapapparium is known as a whispering gallery since one person can hear another's whispers while standing on opposite sides of the exhibit. Pretty cool, right? :)

2. Visit the Boston University observatory.

It's right across the street from the hotel Justin and I will be staying at, and it's free to visit on Friday nights. Why not? Plus, stars are awesome.

3. See the breathtaking views of Boston from the Skywalk Observatory.

I'm always a fan of seeing cities from above, and Boston is no exception to the rule. Ideally, I would love to arrive just before sunset and take in the beautiful daytime view before enjoying all of the city lights. It sounds both dreamy and romantic…

4. Explore the Mount Auburn Cemetery.

One of America's first garden cemeteries located near Harvard Square, there are many noteworthy people buried here including Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Winslow Homer, and Fannie Farmer (NFT).

Let's go!

5. Immerse yourself in the foliage found at the Arnold Arboretum.

Especially lovely in the fall, the Arnold Arboretum is located on Harvard University's campus and was founded in 1872. Benjamin Bussey donated the land"for instruction in agriculture, horticulture, and related subjects" (wikipedia). The arboretum is located on 281 acres of well-manicured and researched property and was designed in part by landscape architect Beatrix Farrand. A quiet respite from the rest of Boston, I look forward to enjoying a nice long walk amidst the trees and flowers in this beautiful area of town. Plus, I hear Peter's Hill, located in the Arboretum, is a gorgeous place to watch the sunset…

6. Enjoy the Boston Public Garden.

Established in 1837, the 24 acre public garden has a small pond, plenty of bridges, and overlooks Boston. It is a terrific place to observe flowers and plants in bloom as well as people watch.

7. Visit the New England Aquarium.

When I think of Boston, I think of the ocean, whales, dolphins, etc… So obviously a place I would love to visit is the aquarium. Recently having been to the Charleston Aquarium, I have discovered that no two are alike and they can hold new and exciting exhibits to take in. I am especially interested in the sea turtle hospital and the whale watching excursion. :)

8. Take a day trip to visit the Vanderbilt homes in Rhode Island.

Justin and I already have a season pass to the Biltmore Estate in North Carolina, so we are already somewhat familiar with the Vanderbilt family and who they were. It would be interesting to follow the family up north and see how the other side lived taking in both The Breakers and The Marble House. There are also plenty of other gorgeous mansions opened to the public in Newport that could keep us busy for a while…

Boats, boats, and more boats.

9. On the same note, explore Martha's Vineyard for a day…

We probably won't get to do this (or any other day trips!) during our visit in T minus 3 days, but it would be a great place to visit one summer I'm sure. Images from google make it look beautiful. Why else would people like Barack Obama, Bill Clinton, and Jacqueline Kennedy choose to live and visit there if it wasn't?

10. Soak in the beautiful artwork of Norman Rockwell

One of my favorite artists, I've always enjoyed Rockwell's depictions of American life. It would be nice to explore this museum and learn more about him, his artwork, and even take a tour of 36-acre site that the Norman Rockwell Museum is located on.

11. Eat breakfast at the Café at Taj Boston.

We'll start with the view from the café and end with good food. My in-laws and husband will get to enjoy the seafood they are craving, and I, on the other hand, will be able to savour the non-seafood breakfast I crave with a view to distract me from the smells. Win-win?

12. Take the Freedom Trail…

One of the best ways to salivate over US history.

13. Walk around at the Christopher Columbus Park.

The extraordinary views of both city and waterfront will make this walk worth it.

The night sky is always worth it!

14. Savour the night sky at East Boston Piers Park.

So I may be a little bit weird, but I love seeing and photographing city lights at night. Piers Park provides a fantastic destination for both and may even be a great sunset spot! Plus, there is an extraordinary view of the river. *sigh*

15. Eat a slice of Boston Cream Pie in Boston.

Because Boston. Duh. :) Apparently the Oak Room has the best in town.


While I know my list is not all-encompassing, for the small weekend trip I am about to take with my in-laws and husband, I can only hope we can do one or two of the items on my list. Have you been to Boston before? Is there anything you would recommend if you have?

** Linking up to City Trippers and

The Financial Stability Test

Aww! Poor little piggy

A few weeks ago, I saw this quiz on a blog I follow and I thought it would be good for me to try it out. By sharing, hopefully, it will give you a bit of insight as to how I budget every month (since I blog about it), what I consider to be important and worth splurging on (family and friends), and what I need to work on (paying off debt, building a stronger emergency fund). And if you take the quiz yourself, maybe it will do the same for you! :)

The Financial Stability Test:

(The more you say “yes” the better)

1. You’re at peace with your money situation. Both yes and no. Given our circumstances, I'm ok with how we are handling our money situation. I hate being in debt, but I don't want to give up life experiences.
2. You don’t fight about money with your spouse. True. It's usually give and take. It all depends on who wants what, how much it costs, and how vehemently the other person disagrees. A $20 dress or top won't make Justin mad, but if I were to buy a new car, that might get under his skin. Fortunately, I know that and don't go out making big purchases without talking to him first.
3. You don’t use your credit cards often, or if you do, you pay them in full every month. False. BUT! (There is a but!) Three of our cards (the ones we don't pay in full every month) are currently at 0% APR. On our other cards (that aren't 0% APR), we purchase items during the month to earn points and cashback and, at the end of the month, we pay for those purchases in full as well as paying a little down on the 0% APR cards. (Our credit card debt is down by 60% from the beginning of the year. I think that counts as proof I'm doing what I say I'm doing…)
4. You’ve got a fully stocked emergency fund. Yes and no. We have more than many people, but less than others. See #5.
5. A job loss wouldn’t mean you couldn’t pay your bills. True. We could last for like 2 months. Potentially 3. But I'd probably start freaking at the beginning of month 2.
6. Financial emergencies don’t invoke panic. Truth. *Most* emergencies are less than $1,000 and since that seems like a low number to me, I just kind of roll with it. Oh we have to pay $300 more per person because we missed our flight and Air France sucks? Whatever. Oh I have to fix a broken iphone screen? whatever. #moveon
7. You’re okay with spending money on special occasions. Always. Spending time with friends and family is #1 to me. 
8. The thought of being generous with your cash sounds exciting and not panic-inducing. Ummm… not really. With my friends and family, certainly. Putting money towards charity? I'm not that good at it. You have to wonder where the money is going and if it's actually going to help people in the long run. Plus, there are so many charities I'd help with that it's hard to pick just one.
9. You’re happy about your financial situation. Umm… meh. I want my debt to be paid off and I want the money to travel the world. That being said, I'm not super sad about my financial situation. There are definitely perks to being in debt and having to make every last dollar count. All of a sudden, it becomes necessary to actually care to the nth degree where your money is going and how it's being used.
10. Saving money has become a habit. No. Paying down debt has. (Kind of the same thing?)
11. Others’ opinions about what you have/don’t have don’t concern you. Meh. I care a little. I'd like to own a house. And if I had a house, I would care that it was clean and the items in it looked good together. But… I don't currently own a house. At the moment, my biggest concern is maintaining social connections and not becoming a loner, which I am pretty prone to doing.
12. Paying the bills never requires an in-depth plan. True. We have around 30 accounts, so paying bills is always complicated and takes at least an hour twice a month. However, it's not like we are wondering if we have enough money. 
13. Retirement and/or kids’ college expenses are covered by a solid, working plan. Plan? Yes. Covered? No. Goal is to have debts paid off and strong retirement plan by 40. Assuming everything works the way we anticipate, that should be achievable.
14. Your debt-to-income ratio is below 30%. Nope. We're at 34%. Close but no cigar.
15. You’re thoughtful about purchases. Absolutely. If I purchase a clothing item and don't wear it in the first week, it's getting returned. If I don't have a solid plan for consuming a food item I buy from the grocery store, I don't buy it. Actually, if I don't have a solid plan for using something immediately (no matter what it is) I don't usually buy it.
16. Avoiding/eliminating debt is a priority for you. Yes and no. We could potentially pay off our debt faster if I didn't like clothes and travel. I just don't want my life to be consumed with it. I'd like to pay off debt fast, but I also realize that life is short for me and everyone around me. I want to make time for those I love as well as experience the world even if I can't pay off debt one year sooner because of it.
17. You budget. Or else you’re so good at spending wisely that you don’t need to budget. Yes. Or at least we have a rough plan that we try to stick to.
18. You have a plan for the unexpected. Yes. We have a high unused credit limit and enough money in savings to cover an emergency. We also have insurance. I think we will be fine if something unexpected comes up.
19. You buy appreciating as opposed to depreciating assets. False. We buy little things like clothing, food, computers, and cars as opposed to houses and CDs (the financial kind, not the music kind!). But the majority of my clothes could be sold on ebay for more than I bought them for; does that count? ;)
20. Large purchases don’t create a damaging ding in your finances. Yes and no. If we've saved up, obviously the answer is no. If we've bought because of a good deal, we might be hurting our emergency fund depending on how big of an expense the purchase is and what time of year we do it in. Otherwise, Justin's paycheck can and has covered some pretty big expenses in the past few years.

Here’s the key to see where you rank:
• 16-20: You’re kicking it!
• 11-15: You’re doing very well!
• 6-10: You’re off to a good start!
• 0-5: You’ve got room to grow.

I got 11.5, so I'm glad to see I'm doing very well. Hopefully I'm on my way up… How are you doing? Feel free to take the quiz and share your results with me below. :)

The Great Search For A Delicious Macaron

Yummy macarons!

My first experience trying French macarons was when Justin and I bought some to bring home from Le Bon Marché right after we missed our plane. Tasting French macarons is kind of the thing you want to do when you are in France, but then you completely forget about it when you are surrounded by so much beauty, good friends, other tasty foods, and hurting feet. Justin and I did not get to try these délicieuse treats while in France, so it was quite exciting when we unboarded our plane, met up with our families, and opened the box up for the first time at … a Mexican restaurant.

Yes. Our first sample of an expensive French treat was after a lunch of Mexican fajitas. *shrugs* But they were good. They may not have come from a well-known French bakery but these "cookies" were much more than "cookies", they were an experience. :)

After sampling these gourmandises, I knew I had to find a US shop somewhere that served something similar. Did one exist? Was it possible to consume good macarons in the US after having truly French ones? Justin and I were on a mission to find out!

1. First we ventured off to Alon's where we knew it was possible to get (close to) real Italian olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and butter (SOOO good!) as well as succulent French limonade. Truly, any time we had anything in our fridge from Alon's, it was a treat. We were hoping that would include their macarons.

Only we weren't impressed when we finally got our hands on them. There is a delicate balance that must be obtained between hard outer shell of the cookie and soft inside without being too sweet. Apparently, this délicat balance is hard to obtain when you are cooking foods for the masses.

2. Moving on, our next stop was Amelie's French Bakery where we stopped for breakfast one morning on the way to getting my hair cut. We were in a hurry but we gathered up 2 fresh, hot croissants, and a few macarons. (Trust me. You can't make your decisions based on just one! It's too difficult!)

Nearly two seconds later, as we ate our breakfast quickly, we found that Amelie's wasn't quite French enough for our liking. The croissants were not flakey and the macarons left a lot to be voulu.

3. During a trip to Charleston shortly after our return from Europe, we located a French bakery just off the main strip. I can't remember the name nor can I locate it with Google. Either way, it was also a disappointment.

4. Then Anthropologie had a members-only sale where they were serving macarons alongside juice. Where did you get the macarons? we asked the store manager. Trader Joe's apparently. So off we went in search of a fantastic Mother's Day treat … only to be disappointed. Didn't anybody sell good macarons in this country?!

We were about to give up looking altogether when…

5. we stumbled across Marche de Macarons. Unlike it's predecessors, Marche de Macarons cookies featured the delicate balance between cookie and jam, crunchy and soft. While still not quite perfect in my opinion, these macarons were certainly close enough to French reality, that I would, quite happily, return and purchase more. We tried vanilla bean, pistachio, raspberry, lemon, chocolate, caramel, and snickers. And the best part? You can order online if you live in the US!

While our great search for macarons has only really just begun in the past year, Justin and I can't wait to explore even more macaron-making bakeries across the US until we discover the one and ultimate best macaron bakery stateside. I will update you with our progress … assuming we ever make any other amazing macaron tasting discoveries. In the mean time…

If you've been to France, have you faced the same difficulty as Justin and I in looking for French macarons? And if you haven't, do you understand what I mean about a delicate balance between cookie and filling and crunchy and soft? In the comments, share with me your favorite place to get macarons! Revive in me the belief that if they (the French) can make delicious cookies, we (the Americans) can too! :)

* I used French words in this post without ever having studied the language. If they were misused, please forgive me. I promise I love the French and would never dream of offending them on purpose! 
** Fun little article about the development of department stores in France.

Teaser Thursday

This week has been crazy, so I, once again, am participating in Teaser Tuesday on Teaser Thursday. I was suppose to have the following book finished two weeks ago … and I still have over 100 pages left. *sigh* Review to come … one day! :)

• Grab your current read
• Open to a random page
• Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
• BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn't give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
• Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

20 Things I Want to Do in NYC (Summer Edition)

Simply majestic!

Next week at this time, I'm going to be packing for a trek out to the big apple! I last went in 2013 with my in-laws to meet Justin's aunt and uncle for the very first time. The 12 hour drive we made over night was just long enough to settle my nerves, wear me out, and dehydrate me. Nevertheless, we only spent enough time to take our belongings in and change before we were headed out to the subway and on the streets of New York City in the hot sun. While we did get to do and see a lot during our visit in 2013, the overwhelming heat and a sick traveler slowed us down a bit by day 2. (Sidenote: don't try to drink the water from the fountain at the 9/11 memorial. You WILL get sick.) Needless to say, there is still a lot that we haven't seen or done in NYC!


1. One World Trade Center Observatory

Recently opened in November 2014, the height of the building, including spire, reaches 1776 feet (a nod to when the Declaration of Independence was signed) and has 104 floors. The observatory is located on the top three floors of the building and includes a gift shop and restaurant. While it makes me a little nervous to go so high into such a well known building that was built in the aftermath of 9/11 and the fall of the twin towers, the experience as noted by The Points Guy looks well thought out and pretty awesome.

Of course, I'd be happy to go anywhere with a view. And it looks like there are plenty of business buildings, hotels, and restaurants that have just that in NYC! :)

2. Coney Island

From rollercoasters to fireworks to hot dogs (blech!), I'm looking forward to the day when I get to experience walking on the boardwalk and taking in all of the sights and people-watching that can be done here. No guarantees a hot dog will find my mouth, but perhaps a slice of Brooklyn style pizza will suit just as well!

Books, desks, and chandeliers!

3. Visit the New York Public Library.

Last time I was in the city, the public library had an exhibit about children's picture books which I was unable to convince my in-laws to go to. However, even without an exhibit, this is definitely a place I would like to visit. It's probably because I've seen Breakfast at Tiffany's one too many times. ;)

4. American Museum of Natural History

I admit it. Thanks to the movie Night at the Museum, I want to explore this city treasure. Will it be worth the time and suggested entry fee? Who knows?

5. Go on a Food tour

The walking food tour looks especially interesting. I'm so particular in what I eat that it would be nice to only have to pay for the foods I will eat rather than all of the foods. On the other hand, what's the point of going on a food tour if you aren't going to try all of the foods presented?

All of the subways!

6. Get a glimpse of the Old City Hall Subway Station.

You have to be a member of the Manhattan Transit Authority Museum and the dates are pretty limited, but I imagine it would be fun and exciting to get a rare glimpse of NYC transit history.

7. Collect artifacts from Dead Horse Bay.

I'm not sure if this is really cool, awkwardly gross, or strangely creepy, but it might be fun to search for turn of the century finds on this forgotten island. Of course, it's quite possible that I will need all of the best hand sanitizer in the world after exploring this place. Nose plug anybody?

8. Get a drink and take in the past at a Speakeasy.

One of my favorite places in Atlanta before it closed a few years ago was Dante's Down the Hatch. I loved the atmosphere, the delicious fondue, and best of all the live jazz music! While I can't bring back the restaurant, perhaps a trip back in time to a secret, hidden (or more likely, not hidden) NYC Speakeasy could be just what the doctor ordered for a fantastic jazz fix.

9. Go on a photography tour of the city at night.

Like the food tour, the pay-what-you-want photography at night tour offers three of the things I'd want most in NYC at night: great suggestions on where to take pictures, safety in numbers, and a free tour. The idea of coming home with fantastic night time city landscape photography makes me very, very happy. :)

10. See a broadway show.

Technically I've done this before, but Justin has not. I definitely think this is a must at least once in NYC. Plus, I'm totally up for supporting the arts. Phantom of the Opera? The Lion King? Mama Mia? Really, any show will do!

The combination of gardens and art make the Cloisters a worthwhile stop!

11. Explore the Cloisters.

The museum featuring medieval art doesn't interest me as much as the gardens, but a google search reveals only positive comments about the location and beauty making it a must-see on my list.

12. Enjoy the sights of the Brooklyn Botanic Garden.

I imagine this would be much prettier (and less hot to visit) in the fall or spring, but nevertheless the architecture and nearby lakes definitely add to the beauty. With 52 acres of gardens, you could probably enjoy it for hours.

13. The Skyscraper Museum

Focusing on architecture and skyscrapers located in NYC, this museums takes a look at the city from the vantage point of a designer. It looks especially perfect for those who have an interest in the growth and expansion of New York City's landscape over the years.

14. Go shopping!

Farmer's markets, vintage stores, hole-in-the-walls, and tourist shops could all make for unique and exciting places to find local treasures and gifts.

Right when you think the city is expensive…

15. Take a day trip to the Hamptons.

Why not live like royalty for a day – grab a bite to eat, soak up the sun and relax by the water with my favorite drink in hand?

16. Eat at a fancy restaurant.

No, I don't have any in mind, but NYC is known for amazing food and imaginative chefs. I think blowing the budget for one meal could be okay… :)

17. Take a walk on the Park Slope neighborhood in Brooklyn.

It totally reminds me of the walks Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks took in You've Got Mail. Beautiful with trees but still in the city. Definitely what you would call picturesque!

18. Wander through the Chinese Scholars Garden.

If you can't go to China, perhaps this is the next best thing? Built in 1999, the garden was constructed as an authentic Chinese garden through the support of many partners. The google images make it look gorgeous and completely different from any of the other gardens on my list.

19. See the Wave Hill House and gardens.

Home to big names like Teddy Roosevelt, Arturo Toscanini and Mark Twain, the Wave Hill House opened in July 2013 adding just one more reason to visit these gorgeous gardens located in the Bronx.

Just when you think you've seen it all…

20. Enjoy the natural beauty of Flushing Meadows-Corona Park.

Site of the 1964 New York World's Fair, the ~897 acre park is the fourth largest park in NYC and was created on a former dumping ground (wikipedia). One of the defining features of the park is the New York State Pavillion which currently sits unused. The park is also the home of Queens Theatre in the Park, the New York Hall of Science, the Queens Museum of Art, and Terrace on the Park.


New York City is a huge place and offers so much to do and see that a list of 20 sights certainly could never contain them all. If you are looking for more things to do in NYC, be sure to check out The Baltimore Sun's 100 Things to Do in NY. There are so many more ideas that I simply didn't have room to include here! (And I didn't want to copy their article verbatim!)

What would you do if you went to NYC? Anything on my list? Something else? Share! I'd love to hear! :)