12/22/2015

Carl Michael Salon

 

I think I can honestly say that when is comes to beauty, there is no greater feeling in the world than having your having blow dried. Having my hair washed is up there with getting a professional massage and just getting to unwind while someone else does all the work is perfection. The best part though, is always how great your hair looks once it's done. It's probably because I'm highly inept when it comes to my own hair so I have such an appreciation for the ladies in my life that help me out. My friend Sam, works at the Carl Michael Salon in Danvers and I've officially found my new favorite place to get dolled up.


Carl Michael's is a full service salon and you can get everything from a hair cut to a full color. They use Pureology and Redkin products and it leaves your hair feeling light & clean with the perfect bounce. I am especially obsessed with the décor - with a lush setting and big gorgeous chandeliers. It's exactly where I want to be when I'm getting pampered.
 
They are open Wednesday through Sunday and run specials that you can check out here and a loyalty program to start earning points here.
 
I really enjoyed my time there and can't wait to go back for another blow dry.
 
 
Sponsored post - all opinions are my own

12/07/2015

Dianne's Fine Desserts of Newburyport


Dianne’s Fine Desserts in Newburyport is your one stop shop for all things sweet and tasty! I’ve been a fan for years now and was introduced a while back by my in-laws who have been buying Alden Merrell cakes for the better part of 10 years.  The selection is big, the desserts are delicious and the presentation is always pretty.

The holidays are always so hectic and if you are hosting parties and dinners it makes it all that much more stressful. In any event that I’m hosting, I make sure to get one or two things catered so that I’m not all consumed with every detail. Dianne’s takes the pressure off of hosting and you can count on having desserts that everyone will enjoy.

Although they have many, I had the pleasure of trying an assortment of desserts. My favorites are hands down the carrot and sour cream coffee cake. The carrot cake is so delicious, every bite is better than the last. I served it with vanilla ice cream and coffee and it was the perfect after dinner treat. The coffee cake is a great pick if you are hosting a breakfast or brunch. Having a coffee cake made for you leaves you with more time to focus on other breakfast foods that you would want to have homemade.  
It’s always a good feeling knowing that you have a go-to place for desserts that you love and trust. Dianne’s is definitely mine. It’s close to home and offers such a wide selection of desserts that you can’t go wrong for any event and party. Head on over to the web site for more information and a list of all the desserts they have http://www.diannesfinedesserts.com/ !!

 This is a sponsored post, all views & opinions are my own.

10/12/2015

Instagram – Look How Cool I Am

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about Instagram. This social media outlet that I love so much is becoming a major hindrance in my life. Though I love a pineapple wall shot just as much as the next guy I keep feeling like the whole thing is inextricably inauthentic. It's one thing to enhance photos but to create scenes for my feed is just downright ridiculous. Yet I do it and I feed into this whole notion that I need more followers and ‘likes’ when in reality (as in real life) these things don’t matter.

 I think the concept of Instagram began with the idea of inspiring. Somewhere though, that concept has been mangled and is inspiring competition and the feelings of inferiority. Why am I jealous of people I’ve never met? It’s probably because they are beautiful/stylish/wealthy and can travel 365 days a year. They attend glamorous dinner parties, nights in are spent in adorable pajamas and home cooked meals look like they could be on the cover of Martha Stewart Magazine. They are inspiring me to do the same - paint a picture that my life is perfect.

If you scroll through my feed, every photo is of something cool, pretty or interesting. What you don’t know is that I took 50 photos of that object, food or landscape and used seven different filters to get it just right. You don’t see D’s frustration at having to take another picture of me when he thought the first one was good. And you certainly don’t know that while I just snapped a picturesque photo of pumpkins, I was on my way to CVS for Q-tips.

And why do I obsess over these ‘likes’ and getting more followers? It’s because the bar has been raised and the standard has been set too high. And people never post the normality of their day to day lives, only posting the beautiful moments. It’s like an online popularity contest; watch me, follow me, like me.

I’ve spoken to women of all walks of life on the subject and they’ve confessed to feeling inadequate when it comes to the people they follow. A middle aged mother told me that when she’s on social media she feels so envious of other moms who seem to always be doing fun things with their kids, when it takes everything in her to just finish the laundry. Or me, who was actually angry at D for not having a month long jaunt planned to the Almafi Coast. Through social media we are always shown that someone else is doing it better.

It started to occur to me that these things just weren’t that important. It’s ridiculous for me not to pose for a picture because I’m not wearing enough make-up or have a zit or my nails aren’t done. I also realized that I was portraying a lifestyle that I didn't live myself. You wouldn’t know this about me but sometimes I sit on the couch, eat junk food and binge watch reality TV shows. And just the other day I stayed in my adorable pajamas (or black leggings and hoodie) until noon doing absolutely nothing. But I would never share a picture of that because it’s not glamorous. But in truth those glam moments are few and far between. More often than not, I’m coming up with excuses not to go to the gym, managing our finances and working.  

We forget I think, that regardless of photos being beautiful they are still posed. I never want to lose out on real moments because I'm anxious to take a photo of them. We're not suppose to live life for Instagram. 

I won’t lie and say I’m going to stop Instagramming because I’m proud of my feed and want to keep posting pretty pictures. I will however, stop intentionally creating scenes to compete with other grammers. Just the other day I spent 10 minutes of my life trying to take the perfect outfit of the day photo only to realize I looked insane. I never did take a good enough picture… and that’s OK. 

9/17/2015

A Weekend In Seattle

Back in early August D & I took trip to Seattle for a long weekend. Seattle is my most traveled location because growing up we went almost every year to visit family. A few years back I started going with D and while our first two trips were spent doing touristy things to get him caught up, this trip we enjoyed just going with the flow. We dug in hard to the foodie scene, visited off the beaten path places and let my cousins show us the way they do Seattle.     
 
 D has a thing for donuts. He really, really likes them. So much so that a few years back for Christmas I had my Aunt package up Top Shop donuts from Seattle and send them all the way across country. The sentiment was there but the donuts were stale when they arrived and he felt he never really got to experience Top Shop. So our first stop in Seattle this time around had to be for donuts. We ordered far too many if you ask me but we can say the donuts really do live up to the hype and they are D approved.


We flew over Thursday morning and took the red eye home Sunday night. We decided to go rather spontaneously because my aunt was traveling in Ireland for the month of August so we took advantage of the free digs. She lives in South Seattle which is more up and coming and still close enough to the bustle of more lively neighborhoods. It was actually the first time I’ve ever stayed in the city because our family lives in surrounding suburbs so it was a pleasant change to be near the center of everything.

I did a little research on a couple of places to eat before we went but for the most part we let my cousins take us around - which is really the best way to see a city. They took us to really cool neighborhoods, restaurants/bars and an amazing brewery in Fremont. On our last day there we drove to Kirkland, an upscale town right on the water and had lunch at Cactus, a Mexican restaurant that we had been dreaming of going back to since 2011. 



Food recommendations: Salumi, The Shelter, La Panier, How to Cook a Wolfe, Volunteer Park Café, Cactus (Kirkland).
Bars: Fremont Brewing Company, The Shelter, 9 Million in Unmarked Bills.

Cool Spots to visit: Green lake, Pioneer Square, Pike Place, Queen Anne Hill, Fremont (there is an outdoor market on Sunday's).

 
There is something about Seattle that just gets me every time. The vibe is cool and laid back and it makes us keep coming back for more. Though there is a lot to see, it’s a city that can easily be done in three days. And if you’re a coffee lover, there is no better place to be!

9/16/2015

Off My Bookshelf -September


Over the last few months I have done quite a bit of reading. I took the title, summer reading to the extreme and allowed myself easy reads that I thoroughly enjoyed. I’m still working on my binge reading problem but I think it’s getting better. It’s probably the conditioned student in me that feels like because it’s September I need to start reading books with some more depth. Some girlfriends and I are starting a proper book club and our first book choice is, All The Light We Cannot See. I don’t want to say too much but I was so impressed/touched/inspired by this read. I’m currently reading Rules of Civility, based in the 1930’s - I’m only a few chapters in but it’s right up my alley. My last choices are based on passing book stores recently and seeing, Go Set A Watchman. Some how growing up I missed reading How to Kill a Mockingbird which I have a feeling I’m going to love. Bon Voyage my beloved summer romance novels, it’s been real. 









8/17/2015

Planning Your Trip To Scotland - What You Need To Know


Planning our honeymoon was (for me) one the best parts of the whole process. Since our actual wedding was low key and required little planning, the elbow work really went into planning an unforgettable vacation. It’s important to consider right from the beginning what kind of vacation you want and what your maximum budget is (including, travel, hotels, spending money etc.). For us, it was about traveling somewhere we had never been before and actually exploring rather than being leisurely. We knew full well that by the end of the trip we would be exhausted but the pros outweighed the cons for us. Another thing to consider is going somewhere you may never get a chance to go again as a twosome.  Though Scotland is not entirely out of reach when it comes to future travel, I’m not sure we’ll ever have the patience to road trip through again. Wherever you decide to go planning ahead is so important especially when it’s a road trip.



Maybe one of the most important aspects of your planning will be creating and maintaining a budget. From experience, there is nothing worse than coming home from a trip and having to pay for it. Figure out what you can afford - not what you want to be able to afford. It's already a big deal that you're getting away. If it's a stretch to stay at the Ritz, then don't. Sometimes it's worth it to spend less on a hotel in order to be able to do more while you are there. I suggest that if you can't stay at the hotel you really had your heart set on, go to dinner there or check out the spa if they have one. Just because you can't sleep there doesn't mean you can't experience some parts of it. 

I make sure that we have the money for everything we will need to pay for before we leave. For example before I left I had totaled what it would cost to stay at every single hotel and our car rental for 2 weeks. I put that money aside and didn't take it with us on our trip. That way, I have the money to pay for it once we're back but I'm not carrying all that extra cash or feel tempted to dip from it at all. I've always found it very helpful to take advantage of my credit cards in travel. Just make sure your credit card doesn't have any foreign transaction fees, those will get ya. I'll use cash for spending money, shopping etc. 



Once cost was figured I started to think about what we would do. By nature, I want to plan every little thing. I knew having a general plan was smart but trying to control everything would be crazy. I decided to outline where we would go, stay and for how long. This gave us a clear picture of what the trip would look like and where we needed to be. I can’t even tell you how many times I used google maps trying to gauge how long it would take us to get to and from places. These general timelines helped a lot especially with driving time. I figured the longer the drive was to get there the longer we would stay at our next destination.



Day 1-3 Edinburgh
Day 4 St. Monan
Day 5-6 Inverness
Day 7-8 Isle of Skye
Day 9-10 Fort William
Day 11-12 Glasgow 

I tried to plan must see things for the first day we arrived in a destination. For example, from St. Monans to Inverness I thought it would be best to try and catch the Loch Ness river tour as soon as we got to Inverness so we could wake up the next day and do whatever we wanted. Same thing for Edinburgh when I had us hike up Aurther’s Seat having not even checked into our hotel room yet – I however, would actually highly recommend not doing that. It can be good to get those big attractions done first to leave more time for leisure but when it comes to physical ventures like hiking up an extinct volcano – best to give yourself at least a day.


When it came to accommodations I tried to find a mix of everything. Because it was our honeymoon I’d say we splurged. We stayed at mostly 4-star accommodations from hotels, b&bs and really splurged on a castle. I found through my research that if you are on a tighter hotel budget that there really are many affordable options. What is nice about traveling in Scotland is that everywhere we stayed included a huge breakfast. I had an insider tip from my Mother who had been years prior that the breakfasts were so big that lunch never really happened. It was important knowing that because I factored in not having to pay for lunch every single day. And we really never did have a big lunch, most days finding a snack. The restaurants in the countryside stick to an earlier timeline around 5-6 pm for dinner and that was pretty prevalent everywhere we went.




Finding attractions can be fun but also overwhelming because there are so many things to see in a new place. Deciding what places are OK to skip over can be difficult and I have to say most of my research came from finding blogs. I found bloggers who had similar interests as us and read their posts and reviews on the area. I even contacted a couple of them and found that not only were they willing to chat but gave local recommendations for restaurants and museums. When you hit up Trip Advisor and other travel sites like that, they are helpful but it doesn’t cater to you specifically. I also always go on the Conde Nast Traveler and Travel & Leisure web sites to see what kind of articles they have put out on the places I’m going. They might not have many suggestions but you know that the few they do have are good. Pinterest is ironically a good source as well. If you type in your destination not only will tons of photos pop up of your next locale but those photos are connected to links that have good info and often travel guides.



For us it was important to see and do a healthy mix of it all. We wanted to see castles but we didn’t want to get castled out, we wanted to dine at 5-star restaurants but we didn’t want to eat all of our money and we wanted to explore but we wanted to relax when we could too. This required finding (beforehand) which castles we wanted to see so we weren’t going into every castle we came across. I also did a good amount of research into restaurants and found that Scotland is up and coming in the foodie scene. Some of their best restaurants are Michelin rated which was helpful. But it was important to narrow down that list to a few to visit. In terms of relaxation, I’d say that every time we arrived in a new place we just went with it. Scotland is pretty mellow and low key and not fast paced from what we encountered. We went for long drives and walks and allowed ourselves to sleep in and take naps, it was our honeymoon after all. 

It took a lot of planning and months worth of research but it made our trip seamless and completely unforgettable. Worth every single second! 

8/14/2015

Scotland Part 3


The next days of our trip were spent on the Isle of Skye. Portree, the main city was a quaint little town with lots of good restaurants and that famous row of colorful buildings down by the water. We stayed a little outside the city so it was easier to explore some other parts of the island. 

Our hotel was located off the beaten path on an old estate. It just screamed spooky to me and it wasn't until after we checked in that I googled the history and found that it has known to be haunted! 



On our second day on the isle it was the first time we experienced that infamous Scottish weather. Having gone through the majority of our trip with clear days, we were unfazed. We headed to Neist Point, which I had read was absolutely beautiful and has been featured in movies. It is one of my absolute favorite things in life to visit a place and then see it again in a movie like, "we were right there! Remember!"

Getting there took a lot longer than we expected because it was the first time we found ourselves in single lane roads. The closer we got to the coast the crazier the weather was getting so we moved our lunch reservation up in hopes that the weather improved. The Three Chimneys (which is also an inn) restaurant was one of my favorite meals on our whole trip. It was gourmet and I had read ahead of time that it was one of the best restaurants in Scotland and it definitely was one of the best we dined in. It was a prefix menu, D & I got the same seafood stew, scallops and pudding for dessert. I still dream of that stew.

After lunch, when we finally arrived at Neist Point and it was raining pretty hard but we decided it was worth it to take (what we thought) was the short walk to see this beautiful view. Every time we thought we were nearly there we'd take a corner and realize we had a long way to go. But we kept trekking, figuring how many times do you do this. Well 45 minutes later, we saw the views of the ocean and rocks and it was worth it but we were also soaked to the bone! The walk back to the car was not my favorite but in the end I'm glad we did it. 


After two nights on the Isle of Skye we headed to Fort William for one night and probably my favorite part our of trip. This was the castle hotel, Inverlochy and it exceeded our expectations and our experience there was amazing. The castle was decorated lavishly and the grounds were incredible. I can still remember the cheesy grins we had on our faces when we pulled up. Our trip essentially had been building up for this stay and once we arrived we couldn't help beaming. It was almost like we stepped right into the past and I couldn't help imagining what this place was like 100 years ago. 

Our room had incredible views, a beautiful bed and one of the best bath tubs ever! Up until this point we had been so busy trying to see all these things we had read about but once we checked in here we completely let ourselves relax. 

The castle restaurant is award winning which I hadn't realized before so we made a reservation as soon as we checked in. They hosted a cocktail hour before dinner and I tried my first ever gin & tonic. I have been wanting a "grown up" cocktail to add to my list of go-tos because I typically don't like the really hard stuff and I was so surprised to find that I love them! Winning. 

Our dinner was as expected, amazing. The food of course was delicious but everything about our evening was great as well. The dining room was beautiful, lush and elegant. The people watching was spot on and the service was some of the best I've ever experienced. 

After dinner we hung in the billards room for a bit, which D really took a liking to. They had an extensive movie selection so we picked one, went back to the room and got cozy. We had asked to have breakfast in our room and what arrived the following morning I don't think either of us expected. They arrived, right on time with a big table and completely set up this beautiful breakfast for us. I think we sat there in awe like, where are we? Needless to say our stay there was one for the books and something I'll never forget. 



On our second day in Fort William we had hired a tour guide to take us around the surrounding areas to see some local wild life. Ian, our guide was really well versed in all things Scottish and knew tons about animals. He pointed out otters, seals and tons of different species of birds. D especially enjoyed this part and I was glad we got a one on one tour from a local.


D just feeding the Kelpies

On our last day we headed to Glasgow and stopped at the Kelpies sculpture just outside the city. They are massive and really impressive in person. 

By the time we arrived in Glasgow we were honestly so exhausted we didn't get to see too much of the city. We had an early dinner, walked around the center a bit and then headed back to the hotel for an early night. 

D & I do this thing after all the trips we take where we wrap up every single thing we do while we're away. When we got back from our honeymoon we completely forgot and just did it the other day. We remembered everything. It seems so surreal that writing this now we've been married for three months yet we remember every detail so vividly. I wouldn't trade that trip for anything and feel so thankful for the experiences we had there.