Oh Boston… I love you.

I’m more than a little depressed right now. We still don’t have an exact date for G’s departure, but based on his report by date, I know we’re within two weeks. Last night he started packing.

I just cried. I’ve been crying pretty munch nonstop for about a week now, and I don’t see that ending anytime soon. So, I figured I would lose myself in some happier memories for a while. Our time in Boston was really happy. It’s such an amazing city with an amazing history, and I just wanted to stay there forever.

We spent the day walking the city on the Freedom Trail path. The map is a little hard to see (but you can check out the Freedom Trail Website if you’re actually interested. Now, the actual red line is supposedly 2.5 miles, so roundtrip around 5. But that doesn’t count all of the distance you’ll cover actually exploring the spots on the trail, and of course the fun stuff that is off the trail. I no longer have a Fit Bit, but I had my phone one me all day, and according to the Apple Health app, we walked about 13 miles in Boston. And I was FEELING it. We actually got back to our hotel after dinner and immediately jumped in the hot tub. Freedom Trail
My favorite children’s book is Make Way for Ducklings, so we started in the Boston Public Garden. 2016-08-01 21.17.18 Whenever one of my animals yawns, I like to stick my finger in their mouth (yes, I’m a weirdo). So, naturally I stuck my finger in the duck’s mouth. 2016-08-01 21.17.48-2 2016-08-01 21.18.05-2We made our way to the first creepy cemetery of the trip: the Granary Burying Ground. This spot is the final resting place for a number of prominent citizens, including Benjamin Franklin’s parents, John Hancock, Paul Revere, Samuel Adams & the men who died in the Boston Massacre.
2016-08-01 22.03.17While I love the history of these buildings, I also love the architecture of them. The Old City Hall is one of my favorite buildings.
2016-08-01 22.17.302016-08-01 22.16.18Continuing our walk, we stopped in the Old South Meeting House, and were greeted by this guy. I was mildly annoyed, because it took away from the beauty of the space, but it was kind of cool. 2016-08-01 23.00.32The Old State House is one of my favorites, and one of the best stops on the trail. (It’s also free for military!) There are tons of artifacts and displays inside, and the rooms upstairs are so beautiful. I would seriously give anything to step out onto the balcony – the site where the Declaration of Independence was read to the people of Boston for the first time. 2016-08-01 23.26.56Just steps away from the Old State House… 2016-08-01 23.43.47And this guy. If I carried cash with me, I would have given him every dollar in my wallet.2016-08-01 23.44.31This view is actually one of my favorites in Boston. I think it perfectly describes this amazing city. It’s the perfect mix of history & modernity, and I can’t think of any place better. 2016-08-01 23.46.19Later in the day when we were heading back to the car, the sun had finally come out and view (from the other side of the building) was even more beautiful. 2016-08-02 03.42.37-2Continuing on, you have the Paul Revere statue right before you get to the Old North Church, which is my favorite church on the tour. 2016-08-02 00.36.51This church is amazing. The light in here is just gorgeous. I’m especially obsessed with the windows and the light fixtures. 2016-08-02 00.46.512016-08-02 00.48.08More old cemeteries.The only way I’d ever want to be buried (I’d rather be cremated), is if I could end up in a cemetery that’s AT LEAST 300 years old…2016-08-02 01.00.44Last time we were here, we didn’t get to go on the USS Constitution because of the government shutdown. This was the one thing Graham wanted to do, so we finally made it. The ship wasn’t as impressive as it should have been, since it was being repaired, but it’s still insanely cool to stand on a warship that is almost as old as the country. 2016-08-02 14.47.35-2Now, onto the food in Boston… We stopped at B.Good for a quick lunch. G LOVED his burger (the El Guapo) and the spicy avocado & lime bowl was delicious, but ridiculous. I had it topped with chicken, and I ate maybe 1/3 of it. This was SO much food. 2016-08-02 11.19.292016-08-02 11.19.46Once we saw the USS Constitution and finished the trail, we turned around and headed back. On the way back, we stopped at Mike’s Cannoli. We stopped here on our last trip to Boston, and were both excited to stop in again. These were just as good as we remembered. 2016-08-02 15.42.03We had exciting plans for dinner, but we were both exhausted and hungry. We wanted Italian food, but most of the Italian places were REALLY far from where we parked, and since we didn’t want to pay for parking twice, we ended up at a local chain, Papa Razzi. The food wasn’t mind blowing, but it was delicious. We started with the antipasto board, and I had the gnocci (and again added chicken). I loved the gnocchi. The sauce was rich, and the chicken was delicious.
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It’s been a while…

So, it’s been over a month since my last post. Oops. I was on vacation for 2ish weeks, so at least a good chunk of that is accounted for, but still. My bad.

Our vacation was completely wonderful. Especially the New England part of it. The weather was AMAZING. Like, mid 70’s to low 80’s. Such a nice break from the 106 degree days we’d been having in Virginia. And it’s just so damned pretty up north. Our first (real) day of vacation (our first actual day was spent in the car) started with breakfast in Rhode Island, and then on to Quincy, MA. Quincy was actually one of the places I was most excited to visit. Last time we were in New England was during the government shutdown in 2013, and since Adams National Historic Park is part of the National Park Service, they were closed.

The tours were timed, so we bought our tickets, and then explored the nearby church (where both President Adams’ and their wives are buried) until it was time. John Adams is my favorite founding father (although if I were picking a founding father for the same purpose that Emily Gilmore and her DAR friends did, it would absolutely be Thomas Jefferson…) so I absolutely LOVED being in Quincy. I’ve read DavidMcCullough’s very comprehensive John Adams biography, so I knew most of what I learned about him, but I enjoyed it anyways. I especially enjoyed learning about John Quincy Adams & his wife Louisa. 2016-08-01 14.27.302016-08-01 11.51.302016-08-01 11.30.282016-08-01 11.28.202016-08-01 11.28.08-22016-08-01 11.44.432016-08-01 11.42.49Once we left the church, we boarded the trolley that would take us to the three Adams’ homes that make make up Adams National Park. I’m going to be completely honest here: the first two were a total waste of time. 2016-08-01 13.00.41Birthplace of John Adams2016-08-01 13.00.48Birthplace of John Quincy Adams

Once upon a time, these homes were on hundreds of acres of farmland. Now they both sit on a tiny little plot of land, in the middle of a city. You got to see 2-3 rooms of each home (the rooms downstairs), and they had very little furnishings, and nothing that actually belonged to the family. Also, the tour guide wasn’t informed, and spent more time asking the kids in the group pointless questions then actually telling use about the family and the home. So, I was a little discouraged… and then we got to Peacefield. 2016-08-01 01.25.272016-08-01 01.26.41 2016-08-01 01.25.47This home was everything I had hoped it would be. The house was gorgeous, and the gardens were so, so beautiful. And Jesus Christ… the artifacts… I was dying. Apparently in 1946, the Adams family just gave the house, and all of its contents, to the United States. Well… almost all of the contents. At the beginning of their relationship. Thomas Jefferson and John Adams had busts made of one another. I asked about the Jefferson bust, and this tour guide (VERY informative and so passionate about the house and the family), told us that the bust was the one artifact that the family kept in their possession.

Peacefield also included the most beautiful library I’ve ever seen, Stone Library. It houses 14,000 volumes that mostly belonged to John Quincy and his son & grandson (some volumes belonged to John Adams, but he gifted most of his library to the United States). The library is made of stone to make it fireproof, and includes John Adams copy of George Washington’s farewell address and the Mendi Bible that was gifted to John Quincy after the Armistad trial. 2016-08-01 14.05.24-22016-08-01 01.24.32 2016-08-01 01.22.35-2 2016-08-01 01.20.10After Peacefield, we boarded the trolley to head back to the visitors center, and went to see the first creepy cemetery of our trip. This cemetery originally contained John & Abigail’s remains, until John Quincy had his parents moved to the church. The cemetery also houses the remains of John Adams ancestors, including the first Adams to come here. His grandfather’s tomb made me smile, since it mentioned that he was the grandfather of the lawyer John Adams. 2016-08-01 14.29.092016-08-01 14.34.062016-08-01 14.39.24After Quincy, we headed to Boston, first stopping for lunch at Waterclub. The food was good. Overpriced, but to be expected. Graham had a buffalo chicken wrap, and I had a lobster BLT. Both were excellent, and portion sizes were insane.2016-08-01 15.31.13 2016-08-01 15.19.06After lunch, we headed to our hotel. We were staying in Peabody. We weren’t wanting to head into Boston that day, so we explored some of the nearby areas. Graham found a castle that we wanted to explore, but they had closed for the day. So we headed to Rockport instead.

Coastal New England towns are pretty much the most charming towns ever. We walked around, enjoyed ice cream, and just enjoyed the cool evening. 2016-08-01 06.42.10 2016-08-01 06.43.17 2016-08-01 19.04.01-2

And with that, day one of our trip was complete🙂 I’ll be back later in the week with day 2!

A Perfect Saturday.

Saturday was pretty damned perfect. It got off to an early start. G got up early to mow the lawn, & I would have felt really crappy staying in bed while he was working, so I got up and did some cleaning & organizing inside. Once our grown up responsibilities were finished, we headed out for the day.

Our first stop was at Red Feathered Nest to look at a table they had posted on their Facebook page. The table ended up not being the right fit, but as always, they had lots of other fun things. 2016-07-09 12.00.21-1 These matching Bassett dressers… swoon. 2016-07-09 12.02.28-2 I loved these old soda crates. Fun fact: my mom worked at Pepsi for 30 years. But Pepsi is disgusting, and I only drink Diet Coke. 2016-07-09 12.07.31-1 Once we left Red Feathered Nest, we headed across the water for lunch in Norfolk. I recently made a pretty long list of restaurants I want to try before Graham leaves, and Saturday we were able to check off Field Guide. It’s a casual, trendy spot, with great drinks, rice bowls, and sandwiches.

The drink I ordered, the Yung Boozy (a slushy that tasted like an orange creamsicle), was super delicious and the best thing imaginable on a hot day. 2016-07-09 13.02.37 Graham had a split sausage sandwich with pickled red peppers, arugula, easy egg, horseradish aioli. I can’t stomach runny eggs, so I had a bite before he busted the yolk. Pre-egg yolk, it was delicious. 2016-07-09 13.07.21 I had the Tikka Byrd bowl. Everything about this was wonderful. The chicken had tons of flavor, the purple cabbage provided a really nice crunch.2016-07-09 13.07.44-1 2016-07-09 13.08.07-1 Dinner that night was pretty delicious also. We did a low country boil. And realized as soon as the food was on the serving platter, we should have invited some friends over for dinner… This is always so good, and such an easy dinner. 2016-07-09 18.59.56 After dinner we headed back out, and went to Hampton for their Saturday night block party. Glazed, a local doughnut shop, usually does funnel cakes for the block party. But, since it was about 17,000 degrees, they did ice cream sandwiches instead: doughnut | vanilla gelato | fresh strawberries | mini chocolate chips. This. Was. So. Good. 2016-07-09 20.05.59Hope everyone had a great weekend!

What I’m Loving Wednesday: Kitchen Seating Areas

Now that our kitchen nook is finished (wallpaper, new white trim, new light fixture), it’s time to start on phase two. From the day we first saw the house, I wanted to create a bench in the bay window, and create a cat seat for Buddy & Charlotte. But now, I’m having second thoughts. The space is so pretty & sleek, and I don’t really want to do anything permanent that’s going to cover up the bulk of our wallpaper.

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I also don’t want to put a table and chairs in the space, for several reasons. 1) The table we have their currently has become a catch all for all of our crap. Cookbooks, mail, my purse, G’s work hat, books, pet stuff, you name it & it lands on that table. It always looks messy and cluttered. 2) We never eat there. I learned yesterday that G has breakfast there in the mornings, but that’s it. We used the table a few times when Sav & Elise were staying with us, but we used the dining room when Shana & Elliott stayed, and I preferred the dining room. Once we do our kitchen remodel, we’re going to create enough room at the counter for a couple of bar stools. So, I’m pretty okay with not having a table and chairs there.

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The space the first time we saw it.

No cat seat bench, no table & chairs… what does that leave for a nook off of the kitchen?

A seating area. A while back we were watching Property Brothers, and they had created a little sitting area in the kitchen. I’m not sure why that randomly popped into my head the other night, but the more I thought about it, the more I liked the idea. We don’t eat in the kitchen, so why not make the space something pretty, that will get more use. Graham likes to hang out in the kitchen to keep me company while I cook (and occasionally vice versa), and I love the idea of comfy chairs for the non-cooker to hang out in. I love the idea of boldly upholstered chairs to break up the monotony of a grey and white kitchen. I can see Buddy and Charlotte hanging out in the chairs, bird watching from the big windows.

So, enough babbling and let’s get to what I’m loving: these kitchen seating areas.

Happy Wednesday!

How is it July already???

Can you guys believe it’s already July 5th? I had a little mini breakdown yesterday, when Graham asked me what was wrong for the zillionth time, and I verbalized that July 4th was the last holiday we’d have together before he goes to Honduras. I cried, and cried, and cried some more, and felt better once it was all out. I wish the weather had been better so we could have gone out and enjoyed the holiday, but despite crappy weather, we had a pretty great & productive weekend.

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Our weekend started early, when we met for lunch at Chipotle, and during lunch he got the call that they were done for the day. So, we ran an errand in Hampton, went home so he could change out of his uniform, and then went to Virginia Beach. He wanted to go to this fancy woodworking store. I kindly requested he drop me off at TJ Maxx, and come back for me when he was done.

The weather was gross, and looked like storms were coming any minute. The sky looked so cool. I literally made G turn around so I could go back and take a picture. 2016-07-01 16.06.02-1

After leaving the woodworking store & TJ Maxx, we headed into Norfolk to return some shoes to Nordstrom, and then made a stop by Strawberry Fields for some Gelato. Their case was fixed, and full of flavors this time. Graham sampled a few before going with the blueberry french toast. I went with the white chocolate raspberry trufffle. Both were fantastic. G wanted to walk around the area, while we ate our gelato, but I was hot and wanted to get back in the car. Luckily I  won, because after a few minutes the bottom dropped out and it started raining like crazy!2016-07-01 16.17.34-2

Since it was raining, our plans to grill for dinner needed to be changed. We had planned on grilling, but that wasn’t going to happen. Instead we went with the drunken noodles from Chrissy Teigan’s cookbook. I was excited to find the wide fresh rice noodles from an Asian market in Hampton. And speaking of this cookbook, I am OBSESSED with it. If you only buy one cookbook this year or next, buy this one! 2016-07-01 20.05.38-2

Saturday was the only pretty day of the long weekend. We started the day with breakfast at First Watch. Their pancakes are insane, and the bacon is always so crispy and delicious. Definitely my favorite breakfast on the Peninsula. 2016-07-02 10.55.41-2After breakfast, we took Hermione for a long walk & a swim, and then headed home to work on our breakfast nook project before going out for the night. This was supposed to be a simple, one weekend project: hang wallpaper, paint trim, done. But no. It’s turned into a two weekend project. The wallpaper only took a day, but instead of painting the old trim, we decided just to buy new stuff. So, he’s spent the past week cutting trim, & pre-installing it (he hung all of it up, made sure it fit, and then took it down so we could paint it), and this weekend we finally got to paint it and install it (for real).

Saturday night we headed to Hampton for the 1st Annual Bob Ross paint night. This was fun, but frustrating at the same time. I’m used to being good at things, and apparently I’m not good at this type of painting. We had a good time though. It was a beautiful night, and there was live music & cheese fries. 2016-07-02 18.47.35 2016-07-02 19.11.40-2 2016-07-02 19.56.02 2016-07-02 20.31.59-2After paint night, we wanted real food, so we headed to Fort Monroe for dinner at The Deadrise. I’ve heard a lot about this place, and I was excited to try it. I was especially excited that we managed to score two seats outside. 2016-07-02 21.00.34 2016-07-02 20.56.06-1It was dark, so unfortunately there are no photos of the food (I guess that means another visit is in order…), but the food was delicious. I had the fried seafood platter, Graham had the grouper special, and both dishes were delicious! Mine was ridiculously huge.

Sunday and Monday were spent recovering from Saturday’s indulgences, and finishing up the kitchen nook. I’ll post more later in the week, but for now, here are a few photos of the finished space. I can’t remember the name of the wallpaper, but it’s from Sherwin Williams and I LOVE IT. From a distance, the space just looks painted. When you get closer, you see it’s kind of got a salt & pepper feel to it. It also has a light sheen, which I love. We wanted something neutral, but with some texture . It works well with the grey paint throughout the rest of the house, and I’m so excited to see this space with wood flooring (that’s a post-Honduras project though).
2016-07-03 17.56.07Finished! All that’s left was changing out the light fixture. 
2016-07-04 19.56.00-2I‘m a big fan of this simple, energy efficient light fixture from Home Depot. It uses LED lights, and is super sleek. We also installed a dimmer on it. I always assumed that these tiny, energy efficient LED lights wouldn’t give off much light. I was so, SO wrong. Without the dimmer, it’s insanely bright in here. 2016-07-04 21.41.57Too bad the rest of the kitchen isn’t getting it’s makeover for another year. Since we found out that we get to stay here once Graham returns from Honduras, we’re no longer stressed about the kitchen, and the cost of the remodel has been drastically reduced. Instead of paying $7,000 for cabinets from Ikea, he now plans to build them himself, which should cost a fraction of that. But ugh. Last night, I was standing by the microwave, admiring the nook. Then I stood in the nook and took in the rest of the space. I quickly turned around and went back to admiring the new wallpaper. It’s terrible, but honestly once he leaves, I probably won’t use this space much. Cooking when he’s gone is zero fun, and I always end up wasting SO much. 2016-07-04 21.48.51

Recipe: Strawberry-Mint Limeade (or Lemonade)

Strawberry-Mint Limeade/Lemonade | Bake. Create. Love. When I was in college, I LIVED off of Crystal Light. You know, those drink powders that you add to water to make fruity drinks. I had given up soda, but I hated (and still hate) drinking water. Since sweet tea was high in calories, I drank truck loads of this stuff. I didn’t care about the long list of chemicals, I just cared that it was sugar free, and had zero calories. Strawberry-Mint Limeade/Lemonade | Bake. Create. Love. These days, I know better. (If I’m going to drink a crap ton of chemicals every day, it’s going to be in the form of Diet Coke.) Knowing better means that if I want strawberry limeade (or lemonade, I’m going to have to make it myself. So, that’s what I did. And guys… This stuff is worth the effort! 
Strawberry-Mint Limeade/Lemonade | Bake. Create. Love. The addition of lots of real strawberries, and not just strawberry flavored chemicals, give this a thick, really luscious texture. It does take a while to push the puree through the mesh strainer. Next time I might try cheesecloth… The mint adds a little bit of interest to it, but the flavor isn’t strong or overwhelming.The color of this comes 100% from fresh strawberries. And the best part? If you don’t have limes, use lemons and make lemonade. I’ve made this both ways, and both ways were deliciousStrawberry-Mint Limeade/Lemonade | Bake. Create. Love. Strawberry-Mint Limeade (or Lemonade)

Ingredients:

  • 1.5 Cups of Chopped Strawberries
  • 1 Cup of Sugar; divided
  • 1.5 Cups of Lime Juice/Lemon Juice
  • 3 Cups of Water
  • 1 sprig of fresh mint

Directions:

  1. Add the mint, one cup of the water and the sugar to a small pot. Bring to a boil, and boil until the sugar has dissolved. Remove from the heat, and let cool.
  2. Puree the strawberries & 2 T. of the lime juice in a food processor or blender. Press the puree through a mesh strainer to remove the seeds.
  3. In a pitcher add the lime juice, the remaining water, the strawberry puree, and the cooled syrup. Mix well.

Strawberry-Mint Limeade/Lemonade | Bake. Create. Love. And if you’re serving this to grown ups, add some vodka to it. Ciroc is my favorite, but the problem is that it’s SO smooth, and this lemonade/limeade is SO good, you would never know what you’re drinking has alcohol in it. The Beach Vodka (made semi-locally in Virginia Beach) is really good, and isn’t quite as smooth. I like the reminder that what I’m drinking does in fact have alcohol in it, so I’m not tempted to drink about 10 glasses of it. Strawberry-Mint Limeade/Lemonade | Bake. Create. Love.

Our Living Room Transformation

We’ve been living in our house for about 5 months. Other than the massive photo dump of exterior photos yesterday, I really haven’t shared much about the house since this post back from March. But last week, our homes exterior wasn’t the only area that saw some big changes. Our built-ins & fireplace are mostly finished (they still need doors to cover the bottom two shelves).
2016-06-17 00.13.49Honestly, I love this more than the new siding & pink door. Why? Because Graham did this. He did ALL of this.

But let’s start at the beginning. The first time we walked into the house on October 24, 2015, it was very, very brown. And while it was done better & looked better than the house in Arkansas, I still loathe brown trim. And that paneling. Eek. The brown crown pulls your eye to it, and makes the space look smaller. The mantle was wimpy. I hated the brass fireplace doors. Basically, we hated everything (cosmetic) about this room. But, we saw potential. living roomWithin days of closing, we started ripping things down, starting with the paneling and the chair railing, so that we could paint. It was around this time that I suggested built-ins on each side of the fire place, and Graham started thinking about redoing the fireplace. One of his favorite projects in the Arkansas house was the beautiful mantle he built, and he was excited to build one for this house. 2015-12-20 11.24.39-1 So, everything ended up coming down. I don’t think we intended to destroy the existing mantle, but it just sort of fell apart when he started pulling it off. Oops. One of the other things that HAD to go was the ceiling fan. It didn’t have a light kit, so Graham ghetto rigged a desk lamp over the fan blades, so that we could work at night. 2016-01-05 20.38.27-1As with most home projects, everything takes longer than planned. We quickly upgraded the light fixture, and started painting EVERYTHING. The trim took forever (2 coats of primer, 3 coats of paint). Graham also went above and beyond and did some re-wiring so that he could build a channel to hide all of our electronic cords. He also tiled over the brick with beautiful marble tile. 2016-01-25 17.51.352016-01-25 17.49.34 - CopyWhen we moved into the house, it was painted, but the built-in wall continued to look pretty bad. It was all being covered, so there was no point in hiding all of our test swatches.

In March, the built-ins were FINALLY finished. Graham did every bit of this himself. Hundreds of dollars of wood, hours of sanding & painting… And it was worth it. These things are MASSIVE. And heavy. And so, so beautiful. He used his paint sprayer to get the perfect finish, and while they seemed like they took forever (and were so much more expensive than my idea of just running to Ikea), they were SO worth it.
2016-03-07 01.40.25Not long after the built-ins were installed, Graham dry-walled over the fireplace. He built the wall out a little, to accommodate his cord-hiding channel. The cords go into the built in (the shelf with the constantly falling #5), and down another little channel to the surge protector on the bottom shelf. 2016-03-11 04.59.542016-03-13 16.05.38The, finally, we he starts on the fireplace.2016-05-12 17.52.52-2 2016-05-14 10.07.24-1

And now… here we are today. Everything (except the two doors), is complete. 2016-06-17 00.10.31This mantle turned out more beautiful than I could have imagined. Those are the same fireplace doors from the first photo, just painted (because holy crap, fireplace doors are expensive!). They do have new hardware though. And the beautiful tile work, which is actually what he’s most proud of, since it was his first time working with tile.
2016-06-17 00.12.002016-06-17 00.09.46This trim here. OMG. I’m obsessed with it. He couldn’t find anything beefy enough, and we wanted something similar to what we had at the apartment, so he bought the wood and using router bits, he shaped it to how he wanted it. 2016-06-17 00.08.05 I can’t wait to have doors covering the bottom two shelves, all of those wires and rolls of vinyl are not very attractive, but I’m so happy and excited with how beautiful this space is. I’m so thankful he wouldn’t let me rush him, or take short cuts. 2016-06-17 00.11.292016-06-17 00.14.18