Life Lately

If I’m being honest, lately my life has been uneventful. It’s been a little over a month since Graham left, and while I had big plans to stay busy and positive, it’s been really, really hard. I usually give myself a good sized “wallow in self pity” period, but I feel like this time I tried to jump back into life too quickly, and it made everything so much harder.

The day before he left, we were walking Hermione, and he suggested I go get a massage to help myself relax. That was the greatest idea ever, so I immediately call the Spa at Colonial Williamsburg and make an appointment for the next day. I had a lavender and lemongrass body scrub, and then a 60 minute classic massage. It was amazing, and just what I needed.2016-09-07-10-55-08 2016-09-07-10-55-24

The next day I went back to work, and then that weekend my friend Sarah and I took the dogs on a walk. And I felt okay.2016-09-11-11-31-01-2

Then over the next few days, the depression seeped in. And it was bad. I just wanted to cry. All I wanted to lay on the couch and cry. I was better when I was busy, but then when I stopped moving, I wanted to cry. During the weekend, I drove to Virginia beach and went shopping, and I started crying while sitting in traffic, and just cried on and off all day. That day I did go home, and lay on the couch and do nothing for the rest of the day. I needed my time to wallow, and be sad. I needed to actually let myself feel the way that I was feeling. The next weekend was hard, but not as bad. The weekend after that, I finally started feeling like myself again.

I know why it’s so much harder this time then it ever has been. He’s gone for a year. A whole year. We don’t have an exact homecoming date yet, but my guess is he’ll be gone for one year + a week or two. And it’s hard to wrap my head around that. We’re going to see each other for Christmas, and in April (hopefully), but I still miss him so much it hurts.

But, the past few weeks, things have gotten better. Mom was supposed to come for a visit last weekend, but since the weather was terrible, we rescheduled. I’m so glad we rescheduled, because I work up Friday morning and felt like death. I literally spent the whole weekend on the couch watching movies.2016-10-08-03-31-36 My adorable companions kept me company 🙂2016-10-08-03-36-17-2

But, I’m feeling better not (both physically and emotionally) and I’m ready for the next eleven months to go by in a blur. I even bought a piece of furniture to refinish, so I’d have a project to do. 2016-09-30-12-23-16

I’ve wanted a card catalog for AGES, and when I saw this beauty at the ReStore, I knew I would absolutely hate myself if I left it behind. So, I bought it, went home for Graham’s car since it wouldn’t fit in mine, went back to get it, and then managed to get it in the garage by myself (after taking out all 60 drawers). I stared at it for about two days, before deciding I just couldn’t live with the color. So, I read up on stripping stain out of furniture, and got to work. It’s a process, so I’m doing one side at a time… Right now I have 2 sides pretty much done. One side needs more sanding (it’s a little splotchy), but I love how it’s turning out. It may very well take me the whole year Graham is gone (stripping those 60 drawers, and then cleaning 60 pieces of hardware may take forever…) but it’s going to be so beautiful when it’s finished.

The previous owner used this piece to hold small tools and accessories in his garage. I kept finding these slips of paper when I was taking the drawers out. 2016-09-30-03-22-34I’m glad the bottom detached. Otherwise it would have never fit in the car. I’m also glad that removing the drawers made it light enough that I (with the use of a hand truck) managed to get it in the garage. It took 3 guys at the ReStore to get it in my car. 2016-09-30-03-21-59It’s amazing how some Brasso and an old toothbrush can take away 50ish years of grossness and make the hardware shine like new. I don’t mind cleaning all of these though. The thought of buying new hardware sends me into a panic. Not only the cost of it, but finding something that matches up with the existing holes? Ugh. No thank you. 2016-10-03-16-22-09So splotchy…2016-10-10-16-44-13After a little googling, I found out I needed to use a grittier sandpaper for this portion of the project (I had been using 220, which is for the finishing step). So, after checking out a few forums, and Young House Love, I settled on 80 grit. This looks better, but it still looks splotchy. 2016-10-12-16-29-09I still don’t really have a home for it yet. The place I want to put it won’t be available till we start on our kitchen renovation when Graham gets home, so I’m seriously in no hurry to get it done. I’m so obsessed with it though.

So, that’s been life since Graham has been gone. I hope it continues to get better. I hope seeing him at Christmas doesn’t put me back into a deep depression once he leaves. I hope Hermione stops eating bags of baby carrots. I hope I can be productive. And most of all, I hope he continues to stay safe and I hope he’s home soon.

Hiking with Hermione – Snakes, and bears, and bees, oh my!

When Graham deployed last year, he left with 36 hours notice (due to a clerical error) and we were robbed of 10 precious days. We didn’t have a vacation planned, but we had lots of day trips planned. And the thing he most wanted to do was take Hermione hiking.

Graham returned from that deployment, but between buying a house, and fixing up said house, we never got around to going hiking. So, we decided to rectify that before he left for Honduras. We headed up to Shenandoah National Park, and hiked the White Canyon Trail. All three of us were out of shape, so we didn’t want anything too strenuous, and we wanted a trail with lots of places for Hermione to swim.

So, we made the drive, welcomed the cooler temperatures (60 degrees in late August? I’ll take it!) and started our hike. But when we ran into this guy not even 5 minutes into the walk, I wanted to turn around and go back.

2016-08-22-12-54-53The hike was pretty, but nothing spectacular. I’m still trying to play with my camera as much as I can, so I took a ton of random photos of things no one will ever find interesting except for me… 2016-08-22-00-24-112016-08-22-00-38-17Our adorable companion 🙂 Hiking + swimming + being with Graham and I really is her idea of the perfect day. I was never really a dog person until we adopted her, but now I can’t imagine my life without one. She’s so entertaining, she’s such a comfort to me when Graham is gone, and she keeps us (semi) active. 2016-08-22-00-41-482016-08-22-00-42-172016-08-22-00-42-482016-08-22-00-43-03-12016-08-22-01-04-242016-08-22-01-31-192016-08-22-01-35-452016-08-22-01-37-102016-08-22-14-34-47The hike was more or less uneventful, until we turned around and headed back to the car. Then we saw bear #1. We were going to stop and let Hermione swim some more, but luckily Graham saw this bear right as he had let her off the leash. We kept walking…2016-08-22-15-00-09On the way back to the car, we passed two more bears (no photos) and Graham got stung by a bee. I have never been so ready to get the hell out of the woods and back to the car in my life. We get back to the car, and see this guy at the wooded area across the street. 
2016-08-22-03-16-322016-08-22-03-16-34So, not the peaceful hike we had in mind, but if was definitely interesting. And we left the woods incredibly thankful that a bee sting was the only injury of the day.

No Place Like Home

And we’ve come to the last segment of my vacation recap. The trip to New England was mostly for me. The trip to Charlotte was for Graham, since obviously he wanted to spend time with family & friends before heading to Honduras. 2016-08-09-19-38-57Our first night home, we headed to Pinky’s Westside Grill for a casual dinner. This banana pudding was ridiculous. So good, but that portion size… seriously? My brother-in-law had one bite, Graham and I ate a ton, and then took the rest of it home.
2016-08-09-20-34-44-2The day before we headed to Charlotte, we spent the day at Six Flags New England, which was a let down. So, we decided to make up for it by spending a day at Carowinds. We had SUCH a good time. It was an overcast day, and they were calling for rain, so the place was dead. We didn’t wait in any lines for longer than 5 minutes. We even rode the Fury twice, back to back (with zero waiting).

Unfortunately, on one of the oldest, jerkiest roller coasters, my phone broke. It was in Graham’s pocket, and when he handed it to me after the ride, it looked like that. I was SO upset. WTF is the point of a $70 phone case if it doesn’t actually protect the phone?2016-08-10-11-26-54After Carowinds, we went to Ikea for a bit, and then had dinner with Heather and Stephen at Miguel’s (one of my Charlotte favorites). 2016-08-10-18-14-23We kept dinners pretty simple while we were home. We tried a few places that have been on my list for a while, including Futo Buta. We started with the smoked pork belly buns… 
2016-08-11-18-22-28-2 and then we ate ramen. I felt a little insane eating a hot bowl of soup on an insanely hot summer day, but whatever. It was delicious. 2016-08-11-18-29-22 After dinner we went to Elizabeth Creamery for ice cream before going home to watch the Panthers game & the Olympics. I had ginger ice cream, and it was epic. And the waffle cone was perfection. 2016-08-11-19-08-52-2 One day we headed to South Park for breakfast. I finally realized I could get a half order of pancakes, which made me happy. Their pancakes are so freaking good. 2016-08-12-10-04-37-1 After breakfast, we packed a lunch, packed some supplies, and took Graham’s parent’s boat out for the day. It was such a perfect day! We went out to Mountain Island Lake, and spent the day swimming, bobbing around in the water, and just enjoying our time together. This trip to Charlotte was different from all of our others. Our time wasn’t crammed with social obligations, we had a ton of time together, just doing nothing. And it was really, really nice. 2016-08-12-12-48-13-2We had a date night at Customshop. Customshop had been on my list for a while, and it did not disappoint. We started with the BBQ octopus. I had the tuna. And while their desserts at the table next to us looked appealing, we skipped dessert there and headed to Amelie’s instead.
2016-08-12-21-32-30 Tarts, turnovers, and macarons… We may have gone a little overboard, but it was all worth it!2016-08-12-23-19-15-1We ended our time home with a dinner out with my mom and Graham’s parents (no photos from that dinner for some reason), and donuts and coffee the last morning there with Brittany. It was a perfect trip home, and the end to a really amazing two weeks.

Eating Our Way Through Portland

I know this is surprising, considering how much we love food, and the quality of  the restaurants in Boston, but we didn’t really eat that well while we were there. After days of sightseeing, we usually grabbed something that was convenient, instead of researching and reserving tables at the best restaurants. So, the best food of the trip was, hands down, from our time in Maine with Sav & Elise. Our first night in Maine was dinner at the brewery Sav works at, but our next day we ate and drank our way through Portland. And it was a pretty amazing day.

We started with breakfast in a local spot, The Hub, where I had an excellent order of French toast.2016-08-06-10-48-09 After breakfast, they drove us around their new home before we headed to Portland. The lake they took us to was especially beautiful. The water was crystal clear, and it was absolutely gorgeous. 2016-08-06-11-18-02-2Our plan for the day was to eat and drink our way through Portland. And we started almost immediately. Our first stop of the day was Mash Tun, a fun, “beer centric” hang out. We ordered beer, cocktails, Brussels sprouts, and cheese fries and since we had seats at the bar, we grilled the bartender for info about the secret bar we were on the hunt for.
2016-08-06-14-09-59Our second stop was donuts at the holy donut, which was disappointing. They were out of everything except for chocolate sea salt. The four of us shared one, and it was just okay. While the flavor was good, the donuts are made from potatoes, which gives them a different texture than what I’m used to. Give me a strawberry glazed doughnut from Duck Donuts, or an Apple Fritter from Glazed any day! 2016-08-06-14-53-42-1Stop #3 was by far the best stop: The Honey Paw. We ordered 5- 6 dishes to share, and everything was amazing. We started with the fry bread and uni butter…
2016-08-06-15-44-15Somen noodles, ginger, pork… this was fantastic! 2016-08-06-15-50-02-1And my favorite dish of the day: fried shisito peppers with ponzu aioli. These were absolutely phenomenal.
2016-08-06-15-48-49-1Both couples ended the meal with a serving of caramelized honey soft serve with honeycomb and magic shell. This was good, but not mind blowing.
2016-08-06-16-17-57-2Our 4th stop was Lincolns, which was the coolest stop of the day. A speakeasy with a menu where everything was $5. The search for this place was so much fun! It’s cash only, so come prepared (although there is an ATM right outside…). Inside, it’s dark and cozy, with Lincoln posters all over the walls. But the best part: everything is $5 They don’t have exciting cocktails or anything, but  the have a good variety of liquor + mixers, beer, and wine – all for $5. Definitely worth searching for if you’re in Portland. Ask around – people will give you clues, but no one will actually tell you where it is. All four of us even bought $5 Lincolns t-shirts. 2016-08-06-17-36-402016-08-06-17-41-20Our final stop of the day was for poutine at Duckfat. (There was a spot in between Lincolns and Duckfat, but we’re not going to talk about that one…) This was so delicious and it makes me so angry that poutine (or just regular gravy fries) aren’t a thing in the south! These were fairly simple, with just gravy, cheese curds and chives, 2016-08-06-07-35-37It was such a delicious day, and a great way to spend a day with friends. I’m sure I gained at least 5 pounds, but it was well worth it. This was such a fun way to explore a new city. Or even a city we know well – like Charlotte. I definitely want to plan a day like this with friends on one of our next visits home.

Moving on to Maine

In April, two of our favorite Virginians packed up their lives and moved to Maine. Their part of Maine is only a few hours from Boston, so on that Friday, we checked out of our hotel and headed up to Maine.

We did make a few stops before we left Massachusetts. Our first stop was at the Rebecca Nurse homestead, but it was cash only to take the tour, so we passed on that (note to self: start carrying SOME cash on vacation).  But, we did stop by the Witch Trials memorial in Danvers. 2016-08-04-22-46-08 2016-08-04-22-45-55After that, we headed to the Crane Estate on Castle Hill. Y’all. This place was AMAZING. We stumbled upon it earlier in our trip, but it was closed, so we made a note to come back.

This was the photo from their website: estate-bSeriously. This place was AMAZING. The mansion was built in 1928, and is absolutely breathtaking. Seriously, give me this over the Biltmore Estate ANY day.
2016-08-05-12-24-01One of the things that was the most interesting about the house was the detailed woodwork. Apparently the house was built when the aristocracy in England were losing money and selling their estates. So, the Crane Family purchased a lot of the ornate carvings from England. 2016-08-05-12-20-592016-08-05-12-17-522016-08-04-23-32-14The house is gorgeous, but the real stay of the show is the “backyard”. Lots of rolling hills that eventually lead to this view. 2016-08-05-12-42-402016-08-05-12-47-25After making our way back up to the house, we stopped at the gardens before heading to the car. The gardens were really pretty. Graham was getting attacked by bugs, so he went on to get the car, while I hung out and played with my camera. 2016-08-05-12-59-592016-08-05-13-00-512016-08-05-00-22-292016-08-05-00-23-162016-08-05-00-21-48After leaving the estate, we headed to Maine. It took us FOREVER to get there, but we had enough time to stop in Kennebunkport for ice cream before heading to see Sav & Elise. We had stopped for ice cream here on our last trip to Maine, and had been looking forward to this for the whole trip. 2016-08-05-16-36-05-1On to middle of nowhere Maine! Our plan was to meet for dinner at the brewery that Sav works at, and then all four of us would head back to their place. The brewery (Norway Brewing Company) is fairly new and super cute. The design of the place was so perfect and well thought out. The dining area was bright and cheerful, the garden on the patio was a nice touch, and (most importantly), they had REAL hand soap in the bathroom, not the foam crap that most places have. I don’t drink beer, so I’m useless when it comes to telling you if the beer was good or bad. Graham ordered a flight and then another regular sized beer. The food however… the food was amazing!
2016-08-05-19-52-18-12016-08-05-19-05-41-1After an amazing dinner, we went back to their place and planned our day trip to Portland. SO much good food, SO much alcohol. Stay tuned =)

A Perfect Day on Martha’s Vineyard

On day four of our vacation, we woke up, and made the drive to Woods Hole, to catch the ferry to Martha’s Vineyard. We made it JUST IN TIME to board the 12:00 ferry, and were on our way to the Island.

On the way there, the sea gulls kept everyone entertained. They were flying right up to the railing, and taking food from peoples hands. 2016-08-04-12-39-43It was an absolutely GORGEOUS day. I had been to the Vineyard once before, in October. And while Salem is more fun to visit in the fall, Martha’s Vineyard is definitely more enjoyable in the summer.

Once we got off of the ferry, we went to get a rental car. There was one right across the street, and all they had left was this Jeep. It was $200 to rent, so Graham wanted to look elsewhere. We walked about 5 feet before I decided we needed to go back and get it. After all, it was only about $30 more than the cheaper cars, and I didn’t want to spend the whole day driving around, looking for a rental. I’m SO glad we went with the Jeep, because it was the perfect way to spend the day sightseeing. 2016-08-04-14-57-48Once we left the rental agency, we drove around for a little while, before stopping in Edgartown for lunch. We ate at a really cute place, Among the Flowers, and the food was excellent. I also had a raspberry muffin, since I knew this low carb lunch wouldn’t hold me over for long. This salad was so good though. I need to do seared tuna with pineapple more often at home. 2016-08-04-14-10-292016-08-04-01-58-262016-08-04-02-05-012016-08-04-02-13-482016-08-04-02-09-27You know what’s sad? This dog totally has a better life than either of us.
2016-08-04-02-08-24After lunch and a little walking around, we got back in the Jeep and headed to Aquinnah, to see the Gay Head Cliffs and lighthouse. We saw a lot of gorgeous spots on our vacation, but this just took my breath away. We weren’t able to go into the lighthouse, since we didn’t have cash, but even without the extra height, the view was just bonkers beautiful. 2016-08-04-15-55-292016-08-04-15-55-52-12016-08-04-03-11-502016-08-04-03-04-54We spent the rest of the day driving around, getting lost, and enjoying each other’s company. W had dinner at Nancy’s (only to find out the next day that Sasha Obama worked there, and had been there earlier that day!) and then we had ice cream while walking on the beach. 2016-08-04-07-06-512016-08-04-19-52-35-12016-08-04-07-32-072016-08-04-07-28-072016-08-04-07-21-02Other than a momentary freak-out, when there was a chance we might miss the ferry back, the day was beyond perfect. 2016-08-04-07-38-32

I left my heart in Salem.

As much as I LOVE Boston, I also love the smaller towns and cities around Boston. So, on day 3 of our trip, we spent the day exploring some of these small areas.

First, was Lexington. The first time I visited Massachusetts, I fell in love with Lexington. It’s so charming. And so historically relevant. George Washington wrote in his diary: “It was here, on the morning of April 19, 1775, that “the first blood was spilt in the dispute with Great Britain.”

This monument? The oldest war memorial in the country (completed in 1799). In the 1800’s, 7 of the 8 minutemen who were killed in that first battle were moved from the local cemetery and re-interred here.
2016-08-02 21.57.14 2016-08-02 22.06.42After the Lexington Battle Green, we headed to the Minute Man National Park. Being here made me a little sad. This would be such a great place to walk Hermione. We walked for a few miles, before heading back. There is lots to see on this walk, including the site where Paul Revere was captured…
2016-08-02 23.50.10One of the oldest homes in the area (dating back to around 1692), and once owned by William Smith, the brother of Abigal Adams (I’m an Adams fangirl, so this was exciting to stumble upon).
2016-08-03 00.03.36 This structure was infuriating and fascinating at the same time. It’s fascinating, because of that huge fireplace. It’s infuriating because the building burnt down in the 1960’s. 2016-08-03 00.13.28 2016-08-03 00.15.23 2016-08-03 00.22.32 After leaving the park, we headed to Walden Pond. Not because I’m a big fan of Thoreau, but because of Frasier. Yes, I’m a dork. Thoreau lived in the woods, on a piece of land owned by Ralph Waldo Emerson. In 1922, the Emerson family gifted the land to Massachusetts, with the stipulation of “preserving the Walden of Emerson and Thoreau, its shores and nearby woodlands for the public who wish to enjoy the pond, the woods, and nature, including bathing, boating, fishing and picnicking.”2016-08-03 02.53.15-2 2016-08-03 02.55.44 2016-08-03 02.56.11 2016-08-03 02.57.18 After leaving Walden Pond, we finally headed to Salem – my favorite. Before this trip, I had visited Salem twice, both times in October. And while Salem in August isn’t nearly as fun as Salem in October, it’s such a charming area, and just oozes history (both good and bad). 2016-08-03 05.07.42 More Creepy cemeteries…2016-08-03 05.31.43 2016-08-03 05.32.44 Then on to the Salem Witch Trials Memorial. There are no actual grave sites for the 20 people who were murdered during the witch trials. Legend has it that three of the bodies were exhumed from the burial site by their families and buried elsewhere. There are a few memorials, but this one is my favorite. The others just lump all off the victims together.2016-08-03 05.39.37 2016-08-03 05.40.40 After that, we just walked around and enjoyed the beautiful day. 2016-08-03 05.44.112016-08-03 18.50.052016-08-03 06.07.30 2016-08-03 06.31.422016-08-03 06.28.07While Salem is famous for their negative past, I love Salem for the whole history of the area. So many of the houses have these plaques on them, and I love that. Being from Charlotte, an area that has no problem tearing down historically significant structures, it makes my heart happy so see so much history preserved.
2016-08-03 06.37.16 2016-08-03 06.41.05 2016-08-03 06.51.03 2016-08-03 06.53.09-2 More creepy cemeteries at the end of the day. 2016-08-03 07.01.00 2016-08-03 07.02.40 This guy is such a good sport. We walked about 12-14 miles a day around these cities, and he never once complained. 2016-08-03 07.04.11 2016-08-03 07.11.46 2016-08-03 07.12.25 Fun fact: Salem calls itself Witch City, but the the Witch House is the only structure there that has any connection to the Witch Trials (if you’re into this, be sure to check out Danvers. It was once part of Salem Village, and has more connections to the site, including the Rebecca Nurse homestead).2016-08-03 07.26.09 2016-08-03 07.26.142016-08-03 07.28.082016-08-03 07.23.54