Tuesday, November 25, 2014

A November Weekend in NYC

The weekend before last, I was given an absolutely fabulous excuse to make a trip to New York City: my good friend April recently got engaged, and her future in-laws were generously throwing an engagement party at the New York Yacht Club to celebrate!

April and her fiancé Phil live in Manhattan, and while it's always been fun to make weekend trips to play dress-up and go out in the big city, it's definitely been a few years since my last trip. So on the morning of Friday November 14, I hopped onto a Bolt Bus from Boston's South Station and tolerated the 4-hour bus ride south to the bustling streets of NYC.

After getting dropped off on the eastern outskirts of Midtown, I made my way up 1st Ave to the Upper East Side, where I'd be staying at my friend Mar's apartment with her and her boyfriend Mark - another couple of cats who I don't see often enough but who are both excellent reasons to come into the city. Mar was at work, so I spent the afternoon shooting the shit and having some laughs with Mark. He gave me exquisite instructions on how to get from their apartment to the train that would take me downtown that afternoon for a hair appointment - insights that would all prove extremely valuable when I then had my first-ever adventure taking a train in NYC. (Random traveler observation: Taking the subway system in NYC is a loud experience, above all else.)

To properly get into the "fancy Manhattan" mindset, Friday evening was kicking off with appointments for blowouts at DreamDry - the "premier destination for the ultimate blowout." Now, I'd never before gotten a blowout that wasn't at the end of a haircut, so this was definitely something new for me... but what a fun thing to do to get ready for a fancy engagement party at a yacht club!

That night I was meeting up at the salon with April, as well as our friends Anna, Becca, and Izzy.  I saw on the DreamDry website that they offer a "blowout and a braid" option, with several different braid styles to choose from.  I immediately became obsessed with the "Audrey" style - a gorgeous topknot with a sleek French braid running up from the nape of the neck to the crown. Between two different friendly and talented stylists, this hair design was recreated on my head, and I was positively delighted by the final look. Unfortunately the only photo that was taken of this amazing hairstyle came out terribly dark and blurry (see below). There was a great picture of it taken by Anna, but the next morning the picture had mysteriously ghosted itself off of anyone's phones, and now it's nowhere to be found! #Curses!

After our hair appointments, I Ubered with April from the salon to the New York Yacht Club, where we continued to get ready in an upstairs powder room. (The words "Ladies Powder Room" were actually on the door... that's how fancy it was.) The dress I was wearing to the party was a royal/navy blue number with a pink and white geometric print on it:

Royal blue dress with pink and white geometric print

Fun shopping fact: This dress was on sale at my local Kohl's - marked down from $48 to $14. But when I brought it up to the checkout, it only rang up as $9.80.  That's a pretty sweet price for such a cute dress, BUT YOU DIDN'T NEED ME TO TELL YOU THAT.

The engagement party was being held inside a grand room in the club that was absolutely decked out in boats from floor to ceiling. You can see my photos below, or check out professional 360-degree photos of the room here. One wall showcased tall glass windows overlooking the street below, and another featured a stately and ornate fireplace that stretched up towards the high ceiling.

New York Yacht Club, 44th Street, NYC, fireplace
.  the huge fireplace  .

New York Yacht Club, 44th Street, NYC
.  boats err'where  .

The room quickly filled with guests - of which I'm told there were nearly 150 in all! We enjoyed drinks and hors d'oeuvres while meeting several of April and Phil's friends and family members.

Friends at the New York Yacht Club
.  me and izzy  .
April and Phil at their engagement party
.  april and phil  .
Of course there were toasts made and many congratulations expressed before the club eventually told us to get the hell out (JK, fancy places don't use that kind of language). I made a quick and sneaky costume change, throwing on some black opaque tights and exchanging my heels for a pair of sparkly black flats, because it was damn cold outside and my feet were starting to hurt. At that point, we were led through the streets by a damn bagpiper like a bunch of ballers as we made our way to the after party at one of April and Phil's favorite bars (the name of which escapes me entirely... oops).

Friends at the after party
.  izzy, april and me at the after party  .
Terrible photo of my hairstyle in a dark bar
.  the hairstyle photo that wasn't  .
After the party it's the hotel lobby, Mar, Mark and I Ubered back up to the Upper East Side, where I crashed on their couch around 3AM.

On Saturday morning, Mar had to head out early-ish to join April for some wedding dress shopping (whoop!), so I headed out on my own and walked from her apartment on 89th St over to Central Park, then walked south through the park and along 5th Ave till about 55th Street.

It was chilly out, for sure, but the sky was a beautiful blue and there was (what I deemed to be) a surprising amount of fall foliage still available for the snapping:

Big tree with yellow leaves in Central Park

Foliage and buildings around Central Park in the fall

View of buildings around Central Park in the fall

Fall foliage along Central Park on 5th Ave, NYC

After grabbing a quick "lunch" of a berry smoothie, cappuccino and chocolate croissant, I met up with Becca in Times Square, and together we figured out how to get to Brooklyn, where Anna and her boyfriend Tom were both staying with Tom's brother Corey. The five of us spent the afternoon at a large indoor Brooklyn flea market, scoping out vendors of food, antiques, clothing, books, records, knick knacks, furniture, and so much more. For my first-ever trip to Brooklyn, it was a good one.

That evening, the five of us left Brooklyn and met up with Izzy, Mar and Mark at Mercadito in Alphabet City for some dinner. We ate a buttload of Mexican food and my compadres drank a buttload of tequila, before we scampered through the brisk night to a bar (the name of which, again, escapes me. Apparently I just keep my head down and follow people into bars without glancing up at the name above the door.) Here, we happened to score an amazing table right by the door that we comfortably held down for the rest of the night.

Friends in an NYC bar
.  izzy, becca, anna, mar, me  .

The next morning it was time to say goodbye, and I woke up early to catch a cab from the Upper East Side to Brooklyn, where I'd be jumping into Anna and Tom's car for a ride back to Boston. First, however, we indulged in some bagels from the Olde Brooklyn Bagel Shoppe, which we scooped up just a short walk from Corey's Prospect Heights apartment. Armed with food and coffee, we made our way back north to Boston.

With this trip now in the rearview, it means that I need to start finding my next excuse to head to New York City! What'll it be next time? A concert? Ballet? Birthday? #NOEXCUSENEEDED?

When is the last time you went to The Big Apple? What's your favorite thing to do while you're there?

Friday, November 21, 2014

Mint in the Fall + Life this Week

Anyone who knows me will tell you I love the color mint, as you might have noticed at some point by the bounty of minty colored things I purchase or feature on my blog in nail polish looks. It's most generally thought of as a springtime pastel or a summery color, but I'm a fan of trying to bring mint into the colder months as well. Pairing it with taupes, browns and beiges is one of my favorite ways to do that... hence today's nails.

Essie Case Study with mint accent nails

Sidebar... it's been REALLY difficult for me to get colors to photograph correctly in my new apartment. The lighting is so bizarre at all different parts of the day! Sometimes things look much more yellow or blue in my photos than they are in real life.

Anyway, this is two coats of Essie's Case Study on my pointer, middle and pinky fingers, with 2 coats of a Love & Beauty creamy mint polish on my thumb and ring fingers. Over the mint I've also added 3 coats of a new Maybelline Color Show polish - Precious Pearl from the Jewels line of the polishes. 

Taupe nails, mint accent nails, Maybelline Color Show Jewels Precious Pearl
In addition to my fondness for mint, perhaps you've also noticed how much I dig these different Color Show polishes. They offer such cool effects and unique glitters! Precious Pearl has four different sizes of white glitter inside a clear base - the effect is reminiscent of what you'd see in a snowglobe. And since it's white, this glitter will go well over pretty much any color... so I'ma put that on everything.

Here are some other recent much-loved manis using Color Show polishes:

Fuchsia and Polka Dots
Bailamos con Polka Dots
Rose Gold Glitter Nails
Two Polka Dot Accent Nails

In other news, it's been a decent week. On Wednesday evening I had dinner in Boston with an old friend, the ever-luminescent Kate. It was one of those amazing times when you haven't seen someone in years, but it's as if you never left each other. There were many congratulations exchanged on neither of us apparently aging a day since our last meeting (which, for the record, was probably early 2009). As an added bonus to our reunion, the restaurant we ate at - Douzo, in Boston's Back Bay neighborhood - served us some exceptional sushi.

Last night on a semi-whim I went and got a little haircut at a James Joseph Salon near my apartment. It was just a 2-inch trim (trim on a whim, anyone?), but a refresh was in order because there were some serious split ends starting to pop up. My cut was preceded by an in-cred-ible shampooing and head massage that instantly and unexpectedly relaxed the bejesus out of me, and my stylist Edda was absolutely lovely. I'll definitely be back to that location in the future!

Tonight I'm doing something completely new and different for me: I'm heading to a 2-hour guided meditation session with Kara! Here's the description of the event:

Treat your soul to two hours of guided meditation focusing on the connection between the heart- or Anahata- chakra, and the third eye- or Ajna- chakra, while in restorative postures to access a deep state of relaxation and healing. The meditation will be set to a special gong meditation that focuses on frequencies of the heart chakra and the third eye chakra which will elevate your vibrational state of being. The intention is to experience expansion between heart, mind and intuition.

I've never done a single thing like that before, so it should be interesting. Maybe enlightening? POSSIBLY EVEN EARTH-MOVING?? I'll be sure to let you know. I could sure use some tools to help me quiet my mind and reach a state of healing, that's fo damn sho!

The rest of the weekend is shaping up to be pretty busy as well, with a trip down to Roslindale tomorrow to help my friend Anna with some apartment decorating, a Patriots game to watch on Sunday afternoon, and an early friends-Thanksgiving at Kate's new condo on Sunday evening that she was kind enough to invite me to!

What do you have going on this weekend?
Do you believe in wearing mint after Labor Day?
Have you ever done a meditation session like what I've just described? What did you think??
{Linking with The Nail Files, Beauty Frenzy Friday, and Friday's Fab Favorites}

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

30th Birthday Celebrations

Ummm don't mind my absence from ye olde blogsphere lately. A very busy couple of weeks at work, my 30th birthday weekend, a trip to NYC, and my lingering case of the Debbie Downers have all come together to form a perfect storm of non-bloggery. This is my first attempt at pushing myself to post something again, so why not make it about something cheerful - my birthday!

My actual birthday was Saturday November 8th, but since there were a couple friends who were going to be busy/away that weekend, my fraaaaands organized a night out for pizza and bowling together on Thursday November 6th. We hit up Sacco's Bowl Haven/Flatbread Company - a combination pizza joint and candlepin bowling alley in Davis Square in Somerville. The pizza was phe-nom-e-nal. We ordered two of the Jimmy's Free Range Chicken pizzas ("Oven roasted free-range chicken, black beans, organic cilantro tomatoes, roasted corn, whole milk mozzarella and Parmesan cheese and sour cream lime drizzle and some jalapeño peppers") and one pepperoni pizza. Don't sleep on the "plain" pepperoni pizza at this place - it was the best pepperoni I've ever had on a pizza. The pepperoni was a smaller, thicker cut than the big floppy red slices you typically see. So good!

After pizza was onto da bowling, which is located just at the rear of the restaurant area. We bowled a hot couple of games, and while I was certainly not the winner, I was mos def better than I was the last time I bowled. So, I still consider myself to be a winner, in that respect.

The next night (Friday) I spent the evening in, packing for what I'd be up to the rest of the weekend - a trip up to New Hampshire with some of my girl friends! My friend Abigail and her family own a house in Bristol, NH that they use for getaways throughout the year, and she was kind enough to invite a few of us up to the house for a weekend of birthday relaxing. We loosely planned some hiking and movie-watching and food-eating, but the focus was mainly on just getting away and unplugging, which sounded absolutely perfect to me.

On Saturday morning (my birthday!), Abby picked up Kara and I, and we headed a couple of hours north to the house, which is situated not far from Newfound Lake.

After arriving and properly sating ourselves with some snacks, the three of us headed out for a walk in the woods around a section of the lake, admiring the hilly views and what was left of the autumn foliage.

Newfound Lake, New Hampshire

Trees around Newfound Lake, New Hampshire

Hiking through the woods near Newfound Lake in Bristol, New Hampshire

Island in Newfound Lake

After our walk through the woods, we picked up some lunch at the truly adorable Cardigan Country Store - a country market/deli/gift shop run by the owners of the locally renowned Cardigan Mountain Orchard. Here, Abby, Kara and I each ordered a cup of a scrumptious homemade butternut squash bisque as well as some sandwiches, which we took back to the house to eat while we waited for our friend Jenna to join us.

As we were pulling back up to the house, we discovered a surprise visitor on the premises...

Wild turkey

A huge wild turkey! It scurried back and forth in front of that fence for a bit, trying to figure out an escape plan before it clumsily made its way off the property. It was the perfect dose of wildlife for us for the weekend haha.

Eventually Jenna joined us too, and the four of us spent the afternoon relaxing, chatting, drinking wine and eating junk food around the house before ordering some pizza for dinner. We finished our evening with tiramisu ice cream, popcorn, and a sleepy viewing of Sin City before calling it a night and retreating to the bounty of beds available at the house.

The next morning Jenna fetched us some bagels and cream cheese and Abby made some coffee, and we all enjoyed both while we tidied up the house a bit. Jenna had to leave early to head back to Massachusetts for a family birthday party, so Kara and Abby and I headed out for another walk through the woods. En route to our trailhead, we stopped at a local treasure - Cardigan Mountain Soapworks. CMS is a homemade soap business run by a woman named Lilly, and her soaps are incredibly rich and beautifully scented. We each picked out some soaps and were pleasantly surprised to discover that a promotion running for local businesses that weekend meant we'd get to select an additional full-sized soap for free! I ended up with Fields of Lupines, Wisteria & Lilacs, Sweet Pea & Clover, and Eucalyptus Spearmint. I adore the fabric cloths in which these soaps came wrapped... though you can also purchase un-wrapped soap chunks for a reduced price. But how could I pass up this super cute wrapping??

Soaps from Cardigan Mountain Soapworks

So far I've only used the Eucalyptus Spearmint soap, but it lathers up creamy and rich, and the scent of it makes me swoon. I can't wait to open up the others!

Once we left Soapworks, we continued on to our hiking destination, which - if I recall correctly - was taking the Manning Trail from the Cardigan Lodge towards Welton Falls for about 30 or 40 minutes before we turned around.  The hike through the woods was easy and pretty...

Hiking near Cardigan Mountain in New Hampshire

Hiking through the woods near Cardigan Mountain in New Hampshire

Crossing a stream while hiking in the woods near Cardigan Mountain
 Hiking in the woods near Cardigan Mountain in New Hampshire

Hiking in the woods near Cardigan Mountain in New Hampshire

And here's a view of Cardigan Mountain...

Cardigan Mountain
After our hike, we made a final stop back at the house to clean up and get our things before heading back down to Massachusetts again.

I have to say that this was probably the best way for me to ring in my 30s. Bowling and pizza are right up my alley, and so are relaxing and hiking and eating junk food with my girlfriends. It was a great reminder that although I might not have everything I need in my life right now, what I do have are some amazing and loving friends to help me get my smile on.

Stay tuned for an eventual recap of the trip to NYC that I took this past weekend!


Monday, November 3, 2014

Craft Club #2: Crochet 101

So many numbers in that title.

If you will recall (and you should), my circle of lady friends launched a Craft Club earlier this fall, because we really liked the idea of combining friends and crafts and hosting and food/wine. Our first craft session took place in late September at my friend Jenna's apartment, where we had some fun with foil and nommed on homemade pumpkin, white bean, and turkey chili.

On Saturday night, Craft Club #2 was hosted by our friend Lauren at her home in Quincy, where she gave us a fabulous introductory lesson to crocheting.

First of all, Craft Club grew this month! In addition to me and Lauren, our friends Stephanie, Kara, and Jenna were in attendance. New "members" (we're so elite) this month were our friends Abby (whose wedding I recently wrote all about here) and Kimmy! We should have hazed them somehow. I wish I'd thought of that earlier.

After lounging around Lauren's cozy living room for awhile, chatting and nibbling on stuffed mushrooms, popcorn, crackers and hummus appetizers, we moved into the dining room to dive into the crocheting. 

.  left to right:  kara, lauren, jenna, stephanie, abby, kim  .

Lauren was a fantastic teacher - patiently taking the time to teach us how to do a chain stitch to begin our projects, and then a basic single stitch to actually get our projects underway.

She also taught the more ambitious amongst us a more complicated double stitch, but I shied away from attempting that one and instead poured my focus into trying to perfect the hand movements for the single stitch. While it's not tricky to learn how to crochet, the hard part is certainly the mastery of the technique and the ability to make each stitch uniform in size and shape.  

For my first foray into crocheting, I'd chosen this sage green yarn from the bundles of yarn that Lauren provided for us. You can see in the picture below the start of what I was working on...


Perhaps one day it will be large enough to be a scarf? I assume that will be in about 3 years' time. 

We paused our crocheting briefly to chow down on the homemade chicken pot pie that Lauren had prepared for us. I'd also brought along some store-bought cornbread that actually tasted pretty darn good. A delicious dinner, for sure. 

While it may sound like a bit of an "older woman" thing to do, it was surprisingly fun and relaxing to sit around in a circle of crocheting women for several hours. Even with our heads down and our focus directed on our yarn and crochet hooks, we still enjoyed pretty steady conversation and laughs the entire night. It also didn't hurt that The Notebook and Hocus Pocus were playing back-to-back on the TV in the background. And time flew - before I knew it, it was after 10pm. Even then, most of us didn't leave till after 11!

Lauren had plenty of crochet hooks to not only share with us that evening at her home, but to actually let us each take home our own so we can continue what we began. So generous!

Another successful Craft Club! My "scarf" is about three inches wide now, so things are really shaping up. Next month, Stephanie is going to host and teach us how to make holiday cards, which is the perfect double-whammy of useful and self-indulgent, when it comes to crafting.

Anyone else crafting with their friends? Do you want to now??

{Linking with Craft Frenzy Friday}