Exploring Beacon, New York

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My sister lived in New York City for years. We visited her in Park Slope in Brooklyn more times than I can count. Whenever I think about our weekends in Brooklyn I think of the extra layer of fat I would come home carrying from literally devouring the most amazing $5 cupcakes (we had to try the best one on every block), gourmet dinners, morning lattes and bagels in between meals. NYC is truly a food capital and with a family full of foodies we didn’t stand a chance.

My sister moved from Brooklyn to quite the contrary, Cortlandt Manor. We loved the idea of a change of scenery and of course being a little bit closer to my big eyed nephew. The area is shockingly rural and woodsy, as if it’s plucked right out of Vermont. It’s a huge change and the main judgement factor is most definitely food… and I’m happy to say it did NOT disappoint.

My two favorite people touring around Beacon.

My two favorite people touring around Beacon.

Despite the cold we went on some serious adventures on Saturday. To start we visited Peekskill which is about a 4 minute drive from the house. We waited in line at the Peekskill Coffee House, Joe and I split a hot chocolate and a gluten-free crepe with banana and nutella. Although it was a little early to be cracked out on chocolate it was beyond delicious, the crepe was piping hot with a perfect distribution of heavenly filling. The restaurant scene looks great, but we decided to head about 30 minutes away for the scenic drive and a destination of Beacon.

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We heard that Beacon had a big artist community and they are very well known for Dia: Beacon, a massive museum with collections from the 1960’s as well as new exhibitions. We didn’t have time to do the museum but it’s definitely on my list for next time.

Even without visiting the museum, the artist community is so obviously vibrant. The main road is lined with vintage shops, numerous art galleries, murals on the sides of buildings and delightful restaurants. We spent hours here and the light dusting of snow made it truly picturesque.

We ate lunch at Beacon Falls Cafe and their corn nugget appetizer was life changing. The service was great, everything was incredibly fresh and full of flavor.

Autumn Grilled Cheese w/ Sweet Potato Fries

Autumn Grilled Cheese w/ Sweet Potato Fries

Corn Nuggets with Dipping Sauce

Corn Nuggets with Dipping Sauce

Some of my other favorite stops included:

The Chocolate Studio, need I say more?:

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The Hop: after visiting The Hop it would make sense to me going forward if every restaurant that thrives on craft beer and local flavor should also be half store. This way, all the beer you try is easy to find and purchase! We strolled in here by accident and left with some great local hard ciders, and a variety of beer. Too good to miss!

After the Barn: This store was so great. They design, build and sell custom wooden tables all shapes and sizes. The staff was friendly and helpful, and although the various size tables were a pretty penny it is obvious how much time and love has gone into their crafting. Along with tables the shelves were lined with old farming antiques and decor. I’m already dreaming of investing in a new table from After the Barn.

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The entire area is scenic and full of history. There are beautiful churches and landmarks all along the road to stop. Cold Spring is nearby and boasts another bustling family owned community. The roads are windy and full of hills, but the scenery makes the possibility of carsickness so worth it.

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Think Warm

I have been pretty quiet on here lately, the reason being I haven’t been too adventurous with all of this weather. I’m not sure if you’ve heard, but New England has been absolutely pummeled with snow over the last 3 weeks. It has been our Monday routine now for 3… straight…. Mondays.

You could say I’m struggling. I have gotten to stay home from work twice due to our struggling public transportation system, but I think that just makes me crazier. I invested in a floor length down jacket, also referred to as a down dress or blanket by my co-workers and I also heavily rely on my knee-high Sorrel boots. I might look like an absolute lunatic, but if I’m warm it is 100% worth it.

So anyways, I went through some of my favorite warm weather shots from last year. Whether I was traveling, or visiting one of my favorite east coast destinations it makes me happy to remember that summer does in fact exist… and someday soon it will be here. Thinking:

-Rockport

-Austin

-Coast of Italy

-Saratoga Springs

Red Sox game fun in the spring

Red Sox game fun in the spring

Rockport, MA one of my favorite places on earth

Rockport, MA one of my favorite places on earth

Rockport

Rockport

Taken in Toronto, Canada

Taken in Toronto, Canada

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Fun at Bunganut Lake in Maine

Fun at Bunganut Lake in Maine

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Street Musicians in Austin

Street Musicians in Austin

Arlo Enjoying the Day

Arlo Enjoying the Day

American Flag Waving at the Lake

American Flag Waving at the Lake

Cinque Terre, Italy in hot July

Cinque Terre, Italy in hot July

Hiking in Saratoga Springs

Hiking in Saratoga Springs

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Needless to say, I have had a VERY unproductive day. I went outside for about 10 minutes, baked raspberry thumbprint cookies, ate my body weight in calories and I have watched Blippi ten thousand times with my 20 month old nephew. Unproductive, but I definitely cannot complain about a day off work.

If you are from somewhere in New England I imagine that snow covered pictures of all kinds are filling up your social media feeds. If you are currently reading from somewhere sunny warm we probably should become friends :) haha no but here is a little peak of the snow we are currently buried beneath… woof.

I just bought my first zoom lens and I’m still experimenting with it, these are the best I could do so far with it.

crazy birds

crazy birds

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windy roof

windy roof

grandma and RJ

grandma and RJ

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windy roof

windy roof

RJ is less than impressed with this weather

RJ is less than impressed with this weather


Weekly Photo Challenge: Express Yourself

I haven’t had any time this week to do any real posts, but I have been loving the Weekly Photo Challenges. I love looking through blogger’s lives, their insights and how they interpret each theme.

This week the challenge is to post a picture that expresses yourself. The only thing that comes to my mind when I hear this is fun. Looking through some of my travel photos, I have a lot of fun “in the moment” photos but I only have a handful that really crack me up.

I bought my first DSLR camera about a year ago, and I learned how to shoot manually at the end of the spring. I was in Europe for pretty much the whole month of July, so it was a perfect opportunity to experiment with what I learned and grow as a photographer. Ireland was the last stop of my trip, I met my boyfriend and 4 friends in Dublin to embark on a weeklong road trip down and up the coast to fly out of Shannon.

One of our favorite stops was Balleydehob, which I wrote all about in my past posts about Ireland. The night we got there, our house was right on what seemed like an endless cow pasture, we ran around the hills for hours like little kids. I did some jumping experiments with my camera, and we got some really funny pictures out of it. My favorite was when Joe just couldn’t get on the same count as anybody else, to me in this shot he is hilariously expressing himself (by accident):

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Serenity

I am excited to share my first weekly photo challenge, this week it should be a photo that displays serenity. I took this photo at the Notre Dame cathedral in Paris this past July. I thought this was appropriate considering the recent tragic events that took place in Paris, and I wish them peace and serenity.

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The End of Our Trip – Cliffs of Moher and Doolin

Killarney National Park

Killarney National Park

Writing about the last couple of days of our trip brings a little sting to my heart. I am currently curled up in blankets, mentally preparing for another stormy winter day tomorrow in Boston and dreaming about the lush green grass, cows and the perfect ending to a truly perfect trip.

After leaving Ballydehob we had one of our favorite drives. It was a long one, but we left Ballydehob drove through Kenmare and stopped a bunch of times throughout Killarney National Park. We ate some of the best ice cream we have ever had in Kenmare and got some great pictures throughout. If I could change one thing about the trip, I would have added a couple more days (of course) so we could really take our time and do the entire Ring of Kerry.

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For the last two nights of our trip we rented a house in Ennistimon via AirBnB. This was great, the house was beautiful and the owners were great to work with, but next time I will definitely prefer to stay at bed and breakfasts. Renting an entire home is great when visiting anywhere else, but Ireland is a place that you don’t want to pass up a true B&B experience when you don’t have to. I would have also preferred to be closer to town, especially after getting a true taste of the music scene in Doolin.

The day we arrived at our house it was pretty late after a long drive so we relaxed a little bit and enjoyed the immediate area. Our house was about 30 minutes away from Doolin, I chose the location because it was halfway between Doolin and Shannon airport which we were flying out of on our last day. We were ready for the cliffs of Moher and Doolin visit the day before departure. We pre-decided that we wanted to do a boat tour of the cliffs before walking above them. I found out that between late May and mid July is when the puffin colonies come to the Cliffs of Moher area for nesting season, so the boat tour would be a great way to see them.

Our first mistake was going to the tourism office to get our tickets which was a ways up from the harbor. We were cutting it close so we ran in to buy our tickets for 20 Euro each. The woman at the tourism desk was helpful, but as soon as we left the building a local told us that we should have just waited until we got down the dock. The different boats compete for your business and basically give the tickets away for as low as 5 Euro. We had been VERY budget conscious the entire trip so this was very, very frustrating. When you visit, be sure to just head down the dock to get your tickets and avoid over spending. But at the end of the day, the boat tour was short – about an hour but really great. I got to see puffins flying around so I was really excited about that, and not to mention the stunning views of the cliffs:

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After the boat tour we went up to the main entrance to walk around and see them from above. We spent HOURS here. As many pictures as you see, nothing compares to the real thing. We walked probably a couple of miles along the paths until we got to the cow pastures where we sat back and enjoyed the views:

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After the cliffs we headed right over to Doolin for dinner and to enjoy the night. Doolin is pretty touristy now, and many true music followers (and may I say it, travel snobs) say it has sort of lost it’s magic as far as live music goes since word as gotten out, but I am not a travel snob so I really disagree with that. Whether it’s all foreigners or all locals, Doolin is a fantastic place to grab a pint and enjoy the groups of musicians that just happened to show up that night. In fact, one of the performers at Gus O’Connors Pub in Doolin had such an amazing voice it brought me to tears.

We spent a lot of time at Gus O’Connors. We had a delicious dinner, made some friends and got to enjoy the performers. I would definitely say we spent our last night in the right place. We were able to forget for a quick moment that we were leaving the following day.

I have visited Ireland twice and I can’t wait to get back for a third visit. I say this to everyone- the landscape, country and cities are great…but the people are truly what make Ireland what it is. Everybody wants to talk to you, and everybody truly cares about your happiness while visiting Ireland. Every bed and breakfast owner I have come across want nothing more than to make their home your home. If you have yet to go, put it close to the top of your list.

Holidays in New Hampshire

I hope everybody had a really great holiday season and a great start to the new year! This year my family did something a little untraditional to celebrate Christmas, we had our normal Christmas morning at home and then drove up to the North Conway area for a weekend getaway!

We rented two condos in Bartlett and had such a great time all together. Here are some of my favorite pictures I thought I would share with you. I didn’t take as many as I hoped, but I hope you still enjoy!

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Baby Don waiting to board the train!

Baby Don waiting to board the train!

My nephews having a blast

My nephews having a blast

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White Moutains

White Moutains

We had bloody marys and a great lunch at the Mount Washington Resort

We had bloody marys and a great lunch at the Mount Washington Resort

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Mount Washington Resort

Mount Washington Resort

One of my year round favorite pitstops

One of my year round favorite pitstops

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Ireland Days 4 & 5: Ballydehob and Tour of the Peninsula

Flowers

Flowers

Ballydehob is a tiny village on the south west side of Ireland and a serious hidden gem we discovered before our trip. I have a family friend who moved there and has lived there for a few years. I got in touch with her before we went and we were able to stay with her for two nights! The property was unlike anything I have ever seen before. We ran through the fields like kids!

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One of my favorite pictures, it really captures the feel of serenity!

One of my favorite pictures, it really captures the feel of serenity!

The house we stayed at, view from the cow pasture

The house we stayed at, view from the cow pasture

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Ballydehob is a perfect place to stop through if you want to get close to the coast and do a little peninsula tour like we did. We used it as a starting point for a few different places to see. We stayed two nights and since the property we stayed on was so beautiful we spent some time relaxing there (really the only time all week), but we also used it as a starting point to do a loop to the end of the peninsula. We started in Ballydehob, made some stops and turned back around at Mizen Head:

1. Altar Wedge Tomb: This was a really easy pitstop on our way from Ballydehob towards Mizen Head, and it was really amazing. It was a really foggy day, but we could still see it along with the beautiful rocky coast! The pictures do it better justice I think (unless of course, you’re there!)

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Altar Wedge Tomb

Altar Wedge Tomb on a foggy day. 

2. Crookhaven: This was one of my favorite stops for sure (maybe that’s because it included lunch) but it was SO beautiful here. It is a tiny summery village with little fishing boats and of course the friendliest of people. We sat by the window inside O’Sullivan’s Bar for a tasty lunch and a Guinness. Most of us got the tasty seafood chowder because in a location like this, how can you not? Highly recommended for a great pitstop!

Seafood Chowder, Guinness and a tasty sandwich at O'Sullivan's Bar

Seafood Chowder, Guinness and a tasty sandwich at O’Sullivan’s Bar

2. Mizen Head: On our loop we stopped at the Mizen Head Visitor Center, unfortunately for us it was so foggy that particular day, we chose not to do the ten minute walk down to the edge because we couldn’t see anything! But everybody told us it’s one of the most spectacular views, especially on a clear day.

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3. Beach Pitstop: We found a great little beach to take a break from driving at, it wasn’t particularly beach weather but it was a perfect day for skipping rocks and playing in the sand. I know I already posted with some of my favorite rock skipping pictures, but I just love to look at them!:

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After our little tour we headed back to the house for a great home cooked meal and some relaxation. We really loved this southern coast and I am looking forward to getting back during my next visit.

View from our kitchen window

View from our kitchen window

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Ireland Stop 3: Blarney!

Blarney Castle

Blarney Castle

My domestic travels have directed me off track a little bit, but I am still working to share my summer Ireland road trip with you! I already discussed my first night in Dublin, our road trip through Glendalough, and our fantastic stay in Kilkenny… now onto our third night in Blarney!

My original plan was to stay in Cork for this night, but I was concerned about finding parking for two cars in the city overnight. I found a great little B&B in Blarney so I settled on that since I knew that Blarney Castle would be great to visit.

After visiting the Kilkenny Castle we pretty much got on the road to Cork. we didn’t mosey as much on this drive because we wanted to have more time once we got there. Unfortunately it was Sunday so I didn’t realize most things would be closed, and it was also the only day it really poured rain for us! So our impression of Cork wasn’t the greatest. Everyone I talk to loves it so I wouldn’t go off my opinion considering the circumstances.

We grabbed a bite in Cork, wandered the city a little bit and then headed to Blarney. We wandered lost for a bit but eventually found our B&B The Pond House. I do not have enough great things to say about this B&B and it’s all thanks to Tom the (kind of crazy) but hilarious owner. We checked into our two spacious rooms that he had just finished cleaning himself and he chatted with us for quite a while, gave us great recommendations, etc.

Tom and the Pond House!

Tom and the Pond House!

We decided to stay local when going out that night and we are so glad we did. We could walk to the bars and they were an absolute blast. Our favorite was The Muskerry Arms, it was full of locals and the live music was amazing. We bumped into the B&B owner Tom at this bar and he bought us all a Guinness and hung out with us for hours, him and his friends were some of the most hilarious people we met in Ireland.

We woke up to an amazing breakfast that Tom made himself and it was one of the best we had, left us in a great place to head to the Blarney Castle.

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Blarney Castle is one of the biggest tourist attractions in Ireland, so if you hate crowds and only want to stay on “off the beaten path” type of places, I don’t recommend it! But regardless we loved it. We waited in line for hours to kiss the Blarney stone:

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Me about to kiss the Blarney Stone, a lot scarier than it looks!!!

did the tour of the castle and enjoyed the grounds! It was a beautiful day so we were really lucky.

Dream catchers in the trees on the Blarney Castle grounds

Dream catchers in the trees on the Blarney Castle grounds

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After the castle we found this great little chocolate shop called Blarney Chocolate Factory, I would actually do a lot to get these dark chocolate honeycomb chocolates shipped to me! The owner was great and we chatted with him for quite a while, I had a delicious espresso and we bought some more chocolates for the drive :) if you ever make it to Blarney you MUST stop in here.

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We weren’t super into shopping while in Ireland, but I will say the Blarney Woolen Mills was a one stop shop. It is a MASSIVE gift shop that has everything Irish you could need, we stayed in here for a while and got most of our souvenir shopping done.

We finished up our time in Blarney and got on the road for our next stop in Balleydehob!

48 Hours in New Orleans

Christmas on Royal Street

Christmas on Royal Street

I recently had a very quick trip to New Orleans, I landed on a Sunday afternoon and came home on a Tuesday night. It was enough of a tease to know I need to get back ASAP. New Orleans is truly my kind of city – between the southern cooking and live music EVERYWHERE I couldn’t get enough. I didn’t get to everything of course, but I feel like I did hit up some of the most important parts of the city:

1. The minute I got there I asked around for the best Po’ Boy shop in the area. We were staying at the Renaissance New Orleans Pere Marquette Hotel which was a great Marriott dangerously close to Bourbon street. We checked in and started our Po’ Boy search while borderline hangry. No matter how hangry I might be getting I will still never settle for a mediocre meal in a new city. We caught wind of Killer Po’ Boys which is right off the main strip on Bourbon street on Conti street, there is no sign for it but it’s in the back of a tiny dive bar called Erin Rose. This is also a great little hidden gem of a bar with great staff and of cheap drinks. I got a Shrimp Po’ Boy and it was to DIE for. Amazingly seasoned on fresh bread and a tasty slaw, one of the best meals I ate during my short stay.

2. Mardi Gras World - On Sunday evening we got a shuttle over to Mardis Gras World. This is a massive studio where many of the Mardis Gras floats seen each year are constructed from the ground up. Although it resembles a bad dream with giant faces, cartoons and superstars staring you down – it’s pretty remarkable to learn about the history, costs and values of one of the World’s most famous celebrations. Tickets are $19.95 for adult and a bit less for students and children. It’s an hour long and they will also provide a shuttle to and from the city.

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3. Bourbon Street - What you hear about Bourbon Street is most likely true, it seems to me that it stays open until you decide to leave and “drinks to go” are an actual thing. You can hear live music blasting from every open door from morning till night. It doesn’t smell too great, but the bars are an absolute blast and drink costs are not too shabby either. The people watching is prime and this of course is one of the most touristy parts of the city but still so much fun.

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4. Royal Street - I heard so much about Frenchman Street but unfortunately I never made it over there, it will definitely be at the top of my list for my next visit. Royal Street was pretty great, I spent a lot of time wandering this street and browsing the shops. It’s filled with antique shops, cigar shops and of course beautiful french inspired architecture. I found the most street musicians here and they were all incredibly talented.

Aside from all the live music a highlight was definitely Magnolia Sugar & Spice Praline Kitchen & Hot Sauce Bar, they featured samplings of homemade pralines and endless hot sauce samples… stopping here resulted in me checking my bag on my return flight!

Tap dancers on Royal street

Tap dancers on Royal street

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5. Cafe du Monde - This is one of the top tourist destinations of NOLA for sure, it’s a spacious coffee shop on the corner that is known for people watching and of course beignets. These are delightful little pockets of fried dough covered in powdered sugar. The best part of this cafe is that you can pretty much see the St. Louis Cathedral and turn another corner to get to the Port of New Orleans.

I’m really looking forward to get back to NOLA for some more delicious food and touring :) If you have any favorites, let me know!