Top 5 Memories of 2015

I can’t believe that 2015 is coming to a close. In some ways, its really no big deal, I just have to remember to write ’16’ when I write out the date. I mean, how do you measure a year? Reminds me of that song from Rent…

Here are my top 5 memories from 2015!

5. Cape Cod getaway- One of my good friends has family on the cape with room to spare, so we headed down on a Wednesday night in August and stayed until Friday. It was so nice to be there during the week, and we managed to do all of our favorite things in that time! We went out to the Woodshed, got lobster rolls at Sesuit Harbor, hung out at the beach, took out our friend’s boat and did some ocean wakeboarding, saw a whale out in the bay, and did some shopping in Chatham.

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4. Memorial Day Trip to Isle of Palms/Charleston- The fiancé, me, and 9 friends rented a house in Isle of Palms for Memorial Day weekend. We were right on the beach, went out in Charleston, and just had the best time goofing around the house. We played an epic country song drinking game, went to a rooftop bar with a pool, and made great memories.

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3. Las Vegas Trip for one of my best friend’s bachelorette and her amazing wedding at the barn where I ride. Two extremely happy weekends with my favorite girls from the barn. We always have such a good time together.

2. Hiking Mt. Washington in March- This year I hiked 22 4000 footers in NH!! We headed up Mt. Washington on a really nice March day. There was no wind, which is crazy for Mt. Washington. It was an amazing hike, a hard hike. Hiking in that area, you always look for Mt. Washington from all the other summits. Finally climbing the summit that I had admired for so long, it was amazing.

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1. Getting engaged on the summit of Mt. Madison- ahhhh how to even put this day into words. My fiances favorite summit is Mt. Madison because you pop out of the woods to the most amazing views of the White Mountains. He asked me to spend the rest of my life with him and I said yes. Annnnd then we had to hike over to Mt. Adams, and hike down. It was  quite a day! Still so happy just thinking about it.

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I hope that you all have a great New Year’s Eve planned, whether its a party or snuggling up on the couch. Thank you to everyone who has followed along this year, I hope that you continue this journey with me into 2016!

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Boston Ballet’s Nutcracker 2015

Sunday night, my mother, sister, and I went to see Boston Ballet’s The Nutcracker. I am a huge fan of the Boston Ballet and the Boston Opera House. I go 2-3 times a year- definitely the Nutcracker every year, and then any other classic ballets. I have been to Swan Lake, Romeo and Juliet, Cinderella, La Bayadiere, The Sleeping Beauty, and Giselle. Prokofiev and Tchaikovsky ballets are my favorite.

Before the ballet, we walked around downtown crossings a little. We checked out the window displays at the Macy’s which were so cute, they were all scenes from the Charlie Brown Christmas special. Oh and there’s a Primark in there now?? Gotta check that out….

Then we went to one of my favorite places, the Boston Common Coffee Co.  We somehow snagged three seats, and got a congo bar to split (think one of those layer bars with chocolate and coconut), and drinks. My favorite thing there is the iced chai with soy.

After that we had probably 15 minutes before we had to head in, so we ran to the common to the see the lights! I snapped this lovely photo of a fully decorated Christmas tree, so pretty.

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O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree…

Growing up, the Boston Ballet’s home was the Wang, a beautiful theatre in  Boston. I don’t remember when they moved to the Boston Opera House, but the first year they moved, we actually went to see White Christmas at the Wang instead of The Nutcracker. We suspect they moved because the Wang wanted to have different Christmas shows. Its not even called the Wang anymore, its the Citi Performing Arts Center (after Citi Bank). I also think the ballet has gone through ups and downs and maybe for a time wasn’t getting enough ticket sales for the Wang. In 2012, Mikko Nissinen, the director of the Boston Ballet, overhauled The Nutcracker. New choreography, new sets, new costumes….I’ll be honest, I love some of the changes, but even 4 years later, I miss some of the costumes from before. The Nutcracker has always been a part of my family’s Christmas celebrations. There’s something special about grabbing tea and a goodie before the show, heading in to the show and knowing to use the lower bathrooms, not the upstairs bathrooms, absolutely loving the show, and then talking about how we miss the green costumes for the flowers, or the pink Sugar Plum Fairy costume on the ride home. We love the new Snow Queen costume though 🙂

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Boston Opera House
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Upper lounge of the Boston Opera House- love all the gold, the chandeliers, and the Christmas greenery/decor
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The curtain for The Nutcracker
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Painting on the ceiling of The Boston Opera House- gorgeous

This year, Boston Ballet is doing their new production of Swan Lake again, so I probably won’t go. In a couple months they are doing Onegin, so I will go to that one. Who else wants to go??

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My favorite gift for hiking

Those of you that read my blog or check out my instagram photos know that I am an avid hiker in the White Mountains of NH. Besides being on the back of a horse, being out on the trails is my other happy, calming, mind-clearing place.  I have a lot of gear now from hiking and camping up there over the past few years, but I have been in need of a good backpacking sleeping bag. My fiancé got me the REI Flash sleeping bag, rated for 32 deg F. He also got me one of those blow up crash pads to go with it.

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Making sure it was long enough on Christmas morning! Mizpah and Patty Cat very interested 🙂

We hike all through the winter. I have La Sportiva Nepal boots, gators, waterproof pants, microspikes, crampons, and snowshoes….gear is really important in the winter. This sleeping bag will be at the bottom of my pack this winter, because you always have to be ready to survive in the cold in the case of an emergency. Bag and tag is what Jon calls it. Jon always brings his, and now I will have mine too, just in case. It will also be perfect for some of the overnight hikes we have planned this summer for me to finish the NH 48 4000 footers!

It might sound corny, but this sleeping bag is more than just, “I wanna camp with you”. For winter hikers, this sleeping bag is more like, “I wanna keep you safe and warm always”. My sleeping bag just became a way more romantic gift huh?? Plus I know he probably spent hours researching which bag to get me!

We finally got some snow today!! Woo!

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A very LLBean Christmas

It’s Monday and Christmas has come and gone. We had an awesomely busy weekend, family Christmas gatherings from Christmas Eve straight through yesterday. Yesterday we got my mother’s family together at our family restaurant, Kitty’s in North Reading. My great-uncle was the head chef there from the beginning and they still use his recipe for many things, including their amazing pizza.

As far as gifts go, of course being with my family, having my parents up from Florida and my sister having some time off were the best gifts! For the gifts that you have to unwrap though, I got some great stuff from LLBean!!!

One of my aunt’s got me this amazing LLBean back pack. Its smaller than my backpacking pack, and will be perfect for small hikes where I want to pack light. I can’t wait to use it, probably not until this summer though. Winter hikes require the bigger backpack to bring my sleeping bag in case of emergencies.

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My sister gave me the two pack of cotton ragg camp socks . I have these socks in the boot length as well. They are great socks, very soft and comfortable. They are definitely my second favorite socks only to smart wool. The thing that they do have over smart wool though is they come in more classic solid colors.

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I was given two LLBean scarves this Christmas. They have both sold out though on the website!! The one on the left is a wool blend scarf from my parents, and the one on the right is 100% Irish lambswool made by John Hanley of Ireland for LLBean from my sister. They are both awesome scarves, warm and stylish.

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My parents gave me the heritage fair isle mittens and hat set from LLBean. The inside of the mittens is a nice soft fleece, and the hat is also lined with fleece so your forehead doesn’t itch. These are also sold out on the LLBean website!

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Two lovely LLBean sweaters made their way to me this Christmas as well. My fiancé’s parents gave me a black double L cotton cable knit sweater. This is a great staple item in your wardrobe. Crew neck sweaters and button downs are basically my fall to winter uniform. Between my cousins and my other aunt, I got some LLBean gift cards, so I stopped by the LLBean in Burlington yesterday and picked up the cream fisherman sweater from the signature collection. I usually size down for most LLBean tops, but for this sweater, I got my true size. I wanted it to be a little more roomy on me, sort of like a boyfriend sweater.

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Finally, with my gift cards, I was able to almost cover a pair of the LLBean Boots Rubber Mocs. I think I had to chip in like, $24 of my own money. I am in love. They are awesome because they are waterproof, comfortable, and they just slip on!!! So great for New England weather when you have to take your pup out all times of day.

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Some other LLBean gifts in my family were these  moccasins that my sister got and this awesome fleece lined flannel shirt that my fiancé got. Don’t fret about sold out items on LLBean.com. If it doesn’t come up as backordered, then it is just gone for the season and will come out again next year with some new tweaks usually.  I have this week off so I had some day trips planned, but we will see if the weather cooperates. Tomorrow, southern New England will see its first snowflakes!!! I am so excited, but of course the weather will probably keep me from going to see friends in RI……typical New England problems. What were your favorite Christmas gifts!? I hope you all had a lovely Christmas weekend!!

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My Top 10 Christmas Movies!!

I am happily writing this post with a beer watching Lifetime Christmas movies, today was my last day of work this year!! I am drinking the Magic Hat Snow Roller from Vermont….it has a graphic of Jack Frost riding a snow wave, awesome.

No snow here though….Massachusetts has been warm and snow free thus far. Today it was in the 50s…and its supposed to get warmer until Christmas. Jon and I got rid of our premium cable this year to save soooo much money, and so now we don’t get ABC Family or Hallmark, the two big Christmas movie networks. We already had a good collection of movies going, but I added a bunch through Amazon.com, and all the movies still cost less than what we save in one month with the more basic cable #savings !!

Here’s my top 10 list for Christmas movies!!

10. 12 Men of Christmas- ok, this is the only made for TV one. It came out a few years ago, and can be seen on Lifetime. Kristin Chenoweth is so good in it, and its about her making a calendar of the search & rescue men from a town in Montana to raise money. The scenery and the romance between Kristin’s character and Josh Hopkins’s character is pretty good. Oh and Anna Chlumsky is in it, from My Girl? Throwback!

9.  Charlie Brown Christmas- Who doesn’t love the little Charlie Brown Christmas tree!? All of them singing together….its a good one, often on of the major networks at least once. I got a DVD set though that has the Christmas, Thanksgiving, AND Halloween specials, woo!

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8. The Grinch That Stole Christmas (cartoon version)- I love the cartoon version….I don’t like how the Jim Carrey version kinda makes the Whos look kinda crazy & materialistic with the light competition and the Cheermeister stuff.

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7. Elf- probably the newest on my list. This one typically plays on the cable stations almost on loop, but not having those stations this year means I actually appreciate watching this so much more! A few years ago I answered the phone at school, “Buddy the Elf, whats your favorite color?”….it was not received well as the person on the other line assumed I was a student answering the phone which is not allowed lol.

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6. Santa Claus is Comin to Town- Rankin & Bass animated classics are amazing…this one is narrated by Fred Astaire…if you need more than his amazing voice, it also has some really fun characters like the Winter Warlock and the Berger Meister Meister Berger. It has a really cute story about how Santa Claus came to be!

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This is a 2-DVD set with Frosty the Snowman, Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, Santa Claus is Comin to Town, and then some lesser known Christmas specials like Little Drummer Boy, Cricket on the Hearth, Flinstones Christmas, and Frosty Returns- awesome set!

5. Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer- Another classic, the misfit toys, Hermey and Yukon Cornelius, Sam the Snowman…classic story about never prejudging/excluding someone because you never know when you might need them!

4. Year Without a Santa Claus- The last Rankin & Bass treasure on my list….I love the Snow Miser & Heat Miser!!

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This one also has Rudolph’s Shiny New Year on it!

3. National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation- no matter how many times I see this movie, I still laugh hysterically at soooo many scenes. This movie was in the running to watch today with my students….I just couldn’t haha.

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2. White Christmas- this one is on Netflix so I don’t own it! The music…the dancing….the costumes…..the scenery…WWII! Where to start!? Vera Ellen has the most amazing legs in Hollywood, and I love Wallace & Davis (Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye) together. The final scene with the red velvet dresses and the little ballerinas…love.

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It’s an older movie, get it, watch it, love it

1. Muppet Christmas Carol- this one is a family tradition. We watch it every Christmas Eve and then my mom would read Twas the Night Before Christmas and then off to bed we went. It’s the best version of The Christmas Carol in my opinion.

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All of these are on Amazon, some for super cheap, like quite a few of them were just under $10 or just under $5. So worth it to have the movies, no commercials, and I don’t have to miss the cable stations we got rid of to save money. My parents are here for the week, and my sister is coming for the weekend, so I wanted to make sure that I had all of the movies we love on hand, and I was so happy about how affordable it was.

It’s been so warm here in Massachusetts (#greenchristmas), the Christmas movies are definitely helping to get me in the Christmas spirit! What are your favorite Christmas movies??

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Ski Sweater & Christmas Party

Happy Monday!! Mondays usually aren’t the happiest day of the week but since this is only a 3 day work week, and my parents are getting in from Florida today, AND Christmas is this week….well its not that bad of a Monday at all!

This past weekend, my fiance Jon and I hosted a little get together for his friends. We made meatballs set out with rolls and provolone cheese, brussel sprouts roasted with bacon & maple syrup, and then we set out cheese & crackers, chips with a garlic dip, and raw veggies with ranch dressing. One of our friends brought cut up French bread with a mozzarella, tomato, and basil dip. It was so good. To round out our little buffet, Jon and I made chocolate peppermint crunch cookies & peanut butter cookies.

Jon and I like good beers, and so do his friends, so we made that an integral part of the party. Everyone had to bring a beer to share, so either a six pack or one of the bigger 22 oz bottles, and everyone brought a beer for a yankee swap. So we all got to try some fun beers and then everyone got to take a cool beer home with them too. It was a really fun twist on the traditional Yankee swap, and worked with this particular group of friends because they all love trying different beers. My personal favorites to try were the Magic Hat Winter Mingle stout with vanilla from their Winter Wonderland variety pack & the Yard Sale lager from Uinta Brewing Company out in Utah that has a skier on the can with all their equipment scattered around them (been there, done that).

For the party, I threw on my leggings (back is still ouchie from falling off the pony) and my LLBean boot socks with my LLBean quilted scuff slippers, my Old Navy chambray dress shirt that’s long enough in the back to make wearing the leggings acceptable, and a great vintage Ralph Lauren handknit cardigan with snowflakes and little downhill skiers. I think I got it from Ebay for $35.00. There are soooo many awesome sweaters on Ebay and Etsy for great prices. Ralph Lauren, LLBean, and Woolrich are some good brands to look for.

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Peanut butter cookies and chocolate peppermint crunch cookies (favorite)

FullSizeRender (2) I have been struggling a little bit with my hair because we are pretty sure I tore my rotator cuff falling off Dutch (horse friend). It hurts to raise my right arm, so blowdrying has been tough!!! Mizpah is in the second pic, she loves a good party. She loves to cuddle with different people on the couch, clean up dropped food on the floor, and sing (bark) at everyone when they come in the door. We have to watch her though, she has a thing for boozy egg nog this year. Mizpah’s only 5, not old enough to drink haha.

I am loving everyone’s Christmas/Hannukah blog posts. I am kinda happy that most bloggers are done with gift guides, because I love the holiday party/traditions posts more. Yesterday we did the Patriots game over a friend’s house, and then Jon and I went to see the new Star Wars movie….it was amazing, totally geeking out and can’t wait to see it again! I would definitely recommend seeing it if you are a Star Wars fan, but honestly it was a great action movie as a standalone movie too. Ok, stay tuned for more holiday posts this week, this truly is the most wonderful time of the year!

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Favorite Christmas Tree Ornaments

I am going to keep my writing brief because I definitely fell off my horse tonight into the wall of the indoor. We had just done a jump perfectly after many tries and he bucked while I was leaning forward and off I went. I’m sore, but ok. Got back on for a little while so no one starts to think that bucking me off is a good way to end a ride, but I will be rocking some IB profen, a heating pad, and lots of hot cocoa tonight to recover. I have a red line on my back from where I made contact with the bottom of the wall….I will be fine haha.

This post is about some of my favorite ornaments. I hope that you enjoy them!!

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An older ornament from my parents, the swan boats in the common
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Santa in his workshop, one of my favorites from my childhood
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One of my favorites from my Breyer’s ornament collection
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My Barbie ballerina for Nutcracker season
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Another great one from my Breyer’s collection, how many little girls have asked for a pony for Christmas? 🙂
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This one is a gift from my mom, love it
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Rowing on the Charles in Cambridge ornament, perfect for a tree belonging to two rowers!
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I have the whole set of Rudolph characters, the Bumble, Hermey, Yukon, Rudolph, and Santa.

I hope everyone’s holiday preparations are going well. I had a big food shopping trip tonight for the weekend into next week….it was painful and slow moving. Of course I ran into a student while I was limping through the supermarket still covered in dirt haha, oh well. Happy Friday everyone, one week til Christmas!!

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A Book Review on Jane Austen’s Birthday

Today is Jane Austen’s birthday!!! Jane Austen is one of my favorite authors.  Jane, Emily, Charlotte, and Louisa….they are the OGs of my bookshelves. My favorite Jane Austen novels are Emma, Pride and Prejudice, and Sense and Sensibility in that order. Emma is the best in my opinion, Mr. Knightley definitely > Mr. Darcy. Here’s my review of “How to start a fire”!

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I just finished “How to start a fire” by Lisa Lutz last night. Usually, if I get through a book, it means I liked it….but this was another tough one for me. I started this book, had to table it, and then picked back up again. Not easy with a book that chronicles the lives of 3 college friends in that style that jumps around between events of different years. I had to really focus to keep what was going on from basically 1998 to 2013 in the book. I have read a few books now where the chapters jump back and forth between the past and present and it can be tough to follow.

Perhaps another reason why I struggled was I didn’t really relate to any of the main characters. The three girls, George, Kate, and Anna would probably not have been girls I would have befriended. I thought more than once in the book that the reason why they stayed friends was because they really didn’t make any new friends and only had each other. I suppose I appreciate George’s love for nature, and the way that camping calms & centers her. I love how Kate is kinda sheltered but has this inner strength and can be content with what she has at that moment, not always wanting more. Anna was probably the most dramatic, tumultuous character. You don’t really learn her or Kate full story until the last 100 pages or so. I have a few women in my life that remind me of Anna. One has made her way out of the woods, and one is still a little lost.

J. Courtney Sullivan wrote a book called “Commencement” that was again about a group of friends from college and how their lives intertwined afterwards. I might like Commencement better than How to start a fire. It has been so warm in Massachusetts. Yesterday, the pup and I went for a walk in the woods sans jacket! Looks like we might have a green Christmas up here!

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We all took Monday off from exercise after the hike on Sunday, so girlfriend was pretty amped up to run around yesterday. It was hard to get her to stay still for a picture hahaha. As usual, my book was from the library. Not sure what I will read next, but utilizing the library saves me a lot of money on books. Save the pennies my friends.

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Red Bows & Hiking the Hancocks

Wow, last week was crazy! My goal is to do at least 3 posts a week, and I failed terribly last week. Good news is I finished my grad class for the fall semester, and just about finished my Christmas shopping! Woo! High fives all around!

Two holiday/Christmas parties, an awesome charity 5k run, and hiking South and North Hancock sums up my weekend. I am definitely feeling a little worn out today.  The Hancocks are #36 and #37 of the New Hampshire 48 4000footers for me, so I just have 11 left! It has been an amazing journey, and honestly once I finish, its not really an ending. Hiking in all seasons here in New England has become a very happy and healthy part of my life, I love it, its right up there with horseback riding 🙂

This hike is a lollipop hike. You go walk a pretty flat trail down the Hancock Notch Trail to the Cedar Brook Trail to the Hancock Loop Trail. Then you start to climb and can choose to head toward North or South first. We went to North first because that trail is rougher terrain which is easier to climb up. We went up and over North which has nice views, over to the tree covered South summit, and then back down to the stick of the lollipop.

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Summit of Mt. Hancock, the North peak
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View from the outlook on North, almost right at the horizon you can see Lake Winnipesaukee in the middle
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Another view from the outlook, over to the right you can see the ski trails on Loon Mountain

It was such an unseasonably warm day, no jacket needed. I did wear my microspikes for 2 sections.

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Summit of Mt. Hancock, the North peak
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Arrowhead Slide on North Hancock
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Back of the Franconia Ridge
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New rerouted trail away from the brook, really pretty
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These trees will grow, even if they have to grow out of a rock 🙂

The red bows on the summits of both peaks were a surprise. I enjoyed them, BUT they do violate the Leave No Trace policy we all try to hike by. Its tough, most hikers that consider themselves stewards of these ranges don’t approve of anything that could become litter or could disrupt the existence of the animals/plants living there. The fact that this little decoration is in support of the holiday season also ticks some off, nature is neutral I was told. I hope that whoever put them up will come back to dispose of them, but I don’t see harm in the intent behind them. I am a holiday romantic, what can I say??

And on that note, yesterday was National Hot Cocoa Day! I celebrated with a mug that I painted at Clay Time in Shrewsbury MA. I used really cool silk screens to decorate my mug, it was so fun!

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Hope you all had a good weekend! I will be better this week about posting, promise!

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Creating a wish list for your boyfriend/fiance’s family…

My parents retired to beautiful sunny Florida a couple years ago, and last year was their first year ever not being in Massachusetts for Christmas. Last year my sister went down to FL mid-December because she is a nurse and worked right through the holidays, and I went down for a few days right after Christmas. My fiance’s family truly took me in last year for Christmas. His parents got me a stocking and stuffed it with candy, travel size toiletries, handwarmers, and chapstick. They got me some really nice gifts including a jewelry box decopaged with a picture of my dog, Mizpah, on it. They even got Mizpah a toy and a bone. The sadness I felt over not being with my family for Christmas morning was greatly offset by the warmth from my fiance’s family. I am so lucky to be marrying into this family.

Yesterday….my fiance asked me to come up with some gift ideas to pass along to his mother…..this is a gift guide often looked over….

I had a few criteria:

  • Affordable, like under $40
  • From a well known retailer- your own mom might go to any lengths to get you the perfect gift, your boyfriend/fiance’s mom? keep it simple, don’t send her to an Etsy shop that she’s never heard of.
  • Hassle-free/free shipping- free and easy shipping is always a plus
  • Commonality- something that she feels comfortable buying, not too intimate, something that she would buy for a friend in her life

OK, here’s what I came up with!

  1. A basic cotton cable knit sweater from LL Bean, on sale for $39.99. I had to toss my black crew neck sweater this year, so this would be an awesome replacement. These sweaters are a wardrobe staple and my fiance’s parents love LLBean too! IMG_2314
  2. A nice Kate Spade mug with the words “One Smart Cookie” on it from Macy’s, $15. Some of the other little sayings might be weird for her to buy, but I am a smart cookie! This is a mug I would feel comfortable drinking from in front of my students 😉IMG_2315
  3. Smartwool socks!!! I am a Smartwool sock addict, they are my favorite. I sent along these from REI because I know my fiance put some stuff from REI on his list….trying to make it easy on my future inlaws 🙂 The socks run ~$15, especially for the 2014 closeout ones! I live in the nice warm medium cushion socks all winter. IMG_2316
  4. Books!! Books are a great gift. I am asking for Not Without Peril by Nicholas Howe from Barnes & Noble for $15.21. I have read a borrowed copy from a friend but would like my own. It’s an amazing book filled with the history and mishaps in the Presidential Range in the White Mountains of NH.IMG_2320 (1)
  5. Timex Weekender watch in plaid from Kohls, $34.42. I wrote about the Timex Weekender here and I love the plaid pattern strap. IMG_2319

Its so nice when the important people in your life ask for gift ideas. It shows that while they know you, they are interested in what you want/need right now. They want to get you something you will like!  Tis better to give than to receive for sure, but coming up with suitable gift ideas in the gifter’s price range can really make your family/close friends lives easier. I make different wish lists for my parents, my aunt & cousins, my sister, and for my future inlaws. It takes time, but really helps alleviate the mall wandering and shopping anxiety for the people you love most.  Its the thought that counts of course, but its a great feeling to be done with your Christmas shopping and be confident that everything you got for your people will be loved.

What do you think? Share your comments!

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