As Summer Fades Into Autumn

Alternatively titled: Life Lately…

For me, Autumn starts on September 1. I’m not sure when/why I’ve picked this date, but it’s just always been there. It might have something to do with school schedules (and being on the East Coast where school does not start until after Labor Day has only solidified this) or it might be because no matter where we have lived, August has always been the worst with heat/humidity/bugs. Whatever the reason, for me “Autumn” begins tomorrow. And wow am I ready for Autumn. 

This Autumn marks a time of change, most notably that both my boys will be in school all day every day. I’ll have an empty house during the day for the first time in 6 years. It seems a bit surreal to me to be honest. Definitely a little bittersweet. As ready as we all are (and believe me, we are READY), it’s still a bit sad to think that my baby-est of boys, my little mama’s boy, is off to school. Luckily, I am volunteering within the PTO and school again so he won’t be far and the chances of me seeing him throughout the year and during the school day are high. He also attended the KinderCamp prior to school getting started and he did so well, loved every minute, and it very much added to his excitement of the start of school. 

In reality, there are a lot of other changes coming down the pipeline as Summer turns to Autumn, most of which I won’t be talking about, but it just feels like such a transition period- more so than in the past. 

I started out Summer with big plans- I wanted to journal with the kids every morning, we had an idea to our days, I had plans to only be here and there for little bits, while taking most of the time to really be present with the boys. And yet, while some of that happened, a lot of it didn’t. We went on our Summer Holiday, which was great and loved every minute, but then once we came back it was a rush to get back settled again, to get self imposed deadlines down, to re create those perfect day to days that I had dreamed, to then only throw them out the window- create playdates out of nowhere, and then strive to balance all the things I wanted to accomplish. It felt very…un summer like and definitely not like previous summers. I’m not sure what was so different, maybe it’s because this Autumn will be so different, but it just felt very short, very rushed, and very…unsatisfactory. But that’s life sometimes. 

Like Summer (you would think I would have learned, but no), I have big plans for Autumn and Winter. I’ve created a sort of overview of dates and timelines (again mostly self-imposed) that I’d like to meet and I feel like I’ll actually be able to do it. The big things are continuing regular blog posts (maybe some exciting new ones- anything you’d like to see more of?), starting up the podcast, and editing my book.

How was your Summer? What big plans do you have for the changing season?

A Cuppa Cosy Summer Holiday 2021 – Plymouth MA

It is time to talk about our annual summer holiday and travels! This year we decided to do a “USA history” tour of sorts, starting in Plymouth Massachusetts, then heading up to Boston, MA, a quick stop in Salem, MA and ending in Portland ME. Honestly, the trip was overall so relaxing and enjoyable. I don’t know if it was the amount of time in each stop, or if it was just the fact that the boys are older, we are more “travel experienced”, and that we haven’t traveled (thus the excitement is greater), whatever it was, this really worked for us. A quick overview of our trip, we did two nights in Plymouth, three in Boston, two in Portland. 

We arrived mid afternoon in Plymouth on our first day, prior to the check in time at our hotel, so we decided to just head over to a first stop. We started at Plimouth Patuxet. 

The Plimouth Patuxet or Plimouth Plantation (the original name) is what’s known as a living museum. Started in 1947 it features two central locations, plus the Mayflower II and the Grist Mill (in separate locations), one a replica of the village of Plymouth from 1627 with first person historical “actors” and the second is a replica of the Wampanoag village as it would have stood in the 17th century along with guides to help visitors understand life for them. It gives visitors an insight into not only what life would look like and be like, but a chance to learn about some of the people who would have lived in the Plymouth Colony.

Most of us know the history of America, the Colonies, etc., so I’m not going to focus too much on it, but I will say that there is a big difference between the colonies of Jamestown (the first) and Plymouth. Jamestown was founded by entrepreneurs who were seeking new land to develop, live and to expand fortunes. Plymouth was founded by a sect of Puritans (later as we all know as Pilgrims) who were fleeing religious persecution. They did not actually sale directly to the “America’s” though, they first went to The Netherlands to avoid the persecution. That didn’t end up working and they ended up making the journey towards the “America’s”. 

The Patuxet was really neat to walk through and I found it to actually be quite respectful to both the Wampanoag, the Patuxet, and the Colonists. The boys really appreciated the first person actors and being able to be involved in this living history (even though they truly couldn’t comprehend the entire grasp of it). 

We spent a couple hours at the Patuxet, then headed over to check in to our hotel. We stayed at the John Carver Inn for two reasons, one being its location right off the main street of town, and the other being the very cool pool that it offered. I will say, that while we loved the pool (which has a makeshift Plymouth rock holding the hot tub, and a slide within the “mayflower”), the hotel rooms were a bit dated. There isn’t anything wrong with that and we enjoyed our stay, just something to note. After checking in, we decided to just go venture out on the town.

Wandering along the main streets of downtown Plymouth offered a variety of breweries, small boutiques, and tourist shops. We ended up stopping at Tavern on the Wharf for dinner that first night, watching the sun light up the water as it started to set. From dinner, we continued to walk along the bay, watching the sun set slowly over the bay. Walking along the bay puts you right at the Plymouth Rock. This is when I would recommend seeing because a) you get to see the sunset on the water, and b) it tends to not be as crowded. 

So, Plymouth Rock. I want to start with the fact that there is no writing from the Pilgrims in regards to Plymouth Rock. It wasn’t recorded until ~1715 when it was used as part of the town boundaries and was simply a “great rock” and there wasn’t even a claim to it being the landing place until 1741 (~120 years later). Second, the rock itself (as it stands today) is quite small. It is not even the full size of the “original Plymouth Rock” due to its being moved around and pieces being taken, bought, and sold. Today it stands at about 1/3 of the size that it actually was. There is also a crack in the rock where it was broken in an attempt to place it in the town square, the two portions were put back together and the date was stamped in the 1770’s. So, it’s cool to see, but also a bit anticlimactic in a way. 

We finished out the evening with a  stop at Burial Hill, which was located right behind the John Carver Inn. Since there was still daylight (this cemetery sits much higher than the bay), we decided to take a little wander through the cemetery and see some of the oldest gravesites in our country (documented- there are much much older sites obviously from the indigenous peoples). Burial Hill was originally the site of the Pilgrims first meeting house and was first used as a burial spot in the 1620’s. There are Pilgrims and Mayflower passengers buried in the cemetery, as well as various revolutionaries and soldiers. Any person that has a history tied to a battle/war, the Mayflower, or the colonists has a medallion placed next to the grave marker (some of these still stand, some have been destroyed over time by the elements). 

The next morning we started out somewhat early, to get some breakfast from Munchies & Milkshakes. Robert had found this spot and read reviews about donuts and baked goodies, so we figured why not give it a try. I can tell you, it did not disappoint. We took our donuts to a bench overlooking the Mayflower II and the bay and had a lovely little picnic. Then it was off to tour the Mayflower II. 

As the same organization owns all three “Pilgrim”/Plymouth related attractions, you are able to purchase one ticket for all three locations, which is what we did. I can’t say that it was a cheaper option or a good bargain deal, but I can say that it was definitely easier when it came time to visit the other locations. We walked right into the Mayflower II and were able to get on the boat almost immediately. 

The Mayflower II is a reproduction of the original Mayflower. It was built in the 1950’s in partnership between an English builder and the Plimouth Patuxet. It was a partnership to honor the alliance between the United States and the United Kingdom during World War 2. Considered a generic reproduction with modern additions (like electric lights and a ladder) it sailed from Plymouth, Devon recreating the historical journey of the Pilgrims, landing at Plymouth Massachusetts after about 2 months. It has journeyed through various ports and cities on the East Coast both for tours and for restorations, but in 2020 it made a permanent return to Plymouth in honor of the 400th anniversary (lucky for us!). 

I do think that this is a very worthwhile attraction to see. Not only does it put the voyage in perspective and the conditions and turmoil that the Pilgrims faced during their voyage, but it also is neat to check out. The “crew” on board is a mixture of modern day guides and first person interpreters and you are able to see just about every area of the ship, including the mooring boat that they would have used to send expeditions from the ship to the mainland to find a settlement space. 

From the Mayflower II we walked the opposite direction (away from Plymouth rock and towards the shipyard area) to walk the riverfront. The town has a rocky area that you are able to walk a bit out into the bay waters and see the town from the water (in a way). Now, you are walking on rocks that have been piled up and around coming out of the water to form a walkway. It’s not a “sidewalk” or anything of that nature, just a man made path. We walked about halfway out and decided to turn back (as it’s just an outcropping to see the view). 

At that point in the day we were reaching the peak of the sun and heat, so we decided to head back to the hotel and spend a bit of time at the pool. This is something we don’t often do, but we had partly booked this hotel for the pool, so we figured we should take advantage of it. It was a lot of fun and allowed some of that sun and heat to pass over us. 

After a brief lull, we headed back out, this time to the Plymouth Grist Mill. This Grist Mill is a working mill recreated on the site (and similar to) the Jenney Grist Mill, which was one of the first operating mills from the Pilgrims in Plymouth (built and operated by John Jenney who came over on the Little James in 1623). The Mill was originally built in 1636 and remained in operation, though passing through different hands as owners passed away or sold, until it burned down in 1840’s. The property stood as it was until the town went through some re devolopment and mill was rebuilt/reproduced in 1969. It is a fully functioning mill processing what, rye, barley, and corn (which is ground on the primary millstones). You are able to watch the mill at work if it is the time of year for it to run, otherwise you are able to tour the mill and the workers will show you how everything operates. A Very kind tour guide turned on the outside portion for the boys to watch. 

I will say, this was another neat stop to make, BUT if you can’t fit it in or you are wondering which of the three attractions you don’t need to visit- this can be cut from your itinerary. It’s a short visit (which worked out really well for us), but I wouldn’t say it provided much “first hand” insight. Cool to see, but not necessary.

The final stop we made in Plymouth was the National Monument to the Forefathers. Originally known as the Pilgrim Monument, this is thought to be the worlds largest solid granite monument standing at 81 feet tall. It is dedicated to and commemorates the Mayflower Pilgrims and their ideals. The idea dates back to 1820, but the cornerstone was not laid until 1859 (after plans started almost 10 years earlier). It opened in 1889 and features a total of 5 figures. The top one is known as “Faith”, with the four buttresses featuring “Morality”, “Law”, “Education”, and “Liberty”. These are then broken down further on each buttress to give more ideals for each overarching concept. The front and rear panels both have quotes engraved, with the side panels containing the names of those on the original Mayflower. 

We wandered from the monument, which is tucked up on a hill back in a neighborhood, back down to the main street and stopped for dinner at the Waterfront Bar & Grill before heading back to the hotel to pack and leave the next morning. 

And that wraps up the first stop in our 2021 Summer Holiday. I will say, I’ve only ever been mildly interested in the Pilgrims tale (more so in a respectful manner of history), so while this was a cool spot and town was pretty, this wasn’t a highlight for me. It also wasn’t for the kids (minus the pool), but that’s because they much preferred the next stop on our destination…

A Cuppa Cosy Summer Holiday 2020 – Paris pt. 2

There is a word derived from French, flaneur, and it means to stroll and observe; which is basically what we spent our second day in Paris doing. If our first day was spent dotting from here to there, hopping off and on public transport and staying on more of the Notre Dame side of things (read about it HERE), our second day was spent truly walking the streets of Paris. We utilized public transport twice, once heading in and then again heading back out. So, what did we do?

We started our day off at Hotel national des Invalides, or The National Residence of the Invalids. This building has several different facets, but it’s original use was as a military hospital and retirement home for war veterans. It also holds a large church with the tallest dome in Paris and the tombs of some very notable war heroes (we will break this down in a bit, but <cough, cough> Napoleon <cough, cough>).

The original project was commissioned by Louis XIV in the 17th century and it has some key history beyond just serving as a military hospital. During the French Revolution it was stormed by rioters and used against the Bastille, it also served as an important spot in the degradation, and then rehabilitation, of Captain Alfred Dreyfus (which I am just now learning about?!), and holds the sarcophagus of Napoleon Bonaparte. Of course, Napoleon is not the only Frenchmen interred in the dome, there is an exhaustive list of tombs, vaults, and hearts that are in Les Invalides. 

These days the property not only serves as a facility for veterans (it still holds a medical and rehabilitation center), but it also serves as a museum center with museums detailing war history as well as an archive center for the 20th century archives. The complex is massive, and we spent a few hours walking through all of the sections. The amount of compiled information just in the museum portion is a lot and spans not just French history, but quite a few other countries as well. They’ve got a lot of little models of battlefields and battles that our boys enjoyed. The church and dome are also quite grand and incredible in their own ways and of course, the tomb of Napoleon is front and center. 

From the Hotel des Invalides we walked over to the Eiffel Tower. We chose to simply walk as the distance is not that far and it’s an easy route (you just keep the tower in your sights…). It was actually a really nice walk that allowed us to see a bit more of the Paris architecture (that is different from the countryside in my opinion). 

So, the Eiffel Tower. Constructed in the late 19th century for the 1889 World’s Fair, it “towers” over Paris at 324 meters tall. I feel like it should be noted that this particular World’s Fair was held to celebrate the centennial of the French Revolution. As with the Louvre Pyramid, there were objectors on several fronts (although the Eiffel Tower massively predates the Louvre Pyramid- HERE). The two popular counter arguments to the Tower were those who objected on aesthetic grounds and those that did not believe that such a tower could be constructed. Gustave Eiffel fought back, had powerful people behind him, and so the tower went ahead. The tower has a storied history, but survived both World Wars (narrowly in the second as Hitler did order it to be destroyed) and still stands today. There are three platforms with the third being at the very top. We were not able to go up to the third due to Coronavirus, and ended up choosing not to participate in going in the Eiffel Tower at all. Instead, we walked “under” (really beside it), across the Pont D’lena bridge and over to the Trocardie Gardens for a view of the full tower. We didn’t linger to long, partly because you can see the Eiffel Tower from any viewpoint on this side of the city of Paris, choosing instead to head over to our next stop of the day. 

From the Eiffel Tower we walked along towards the Arc de Triomphe. The route that we ended up walking allowed us to see a bit more of the “white collar” business side of Paris (I say white collar very lightly) as well as a part of their embassy section. It wasn’t a bad walk and before long we were right at the Arc. 

Commissioned by Napoleon towards the beginning of the 19th century, the Arc de Triomphe is a tribute to the armies of the Revolution and the French Empire. Napoleon really liked Roman antiquity (and you see this theme in quite a few of the buildings he commissioned) so there are a lot of similarities between this arc and those in the Roman Forum. It was placed in a central point of the city, with the Emperors residence at one end of the walkway (now the Avenue des Champs-Elysees) and became a central point for numerous roads leaving from the arc (did that make any sense?). Construction on the Arc was quite start and stop, however once completed it became a rallying spot for the French Army and is home to several large military parades and demonstrations. In 1920 the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier was interred beneath the Arc and the first eternal flame in Western/Eastern Europe since the Vestal Virgins was lit. There are a lot of architectural details and war history carved into the Arc and you are able to go to the top of the Arc and see the expanse of Paris. We declined to do so, but wandered around the base reading the names and paying our respects to their tomb. 

From there we wandered down the Avenue des Champs-Elysees which was open to foot traffic (not vehicular). The Champs-Elysees is an avenue that runs from the public square of the Place de la Concorde to the Arc de Triomphe. It is home to luxury stores and boutiques as well as military parades and other major events. Originally called the Grand Promenade it was originally an extension of the Tuileries Garden and the Tuileries Palace. It quickly was extended (several times) and then became home to townhouses of the nobility before finally, much much later in history (not entirely- right around the 1860’s) settling to the shopping center it has become. The avenue is not only famous for its shopping, but also for its military parades. The Germans had two victory parades, but the most joyous were of the parades of the French and American forces after liberating the city. While we didn’t do any magical, high end shopping, we did stop for dinner on the avenue and treated ourselves to a nice little feast before continuing on. 

We wandered over towards the Grand and Petite Palais on Winston Churchill Avenue. The Grand Palais is an exhibition hall and museum dating back to the late 19th century. It is dedicated and intended for the arts and showcased objects innovation and modern technology (think planes, automobiles, household goods). During World War 1 it was used as a war hospital and during World War 2 it was used (by the Germans) as a truck depot and propaganda center. The Petit Palais is directly across the avenue and is an art museum and dates back to the 1900 World’s Fair. 

From there we walked across Pont Alexander III Bridge, which was built to connect the Champs-Elysees with the Hotel des Invalides and Eiffel Tower. Named after the Tsar Alexander III it was commissioned and built in the late 19th century. It is the most ornate and extravagant bridge in the city and boasts incredible views- from one side the Grand Palais, the other the Hotel des Invalides and out towards the water you see the Eiffel Tower. 

And that concludes our time in Paris!  

A Tale of Summer Dresses – What I Wore June 2020

Summer has fully and most definitely arrived with her heat, her sunshine, and her longer days. When the weather starts to turn to the unbearable heat, I’ve found that rather than shorts I lean towards summer dresses and skirts. They are just more breathable, and I find myself cooler and less…constricted. So, I figured today I would share the summer dresses that I’ve recently purchased or have been wearing. I’m super excited to start cycling through these more and more. I will also include a couple of skirt options since I do have those as well. 

Dress #1 This is an Old Navy dress and is top of the line because it has pockets! Got to love a dress with pockets and the fun polka dot print just adds to that. It is breezy and cool, hitting right below the knees. Shoes are old, so I don’t remember where I bought them. 

Dress #2 Another Old Navy dress, although no pockets (bummer!), this one is the most comfortable thing. It hits at the right spot, and is super easy to dress up or down (you’ll see a theme with the dress up/dress down options). Obsessed with the floral prints right now (and most of my dresses reflect that) and blue is one of my favorites. Shoes are Sperry’s (and the memory foam one’s so incredibly comfortable). 

Dress #3 The final Old Navy dress in this post, this is the one that I am probably the most…unsure of. I love the black and white cheetah print, the tie close, but I’m unsure of the length. Still, it’s breezy and comfy and, once again, easy to dress up or down. Shoes are the same as paired with Dress #1. 

Dress #4 A new Target dress that I am, once again, obsessed with. The black floral is becoming something of a staple in my wardrobe and the high low at the bottom is a fun addition. Another dress that is super easy to dress up or down, I am looking forward to getting quite a bit of use out of this one. Shoes are Rainbow Flip Flops (which I do love, but love the Birkenstock options a little more for travel walking). 

Dress #5 An option that I purchased last year; I don’t think I’ve worn a single dress more than I have worn this one. I absolutely love this Review dress and it was well worth the money. It has the comfortableness of light breathable fabric, pockets, and a cinched waist. Shoes are the Birkenstock Gizeh, another item that has already proven well worth the money. 

Dress #6 Another absolute favorite, this dress was a gift and is just a simple straight-line dress. The brand is S. Oliver, which I do like and have a couple other pieces from. I love the way it falls, that option to dress up or down, and the color scheme of blue’s and tans. Another dress that is going to get a lot of wear this summer and summers to come. Shoes are, once again, Birkenstock Gizeh. 

Dress #7: This was an Amazon purchase a few years back now and still, the best Amazon Clothing purchase I’ve made. Pockets, blue and white floral, and an easy flowy/breathable fabric, you cannot go wrong with this option. I’ve paired it with my favorite pair of summer wedges (which are old, not quite sure where from), but I’ve also worn this with the Birkenstock Gizeh flip flops.

Skirt Outfit #1 I purchased this skirt from Old Navy on a whim and I’m very excited about it. Once again, like the tan dress, a very breathable fabric and solid staple to have. I feel like the fit is incredibly versatile, there are pockets (which believe it or not can be hard to find in a skirt) and options to dress up or down. It’s a nice summer option, but can be transitioned into fall. Shoes are old from Amazon; Top is from Chico’s. 

Skirt Outfit #2 A Skirt I picked up from last year and is getting a lot of use. I love the scalloped detailing at the bottom and the embroidered pattern. This skirt is one that I typically will pair with a tucked in white tee and white Sperry’s or sandals. It is just the easiest, comfiest outfit, that works whenever. 

And that’s it for my Summer Dresses (and outfits) for 2020! What was your favorite? Are you a Summer Dress wearer? 

Summer Favorites!

Ah Summer…a time of heat, humidity, and endless sunshine. I love the sunshine bit, am ok with the heat portion, but hate the humidity! We are halfway through “Summer” and with August always having been what seemed to be the most unbearable month (I mean, seriously so close to Fall and yet so so far away), I thought I would share some of my favorites for this season. 

Swell bottle, apricots, Strawberry Lemonade Smoothie, shorts, tank, sandals, simple skin care, ray bans, books (Something in the Water, 

So, shall we start with the food bits and work our way around?

  1. S’well Bottle: This has been seriously a fantastic water bottle. I know it seems strange to talk about a water bottle, but honestly during the summer you need to hydrate and at least this way we are not using a plastic bottle, and it looks cute!
  2. Apricots: Seriously, everyone talks about watermelon all summer long and while I love a good watermelon, I seriously obsess over apricots. So so so delicious and my go to pick me up in summer months!
  3. Strawberry lemonade smoothie: I’ll link the recipe to this HERE, but it is so good! It has a really good combination of the sweet berry, but tart lemonade and the yogurt gives it just the right consistency. I’ll be drinking this for a long long time. 

Let’s talk clothes now:

  1. A high waisted pair of short shorts: Now I was never a big “high waisted” anything fan, I always thought it looked odd on me, but these shorts are so comfortable and with a cute half tucked (or cropped) top it comes out as a cute summer outfit. 
  2. A dress up or down tank: I’ve had this particular tank top for years and years, but I absolutely love it. You can dress it up with a blazer and some heals, or down with a pair of flats and ripped jeans. You can’t go wrong with a top like this during summer. It is loose, short, and cute. 
  3. A good pair of Sandals: Now I’m giving two different options, flip flops or actual sandals, either works. For flip flops I either like my Rainbow’s or my Nike’s and for sandals, this American Eagle pair is the only pair that I really reach for. All of the options are super comfortable, casual, and just give into that relaxed Summer vibe.
  4. Sunglasses: Can’t go wrong with sunglasses and I’ve got two pairs that I reach for. Both are by Ray Ban, one pair being their standard Aviators and the other being the Erika set. Love em both!

A big part of summer is taking care of your skin. With the summer sun, the shorter bottoms, tank tops, and lounging poolside or partying the night away (whichever you prefer), there is a lot of damage that could be done. I’ve always believed in taking care of your skin, but have never actually done it up until the past few years. I’ve been loving the Simple Skin Care Range, Cleanser, Miceller Water, Eye Make Up Remover, and the CeraVe Lotion. About once or twice a week I will exfoliate and then use my Clarisonic Mia to pamper myself a smidge. 

The last bit on my Summer Faves is books. I’m not going to give a comprehensive list as I have a totally separate business all about books, but I figured I would give some of my recommendations for Summer Reading. Now I should say, I’m not a contemporary/romance reader, so a good amount of these are Summer Thrillers. 

  1. Something in the Water by Catherine Steadman
  2. When Breathe Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi
  3. Finding Fraser by KC Dyer
  4. Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng
  5. My Lady Jane & My Plain Jane by The Lady Janies