Friday Five – October & November

Happy Friday!!! Who else is pumped to gain an hour this weekend?? I know my waking up in total darkness the past few weeks has not been prime motivation. A few weeks ago I was able to take a three day staycation and it was fabulous. I binged “Anne with an E” on Netflix and relaxed for a few days, just in time for the craziness of the holidays to swing in full force.

I’m looking forward to the holidays more than usual this year. I have some exciting news in early December but I can’t say much for now. For now, here are five things that are getting me through October and November.

A night at the theater
When I was living in California I really started to fall in love with the theater. My good friend’s family ran a local community theater and their productions were out of this world. Being that we were in Los Angeles, there were even a few professional actors that performed at the theater on the side. I really fell in love with Les Misérables while I was out there so when tickets went on sale at the Shubert Theater in New Haven, I new I had to see the national touring company perform live. It was insane!

Day tripping to Newport, RI
I think Newport, RI is such an underrated city. In the summer it is the perfect New England city with fresh seafood restaurants, little shops to explore, and breathtaking sunsets over the water. In the winter the town gets sleepy but winter is the perfect time to go to Newport and truly rest and relax. The skinny streets make you feel like you’ve gone back in time and wandering in and out of bars is really the best way to spend a snow day. I went last week to explore something else that is famous in Newport. The Newport Mansions. Not too long ago New York City’s elite used Newport as a place to summer. Their summer “cottages” were bigger than my high school. A few girlfriends and I took the two hour drive east to explore the Breakers and Marble House, two of the Vanderbilt family’s homes from the late 1800s.

Pumpkin carving parties
My girlfriends and I try to get together as often as possible, but with husbands, kids, careers, and side projects, it’s not always the easiest. Last weekend we were able to be festive all weekend. We celebrated our favorite two year old’s birthday with a Halloween themed birthday party on Saturday, and Sunday had a Halloween party and pumpkin carving contests as a housewarming at another friend’s. It was the perfect way to get into the spirit of the season before fall blows away from us completely.

Exploring the Viking Star in Boston
Part of my full-time job is getting out of the office and visiting the ships that we send our clients on. When Viking Ocean Cruises invited a few travel agents onto their ship, the Viking Star, I jumped at the opportunity to see this ship. Viking is known for their river cruises, being one of the largest river cruise companies in the world, but when they expanded into ocean cruises a few years ago, I knew I wanted to see their ships. I love the clean lines, and the Scandinavian style of their ships. What I love about Viking is their attention to detail and how although they’re not a luxury cruise line, you still feel like a princess while a guest on their ship.

Making a Murderer part 2
A few weeks ago, I did a post about my favorite bingeworthy shows and since, I’ve already gotten through the new Marking a Murderer part 2. I actually watched it in just three days. If you watched part 1, be prepared that this one moves a little slower. We know the story already so now we are going through new evidence and learning information we didn’t know before.

 

Tips to Get You Through a Long Flight

Flying can be exhausting. I’ve done a lot of long flights. A red-eye across the country can be pretty draining but really, that’s a simple and common flight if you really think about it. Trips to Asia, New York to Hawaii, coming home from Eastern Europe, that’s a true long flight. Here are some tips to get you through any length trip that you may a little help with getting through.

  1. Wear layers. No matter what the weather is, I always travel in a light top and with an oversized scarf. Wearing a light top makes layering easier and even though 90% of the time your flight is going to be cold, you really never know. The scarf you can use it as a pillow, blanket, shawl, or wrap. And easiest thing is that it can be taken on and off easily. I also try to keep a light jacket or sweater handy if it gets too cold on the plane or in the airports.
  2. Have your snacks prepared. The worst is when you aren’t prepared with any type of snacks and you can’t find anything in the airport that’s easy to snack on. Back in July, I was so early for my flight and hadn’t brought anything to the airport, I ended up buying $20 scrambled eggs and literally wanted to die. TSA will let you bring anything that is not opened through security (as long as it’s not liquid obviously.) I usually take some sort of nuts and protein bars with me in my bag.
  3. Dress comfortable. Not like a slob, comfortable. If you want any chance of getting an upgrade at all, whether it’s at an airline, car rental or hotel, you need to be dressed properly. I’m not saying dress up but there’s a way to be comfortable and still not look like a hot mess express. I love a good pair of compression leggings, a cute top and sneakers.
  4. Have your technology prepared and backed up. I always make sure my laptop and phone are fully charged, as well as my back up battery pack. Before any flight, while I still have WiFi, I make sure to download my favorite podcasts or movies. I’ve sat on too many planes in front of a broken TV with nothing to do for five hours to not have a back up plan anymore. I also make sure I have multiple headphones. I once downloaded a bunch of podcasts just to get on the plane and not have my iPhone headphones. (palm to face)
  5. Pack up my toiletries. I make sure I always have WetOnes, tampons, tinted moisturizer, mascara, deodorant, hand sanitizer, and a toothbrush at arms reach. Usually right under the seat in front of me. There is nothing worse than being stuck in the window seat and needing to grab something from the overhead bins. Talk about annoying. So, keep them close to you so that you can grab them all if needed.
  6. Have a pen handy. Especially when traveling internationally. You don’t want to be that one asking everyone around you for a pen when you’re filling out your immigration forms. Stick it with your toiletries for easy access.
  7. Back up sleep aids. Sometimes, no matter how tired you are, you just can’t get comfortable enough on the plane to sleep. It’s terrible. I’ve tried a few different tricks though: sleepy time tea, wine, taking melatonin. My new favorite is using my Young Living sleep spray. I brought this with me to Canada and spayed it on my chair before we took off, and on my pillows before going to sleep and I slept throughout the whole night.
  8. Have a good bag. I FINALLY found my favorite carry on. For me, a backpack works best. I found this one on Amazon a few months ago and it worked perfect for my trip to Canada. There’s a spot for my laptop, a cord to charge your phone, an outside pouch for those easy to grab items you may need (ID and passport), and not too big that I’m going to load it up. I actually used it while hiking too and it was perfect.

TV Shows to Binge this Fall

Happy Hump Day!!!! Here in New England, it’s starting to get pretty chilly which means, hibernation time. I’ve already started my season of binge watching and my list is starting to grow for this winter. Last year I really started to get bored with some of the shows I was regularly watching. Sorry Walking Dead fans but after Carl died I just couldn’t get back on board. So, this winter I need to get into some new shows, and not just my usual Housewives and other Bravo shows.

I rewatched Hart of Dixie last month and it reminded me how much I love a feel good comedy. Currently I’ve been glued to Anne with an E but I just have a few more episodes left. I think next up is going to be a true crime documentary. When Making a Murder came out in 2015 I was hooked so now that we get to see more of Steven Avery, I am ready for it.

What are you currently watching?? Let me know in the comments.

Banff Travel Guide

There was so much to love about our trip to Canada last month but the little town of Banff really topped it for me. I love me a quaint little town. All of the craftsman houses that lined the crisscrossing streets, which were named after woodland creatures made me want to open an ice cream shop and call myself a local. Banff Ave and Bear St is where you would find most of the restaurants, shops, and coffee houses but that’s not all there is to Banff.

What we did
One of my favorite places of the entire trip, I almost missed out on. I really wanted to get back to town, sit at a coffee shop and get to writing after an already long day of exploring. (There’s something about traveling and being in a town no one knows you that really inspires me.) But with a little bit of peer pressure, and a toddle temper tantrum on my part, my sister and friend talked me into visiting Johnston Canyon.

This short half mile walk to the lower falls was my bar the easiest “hike” we did the whole week, and not something to miss. We exited the highway just after the town of Banff and drove a few miles into the canyon. The drive itself was stunning and we were keeping our eyes pealed for wildlife the whole time. Once we got to the canyon we saw there is a whole little resort there. The little lodge and bungalows looked absolutely beautiful and I’d love to wake up right in the middle of the wilderness.

Like I said earlier, we only went a half mile into the canyon to the lower falls. The upper falls is another mile in and it was starting to get dark and rain a little so we opted for the shorter route.

We didn’t have time but one thing we were told was a must do was the hot springs. Banff has a hot springs just outside of town but a few locals told us it was more or less a glorified hot tub and they suggested us to head to Radium Hot Springs. This was more than an hour and a half south of Banff and we defiantly would have taken the trip if we had time in our schedule.

My favorite part of the town was walking up and down Banff Ave., going in and out of all of the shops. We saved this for our last day and it was a great way to relax, veg out a little, and try some local food and treats.

As you know from my Lake Louise travel guide, I have a love for good hotels. We didn’t stay at the Fairmont Banff Springs, mainly because I knew it was a little out of the way and we really wanted to be as close to town as possible, but we headed over there one day and it was just as stunning at the Chateau Lake Louise. We explored their grounds, got the famous hot chocolate at STOCK Food & Drink and even did a little shopping at Fernweh, a cute little shop at the hotel.

This hotel is just as stunning as you could imagine a castle in the middle of the Rocky Mountains would be. It was pretty over cast while we were there so we couldn’t see the amazing views but just walking the amazing property was well worth the quick trip up to the hotel.

Where we ate
Banff Ave Brewing Company – When there’s a local brewery in town, we have to try it out. We started with splitting their sampler to be able to try six of their home brewed beers. I opted for a pint of Head Smashed IPA and Michelle and Michelle opted for the We’re Jammin’ Apricot Rhubarb Ale. We split a soft pretzel and headed out. Definitely a good place for bar food.

Block Kitchen + Bar – This was absolutely my favorite meal of the trip. We woke up on our last morning to a rainy and over cast day and were in desperate need of a little pick me up. Someone the night before told us about Block and told us it fills up quick but to wait because they have the best food in town. We were luck to grab the last table available in their small, maybe 10 table restaurant.

We started with three tapas, Pig Duck and Fig Cretons, Pork Gyoza and Bao. As you can see the menu is definitely Asian inspired. We didn’t stop there. Because the appetizers were so good we each ordered a bowl of their special: Thai Curry Ramen. It. Was. Amazing. I am still craving it. If you’re in town, definitely stop by Block. Their small menu seems like it is constantly changing which is always a good sign of a fun chef.

Pacini – After a week of hiking, these three Italian girls needed some good pasta in our lives. We grabbed a late dinner at Pacini in the Moose hotel mainly because of the outdoor firepits we saw as we drove by, but when it was raining and we had to sit inside, we were a little bummed. The food made up for the weather though. There were so many good options but I got the Seafood Linguini and I would defiantly recommend it! And when your meal starts with a bread bar, is there anything better? Try it out.

Second Cup Coffee Co – We had breakfast here one morning and it was my favorite of the coffee shops we stopped at. They had a build your own oatmeal bowl which was awesome. It looks like this is a Canadian chain and you have options all across Canada.

Cows – Apparently people in Banff take their ice cream very seriously. We were hoping to go to Cows since that’s what we had read the most about. Our overly opinionated taxi driver on our first night in Banff told us not to waste our time, that its over rated and somewhere else was better. I honestly don’t even remember where he recommended because a few other locals we talked to basically told us he was nuts and Cows is the best, and they did not disappoint. Go to Cows. If there’s a line, wait in it. It’s worth it.

The Grizzly House – We had to take a pretty late reservation to get into this popular restaurant on a Friday night, but it was well worth the wait. We opted for the Four Course Fondue meals but we bartered with our server. None of us are big dessert girls so he let us trade our dessert course for both appetizers.

We started with the soup and then had the cheese and garlic fondue with bread to dip and veggies boiled in a delicious oil broth that was out of this world. For our dinner course we were each able to pick what type of meat combo we wanted. We got the Original Fondue dinner (beef and chicken), Hunter Fondue Dinner (wild boar, buffalo and venison), and their Seafood Special Fondue dinner (lobster, prawn and scallops). Our server set us up with hot rocks to grill on and oil fondue and told us which meat is better to be cooked.

The Grizzly House is definitely not somewhere to miss. Make a reservation and go hungry because you will leave full and unbuttoning your pants.

Where we stayed
In Banff we ended up opting for an AirBnB, mostly because there were very little options. We started looking for lodging only a month before we went on our trip. I thought that’d be plenty of time but it wasn’t at all. Our options were either stay for at a hotel on Banff Ave for a crazy amount of money each night, or stay in the Tunnel Mountain area of town, which was a pretty good location and just a quick 5 minute cab ride from town.

Protip: There are no Ubers in Banff so you have to rely on local cabs. This really only was a problem once we were in town and couldn’t call a cab from our phones because we were using WiFi. But we were always able to find someone to lend us their phone so it wasn’t too bad.

There are a ton of hotels right in town, and they probably would have been a little more convenient then our AirBnB but you need to book early for availability. While we were looking for accommodations we were actually getting a little nervous because campgrounds were the only thing that was coming up for a while, and lets be real, that wasn’t going to happen.

 

Simple Six Ingredient Fall Dinner

The end of the year is crazy for me at work. Lots of long hours and events, and I generally don’t feel like cooking big dinners once I get home. Because of my big Trader Joe’s haul a few weeks ago, I am fully stocked up on the fall flavors TJ’s have to offer. Last week I cooked up a simple six ingredient meal that had me wanting more. I discovered this Gilbert’s Bourbon Apple chicken sausage, added some gemelli pasta, and Trader Joe’s Autumnal Harvest pasta sauce and there you had it.

2 Gilbert’s Bourbon Apple chicken sausages
½ shallot, chopped
½ lb Barilla Gemelli
1 cup Trader Joe’s Autumnal Harvest pasta sauce
¼ cup half & half
½ bag spinach

  1. Boil pasta to the directions on the box.
  2. Sauté shallots in oil and add chicken sausage on medium high until browned.
  3. Once browned add pasta sauce and half &half. Lower heat to medium low and allow to simmer 5 minutes.
  4. Add spinach and fold into sauce. Allow to wilt down.
  5. Drain pasta and add to sauce. Fold together and serve.