Dine – Sugar Magnolia’s – Gloucester, MA

IMG_4146When we first moved to Gloucester, everyone told my husband that he MUST try Sugar Magnolias. Since he is not as much of a breakfast person as I am, he forgot about it, until I requested an adventure to breakfast one morning. The restaurant is only open for daily breakfast, and brunch on the weekends, so if you sleep in too late you will miss it! You can find the restaurant on main street in Gloucester, and can usually find a crowd milling about outside. During the week you can IMG_4336walk right in, but on weekends if you come any time after 8 expect to wait at least 20 minutes depending on how many in your group.

One of y favorite parts about the restaurant is that while you are waiting for your table they have an entire coffee bar set up, so you can get your caffeine fix before you sit down. It should also be noted that they have very good coffee, unlike many breakfast places who just order the cheapest bulk coffee, this place actually found and partnered with a local company who actually cares about their product!IMG_3369

Once seated, service is always fast and friendly, but mainly fast because they know how many people are waiting for every table in the place. Even if they had double the space I know they could fill it with how popular they are!

The menu has all of your breakfast favorites from eggs and bacon, to a dozen differentomelets, to strawberry pancakes. Their menu also has a few more special items like pineapple fritters, carrot cake pancakes, almond joy pancakes, and honey granola
coated french toast made with sweet bread! Another favorite part of their menu is their daily IMG_7066specials that always seem to match the season! In the fall you can find cranberry pumpkin french toast, and in the summer lemon ricotta pancakes. Lets not forget that they also have an espresso machine for any specialty coffee drink you may like, as well as a number bloody mary and mimosa options for those of you who are more fun than the rest of us!Because I love breakfast, and they have such a wonderful menu and coffee and drink selection Sugar Magnolias has quickly become one of my favorite restaurants in Gloucester! This place also holds a special place in my heart because my husband and I came here for a celebratory breakfast the morning after we got engaged, so it is a place I will never forget!

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Travel – Flash Back Friday – Rarotonga, Cook Islands

14018_10154825926590319_7239056988822768052_nOur first stop on our adventure to the Cook Islands was to the largest island, Rarotonga (know by the locals as ‘Raro’). We were lucky enough to have a direct flight from Los Angeles on Air New Zealand. If you have never flown with them I suggest you do! Their planes are much more spacious than what I’m used to in the US and Europe, and food, beer and wine is all included even in economy!

After an overnight flight (aka the shortest night sleep of my life) we landed nice and early at 7 am local time. After we were greeted with a lei and a fresh coconut we were shuttled to the hotel. Our first day was not quite the beach weather we expected and we ended up wearing are warmest clothes we had, meaning our workout capris and sweatshirts from our flight. We spent the day walking around the resort and down the beach as far as we could until we ran into a rocky spot where the water came up too high. After situating ourselves in our new home we recovered as best we could from the jet lag with a delicious dinner at the hotel restaurant and drinks by the ocean. We may or may not have been in bed by 8:45pm… Hey we’re on vacation we can do whatever we want right?!

The weather improved dramatically the next day and our week turned into a gorgeous sun filled vacation we had been dreaming of. Most of our mornings were spent on the beach reading and sleeping in the beautiful sunshine. We left our afternoons for our adventures, that included snorkeling, kayaking, hiking, biking, and wandering around town and the Saturday market.

The snorkeling was amazing, as we could literally walk out of our room onto the beach and into the water and immediately be surrounded by coral and fish of all colors and sizes. One day we were SUPER lucky and found a turtle who we followed in circles until he swam away! Another day we stumbled upon these long (2-3 feet) skinny (like a pole skinny) silver fish that swam a few inches from the surface, which when snorkeling is eye height!

Another of our afternoon adventures took us on a hike to explore the volcanic peak of the island. The peak is called Te Rua Manga and is forested and jungle like. It is possible to walk/hike the entire peak as the trail connects the Avatiu Valley with the south side of the isalnd, although doing so will take 3-4 hours. We hiked for two and found some good views, but didn’t want to get caught in the dark because we started later than planned.

Saturday is one of the most lively days on the island because it is market day! Punanga Nui is from 8-12 every Saturday and consists of a plethora of local food stands of every kind, textiles (dresses and beach coverups), and lots of wood carvings of sorts. There is also a main stage on one end where locals perform island dances, even the children perform in ornate beautiful costumes.

The island has a bus system, which is really the only way to get around besides walking or biking. They run very regularly and go either clockwise or anti-clockwise around the island (no counter clockwise in this country). It gets tricky going to dinner, because the anti-clockwise busses only run until 5:30, so unless you want to drive in a giant circle you have to make sure you head out for dinner or drinks before then! With recommendations from the hotel staff and trip advisor reviews we were able to find some great places for food. All of which were family owned hole in the wall places! So much of the food is great because its fresh and they use what is grown on the island!

We didn’t come back with many souvenirs, except for the shells we found, as many shops are very limited when it comes to such things, and are really there to supply the small local population with what they need, and not much else. Which works just as well for me, I’m there for the adventure and the memories!

Dine – Georgetown Cupcake’s on Newbury Street

IMG_7037IMG_7038You might have noticed by now, that I have a sweet tooth. If there is a pastry shop or bakery that is raved about I the person that MUST visit if I’m nearby.

When my sister in law was in town, she mentioned wanting to see Newbury street, and my first reaction was “OMG, I have to take you to Georgetown Cupcakes”… not that I’m obsessed. Although it is a good thing that driving downtown takes forever, that parking is insane and expensive, otherwise I swear I’d weigh twice what I do now.

This little cupcake shop fits perfectly among the boutiques on Newbury street, and is just as skinny and long as all the other shops around. Walking in the door you are greeted by a huge display of cupcakes on one side and a menu board on the other listing all the the days flavors.

We decided to each get our own cupcakes, Classic Yellow Birthday Cake for her, and Chocolate Coconut for me, and to split the Earl Grey Lavender cupcake, because have you ever heard of such an interesting fun flavor?

All of the cupcakes were fluffy, light, moist, and delicious. We each picked our own choices as our favorites, and rated the Earl Grey cupcake as good but not the best, we wanted more lavender flavor in the frosting because the buttercream was overpowering.

We were lucky that it wasn’t busy when we visited as we were able to sit at one of their tables inside, but on a busy day there would be little to no chance of this, and we would have had to take our cupcakes to go. I will be back any chance I get, because I have yet to find a cupcake anywhere else that can compete on quality with these!

Travel – Flash Back Friday – Cook Islands

1920019_10154832810945319_5038005353644924903_nFor my twenty fifth birthday, my lovely parents surprised me with a trip of a life time, and told me to literally pick anywhere in the world and my mom and I would go! First off do you know how hard it is to pick ONE place you want to go above all others? Second is this real life?

After much time spent looking at a world map, lists of the top places to visit before you die, and the Pinterest travel section in general, I learned one thing, I’m in love with the beach. So as much fun as a crazy adventure to the mountains of New Zealand or the busy markets of Thailand looked, I choose to save those for another time, and stick with my obsession… Sun and Sand. Once I decided this I enlisted the help of my mom, aka the family travel extraordinaire, to find the most amazing memorable beach for this special trip. After some digging, googling, and deciding the Cook Islands became our destination.

Every time I mention the Cook Islands I get quizzical looks and questions like “what?” and “where the heck is that?”… so here’s a little geography lesson for you.

The Cook Islands are…

  • An island country in the South Pacific Ocean
  • In association with New Zealand
  • Is 15 islands whose total land area is 91 square miles (Rhode Island is 1,045 sq. mi.)
  • Currency is the New Zealand Dollar
  • Languages are English and Cook Islands Māori (an island language)
  • Popular attractions are snorkeling, scuba diving, hiking, and beaches

Our trip took us to the two most popular and biggest islands, Rarotonga and Aitutaki, which were still shockingly TINY! 10392390_10154825913890319_8771140927841328816_nWe ended up buying the trip through Costco, and it was apparently more geared towards honeymooners. We discovered this when we arrived at both of our rooms decorated to the max with fresh flowers and a bottle of wine on ice (not to mention the towel swans in a heart… My mom and I both laughed out loud at that part).

I will separate the islands each into their own posts because otherwise this post will be miles and miles long!

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Dine – Kanela Breakfast Club – Chicago, IL

10153759_10153975463785319_967816038_nIt is no secret that I love breakfast more than most things on earth. During our trip to Chicago, the boyfriend let me pick our adventure for our last morning in town before we had to head home, so naturally I turned to Trip Advisor and found a raved about breakfast spot! What I found was Kanela Breakfast Club, which with our luck was walking distance from our hotel!1013992_10153975463880319_1240447717_n

The restaurant is small, maybe 25 tables, so it was no surprise
that there was a wait, even on a Monday morning (don’t you people have work to get to?). The hostess texted us within 20 minutes telling us our table was ready, and we were seated and given coffee, while perusing the menu and checking out all of the delicious looking food and drinks of the near by tables.

The restaurant serves breakfast and lunch, and has a full bar if your looking for a bloody marry or mimosa to accompany your breakfast. We started with coffee which trying to decide what to order… this was no easy task since everything looked and smelled SO good!

Eventually I decided on the french toast sampler and the boyfriend on a vegetable, sausage, egg skillet. Service was fast especially considering how packed the place was! The boyfriend said his breakfast choice was delicious and probably one of the best he’s had in his life… yes I made him rate his top breakfast experiences.

The french toast was unlike anything I’d ever had and was nothing short of heavenly! Each type in the sampler was a different kind of bread made into french toast and topped with its own kind of toppings. Included was banana bread, lemon poppyseed with blueberry, orange lemon, and red velvet with cream cheese and strawberry… have you ever hear of such amazingly fun flavors of french toast? They were all so amazingly delicious and decadent, although if I had to pick a favorite I would choose the orange lemon. It was so different and light, while most of the others were so sweet they were almost like dessert. But who doesn’t love dessert for breakfast?

I will without a doubt be back when I visit Chicago again!

Travel – Boston House of Blue’s Concert

IMG_6987My husband knows how much I love adventures. So week before last he came home with concert tickets for Friday night at the House of Blues downtown. The concert was the last stop of Vance Joy’s tour.

We drove downtown around 6, plenty early for the 7pm doors opening with Vance Joy expected to hit the stage around 9pm. As soon as we got close driving we noticed a very  long line, like blocks and blocks. We were able to park right next door to the concert hall for $15, SUCH a deal for parking in downtown Boston.  Then we hiked our way to the back of the line which had extended to the freeway overpass (luckily there was still a giant sidewalk for the line). Right at 7 the line started moving and we got in to the building within 15 minutes!

Once we walked in the door we realized why on earth people were lined up SO early. Because its all general admission (by floor) and none of the floors are slanted to provide people not on the railing a decent view. We quickly realized that standing behind people at the railing wasn’t going to be much fun, and opted to sit on the floor near a bulk head in the railing, so we were on the rail but looking through the railing.

We found ourselves some drinks and enjoyed the show. The first two opening acts were a singer, Jamie Lawson, and a band, Blind Pilot, that I had never heard of. BIMG_6965oth were surprisingly good and have since been added to my iTunes. By the time Vance Joy came on we were very glad we chose to sit, as it was already 9:30 aka we would have been standing for over 2 hours before the main act even started! He was a very good performer (not all musician are) and his banter between songs was made much more amusing by his fun Australian accent.
After his regular set and two encores it was official over and WAY past my bed time! A good night in the books for sure! If your planning to see a concert at the House of Blues in Boston either get their REALLY early to line up, or sit on the ground by the bulk head later and care less about how dirty your pants get and how not tired your legs are (ha!).

Travel – Flack Back Friday to Day Two in Chicago

10007532_10153975463360319_343497522_nOur second day in Chicago we went the ultimate tourist route and decided to hit Wriggly 1798078_10153970357780319_1660581382_n1604752_10153970359435319_1577569557_nField, the Lincoln Park Zoo, and Willis Tower (aka Sears Tower).
We adventured to Wriggly field knowing full well it wasn’t open, considering it was NOT spring and roughly 25 degrees outside. But even seeing the stadium from the outside was pretty cool. They have all kinds of banners and signs and statues around. And it was kind of nice that we were the only ones around

Next was onto the Lincoln Park Zoo, which we actually kind of stumbled upon. I had convinced the boyfriend to go for a walk even though it was freezing. We happened upon the zoo and it was FREE! Not expecting much for a free zoo, we were throughly impressed! All kinds of animals from Moneys, to zebras, to camels to lions were all there and doing the animal things that they do!

In the afternoon we met up with our Chicagoan  friends (who happen to be Californians) to go to the Sears *Willis* Tower. They had been living in the area for over a year and still hadn’t been so they joined in the  tourist adventure to check it off their Chicago Bucket List.

After standing in line for quite some time we finally made it to the front entrance where you take an elevator to the top. Before we went we heard rumors that you could feel the building move with the wind because of how tall it is. This is TRUE, now its not like an earthquake movement, but it is defiantly not a stable ground. The view is amazing, even on a cloudy day, and the ‘glass’ boxes sticking out from the building are pretty freaking cool! (or scary if you don’t like heights).

To complete our adventurous day, we decided to find some Mexican food for dinner, seeing as our Chicagoan friends has told us multiple times how much they miss good 1911748_10153968159655319_821056199_nMexican food from California. I put my best yelp-ing foot forward and found us Blue Agave Tequila Bar & Restaurant, which was near our hotel and had decent to good reviews.
We all figured we might as well take a chance since we all love Mexican food and how bad can you really mess up chicken, rice, beans and tortillas? At the restaurant we found amazing (and Cheap) Margaritas and delicious Mexican food of all kinds. We all ordered something different and ended up with at least one bite from each plate. This has now become our friends go to spot for Mexican food in Chicago… guess its alway worth it to take a chance!