Summer Livin’.

Campfires.

Grilling.

Iced tea.

Laughing and talking and staying up late.

That’s what summer means to me.

Sometimes, in the middle of my work week, I forget that it’s summer.

And then I come home and unwind and eat dinner at the picnic table.  I listen to the sound of birds, taking in the warmth from the setting sun and campfire.

Ah, yes.  Hello, summer.  

QUESTION: How have you been enjoying the summer these days?

Vacation Recap.

Well.  I’ll tell ya.

Vacation certainly felt like a whirlwind.

Speaking of which.

Is it just me, or has summer been feeling like a whirlwind lately too?  I was making a list the other day, of all the summery things I need (absolutely MUST!) accomplish before autumn rolls around.  And there is so much still left to do.  Things like blueberry picking and swimming in a lake and making s’mores by the campfire.  I’ll share my complete summery list with you all as soon as it’s complete, and I’d love to hear what’s on your summery agenda too!

One of my “must-do’s” was to head to the White Mountains.  There is no other place on earth that makes me feel quite as happy as NH.  On top of a mountain, I instantly forget about all the worries and stresses of life.  It’s that feeling of absolute peace.

Here is the official photo recap!

HIKING

My goal is to hike all 48 of the 4000 foot mountains in NH.  I got 3 down on this one vacation trip.

First up was Mt. Osceola, which was a relatively steady climb with lots of switchbacks.  It’s one of the “easier” hikes, as far as 4000 footers go. 😉

My Dad taught me a lot about the mountains.  What to bring.  How to prepare.  And most of all, how to respect nature.  He’s hiked with me through all the mountains that I’ve climbed so far, until that day.

I shot off and did East Osceola on my own, which was a pretty exhilarating experience.  This part of the trail was called the “chimney” for good reason.  It was so steep and was WAY easier to climb up versus down.

The one other hike that was done was Mt. Eisenhower, which is one of my absolute favorites!  The view was spectacular.

FOOD

Icecream.  Every day.  What can I say?  I hold nothing back on vacation.  I will say, however, that it feels amazing to be back on track now that vacation has come to a close!

(My sistah is a fellow ice cream lover like myself!  So her little baby is almost guaranteed to love ice cream too…I foresee future icecream dates with my future nephew…yippee!) 

I do, however, still balance things out with healthier things.  Lots of fresh salads and fruits and lean meats.  One of my favorite salad toppings?

Grilled Cajun Chicken + Peach + Walnuts + EVOO & Balsamic Vinegar.  Yum!

JUST FUN

North Conway is one of my family’s favorite places to visit.  There’s all kinds of sightseeing, shopping, and people watching opportunities.

It’s a fun (slightly quirky!) little NH town.

We also went to visit some of the waterfall spots.

This is Sabaday Falls, one of my favorites…

And my sis and I (right) at the basin…

There was also this really cool trail that led through an array of birch trees.

Gorgeous.

And pretty rivers to wade through….

My mom’s favorite activity?

Miniature golf.

My dad always wins.  I almost always lose.  But I laugh the whole way through, so it’s totally more than okay. 😉

Me (left) and my sis!

My beautiful sis (and bestie!)

I need one of these chairs for my backyard.

Just sayin’. 😉

Yep.

Vacation went by way too fast.

But I already have plans to head back to NH later this month for another hike (woohoo!)

Off to relax before the work week begins tomorrow!

QUESTION: Do you take a summer vacation?  If so, what do you like to do?  

Rockport, MA

Rockport is one of my most favorites places on earth.

I’ve talked about this quaint little New England town many times, but I feel as if I could still gush on and on about it.  It’s one of those places where something new is always waiting to be discovered.  A little cove.  A beautiful view.  Some secret “hiding” spot.

My parents and I have a tradition of visiting Rockport, MA at least once a year.  It’s sort of an unspoken tradition, actually, but we’ve been following it since I was a freshman in college.

I hope this tradition never stops.

My parents have another tradition of stopping at “Top Dog” for lunch…

The Top Dog is this little restaurant at the corner of a side street, which you’re very likely to miss if you don’t keep an eye out.  Their menu has everything from the “seeing eye dog” to the “german shepherd” to the “chihuahua.”  Each ‘breed’ has a different topping, like macaroni and cheese or sauerkraut or vidalia onions & carrots.  The Top Dog also happens to have some of the best fried clams that I’ve ever had the delight of tasting.

(Tradition says we split a box of clams every time…don’t you just love traditions?)

I also ordered a hummus wrap from my favorite lil’ lunch spot: The Bean and Leaf Cafe.  They have the best Ginger Peach Iced Tea and their hummus wraps simply refuse to let me order anything else, despite their other tempting menu items.

The whole wrap was about the size of my head, but I still had plenty of room for some mint patty icecream!  Perfect for a hot, “summer” afternoon.

Till next year, Rockport!

You’ll forever be the town that holds my heart.

QUESTION: What is one of your favorite places to visit (within your own state)?

 

My Weekend.

My brother Matthew graduated with a Master’s Degree in Education and Special Needs.  Lots of hard work and dedication right there!  Of course it was a good reason to celebrate.

Not that my family needs a reason to celebrate, but…you know.

My brother’s girlfriend, Kelsey, rented this awesome pavilion up in Kittery, Maine.

The proud graduate and the proud parents!

Photo Credit: Nicole @ Just Live It

The forecast predicted rain, rain, rain.

The actual forecast?

Sun, sun, sun!!

Me (on the right) and my sis.  Love this girl!!

I’m pretty sure I could live near the ocean.  The sounds of waves splashing against the rocks, mingled with the cry of seagulls.  The smell of salty sea air.  That delicious breeze.

The ocean is where my heart is.

Photo Credit: Nicole @ Just Live It

The day was very active, with lots of walking and sightseeing.

And yummy food.

And grilling competitions.  😉

And photography.

A girls gotta do what a girls gotta do.

With all the leftovers we carried home, I couldn’t resist having two days worth of this delicious grass fed beef.

There’s a farm up my street that raises grass fed angus beef and I swear it tastes 100 times better than any beef I’ve ever had.  Their love for animal welfare and quality definitely comes through!

The weekend felt like a mini vacation.

I am officially full to the brim with beef and sunshine and happiness.

Fully recharged for the week ahead.  Here’s to summer!

QUESTION: What was the highlight of your weekend?

 

Warm Weather.

My body feels as if it has been craving sunshine and warmth all winter long.

Early morning runs in sub zero temps.  Layers upon layers of mittens and jackets.  Warming up the car a good 10 minutes before work.  Winter has felt really long and spring has come at just the right time (although I wouldn’t argue if it came in February now and then!)

The trees are still bare.  The ground is still brown.  But spring is in the air!  Soon there will be leaves and flowers (and vegetables to eat!)  This is putting everyone in a good mood these days.

Winter’s remains. 😉

Here’s to hoping it feels like spring wherever you are too!

New Year Goals.

New Year’s Eve in my house involves relaxing, reminiscing, eating, playing games and just being plain silly.  One person (ahem…Nicole…ahem) usually ends up with a case of severe hiccups because of laughing too hard.  Curable only with peanut butter (try it, it works!)

(cute, silly movie!)

With a fresh New Year around the corner, I like to reflect and look forward.  I love to make goals versus resolutions; oftentimes, resolutions are made in a hurry and in a rush, without much thought being put into them.  A goal on the other hand can be made of up little mini goals that lead to one big goal.

For example.

“I want to lose weight” can be transformed into a goal of “I will walk 3-4 times per week” and “I will eat one more vegetable with dinner and one less cookie at night.”  Mini goals lead to major success!

A few of my own personal goals for the year 2014?

  1. Find a volunteer activity that I feel passionate about and donate at least 1 hour of my time per week.
  2. Take 30 minutes each morning to read the Bible and to look at my day with a good perspective.
  3. Spend a maximum of 1 hour on the internet per day (not counting academic coursework.)

QUESTION: What are some of your goals for 2014?

 

Baking.

Christmas in my house is pretty special.

There’s tree decorating.  Christmas music.  Laughing until your belly aches.  Bible reading.  Yankee swapping.

And baking.

Lots and lots of baking.

In terms of baking cookies, my tradition has always been to…well…break tradition.

“I don’t want to bake the same thing twice.”  Yep.  That was my motto.

But being the sentimental sort that I tend to be, I couldn’t resist making at least one traditional recipe this year, which happened to be these snowmen cookies.  I remember making these back when I was really, really little, and baking them once again just felt right.

Baking is definitely one of my most favorite things about Christmas.

I mean.

There’s just something really wonderful about mixing up a batter of butter and cream cheese or melting a pot of chocolate for cookie dunking.  Sigh.  It makes me so deliciously happy.

I’ve got to be honest though.  Now that Christmas is past, I’m feeling a little full.

Full of butter.

Full of sugar.

Full of everything in between.

I’d say that it’s a good time to get back on track with a little balance.  A little more salad, a little less sugar.  😉