Category Archives: Personal

My Whole30 Experience and Results

My Whole 30 Experience and Results

I first heard about the Whole30 on one of my all-time favorite blogs, A Beautiful Mess. Elsie’s post about her experience is well worth the read and a lot of things she said really resonated with me. At the start of her post, she talked about how frustrated she was that exercise never led to weight loss for her. She said:

One of the biggest things I have learned is that fitness and weight loss aren’t the same thing, and they don’t necessarily come hand in hand…[When I was training for a marathon] I was definitely feeling stronger and more disciplined than ever before in my life. I was running long distances leading up to the race (five miles, then six, then eight, then ten….), and it was a great experience! But I did this at my highest weight ever. And I’m not going to lie…it was frustrating in some ways because, even though I felt accomplished and fit, I was a little disappointed that I didn’t lose any weight. —Elsie, A Beautiful Mess

That. Is. So. Me. I could not put it better. I had recently been feeling really betrayed by my body. I had felt as though I was doing the things you are supposed to do: being mindful of what I eat, pushing myself to exercise more and better, but with little to no result on the scale. Over the past two years I made it a goal to up the amount of exercise in my life. I woke up an hour earlier every day and went to the gym four to five times a week before work. I was running faster and longer and my flexibility and strength were better than they had ever been in my life thanks to yoga and Pilates. I could feel muscles forming, I knew I was getting stronger, I had more energy—but I was not losing weight. Far from it—if anything, I gained weight. Now don’t get my wrong, focusing on increasing exercise to my life was NOT a mistake. This routine has become an integral part of my life and I’m 100% grateful for this. Moving your body every day is a good thing, no question about it. But the fact that I was putting in all this time and work and my clothes were fitting WORSE, not better, was very, very discouraging. Why was I waking up early every day, trudging through the rain and snow to the gym, if the result was just that I needed to size up in my pants?!

I also ate what I felt was a pretty healthy diet, mostly by cutting out grains and legumes during the week and limiting when I added dairy like cheese or milk to a dish. I rarely indulged in sweets. But I definitely made exceptions; my rules weren’t hard and fast. I looooove cheese. I regularly indulged in wine or my favorite drink, gin and seltzer with lime (seltzer! it’s healthy, right?!). I felt that indulging in a fancy cheese plate once every two weeks and a glass of wine or two (or more) a night was what I deserved for all the hard work I was putting in. I was willing to restrict things, but I wanted to live a little too, right?! But “living a little” often turned into total derailment on the weekends: let’s have bagels in the park this morning, football time, I’ll just munch on a few of those fries at the bar while we drink a few beers and watch the game, whew, what a day, I’m tired, should we order a pizza?? Drinking led to bad eating decisions as well—hello, cheese drawer, my old friend—and I’d wake up the next morning feeling disgusted with myself. I’d throw myself back into my restrictive eating to try to make up for my misbehavior.

Once I started reading about Whole30, I liked what I saw. You can read all the details for yourself here. I liked that the program was very clear. Some people might be put off by how restrictive it is, but to me this is one of the benefits. Plans that allow you to save up “points” for “treats” just do not work for me. Cheat days do not work for me. I think this is because it’s really psychologically confusing for the body. One day you may have saved up enough calories to have that slice of lasagna. The next day, you can’t. I don’t think your body and mind truly understand that difference. It’s also a very negative loop. Either you’ve “been good,” so you deserve the treat, or you’ve “been bad,” so you can’t have the thing you want. Whole30 has none of that. Foods are approved or they are not. There’s no “this week you can’t have dairy but next week you can have a little bit.” For the 30-day program, you either can eat it or you can’t.

I also liked that Whole30 involves no math. There is no calorie counting. There is a meal template that shows you basically how much protein, vegetables, fat and fruit should be incorporated into a meal, but it’s a rough guideline. As long as you are eating approved foods, you are following the program. You are doing it right! You are also not starving yourself on Whole30. Because you are eating nutrient-dense foods and filling up on them, you not only have more energy, but you don’t get hungry as quickly. One of my mantras while dieting used to be “if you feel hungry, that’s good, it means it’s working.” NOOOOO. No, that was so bad.

Whole30 is also psychologically healing and supportive in a way that most diets are not (they claim to be, but they are not). It sets you up to eliminate guilt. The program is strict for 30 days, but after that, your choices are your own. You can choose to reintroduce the foods you missed—or discover you don’t miss them as much as you thought. The goal is to break bad food habits and addictions you’ve developed, develop new clean eating habits and then give you a baseline health to which you can incorporate the things you love. I know I’m not going to live a life without cheese. That’s just not going to happen because cheese is heaven. But Whole30 gives you a way to eat cheese AND NOT FEEL GUITLY. It helps you get to a place where you don’t need cheese. And this applies to whatever your dragon is: sugar dragon, pasta dragon, pancake dragon, pizza dragon, cheese dragon. Continue reading

My Wedding Dress Experience and Shopping Tips

So, I bought my wedding dress. SURREAL, right? I’m not going to show you what it looks like because that would be cheating, but I will tell you a little about my shopping experience. My Mom flew up to New York and we took along my future sister-in-law, Erin, as well, who I am super close with. The two of them were like little kids at Christmas they were so excited. I was kind of nervous about all the attention and the anxiety of finding something I loved, but they were sooooo pumped, which helped shake off some of my nerves and get me excited as well. Erin, who has two adorable small children, was like, “FREEDOM, GIRL’S DAY OUT!” and my Mom was like “Big city shopping, wooooo New York!” so they were definitely providing positive vibes (a must when choosing who to shop with, I might add).

We started the day with a blow-out at Dry Bar and can I just say, BRIDE PRO TIP: Get your hair done before your bridal appointments. Seriously, it makes such a huge difference. My friend Nichole did this before her bridal appointment and I was like, this is a stellar idea, I will do it as well. It helps you visualize how you will actually look on your wedding day and you aren’t distracted by your frizzy and/or flat hair as you are trying on fancy amazing dresses.

We started our shopping at Lovely Bride in Tribeca. This salon is really relaxed and carries some great unique designers that you might not find at other salons. I knew I wanted to try on dresses by Theia and Rue de Seine because I love that style. My stylist also let me browse through the rest of the salon and pick out other dresses that appealed to me, which was nice (not all salons let you do this).

Here’s where we get to some real talk though. The hardest part about bridal gown shopping is not being able to try on your real size. ALSO, and this will just kick you in the gut, bridal gowns run one or two (or even more) sizes smaller than regular dresses. Which is just kind of a mental F you. I honestly had to just not think about the number and remind myself that it’s all about how I look and feel in the dress, not what numerical value has been assigned to this piece of fabric. But since bridal salons only carry sample sizes, it can be really hard to envision how the dress would look if it fit correctly. The stylists are seriously like wizards. They will pull and tuck and pin and straighten and cinch and do all kinds of crazy shit to get that sample to look as good as possible on you—but it’s just no comparison to trying on a dress that fits you correctly.

All this is to say that we ended up with a problem at Lovely Bride: There was a gown I really really loved the look of, but the sample size they had was a bit too small for me, to the point where I could almost but not quite get it over my hips. My stylist said she could reach out to the designer to try to borrow a bigger sample, but they would have to charge me $150…just to borrow a dress to try on that I might not even purchase. I was like, thanks, but no thanks.

Our next stop was Kleinfeld’s and I honestly have to tell you that it was an amazing experience. I thought it would be too fancy or pushy or stuffy: Wrong on all counts. The first thing I did was mention the dress I had wanted to try on at Lovely Bride to my Kleinfeld’s stylist Laura Diaz (who I recommend if you’re going to Kleinfeld’s in New York!). She was like, “hold on one sec,” and whizzed off and found the dress. Their sample size was one size bigger than Lovely Bride’s and it fit! Yay!! An inch can make all the difference here people. I loved it instantly. Laura started pulling other dresses for me and made some really good selects, but she could tell I loved the first one the most. She pulled a dress with a similar silhouette that was actually my bang-on correct “bridal” size so I could see how the dress I loved would look on me when it was my size. She pulled dresses by the same designer in different shades so I could pick the best shade for my skin tone. She was a rock star. And then I said yes to the dress (she made me, I felt a little corny, but everyone clapped, so yay!).

I have to give Kleinfeld’s credit because they had the most variety of sizes and styles and it really made all the difference. I had been shopping at a few other salons before this trip and never put on a dress that made me feel anything but meh. I would think “well, I like the top of this but hate the skirt” or “this is sort of OK” or just “Ugh, no.” But at Kleinfeld’s, not only did I find my dress, I found other dresses that looked good on me. We thought we had found the dress and then my stylist kept finding me other things that looked good too and Erin was like “now I’m getting confused.” In the end, the dress I picked was just the most “me.” It looked like a dress I would wear and a style I would choose. Plus, it’s really unique and gorgeous. And now I just can’t wait to wear it!!

I pulled together my takeaways from wedding dress shopping for you into the handy below tips.

wedding dress shopping tips

My Wedding Dress Shopping Tips

  • Get your hair done before your appointment. It will make a huge difference.
  • Eat before your appointment! Do not be tempted to skip breakfast—it is not worth it. Trying on dresses is actually really exhausting and you will need energy.
  • Drink water before and during your appointment. Again, these dresses are heavy and putting them on and taking them off really can wear you out. Stay hydrated.
  • When choosing who to take with you, pick people who will be positive and supportive (I have been shocked by some of the things I’ve heard bridesmaids/mothers/sisters say to brides).
  • Limit the number of people you bring with you to your appointment. I find three at most to be the best number. And some of the shopping experiences I enjoyed the most were with just one other person (my MOH and I had a great time trying on gowns at The Bridal Garden and she helped me realize I should broaden the silhouettes I was looking at). Big groups create confusion.
  • Wear nice undergarments. Because lots of people are going to see you in them today.
  • Bring along any accessories you might want to wear and shoes with your preferred heel height. I’m planning on wearing a vintage fur that was my grandmother’s for at least part of the wedding day, so I brought it along and it definitely made an impact.
  • Don’t let the sizes bother you. My stylists said this happens to every bride, no matter their size. Whether you’re a size 0 or a size 10, finding out that your bridal gown size is not your normal dress size can be shocking. Don’t let it bother you. Concentrate on how you look and feel in the dress, not on the number stitched in the back.
  • Order the size you are now, not the size you plan to be. This is the most common advice that was given to me by other women and bridal professionals. Brides are notoriously going to lose ten pounds/drop a size by their wedding day. But making a dress smaller is not that hard. Making it bigger really, really is. Trust your tailor and order the size you measure at now, then let them make it perfect.
  • Be open-minded when you are first trying on dresses. My biggest mistake was thinking I knew which style would look good on me. I thought I needed an empire waist with an A-line skirt, but I ended up with a sheath dress that makes my booty look fab. Having an open mind and trying on different silhouettes will quickly show you what you hate (tulle skirts and anything in ivory, in my case) and what you love (unique lace patterns and dresses that make my butt look good, apparently).

I hope those tips help you!

Photo via Unsplash, by Brandon Morgan

Merry Christmas + An Engagement (Mine)

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So, there’s something I’ve been meaning to tell you…

I got engaged!!!!! Did I not say that yet? It’s honestly so exciting and amazing and wonderful, but it’s kinda awkward to just shout to the Internet, am I right? So now you know. I’m engaged! Andrew and I have been together for over four wonderful years and I was so excited when he asked that I was literally like “Is this for real?” and then we picked out a gorgeous ring together that I’m both obsessed with and also petrified that I will drop onto the subway tracks, so thank god for jewelry insurance and YEAH. It’s awesome. Love is the best.

Andrew and I met about four and a half years ago—on match.com. And before you ask, no, I do not plan to go on the commercials as a success story. I love telling people that we met online though because it was such a fun experience for me all around and it led to meeting the person I love. For those who are nervous about trying online dating, I have to take a moment to encourage you to try it. In the few months before I met Andrew, I went on more dates than I ever had been on in my life, and met some very nice guys who bought me dinner and drinks and were generally interesting or at the very least pleasant. The worst I could say about those fellows was that a few were sort-of boring—although there is one I assume was killed in a tragic accident because he never called me back for a second date.

I also firmly believe that Andrew and I would have never met if not for the internet. I worked in publishing while he worked in property management, I lived on the Upper East Side while he lived in Brooklyn, we didn’t even go out in the same neighborhoods—it just would have been very unlikely. But it only took me about three months of dating on Match to meet Andrew, and we instantly clicked.

Andrew planned our first date, which impressed me because boys are usually terrible at things like that. But he took the time to choose fun, casual spots with lots of interaction, perfect for a first meeting. We started with drinks at a local watering hole in the East Village, then headed to Crif Dogs for seriously amped up hot dogs (try the tsunami dog covered in pineapple and teriyaki sauce, for reals) and finished the night at Ace Bar for a flirty game of darts and skeeball. You know how sometime you just feel completely comfortable around a person immediately? And they make you laugh without even trying? And you leave the night feeling like even though you never stopped talking there are still one thousand things you don’t know about them yet? That’s how I felt with Andrew from day one—and still do.

I could go into a thousand little stories about how our relationship developed: making pizzas at his house, the many ways Andrew tried to impress me on some of our earliest dates always to be thwarted by New York City in some way… But one of the defining moments of our relationship was most definitely our trip to Iceland. We were about three months into our relationship, on the subway taking one of the hour-long trips between my house and his when Andrew casually asked if I’d like to go to Iceland. I was instantly like, “Uhm, are your serious? Heck yes, I want to go to Iceland!” His response: a very excited “Really?” I called my friend Meryl to ask if I was being insane for committing to going on an international vacation with a man I’d known for three months, because seriously that’s what girlfriends are for, and Meryl was like, “It is totally insane. And you should totally do it.”

Iceland was either going to make or break our relationship, and it definitely made it. We had so many adventures driving around the otherworldly little country in our tiny compact rental car. We bathed in the hot springs at the Blue Lagoon while storm clouds rolled in. We let our GPS coerce us into taking a very narrow, very potholed dirt road, considered turning back for the sake of our fragile car but decided to press on only to come upon a herd of roaming ponies moments later, who then let us pet them (true story). We saw more waterfalls and rainbows than I’ve ever seen before. We drove that same intrepid car out onto the black sand beaches, and were nearly stranded there. We explored a glacier.

That trip set the tone for our relationship and some of the qualities we love and bring out in each other: adventure, laughter, encouragement, support. Also, Andrew’s tendency to make ridiculous faces in photographs.

Cutting down a Christmas tree

I could go on and on, but I guess I just wanted to share this little snippet from my life. We haven’t set a wedding date yet. I’m honestly still trying to figure out what kind of wedding I want! That may surprise you since I’m a wedding blogger, but I think that actually makes it more difficult for me because I’ve seen so many great ideas and can imagine lots of different wedding scenarios that fit our personalities. I could see our wedding happening in Brooklyn, the Catskills, the coast of Maine—even Iceland! Right now I’m taking the time to enjoy being engaged and we’ll figure out this wedding thing soon.

Anyway, Merry Christmas from my family to yours!

Camping in the Catskills

Andrew and I both love camping, so we’ve made it a tradition to go at least once a year. For the past three years, our destination has been New York’s Catskills region, in particular the town of Saugerties. We love the close proximity to New York City—about a two hour drive—which allows us to get away for a long weekend without much fuss. Here I’ve put together a little guide of some of our favorite things to do in the lower Hudson Valley.

Campgrounds

First, Andrew and I are “car campers,” meaning that we don’t hike out to remote campsites with all our worldly goods on our backs. Granted, we do hike (take the train) out of New York City with all our worldly goods to pick up a car in New Jersey, but we can’t say that really counts as “roughing it” no matter how difficult it is to carry that stuff up and down the subway stairs. But despite being car campers, we still like our camping experience to be as close to “alone in the wilderness” as we can get. We like heavily wooded campgrounds where the sites are pretty well spaced. We do not like loud groups of college kids arguing over the rules of beer pong at 3am. (Yes, this makes me sound old. I accept it.)

We’ve stayed at both the KOA and Rip Van Winkle Campgrounds in Saugerties, and Rip Van Winkle is our favorite by far. The grounds are pretty, with a winding gravel road that leads through a fairly heavily wooded forest and past a creek (we like the creekside sites the best). The tent sites are huge. There’s also a pool, a nicely stocked camp store, a lake with paddle boats, trout fishing, laundry facilities and free coffee. The staff is welcoming and really does a great job keeping the bathrooms and showers clean. Also, if your attempts at campfire cooking totally fail, there’s an Italian restaurant in town that will deliver to your site. (For the record, we have never done this. We did once get trapped in a crazy bad storm though and have to eat cold rolls and an entire box of cookies in our car because our tent sprung a substantial leak. Needless to say we have invested in better gear since then.)

Hiking

Hiking Trails in the Catskills RegionGiant Ledge: This intermediate 3.5-mile out-and-back hike starts off with a fairly steep trek up rocky terrain in a beautiful wood. I was surprised how strenuous it was because I’m usually good with ascending, but your payoff comes quick. After only 1.5 miles, you’ll find yourself on level ground with access to a series of open ledges with dazzling views. The view is amazing and you feel like you’re on the edge of the world due to the steep drop-off from the ledges. We visited in the fall and the autumn colors were breathtaking. One nice thing about the hike is that the journey up is just as lovely as the view at the top.

Overlook Mountain, Catskills RegionOverlook Mountain: This 5-mile out-and-back hike has a few very unique features that make it well worth adding to you list. One is an abandoned hotel about 2 miles into the hike. The hotel burned down not once but twice, but a good portion of the stone walls remain. We happened to hike it on a misty day and the ruins were totally eerie in the filtered light. At the top of the mountain you’ll find a fire tower that is open to the public, so the brave can get an even better panoramic view from the top. My one critique of this hike is that the trail up isn’t that scenic or enjoyable. Most of the trek up is on a wide gravel track without much wildlife to enjoy. The hotel and fire tower are so cool though, that it makes the uninspiring first leg worth it.

Sights

Storm King Art Center, Hudson ValleyThis year we spent a half a day at Storm King Art Center. This massive outdoor sculpture park is sited on 500 rolling acres, including open meadows and shaded woods, and you’ll find over 100 modern works of sculpture dotted throughout. It is absolutely a whole new experience to view art like this. You can see some pieces from very far away and really appreciate the forms they create against the landscape, and how they change in different lights. Then, as you get closer, you experience their true scale and start to pick up on the details of the work. We also saw some wildlife around the park: a mother deer with her youngster and a woodchuck (fun fact: also called a groundhog or even a whistle pig, depending on where you live). Highly recommend this as a stop on your itinerary.

Saugerties Lighthouse, Catskills RegionAnother cool attraction in the area is the Saugerties Lighthouse. Now operating as a bed and breakfast, it’s only accessible by boat or a walking trail—but, be warned! The trail can only be accessed at low tide. When the tide rises, access from the mainland is cut off and the lighthouse finds itself on an island. Check the tide timetable on their website to plan your visit and bring a picnic lunch to enjoy on the sunny dock surrounded by the Hudson River.

The area is ripe with orchards and farms, perfect for a quick apple-picking stop or a bit of farmer’s market shopping.

Food
Andrew and I always make it a point to cook out on the fire when we’re camping, so we haven’t eaten out a lot during our stay in the area. That said, we do have a favorite lunch spot: the Dutch Ale House in downtown Saugerties. We stop here every year because I’ve become addicted to one item on their menu: The Pilgrim Sandwich. This decadent sandwich, inspired by Thanksgiving, can really only be eaten once a year, but it is so, so worth it. House roasted turkey, stuffing and provolone cheese are pressed onto marble rye bread and accompanied by two to-die-for condiments: cranberry relish and gravy. It is insane. Insanity in sandwich form. But I love it so much. Basically it is Thanksgiving dinner in one bite. Ugh, now I totally want one.

Bar Harbor Weekend Getaway in Maine

Andrew and I first vacationed in Maine in 2013 and fell in love with this beautiful island. We’ve been back every year since and feel like Mt. Desert Island is our home away from home now. We even got married there. Here are a few of our recommendations for things to do (and for more ideas, check out Our Acadia).

Where to Stay

Cranberry Lodge at the Asticou Inn in Northeast Harbor, Maine

The Asticou Inn

Andrew and I love the Asticou Inn—we got married there, after all. The inn overlooks Northeast Harbor and has an outdoor swimming pool and tennis court. It has forty-eight rooms, and each room is a bit different—some include sitting rooms or claw-foot bathtubs and both water and country views are available. There are many two-room suites with sofa beds that are great for families or groups of friends who want to split lodging costs. We love the upstairs suite in the Blue Spruce house and the downstairs suite in Bird Bank, as well as the rooms with balconies in the main inn. One downside to the Asticou is that it’s not walkable to anything. Expect a 20 minute drive to restaurants and other activities.

Atlantic Oceanside Hotel

Our top choice for those on a budget! You will get a great price and not feel like you skimped at all. The Atlantic Oceanside is an oceanfront hotel with an outdoor and indoor swimming pool and jacuzzi. It’s located a 15 minute walk from Bar Harbor or a 5 minute drive. The rooms in the Atlantic View building are our favorite as each has its own little porch.

Hearthside Inn

This classic B&B is located right in the center of Bar Harbor (with parking!), which is a great benefit for evenings spent in town. The home is spacious and cozy and hosts Brian and Catherine are so warm and friendly. Our favorite feature was the outdoor patio—we ate breakfast out there every day and enjoyed a bottle of wine under the twinkle lights at night. Even though we have been to Bar Harbor many times before, Brian still introduced us to a few new things, like a very helpful app with trail maps and info that can be accessed without cell service (Chimani Acadia, a must download!).

Acadia National Park

The Ocean Path in Acadia National Park, Maine | Bar Harbor Travel Guide

This beautiful national park is what first drew us to this part of Maine. Encompassing over 30,000 acres on Mt. Desert Island, the park has something to offer for everyone. Here’s my recommendation for a quick tour of the park’s highlights, which can be done in a couple hours and is accessible for all young and old.

A drive around the Park Loop Road will let you visit many of the park’s most famous sites, including the Jordan Pond House, Cadillac Mountain and Thunder Hole. The loop was designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr., the son of the man who designed Central Park.

Start your tour at Jordan Pond, a beautiful lake surrounded by the Acadia mountains. Lots of day hikes start near Jordan Pond and there’s also an easy path around the lake perfect for any age (though it’s 3.5 miles long, you can easily do a small portion of it and still get the effect of the lake).

Next stop: Cadillac Mountain, the highest peak on the Eastern seaboard and the first place that the sunrise is visible in the United States. Cadillac Mountain is one of the few peaks accessible by car, so even non-hikers can enjoy the view. There’s a short half-mile loop around the summit that you can take to enjoy the panoramic views, or embark on the complete 3.5-mile ascent if you have a half day to spare.

After your ascent to the top of Cadillac Mountain (by car or on foot), take the road toward Sand Beach to see Thunder Hole and the rocky coastline of Maine. At Thunder Hole, the waves crash against the shore, creating its namesake sound. The Ocean Path runs for 2 miles along the eastern shore of the park and the views are spectacular (the path is level and easy for all ages, but there’s plenty of opportunity to scramble on the cliffs for the more daring). If you follow the Ocean Path around the southern bend of the island, you’ll come to Otter Point, one of my favorite spots on the island and a great place to explore the tide pools or just take in the gorgeous view of the ocean and the Cranberry Islands.

Hiking

Some of my favorite intermediate hikes in Acadia have been Penobscot Mountain, Beech Mountain and Acadia Mountain. With 24 mountains to choose from, selecting a hike can be challenging, but the best website we have found for hiking information in Acadia is Joe’s Guide to Acadia National Park. For brave, experienced hikers, The Precipice and The Beehive are famous for their iron rungs and handrails for exposed scrambling. Beginners and kids can enjoy the Jordan Pond Loop and Ocean Path with ease. Any mountaintop you choose will afford amazing views of the mountains, lakes and sea and islands surrounding Mt. Desert Island.

Other Activities

Canoeing in Long Pond 

Canoe rentals are available at National Park Canoe & Kayak Rental on Long Pond. For reasons unknown, all bodies of water on the island are referred to as “ponds,” but this is definitely a misnomer—we paddled for four hours, surrounded by mountains and trees the vibrant green of spring and barely saw half of the lake. Look out for bald eagles!

Asticou Azalea Gardens

asticou gardens

Located right across the street from the Asticou Inn, these beautiful gardens are definitely worth a stroll.

Pirate’s Cove Mini Golf

Do you like mini golf? We do! I think it’s probably because there really aren’t any mini golf course in New York City, so we are now mildly obsessed with them. This one is especially fun, with lots of caves and waterfalls—one hole is even on a pirate ship.

Whale Watching or Wildlife Cruise

Wildlife and whale watching cruises are available daily from Bar Harbor and Northeast Harbor. The Sea Princess has several daily nature cruise out of Northeast Harbor, while Acadia Nature Cruises and the Downeast Windjammer Cruise sail out of Bar Harbor.

Sea Kayaking 

Kayak rentals and guided tours are available through National Park Sea Kayak Tours, Maine Sea Kayaking and Coastal Kayaking Tours.

Restaurants

Beals Lobster Pier in Southwest Harbor, Maine

Here are some of our favorite spots on the island to grab a bite.

Beal’s Lobster Pier

Hands down our favorite lobster pound (and we’ve sampled many). Beal’s is located in Southwest Harbor on a working lobster pier, so you can watch the lobster boats come in while you eat on the picnic tables or covered porch. If you’re looking for a classic lobster roll or whole lobster dinner (or lunch), this is our recommendation.

Seafood pizza at Quietside Cafe in Southwest Harbor | Bar Harbor Weekend Guide

Quietside Cafe

Known for their pizza, ice cream and blueberry pie that’s absolutely bursting with fruit. Can’t imagine not having lobster at every single meal? No worries—order the lobster pizza! You can check out some of the cute artist shops in Southwest Harbor after your meal.

McKay’s Public House

One of our favorite places for dinner in Bar Harbor. The food is very fresh and the menu is creative, with lots of seasonal specials. Plus, they have a beautiful garden seating area. If the short rib nachos are on the menu that night, do not make the mistake Andrew did of eating the whole pickled habenero pepper. You will regret it.

Side Street Cafe

An all-around great casual dining restaurant with friendly staff and a nice bar. Try the lobster mac and cheese with one of their signature margaritas (daily happy hour from 3–6pm)!

Project Social

This Bar Harbor newcomer has a modern, eclectic vibe and serves a diverse menu of tapas and crepes with specialty cocktails. They have a great bar as well.

Bars

You would like a cold beverage? No problem. Maine is a great beer-brewing state. Some of our favorite local brews come from the Atlantic Brewing Company, Sea Dog, Allagash and Shipyard. Maine is also famous for its blueberries, so don’t be surprised to see blueberry beers, blueberry margaritas and more.

The Thirsty Whale Tavern

Great casual bar and grill in Bar Harbor. There’s a small back garden and the food is good as well.

Lompoc Cafe

This casual bar also regularly books music acts. Plus, there’s an outdoor courtyard with bocce ball (and great pizzas too).

Cottage Street Pub 

Cool ambiance with unique cocktails. Here’s where to try that blueberry mojito or the bar’s signature cocktail, Dirty Water.

One-Off Pub

We never fail to make a new friend when we visit this small pub.

Shops in Bar Harbor

Ben & Bill’s Chocolate Emporium

Delicious ice cream (including, yes, a lobster flavor) plus homemade fudge and nostalgic candies.

Acadia Country Store

This is our favorite store in downtown Bar Harbor for Maine-made goods, like blueberry jam, maple syrup and popover mix.

Albert Meadow Antiques

We are not even sure if this shop has a name. You’ll find it down a side street off the main drag, but the antique selection is excellent. Look for the house with an Antiques and Jewelry sign on the side.

Christmas Vacation Shop

For the ornament lovers out there, this is a must-stop.

In The Woods

Hand carved spoons, bowls, toys, birdhouses, chess sets, canoes, cutting boards—you name it, they have it. Plus, a giant rocking horse.

A Girls Weekend in the San Francisco Mission District

I’m sure you’ve been noticing a lot of travel articles this summer, but what can I say? I’ve been a busy girl! I recently traveled to San Francisco to meet up with three important women in my life—my mom and two of my aunts, Laurie and Marlene. When I was growing up, Aunt Laurie and Aunt Marlene were the two aunts who lived in town, so we spent lots of early holidays together. I was the flower girl in my Aunt Laurie’s wedding (yep, the one who wouldn’t drop her petals). And my Mom is one of my best friends. So, it’s wonderful to now have adult relationships with these amazing women and be able to spend a weekend away with them.

How does this help you? Well, our weekend would have made an amazing bachelorette bash. We had so much fun! So here’s my stellar weekend in San Francisco. This weekend is best for those who aren’t interested in or have already done the top tourist destinations. If you’ve already walked the Golden Gate Bridge, been to Chinatown, seen the sea lions and paid a visit to Alcatraz, or if those common attractions just don’t interest you, then this weekend line-up is for you. Leave your own suggestions for a great weekend in San Francisco in the comments!

Friday:

mission apartment on airbnb

Photo courtesy airbnb.

Arrive at your amazing pad in the Mission District. This was my first time using Airbnb to book a house and the experience could not have been better. I don’t throw around the word “sick” to describe apartments very often, but I will for this three bedroom decked out in mid-century modern furniture with deep blue and neon pink walls and pops of patterns in the supersoft throws. I seriously wanted to pack everything into my suitcase to redecorate my own apartment…or just move in. A huge kitchen in the back was the perfect place to gather for a nightly wine and cheese happy hour while the cool San Francisco breeze came in through the back garden door.

Spend your first night exploring everything the Mission’s 24th St. We created our own progressive dinner, hitting up taquerias, bakeries and bars and darting in a few quirky bookstores and artist co-ops. We loved the sangria and salt cod appetizer at Roosevelt Tamale Parlor and the ceviche tostadas at El Farolito, but the road is simply lined with great Mexican food, so take your pick!

Saturday:

Start the day off right by making a stop right around the corner at Dynamo’s Donuts. We found ourselves instantly addicted to these things, from the tangy lemon thyme to the sinful maple bacon.

A Mural on Lucky Street in San Francisco's Mission DistrictSign up for a mural tour with Precita Eyes Muralists. The Mission District has a rich history of muralizing the streets and, especially around 24th St., almost every corner is covered in two-story art. Taking a tour really helps you appreciate what you’re seeing and leads you to alleys and corners you wouldn’t typically have stumbled on (some streets are completely covered in murals). Our guide was a muralist herself and was able to explain some of the religious, historical and political symbols that pop up throughout the art, as well as the deeply respectful culture that surrounds the mural community in this neighborhood. Even if you are not a tour person, you’ll enjoy this—it feels more like you’re meeting up with your passionate artistic friend for a stroll (ask for Carla, she’s the best!).

After your tour, spend time exploring the cute shops the Mission has to offer. I made you this nifty map to help you find your way around the neighborhood (click here to download a full-size PDF: A Mini Guide to San Francisco’s Mission District. The shopping list is definitely incomplete, but Valencia is lined with quirky home goods stores, vintage clothing shops and used bookstores from about 20th St. all the way up to Hayes Valley. You can find lunch or dinner (and plenty of treats) at the fabulous cafes and shops in the area. Stop by Dolores Park to enjoy the sunshine and a croissant from Tartine Bakery or a salted caramel scoop from Bi-Rite Creamery.

A Mini Guide to Restaurant, Sweets, and Shopping in San Francisco's Mission District

Finish your night by hopping in a cab to the late showing of Beach Blanket Babylon, a classic San Francisco show that’s been running for 60 years but feels like it was written yesterday…because it was! The show is a musical revue full of the latest figures in pop culture and politics and is constantly rewritten to reflect the latest news. I was in San Francisco only a few days after the birth of Prince William and Kate’s baby George and all three made an appearance in the show. It’s silly and fun, and the costumes are almost the best part.

Sunday:

This afternoon’s agenda includes an amazing food tour, so work up your appetite with a morning in Golden Gate Park. You could spend hours exploring the park, so pick what appeals most to you. For garden lovers, there’s the Japanese Tea Gardens, the Conservatory of Flowers, and the Botanical Garden. The artistic can check out the permanent collection at the de Young Museum (make sure to climb to the top of the Hamon Tower for panoramic views of the city and the Golden Gate Bridge). The California Academy of Science is right across the street and includes its very own domed rainforest. For a bit of whimsy, hike out to the windmill and tulip garden or take a ride on the restored carousel.

My number one recommendation for Golden Gate Park is to rent a surrey. These two- or four-person contraptions can be pedaled around the park and make for plenty of hilarious pictures and some harrowing near crashes… (There may or may not be a video of me somewhere on YouTube trying to pull an illegal U-turn. Some guy in a truck filmed it. Please let me know if you locate this footage.)

For the afternoon, book a food tour with Gourmet Walks. We ate our way through Hayes Valley, sampling cheese and wine, bahn mi and macaron, freshly frozen ice cream and craft beers. Try not to eat before this tour. Like, seriously, I recommend showing up starving. Because you get a lot of food. Way too much food. Delicious, delicious food. One of my favorite stops was Arlequin because of their amazing back garden. Sunlight streamed through the trees as we enjoyed a cheese plate and glass of California chardonnay. There are lots of cute bars to turn your food tour into a drinking tour for the night. Some of my favorites were Noir, for the retro industrial decor and oversized leather chairs, and Two Sisters Bar and Books, for the designer cocktails and real lending library. And since Hayes Valley borders the Mission District, it will be a cinch for you to hop on a bus or even stroll home when it’s time to wind the evening down.

Summer Vacation: Nova Scotia and Maine

If you noticed a week’s absence, it was because I was busy boycotting all digital communication during my week of vacation. The boyfriend and I took a trip to his family cabin in Nova Scotia followed by a few days at a relaxing resort in Bar Harbor, Maine.

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We started the trip with three days in Nova Scotia. We spent one day in Halifax, where we sampled brews at Alexander Keith’s Brewery. This is legitamately the only IPA I have ever enjoyed in my life. It was so bubbly and crisp, completely unlike the bitter concoctions I’ve sampled in the States. We also stopped at Peggy’s Cove lighthouse around sunset, where I discovered Lobster Lane!

IMG_1989I attempted to enjoy some form of lobster at least once a day. I got it in during breakfast with some delicious scrambled eggs and homemade bread at Kiwi Cafe in Chester and at dinner at The Trellis Cafe near Hubbards with some decadent lobster ravioli. These restaurants were my two favorites of the entire trip. Highly recommended! 

946425_909707915953_1986509901_nOn our last day in Nova Scotia we took a drive down the southern coast in an attempt to stop at a section of Kejimkujik National Park, but were thwarted by a dirt road that we weren’t quite sure our rental car could handle. We did manage to find a beautiful rocky shoreline nearby and hiked up and down the coast checking out tide pools and some seriously colorful seaweed. I admit that I did not think seaweed could be pretty, but you haven’t experienced real seaweed until you see it in the northeast.  Continue reading