On Tour

Good morning!

It was quite the busy weekend.  My mom and I finished up the Best Kept Secrets Tour on Saturday.  In that pouring, cold, rain.  Lots of puddles and umbrellas and soggy shopping bags.  It made it more adventurous!

So.  The Tour.  My mom first heard about it maybe 2 years ago from a friend.  It’s a lot of word-of-mouth news about this!  Which, to me, makes it even more fun. Stores and small businesses in one county (we did Berks) all are included as a tour stop.  You purchase a tour bag from certain shops.  They are all marked with signs.  The bags are filled with a tour booklet and some kind of flyer/business card/trinket from every store.  I think it’s exciting even just searching through my bag when I get it!  There’s usually free samples, pens, and tons of coupons.  The Tour book is pretty informative.  You know the dates of the tour – this is when the shops cater to us on the tour-and all the shop hours.  There is a map and distance of each stop to the next stop.  Even suggested routes are included.

We usually make a day of it two or three times throughout the tour because it’s much easier to start at one store in the morning and keep driving around and hit a bunch at one time.  We’ve run into super friendly workers and always get treats and things for visiting their stores.  Almost every stop has special discounts for “tour goers” through the dates.  It is run twice a year but this is my favorite because all these unique little shops have coupons so it’s even more affordable for Christmas gifts!

I guess I should mention that the entire point is get shoppers in to small businesses that most people don’t realize are right in their backyard.  We’ve discovered so many places through this and most are spots we’ve driven by for years!  I stole this from the website to explain all the types on the tour because they say it best!

“home, garden & gift stores housed in historic homes, restored barns, warehouses and even a hardware store, an alpaca farm where you can interact with the animals, art & artisan galleries, tucked away nurseries & garden centers, a pretzel bakery, gourmet foods & sweet shops with yummy treats for sampling, clothing, jewelry & accessories boutiques, amazing handmade crafts, a local favorite restaurant & a brand new cafe, furniture, antiques, vintage, upcycled & consignment shops, a gorgeous winery on an historic site, a few specialty shops and more!!”

It’s just a fun time driving around (but not that far) and feeling like we’re on a scavenger hunt.

I forgot to mention the best part!  Each place you go to has a ticket for you to fill out that gets entered in a drawing for a present or gift card.  I won the West Reading prize last year and won $600 worth of gift certificates!  My mom also won a jewelry prize! We’re lucky.  I’m sure our prizes are in the works already.

I bought this plaid wool hat I”m wearing from Killarney, Ireland from my favorite new shop we found, Evelyn and Harriets!  They have items from all over the world and only sell things that are unique and not found many other places.  Ornaments from Egypt, hand-made greetings cards from Germany, children’s toys that do not have any kind of electronics or batteries!  It’s very cool.

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While we were hitting some stores this week we stopped for seafood.  I had delicious sushi…that I ate with a knife and fork because I didn’t feel like dropping 10x the amount of rice on my lap than I did already!  It was great.  There was an amazing drizzle on top that I can’t remember!img_6404.jpgThis.  This is why I brave the crowds and go to Wal-Mart occasionally.  $3 turkey hair clips are a must-buy.  img_6402.jpgAnd…tiny bragging but the official Hello Dolly Broadway instagram used my picture!  I was pretty excited about that.  I’m famous! hah!fullsizeoutput_1ff1I went thrift shopping for the first time in months and hit a pocket of excellence.  Including the above pictured Free People dress.  My haul also includes a sequin skirt, and a fabulous vintage sweater that I’m sure one of the Golden Girls wore.  (Newsflash: That means I love it.)img_6475.jpg

I was sent some coffee shots to try and they really are decent.  I can’t believe their natural energy drinks!  That never happens. I’m not a big energy drink gal but this was fun to drink. I could see adding it to a cup of coffee…wait, does that defeat the purpose? IMG_6477

 Have a wonderful, peaceful but joyful holiday week!  I’ll be prepping my pecan pies, muffins, and this Black Friday plans.

Anyone else heading out on Friday?  I can’t wait!

~Whitney Victoria

cold weather, cozy weather

Hats, scarves,gloves!  Tights, boots, real coats.  I wore it all this week.  I think even if you hate the cold, there is plenty to look forward to once the nip gets in the air.

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I actually went to the mall the other day, mostly to see the Christmas decorations, under the guise of searching for black riding boots.   People might seem more bustling during the holidays but I think it’s a time to slow down.  When the weather turns cold, it’s a sign we should cozy up under blankets, wear thick sweaters, don your long-johns!  It’s my favorite thing in the morning to blast my car heater on the way to work.

I think it’s in my DNA as a winter baby to love it but this is when I feel the most hopeful, like magic can happen.  Christmas miracles and all that.

There’s so much to look forward to!  The best gifts are out starting now-December 24th.   I get sooo excited seeing it all out in stores.  (Online shopping is not fun to me!) Shopping this time of year has a philanthropic feel to me.  I’m getting presents and decorations to share with everyone I love! Like this insanely cute Corgi sweater leggings.

img_6338.jpgAnd I’m convinced I need to buy the two bags of Starbucks coffee just to get this tiny tote bag for myself for free!  I’m obsessed with that quote.  It’s me. img_6347.jpgI saw the bags while getting my first Cranberry Bliss Bar.  I NEED to find a healthy homemade recipe this season.  They’re so good but not really worth the sugar too often for me.  Once in a while is just perfect!img_6330.jpg

This weekend was our big push for the Best Kept Secrets Tour.  I’ll expand on that later.  It’s so fun!

Christmas candy abound at Reppert’s.  I had so many free samples at 10am Saturday that I will legit admit my breakfast was pure chocolate.

The best way to describe me and free samples is this:

My mom picked up raspberry jellies, vanilla caramels, and peanut butter chocolates for Thanksgiving and we’re both anxious to eat them! If anyone wants holiday candy, check it out!  They even had Nittany Lion and cornucopia shaped chocolates.  Surprisingly, I walked away with just a bag of root beer barrels!  They’re delicious and remind me of picking hard candy out of a basket at my grandparents’.IMG_6378I’m an old cat lady, except even sadder because I don’t have a cat at the moment.  Hah!  I loved this sign so much.  I’ll just skip the nap bit.IMG_6353

This is a selfish bonus screenshot for you!  Ina Garten posting about Taylor.  <3 Made my day being reminded how much these two love each other.fullsizeoutput_1fd8.jpeg

I’m making these!  No Bake Peppermint Bark Cookies. How have I missed this recipe previous years??  They’re like 5 minutes.f

No-Bake Peppermint Bark Cookies | The Suburban Soapbox

You guys can have your pumpkin stuff! “Peppermint Everything” is my motto this time of year.   Anyone have favorite seasonal things they love seeing?

Feel the holiday cheer.  It’s out there if you take notice.

~Whitney Victoria

Reputations

I’m entirely excited and in major anticipation for Reputation.  I have had “Call It What You Want” on repeat for the last week.  One. More. Day. People.  I may have all the songs pre-released already memorized.  I’m planning my concert outfit.  I’m buying a sweatshirt like Taylor’s on the cover. No shame whatsoever.

I realized I never showcased the beautiful architecture in Connecticut, mostly on the Yale campus, so here goes.

This is the The Lockwood-Mathews Mansion  that we just stopped by to check out.  It was closed the only day we could see it but the exterior was so cool to see from the walking trails around it.  It was built in 1864 and has been used for several movie scenes.  Just walking the grounds around it felt eerie to me.  There was definitely some kind of strange presence. IMG_5624IMG_5622IMG_5619

After that, we heading to New Haven to see the Yale campus.  It was better than I imagined.  I expected like 2 buildings to have some cool windows or whatever.  Old Campus was made up almost entirely of Victorian Gothic structures.  So beautiful.

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Sorry I’m wearing the same outfit in every pic.  There was no time or place for a wardrobe change.

You can’t get the whole feel of the campus by the odd angles and view we took.  All in an attempt to capture the enormousness and detail of the buildings.

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Every door was immense and intimidating.  I loved how the student id scanners were placed on the crazy old gates.  Some buildings were built in 1750!

Yes, there was tons of ivy at the ivy league.  This picture doesn’t do it justice.  Some halls had it growing up the entire side of the building and down on the ground floor.

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There was a great street with shops and little restaurants so we had to hit the college bookstore.

IMG_5659IMG_5774IMG_5896I had just grabbed ice cream when we decided it was necessary for one last souvenir.  I bought a mug…it makes me feel super collegiate while drinking my coffee.IMG_5703IMG_5705On the way home we found some cute shops in New Canaan as well.  The fox is my spirit animal.  I had to pose.img_5845.jpg

This was the best!  My own personal store had unique little gifts and table decor.

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Look at the sister store that was next door!

IMG_5926Our night ended in Westport at the prettiest Anthropologie I’ve ever laid eyes on.IMG_5831IMG_5780img_5711.jpgimg_5713.jpg

Anyone else buying Taylor’s album?  You know you want to.

“T” minus 1 day.

~Whitney Victoria

Windy Nights are Alright

I started writing this Sunday evening.  It was rainy and windy and a little bit chilly and I loved it.  After getting home around noon, I promptly decided it was time I get into sweats and lounge for the rest of the day.  Those days really are the best after a busy week.

Boy, was that sofa inviting.  I haven’t watched movies regularly for awhile since I became an annoying Netflix/Hulu follower.  For some reason it’s been easier to binge-watch I’m old school.  I’d still have a VCR and commercials to speed through if I had my choice so watching real movies, start to finish, was really appealing to me today. It started with Skyfall and ended with Creed (a sequel comes out next year!).  Actions movies do it for me quite often.  I totally forgot but there’s a scene in Creed where they are watching a movie and it’s Skyfall!  What are the odds?  Do you think I subconsciously remembered this and that’s why I wanted to watch Creed right after?  Whatever.

I have such an addiction to sports movies, underdog stories, and I may have cried while watching this one tonight.  Yeah, yeah, I’m not saying it’s the greatest cinematic film ever but I love a good fight, metaphorically and physically.  I love seeing a character never back down or give up when it matters.  Total endless motivation for me.

Halloween is upon us.  I dressed up once and I’m done.  it was great but I’m more excited for November.  Some years I relish every moment in costume but this was a tad lackluster.

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My gumball machine costume was super easy!  I had a red dress I didn’t love anymore.  All I bought was a bag of pom-poms for $3.99.  They were hot-glued to the top section.  Then I glued a piece of foil to cardboard and drew on the look of the machine’s mechanism. (Yes, big technical word.)  I totally saw the idea on Pinterest and loved it like 2 months ago.  Unique, bright colors and I still get to look cute?  I’m in.

This past weekend I went to Folino Estate Winery with two friends and, I’m speaking for all of us, but we had a blast.  None of us were ever there an didn’t’ know what to expect.  It’s up out of the way.  There is a restaurant, tasting room, shop, patio, and a perfect spot for weddings.  They had a candy and wine pairing event going on for Halloween and if you dressed up in costume and posted a picture, you could win a $100 gift card.  No word yet on the winner but it was fun regardless!

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This was the wine tasting and shop area!

 

The estate was really beautiful and up on a hill.  We ate lunch first and everything was excellent.  I’d like to go back anytime!  There was bread and olive oil with herbs on the table. to start.  The bread was light and fluffy and had olives strewn about!  I continued the carbo-loading and had a flat bread mushroom pizza.  Also, great.

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This was the personal size pizza!  See that herbed EVOO photobomb?  Mmm.

I do not claim to know much of anything about wine so excuse my slight ignorance.  I’ve done a few short wine tastings before but the woman who did this one seemed the most knowledgeable.  They had special glasses that had thumb indents and one on the bottom for your middle finger.  I never saw these before but I loved them!  It’s so you can swirl the wine around easily and look incredibly fancy.  I totally felt like I knew what i was doing all of a sudden, just holding that fun glass. IMG_6143

The wine started with whites paired with candy corn and then skittles.  I’m not a fan of either candy but somehow they tasted better with the wine!  We had to take 3-4 sips of wine, then a bite of candy, then a sip of wine again.  I was impressed with how well they actually brought out different flavors of both the candy and the wine.  IMG_6131

I do know that I tend toward red wines.  I’m not a huge sweet person.  When it comes to dessert I usually pick coffee, or dark chocolate flavors.  Reds seem rich, deep, and complex to me.  Just how I like my men.  (Am I kidding…?)

We each bought a glass then to enjoy on their patio and it was so windy I flashed everyone.  Hello!  I was carrying a glass of wine, my purse, and had no extra hands to hold down my skirt.  My hope is that everyone sitting out there was too into their drinks to have noticed.  Oh well!  At least I was wearing tights.

img_61352.jpgFor November Folino is doing a wine and pie pairing event!  Now that’s my kind of party.  Any takers??

Enjoy your Halloween!  May it be safe and full of Reese’s pumpkins!

~Whitney Victoria

 

 

 

Meal With a View

Continuing my recap of Connecticut, I thought I’d focus on some amazing food we experienced. The first night we were there, we were craving lobster rolls.  I googled it so see who was serving them in close proximity to our hotel since I wasn’t up for a long car ride after the drive up there.  I found Sunset Grille.  It was about 6 miles from where we were staying and they had a waterfront view!  We lucked out and it was literally the last day of the season that the restaurant was open!  It was nothing special as far as decor goes, but the ambiance was there with the yachts, sea breeze, and delicious food.

IMG_5756IMG_5746IMG_5814IMG_5762IMG_5731They had two kinds of lobster rolls. One was warm with butter, and the other was cold with mayo and herbs. Both were amazing.  We got one of each and then split them!  I couldn’t decide my favorite.  The french fries were also seriously great.  I didn’t leave one on the plate.img_5852.jpg

Up close and personal. IMG_5832IMG_5751IMG_5817IMG_5878We found a beach down the road that was free to walk on since it was October.  It was so windy but really fun to just walk around and look out at the water. IMG_5805IMG_5904The next day was New Haven. The little shop was called Maison Mathis and had a great vibe.IMG_5972 This was an impromptu stop for coffee and I got a wonderful brown butter chocolate chip cookie. I wish I took a picture to commemorate it and would like to make my own batch.  img_5942.jpgI’m a tad OCD about researching things so I did my homework and knew about most of the cafes within 5 miles of the Yale campus. We hit Claire’s Corner Copia for a late lunch.  Isn’t that such a cute name?  They specialize in vegan and gluten-free food and have been open since 1975! I had some Asian noodles and veggies.  It was so filling and satisfying after a day of walking around the city.  But, it also tasted light and healthy.  After not having real homemade bread for, basically years, this little loaf was breathtaking.  I was obsessed with it, ate every crumb, and want some more.  I had some unsweetened blueberry iced tea that was little tart.  I actually added stevia and I hardly ever need to do that.  IMG_6046IMG_6047Our third day was for traveling home.  I found a cute, organic spot for brunch called Baldanza in New Canaan.  I have to say, my brioche french toast was probably the best french toast I’ve ever had.  Uncured bacon and fair-trade coffee were musts.  I loved the diverse but clean choices there.  Next time I’m in town, I’ll be back. IMG_6002IMG_5815img_5726.jpg

My mom had the gluten-free egg sandwich and also said it was the best ever!  Mmmmm.IMG_5924

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I think my biggest smiles are when I’m posing with food.  I’m not ashamed one bit.

~Whitney Victoria

Grocery Love

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My name is Whitney and I’m addicted to grocery stores.  One of my favorite things to do is walk around the grocery store.  Well, I discovered my new fave place.  I went to Connecticut with my mom, on a whim.  I picked a town that was local to a few areas I wanted to hit.  Norwalk fit the bill.  There wasn’t all that much to do there as far as “tourist” attractions go, but I did find Stew Leonard’s on several lists all over the internet.

As much as I like a good food store, I still was a little confused why it made TripAdvisor’s “Things To Do in Norwalk.”  And, then we walked inside.  There was time to kill our first day in town so we thought it was something to check out, even if we just ended up with a snack for later.

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Of course we took pics in a grocery store!  It was totally swarmed with shoppers the first time we went so we actually ended up there our last morning to leisurely walk the aisles.

The floral section was beautiful!  They had fresh lavender which is not all that common to find. IMG_5610img_5612.jpgWe need to talk about the rainbow, unicorn bagels.  I thought they were legend and only existed in a big, fancy city bagelry.  Isn’t that bagel bin a beauty?img_5977.jpgIMG_6018It was even prettier inside!  I’m 100% sure the bagel was amazing and would have been despite it looking like Play-Doh.  Light, fluffy, airy.  Mmmm.IMG_6027Some macarons made their way home with us.  The chocolate one was fudge and creamy.img_6003.jpgDark potato chips are a weakness.  These did not disappoint. IMG_5773The first thing that’s around the corner when you walk in, is the coffee and juice bar!  That made me happy from the first step inside.  IMG_5931I went for a mix of 1/4 hazelnut, 3/4 iced Columbian.  Very excellent.IMG_5864Just a girl among her coffee bean barrels.IMG_5971I’m obsessed with lobster rolls and order them whenever possible.  I LOVE that Connecticut has them to-go!  Seriously, one of my favorite goods and I’ll take them any way I can get them. IMG_5744Since Stew Leonard’s is a “dairy store,” they even had part of the assembly line in the store to watch!  IMG_5812

A sad, unphotographed item was edible cookie dough.  It was a massive chunk that I bought for dessert.  It’s long gone.  There was an ice cream counter attached to the store and they actually serve and ice cream cone with one scoop cookie dough, one scoop ice cream!

There were lots of samples too, which is always good in my eyes.  I had an apple cider doughnut hole and some great sugared pizelle pieces.

I’m a Fuji apple gal but Honeycrisp are my mom’s favorites and they are a pretty close second for me.  Stew’s even had Honeyscrisp apple cider!

img_5996.jpgimg_5826-e1508456178598.jpgAnyone else LOVE grocery stores, food, and shopping for treats?

~Whitney Victoria

Travel Plans

Anticipation is like a drug.  Having anything exciting in the pipeline makes me look forward to each day.

I’m in my best flow when I’m doing!  Talking about fun events and things you love is amazing when you’re getting in the positive zone.  But, it’s even more powerful when you let your thoughts stop racing, listen to your gut, and take action.

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Action doesn’t have to be fast-paced or wide-reaching.  It starts with a single move and ripples out from there.

I have tried to hold myself back from signing up for things and joining new groups and volunteering because I would end up with no free time for myself.

After meditating for the last few months, I can more easily identify my feelings and know what I’ll be excited to do before putting my name on the list.  It’s like my mind is clear or something…hah.  Anyone can do it and sit still for a few minutes.  You can.

Now I’m way more likely to raise my hand for some wonderful opportunity.

Skydiving?  I’m there. Just say when.

An impromptu long weekend road trip?  Hello!  I’m riding shotgun.

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Speaking of trips, I’ve been toying around with the idea of use some of my vacay days (the ones that need to be used by December 31).  I’m a little obsessed with New England.  Maine is a little too far to drive and I didn’t feel like booking a flight.  Connecticut wins!

I was all prepared to go myself since I wasn’t sure I’d find anyone else who had time to kill and who I could stand traveling with….Luckily I enjoy traveling with my mom.  She also thought my idea sounded like a great idea!

Two or three years ago we took a Fall trip to Rehoboth.  It was sooo fun and different being at the beach in not summer.

10733820_10152500404640765_5490963069104671943_oWe’re leaving Sunday morning for Norwalk, CT.  Monday I’m planning a visit to New Haven.  Then Tuesday we’ll explore the town a little bit before leaving of home.  I’m so into making travel plans and have spent the last few days reading Yelp reviews and visitCT.org. I love it all.  This trip is not about planning everything like crazy so I’m leaving my detailed itinerary a little open.  Oxymoron?  Not for me!

I need structured freedom!

I found a decent hotel with vacancy.  There’s a top-rated vegan restaurant in New Haven.  There are several lighthouses and harbors along our route!  Whenever I make the decision to follow my instinct, things magically align and come together.

I can’t wait to share all my pics and moments from the trip!  The anticipation has me all crazy!  That’s a good thing, in my book, people.

Follow your heart and let it lead you to something magical.

~Whitney Victoria