Weekend Recap: October 24-25

For the most part, I’d say we had a pretty lazy weekend. We live in Salem, Massachusetts which can get very chaotic this time of year during Haunted Happenings. I know how much fun it can all be as a tourist, and as a resident too, but sometimes as a local the crowds become too much to bear and we hibernate at home (no pun intended)! Essentially, this is what we did, enjoying the couch life and all the football watching the weekend brings. However, we did manage to make it out of the apartment a few times for some food (of course), drinks, and a tiny bit of sightseeing!

We didn’t do anything Friday night, so our first stop this weekend was on Saturday at lunchtime. We decided to go to Sylvan Street Grille in Peabody. I hadn’t been in a few years actually, and the last time I was supposed to go someone crashed into my car and I never made it. So, I was glad to finally revisit it this weekend!

I'm unsure who this patron is, but I wanted to capture a view of the bar and TVS

I’m unsure who this patron is, but I wanted to capture a view of the bar and some of the many TVs at Sylvan St. Grille

Sylvan Street Grille is a casual restaurant and bar with great service and a large, fulfilling menu for both food and drinks. They have many TVs in the bar, which were all playing various college football games. This was essentially Nick’s heaven, and I felt cozy here as well.  No need to get fancy, you can just come here to get some good drinks and food and have a fun time out. In fact, the motto on their website is “Eat, Drink and Chill at the Sylvan Street Grille”.

cranberry sangria

I started with the Cranberry Sangria from the specials of the day menu. Sangria is always one of my go-to’s and this one was pretty strong, but I’m a gal who likes to get her money’s worth, so I didn’t mind. Nick tried a Dogfish pumpkin ale, and he really enjoyed it as it was a strong beer with an unoffending level of pumpkin flavor. For lunch, I ordered the Asian Sesame Chicken Salad, which included grilled Teriyaki chicken breast, with sesame angel hair pasta, mixed greens, tomato, shredded carrots, crispy wantons and a homemade honey mustard sauce. I absolutely love these types of Asian salads with cold noodles, and I would definitely order this one again. Nick ordered a Chicken Parmesan sandwich and was very satisfied with his choice as well.

I had already dug into the salad when I took this photo...it did have a nice presentation before!

I had already dug into the salad when I took this photo…it did have a nice presentation before!

Nick's Chicken Parm sandwich, comfort food if you ask me

Nick’s Chicken Parm sandwich, comfort food if you ask me

I really wanted to try one of the delicious dessert options available on the Sylvan Street menu, but I didn’t know if I could stand any more food. I decided to combine my need for something sweet with a second drink order (I wasn’t driving). I chose the Blueberry Pie beer/cocktail combo of Wachusett blueberry ale with a shot of Absolut vanilla vodka (it might have been Pinnacle Whipped, I can’t find it on the online menu) and a graham cracker crust rim. With fresh blueberries inside, this combination was an incredible (and easily re-creatable at home!) palate-pleaser. The graham cracker crust was a sweet touch and the drink really did have the flavor of blueberry pie. YUM!

blueberry beer cocktail

While we didn’t do much after Sylvan Street Grille besides hang out at home and watch Halloween movies, we got out a bit on Sunday again. For more food, what else. I’ve started running again, so I don’t feel as terrible about all the food we consume, but when you love to try out restaurants, and combine that with writing about them, it becomes hard to not indulge!

Our initial idea on Sunday morning was to go to the Driftwood restaurant in Marblehead . I enjoy exploring other dining options in our surrounding towns here on the North Shore. However, upon arriving at the Driftwood, there was a pretty large group of people waiting outside and we weren’t sure if we were up for that. I figured this might happen, as I had read good reviews of the restaurant online before we left the house, so I don’t know why I didn’t just stay away if I wasn’t in the mood for crowds but alas. We kept driving through Old Town in Marblehead and came across some beautiful ocean views via the harbor, even though the morning was overcast. It made for a nice October effect over the landscape.

The view over Marblehead Harbor

The view across Marblehead Harbor

We walked a bit, admiring the seaside scenery. Then we got back in the car to meander through these historic neighborhoods as we headed back towards Salem. I had to make Nick stop so I could take a photo of one of my (many) dream houses that I come across here in coastal New England. The houses in this neighborhood are the epitome of classic New England, with many built in the early-mid 1700s, and one that was built in the 1660s! Imagine living there!

Marblehead house

The newest of my many New England dream houses…I love the classic red of these colonial homes, and the festive pumpkins across the door frame

At this point, I figured that we might as well try breakfast in Salem after all, and since I knew the Salem Diner was close to the Marblehead line, that’s where we headed. I hadn’t been there before, but had always seen it on my way to class as it sits in a vintage diner car right across from Salem State’s Central Campus. Luckily, it was around lunchtime by this point and we didn’t have a wait to sit down. I enjoyed the old diner car atmosphere and being around students. It brought me back to my college days, which are getting further and further into the past. When we looked at the menu, I noticed that it stated that the Salem Diner was run by Chartwells, which is the company that runs all the food programs at Salem State. Interesting! I had completely forgotten that the school purchased this diner early last year and reopened it.

The interior of the old diner car that is the Salem Diner

The interior of the old diner car that is the Salem Diner

Nick and I both ordered coffee and Western omelets, with ham, peppers and onions. I got cheddar cheese and Nick got American. The omelets came with home fries and your choice of toast. Home fries are a kryptonite of mine, and I think I ate more of those than I even ate of the omelet. In honesty, I wasn’t even that hungry while we were there so I only ate about half of my meal, but it was simple, classic breakfast fare and just what we needed at that moment.

After our meal at the Salem Diner we headed home again as Sunday is laundry and football day for us, as I’m sure it is for many of you! We were able to get out once more later that day, because temperatures were in the 60s and a nice walk was a necessity. We strolled around the Derby Wharf to Pickering Wharf area and made a pit stop into Jaho Coffee & Tea for a couple lattes (read my rave review of Jaho here). Granted, it was 6:00pm but I needed a pick-me-up, and I had gone to bed early the past couple of nights anyway. I ordered a French Toast latte, which has become my new favorite flavor there, and Nick ordered a Pumpkin Spice latte. (Yes, as you may have noticed, he’s very down with the pumpkin spice craze.) I also ordered an apple cider donut, well, because I clearly didn’t need it but…fall. And my sweet tooth dominates my life.

latte and donut

On our walk back, we admired the pumpkins and Halloween decorations that can be found everywhere around our neighborhood because this is Salem, Massachusetts, after all – Halloween capital of the U.S.!

A blurry photo from Nick's phone, but as Nick said, I look overly excited to see pumpkins everywhere...well yes, because I love fall!

A blurry photo from Nick’s phone, but as Nick said, I look overly excited to see pumpkins everywhere…well yes, because I love fall!

I also took a picture of another dreamy antique house, The Daniels House. Built in 1667, this house is now a bed and breakfast. I think this would be a wonderful place to stay for any history buffs who come to visit Salem and want to fully immerse themselves in its old charm!

salem house

Later on, the night was capped off by another yet walk because as crazy as this city can get this time of year, it’s home now and there is no more beautiful place in my eyes. I will always be able to see why so many people choose to make it a must-visit destination on their October itinerary, and year-round as well. That’s how I first discovered it, years ago as a tourist with my family.  Happy Halloween Week!

Featured:
Sylvan Street Grille – 12 Sylvan Street, Peabody, MA, 978.774.1724 (also a location at 195 Elm St. in Salisbury, MA)
Salem Diner – 70 Loring Avenue, Salem, MA
Jaho Coffee & Tea – 197 Derby Street, Salem, MA, 978.744.4300 (also located at 1651 Washington St. in Boston’s South End, and a coffee roaster and wine bar location at 665 Washington St. in Boston)

A Fun Fall Night at the Black Cow Tap & Grill

Saturday was a chilly, windy day here in Massachusetts and the threat of rain loomed. While it didn’t actually rain, it was not the greatest day to do any outdoor activities so we hunkered down inside watching football. However, it was the weekend, and it’s no fun to just sit inside the apartment the whole day. We decided to step out into society and try to find a place around that we hadn’t been to for a drink, some light food, and college football watching.

My mind drifted to the Black Cow Tap & Grill in Hamilton, MA (there is also one in Newburyport). I had heard good things about the restaurant and had wanted to try it, but it’s one of those things that just always seemed to slip my mind.  I’m really glad we had time on our hands and the idea to visit a different town because I think this will be one of my new favorite stops!

bch wall

We arrived around 4:00pm, that awkward time between lunch and dinner on the weekends, so it wasn’t very busy at all when we got there. We found a couple of seats at the bar and looked around admirably. I absolutely loved the ambiance of the restaurant – it featured a rich, dark color scheme, and industrial touches with almost a vintage side, such as the exposed wood beam ceilings with visible ductwork painted black. The brick walls made it feel loft-like, and there was a triple-shelved wine rack that would make all my dreams complete if it were in my home. The bar was large and fully stocked, with what seemed like endless beer taps, and offered three big screen TVs facing each angle.

bar and tvs

We were given drink and food menus and set to work deciding what we wanted. Unfortunately, the Black Cow website menus hadn’t been changed to match those actually in the restaurants, so the drink I had gotten excited about online was sadly a no-go (an apple cider hot toddy style beverage). I chose to go with the Blueberry Vojito instead. I knew I couldn’t go wrong with a cocktail that includes blueberries, simple syrup, club soda, and mint. Nick got Tuckerman’s Pale Ale, one of his favorite beers. The great thing about Tuckerman’s is that it’s New England-based, right in Conway, NH!

blueberry vojito

Eventually, we got a little hungry and wanted to split something. I have an obsession with margherita pizza and saw that they had one on the menu which included prosciutto. I needed to try that for sure! It was absolutely delicious and we finished it in no time. The prosciutto added a more flavorful touch to what it usually a meatless pizza, and the mozzarella and tomatoes were so fresh.

pizza

I ended up ordering a beer called “Roadsmary’s Baby” made by Two Roads Brewing Company, also out of New England (Connecticut to be exact). It was a pumpkin ale that I’d never tried before, but it was rich and strong, with 6.8% ABV. I know a lot of people who turn their noses up at the pumpkin kinds, but I think Roadsmary’s Baby would satisfy even those picky beer drinkers. It’s not too overwhelming with pumpkin flavor, but is perfect for a harvest season. And I dare you to try not to call it Rosemary’s Baby like the movie…I accidentally ordered it that way, and the bartender said everyone seems to make that mistake!

roadsmarys baby

My Galaxy phone isn’t the best at taking high quality beer photos…but I try.

Once we were getting ready to leave a little before 6pm, the Black Cow had turned into a packed house. There were no more seats left at the bar and it seemed like every table was filled. The patrons seemed to be comprised mostly of adult couples or families, as well as some individuals at the bar. There was a friendly and upbeat atmosphere and even though it was busy, it didn’t feel overwhelming. We got to chatting with a few people at the bar, one in particular named Steven who was a great match for Nick to talk to all about football, as I was no help in making conversation in that area!

I loved the decor at the Black Cow.

I loved the decor at the Black Cow.

We were having such a great time at the Black Cow that we almost didn’t want to leave. It just has that jovial vibe, friendly staff, pleasant customers and trendy surroundings. We only live a couple towns away, so I know we will be back sooner rather than later to try some more delicious drinks and menu items…umm, Fall Harvest Ravioli? Beer Can Chicken? Yes, please. Those are next on my list. If you find yourself in the Hamilton, MA area, the Black Cow Tap & Grill is a must-visit!

Featured:
Black Cow Tap & Grill Hamilton – 16 Bay Road, Hamilton, MA, 978.468.1166
(also located in Newburyport, MA at 5R Merrimac Street)

Portland Part 2

The other day, I posted about our trip to Portland, Maine for our 2nd anniversary – click here to read about our first night! Today I’ll be sharing all the details of our second fun-filled night in this beautiful coastal city.

breakfast

We had a little too much fun at Top of the East the night before, so we wanted to start our day off with a hearty pick-me-up. After doing some research into top breakfast spots around Portland, we chose The Front Room on Congress Street. It had a cute country, rustic vibe to the atmosphere, and I thoroughly enjoyed my 3-egg omelet with ham, peppers, and cheddar cheese with a side of homefries. I must say, I also enjoyed the mimosa selection, and my apple cider mimosa…a little hair of the dog, as they say!

view from hill

After a filling breakfast, we headed toward Fort Allen Park which has the most beautiful views of Casco Bay. As you can see above, the view from the top of the hill was as pretty as a painting, and of course, even nicer in person!

path

Once down the hill, you can admire the views from close up as you walk along the Eastern Promenade Trail. We took this path all the way into downtown, seeing some interesting sights on the way.

train

We were passed (and I was scared by) a honking train, filled with tourists, as it made its way down tracks beside us.

Portland is a destination for many luxury cruise ships as they travel up to Canadian waters. We spotted a massive ship docked in the bay alongside where we were walking. I’m sure this generates quite a bit in tourism money for the city.

Is this not the cutest little guy you’ve ever seen? Once we arrived closer to the downtown, there was a farmers’ market of sorts going on near the path. I saw this little goat and just had to take a picture. His name is Rumplestiltskin and he is a dwarf goat who lives at Sylvan Woods Farm in Poland, Maine. Two people from the farm were there with him, selling goat’s milk soaps and products (great for the skin!) and let me grab a picture. I can see a dwarf goat as a pet in my future…

donut sign

When we first arrived downtown, I was craving ice cream, but the place we stopped into was cash only, which we didn’t have. It was then that fate intervened and I remembered being recommended to visit The Holy Donut, a glorious donut shop in Old Port that makes their donuts with real Maine potato. So it was there we headed! We arrived just in time, as a long line formed behind us once we were inside this heavenly scented shop. However, it was run like clockwork and the line kept moving.

As we got closer to the counter, we were under the gun to choose a flavor, so I went with Sea Salt Dark Chocolate and Nick chose Maine Blueberry. We were extremely glad that we ran out of cash and remembered The Holy Donut recommendation! We would have missed out on a wonderful treat otherwise.

After satisfying the sweet tooth, we decided to grab a drink at Gritty McDuff’s Brew Pub. They had a nice selection of their own craft beers, and I went with the Halloween Ale while Nick chose the Best Bitter Ale. It was a welcoming spot to grab a lunchtime pint, perfectly brewed.

grittys

I wasn’t hungry while we were at Gritty McDuff’s but I was afterwards once we did some more walking around, of course! It was then that we stopped into Old Port Tavern. To my good fortune, they had Haddock Chowder on the menu, which I had been thinking about since my first time trying it the night before. I never find haddock chowder anywhere else so I thought, might as well maximize my ability to get it while I can!

haddock chowder 2

The decor and feel of Old Port Tavern was under-the-sea nautical themed, and it seemed like a place where you can watch a big game, have some fun-loving chatter with the people around you, and grab a good drink and some chow.

bar

We did some souvenir shopping following our stop at Old Port Tavern, and Nick bought a sweatshirt to keep warm because we were about to board for a Sunset Lighthouse Cruise with Portland Discovery Land and Sea Tours! We arrived early to get in line for better seats and we were able to sit in the front row of the top of the boat, close to the tour guide and captain’s quarters.

We embarked on a beautiful journey to learn more about Portland and all its coastal scenery and history. It was a fun tour and I learned so much more about the area, thanks to our great guide and captain. We were even able to spot some animal life, including a couple of adorable seals on rocks! Oh, and having a bar on the boat was nice too 😉  I captured a few nice views below before my phone sadly died or I would have posted more lighthouse-related pictures!

tour 1

tour 2

Nick caught this up-close shot of one of the lighthouses we learned about on our tour. A family of, I believe, nine used to live here. Can you imagine raising that large of a family at a lighthouse? It would be a life unlike no other, I’d imagine!

other lighthouse

A word of advice if you ever take this cruise: BRING WARM CLOTHES. I can’t stress that enough. Although it was a warm day, it was MUCH colder out there on the water. I thought I was prepared with a jacket, but a jean jacket didn’t cut it! Other than that, I had a wonderful time aboard.

After getting off the boat and getting our land legs back, we headed out in search of somewhere to have dinner in the city. We walked around and around until we agreed upon a meal on the pretty patio of Timber Steakhouse and Rotisserie.

timber sign

The drink menu was large, with many flavorful cocktails and an excellent wine selection, but unfortunately I was all cocktailed/beer’d out for the night and stuck to water. Instead, I focused on the food and ordered Cornbread Fritters for an appetizer and Slow Roasted 1/2 Rotisserie Chicken with a side of mashed potatoes for the main course.

The Cornbread Fritters were a great choice for an appetizer, not too filling but good enough to share between the two of us with a yummy spicy remoulade to go with them. I love rotisserie chicken any night of the week, and this one was especially tasty as it was, according to the menu, “brined in maple bourbon, rosemary and garlic for 24 hours then slowly roasted to perfection”. Nick ordered the Hard Apple Cider Glazed Baby Back Ribs from the appetizer menu for his main meal and devoured it. I tried a bite as well, and it was certainly satisfying.

Unfortunately, my phone was long dead at this point so I couldn’t take any pictures of our meal. Just know, it was worth the argument we got into trying to decide upon what we wanted for dinner before we came across Timber! This was mainly because we hadn’t set out with a plan (my fault) and didn’t make reservations anywhere so waits were very long. Luckily, Timber had a nice big patio  aside of indoor seating, so we were able to be seated instantly there and it all worked out nicely.

nick and i

We were so tired out from all the activity (and hearty food and libations) of the past two days that following dinner, we called it a night and took a cab back to the hotel where we promptly fell asleep before 11pm. When we woke up the next day, it was raining out so we thought it best to head home and get back to our regular lives. I’ll always remember what fun we had on our first trip to Portland, and I’m already looking forward to the next time we can make a trip back to try out even more of the top-notch  restaurants and coastal excitement that this awesome city has to offer!

Featured:
The Front Room – 73 Congress Street, Portland, ME, 207.773.3366
Sylvan Woods Farm –  207.330.8368
The Holy Donut – (2 locations) 194 Park Ave. and 7 Exchange St., Portland, ME
Gritty McDuff’s Brew Pub Portland – 396 Fore Street, Portland, ME, 207.772.BREW
 The Old Port Tavern – 11 Moulton Street, Portland, ME, 207.774.7016
Portland Discovery Land and Sea Tours – Long Wharf, Portland, ME, 207.774.0808
Timber Steakhouse and Rotisserie – 106 Exchange Street, Portland, ME, 207.805.1469

Portland Part 1

A classic coastal New England streetscape can be found in Old Port

Classic coastal New England streetscapes can be found in Old Port and all across the city

Recently, Nick and I celebrated our 2nd anniversary. I can’t believe it’s only been two years! Most of the time it feels like I’ve known him my whole life. We love going to Maine to celebrate special occasions like this together. This time, we decided to spend a weekend in Portland. I’d never been before, and was excited to experience this coastal New England city that I’d heard such rave reviews about.

Let me tell you – if you’re looking for anywhere to do a culinary or bar tour of in New England, Portland is  a MUST visit.  Everywhere you turn there is a restaurant, bar, or other food or sweets shop. I’d heard tell of this from friends when I asked for recommendations of what to do in the city, as well as from our various cab drivers. I’m not ashamed to admit that most of our time is occupied with thinking about food, making it, or going out to restaurants and bars. There are just so many options these days! So, when we arrived in Maine, checked into our hotel in Scarborough (it saved a lot of money to stay outside of the city), and got dropped off in Old Port at dinnertime, finding something to chow down on was first on my list.

We walked around Old Port, a bustling and historic part of Portland, looking in windows and doorways of numerous bars, restaurants and shops – it was slightly daunting! When faced with too many choices, I sometimes begin to withdraw. Decision making is not my forte! We chose to just continue walking around to view more of the city. We ended up in the eclectic Arts District. People-watching in this area was top notch! We kept on the hunt for somewhere to grab a drink and eat, and finally settled on Congress Bar and Grill because they had tables and chairs on the sidewalk and we wanted to eat outside.

congress menus

Our waitress, Jen I believe, was incredibly friendly and welcomed us to the city. My day was absolutely made when I saw Haddock Chowder on the menu. If you’ve followed the blog, you may know that I’m allergic to a majority of shellfish and can’t have clam chowder. Living in New England my whole life, this is something that has haunted me. I’ve longed for that seafood taste in the comfort of a chowder, but always had to settle for something else as clam chowder was usually the only offering. However, not here! The Haddock Chowder was heavenly and all the feelings of being left out of the seafood chowder club instantly melted away. I could have eaten ten bowls of this stuff, never mind the tasty grilled biscuits it came with!

I could eat this haddock chowder every day for life and be happy

I could eat this haddock chowder every day for life and be happy

As for drinks, I had the Strawberry Vodka Lemonade, which included Svedka vodka and lemonade with house infused Grand Marnier strawberry purée. The purée really added a nice, fresh touch to this already yummy cocktail.

strawberry vodka

Jen, the waitress, recommended if we wanted to continue getting drinks after leaving Congress, we should head to Top of the East, on the last floor of the Westin Hotel down the street. That sounded like a great idea to us, so we headed over there after paying the bill.

If you ever visit Portland, take my word when I say you cannot leave before having a drink (or two, or three…) at Top of the East. After taking the elevator to the top floor and walking up some stairs, we entered a beautiful, elegant lounge with floor to ceiling glass windows on all sides, providing the best sunset views of Portland that we could imagine finding indoors.

Unfortunately, pictures from my Galaxy were unable to effectively capture the view from the top - but trust me, it was a sight to see!

Unfortunately, pictures from my Galaxy phone were unable to effectively capture the view from the top – but trust me, it was a sight to see!

The bartender that night, Jaren, hails from Miami and was fantastic at his job. We would sit just watching him mix drinks with flair, and he was so outgoing as well.  I wanted one of the non-alcoholic drinks (called Temperance Cocktails here), but with alcohol of course, so Jaren added gin and it quickly became my new favorite. I can’t remember the exact name of the drink (it looks like their online menu has been updated in the past week to reflect newer autumn cocktails) but I know it had Maine blueberries in, that’s for sure, and I believe it had mint as well.

blueberry cocktail

For the most part, Nick stuck to Allagash beer, which is brewed right in Portland. We had the best time just enjoying the luxurious yet upbeat atmosphere of Top of the East and the company and chatter of the bartenders and barbacks. It felt like we were there for hours, and we probably were. Everyone we had interacted with thus far in Portland was really friendly and inviting. It made us feel at home there.

top of the east

Cool lights add a relaxing ambience to the lounge as Jaren, the bartender, mixes up a cocktail in the bottom right

We rounded out the evening by splitting a margarita, another masterfully made drink by Jaren. We then took an Uber back to our hotel, although I wished we were staying at the Westin! Maybe next time when we have just a bit more money to spend 🙂

Overall our first night in Portland was a success, and we didn’t even have to visit a hundred places to be happy. Sometimes, it can be overwhelming visiting a new area because you feel like you have to fit every single activity and must-see place in at once. But, if you’re having a great time right where you are, why rush it? That’s what we learned from this mini-vacation. Stay tuned for Part 2!

Featured:
Congress Bar and Grill – 617 Congress Street, Portland, ME, 207.828.9944
Top of the East – 157 High Street, Portland, ME, 207.775.5411

Revisiting the Past at the Ropes Mansion

I’ve had quite a large fascination with history since childhood. I would say it started around the age of six when good old Santa Claus brought me what I thought of as the be-all, end-all of Christmas presents, an American Girl Doll. For those of you who may remember ’90s girlhood, American Girl Dolls were a coveted item for us back then. Each doll represented a different era in history and came complete with outfits designed in the styles of that period, along with chapter books of their stories about living in their specific time.

The doll I got was named Felicity Merriman, and she was supposed to be a girl living in Williamsburg, Virginia in 1774 when the Revolutionary War was brewing. I started playing as if I lived in the 18th century as well, and slowly became fascinated with the other dolls and the whole panorama of American history, from the 1700s to just before modern day. I outgrew the dolls, but never outgrew the zeal for learning about the bygone years of our country. Moving to Salem, Massachusetts was really like heaven on earth for someone like me. There is literally a gorgeous old house around every corner, all with unique stories to tell.

Old (in this case, really old!) houses are everywhere you look in Salem.

Old (in this case, really old!) houses are everywhere you look in Salem.

One home that I’d always been fascinated with, probably because of my original love for the 1700s, was the Ropes Mansion on Essex Street. Again, for other ’90s kids, you probably remember how much we loved the Halloween movie Hocus Pocus, which took place (and was partly filmed) in Salem. Well, remember Alison’s house? Yup, you got it – that is the Ropes Mansion!

The Ropes Mansion stands proudly in its spot at 318 Essex Street in Salem, MA.

The Ropes Mansion stands proudly in its spot at 318 Essex Street in Salem, MA.

Unfortunately for me, shortly after I had moved to Salem for college, a fire at the mansion caused it to be closed for tours for six years. The only way I was ever able to see the mansion was from its beautiful outdoor gardens, where we would often stop when I went on ghost tours. Legend had it that the ghost of one of the Ropes women still haunted the house after dying from burns sustained when her dress caught fire in one of the fireplaces. Tragic, right?

Since my early days in Salem I’d been eager to see the inside of this historic house, and recently my dream finally came true. In May of this year, the Ropes Mansion once again opened its doors to visitors, offering them a blast from the past upon stepping inside. The mansion holds original furnishings and items owned by the Ropes family and lots of informational plaques, as well as knowledgeable guides throughout each room. The other weekend, my sister, her boyfriend and I decided to pay a visit to this renowned estate, but happily didn’t actually have to pay anything, as tours are free! Visitors guide themselves throughout the home, but as mentioned above, docents are available to start your tour out with a history of the family and homestead, and answer any questions you may have along the way.

ropes family history

Sorry about the blurry image…the Ropes family lineage is shown on a wall in the entryway.

It was incredible to actually feel as if I was living in an 18th century home, something I’d been imagining for years since my doll was in my hands. Seeing all the antique furnishings and home goods and learning about all of it was a perfect activity, one that really got us thinking about what life must have been like back then.

The most intriguing aspect, to me, was hearing and reading about the different family members who once dwelled in the home. I was particularly moved by the story of Elizabeth Ropes Orne, who lived in the home with her mother after her father died when she was a baby. Elizabeth herself died in one of the rooms of the mansion at the age of 24 from tuberculosis. We actually stood right in the room where she passed away, and I felt pretty moved by it. There was a painting of her, with brown hair and brown eyes looking back at me. I have brown hair and brown eyes and am 24 years old, and I thought about the sadness of the whole scenario. I couldn’t imagine what she went through at my age, and subsequently, the pain of her mother upon losing her daughter at a young age, and with her husband gone as well.

But, it’s just a fact that old homes that hold generations of family members must experience death within the walls. Not to be macabre, but it’s true. One of the stranger things we discovered about the home, and death in the 18th and 19th centuries, is that relatives of the deceased would often keep locks of hair as a keepsake. On display in one of the rooms were framed lockets that held the braided hair of Abigail Ropes, the women mentioned earlier who died from burns via a fireplace in the house. There was also a necklace worn by one of the Ropes women in later years made of human hair (whose hair, I’m not sure), and a lock of hair from Elizabeth Ropes Orne, cut from her head during her toddler years as an affectionate gesture of her mother. I would have taken photos of these remembrances, but it honestly kind of creeped me out so I didn’t! I was surprised that all the hair looked to be in such mint condition for being hundreds of years old. I’m not very science savvy, so I’m sure there is some kind of explanation behind this.

If you’re looking for spooky, that was definitely the area of the mansion museum for you. If you’re into the paranormal, nope, I have no personal ghostly encounters to report, although my sister did start to feel very uneasy in the room that Elizabeth died in. I was there for the history side of things.

Outside of this, we explored a leisure room where a piano played by Elizabeth with her self-labeled music book sat on display and beautiful antique furniture was set up as it might have been in its hey day.

piano

Isn’t this piano gorgeous?

leisure room

My sister reads an informational board describing what the room she is in was used for…leisurely activities!

We walked into an exquisite side room filled from top to bottom with the family’s ornate china and glassware collections.

china cabinet

We got to touch antique kitchen tools and try to guess what they may have been used for (I was only right on one thing!) and see how the kitchen closet was stocked.

old kitchen tools

We were able to view multiple dining room sets, one set for Christmas dinner as it was in the 1840s and one set with plates each stamped with a rule of etiquette for dining in the 19th century. I definitely would have been thought of as a poor guest, I’m sure! I only ever eat with my elbows on the table, after all.

christmas dining table

One dining room table set for a Christmas feast in 1847.

 

A second dining room table, because when you live in a mansion, why not have two?

A second dining room table, because why not?

Upstairs were the bedrooms with plush beds that I think would be a nice cure for my insomnia if I were to have one in those styles!

bed

We also perused the bookshelves with many historic tomes, and I felt a bookworm jealousy at the large collection.

ropes book shelf

This is just one out of several book shelves in the mansion!

Outside, we and other visitors admired the renowned gardens – this is certainly the best time of the year to stroll around them, with flowers of every color imaginable in bloom. It was a breathtaking end to a tour I had been waiting years to take, and one that endlessly satisfied my thirst to learn more about the 18th and 19th centuries and those who lived through them.

black eyed susans

Black-Eyed Susans stand proudly in the Ropes Garden.

If you’re just as engrossed with history as I am, I highly recommend checking out the Ropes Mansion. Visiting is free, and is open to the public Saturdays and Sundays (seasonally) from 12-4 P.M. If you go, let me know about your experience traveling back in time!

Featured:

The Ropes Mansion – 318 Essex Street, Salem, MA, 01970

The Weekend Ahead: Salem Arts Festival!

salem arts fest logo

Hey all! The countdown is on to the Salem Arts Festival this Friday, June 5 through Sunday, June 7. BOOM – just like that, you have weekend plans! 🙂

The 2015 schedule is up on the festival’s website and it sure won’t disappoint – three days packed full of amazing art of all kinds, phenomenal performances, and activities for all. Friday evening features the kickoff reception at Old Town Hall, so join us for the first night of fun!

You can find the entire weekend’s lineup and details here.

The Salem Arts Festival is FREE and great for the whole family to attend. This event welcomes all in the community to gather together in appreciation of the arts and those who make it, as well as support it. I will be there this weekend covering all three days of the event along with Creative Salem, so come say hi! Follow me at @lindsroman on Twitter and Instagram and New England State of Mind on Facebook for live action from the festival as well. See you there!

An Outstanding Lunch at Sea Level Oyster Bar

outside restaurant

The other weekend, Nick and I were finally able to experience Salem’s newest and very rave-reviewed restaurant, Sea Level Oyster Bar. I had been seeing so many social media posts from friends and other businesses in the Salem area featuring their amazing drinks and meals from Sea Level, and I could not wait to try it out. It certainly lived up to all the hype!

Customers use this handy paper to order their oysters.

We went on Memorial Day, so it was busy as expected but there was plenty of room because there is an upstairs and a downstairs. We chose to sit downstairs and were led to a table by a window overlooking the beautiful Derby Wharf and the majestic historic ship, The Friendship. Although our area wasn’t directly open to the outdoors, the upstairs of the restaurant and certain areas of the downstairs are, and the whole space was very open and inviting. I wish I’d gotten more interior shots, but I was so focused on the mouthwatering food surrounding me as you will see…

Even on cloudy days, the view is pretty.

The view is pretty even on cloudy days.

Our table was covered by a large white paper cloth, and our waitress wrote her name on it when she introduced herself which I thought was a great idea. Nick started with a bowl of the New England Clam Chowder and he was an instant fan, saying it was some of the best chowder he ever had. When he got up from the table for a minute, he even told me to make sure the last bites left in the bowl weren’t taken away by the waitress!

I started out with a drink recommended to me by Joe Keefe, the General Manager of Sea Level Oyster Bar. The drink is called the Strawberry and Basil Shrub, and it was honestly one of the most unique tasting drinks I have ever had – I loved it! I wasn’t sure how I was going to like the basil aspect, but it really added a refreshing and tastebud-enticing flavor to the cocktail. This drink is definitely a must on a hot summer day while you relax overlooking the great views offered at Sea Level.

sealevel

Sea Level Oyster Bar offers many more options than seafood for those like me who are allergic to shellfish. For my meal, I ordered the Grilled Cheese, but this was no ordinary Grilled Cheese. This version came with Red Dragon and cheddar cheese, ale mustard, apples, and bacon on grilled Texas toast. The texture of the apples, bacon, and cheese were a wonderful combination. The ale mustard really took the sandwich to another level. I’m not even a mustard gal, but I would like to purchase a bottle of this stuff!

A much more grown-up grilled cheese, with a side of house made chips!

A much more grown-up grilled cheese, with a side of house made chips!

Nick ordered the So Cal Chicken Sandwich, which features grilled chicken, bacon, cheddar, avocado, lettuce, and tomato on grilled Texas toast. He was very satisfied with his choice, and I had a bite as well. You can never go wrong with grilled chicken, avocado and bacon!

Because we wanted the full experience, we decided to take a look at the dessert menu. In an act I’d never seen at a restaurant before, the waitress came over and stamped the dessert menu onto our paper tablecloth. What a unique idea!

We chose the Salted Caramel Cookie Pie with vanilla ice cream on top – so decadent, so delicious. A group at the table near us even ordered the same dessert because they looked over and saw us eating ours in delight. Salty and sweet is one of my favorite flavor combos.

At the end of our meal, our bellies were more than full and our spirits were up. Eating food clearly made with care and detail and having the tastiest of drinks while overlooking the gorgeous views of Salem, Massachusetts is an experience I highly recommend. Sea Level Oyster Bar absolutely deserves all the praise it has been getting since its opening. Here’s to many more successful years of business!

Featured: 
Sea Level Oyster Bar – 94 Wharf Street, Salem, MA, 978.741.0555

Save the Date for the Salem Arts Festival

salem arts fest logo

For the past six years, thousands have gathered in Salem, Massachusetts during three days in June for the renowned Salem Arts Festival downtown. 2015 will be lucky year number seven! Whether you are an artist, a performer, or someone who just appreciates and is intrigued by the local art scene, there is much to excite all the senses at the Salem Arts Festival. From painting, photography, music, dance, writing, film, sculpture and so much more, this festival welcomes and encourages art of all mediums to be showcased and appreciated by the community. The Salem Arts Festival is free and great for families, offering activities for children as well.

The 2015 festival will be held Friday, June 5 through Sunday, June 7 and will offer many ways for participants to get their art fix, from galleries to indoor and outdoor performances, a street fair, interactive events and more. Each year, the festival is planned and put on by the wonderful Salem Main Streets, along with a host of awesome volunteers. The goal of Salem Main Streets, a non-profit organization, is “the revitalization of downtown Salem as a vibrant year-round, retail, dining and cultural destination through business recruitment, retention and the promotion of the downtown district”.

Are you a local artist, or know of one? The call for gallery artists for the festival is still out! Don’t miss your chance to submit your work as part of this awesome event. It’s a great way to build exposure within the local arts scene and connect with the community. Visit this page on the Creative Salem site for more information on how to get your work featured. All mediums are accepted! Not an artist, but would like to be more involved in the event? Volunteers are still needed as well! Click here for more information about volunteering.

I wouldn’t miss the Salem Arts Festival for the world, and neither should you! There’s a reason it drew over 5,000 people to Salem last year. It’s truly a feast for the eyes, ears, mind, body and soul for all ages and all members of the community, whether your work is featured in it or whether you’re like me and just love to view art and watch it in action! I’ll see you there 🙂

For more information, visit the Salem Arts Festival website.

A Leisurely Lunch at the Portsmouth Brewery

Tugboats fill the waters of Portsmouth this past Saturday.

Tugboats filled the waters of Portsmouth this past Saturday.

We had some more gorgeous weather this past weekend, and when that occurs, I generally refuse to be anywhere but a city or town with seaside charm. On Saturday, Nick, our friend Anthony and I packed into my car and headed to Portsmouth. I knew it would be colder by the coast, but once we arrived I realized it was a bit more chilly than I had even thought it would be! Luckily I had brought a jacket, and we enjoyed our time walking around.

breweryfront

We arrived in time for a late lunch, and I suggested the Portsmouth Brewery where I had been a couple times before with my family. After checking out the menu posted to the outside window, Nick and Anthony agreed and we went inside to give a name for a table. There was a wait but we were in no rush. The hostess told us we could go down the basement level for the time being where there was a bar and full menu if we preferred to stay down there to eat. A great aspect of the Portsmouth Brewery is that if you choose to wait in the downstairs, they will send you a text when your table is ready and you can let them know if you will be back up or not. Convenient!

The basement level of the Brewery, called the Jimmy LaPanza Lounge, offered a full bar, billiards, TVs, a shuffleboard table and various seating areas including tables, stools and couches. Rock music in the background kept the vibe. It wasn’t a huge space, but just right for hanging out with a few friends if you didn’t want to deal with the busy upstairs. I wish I had thought to take some pictures!

We ordered beers while in the Lounge, as the bartender/waiter there told us he could bring them upstairs when our table was ready. I taste-tested the Hefeweizen and the Dirty Blonde, settling on the Blonde which was light and refreshing, exactly my style. Anthony ordered the Lolo IPA, which he was very satisfied with, and Nick decided on an outside brewed beer, the Allagash Curieux – with 10% alcohol content, it made him feel pretty good! (Truth be told, I had to call the Brewery to remember the name of this one). I had a sip and while the beer itself wasn’t warm, it seemed to warm me up inside as it went down, proof of its strength (and probably the hints of bourbon from the barrel brewing).

My "Blonde" beer - perfect!

My “Blonde” beer – perfect!

We were called (or rather, texted) up to our table right after ordering our beers, so they were brought upstairs and were were seated in a side room off the main area of the restaurant that was open and bright.

An eye-catching piece of decor graced the wall above our table.

An eye-catching piece of decor graced the wall above our table.

There were many tasty sounding items on the menu, but I was in Portsmouth to have some seafood. I ordered the Fried Fish Sandwich, with a beer battered Gulf of Maine white fish fillet. It came with tartar sauce and a chipotle mustard. I added both to the sandwich and the chipotle mustard provided a very nice kick. The fillet was fresh and filling. I ordered rice and beans as a side to stay a little healthier since the fish was fried.

breweryfish

Nick had the Southwestern Chorizo Burger, a massive burger that looked fit for a king. Our waiter recommend he get a fried egg on top, as that’s the way employees of the Brewery like it best. Nick followed the suggestion and really enjoyed the addition to the burger.

breweryburger

Anthony went with an appetizer, the nachos, which came fully loaded. I was a bit jealous, as nachos are my guilty pleasure! We all ate and chatted, enjoying our delicious beers, food, and the company of friends.

brewerynachos

After finishing our lunch we started to head out of the Brewery, but not before checking out their awesome store. The store was full of cool Portsmouth Brewery and beer lover items like shirts, coasters, magnets, bottle openers, glasses and more. There is also an online version of the store, for those who are interested!

breweryswag

We browsed quickly and then headed back out into the sunny day. We spent the rest of our time walking around the bustling city and checking out the waterfront, feeling full and happy from our relaxing lunch. Each time I’ve visited the Portsmouth Brewery, I’ve always had a great experience and am happy I was able to introduce it to Nick and Anthony as a fun Saturday activity. Next time, we will have to stay for a tour!

Featured:
The Portsmouth Brewery – 56 Market Street, Portsmouth, NH, 603.431.1115

Salem’s Art Scene Thrives at the Creative Salem 3×5 Gallery

3x5 art 1

This weekend, Nick and I had the exciting experience of attending the Creative Salem 3×5 pop up gallery reception. Artwork on display and for sale was 3×5 in size, but artists chose all different media. This made for a bevy of truly unique pieces – drawings, paintings, collages, photography, graphic design and more.

Nick and I arrived towards the beginning of the reception and it filled up fast, which was a wonderful thing! The gallery was held at the Salem Theatre on Lafayette Street. There was a DJ, cash bar and tasty treats from Jodi Bee Bakes all adding to the energy of the event. I slowly perused the wall of 3×5 art, red wine in hand, admiring all the intricacy of each piece while trying to imagine what the artist was thinking as they created it.

An empty spot indicates a 3x5 was purchased!

An empty spot indicates a 3×5 was purchased!

The 3x5s could be purchased for $15 each, and I was having trouble deciding! I asked Nick to point out his favorite, and he showed me one I hadn’t looked at yet but then fell in love with, an acrylic on canvas of three different colored birds sitting on a branch, budding with flowers. I am a textural person, and aside of the brightly colored painting, I enjoyed the way the canvas and chosen medium felt. I snatched it up and bought it because I knew it would be gone soon if I didn’t. Can you spot it in the photo above?

traditional art wall 1

3×5 artwork was not the only kind featured at the event. There was a traditional gallery as well, with much larger works created by artists from all around New England. The art ranged in theme, but I was most drawn to scenes from different cities, such as Boston, New York, Gloucester and Salem. There were some detailed and gorgeous paintings of animals that stood out to me as well, and so much more.

Artist: Scott King, acrylic on wood

“State House”, “Boston” and “The Ritz”: Scott King, acrylic on wood

During the event there were tables set up around the space where attendees could create their own 3×5 art for a chance to win a great prize pack, so before leaving Nick and I made a couple. I’m a writer and sadly am not blessed with the ability to make visually appealing art by hand, but at least I had fun! The 3×5 gallery was a huge success, so much so that a second one to be held at a larger location in the fall is already being discussed!

Nick getting to work on his own 3x5.

Nick getting to work on his own 3×5.

When I arrived home with my purchased 3×5 artwork, I looked at the name of the artist on the back again. Each piece was a mystery as to who created it until you purchased it. My 3×5, titled “Three Birds”, was painted by Nancy Newton Putnam.

“Three Birds”: Nancy Newton Putnam

As I am a curious person by nature, I decided to try and find her on Facebook to say thanks for her beautiful artwork, and get her thoughts behind it. Luckily, she was sweet enough to quickly respond to me! Nancy stated that the inspiration for “Three Birds” came from a calendar her hairdresser had given to her and originally had four birds, but only three would fit on her 3×5 canvas.

When asked about how her passion for painting began, Nancy said that “My art career got started in March of 2014 at a Wicked Art Bar painting event. I had never ever painted freehand before…since that day I have painted well over 100 paintings on my own, and at least 50 Wicked Art Bar supported events!” Nancy had only exhibited and sold her art at one show at her hairdresser’s, but when a friend mentioned that she should create artwork for the 3×5 gallery, “I jumped at the chance,” she said.

Besides “Three Birds”, she told me she had made a 3×5 painting of a lighthouse which also sold, and that another woman had been asking about the bird painting, but I must have purchased it before she went back for it. Nancy also sent me photos of some of her other paintings, and they are lovely as well. I’m sure she will provide more paintings for the next 3×5 show, and I look forward to seeing them!

Salem is such an incredible city with an energetic creative scene and many supporters, which is a big part of what draws me (and I’m sure others) to it so much. Empowering, promoting and bringing together this vibrant scene is  Creative Salem, which put on the event and which the funds benefited:

Creative Salem celebrates the city of Salem as a hub of creativity, and is dedicated to promoting collaboration, facilitating quality artistic events, and providing contemporary tools for local creative professionals to find and connect with new audiences while encouraging them to apply their skills to help solve challenges facing the community. — creativesalem.com/about

The 3×5 gallery also supported the mission of the organization I interned for in college, Salem Main Streets. This is a non-profit dedicated to building and maintaining a thriving downtown through supporting and promoting new and current local businesses as well as holding popular events throughout the year such as the Salem Farmers’ Market and Salem Arts Festival, which are both coming up in June.

Creativity abounds everywhere you look in Salem and all throughout the year, so come on down to this historic city and be a part of it all!