Weekend Recap: Strawberry Picking & The Lake

This weekend was one for the books! On Friday, Greg and I took my niece and nephew strawberry picking at Russell Orchards. I had never been strawberry picking before and despite the extreme heat, we had a blast. The kids also enjoyed looking at all the farm animals and eating one too many cider donuts.

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We ended up with four cartons of delicious strawberries. It was cute to watch Anton hustling around and counting his strawberries trying to make sure he had “the most.” 😉

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Then yesterday we drove up to Greg’s parents house in Sunapee. We went kayaking out on the lake with his parents, and then hopped on his aunt and uncle’s boat and spent some time cruising around the lake. I had only kayaked once before and forgot how much work it is! It was so much fun though – there is nothing better in my opinion than being out on the lake or ocean. I was laughing the whole time, especially when I kept crashing into Greg.

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Boston Blogger Summer Kickoff: Urban Grape, Follain, & Ore Jewelry

Last night was the Boston Blogger Summer Kickoff event. It was a rotation of 3 awesome local businesses: Urban Grape, Follain, and Ore Jewelry.

IMG_8083FullSizeRender copy 2FullSizeRender copy 3First up was The Urban Grape. Their motto is “Drink Progressively,” and I soon understood why. Their wine is organized by body – so each wine is given a number between 1 and 10, 1 being the lightest, and 10 being the heaviest, and the wines are placed in order of their numbering along the wall. This makes it easier to pair them with certain dinners, or more easily find similar selections of the type of wine you are looking for and have the ability to choose a wine within that category.

The atmosphere is beautiful, and the staff is super friendly. And check out that huge selection of rose! We were given an interesting talk about 3 different types of wine, and were able to taste them all. We tried Secco Italian Bubbles (a white, bubbly wine); Il Rose Di Casanova (a light but slightly textured rose); and ‘a Rina 2013 by Girolamo Russo. This last one was a delicious red wine which I loved so much I ended up purchasing one to bring home. I am picky with my red wines and this one really knocked it out of the park.

They host free tasting events on the weekends (Thursday & Friday 5-8 and Saturday 2-5) so I will definitely be going back with Greg!

IMG_8086FullSizeRender copyNext up was Follain.
Follain is a “new beauty store that offers a curated selection of the healthiest, highest-performance skincare, hair care, and cosmetic products available – from over 30 U.S.-made brands.”
Their mission statement says “No one should have to sacrifice their health and values for beauty.”

Honestly, I fell in love with this store. The two girls on staff were very knowledgeable and I felt like they were speaking my language. We talked about how many products women put on each day, and just how toxic most of these products are. I think about this frequently with deodorant and the aluminum in it, as well as so much of my makeup and hair products that are loaded with parabens. I also love that all of the products are made in the U.S. Walking into Follain felt like the start of a revolution in how I would like my personal care to be handled.

I walked out with this deodorant by Soapwalla. I used it for the first time today and so far so good. It has that essential oil peppermint/tea tree/lavender smell that I am obsessed with.
We were given a sample of this cream (Tammy Fender antioxidant cream with neroli and orange) and I am 10000% going to be purchasing it. I was geeking out last night over how amazing my face felt after I used it.
The same goes for this cleanser (Ursa Major Fantastic Face Wash) that I used before the lotion. Love love love.

FullSizeRenderLast up was Ore jewelry and somehow this is the only picture I took. This precious ring was my favorite thing in the store. Ore Jewlery is “all local, all ladies.” Each piece is crafted here by local women. Their website states: “Ore is your destination for high-end artisanal accessories that empower the wearers and support the talented artists who make them.”
My involvement with Noonday Collection has made me very supportive of women who create things in order to make an income, and more importantly use it as a form of empowerment, so Ore certainly has a message that I can stand behind. And all of their jewelry is so unique and gorgeous!

Overall it was a super fun night and I found 3 new favorite shops I never even knew about here in Boston. A big thank you to Boston Bloggers for putting the event together!

27th Birthday Weekend

I turned 27 on Saturday so to celebrate, Greg and I went to my house in New Hampshire for the weekend. It’s my favorite place in the world and we had such an amazing time.
On the way up there I spotted a little turtle on the highway so we got out of the car and saved it. That was already the best start to the weekend cause I’m obsessed with turtles!
The first day we went into Wolfeboro and had a drink at a rooftop cafe overlooking the lake. Then we went home and changed and went to jump in the lake because it was so hot out.

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IMG_7884After that we got ready and headed to the mini golf course which happens to be right next to the restaurant we wanted to go to. ((Greg won the mini golf game)).

IMG_7920IMG_7918After dinner we went back home and took a walk down to the pond. I found a giant frog and a billion tadpoles. On the way to the pond I also got the coolest sign that Daisy was there with me, which of course made me cry but was such a special moment. After the walk we went home and played a game of Ticket to Ride, which I won – woohoo! Then we went out for a late night ice cream run cause I felt it was only appropriate to end my birthday with cotton candy ice cream with rainbow sprinkles.

IMG_7939IMG_7937IMG_7942On Sunday it was raining so we decided to find some fun indoor stuff. Greg suggested Funspot, which I was going to suggest but hadn’t realized how bad he’d been wanting to go for so long- so it worked out well. Funspot is the largest arcade in the world! Greg was so excited about all the games on the second level, and I was more drawn to the first level with the games you could win tickets from. He was a good sport and spent the majority of his time helping me win tickets :).

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IMG_7956On the way back to the house we stopped at the Old Country Store and browsed around for a while, and ended up getting some aged cheese and a sour pickle, and some other cool stuff. We were having such a good time talking on the way back that we drove 22 miles out of the way and didn’t even realize it! haha. Once we finally got back to the house we packed up our stuff to head back home. But on the way we went to the Poor People’s Pub for dinner, which happened to be another thing Greg had always wanted to do. It was delicious and I love the atmosphere there.

IMG_7973IMG_7974I honestly couldn’t have asked for a better weekend.

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Amirah Fundraiser at The Cabot

Last night I attended the Amirah fundraiser at The Cabot in Beverly. Amirah is a safe house and they are raising funds so that they are able to re-open and provide a healing place for women who have been rescued from human/sex trafficking. Amirah is a non-profit organization located in the Boston area that strives “to provide a refuge for those seeking to break free from exploitation and heal in community on their journey toward lasting hope.”

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Sex trafficking is a huge problem all over the world, and even right here in the United States. Yet there is very little awareness.

Did you know…

In Boston, there are 12 special agents dedicated solely to human trafficking, and 12 special agents dedicated solely to child exploitation.

There have been 121 known cases in New England this year alone. This is already double the number from the entire year of 2014.

The women have been as young as 8 years old and as old as 51 years old.

The average age for a woman who has been trafficked is 16-26 years old. They are usually U.S. citizens, and described by the homeland security officer as your typical “girl next door.”

Two teenagers from Danvers were once trafficked right here at the Liberty Tree Mall. A man approached them with a false promise that a modeling agency was in town and would be at his party that weekend and that they would love to meet the girls. The girls went to the party and were drugged, taken far from home, and forced into being the man’s sex slaves.

Many of the women do not even know they are victims. Many of them are young and truly believe this man who is selling them multiple times per day is actually their boyfriend.

There is only one safe house in the New England area, with just 3 beds and 1 couch.

Last year there were 7 consecutive raids of massage parlors in Middlesex county full of trafficked women.

There were recently 26 women rescued in the Hampton/Manchester/Portsmouth areas of New Hampshire who were enslaved.

There are approximately 250 pimps in Boston.

These are just a small number of the facts.

It might feel overwhelming, but there are SO many ways to get involved. Amirah is looking for monthly donors, as well as volunteers to help the women at the home when they re-open. Check out their website for more information if you would like to be a part of the solution.

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 The new executive director, Stephanie Clark (shown above), gave an incredible speech last night. She said she is done knowing about the problem and staying quiet. She talked about how we all can leave a legacy behind and she said, “Silence WILL NOT be my legacy. What is yours?

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Jasmine Marino also spoke. Jasmine is from MA and is a survivor of human trafficking. Jasmine is just like you and me. But she got put in a horrible situation and she was manipulated and became dependent on this man that she truly believed cared about her. It can happen to any of us. Trust. Me.

I am really hoping to dedicate more of my time to this cause and hopefully become a volunteer with Amirah. If you would like any more information on the organization or to further discuss this issue, I would be happy to talk with you about it. Email: jenmgilson@gmail.com

Easter Weekend

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Easter weekend was so much fun! Friday I went to see my niece and nephew, and brought stuff for egg dyeing and an Easter egg hunt. They had SO much fun and I loved their excitement.
They made the cutest eggs- even though the dye didn’t really work they didn’t care because they painted the eggs and stuck on glitter and sequins. And then they ended up eating most of the eggs after they decorated them 😉
We got to go outside afterwards and blow bubbles and chase each other around on bikes and scooters.

On Sunday I went to work in the church nursery in the morning, and then we went off to Greg’s aunts house for a big Easter celebration. We hung out, had a huge delicious meal, had an Easter egg hunt (!!!) and then had dessert and played Trivial Pursuit. His family is huge and so much fun to be around and I had the best time. I haven’t gotten to participate in an Easter egg hunt since I was little so that was definitely a highlight! The eggs had tickets you cashed in for scratch tickets and other fun prizes, some had money in them, and of course lots of candy. I love his family’s enthusiasm for holidays and how much fun I always have when I get to go with him for holidays.

I hope you all had a good Easter ❤

The First Warm Day in Forever

IMG_5190 FullSizeRender copy 2 IMG_5193 IMG_5218 FullSizeRender copyYesterday Luli and Miley had their annual vet exam, and it was so nice out that we knew we had to do something outdoorsy afterwards. So we walked through feet of snow to get onto Dane Street Beach, and it was like entering an alternate universe to finally be on ground that was warm and not covered in snow.
It had been WAY too long since I’d heard the sound of waves crashing and seagulls.
Of course it’s freezing out again today, but this definitely made me look forward to the warmer weather!

TWO.

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Two years ago today, I was helping out at an adoption event for Sweet Paws Rescue at Petco Unleashed.
A transport of dogs had just been released from isolation, and many of them were being picked up by their pre-approved adopters at petco. The others were there for people to meet so they could go home and fill out an application afterwards if they were interested.
Miley had been pre-adopted, and slept in the crate through the entire event waiting for her new owner to come get her.
Only.. the event ended and her owner hadn’t showed up. We kept calling but didn’t get an answer. In the meantime we were packing up and I was holding on to her. When it was time to leave and we still hadn’t gotten ahold of her owner, I asked the directors, “Can I take her?” I meant just to foster, but I KNEW even at that point she would not be leaving.
She was honestly the cutest thing I had ever seen in my life and I felt instantly bonded to her.
We made more attempts to contact the woman who was supposed to have come and gotten her, but she had completely disappeared.
I like to think all along it was meant to happen that way because I can not imagine my life without Miley. Even thinking that someone else was so close to owning her takes my breath away sometimes.
She is the most loving dog, she is always always close to me, and has literally sat by my side through all the stressful moments of studying for the bar exam.
After I lost Daisy I was so scared I’d never love a dog like that, since we had a special bond. I can now say my bond with Miley is stronger than anything I’ve ever felt in my life and my heart could burst every time I look at her.
I’m so thankful to Sweet Paws Rescue for rescuing her off the side of the road.
We are having a “gotcha day” party for her tonight, complete with cake and Frosty Paws 🙂