Salem in November

Everyone wants to visit the infamous Salem in the Fall, but if you’re looking to beat the crowds and still enjoy New England in the Fall, consider visiting “off season” in November.

It’s important to note that some businesses do take time off right after Halloween for a few days or a couple of weeks to take a breather after the rush that is Halloween season, but we found the second week of November (around the 8th) to be perfect timing!

If you’re not needing to experience all the spooky Halloween specials, decor, and events, then November is the perfect time to explore the shops, streets, and main attractions that Salem has to offer.

We never had to wait in long lines to get in or to see anything. Most of the time we were able to walk right up and in. This was especially true of the Witch House. Usually, this place has hordes of people lined up to take a picture in front of the house, but when we went, there was only one other couple taking photos. Once they were done, I was able to snap a few pictures without being rushed.

Witch House – Salem, MA

Initially, because the area by the house was so empty, I figured the house itself must be closed, but the trick is that you have to enter from the back of the house, which is a little hidden off the main street so many people probably didn’t see the door at first. We were the only ones in the entrance when we arrived, no wait, and we were able to get in right away and explore the historic home.

One of our favorite attractions we visited was The Daniels House. It was one of the oldest still standing mansions in town, and is actually still lived in today by the family who owns it. You can also stay at the house, as it functions as a bed and breakfast too. Pretty cool! We enjoyed a wonderful and insightful tour here. It was just us and one other couple and our tour guide. One of the highlights of the tour was getting to have a mug of tea as you learn about the history of the home, the family, and the town. Our tour guide was absolutely fantastic, and was the best one we encountered during our trip.

Daniels House – Salem, MA

If you’re a big Hocus Pocus fan like me, you’ll definitely want to check out some of the sites and buildings from the movie. The Ropes Mansion and Garden wasn’t open during this time of year, but you could walk around the outside and the gardens for free. It didn’t seem like many people knew this house was in Hocus Pocus because I was able to walk right up the front door and pose without interruption. The gardens in November aren’t looking their best due to the weather, but it was still fun to do a quick walkaround.

Ropes Mansion – Hocus Pocus – Salem, MA

After checking out Alison’s house, you might be inclined to drive by the main house from Hocus Pocus, where Max and Dani lived. It’s important to note, the house is a private residence, and the people living there rightfully don’t want you coming up to the house and disturbing them. The house is also surprisingly right on the waterfront in a quiet neighborhood, something you don’t realize from the movie. If you must see it, consider just driving by or standing by the waterfront or sidewalk for a really quick picture.

Salem, MA

If you’re looking for another tour of a historic building, or you’re a fan of classic novels, you might want to consider seeing The House of the Seven Gables. The tour takes a while, and the buildings on the grounds are not well ventilated or air conditioned, so it can get a bit stuffy. When I went, (Nov 2022) masks were still required, which I was grateful for, but it did cause you to heat up more easily. Tours are pretty packed, and not as quiet or private as some of the others we took. Also worth noting, some of the “secret” spaces you visit are not for the claustrophobic, those with mobility issues, or people who are a bit bigger (think very tight spots). Everyone on our tour got through the “secret” spots of the house ok, but I’m not sure what would happen if you opted out. You might just need to wait outside during certain parts of the tour?

The House of the Seven Gables – Salem, MA

For those who are National Parks fans, which my boyfriend and I are, you might want to consider checking off Salem Maritime National Historic Site on your list of Parks, or getting your National Parks Passport stamped at the visitor center. Apparently, Salem is the first National Historic Site in the United States. As sites and parks go, I was disappointed. By the waterfront, there’s a number of old buildings from when Salem was the busiest sea port around, but you can’t actually go into any of them. Not sure if this is a yearly thing or an off-season thing, but it was disappointing.

We wanted to check out the replica of the Friendship of Salem, an old merchant boat, but they were repainting it during our visit, so we couldn’t go on it. You can walk along the pier by the boat, which was completely empty, and get up close to a small lighthouse at the water’s edge. A cute spot for a quick photo.

Friendship of Salem

The main “building” for the National Historic Site is the old armory across town, the Salem Armory Visitor Center. It’s a pretty decent visitor center, but not super exciting. We looked at a few of the displays, checked out the gift shop section, used the bathroom, and stamped our passport and called it a day.

If you’re looking for a great quality gift shop, look no further than the gift shop of the Salem Witch Museum. You can enter it from the street without going through the “museum” if you’d like. The shop had a lot of great souvenirs from traditional Salem witchy stuff, to books, Hocus Pocus items, Harry Potter gifts, clothing, jewelry, and more! This is not your traditional cheap souvenir store.

A lot of people have strong opinions on the Salem Witch Museum itself, and if it’s worth it or not. We did end up going in, and bought tickets right on our phone. It’s a popular attraction, even off season, but there was a lot of availability the day of. The displays could use some updating and the audio some level tweaking, but it’s a good storytelling spot if you want to learn a bit more while sitting down for most of the time. Do not expect a traditional museum that you walk around and see displays in.

While on the topics of museums, the Peabody Essex Museum is famous and well regarded. We stopped by, even though I’m not the biggest museum fan, and spent a couple hours exploring. They have some interesting displays of nautical artifacts, Asian art, a small section about the Witch Trials, and the Yin Yu Tang house.

If you have a sweet tooth, check out the oldest candy shop in the US, Ye Olde Pepper Companie. They’ve been open since 1806! It’s a short walk from the waterfront, Daniels House, or The House of Seven Gables. It’s a tiny shop, but worth a visit. How many people can say they’ve been to the oldest candy shop?

Ye Olde Pepper Companie

Finally, round out your off-season visit with a night tour around town. There’s a number to choose from, depending on interests. Expect to do a couple hours of walking, regardless of rain! We did the Bewitched After Dark tour, and had fun. I don’t know if we learned a whole lot of new things, but Sarah was a great storyteller.

Overall, if you’re looking to visit Salem, consider going during the less crowded months of the year. We were able to walk to all the main attractions without issue or crowds, and do just about everything there is to see and do. November is a great time to visit with decent weather, cheaper prices, and more availability of attractions and no lines!

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Blood work at home – Getlabs Review

I’m not a fan of any sort of medical procedure. Just going to the doctors office for a physical got my heart rate through the roof. Mind you, it was my first physical as an adult. The last time I went to a normal doctor was right before college, many years ago.

As expected, my doctor wanted to run some tests and get some blood work done. This was not good news to my ears. The only time I have ever had blood work was several years ago when I was living in California for a year, and it was an absolutely horrible experience.

My doctor’s office is a small little local practice, but she has a lab come in on most Fridays to take blood. Since I had to fast for this appointment, I would need an early slot because I know I get hangry and lightheaded. Unfortunately, all the slots were taken up for before lunch, so I started on a hunt to find a lab on my own.

One night, my significant other found a company online called Getlabs. This company will send someone directly to you in your home (or office) to do your requested labs. It seemed like an interesting idea to me. After thinking it over, and seeing their availability, I decided to make an appointment.

While the website claims that appointments start at $35, I never saw the cost that low. Every day and slot I personally saw was for $79, which to me still seemed worth it as someone terrified of blood draws and hoping for a more intimate personalized experience. It’s worth noting, my significant other saw some slots of $35 really late at night for a next day appointment show up just once on the site, so maybe keep checking at night?

Scheduling an appointment was very easy. You share pictures of your insurance card and script from your doctor, and off you go! I booked my appointment the night before, and there was plenty of availability and the slot I wanted was still there.

The day of my appointment I received a text with an estimated time of arrival of my phlebotomist, which was smack in the middle of the 2 hour slot I chose. The person showed up maybe 20-30 minutes after the given estimate. Not sure how they calculate the estimates, but I didn’t fault the person since they were still there on time according to my slot.

We got set up on my dining table, I turned my head to not watch, and she got to work taking my blood.

I informed my phlebotomist that people have had trouble finding a vein in my arm, so she immediately, without question, switched to using the top of my hand instead. While this probably is more painful, it’s more comfortable for me since my veins are front and center on my hand, and I would rather this than them poking and prodding me multiple times.

I did start to feel faint at the end, but since I was home, right after she left I was able to eat and drink something and lay down on the couch. From start to finish, everything took maybe 10 minutes?

My experience with Getlabs was really positive. The phlebotomist was nice and gentle, and did a great job making sure I was comfortable. I’m proud to say there were no tears this time around.

The Pros:

  • No phone calls! As a millenial, I don’t like to call to schedule appointments.
  • Privacy in your own home. You can be comfortable in your own setting and don’t have to go and wait at a facility or hospital.
  • Technology oriented company. You get notices via text and email, and can do all your scheduling on the site.
  • When I emailed the company after my appointment with a quick question, I got a fast response.
  • Mask was worn by phlebotomist

The Cons:

  • The listed $35 price doesn’t seem to be the norm from my experience checking out dates and times.
  • No text response when I texted them with a question the night before. I figured the phone line would still be working since they just texted me with confirmation, but it looks like they have limited texting staffing hours. I didn’t get a response in the morning either.

Would I choose Getlabs again?
Absolutely. This experience was hands down a whole lot better than my first blood work experience.

Is it kind of “bougie” since I’m scheduling an at home out of pocket expense that not everyone can justify? Sure, but for me the cost was worth it.

Getting my blood work done at home made me feel a lot more comfortable, and provided a patient and private experience. I didn’t feel rushed and I didn’t feel embarrassed to be nervous. If you’re like me with difficult veins, bad previous experiences, or just plain afraid of blood work, I would definitely recommend considering an at home service! I feel proud of myself, and braver for having gotten through it without any issues.

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2022 Reading Challenge Recap

With January here, it’s time for my yearly Goodreads Reading Challenge check-in.

Last year I hoped to tackle 30 books throughout the year, and I was quite surprised to see I strongly surpassed my goal by reading a total of 43 books! Woohoo!

Let’s take a closer look at what I read.

As usual, it was another year full of books about magical universes, witches, queens, and British period pieces about romance.

I decided to give some classics a try this year too, reading Little Women and the books in its series, and I have to say, I didn’t get the appeal. The books weren’t that captivating to me, and it almost felt like a chore to finish them. I’m still intrigued to check out the recent movie adaptation of Little Women that came out over the past couple of years to see if that’s more captivating.

One of my favorite books included Deep Blue, a book that kicks off a series focusing around mermaids and the sea. Some of the visuals in the book were just simply stunning, and made me feel like I was right there in the reeds with pearls and cute fish circling around.

If you’re interested in YA Fiction, How to Hang a Witch was a great and easy read that I couldn’t put down. A fun read if you’re planning a trip to Salem, Massachusetts too.

For my 2023 Goodreads Challenge, I’m aiming for 33 books. Just a few days ago was my 33rd birthday, and it seemed like a fitting number to try and strive for. I’ve already got one book under my belt, and I’m in the middle of a second book that was gifted to me for Christmas.

Happy Reading!

Be my Goodreads friend here.

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Skin Cancer Screenings – Do it!

Over the past month and a half I’ve been on a journey with my skin. As a natural redhead, my skin coloring is pale, and the sun loves to burn me until I resemble a little lobster. I’ve seen some posts on TikTok and even some stories in the news about skin cancer scares and that it’s always a good idea to get frequent skin checks. It seemed like a sign from the universe to finally get myself checked out.

I was a little nervous for my first skin check because I read that if they find something suspicious or concerning that they’ll take a sample right then and there. I’ve never been a fan of going to doctors or the prospect of any sort of procedure due to fear of needles, pain, and surgery. However, with Covid-19, my fear of shots has basically been healed, although I prefer to not look or see the needle.

During my visit, they did a thorough check of my whole body. There was a mole on my back that I’ve pretty much had my whole life, or as long as I can remember. Yea, it was a little sketchy looking and definitely had some characteristics you’re supposed to look out for, but I never thought much about it. It’s also hard to see your own back! Of course when the dermatologist saw that, she said that it needed to go. What she really meant at that phase was that a sample needed to be taken.

Before I knew it, they were using a pretty painful shot of anesthesia in my back and getting to work. While I could feel movement of them “shaving” a piece of the mole off, there wasn’t pain associated with it, which was good! The shot, as the assistant in the room warned me, was definitely the worst part. Not sure why it hurts so bad, but it’s not as painless as a Covid shot.

Ten days later I got my results, and while I didn’t have cancer, the cells were extremely dysplastic (or unusual) and something they needed to take care of right away, or it could lead to cancer. Within 2 more weeks I was back in the office, this time laying on my belly to have my mole cut out of me. I was quite nervous this time because the dermatologist, when she called to give me results, told me it was more invasive and would require two layers of stitches. I’ve never had stitches! After 2-3 shots of anesthesia (go redheads!), which were painful again, the procedure began. The doctor and her assistant kept talking to me the whole time to keep me relaxed and to make me comfortable, which was great. When it was time for the stitches I could feel the strings rolling around on my back, but thankfully didn’t feel any pulling or needles going in and out of me. Overall, the procedure was a lot less scary than I anticipated, and I was quite proud of my bravery. Brian took me out to lunch afterwards, and we took the day off to relax.

I recently got the results back and the stitches out. All clear! I’ll now be going for annual skin checks, and recommend you do too! These visits should be covered by your insurance and are important for everyone, regardless of age or skin color. I’m glad I went and got checked out. If I can do it, you’ll be just fine!

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A Real RealEats Review

I’m not much of a cook, and I grew up in a household where family dinner time wasn’t really a thing, and the fanciest we got on a weekday might have been a bowl of pasta and sauce. My family also doesn’t conform to stereotypical or old fashion gender roles, so it wasn’t like my mom was expected to cook, and some of my more favorite meals were often created by my father.

Today, I’m in my 30s and in a modern millennial relationship where no one is expected to be the chef of the household, and we often do our own thing on our own time for dinner due to work or workout schedules. However, I’ve been wanting to branch out a bit and have a few more meals that aren’t packaged up frozen dinners. We’ve been meaning to try another meal service and I just so happened to come across one on Facebook of all places that looked decent, and when I checked the menu, there was actually several options that both of us would enjoy, so I took a chance on a company called RealEats.

It’s a subscription service, but you can skip weeks or put it on hold, so you can avoid being charged week over week, which is great for testing them out on the first week. I placed my order mid/late last week and it arrived today.

Fridge of RealEats meals

For our first testing of RealEats, I went with the 6 meals options, figuring that would give us 3 nights of meals this week, and then we’d do our usual pizza night and friday night takeout adventures. There was a promo so we got 40% off but it looks like the regular price would be around $80 for this regularly, which is a bit pricey, but not too terrible since it would sustain us for most of the work week. I should note there were options for less meals, and more, plus you could buy individual items instead of a whole packed meal.

Tonight we gave it a try. I had the Grilled BBQ Chicken, which comes with Spring Veg Medley, and Fork Mashed Potatoes. Brian had the Simply Cooked Chicken with Green Beans in a Spring Pesto and Herb Roasted Baby Potatoes.

Grilled BBQ Chicken and Simply Cooked Chicken Breast – RealEats

Prep and cooking was super easy. Just boil a big pot of water, place the meat, in this evening’s case it was chicken, into the pot for 6 minutes, and the sides for 3 minutes.

BBQ Chicken Cooking – RealEats

I found after my first 3 minutes were up and it was time to put in the sides in, that the water stopped boiling a bit, so I was worried that the cook time may be off. To be safe we each cooked our meals for 7 minutes total, not the recommended 6. For the sake of this review, we’ll just focus on my meal, but it’s safe to say Brian approved of his since he cleaned his whole plate.

Potatoes and Veg Medley – RealEats

After the 7 minutes were up, I grabbed the bags with my tongs, put them on a cutting board and took scissors to open them up. The chicken was the first thing I opened, and the sauce went everywhere, including my white sweater. Yes, there was probably some user error, but the sauce was very thin and liquidy, so I don’t know how much I could have avoided making a mess of at least the plate without draining it in the sink first.

Exhibit A, my plate of beauty. You can tell I’m just an average, non-experienced person in the kitchen based on my plating skills 🙂

The sides were fairly easy to get out, but the mashed potatoes were a little bit of a pain since the bag was hot and I had to squeeze the bag like a tube of toothpaste to get it all out.

Now it was time to eat!

I love mashed potatoes so I was excited for them, but unfortunately I found the temperature to be too cold, so I ended up microwaving my whole plate for a few seconds to try and heat them up. I probably should have done it for a bit longer since they were luke warm when I went to eat again, but at least they had good flavor.

Based on the temperature of the potatoes and Brian’s plate of veggies too, I’d recommend putting the sides in for a bit longer than the recommended 3 minutes. I might be as bold to say in the future I’d cook mine for 5-6 minutes total, but I really like my food to all be really hot. I haven’t tested this yet, but that’ll be my plan next time.

I don’t really like many green veggies, but I tried some of the green beans, and they weren’t terrible. One reason I wanted to try this service was to try and expand my pallet and try new things in the comfort of my own home as a picky eater.

The chicken breast itself was nicely cooked, very easy to cut and it was nice and juicy. The sauce however was a bit strong for my liking. It was a bit more spicy than I anticipated. I didn’t hate it, but I’m not too into spicy food so the amount of sauce was a little strong for me.

I’d say for people who don’t cook and rely on the microwave for quick meals or just throw a pizza in the oven, that this was one of our fancier eating at home adventures. We eat simple things, so this was very adult feeling for me at least.

I’m looking forward to trying some of the other meals we got. There’s another chicken dish or two, and two pasta and meatballs. We’ll have to see how the rest of this week’s dinners play out! Hopefully I’ll stay a little cleaner this time around.

If you want to join me in this meal adventure but in the comfort of your own kitchen, give my code a click for 50% off.

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