Friday, January 13, 2017

AirBnBs Worth a Return Trip

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This is the cafe where I ate in Linz with the family that hosted me on AirBnB
I LOVE traveling in ways that enable me to meet new people. Hostels, Uber, train trips, and AirBnB are all sweet ways to make connections - like the time I met one of my grade school classmates by chance at a hostel bar in Munich? Or I got to tour Linz with a local family and teach their four year old son English (he only could say "garden hose" for some reason)? Or the Uber driver in D.C. who carried an umbrella in pouring down rain around to the backseat and helped me grab my bags because he knew I was in a hurry to get to work in Richmond? People are cool.

I love the vibes that come with opening culture and home to travelers - so I'm sharing my four favorite AirBnBs across the globe that I think are worth a return trip.

In Oregon - this spot in Sisters was the perfect combination of romantic and adventurous for me and my then-boyfriend. I'm obsessed with Central Oregon, absolutely love Bend and Sisters, and was completely infatuated with the design of this little apartment. Piper, the host, was accommodating and easily reachable.

In Wisconsin - my friend Riley and I stayed in this gorgeous, handmade home on the prairie in Wisconsin. Our host, Kurt, built the home himself and stayed up for our late arrival to tell us about the origin of the cabin (really much nicer than a cabin), his handiwork, and his skills as a potter and also beekeeper. Waking up to the sun shining over rolling hills of crops and seeing red barns in the distance was unreal. We grabbed a $6 jar of honey on our way out, too - "take some honey, leave some money" was the sign on the stand.

In Virginia - I'm writing this post while staying in a suite at Roslyn Farm in Charlottesville. I'm here for a sales training with BH Media (my employer), and had a last-minute pet care emergency revolving around some mixed signals and late communication. Alexia, the owner of this gorgeous farm, offered to walk Holly (my hound/Swiss Mountain Dog mix) while I'm in training from 7:30 AM to 5 PM this week. She also welcomed me into her home when I arrived to meet her friends and her boyfriend and learn about the farm and her experiences - plus, she's a phenomenally talented painter and a Sweet Briar College woman - and we small liberal arts college grads have to stick together.

In Austria - Linz is in Upper Austria, and it's a much bigger city than Salzburg, more modern than Vienna, and a really interesting mix of old and new. Mario and Rebecca welcomed me into their home in charming Aldstadt (Old Town) as though I was a family member. I spent one day exploring on my own, and spent the next accompanying them to breakfast in the neighborhood, playing with their children, and tagging along to a local flohmarkt (flea market). I wish they needed an au pair - I'd be there in a heartbeat!





Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Windy City? Deep Dish Pizza?

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You may have gathered from my last post and some of my recent Instagrams that I spent NYE weekend in Chi Town with some of the gals I met while studying abroad in Salzburg during my senior year of college.


One more argument in favor of studying abroad (I could go on forever) - you make friends who could live anywhere in the U.S. More about my study abroad experience HERE.

My friends in Chi live in Lincoln Park. They both rent really cute old apartments near DePaul University, where they'll be finishing up school this semester. I didn't know what to expect from Chicago - I'd been there for less than 24 hours last summer on my road trip back to Oregon with my brother and stayed with cousins, who at the time lived in Wrigleyville. After this last trip though? I'm honestly kind of sold on Chicago. It's affordable, I ate amazing food, did some good shopping, and found that the public transportation is easy to use and many neighborhoods are walkable. Also - the weather helped. I didn't experience the biting winters Chicago is known for at all - I don't think it got below 30 more than once.

Sipping on some Austrian wine at the 3 Arts Cafe in Restoration Hardware Chicago!

Want the lowdown on my trip? Here goes.

Stayed in Lincoln Park. It was super walkable, felt safe, and was really pretty. We walked to the bar on New Year's Eve, walked to brunch the next morning, and walked to coffee and window shopping on Monday morning.

Ate so many things at so many places. The Bagelers for breakfast on NYE straight off the plane, lunch at Corridor Brewery in Southport (get the burger), brunch at Homeslice (wood in the restaurant is reclaimed from Oregon), dinner & drinks at Homeslice's sister Happy Camper in Old Town (get a pizza and goat sticks) where we were seated in a refinished Airstream trailer. Munched on mini donuts at Glazed and Infused (get the mini pomegranate old-fashioned), snacked at Devil Dawgs (got my Chicago Dawg!) lunched at Eduardo's Enoteca in Gold Coast (get the gnocchi).

Drank basically everywhere we went but of note would be Corridor Brewery (had a decent IPA and cool bike logo on the pint glasses), sold-out NYE party at State, morning mimosas at Homeslice, wine or fancy cocktails at Cindy's Rooftop - which has a killer view of the waterfront and part of downtown plus a rooftop bonfire and cool indoor vibe (spendy though - get a glass of wine for the view and call it a day), Pink Flamingo pitcher at Happy Camper, wine at Restoration Hardware - this is actually such a cool experience, I'll mention it again in a second!

Explored Lincoln Park - browsed at some of the adorable boutiques in the area, including Art Effect on Armitage, a personal fave. Southport - (where my cousins actually live now) has great shopping, although the majority of the stores I saw were something you would typically be able to find in most big cities. Downtown - we took the train (El?) to walk through Millennium Park and see the Bean because, well, Chicago. The Bean is something you see just to check off the list, in my opinion. Seeing the sheer expanse of Lake Michigan lapping right up to the edges of Downtown Chicago is more impressive.

Restoration Hardware - clearly not a neighborhood, but an interesting experience nonetheless. It isn't just a furniture store - it's a four or five story concept store that provides shoppers and tourists alike with an immersive experience in fully designed rooms and spaces that flow together as though you were touring a giant mansion. Plus you can drink while you walk around and then plop down on a massive leather sectional next to a floor-to-ceiling gilded mirror under a gorgeous pendant light. I was drooling over product, design, and experience all at once. Also, it's great for Instagramming, as you can see above.


All in all, I was really pleasantly surprised by Chicago. I didn't go in with much expectation other than to have a great time connecting with friends and reminiscing over our experiences abroad - but it only makes sense that when visiting with women I met while traveling across Europe, I'd be treated to a pretty cool little tour of Chicago, tons of good food, and wonderful hospitality.

By the way - I never had deep dish. Guess I'll be heading back!

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Looking Back, Looking Forward

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Did some reflecting on the way to Chicago last weekend, and here's the result - do you have any regrets or big changes that happened in 2016? How are you planning on moving forward into the new year?



I'm sitting here on a United flight from D.C. to Chicago, knitting a sky blue ear warmer for a friend back home, and thinking. That's why I like knitting - you can't text, you can't write, you just have to think to the rhythm of the clicking needles as something starts to form between your hands. Lame, maybe. Relaxing, yes.

I normally don't "do" New Years resolutions. I also said at the beginning of this fall that I don't believe in karma. I also read a monthly horoscope from Astrostyle while I was driving through West Virginia on my way to move to Richmond that told me to get painfully honest if I wanted to preserve a specific relationship in my life.

I think this year I'll "do" New Years resolutions. And I think I believe in Karma now.

In 2016, I broke someone's heart and lost my travel companion, my best friend, and the person that I had considered to be the love of my life. I learned that good intentions don't erase truth and pain. Learned that despite what you may have been taught, hard work does not triumph over all things. It helps, but it does not always prevail. 

In 2016, my family split apart. I had considered my immediate family to be an unbreakable unit. People I could rely on forever. My closest confidantes and my go-to adventure crew. And my family members still are all of those things - just in shifted roles. I learned that expectations and preconceived notions of how things "ought to be" don't trump reality and unseen struggles. Learned that adaptability is key.

In 2016, I checked some boxes. I moved in a linear progression from graduation to Portland to Richmond to renting an apartment alone to a new job to adopting a dog. Check, check, check. There was a box I didn't check, and that box haunted me for a while. I learned that linear progression is a mindless way to "grow". Learned that my check boxes won't always come in the "right" order or even come at all.

In 2016, I'm not sure that I grew. Perhaps not as much as the preceding year when I studied abroad and was in love and had an intact all-American family of five. Or maybe I grew more, and we just won't see it manifested quite yet. 

I read somewhere that 2016 was the year of karma. That explains a lot. Perhaps I should have taken the Astrostyle horoscope I read on the West VA state line to heart. Or perhaps that's all part of the karmic lesson of 2016.

Where is my next check box? That's developing as we speak, I think. 

I'd like to turn my passion for writing and creating into something that serves me in a financial manner. I'd like to say "yes" more often, to more opportunities, with more people. I'd like to remember that time will heal most (all?) wounds, remember that there are many paths to "success" (whatever that is), and remember that past mistakes do not define the present or future. 



You (and I) are not 2016. We are today. 

Friday, December 16, 2016

Holiday Hair with Herstyler

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Hello, everybody. Here's a photo of my face, very close up so you can see that I need a tan and wear Warby Parker glasses that don't have a very strong prescription just so that I look dialed in at work. Don't tell my boss. Don't mind the lint on my sweater, either - my dryer is going on month three of not working, thanks to my leasing agency :) :) Also that may have been TMI - I'm really here to tell you about my new flat iron and hair products that I added to the hair taming arsenal recently. Herstyler was kind enough to send me some product and a new straightener, which I desperately needed, and I've given it a test run. And probably a run for its money. 

I mentioned once before that I naturally have VERY curly, coarse hair. I've tried relaxers. Keratin. Deep conditioning. YOU NAME IT, I have probably tried it. Keratin makes my eyes stream tears down my face, relaxers make my hair fall out, and deep conditioning works for a week. I used to be a swimmer, and my hair only recently recovered - chlorine kills hair, especially blonde, curly hair. So after all of this hair misery, you might understand that I'm a bit of a product and appliance aficionado. I had been using the Kardashian brand flat iron from Target - I think it was around $80, and it worked fine. With this old method, I used some variety of protective serum and finished off with a little oil, and it was all fine and dandy. 


The combination of products and flat iron from Herstyler though? Game changer, and I'm not kidding. If a product doesn't work well for me, I'll tell you right here. I've used it both for straight and wavy styles, like you can see above - it makes my hair smooth and touchable when I've worn it straight (peep my insta), and these waves held all day - even throughout coaching a swim practice on a hot pool deck. 


There are three products I've been using - the two shown in my hand go in wet hair before I blow dry (no more than a dime size each, if that) - then I comb those through, blow dry my hair mostly straight, and then go over it again with the Herstyler flat iron. I finish it off with a couple spritzes of the styling spray from Herstyler - it's technically a hairspray, but it's SO light. I'm a fan. 

P.S. - I didn't get paid for this, but HerStyler sent me products to make a tutorial/review with. I like their stuff so much that I highly recommend it to any of you gals who straighten your hair frequently and are looking for a smooth look!


Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Gift Ideas for Mom

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One of my favorite gift-giving practices is to give experiences, instead of things. This could be by creating handmade coupons or vouchers, purchasing seats at a concert or local show, or taking someone to get a massage or other pampering treatment. Moms love to spend time with their daughters, right? The gift of time together is unmatched by any cookbook, jacket, or set of matching plates - it's the memories that make the biggest impact. Check the following list for some ideas of mother-daughter date nights you could give for Christmas this year:

  1. Tickets to a concert - could be the symphony, a band she loves, or even a live performance at your favorite local watering hole
  2. Make a beautiful gift certificate good for "one day at the spa" and include a paid-for-by-you massage and pedicure at the salon of her choosing.
  3. Pretend you're young again and go to the Nutcracker - there's really nothing so special as getting dressed up and watching the ballet!
  4. Spend the evening baking cookies together and delivering them to neighbors and friends. Experiential gifts don't have to be spendy - they can be as good as gold when you don't spend a dime :)
  5. Treat your sporty mama to a drop-in fitness class (try any of the ones I've reviewed in RVA) or buy her a 10-class card at her favorite yoga studio - and try a class together!

It might come as a surprise, but I've found that Groupon is a really, really good place to get experiential gifts. There are usually paint-night type evenings, restaurant deals, and other local spotlights - but today I'll focus on hair. I know that a lot of people (mothers maybe especially) go to the same location for their beauty needs over and over again. I, on the other hand, seem to try somewhere new almost every time. I struggle to find a hair salon that can handle my unique texture and get the cut just quite right - and it just so happens that my mom has the same issue, although without the texture challenge. Purchasing a Groupon for some highlights (or even just a wash and blowout) might be the (super easy) pick me up your momma needed!

What type of experiences do you like to give? 


this post was sponsored by Groupon but all opinions are my own

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Gift Guide for the Beauty Junkie

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Have a special person in your life who goes crazy over beauty products and makeup?
I've compiled a holiday wishlist of things just for her - take a look!


Studio Gear Prime Objective Skin Perfecting Face Primer would be a great stocking stuffer!
Best Stocking Stuffer: Prime Objective Perfecting Face Primer by Studio Gear. This stuff goes on so smoothly and makes it so that my makeup blends perfectly on top - especially in the winter, when my skin starts to get dry and weird, it helps to use a primer before anything else. Use code "BB" for 10% off your online purchase!

Best Eyeshadow Palette: Anything neutral. I'm really obsessed with this Tarte palette lately - it's also linked below - and you know you can't go wrong with any of the Naked palettes. I would stick to something warm and gold/brown based if you're unsure about picking colors, plus golds are perfect for the holiday season.

Best Mascara: I personally swear by Benefit They're Real - they have a really good brown, and with my blue eyes and blonde hair, brown is the best shade for me. It stays on through hot yoga and all my other Fit Gal's Guide endeavors so I really can't complain. I've also linked a few other options that either I've liked in the past or my friends wear regularly.



Best Blush/Highlighter: I use Benefit's Shy Beam highlighter myself with a shimmery MAC blush on top. I love what strobing can do for a person's bone structure, and I think using highlighter is a really fun way to dress up your makeup.



Clearly I kept this gift guide down to the basics - I think that beauty products are perfect stocking stuffers and a great addition to a holiday gift basket - gift baskets are one of my favorite ways to give during the season! I also tried to choose products that I know and love myself, or that I'm positive one of my friends (they all have great taste in makeup!) uses regularly and loves, as well. 
Have any questions or suggestions of your own?! Chime in on the comments!


this post was powered by BrandBacker, but all opinions are my own :)

Monday, November 28, 2016

The RVA Fit Gal's Guide to Diva Bootcamp

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I mentioned last week that I've had the privilege of getting to know Kiara, who runs Diva Bootcamp. You may have actually seen her around town before in a Subaru with a cute Diva logo on the side, or maybe you've spotted groups of women at Mary Munford or University of Richmond running laps around the block or cheering each other on during workouts. There's something to be said for working out outdoors - I've always loved the feeling of fresh air, and it can be tough to find a gym or studio that's quite the right fit. Working out outside can present a challenge when it's cold, but when I tried a chilly 5:30 AM class at Mary Munford, Kiara brought warm lavender scented washcloths that we got to put over our eyes after the workout was finished. That was a really amazing way to start my week - feeling the cool air on my face and watching the sun come up as I left the workout. 

Sounds like fun, right?? It is - read on for more information!


Classes I Tried:

So this is where things get a little different. Diva Bootcamp is offered three days a week (MWF) at three different times - 5:30 AM, 9:15 AM, and 6:30 PM. Although you aren't bound to one class time for your entire membership, it seemed to me that most members ended up sticking to one group or another, and different groups had different vibes. I attended the 5:30 AM class, where about half the participants had just run the Richmond Half Marathon, and I also went to the 6:30 PM class - where there was a wide variety of ages and fitness levels represented.

$$$$$$

One really important emphasis at Diva Bootcamp is on team, family, and community. During workouts, the women chatted with one another and cheered encouragingly. Kiara offered constructive feedback and helped people perfect their form. This type of atmosphere existed partially because all of the members were committed to coming and had been for a while (some for more than 5 years). 

Because of this, you can usually only join Diva Bootcamp for a commitment of at least one month at a time. One month is $105. 
For a limited time only, you have the option to purchase drop-in passes at varying price points. 

 What Do I Wear?!

Well, since it's outside, I would recommend layers. My dad always taught me not to wear cotton next to my skin when I might sweat, and to always put something on my head if I'm outside in the cold. I linked some good layering pieces below, plus a few headbands and glove sets that would help take the edge off. Otherwise, you do need to bring your own dumbbells (I got 8 lb ones from Target) and a yoga mat - but one that you don't mind getting dirty!

I think that Diva Bootcamp is a really good place to start if you aren't sure about beginning a fitness routine. The environment is super supportive, and there's going to be someone at all fitness and health levels in all of the programs - everyone starts somewhere! Plus, the small groups enable Kiara to give a ton of individual feedback, so if you worry about not being able to do a move right, this is a great (and accepting) place to learn.