We spent last week in Florida (amazing), and I’m still trying to remember what day it is. Isn’t that the best part about vacation, not having to keep up with the days? Now it’s back to the real world, luckily my real world is pretty fantastic. Right now I’m curled up with a cute puppers and eating cotton candy, so life is pretty sweet.
Favorite Snack Food: The Fluff Factory Cotton Candy! Y’all I don’t typically eat super sugary sweet stuff, but the flavors are insane! Currently inhaling Salted Caramel Cotton Candy and contemplating if I need to join a support group. Thanks to my mom for getting me addicted and the lovely ladies at Silver Star Mercantile for hooking me up! If you’re in the Dallas-Ft. Worth area, head to downtown Carrollton and check them out! They always have super cute stuff (it’s not all food), including our favorite jalapeno jelly!
Favorite New Tradition: We decided to officially set aside one night a month for Ladies Night! So much easier to just have a date in the books so there’s always something to look forward to! If you’re in Greenville, SC and you see a group of 10+ girls out on the 3rd Monday of the month it’s probably us! Feel free to buy us guacamole and offer to take our picture! Shout out to the staff and manager at Chuy’s for giving us the history and fun facts about the restaurant!
Favorite Meal:Salmon and Pesto Flatbread. I mean, those 4 words are magical sounding, you know it’s going to be amazing. I had this multiple days in a row for lunch, because I love myself and want to be happy. I will be attempting to recreate this recipe from Fresco’s, this weekend – follow my Instagram story to see how it turns out!
Favorite Gift Idea: I came across this while researching gift ideas for a friends annual beach trip (Hi, Brie!), and immediately fell in love! If you travel a lot, have a friend that travels, or have ever left your house – you need this! It’s a travel phone charger BUT it’s pretty and conveniently hooks to your purse or key chain! Unfortunately it’s only for iPhone, iPod and iPad, us Android users have to just sit in envy!
Favorite New(ish) Podcast:In The Dark is such a well done podcast. It follows in the footsteps of Serial, which I absolutely loved. It chronicles the 27 year old case of a missing 11 year old boy from a rural Minnesota town. The best part about this podcast is the resolution, it may have taken 27 years but the abductor has been captured. An interesting fact, this case actually lead to the creation of the “sex offenders database”. I found it fascinating and maddening at the same time. If you listen to it, you’ll understand the maddening part immediately. Let me know some other podcasts I should listen to, and if you’ve listened to In The Dark!
Thanks for reading, you guys are the best! Feel free to share your “favorites” from the past week with me or what fun plans you have for the weekend! I’m off to finish Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty. It’s one of those can’t put it down but also don’t want it to end type books! Don’t forget to hit that subscribe button!
This past week has been crazy, in a great way! I’m hoping I’ll be able to share some exciting news with you very soon!
Most of y’all know that Eric and I live in South Carolina, and our families live in Texas. We are pretty fortunate to have parent’s that make time to visit us, but seeing family twice a year isn’t really ideal. So, when my parents planned a trip to Tennessee and were going to be less than 4 hours away, I jumped at the chance to crash their vacation…they didn’t seem to mind haha. (Muscle tank is from my last Friday Favorites!)
We rented a cabin in Townsend, Tn. It’s a small town full of friendly people nestled in-between Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge, Tn. This would be a great place for couples or families with small kids, since it’s only a few minutes up the road from the craziness of Pigeon Forge.
The very first thing we did was ride the Alpine Roller Coaster. It was incredible! Getting to control the speed of your own roller coaster, nothing beats that! Well…one thing beats that, my dad’s before and after pictures on the roller coaster! (Please leave your funny captions for these pics in the comments!!)
We also drove the Cades Cove Scenic Loop, and it was beautiful! Living in the upstate of South Carolina for so long (almost 5 years, crazy!), I’ve started to take for granted how beautiful this side of the country is. It was neat to see the sights through my parents’ eyes. As much as I love Texas, she doesn’t have mountains and views like this. And yes, Texas is a she.
Easily the best part of our time in Townsend was driving the Mtn Trax ATV’s! We have never done anything like this, before! My mom is not known for getting dirty, so I was definitely caught off guard when she told me what we were doing! If you have never gone mudding in an ATV, get online and book a ride now! You can thank me later. Also, special shout out to Jake at Mtn Trax for being so great and taking so many pictures and videos for us! I’m not sure these pictures fully capture how wet and muddy we were!
I only had 48 hours in Townsend, but it was so fun-filled. I can’t wait to go back, and take the husband with me!
I’m a huge believer in eating local when on vacation. Ask my husband, I have a very strict no chain restaurant policy. I’m all about embracing the culture and supporting the locals. Here are my top picks to #EatLocal in Townsend: Trailhead Steakhouse (and seafood) & Burger Master Drive In. Trailhead is highend, but reasonably priced with good portion size. Burger Master is super cheap and the burgers are really good. Pro tip: If you don’t have a huge appetite, get the kids meal burger, it comes with ice cream!
Side note: Before I arrived, my parents went on an unguided horseback ride! They had a blast! Mountain horseback riding, without a guide, you know it’s going to be awesome!
Thanks for reading y’all! One of the neatest things about my blog is seeing where all my readers are from! Comment with what city, state or country you’re reading from in the comments below! Bonus – tell me the best parts of your state and why I should visit there next! Don’t forget to hit that subscribe button!
Hey everyone! I’ve been MIA for a few days, due to a last minute vacation (aren’t those the best kind?!). My parents live in Texas and were vacationing in Tennessee last week. After leaving Nashville, they spent a few days in Townsend, which happens to only be about 3 hours from where my husband and I live. So I decided to crash their vacation – it was so much fun! I’ll be posting all about that trip later this week!
I didn’t have as much time to read this month as I typically do. Some of these books I read last summer but they were so good that I had to share them with you!
I read this book last summer, based on a recommendation from a friend (Hey, Jessica!). I had read so many dark books and I needed something light that was still captivating. This book hit that mark. It has mystery, heart and humor. Bernadette is agoraphobic, and has an overseas assistant that does all of her most basic tasks for her. Her daughter, Bee, was promised a family trip to Antarctica. As the trip gets closer, Bernadette goes missing. It’s up to Bee to piece together emails, letters, phone calls, etc..to develop a timeline for her mothers last days and figure out where she is! It’s so well written, and the perfect vacation or pool side read!
Paul Cleave is a talented writer! This was my first of his books to read and after I finished I immediately read 3 more of his books. I love the concept of this book! A crime writer develops early onset Alzheimer’s and begins to confess that all the horrible murders he wrote about in his books are true – and he is the one that committed them. No one is sure weather to believe him or not, but as the Alzheimer’s sets in and his actions get more volatile, you can’t help but wonder. This had -hands down- one of the best book endings that I’ve ever read. Read it and come back and let me know what you thought! Heads up – Paul Cleave gets pretty gross and gory in his books. Edit: My husband told me this paragraph had too many exclamation points, but I told him that this book is THAT good!
I just finished this book last week, after several of my Skimm friends insisted it was a must-read! I’ve mentioned before that my favorite narrative is when each chapter is from a different characters perspective, Pretty Baby did this perfectly. The story is about a woman (wife & mother) who after seeing a young homeless girl with a newborn living on the streets, insists on bringing her into their home. As with any situation involving strangers, there’s bound to be secrets and distrust…and murder. I love how all the characters stories were resolved. When I finished this book, the first thing I said was how I love that none of the characters were good or bad, you’ll have to read the book to fully understand. If you enjoyed Gone Girl or The Girl on the Train, I honestly believe you will enjoy this book.
So, I am really excited about this book, because it is written by my friend, John Weirick! You can purchase an eBook copy by following the link above or clicking here. You can also follow his blog here.
The Variable Life is a collection of stories and observations about life to help you:
– Gain clarity about who you are and what to do
– Understand God’s role in your life and in the world
– Learn how to navigate conflict and survive difficult transitions
– Develop healthy relationships
– See why the choices you make today will influence the rest of your life
– Live with confidence instead of being driven by fear
“The Variable Life is for people who want to find their way through the maze of variables, choices, and complexities of modern life, without losing sight of God or themselves.
Your life is the story of the choices you make. What story is your life telling?”
After devouring Pretty Baby, I knew that I needed to read another Mary Kubica book. I’ll be back next month to give you my review, or you can read along with me!
As always, let me know if you’ve read these books and what you thought, or if there’s a book that you love that I need to read! Come back in a few days to read all about my super outdoorsy trip to Tennessee, or hit the subscribe button below and be the first to know about my new posts!
This past week has been pretty fantastic. 2 breakfast dates, group bowling night and a dinner date with my amazing girl friends. There is seriously nothing better than spending time with other females, it feeds my soul. The only thing better than food dates are walking dates. If you haven’t done one of those before – make that your goal for the month. Grab a girl friend or two and just set out on a walk, anywhere that is pretty. My favorite is starting at our local zoo and walking to downtown, then you grab coffee or pop into shops once you’re downtown. You’re outside, not distracted by food or other people or your phones (you can’t really walk and text…maybe you can, but I can’t) and it’s the best way to have deeper friendships. My husband and I go on a walk with our dog every day and its my highlight because we connect so much. In case you don’t believe me, here’s a picture of me and my super precious dog, Belle…in our matching friendship bracelets/collars!
Ok, enough about exercising and socializing – you came here for the book reviews, and I aim to please.
The Widow (click title to purchase ebook, paperback or hardcover)
I picked up this book after seeing it laying on a display table at a local bookstore (during one of my friend walk dates!) and I’m really glad I did. I love books that have each chapter from a different characters perspective. The book wasn’t suspenseful in the way Gone Girl and Girl on a Train were, but it held it’s own. I thought the book would focus more on the actual widow, but it mainly centered around her husband’s issues. It makes sense for the book, but I went in expecting a little bit different direction. I would actually love a follow up book focusing on “the reporter”, Kate, and her other stories. Overall, I was really happy with this book, you should definitely check it out!
Y’all I COULD NOT get into this book. It had so much potential but the whole book was just so obvious, predictable and anti-climactic. It’s about a married couple that seems to have the perfect life but there’s obviously something dark going on “behind closed doors”. Honestly, they could have removed 100 pages from the book and it would have been much better. I really wanted to like this book, and I know a lot of people do, but I just don’t get the hype. If you loved it, I’m sorry!
This book was darling. Polly has a pretty brutal break up and decides to move far away from the big city, to a tiny island that’s only accessible at certain times of day due to the tide. She ends up rediscovering her love for baking bread and impacting the lives of all the people in the tiny town. Beware, you will be craving fresh made bread products and tiny island vacations while reading this book. Also, you will start asking your husband for a pet Puffin, and he will say “no” because he is mean. There’s also a bread recipe in the book. I of course “kneaded” to try it and was super confident. However, it ended up being hard and burnt and nothing like the bread my friends make (Hi Kati! Hi Brittany!), so I think I’ll stick to just reading about bread.
Another great read! I’ve been reading so many psychological thrillers that this was definitely a breath of fresh air. I couldn’t put this book down, Elin Hilderbrand is so very talented, and if you haven’t read any of her books you are missing out! It centers around two best friends Grace and Madeline, a local Nantucket writer. Madeline has a severe case of writers block and while attempting to write her follow up novel she begins to pull from the people around her. The only problem is, with a small town come lots of rumors and there’s no way to set the rumors right without someone getting hurt. This is a great book to pick up before a Spring Break trip.
Have you read any of these books yet? What books should I add to my to-read list? Leave some book love in the comments below! Don’t forget to subscribe below for email updates!
Winter is (still) coming, according to Punxsutawney Phil – the infamous Groundhog, which means 6 more weeks of winter. So, any trips you have planned in the coming months might require a slight alteration in your packing strategy. Here are my cold weather must-haves after consulting with friends (Thanks Skimm Girls!) across the U.S., all the way to Alaska! Whether you need some quick fixes to get you through one trip or you are a frequent freezer, I got you covered. Since you’re going on vacation you need to save all your money for the fun stuff, so we’re packing it all in a carry-on, no baggage fee for you!
Your liquids bag is going to need to be stocked with moisturizers! Here are some of my fav’s. For your face go here and for sensitive skin go here. For your hands go here, here or here and I’m always a fan of Bath and Body Works lotions. For your lips go here or here.
Pro tip: Bringing multiple hats and scarves is the easiest way to mix up your outfit each day, while still saving space. Knit gloves will allow air to flow through, so stick to faux leather gloves to ensure maximum warmth. I am a loyal Isotoner fan, I’ve had the same pair for over 10 years and I love the way they fit. Check out these with an inner fleece lining, these with smart-touch technology, these are basic black with a warm lining and these have fleece on the outside. This is my favorite cable knit scarf from Loft (pictured below)!
CUDDLE DUDS! They saved my life. You wear them under your normal clothes and you can’t tell you are wearing them! The ActiveLayer line is my favorite since you can wear it under leggings without noticing. They have a bunch of different styles that you can check out here. Fleece leggings are also a good choice if you aren’t a fan of layering. This is me rocking my cuddle duds with leggings on top, bonus – I look like a Ninja, and you can too!
Pick out a coat that is long enough to cover your bum, and ideally goes to your knees, depending on how cold the area you’re going to is. Check out this coat from Nordstrom’s and this one from Kohls. If you’re wanting to spend less go here, here or here . Wear your jacket on the plane, even if your starting location is warm. Keep it on you, because planes are cold or stow it under your seat (because the overhead compartment is not meant for personal items, duh!).
If you’re willing to splurge on a great pair of shoes try these from Sorel or these from L.L.Bean. If you’re not in a position to buy new boots, invest in some great wool socks!
Travel size bottle of Febreze. The EASIEST way to pack light is to re-wear items, especially your under layers. After exploring all day, you’re going to need to freshen up, and having a washing machine isn’t an option when staying in a hotel. Get a 3 pack of travel size Febreze here or a single one here.
Hope you enjoyed my tips for saving space, staying warm and most importantly – not having to check a bag! Do you have a cold weather trip coming up? Did I miss your favorite cold weather necessity? Let me know in the comments below!
There’s nothing more exciting than visiting a new city! A little over a week ago, the hubs and I were given the opportunity to visit Chicago together and we jumped at the chance. The only catch was, we only had a day and a half to take in the entire city! Would we be able to see all that Chicago has to offer? Would we survive the frigid weather (our house is never below 70*)? Would I be able to pack everything I need into one carry-on? So many questions, so little time. Check out our whirlwind Chicago trip below, and then get to planning your own weekend getaway to “The Windy City”.
Eric and I stayed our first night at the Hampton Inn Majestic in the Chicago Theatre District. The location is prime. We were about 2 blocks from Millennium park, and even in the freezing cold 30 degree weather it was super close. This historic hotel has all the modern amenities and decor that I love, while still retaining original pieces like the original gold mail chute. Also, it’s right next door to the theatre playing Hamilton. We weren’t able to catch a show on this trip, but its definitely on the bucket list. Fun fact, the hotel is off West Monroe street, which also happens to be the name of the town I was born in, and where my dad’s family lives. Hamilton and I were both very excited by this!
Eric and I both love vacation spots that allow for a lot of walking, and Chicago did not disappoint. Walking was much more convenient than having a rental car in this town. Our first stop was The Gage, near Millennium Park. We made reservations, which I highly suggest. It’s a bustling town full of people that are not deterred by cold weather! I love a restaurant that serves brunch. I ordered the Irish Breakfast, which included 4 different versions of pork (not complaining) and Eric had the Eggs Benedict with Gage Potatoes.
Now we are fueled and ready to take on the town! The Bean, or as it’s properly known “Cloud Gate”, is something I’ve wanted to visit since it was first built. It was just as enormous and gorgeous and reflective as I hoped it would be! I always love seeing the surrounding area of a famous site, because it can sometimes be surprising. All my Texas people, remember your first trip to the Alamo? When you realized that its directly across the street from about 15 cheap gift shops? That was super disappointing. Cloud Gate is actually positioned above and behind a quaint skating rink and restaurant called Park Grill, it was seriously adorable, like out of a movie.
(Found these in our Dropbox – my husband is obsessed with me)
After visiting Cloud Gate and taking a trillion pictures, along with every other person in town, we continued our trek through Millennium park. The park is full of magnificent installation art, including the Jay Pritzker Pavillion and the BP Pedestrian Bridge. It’s not a regular bridge, it’s a cool bridge (“Mean Girls”, anyone?). The BP Pedestrian Bridge is covered in stainless steel, that not only compliments the whole aesthetic of the city, it also assists in drowning out traffic noise. We also checked out Buckingham Memorial Fountain. It is one of the largest fountains in the world, during warmer seasons a light, music and water show happen every hour for 20 minutes.
The food in Chicago was amazing, and I can’t pick a favorite. So, you should probably just eat at every restaurant we went to. Eric and I had dinner at the historic Italian Village, its three restaurants in one, all varying degrees of fancyness. Eric picked The Village, because he knew I would love the Tuscan Village aesthetic. Y’all, this place was so beautiful on the inside, it was so romantic. Mood lighting does not make for great food pictures, but order anything on the menu and it will be amazing! We sat at the back table on the right, so I had a view of a Tuscan city during our meal, and I couldn’t be happier.
We ended our night at Cindy’s Rooftop at the Chicago Athletic Association. The rooftop has an incredible view of Millennium Park. While the restaurant is indoors, the outdoor section has multiple fire pits and heat lamps that make it enjoyable to be outside.
Day 2 began with walking to our second hotel, the Hampton Inn Chicago Downtown West Loop (that’s a mouthful). This hotel is brand spankin’ new, as in less than three months old! The interior is fantastic, the rooms are decorated to look clean and fresh and even the bathroom door has an uplifting message on it! I can’t say enough good things. Also, shout out to both Hampton Inn’s for letting us check in so early, so we could make the most of our time in Chicago!
Eataly. Just go. Eat + Italy, the name alone lets you know it’s an amazing place. Eataly is a slice of Italy in the middle of Chicago. It has a fresh seafood restaurant and 5 different Italian restaurants on the second floor. As in homemade in-house pasta and mozzarella style Italian food. They also have a market including meat, fresh made pasta, beer and wine. But the first floor is where the magic is. The first floor has a Italian coffee shop, an Italian hot chocolate shop, a deli, the cutest pastry shop and a NUTELLA bar! Y’all it’s a place dedicated JUST to Nutella, I didn’t know how much I loved Nutella until I walked into Eataly. Eric and I split a Nutella and strawberry crepe. Then we each got a panini from the first floor deli. We each had a half of each sandwich, because sharing is caring and everything tastes amazing, and now I want to go back because I want more food.
The majority of this day was devoted to walking the Magnificent Mile, or Mag Mile if you’re a local. Unfortunately, I didn’t remove the security tag from my scarf before I packed, so I set off the alarm in every single store. After about store 5 Eric said I wasn’t allowed in anymore stores, something about not wanting to be seen with a suspected thief ;). So, we made our way to the Navy Pier, where all are welcome. Navy Pier is definitely kid and family friendly. It has a children’s museum, shops, restaurants, pirate ship rides, a theater and a Ferris Wheel. The theater is called the Shakespeare Theater and I really feel like they missed an opportunity to call it the ShakesPier Theatre.
Our next stop was easily my favorite part of our entire trip. We almost didn’t go for various reasons, and despite my multiple bruises and visible limp afterwards, it was totally worth it! The Chicago Skating Ribbon. Here’s the deal, there’s a skating rink right across the Pedestrian Bridge, with a view of Cloud Gate (remember that from earlier?), so you gotta wonder what makes this one any better. The answer is everything. For one it’s a winding ribbon that varies slightly in elevation. Which means there are parts where you can just coast or speed down. Also, all the skates looked pretty new and there’s a hot chocolate stand in the skating area, in addition to a rock climbing wall.
I also learned that I have incredibly strong bones. When I fell (we all knew it would happen) I didn’t even attempt to catch myself and just landed right on my face and stomach, completely sprawled out. And after the initial phase of thinking that surely both my hips and knees were broken and that this is where I would die, I was able to get back up. We skated for another hour, and all I had were a few bruises and a fun new swagger to my walk. This is a story of perseverance, use this whenever you need a burst of motivation, you’re welcome.
My Husband (multiple times): “You look like you’re about to fall”
Me: “No, this is just how I look when I skate”.
While skating we realized that we were in the Central Time Zone, and that we had about 30 minutes to find a place to watch the Super Bowl! So we booked it, as fast as my gimpy little legs would take me, to the Haymarket Pub & Brewery. Y’all such a fantastic choice for so many reasons. For one, the food was amazing. The Riot burger was literally the best burger I’ve ever had in my life. The burger patty is made in house from sausage, not to mention there is pulled pork and apple bacon on top. Eric said his Mr. Potato Head Burger was better, but he’s wrong. The second great part, we got to watch the Super Bowl with former Chicago Bears: Charles Hurd, Marcus Robinson and Fabien Bownes. Like actually watch with them, they were at the table next to us and we talked the whole game as if we were all old friends. Shout out to my hubs for making me watch so much football that I was able to have an intelligent football conversation with an NFL player, while drinking. Have you been hugged by an NFL player? Because I have! Thirdly, the camera guy brought his service dog, Jack. Jack sat with me the entire second half and we are now best friends. Best Super Bowl Ever, aside from the actual outcome of the game.
Chicago you are beautiful and wonderful and we already miss you! Did I mention that your people are super friendly? Thanks for all the memories!!
p.s. HUGE thanks to my fellow Skimm’bassadors for all the great recommendations!
Not a fan of The Skimm yet?! Check it out: TheSkimm
Coming Next Week:
My must haves for Chicago’s super cold & windy weather,