Just book it

One of my favorite past times is planning trips I never take. Day dreaming about the beaches of California and looking at NYC hotel deals. I’m always down for the talks of taking a vacation, always say “yeah, let’s go!” to anyone who wants to go anywhere. Juuuust about till we get down to specifics. And everyone’s asking for dates, hotel prices and plane tickets. That’s around the time I take a look at my bank account and bow out.

So last Thursday when the boyfriend texted me “let’s go to this music festival”, I said “yeah let’s book it!” With the expectation that this, much like other vacations we’ve day dreamed about, would fall through.

And then Friday night rolled around. We had just enjoyed a great dinner at Ocean Prime for our one year anniversary and were enjoying some time with two friends/another couple. All of a sudden, we were looking at hotel/ticket packages and plane tickets. Talking about how many days we should take off work, etc. And then something amazing happened, with the pain of trying to get Coachella tickets after they were sold out still fresh on our minds, we actually booked it!

So, ladies and gents, I’m going to the Osheaga Festival (still trying to figure out how that is pronounced..) in Montreal, Canada in August! I’m so far past being excited. First of all, the lineup for the festival is beyond amazing. 

So I was already pretty pumped. And were able to get a sweet hotel package that includes our festival passes, metro tickets and hotel stay for like $400 each. Beautiful. Today, however, I’m speechless. I Pinterest searched “Montreal” and can’t even handle what I’m seeing right now. Quant brick townhomes, amazing architecture, beautiful landscape and bonus, they speak French. I simply can’t handle this. I feel like an overly hyper child who was fed too much sugar.

Was visiting Montreal anywhere close to where I thought I’d visit this year? Nope, not at all. It wasn’t even on my bucket list. For me, that’s what makes the trip even more fun. A little spontaneity is good for this over-planner 🙂

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Next up, 2014

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Last year I decided on themes from 2012 and set ones for 2013, and it turned out to be one of my favorite posts. From time to time, I would look back to see how I was doing at my resolutions or if, most likely as I feared, I had forgotten about them entirely. I’m probably way too proud to say I really did accomplish last year’s goals, so I decided I would do the same style this year.

2013 was the year of…

Creativity. I made great strides as a budding amateur photographer and even won the Innovator Award at my agency’s annual peer-voted awards ceremony for the most creative strategies, ideas and campaigns (and tights, due to my daily variation of colors and patterns).

Relationships. Last year I was excited to announce the return of one of my best friends (now roommate). This year I had another lifelong friend move to the DFW area and managed to make some pretty huge strides in my romantic relationship. November 2012 I was sure I was on the brink of a break-up, yet somehow we grew together in a way I didn’t see coming, leading up to our engagement November 2013. Crazy! No offense meant to the rest of you guys, but I’m pretty sure I’ve locked down the most caring, intelligent, witty, handsome guy out there.

Travel. My real goal, if you haven’t caught on yet, is to make every year the year of travel. In 2013 I visited El Paso, Washington D.C., Austin, Chicago, Wisconsin, Tulsa, New York (twice!), Istanbul and Atlanta. What a great year!

Health. After battling what appears to be food allergies in the form of super swollen eyes and lips, I finally have the uncomfortable issues and itchiness under semi-control. I reached a pretty low place when my physical issues were leaving me ugly and sleep deprived, but I have been so blessed with a loving boyfriend, compassionate boss, tireless parents, understanding friends and the BEST DOCTOR EVER (aka Dr. Crawford). I also got to experiment with new recipes and restaurants in line with my new gluten, dairy, soy, egg, nut, bean – free diet.

2014 will focus on…

Engaging. Recently I realized that my natural inclinations to keep my head down in the grocery store and zone out to the tune of my to do list at work are just not what’s important. Life is not at all about me, and I want the way I live to reflect that. Some ways I plan on doing that include smiling more, asking questions, complimenting others, inviting people to coffee and lunches (heck, actually taking lunches) and dedicating one night a week to catching up on message replies, texts, maybe even a “hey, how’s life” phone call or snail mail note. I’ve let far too many close friendships grow distant and opportunities to connect with strangers fall by the wayside. No more.

Using time intentionally. This looks like lining up podcasts for my daily commutes to hear from Ben Stewart, the Bible app, TED talks or Italian lessons. This also looks like using my nights and weekends to pursue others and my interests, rather than pick up dinner at Whole Foods only to waste away on Netflix (no matter how good Sherlock, Parks & Rec and White Collar are). For instance, I have been promised a trip to Italy once I become fluent. Motivation, secured. I came across this quote the other day by H. Jackson Brown Jr.:

Don’t say you don’t have enough time. You have exactly the same number of hours per day that were given to Helen Keller, Pasteur, Michaelangelo, Mother Teresa, Leonardo da Vinci, Thomas Jefferson, and Albert Einstein.

Rediscovering reading. When I was younger I read multiple books a week. Now, the same length book takes me at least a month. This year I want to read more, in turn increasing my appetite for even more books. Reading also has the side effects of inspiring creative juices and providing much needed rest, both of which I can always stand more of. I also really, really want to start a book club. I’ve been talking about this for at least a year, and enough is enough. If you’re in the Dallas area and love books and brunch, you should probably think about joining. More info coming soon as I figure out just what this looks like, but I’m très‎ excited.

Traveling. Up next is a road trip to Marfa, a leisurely beachfront long weekend in Maine, Austin for SXSW (and most likely my bachelorette party), another trip (or two, or three) to New York City and of course, our honeymoon. Right now, Italy’s Amalfi coast and Naples or Spain’s islands and Barcelona are in the lead.

That’s it! I could go on and on when it comes to goals and to do lists, but hopefully these themes give you a good idea of where I’ve been, where I’m at and where I’m going.

What have you got planned for 2014?

Hand-Holding Couple

As a member of the tourism marketing industry, I love travel photos. Especially those of someone traveling the world so I can live vicariously through it. These photos of the famous hand-holding couple of instagram is seriously cool. They travel all over the world and take the same shot at all the different and new places they visit. Always with the girlfriend looking out in some fashion onto the beauty that they are visiting and reaching back to hold her boyfriend’s (the photographer) hand. Like she’s leading him into this new world they are visiting. One thing I love is her wardrobe choices. They are all very different, but always fit in with the photo and the location. I wish I had seen this before going to Europe! I think it would’ve been so fun to strike the same pose or similar shot in all the different locations I visited. It makes for an amazing photo series that I can’t get over. (shout out to Elite Daily for this one, my love/hate relationship with you rages on)

PS. follow them on Instagram immediately.

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Chicago, finally

I know you’ve all been doing absolutely nothing besides wait for me to post the long-promised pictures from Chicago, so I’m happy to tell you…the wait is over.

In all seriousness, I do feel badly for leading you on for so long. I also hope you do have many better things to do, but if you’re looking to escape from a particularly stressful work day or kill time waiting in line or traffic, I’m happy to oblige with the below stream of photos. (Except the traffic part. Do what I don’t and put. down. the phone.)

My week off work for the Wisconsin wedding and Chicago visit was 100% the re-energizing, fulfilling, fun, relaxing and all those other awesome adjectives that vacations are supposed to be. One major takeaway was the revelation that Madison, WI is quite the cool city with a Portland/Austin vibe: adorable painted houses, two lakes, bike-friendly, focus on local food and businesses, lots of live music and probably more. Who knew? I would completely go back, if only to participate in the (genius) Brunch & Bike event.

As for Chicago, we didn’t make it to a Cubs game, but we did do everything else I hoped for and more including a sunset architecture boat tour through the city, Second City improv show, Hot Doug’s for a real Chicago hot dog, drinking coffee and checking out record shops and bookstores through Wicker Park / Bucktown (the “hipster” neighborhoods, can’t you tell?), a leisurely walk through Lincoln Park and the beach and rooftop swims at our downtown place.

I also found my favorite place in all of Chicago, a cafe called Fabcakes where I enjoyed the most delicious lavendar latte and vegan and gluten-free oatmeal cookies. It wasn’t until after making insta-friends with the lovely people behind the counter and going back for seconds that I saw it – the neighboring restaurant’s hugely printed name next to the cafe’s shaded outdoor patio, “Prosecco.” If that’s not a sign of perfection, I don’t know what is.

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Food, friends and Franklin’s

Hey, remember back when I mentioned I spent a great weekend in Austin? My pictures have been begging me to go ahead and upload them already ever since. “You took us to be seen, didn’t you?” they say pointedly while taking up desktop space in a most guilt-inducing manner.

As with most Austin trips, food played quite the prominent role – and the Italian in me vehemently believes good food should be shared. So without further adieu…

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The boyfriend and I made the trek to visit with friends (just the sweetest couple, really) and make another attempt at Franklin Barbecue. You might have heard about this place recently seeing as Texas Monthly’s “Barbecue Guy” (it’s true, this job exists) just ranked it as the #1 best barbecue in Texas, and it’s been recognized as the best in the country by Bon Appetit. See, round one didn’t go so ideally in that I wasn’t actually there, everyone was apparently sleep deprived, one was too hungover to make it despite a valiant effort and one gas station stop for the impending sickness, it poured the Texas equivalent of freezing rain throughout the multiple hour outdoor wait and did I mention I wasn’t there? Despite all this, they came back from lunch saying how more than 100% worth it all this mess was because the meat was just. that. good.

This time around I made sure to secure my invitation and checked the weather – it was sunny skies ahead. Friday night drinking was held to a moderate level during our trip to a laid back downtown bar, Handlebar (as in mustache, found courtesy of a “Austin hipster restaurants” Google search), and dinner at Frank, whose hot dogs and bloody mary’s have made a couple tv appearances for their deliciousness. Bonus: they have plenty of gluten-free options! Of course, I couldn’t say no to a little champagne while watching the sunset and bats on the Congress Ave bridge, too.

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We woke up the next morning and made it to Franklin by 8:30 a.m. with lawn chairs and a cooler of mimosas and bloody mary’s in tow. A line was already beginning, but we weren’t too far back and the weather was beautiful so we were feeling pretty optimistic. While Franklin actually opens at 11, they’ve sold out of everything every day since opening two years ago, so you want to get there early to make sure they’ll still have the menu items you want. After a leisurely wait in an atmosphere of giddy anticipation from the crowd, the doors opened. I can’t even describe the richness of flavor, the silky texture of the meat, the way it literally fell off the bone and melted in my mouth…Just go there.

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We wrapped up the weekend sunning our stuffed stomachs by the pool. Perfection.

Texas Monthly also ranked Dallas’ Pecan Lodge as number two, so we’ll be reuniting soon to see how it measures up. I’ll keep you posted!

Eating healthy, Eating Out, Eating Cheap and why those don’t go together

I am currently under going a strategic effort to eat healthier in my day to day life. Sometimes I am totes down for gorging on some pancakes from Company Cafe because I know I have the calorie space that day, but other times I need to opt for the granola and fresh fruit. This is starting to become fairly easy because I notice such a change in my body and how I feel when I eat better versus when I over eat and fill up on crap. It’s also especially easy because I simply can’t afford to eat out all the time so there’s way less opportunity for temptation. But as I mentioned in my last, this was a busy weekend. I ate out for virtually every meal. EVERY MEAL. And what I realized is how expensive it is to eat healthy. This pisses me off. 

Now I realize I have no right to be angry. I’m aware that everyone knows it can be expensive to eat healthy. You can get a whole meal of grease at McDonalds for like a penny, versus packing your lunch full of pricey veggies, fruits and hard boiled eggs  (plus these take time to prepare – obnoxious) OR paying $15 for a decent salad. 

Since I was very aware I would be eating out so much that weekend, I was armed and ready to fight against tempting fatty foods full of sugar and cellulite. Saturday morning, post the boyfriend’s triathlon, we stopped at a breakfast place and I had to say no to the 900 calorie eggs benedict (sometimes I really hate when restaurants post the calorie counts…) and yes to the oatmeal with fresh fruit. Granted, it was delicious. But I refused to even look at my boyfriend’s hollandaise sauce for fear of drooling all over his heavenly plate. The oatmeal was an $9 event, my boyfreind’s eggs benedict was $8.  Just a few hours later, I was at brunch for my roommate’s birthday at Cedars Social. Yet another place chock full of delicious menu items. The French Toast was begging me to order it. It teased me with its hot maple syrup and fluffiness. I managed to mumble to the waiter that I’d have the fruit plate and two egg whites on the side. A meal that cost me $14 but was significantly smaller and less complicated than all the other menu items. The French Toast was $10, for example. 

I guess what I am getting at is that I HATE that eating healthy is so expensive. To me, the hard part was just making the healthy choice and fighting my eternal sugar cravings. But now, in addition, I have to consider the economic effects of eating healthy when I eat out. Even now when I go to the grocery store and load up on fruits and veggies, my grocery bill comes to an easy $60 without even trying. So I eat healthy, lose weight, but then can’t afford to treat myself to a new dress to celebrate my good eating habits. Where is the justice in that? For now, I’ll settle for a good Vogue or Cosmo to get me through these trying times [ha]. But my credit card is just not as happy with my diet change as my yoga practice (and my yoga pants) is. 

The return of the wanderlust

Well, ya’ll, I am back. Where do I even start?

The trip was so amazing. Each city was so different and lovely that as hard as I try, I can’t even begin to pick a favorite. And trust me, since that is the question that everyone asks, I’ve definitely given it some thought.

Rick Steves. Is a travel God among us simple tourists. He walked us through the Vatican City, all of Rome, and nooks and crannies of Paris. He provided things to look at, to take note of and then let you know why what you were looking at was so amazing. We didn’t always follow him word for word, but it was great to have him in our pockets as a reference. We love him. Like really. We love him.

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Everything in Paris. The two main meals I had in Paris were both so perfect and so French. Going of the beaten path served us so well. One night we had dinner with a friend who lives in Paris and she brought us to a little place where the waitresses don’t speak very much English (i.e. not a tourist spot – a sign we looked for throughout the trip for good food) – it was entirely perfect. The other night we just followed our hearts off main road and found this small little alley way with super small French restaurants. Both meals were so delicious! It’s also important to note that macaroons were just as delicious and classy as I dreamed they would be. I also died over the Pompidou Museum. It’s the Modern Art museum in Paris and it was so sick. The museum itself was artwork. OH and the lover’s locks. I’m a sucker for a lover’s lock. Screen shot 2013-04-05 at 12.45.59 PM Screen shot 2013-04-05 at 12.46.22 PM Screen shot 2013-04-05 at 12.46.38 PM Screen shot 2013-04-05 at 12.46.52 PM

Friends in Sevilla. First off, I got my wallet stollen in Sevilla. That’s literally all I’m going to say about that because I’m trying to pretend it didn’t happen. On a positive note, this is where my best friend lives. We all hung out, ate, drank and danced with her friends. I can’t even express how much I enjoyed this. They were all so nice and friendly..not that Dallas doesn’t have some great people but I noticed in my travels that people who live abroad are so much more open to meeting people and making new friends. We had group dinners and lunches involving a ton of tapas to share.

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That one night in Roma. One night in Rome we camped out on the Spanish Steps and a modpodge of a meal of baguette, brei, jamon, Prosecco, and a few other European sides. We just hung out for a while people watching, reading Rick Steves (our savior) info on the steps and getting a happy Prosecco buzz going. Afterwards we met up with a group of Italian grad student men and we all bonded over a mutual interest in hanging out. So with Italians in tow, we wandered to the almost deserted Trevi Fountain around midnight and mosied the streets of Rome until the wee hours of the morning. There’s nothing like seeing iconic historical sights in the middle of the night with no one around. It was simply magical.

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Fairytale land in Prague. Prague looks like you stepped into Anastasia. No joke. The cobblestone roads, the castle in the background, stunning bridges – oh and shots of liquor that greeted us at our hostel. We really took it easy in Prague. We went on a brief free walking tour, the notorious tourst dance club, and really just kinda existed in Prague for a few days. It was  a great break from the busyness of Rome and the busyness that was to come in Berlin. Many say that Prague is a tourist spot, and I don’t disagree. But I had some amazing food, fun, and delicious hot wine so I’m not complaining.

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Berlin living. By the time we got to Berlin, we were pretty exhausted and pretty jaded. We had trouble mustering the strength to even step foot in one of the hundreds of museums and couldn’t read another word from Rick. Luckily our hostel was another wicked amazing choice and we attended a free guided tour. It ended up taking us to all the major sights and even gave us a great breakdown of Berlin history (including book recommendations – how divine!). It wasn’t till a long run I went on my last day that Berlin really won me over. I’ve come to the conclusion that, among the cities we visited, this is the city I can most see myself living in. I’d love to live amongst the street art, the history, the beauty and most importantly the making of history that is happening right now in the reconstruction of the city. (PS. Is anyone else aware they are tearing down the East Side Gallery? I’m upset. Where do I write my letter of complaint?)

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So that’s just a brief summary of some of the things that I loved on my travels. It was a complete exhausting, eye opening, amazing trip that is totally worth the credit card debt and lack of vacation days. My wonderlust yearning has subsided for now, but that is likely due to the issues getting new credit cards, my slight credit card debt and the mound of laundry I have yet to look at. Plus, it was a dream come true to reunite with my soul sista best friend after all this time!

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Seeing skyscrapers: A love affair

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My one year anniversary is almost here! …The anniversary of my first trip to New York City that is. I always thought I would like New York, but nothing prepared me for how infectious the unique combination of nostalgia, success and so much more would be. That city just has momentum, you know?

I’ve never been the type to get all choked up about goodbyes with people. But when I left New York, I truly felt a twinge of sadness. Okay fine, at that immediate moment making my way towards the airport I felt exhausted and possibly just a tad hungover from one of the best weeks of my life. But that next week watching Gossip Girl, I couldn’t care less what annoying thing Dan was doing this time, because all I was watching was the city. My chest literally ached to be there again.

Why am I not there right now? Well, it all goes back to that conversation about settling I mentioned a couple posts ago. If I’m being honest the reason I didn’t move to New York or even pursue a job there after graduation was that I was scared. Scared of not having enough money. Scared of finding a place to live. Scared of not finding a job.

I’m realizing though that this is pretty stupid. In life I’m never going to feel I have enough money or always have certainty about what’s next. This is why (or so I’m told) being in your twenties is so brilliant! This is the time when we’re supposed to be trying new places and jobs out, going for those dreams…and still have plenty of time to pick ourselves up if we fall.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m still scared. But I’m sticking my toes out in the water, exploring my options for making this dream come true. If you have any words of wisdom I’d love to hear them! For now, I’ll leave you with this quote from Michael Bloomberg:

And because no matter who you are, if you believe in yourself and your dream, New York will always be a place for you.

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Wanderlust 2013: Berlin

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Traveling with friends is always a little hairy. First off, you’re together constantly which can get old in and of itself. Second, you likely will have different ideas as to what you’ll do on your trip. For my Europe trip (now referred to as Wonderlust 2013), I did some planning and research on Berlin last night. Berlin is so rich in history so the major tourist attractions are memorials and museums. I’m not a big history buff. I have an appreciation for history, but it doesn’t exactly get me giddy. So when listing out possible activities, I didn’t list too many of the history heavy spots that populated the pages of my tour guide. What I do find fascinating, however, is how the wars and history affected the landscape of the city. Streets and squares were demolished during the war and the falling of the Berlin Wall and are still working to get back to their original glory. East and West Berlin have switched personalities completely. It just reminds you that all this extreme violence wasn’t too long ago.

Here’s the thing though. What if someone I am traveling with is a die hard history nerd and wants to see every museum with a gun or flag in it? Instead of a constant struggle throughout the trip that could end with me going crazy in a museum, a friend feeling they wasted their trip or someone’s feelings getting hurt, I think it’s important to establish these kinds of things before we even step on a plane. That way, we can establish expectations now and even plan on splitting up if need be. So I’ve sent all my research to my two travel buddies to get their feedback and to start that conversation of “what do you want to get out of this trip?” Granted, it’s a tricky question. But I think everyone should stick up for what they really want to see (a life of regrets is no fun) but also be flexible.  You also shouldn’t ruin the trip by having a bad attitude because you didn’t get to see the one statute you came to see. Instead, be up front about what you want to tour that way you can establish early that you might take a solo mission to accomplish your trip goals.

And then sometimes, you’ll see a photo from Tuula Vintage on Instagram in Prague and message your friend and say “OH MY GOD  I HAVE TO SEE THIS BRIDGE OR I’LL DIE” in the overly dramatic way that only she can understand, and then she, in her cool Spain, best friend kind of way, will say “Babes, our hostel is on the bridge. You’re welcome.” Can’t wait to see my best friend in just a short few weeks!

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A Plan to Plan

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So as it turns out, Friday is March 1st. This date implies two things. One, it’s somehow been two months since New Years – I was pretty sure that was just last week. Two, my Europe trip is just a few weeks away. And what have I done to plan and prepare? Nothing. Squat. Nada. Absolutely zilch.

Okay, I am probably exaggerating (a favorite past time of mine). We have all the hostels, trains and planes booked and printed confirmation receipts in a folder for each one..it’s the “what are we doing when we get there” aspect that I haven’t given a second thought. My Rick Steve’s Best of Europe tour book came in last week, and it’s about time I take it out of the bubble wrap. In case you missed it, I’ll be exploring Paris solo.. I’ve never been anywhere outside the continental US of A and I don’t speak a lick of French. Are you praying for me yet?

Now now now, I’ll be meeting up with friends in Seville to continue the Europe adventure, but Paris is me time. I had every intention of spending this past weekend planning more of my day to day trip, but who can turn down hanging out with a new man friend, brunch or seeing Argo? Certainly not this girl. So once again, I didn’t give Europe any more thought than “what should I wear?” Furthermore, this upcoming weekend I’ll be taking an impromptu lake house trip with a few new friends. When I get back it will be March 3rd, just 15 days till I take off on a jet plane. Dun dun duuunnnn.

Part the problem is I am completely  overwhelmed. There’s so much to see in Paris, I’ll have to spend many hours just researching and narrowing down what it is I want to see. And then there’s the transportation, the directions, learning tourist social faux pas, and etc etc. It’s all quite daunting – in the most exciting kind of way of course. So since I’m heading out of town on Friday and am going to a dinner party on Thursday, this leaves me 2 days to nail some plans down.

Now I’d love to come back to you with some life changing trip planning advice or some super brilliant way I am organizing everything, but truthfully I’m the chicken with no head in this game. I really want to find some great way to keep everything organized – 5 cities in 5 countries in 14 days is in desperate need of some organizing tricks. So I am only giving myself one single goal this week. Plan and plan some more.