Around Here

tumblr_o2py8vpTzt1qkol0qo1_1280Life has felt so full lately, a perfect balance of travel and rest and productivity and fun and a lot of really good time with people I love, especially James. We’ve had friends visit from out of town, hosted barbecues in our backyard (in February!), treated ourselves to foot massages, and tried new restaurants (like Filament, Afrah, Unleavened Kitchen, and Motor Sisters Ice Cream). We went to a monster truck rally (beyond hilarious and entertaining), took Coach on approximately 204,237 walks, cleaned out our closets, and binge-watched House of Cards. We’ve launched individual passion projects (a podcast for me – stay tuned! – and grilling for him), booked an anniversary trip (to Seattle to visit Karli & Nick + to Florida to lay on the beach!), bought a new couch, and taken lots of naps. I spent a weekend in Boulder with my best friends from college, and I celebrated my beautiful bestie, Laura’s, bachelorette weekend in Austin, one of my very favorite places. Tomorrow I head to Florida for the second annual adult spring break, this time with Kyla and our sweet mommas. This year feels like it’s flying by, and while there have definitely been hard days, when I look back at the past few weeks it’s easy to remember how very blessed we are.

Image via Kate Arends / Wit & Delight

We’re Going to Europe!

Processed with VSCOcam with m5 presetJames & I have been busily curating our packing lists and checking them twice because in just a few short weeks, we’re heading to Europe! We’ll be gone for 14 luscious days and we’ll be exploring Iceland, Paris, Florence, and Rome. We have so many fun plans in store (like massages at the Blue Lagoon, a Northern Lights tour, a photo shoot in Paris, and noshing on pizza here), which we’ll balance out with plenty of days filled with absolutely no plans, armed only with the intention to wander around, pop into any store/café/watering hole that delights us, and enjoy our time together in Europe. I absolutely cannot wait!

Passport via Gigi New York

Los Angeles & The Yellow Conference

Processed with VSCOcam with c1 presetI am so excited to be heading back to the best coast again today – I’ve been there every month since May, how lucky is that?!

Remember last year when I dreamed of attending the Yellow Conference? Lauren and I put our heads together in January and started setting the wheels in motion for both of us to attend the event. We bought our tickets, booked our flights, and time flew by as we giddily anticipated our adventure together. I can’t believe the conference is here already! We leave for Los Angeles this afternoon and we couldn’t be more excited. We’re staying at the Ace Hotel, and we’re hoping to enjoy a delicious dinner at one of my favorite spots in Koreatown, The Commissary at the Line Hotel, after we arrive tonight.

Over the weekend, I’m going to stay with Andrew. He’s hosting a cocktail fundraiser party to benefit Touch A Life on Saturday evening, which is going to be so fun! I’m stoked that I get to spend good quality time with him while I’m in his neck of the woods.

Happy Wednesday, and enjoy the rest of your week!

Photo from Becca’s bachelorette weekend in Malibu in June…more pictures to come!

Tips for Traveling to Africa

africa_zebra_ColetteDeBarros_900My most recent post for Darling Magazine was inspired by the 10+ trips I’ve taken to Ghana on behalf of Touch A Life. I’ve learned so much along the way in regards to what to pack, what visas & vaccinations are needed prior to travel, what snacks to bring, and how wildly cultures differ in each African nation. Here’s a snippet from the piece:

People often underestimate the physical size of Africa and, as a result, they often tend to underestimate how vast the cultural differences are from nation to nation.

In 2013, Kai Krause created a powerful graphic that tangibly depicts the true – and massive! – size of Africa. The image shows how, if rearranged in a certain manner, over a dozen countries (including the United States, China, India, and several European nations) could fit within Africa’s mass. Upon seeing this image, it’s easier to wrap one’s mind around the fact that because the 54 countries that comprise Africa cover so much distance, their cultures are similarly spread apart, too.

What is culturally acceptable in one African country may not be tolerated in another; some nations are French-speaking, while others declare English as their national language. Each country is represented by numerous religions and other cultural influences. Women’s roles are different in each nation, too. Spend some time conducting research online, with a travel agent, or with a family member or friend who has been to the destination you’re traveling to, allowing you to be prepared for the cultural climate you’ll encounter.

To read the whole post in its entirety, hop over to Darling’s blog! Let me know what you think. Have you traveled to Africa, and do you have any tips to share?

P.S. Check out this post I wrote about packing for Ghana, specifically. I still adhere to all of the same tips!

Photo via Colette de Barros for Darling Issue No. 12

Around Here

Happy summer, the best time of the year! I’ve been traveling like a madwoman this month – since our brother-sister trip to Seattle, I’ve gone home to Chicago to spend Father’s Day weekend with my parents, to Little Rock for a business trip, and I’m heading to Malibu tonight to host a bachelorette party for Becca! Needless to say, there has been lots of coffee & books involved (my favorites being a piping hot flat white & Still Alice, respectively). While I am ready to enjoy some quiet weekends in July, I truly wouldn’t want my life to look any other way – I am so blessed by my travels and adventures.

I’ll definitely be posting some fun recaps when the dust settles, so in the meantime, I’ll be posting photos on Instagram! I’d love for you to tag along.

Brother-Sister Trip

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I can’t believe I’m typing this but I’m getting on yet another plane today, this time for a personal adventure – a brother-sister trip to Seattle! Andrew and I started a tradition of taking siblings-only trips a few years ago (check out a recap of our Austin trip here), and I’m so excited to explore a new city together. I visited Seattle during my senior year of college and haven’t been back, and Andrew’s never been, so it’s a perfect place for us to have an adventure. We’re staying at the Ace Hotel and we’ll get to spend plenty of time with our besties Karli & Nick, who moved to Seattle in January. We’ll definitely be devouring pizza at Delancey (I read the book about the restaurant and loved it) and enjoying the weekend’s amazing weather. Other than that, the agenda is wide open. I can’t wait!

Quality Over Quantity

TOAST+++BOTANY+Pop-UpHappy Tuesday! Life has been a bit of a whirlwind around these parts, what with taking care of the most darling puppy, tackling daily to-do lists, and preparing for a whole lot of travel. Over the course of the next eight weeks, I’ll travel to Ghana, Seattle, Chicago, and Los Angeles (twice!), meaning I’ll be away from home, on and off, for nearly one month (28 days, to be exact). I love traveling – it is so very life-giving – but I am also trying to soak up a lot of time at home with James, friends, and the pups so that I have lots of memories to carry with me while I’m gone.

I’ve tried to figure out what that looks like in terms of writing and blogging. Writing is such an outlet for me, but it does take time out of the extra minutes I have to spend with loved ones after work. Usually I am willing to make that sacrifice, but I do think that I’m in a season that demands that I pare back the extras in order to spend quality time with the loves in my life. So I’m working on remembering that that’s okay, and also remembering to value quality over quantity. During this hectic time, I may not crank out as many posts as I’d like, but if the quantity is substantial and important, then the post or piece is something I can be proud of – so that’s what I’m meditating on these days. Quality over quantity. Quality over quantity. Quality over quantity. It feels right.

Image via Botany & Kate Berry

San Francisco

Processed with VSCOcam with g3 presetWe’re experiencing California-like temperatures here in Dallas this week (a high of 77 degrees today, eee!), and the weather instantly transports me to the wonderful trip I took to San Francisco, Half Moon Bay, and Big Sur with Mom and Andrew in November. It’s about time that I finally share some photos, and I have to break them up into parts since each location easily deserves its own post. Up first: San Francisco.

Mom and I flew into San Francisco on a Thursday, and though I’ve been to northern California a dozen times since I graduated from college, I hadn’t gotten a chance to explore San Francisco on its own in such a long time. Mom and I had so much fun together. After we landed, our first stop was at Craftsman and Wolves, a hipster coffee shop and patisserie that I had been dying to try, and there we encountered the most delicious treat of all time – the rebel within, the dreamiest and most curious savory muffin stuffed with a perfectly poached egg (now I have to try to recreate it). We wandered around the neighborhood, popping into lots of little shops, my favorite being Little Paper Planes. Later we met my cousin and her fiancé for dinner at Nopa, sharing cocktails and lots of delicious small plates. The next day we woke up feeling refreshed and took a long luxurious stroll near the water, meandering over to Saint Frank for more hipster (and delicious!) coffee and breakfast. We strolled past Lombard Street, finding ourselves out of breath as we hiked through the hilly streets. We headed to Plow for a super-late brunch, which was just divine (three words: lemon ricotta pancakes), and then made our way to the Golden Gate Bridge – the day was too beautiful to pass up a photo shoot with the gorgeous landmark. We took a pitstop at the Painted Ladies before strolling through Hayes Valley, the cutest little strip of shops and restaurants.

Looking back, I can’t believe how much we packed into our San Francisco schedules in such a short amount of time. It was perfect!

Stay tuned: Half Moon Bay is next.

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Nashville

IMG_0520While I’m working on my photos from my trip to northern California, I thought I’d share some fun pictures from my fabulous trip to Nashville last month. I was in Music City for work but I got to spend my spare time playing with one of my very best friends, Becca, who lives in the popular 12 South neighborhood, right in the epicenter of everything fun and exciting and delicious. We dined at Silo, hiked around Radnor Lake, and ate lunch at Mas Tacos Por Favor. We drank lattes and ate homemade Pop-Tarts at Barista Parlor. We checked out Pinewood Social and ate my favorite meal at 404 Kitchen. We took lots of photos by the I Believe in Nashville mural (obviously), licked ice cream cones at Jeni’s, enjoyed Southern-style cuisine at Husk, and caffeinated at The Well. We had happy hour at the Oak Bar and barbecue at Edley’s, and we shopped for jeans at imogene + willie. We spent more than one afternoon at 12 South Taproom (my cousin, Sean, met us there once!) and we mingled and laughed with many of Becca’s fun friends.

I hadn’t been to Nashville in five years so it was so good to be back, and it was even better to see the city through the eyes of my best gal. Becca was the perfect tour guide – she made my trip absolutely fantastic. I’m ready to go back!

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Northern California

8042030463_4c12575850_bToday I am headed to San Francisco to meet my mom and my brother for a little getaway, and I am so, so excited for the adventures that await! On Friday we’ll stay in Half Moon Bay for an evening, and then dreams will come true as we spend a few days in Big Sur, a place I’ve been dying to visit. I’m looking forward to exploring new communities, eating delicious food, drinking California wines, and spending tons of time near the ocean. I can’t wait to share photos when I get back!

Happy Thursday to you and yours! See you next week.

Image via Rob DeGraff