Monday, December 21, 2015

What To Do: Turks + Caicos

Jake and I had planned to not really leave the resort during our 5 day trip and I have to admit, that I could not do it! We ate breakfast, lunch and dinner at the two hotel restaurants and I was getting a little stir crazy. Don't get me wrong, I was obsessed with our hotel, but I learned that even I needed a change of scenery (and food) after a few days. Read about our hotel here

Leave the Resort. 

I actually caved before we even left Charlotte, around a month before our trip and reserved a rental car for the last 2 days. I had to! I felt like I would be missing out on everything the island had to offer. We did take a taxi to dinner one evening and it wasn't too expensive but there is really nothing like being able to explore on your own. Our hotel concierge was amazing and helped us get into the best restaurant on the island at the last minute. I have never really relied on the concierge before (due to my obsessive planning) but get this -- we did not have one single reservation for any meal before we stepped foot on the island. This changed after we had been there for about 20 hours. I'm not sure we really needed reservations every single night but we definitely did a few times. So I was glad that I had the concierge to help. The takeaway here is, even if you are going to a semi-remote island in the middle of the caribbean, a little planning is still necessary. Our favorite dinners were at Magnolia Wine Bar and Coco Bistro. Our best lunch was at the Conch Shack -- you are literally right on the beach. Can't beat that view!

Go on a Boat Excursion. 

The front desk also booked a 4 hour Caicos Dream boat excursion which was supposed to leave at 9:30 am on Thanksgiving Day, but likely ended up leaving closer to 10:15 due to something I like to call Island Time.  Not to worry though, because we still had a blast.  Our ship captain was named Kwee and had a penance for "conch" jokes, such as "you conch believe it", etc.  Two of the ship mates dove for fresh conch, which they then made into a fresh delicious conch salad with. Tasty! We tried to snorkel but it was too rough, but I'm glad we jumped in anyway.  Jake even went down the slide into the ocean, but I wasn't brave enough to do that -- my excuse was that I didn't want to get my hair wet. Maybe next time? After that, we headed over to a private island you can only get to by boat and lastly, we stopped at Half Moon Bay and Iguana Island where over 5,000 Iguanas live.... and apparently an equal amount of bugs. I'm not sure exactly where I got bitten, but I definitely took about 35 bites home as my souvenir. Oh well. I can't complain. I mean, c'mon.  Oh and just when you thought it couldn't get any cooler, we also took a detour to a shipwreck. 

Visit Chalk Sound including Sapodilla and Taylor Bay.

The weather wasn't super great the day we went, but we still had an awesome time. We went to pick up our rental car (which was an experience all in itself) and got lost about seven times trying to follow the guidebook, but when we finally made it, sat down on the beach and took a deep breath. It was so quiet and calming. Just very peaceful. and I think it would be fun to stay a night right on the bay next time.  

Go to Grace Bay Beach. 

This beach was voted the best beach in the world by TripAdvisor. I'm sorry Hawaii, but I had to say, it was the most beautiful beach I've ever seen. Just absolutely gorgeous. The water, the sand, you name it. Our hotel was on Grace Bay, but it was toward the end of the beach. 

On your flight home, sit on the left side of the plane. 

You can thank me later on this one. 



P.S. Merry Christmas, friends!...if I don't talk to you until after the Holidays. As I mentioned, it will be pretty quiet around here. 

Friday, December 18, 2015

Friday Five | Vol. 10

Happy Friday, lovelies! I mentioned last week that we were trying to decide what to do for Christmas, mainly if we wanted to get a tree or not since we'll be traveling (PNW, here we come!)... Well, we finally decided on getting a poinsettia and a wreath. We were going to put up a string of lights but we were too lazy to dig them out of the box.  These last few years, Christmas just hasn't been as fun as it used to be.  I'm not exactly sure why, but maybe we need to create more Christmas traditions.  We started going to the movies on Christmas Day about 5 years ago and that's been my favorite new tradition so far. Share your favorite Christmas tradition in the comments section below!

Photo credit: Jagger Photography
I just read this article about How to Stay Productive at the Office when it's Dark at 4 pm.  Green Tea, anyone?

This summer I started using this every night and it's changed my life.  Now I know why so many people swear by it.  My skin looks and feels amazing.

Do you subscribe to Travel Zoo's weekly Top 20 list? Receiving this in my Inbox is honestly what I look forward to every Wednesday.

Lena Dunham's book, Not that Kind of Girl was one of the best books I've read in 2015. She is such a good writer. I miss Girls!

I think I'm going to use these Passported City Guides to plan our next trip. Destination: TBD.  My TSA Pre-check was approved, so I'm feeling pretty good!  

Happy Weekending!

P.S. We're heading to Seattle next week for the holidays, so things might be quieter than usual around here. Merry Christmas, just in case. 

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Where to Stay: Gansevoort Turks + Caicos

Several friends have asked how we choose Turks and Caicos for our Caribbean trip.  The answer is kind of silly, but I'll share it anyway.  We chose it based on the hotel.  Well, to be honest I actually have a running list in my head of all these different hotels I want to stay at... think Hotel Saint Cecelia in Austin, J.K. Place in Capri, Viceroy Anguilla. I never thought in a million years that I would be splurging on 5-star hotels, but let me tell you, it's addicting.   Once you start, you cannot stop!

Do you see the couple in the photo below? Jake joked that would be us in 30 years. If so, I'm in!

I love having a mid-November birthday because I can always rope Jake into going on a Thanksgiving Trip to take advantage of having 5 days off in a row. I'm pretty sure that this is the only time all year that we have 5 days off in a row without having to take even one day of vacation.  Below is my welcome birthday cake, complete with champagne! Always tell the hotel you are celebrating a special occasion and they will definitely take care of you.    

We stayed in a Pool View Studio which was an upgrade as a result of booking through an Orbitz travel package. I would recommend booking through a package if you have researched prices online, you can usually save several hundred dollars.   

Can you see the ocean peeking out? Look closer :)

And now, for my favorite spot on the entire properly. Just lounging at the pool. I spent as much time  there as humanly possible (when it wasn't raining) -- more on that later. See below: the biggest wine pour you've ever seen during said storm. 

The resort reminded me of a spanish villa. I absolutely loved the color scheme. Everything was really clean and white with pops of mint.  Even the towels were mint green. 

My other favorite detail was the colorful bougainvillea that really brightened up the property. 

When you walk out to the ocean from the hotel, this is the view. Not too shabby. We took several morning walks along the beach including one where all of a sudden we were up to our waists in water out of nowhere. That tide is very unpredictable! 

On the first day of our trip, it poured RAIN. Not for a few minutes or hours. It poured almost all day. So the guys at the bar were pretty generous with their pours ... and now I present, the biggest wine pour ever in history. *mic drop* 

For further reading, hotels that I have crossed off my list recently:

I'll be sharing a few more photos from our Turks and Caicos trip later on the blog, including when we ventured off the resort. Stay tuned next week! 

Monday, December 14, 2015

Fall Print-Mixing | Floral + Stripes

I don't usually pay attention to when one season ends and another begins. But, as I was putting this outfit together, I wondered if it was too "fall-ish" and not wintry enough. So I looked it up and apparently Winter doesn't techincally start until December 21. Who knew? So, I guess I can wear this outfit for another week. Phew. 

With Christmas coming up next week (gulp.), what are your plans? For our last trip of the year (this reminds me of an introduction to a magic trick, ha), we are heading to Seattle to spend the holidays with Jake's family. We can't go back to Seattle without hitting up some of our favorite restaurants - Purple Wine Bar, Revel, La Carta de Oaxaca, etc. I have to stop myself or I will literally go to all of these restaurants.  I'm really looking forward to seeing everyone since we weren't there last Christmas and we only had a real quick stopover there this summer on our way to Hawaii for my brother's wedding. So, it's been a year and a half since we spent a full week there, which is crazy! Time flies!   

Anyway, I am obsessed with mixing floral with stripes for Fall. So, here is my newest creation. I've worn the scarf and jacket with a white and black striped dress that I have and I'm really loving the print mixing. It's very subtle... and this is coming from the girl who thinks stripes are a neutral. Aren't they??? 

| The Deets |

Leggings | Zella Live In Leggings
Jacket | Jcrew Field Mechanic Jacket
Striped Tee | Old Navy (old), similar
Flats | Old Navy Suede Pointy Ballet Flats 
Scarf | Nordstrom BP (old), no similar options 
Earrings | Dana Rebecca Designs 14k White Gold Bar Stud
Sunglasses | Rayban New Wayfarer Polarized

All photos by Joey @ Hodges Podges.


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Friday, December 11, 2015

Friday Five | Vol. 9

You guys.  Christmas is 2 weeks away and I am not even close to being done with all of my shopping. Yikes.  We don't have a Christmas Tree. We might not even get one. Ugh... I am sad but also trying to be practical. We aren't even going to be at home on Christmas so it doesn't make a lot of sense. We have both been traveling in December and it just seems crazy to shell out money and decorate the house for only ~10 days. I don't want to be a scrooge but it doesn't really seem like Christmas if we don't have a tree...  

(1) Have you watched the Instagram Husband video? I was dying laughing. It's on point. 

(2) My Rachel Zoe Winter Box of Style should be arriving soon. I cannot wait! Spoiler alert: here is what's inside. 

(3) I finally made VIB status at Sephora this year! I didn't get it last year but I was so close this year, I decided to do some Christmas shopping and it pushed me over the edge. I'm not sure if I should be happy or sad. I am such a sucker for loyalty programs. Don't even get me started on Starbucks.  

(4) Are you ready? The first episode of Serial | Season 2 is out. I have not listened to it yet, but it's on my to do list. 

(5) Here are Seven Holiday Travel Hacks everyone should know. You can thank me later. 

Have a great weekend, lovelies!


Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Travel Smarter | DSLR Camera Rental

Buying a DSLR camera has been on my list for >5 years now.  For some reason, I haven't done it.  I've been intimidated with choosing a camera and how can you pick out a camera if you don't know how to use it? It's an odd conundrum.  Usually I can spend some time researching  something online and make a decision. But, for some reason I've really struggled with this particular choice. Do I get a Canon or Nikon? Which model? How much do I spend? The list goes on and on.

When a friend mentioned that she recently purchased a DSLR camera, I was all ears to hear about what model she got and how hard it was to use. Turns out its actually pretty simple. Who knew? Once she showed me how to use the basic functions, I tried it out and was surprised at how good the photos I took were. This is so easy, I thought! 

Fast forward to me procrastinating about dropping $500 - $1k on a camera and a lens. It was two days before our trip to Chicago and I really wanted a camera to take photos with. Enter ATS Rentals. I randomly found their site while googling 'camera rental'. I had a camera and lens rental in my cart on another company's website but it was going to be over $200 for a 4 day rental. No thanks. 

When I tried adding the Canon Rebel T5i and Canon 24-105 f4/L to my cart at ATS Rentals, it was around $100 (weekends are free) plus $50 for shipping. The bad news is that I had to pay an arm and a leg for overnight shipping so I could receive it before we had to catch our flight in a few days. But -- it was worth it and that was my bad! They even shipped a travel bag that I could use while traveling so I could have some peace of mind that my thousands of dollars of equipment was safe. Wait... it gets better.  Included in the box with the equipment was some candy! Whaaaaat? I had read some reviews on yelp so I was prepared for that curveball. How fun is that? Love me some lollipops!         

The equipment arrived on time and we were off! The trip was great (posts here and here), I got some amazing photos and it was so easy! All I had to do was add my own memory card (but you can also rent a memory card if you need one). And when the rental was up, I just mailed everything back in the same box it came in and dropped it off at a UPS store for free return shipping. They even included tape so that I could close up the box. They thought of everything, I swear!

I loved my experience so much that I did it again just a month later! I knew we were going to Turks & Caicos for Thanksgiving so I put my order in ahead of time since they get busy around the holidays. This time, I did the "standard Canon T2i vacation package" which exceeded all of my expectations. It's $57/day for the camera and a lens, holidays and weekends are free, so I ended up spending ~$100 for what I thought was a 7-day rental this time. They emailed me a few days before the equipment was supposed to arrive asking if I wanted to receive it a day early for no charge -- and that meant it would arrive on a Friday instead of a Monday. Yes, please. Sure enough, it arrived early and I had all weekend to play around with it.   

One of the most important lessons I've learned from this whole experience is that I actually don't want to buy a DSLR camera. I'm leaning towards the Sony Alpha which is a mid-size alternative to a bulky DSRL. I actually found that while traveling, I didn't want to lug the big camera around with me during our trips, so that didn't really make sense for me to invest in one for myself if I wasn't going to bring it everywhere. So, I feel like I learned a very valuable lesson and got to try out a few different cameras in the process. It was totally a worthwhile investment and if I ever decide to rent another DSLR, I know where to go.  This is not a sponsored post, I just really like this company. 

Do you have any tips to travel smarter? If so, please share in the comments section below. 


Monday, December 7, 2015

20 Questions | Turks & Caicos Edition

I was inspired by a friend who posted this travel questionnaire to Facebook after a trip to Europe, so I thought I would be fun to answer a few questions about our most recent trip to Turks & Caicos.  So, let's jump right in (pun intended):    

Grace Bay

Favorite photo: 

See above. We ventured out to Grace Bay on one of our last days and it was incredible. The bluest water I've ever seen (sorry Hawaii). 

Favorite quote: 

I read this quote the first day of our trip and I couldn't agree more --  "Live your life with intention and attention". Boom!  

Favorite city: 

Providenciales. Well, that's the only island we went to. So we're going with that.  

Favorite beach: 

Grace Bay (pictured above). 

Favorite aspect of Caribbean Travel: 

How simple everything is. There is one security line and only a few gates at the airport. 

Proudest moment as an American: 

Reading our guidebook to understand the tipping customs so we didn't totally miss the boat. I'm proud to say that we tipped 20% on our free breakfast each morning. 

Most shameful moment as an American: 

Not asking questions and trying to understand the locals and their culture better.  

Strangest custom: 

Driving on the left but in an American car. 

Best decision: 

Choosing the Gansevoort Turks and Caicos as our home away from home. I cannot recommend it enough. We booked a package through Orbitz and I'm sure that saved us several hundred dollars. 

Worst decision: 

Not bringing or using bugspray. See 'Not looking forward to' below. 

Best discovery: 

Conch (as in: trying a fresh conch salad on a boat ride that we took on Thanksgiving day). 

Most startling discovery: 

Turks and Caicos isn't actually in the Caribbean. It's in the Atlantic. Who knew? 

Best day: 

The day we visited Grace Bay. 

Worst day: 

On our first full day, there was a huge rainstorm and it basically poured all day. Per the guidebook, there are 350 sunny days per year. So we just drank our sorrows all day.  

Best meal: 

An unassuming restaurant called Magnolias wine bar where we ate Thanksgiving dinner. I had the lobster and Jake had the tuna steak. It was simple but very well done. They even had a Pumpkin Pie dessert for us. 

Worst meal: 

We didn't have a bad meal per se, but the food was a lot more expensive than we anticipated. So, keep that in mind if you decide to take a trip here. I would definitely go back, but maybe just adjust my budget accordingly. 

Still excited for:  

Doing my blog post recaps and editing my photos -- duh! 

Not looking forward to:  

Scratching my bug bites. They still haven't fully healed yet. 

Most looking forward to: 

Jake and I sitting down and going through all 479 of our photos together.  

Most thankful for: 

The ability to travel. I sometimes take it for granted, but it's pretty cool to go from wanting to visit a place, researching it and then actually making it happen. It's pretty magical in my eyes! 


Friday, December 4, 2015

Friday Five | Vol. 8

Well, in case you didn't notice I missed last week's Friday Five. Oh well. It was the day after Thanksgiving and I was on vacation. Anyway, I'm back now and it's December.  And by back now, I mean I'm writing this from Las Vegas.  December might actually be a busier travel month than October which I did not think was possible. Anywho....

(1) My new favorite song is Justin Bieber's Love Yourself.  I know. Nobody is more shocked than I am.

(2) I didn't actually buy anything on Cyber Monday or Black Friday. I'm pretty proud of myself for this. Did you score anything crazy good?

(3) Debating whether to stop getting gel manicures. They cannot be good for you.

(4) I know we just got back from a trip, but I'm seriously considering where I want to go for my birthday next year. Top contenders: Tulum, Mexico or Austin, Texas. #traveladdict, am I right?

(5) I just got my first pair of ear jackets -- thanks Amy! and I'm obsessed. So many fun earring trends this year. I wonder what they'll come up with next year?

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Weekending | Chicago's Cloud Gate + Willis Tower

If you haven't already, be sure to check out this post which is essentally Part I of our Chicago Trip.   

One thing I was really excited to see in person was Cloud Gate aka the Chicago Bean.   I feel like I have seen a million photos of this thing. But, nothing does it justice like seeing it in person.  First of all, it's way bigger than I thought it was. It's ginormous. I really wanted to get there at 6 am so we could take photos without anyone else, but alas we were on vacation and the point is to SLEEP IN and not wake up earlier than you usually would. Haha.

I love this shot below because of the red trees. We visited in mid-October and the leaves were just starting to really change -- it was beautiful and warmer than I thought it would be. I was expecting it to be freezing, because, you know, Chicago. Well, you know how they call it the windy city? Well, when we first arrived, we noticed people were really bundled up and the weather said it was in the 60's so we were kind of confused, until the wind started to pick up.  I swear it seemed 10-15 degrees colder with the wind chill. The good news is that we did pack accordingly and I had my big winter coat.  

Another area we walked around a lot was Millennium Mile.  Uniqlo had just opened the day before we were there so it was madness, but of course we had to go check it out. The store had at least 5 floors and was it was insanely packed. We decided to pass on buying anything since, well... Charlotte. Essentially it doesn't snow or get super cold here very much. Once in a while (hello polar vortex), it'll get down to the single digits but for the most part, we don't really need to bundle up much here.  

We bought Willis (formerly Sears) Tower tickets on Travelzoo for $15 so I was pretty proud of myself that I saved us a little bit of money.  I was even prouder when I realized that we got to skip part of the line since we had said vouchers. When we arrived, they said it would be a 2 hour wait to the top (which sounded crazy to me, but when in Rome)... it ended up to be closer to an hour and a half-ish. 

Jake and I both stepped out on The Ledge which is 103 floors up, overlooking the city of Chicago with a GLASS FLOOR. It is not for the faint of heart as Jake and I both are afraid of heights. Confession: sometimes I am scared to go on the escalator when its 3+ floors up. But, I went out on the ledge long enough to take a few quick pics and that was it. I had to hold onto the glass at all times. My face looks pretty terrified in some of the photos. There is one picture of us kneeling down on Facebook, but it makes me scared just to look at it.  Not sure if I would ever do it again... but... I survived to tell about it.  

I love how the water really looks blue/green in these photos.  

All of the lights. 

I leave you with one more shot of the skyline because it's just so gorgeous.

Well, that's it folks. It was a pretty quick short and sweet trip. We came, we saw, we ate Pequoids deep dish pizza and a Chicago Dog so I think we should be set for a while.