Snapshot: A Vitamin C Infusion

29 Oct

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The fall flu bug seems to be surrounding me as of late. And while I haven’t come down with symptoms yet (except the ones that I’m imagining in my paranoia), there’s nothing wrong with an extra boost of Vitamin C. Lucky for me, the hotel I’m holing up in delivers freshly squeezed orange juice along with each morning’s news. Life really ain’t so bad.

Living Luxe at Hollywood’s Chateau Marmont

28 Oct

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Made up of equal parts kitsch and old-Hollywood glamour, the hotel Chateau Marmont is perched atop Sunset Boulevard, holding court over its lowly neighbors like any iconic landmark would. To an unknowing eye, it’s French chalet-inspired exterior may look a bit out of place against the glitz and glam. But thankfully, any devoted Us Weekly reader – such as myself – is keen to the quiet, but buzzing, celebrity haunt that the Chateau is.

As if I really needed an excuse to lounge at the ultra private property, I and a few gals jumped at the opportunity to deem it a bachelorette weekend destination. To celebrate not one, but two(!) upcoming weddings, we packed our bags and flew cross country to soak up a few days of life “inside the walls” of West Hollywood.

We booked a two-bedroom suite and a standard guestroom to accommodate our group, and then proceeded to hit up every Midwesterner’s ideal Cali hot spot – including Rodeo Drive, Drybar and Bravo star Lisa Vanderpump’s SUR restaurant (food was great; ambiance was exactly as you’d expect). It was everything. I mean, really, it was. And we even dove so deliciously low as to venture aboard a TMZ Tour, where Molly Shannon made a drive-by appearance from the rolled-down window of her SUV, kids shouting from the backseat.

From the overpriced cocktails at the Chateau’s garden terrace, to the room-service breakfast spread, it was a little bit like stepping into someone else’s life, but a few years – or decades – ago. And it turned out that a weekend throwback was exactly what we were looking for.

Oh, and the best part! I nearly forgot. Who’d we spy during our stay? Keifer Sutherland, Nate Berkus, Aaron Paul and a few other not-so-obvious celebs, all chilling at The Restaurant.

chateau_3The living room of our two-bedroom suite

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A glimpse of the suite’s balcony

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A petite kitchen set-up, with doors leading out to the balcony

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The kitschy cute kitchen
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And, a close up…

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Retro (authentic) shower faucets in the singular suite bathroom

chateau_7The mini bar in the standard guestroom
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The sitting area in the same standard guestroom

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Snag-worthy souvenirs

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Queen bed in the standard suite

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A relevant read from one of the coffee table glossies

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Gazing upward at the Chinese Theater

Bridal Party “Ask” via Etsy

27 Oct

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There’s nothing better than the excitement that comes with looming nuptials. I’m in wedding mania at the moment… three of my lovely friends are tying the knot this fall (two down, one to go!) and one of my best gals from college just said yes to a supremely romantic proposal.

With the date set for May, she’s promptly planning what I’m sure will be an amazing day. And, as if I weren’t excited enough already, she asked me to join her up front just yesterday! What could be sweeter than this card from Etsy – via Rock Candie Designs – to make it official?

I just had to share for all the brides-to-be out there looking for a similarly adorable way to celebrate their bridal party.

Juicing: An Antidote to Cider Mills & Donuts

26 Oct
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The “Autumn Antidote” green juice – simple and affordable blend

I’ve been on a juicing kick as of late. The cost of a few Evolution Essential Green juices per week (six bucks a pop at my local Whole Foods) had really begun to add up… and at one of my latest runs to Costco it clicked… I can buy my produce in bulk and reap some serious savings, with a bit of added effort.

I dug up my mom’s juicer, which she used religiously at certain points during her cancer treatments (side note: there is a ton of literature on the immune system perks of juicing with organic produce) and put it to work quickly.

Being a novice juicer, and wanting a concoction that would be not too sweet, not too bitter, and also not too many calories. I wanted to up my veggie ante, but only with something palatable. Also critical to this process was that it be simple. Excuse-proof. Which is hard to come by when I’m prying my eyes open in the morning.

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Very basic ingredient list – spinach, celery and apple

What I came up with was a three-ingredient green juice that’s healthy, delicious and totally affordable:

Autumn Antidote: Green Juice

- 1 whole apple (I’ve been using Granny Smith), quartered
– 4 stalks celery
– 4 cups (or two fistfuls) of spinach (I prefer fresh, unbagged varieties… you’ll get more juice with stems on)

Makes one glass of juice. 

In addition to the quick veggie fix, the juice acts like a true pick-me-up. And that means a lot coming from a caffeine addict like myself. All for about $2.25 a glass, according to my grocery breakdown.

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Sunday morning with green juice and CBS Morning News

As for the well-known argument of messy clean-ups that come with juicing, I’ve been pleasantly surprised. After running my juicer each AM, I break down the components, give them a quick rinse, and prop them on the counter to dry. In total, it takes about five minutes to juice the produce that I’ve pre-washed and clean up the appliance.

Best of all, it makes me feel a little less guilty for these fall trips to our Michigan cider mills… ;)

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Cinnamon and sugar rolled doughnuts are even more appealing when you started the day somewhat healthily… ;)

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Three Cedars Farm in Northville, Michigan – my current go-to cider mill

A Happy Engagement Kit for the Lucky Lady

18 Sep

Happy Engagement Kit

A couple of weekends ago, one of my best friends got engaged – woot! woot! – to her boyfriend of more than six years. If ever there were cause for celebration, this is it. Now that she’s rockin’ a major sparkler, it’s time to start thinking about the Big Day (and they’re on the fast track to start planning, too).

What better way to let her know that we’re thinking of her than with a little engagement goodie bag? This one, which we stealthly left on her front porch, was packed with some basic tools for a bride-to-be. Want to bundle up a similar gift for one of your lucky lady friends? Consider these picks:

  • Bridal magazines
  • Sticky “flags” or page markers to help her tag the ideas she likes
  • A notepad with matching pens or pencils
  • Champagne splits (with adorable straws, of course)
  • Nail polish (now that she’s showing off her bling 24-7)
  • Hand cream (see above)
  • Diamond cleaner

Knee-High Boots for Fall’s Busy Weekends

16 Sep

There’s nothing easier than pulling a tall boot over a thick, cushiony sock and skinny jeans come fall. When the boots make the outfit, the rest seems to piece itself together, doesn’t it? Oversized sweater? Check. Extra long scarf? Check. Hobo bag? Check. What could be better than layers of warm and cozy gear to ward off the chill of late September?

To get in the mood, I scoured my favorite shoe department (Nordstrom’s) for some of this season’s picks. Seeing that last year, I LIVED in my Corso Como heeled boots at work and my Sorel ‘Slimpacks,’ ummm, every moment that I wasn’t at work, it wasn’t hard to narrow down my weekend choices – all with a low heel, goes-with-anything shades of leather and a timeless shape. The prices? Well, they fit most budgets, ranging from $110 to $1,300.

I can hardly wait for the temps to dip just a few degrees lower…

Nordstrom fall boots

Top row of three, then bottom: Burberry ‘Carmack’ Over-the-Knee Boot ($1,295) | Frye ‘Kelly’ Over-the-Knee Boot ($498) | Sorel ‘Slimpack’ Riding Boot ($210) | Ugg Austrailia ‘Dahlen’ Riding Boot ($275) | Naughty Monkey ‘Femme Fatale’ Boot ($110)

A Healthy Cleanse to Kick-Start the Season

15 Sep

Trader Joes Complete Body Cleanse

No thank you, I do not need another martini. In fact, I’m pretty sure my liver – and the rest of me – needs a really, really serious break from a summer of overindulgence.

To kick-start the recovery, I’m leaning on one of my favorite buys at good, ol’ Trader Joe’s, the Complete Body Cleanse kit. If you’re familiar with the Whole Foods Liver Cleanse, this is identical, and it’s only half the price.

For something close to $12, the Trader Joe’s version comes with three supplements – a digestive formula, liver formula and fiber formula – that will last you two weeks. During week one, you take four supplements (all in pill form) in the AM, and eight in the PM. During week two, you take five in the AM and seven in the PM. Throughout all of it, my goal is to eat small, balanced meals (and lots of green juice) while cutting way back on added sugars and carbs. (If you’re a stronger woman than I, it’s probably in your best interest to completely cut out caffeine and alcohol.)

In my experience, it doesn’t take long to feel the trifecta of tablets take effect. For me, the most immediate response is a quicker, smoother digestion of foods that’s natural feeling, not at all scary or impromptu. (If you know what I mean…)

I strive to complete a two-week cleanse a couple of times each year, but using the change in seasons as a reminder is a great idea to squeeze four two-week cycles in annually.

I’d love to know what tactics you use to stay on track and if you complement any cleanses of your own with special foods, workouts or activities. Do tell!

Death and Airplanes

4 Sep

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Four months ago, my mom died. When I reflect on the strange passing of time since then, I’m momentarily surprised that it didn’t occur just yesterday, and then bewildered that it wasn’t an entire year ago. You see, there’s an ever-present pit in my stomach… and I can’t help but wonder if that pit has been with me since she was first diagnosed with terminal cancer, fooling my grief-riddled mind with silly things like days and months. 

Apart from my inability to sense the realistic passing of time, I’ve started to regain the feeling of normalcy in my everyday life. And it actually hurts to write that, because my heart aches with guilt each moment that I catch myself laughing too loud, being playful with my boyfriend, or talking celebrity gossip with colleagues. That feeling of guilt, I’ve found, can quickly spiral out of control. It makes me question my loyalty to my mom and my way of mourning – or celebrating – her life, it makes me question every word that came out of my mouth when I sat with her at the hospital the week she passed away, and it makes me question what more I could have done… what I didn’t do… and what I will do – to help my father, my brother, my aunts and everyone else affected by her loss to heal. If that doesn’t make sense, that’s okay. It doesn’t quite make sense to me sometimes, either. 

I know that the escalator of guilt only runs downward, so I’ve kept up with my new-found, favorite activity, self-coined “Distraction Therapy.” I’m not sure that any therapist would agree to distraction as therapy, but luckily, I haven’t asked. 

My self prescribed therapy is working for the most part. Like I mentioned in my first post, I continue to fuel it with a stack of unread magazines, podcast subscriptions, time with friends and evenings spent with my guy, versus alone at home. The one enigma here is time spent on an airplane. 

In the past couple of months, between work and personal travel, I’ve found myself on a plane 10 times. Ten. Times. And every time, the white noise of the cabin pressurization and the empty sky outside my window seat lures me down the rabbit hole of guilt and grief. I cry on planes. And I never bring Kleenex. I cry until I can stop crying, in an awkward sort of way that I hope my row-mates don’t notice but I’m quite sure they do. 

And I tell myself that this is okay. That this is normal. And then I wipe my eyes and put on my headphones and open a magazine. 

Horsing Around at Salamander Resort & Spa

13 Aug

Salamander Resort and Spa Bonfire Pit

Let me start with this: Yoga on Horseback.

I stared at the Fitness Class calendar on the dark wood desk in my guestroom, somewhat perplexed and somewhat intrigued. I wish that I could have woken at the crack of dawn to partake in the course ($150 per person; 30 minutes) – if only to describe the certain hilarity of my horseback skills – but instead, I achieved zen with an extra hour of sleep.

Part resort, part spa, and part equestrian center, the new Salamander Resort & Spa is a stately escape tucked in the outskirt of Middleburg, Virginia that’s registered to become one of the country’s first LEED certified “resorts” (and I always dig the green initiatives, by the way). Just a half-an-hour drive from Dulles International Airport, the resort, situated on 340 acres, begins at the end of a long, winding driveway a short distance (or long walk) from the historic downtown.

I’m nursing a cocktail when I ask the bartender how the property, just now celebrating its first anniversary, came to be. He tells me that cable channel BET co-founder, Sheila Johnson, is the brains behind the resort. Then, a fellow traveler – a local guy – pipes in to share that construction of the 168-room resort caused a bit of a controversy in the sleepy town. It’s at that moment that the lack of property signage, and the fact that I began to suspect my taxi driver was abducting me, all made sense. Strolling down Main Street, you’d never know that a luxury wellness center is welcoming nationwide guests just a few blocks away. The sedated property is quiet in just the way you’d hope it to be, whether you’re a weary traveler or a third-generation Middleburg-an? -er? -ler?

Either way, once you step inside the resort and minutes later, settle into your guestroom, you’ll forget everything except for the clawfoot soaking tub that’s whispering your name. A spacious bathroom, adorned with soft robes, is steps from a plush multi-purpose space, including a comfy bed, sectional sofa, table and chairs, desk, and in my case, a gas fireplace. A heavy glass door (that cannot be propped open, one of my only gripes), leads to a small balcony with two chairs. My guess is that these quick to close doors are a solution to the area’s many buzzing flies, which seem to show up – a bit irritatingly – in and outside of the resort.

The space is dreamy. And you haven’t even gotten to the spa yet, which boasts treatments like the Rider’s Relief massage, as well as several chic relaxation areas and a beckoning outdoor infinity pool.

Miles of biking, hiking and horseriding trails ripple across the foothills of the Blue Ride Mountains, making the resort an ideal escape for city dwellers that simply want some peace, quiet and luxury. It’s the perfect escape for solitude-seeking couples or families looking for a less-Disney, more-outdoorsy approach to vacationing. 

Mid-week rooms start at $295 per night. More details at www.salamanderresort.com.

Now, a peek inside the Salamander Resort: 

Salamander Resort and Spa king guestroom

Salamander Resort & Spa guestroom bathroom - complete with soaking tub

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Salamander Resort Stables, Virginia

Beauty Beat: Birchbox or Not?

8 Aug
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My August Birchbox delivery included these sample size goodies

What girl’s got time to scour the cosmetic counters on her Saturday morning? (Okay, let’s be serious. We’ll all make time for that.) The good news is, you don’t have to.

Thanks to the current subscription-box craze, clever companies have taken the task into their own hands. After filling out a quickie profile, they’ll sort through their goodies and send a customized sampling to your doorstep each month.

For nearly a year, I’ve received sample-filled packages from Birchbox. For $110 – side note: one of my fabulous friend’s gifted me a year’s subscription for my 30th birthday – they’ll keep ‘em coming for 12 months. Typically, my boxes include sample-sizes of body goops (lotions and sunscreens), facial cleansers (scrubs and soaps), fragrances (perfect for me to tote while traveling) and the occasional nail polish or lip color. Sometimes they hit the mark, other times it feels like a major let down. In the top photo, you can see what treats were delivered for August. A gritty, green face scrub that I liked at first use, perfume, hand moisturizer, BB cream and a fat little lip lube in a magenta-ish hue that I was sure I’d never, ever wear.

And, well, here’s the interesting part. Before bed, I smoothed on the Laqa & Co. lip lube and to my surprise, loved it. The next day, I wore it into work and who knows, maybe I’ll pick up a full-size stick if I continue to dig the pop of purple. That’s the beauty of a beauty box – it slowly and slyly opens you up to new products that you may have never come across on your own.

Now, I don’t know that it’s worth $110, but… Tell me, have you tried – and do you love – subscription services like Birchbox, Beauty Army, Julep or Glossybox? Or, have you ventured outside the beauty aisles and delved into other monthly deliveries like Graze (healthy snacks; I’ve tried this one too), Blue Apron (home-cooked meal ingredients and recipes, which I’m testing this week), Conscious Box (green goods), Bark Box (go ahead, guess), or Umba Box (handcrafted gifts; which I’ve also been gifted in the past)?

OMG… am I an addict or what? Apparently, I’m buying the subscription model, even though my gut feeling is that it’s a gimmicky waste of most folk’s money.

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