Oh, Business Trip

20 Nov

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The very occasional perk of non-stop travel is unusually satisfying room service. Served with wine. In bed.

Do we agree? I think yes.

Tonight, I’m prepping for a 7 a.m. flight with the longest and hottest shower that I can stand, a full glass of Sauvignon Blanc and a Modern Family rerun. Sometimes, the best you can do isn’t so horrible at all.

A Perfect Fall Weekend in Paris

19 Nov

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When your route is transatlantic, there’s no good excuse not to make a stop in Paris.

So, there we were. In Paris on a beautifully crisp fall day, strolling the Luxembourg Gardens, sipping espressos (and a bit too much wine) and ordering up cheese platters like nobody’s business while we made our leisurely way through the city. This girl – coming off of a week in LA that set my clock back three hours – had a bit of trouble adjusting to the new time zone. But no worries. I mean, it’s Paris, so you must. You  just must.

Our two-day itinerary was as serendipitous as it was strategic, and wonderfully ideal. If you’ve never been to the City of Lights, here’s a quick glance at what – and how – you may want to plan.

We made our home base in Saint Germain’s Hotel Recamier, in Place Saint-Sulpice, a quiet but lovely square that’s conveniently located for walking around the city. I’d researched my heart out, and booked room 64, which includes the hotel’s only guestroom terrace, a small square of space with bistro table that overlooks fellow neighbor’s rooftops in an irresistibly quaint – but not especially scenic – sense.

Day One

11 AM – Grab a baguette and beverage and head over to Luxembourg Gardens, where you can find a patch of grass or a table to sit on while watching kids float sailboats in the water.

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1 PM – Continue your leisurely walk toward the Eiffel Tower, and pick up a bottle of wine along the way (glasses too). Make cozy on the grass again – and soak up the sights and sounds – before you head toward the bustle along the river. Remember, this slow itinerary was based on a jet-lagged American that arrived at 8 AM ;)

4 PM: Indulge in your own Latin Quarter strolling dinner, ordering up aperitifs and wine alongside fromage plates as you move from one scenic cafe to the next. Finish with sweets, naturally. Take your time. Everyone else does.

7 PM: From the Latin Quarter, head toward Notre Dame, to take in the lit-up magnificence of the structure at night. Quietly walk through the church, in awe.

8 PM: If you’re with your guy, bring along a small padlock (or buy one for a euro or two from a peddler) and attach it to the Pont des Arts bridge, or any other, in a sachrine and touristy – but also romantic – pledge of your love. Toss the keys in the Seine.

9 PM: Pick up tickets for an evening river cruise. We opted for Bateaux Vedettes du Pont Neuf’s 10 PM cruise. Go a few minutes early to pick up a mini bottle or two of chardonnay for your float, and then wait in a short line to score seats on the top deck of the boat, near the front.

11 PM: When the city is quiet, walk to the Louvre Museum (it will be closed by this time), and take up a seat outside the glass pyramid, where the crowds are non-existent and you can enjoy the architecture in peace and serenity.

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Day Two: 

9 AM: Find a cafe, like the sweet spot right in Place Saint-Sulpice, and order up breakfast with caffeination. Croissant – or an omelet – if it’s more your vibe.

10 AM: While you’re in the area, wander through Saint-Sulpice Church, the city’s second-largest.

11 AM: Time for dessert? Of course. Everyone eats dessert between breakfast and lunch in Paris, no? We zipped into a choclatier and picked up some macaroons, too. The perfect setting seemed to be the river, so we headed that way to hang our legs off the edge and enjoy the sweets al fresco.

1 PM: We hopped the Metro to Gard de Nord, one of the city’s primary train stations, which transports you into a former era, trains spewing in and out of the station, and crowds buzzing. From there, we grabbed a cab to Montmarte.

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3 PM: Montmarte. I didn’t realize the grandeur that awaited us after our climb to this hill-top church. It was stunning. After approximately one gazillion stairs, I can attest that the ascent is worth the effort. After touring the cathedral, peruse the village beside it (maybe indulge in some hazelnut gelato – like I did?).

7 PM: Wrap up your evening with some fantastically French cuisine. There are so many options that I won’t even list any here. We asked our concierge for a recommendation (which was also based on the few places open on a Sunday evening), but it was excellent and the perfect way to round out our 48 hours in Paris. Long and leisurely and filled with plenty of wine, naturally.

Of course, the rest of the evening was spent curled up in robes back at the hotel, before hopping onto another European flight in the morning. More details on that coming soon…

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. 

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