Wednesday, December 31, 2014

The Best Thing I Ate in 2014: Hattie B's Hot Chicken

Since 2014 has just a few hours left, I've decided to eek out a few end of the year posts. I thought about doing a food list, but since the Internet is filled with lists galore, I decided one post devoted to my favorite dish should suffice. My best, by far, of 2014 was Hattie B's Hot Chicken. Hot chicken is exclusive to Nashville, and once you've tasted it, you'll wish it would come to your town. 

Behold: The magic that is Hattie B's hot chicken. 

Hot chicken is fried chicken that's spiced just right. The hottest at Hattie B's is called "Shut the Cluck Up." (wink. wink.) I ordered mild, but I wish I'd gotten it hotter. But then again, I like my pho so spicy that it makes me cry when I'l almost finished, so to each his own. But one thing's for sure: you must try this. Eating hot chicken in Nashville should be a commandment. Right up there with "thou shall not steal." 

Hattie B's chicken is hot, juicy and tender. From the moment you sink your teeth into that bird, you won't want to stop. The skin gives just the right amount of crisp and crunch that gives way to that succulent meat. And this is coming from someone who didn't eat meat for a decade. But the chicken's just the start. You'll want sides too. The fries were just crispy enough without feeling soggy or greasy. But the real winner here was the mac n cheese. This creamy concoction was probably the best variation of the dish I've ever had. Writing this post has even got me salivating just a tiny bit. 

And my final confession? I ate Hattie B's right before I left Nashville and pulled off at the very first road stop to finish it. I just had to have it. 

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

My Activewear Wish List

Oh, the holidays. They can be dreamy and they can be nightmarish. But wouldn't it be fun if you could get everything you wished for? So I came up with this fun list. Price isn't a factor since this is a wish list. And who cares if it doesn't come true? This is supposed to be fun. Behold my dreamy activewear picks for the holiday season. Who knows? Maybe it will come true. Miracles do happen. 

Maybe I'll get some brand new activewear under the tree.
Photo courtesy of Flickr user Alan Cleaver. 

1. Lucy's Pocket Capri in Ultramarine Spacedye

I cannot get over that color. I'll say it again. Icannotgetoverthatcolor. I'm going through a space dye phase and that dark blue is just perfect. Plus, I'm in love with the pocket capris. Like I would marry them. (OK, so not that much, but you get the idea) I don't why activewear creators hadn't thought of this already. A pocket in the side panel is not that revolutionary. But man is it helpful. I love being able to stick my iPod/keys/knick-nacks in there without those items adding bulk.

2.  Alala

I love that color!

Everything from this entire brand makes me swoon. Everything. It's like wearing Chanel to the gym. The company loaned me a pair of its capris to review, and I could not get enough. The material is thick, but light weight and moisture-repellent. Alala is expensive though, which is why it made this wish list and not my closet. Sigh. Oh well, it's always nice to look, right?

3. Athleta Chi Tank in Red

Sometimes you just need a plain tank top. And my favorite tank du jour is Athleta's Chi Tank. It's soft, but doesn't let the sweat cling to you. It also has slimming lines and hangs just right. In short, if you're looking for the perfect, basic top, make it this one. And I cannot get enough of that pretty Saffron Red color. 

4.  Nancy Rose Performance

Look at this beautiful red colored wrap top. 

If you're not familiar with this brand, you should be. Nancy Rose crafts the most gorgeous activewear on the market. And that's a fact. One of the brand's signature styles are its wrap tops. They're slimming and gorgeous. I own one, and I've been lusting after another for a long time now. Right now, my eye is on this Arabesque Tank Top

5. lululemon Emerge Renewed Crop

Look at the mesh! Look at the texture! 

I'm always lusting after something from lululemon. My current obsession: lululemon's Emerge Renewed Crop. I love seams, and I love mesh and these are the perfect combination of both. Now, the material on these does look like it could be a little stiff, but these also might be the best.

6. Nike Studio Wrap

Stupid shoes, we've all got 'em. You know the pair. Those kitten heels you tell yourself you'll wear, but then actually do and it sucks so you give up. Since I'm not big into high heels, athletic shoes are my favorites. And these are my stupid shoes. They look beautiful--like something a real dancer would wear--although I have a feeling they're not terribly functional. But who cares about function when it comes to beauty? Nike even makes a pair in Tiffany blue for the company's annual half marathon. All I can think of when I see these is "want, want, want." And that's why they made this wish list.

Happy holidays! 

Friday, December 19, 2014

Ways to Save on Activewear

As an activewear lover (with a special place in my heart for brands like lucy and lululemon), I know how hard it can be to justify shelling out mega bucks on clothing that you only wear when you're sweating. I suffered from severe sticker shock the first time I looked at a price tag in lululemon. But then I let myself buy a few items, and I was hooked. Funny how that goes, huh? Since I've been following the market for a few years now, I've picked up in a few tips and tricks to really save money. Besides, you should never pay full-price retail. Here's my first tip: don't shop Black Friday. You can usually get better discounts throughout the year. That is unless you enjoy tackling herds of stampeding crowds.

Discover ways to save on activewear using my tried-and-true tips. Courtesy of Flickr user: 401(K) 2013.

1. Sign Up for the Mailing List/Facebook/Instagram

This is key. Companies will alert you to sales, giveaways and other in-store deals. Lucy and Athleta are the two biggest brands that have the best sales. Following the companies on Facebook and Instagram is useful too. My favorite company to follow on Instagram is Nancy Rose Performance.

2. Read Blogs

This probably only applies to lululemon, but sometimes bloggers will know of a sale before it happens. Check lululemon addict or lulumum for the latest news and cute pictures of new gear.

3. Attend in-store/brand-sponsored events

Going to a store event is somewhat of a crapshoot since the store will rarely advertise that it's going to be discounting items. But sometimes they do, and you can win big. I once attended an outdoor Pilates class at Studio BE that lucy sponsored and scored 40 percent off the sale. And I got to get a workout in too. As an added bonus, you may even score free gear. I went to an event at Alexandria's Swet Ride and got a free lululemon towel, and I once won an Athleta raffle that included a gift card and a headband. Certain studios also will host trunk shoes and have their own sales too. That's why it can pay to get on their mailing lists too.

4. Know the Brand

One of the easiest ways to save money is by getting familiar with the brand. Here's what I've learned about my favorite ones:

1. lucy

lucy is probably the best when it comes to having great sales. This past Veteran's Day the company discounted everything on its site by 30 percent. Everything. But the easiest way to score deals here is to wait for the seasons to change. The company will discount everything once and then offer more discounts later. Once you get that first email, wait for the next one before you purchase.

2. Athleta

This brand has seasonal sales too. If you go to one of their special events, you also can get discounts too. I feel like I've almost always scored discounts after going to in-store events.

3. Lululemon

My favorite brand of all time almost never has sales. :-( Aside from the warehouse sale the company holds annually in one spot in the country, you just have to get lucky. The have what they call "mark-downs" of goods in-stores. The discounts are usually good, but the merchandise can be somewhat picked over. The mark downs are either on a moveable rack or spread throughout the store. The employees will usually put a bright purple discounted tag on the long price tag that you can spot. You can head over the website's "We Made Too Much" section (also known as "loot" to the lulu fanatic) to get deals online. Heads up though: this section does sell out quickly.

Sites Where You Can Score 


You've got to be careful with this one since people do scam each other. But you also can great some great deals too. I've bought a handful of items from the site, and I've always had good luck. To prevent scams, just be sure to look into the buyers' rating. If the buyer has a bad rating or one of the comments is that the person didn't send an item or sent something in horrific shape, I'd never purchase from them. You can even set up really specific alerts so you get emails when you want is available. It can pay to "track" an item so you can see if the buyer ends up coming down in price.


I've never bought anything off this site, but it's another option too.


This is a much smaller clothing site, but you may be able to score deals here.


I belong to two different Facebook groups (lulu lounge and lululemon trading post) and every so often someone will post sale items. You have to be careful with scams here though. It's not regulated in any way like eBay or a bigger website.

There you have it. I hope you enjoy this list and score some great deals on activewear. Because the only thing more satisfying than a great workout is wearing clothes you paid a lot less for. Happy shopping! 

Friday, December 12, 2014

Hotels I Love: Portland's Ace Hotel

The rise of the boutique hotel has given the hospitality world some truly great and creative chains. Exhibit A: The Ace Hotel. This entire Seattle-based chain exudes cool. It's an upscale hostel with an edge.

Behold: My bed topped with a made-in-Portland blanket and lit up with that photographer's light. 

Every detail--from the locally made tiny black square bar of soap hanging from the sink in my room to the stack of real (!) albums in a crate beside the bed--is carefully chosen. When I first got to my room at the Portland outpost in May, I immediately fell head over heels with the building. I loved the bikes in the lobby (this is Portland, after all) and the little sign in the elevator that said "It would have been faster if you took the stairs." 

Check out that sleek, cool lobby--perfect for just passing the time.

But what really stood out was how the Ace Hotel is designed to bring people into the hotel. The lobby--complete with a photo booth and shabby chic couch--is connected to a Stumptown Coffee cafe. If you've never had Stumptown--it's only in a handful of cities throughout the country--put it on the top of your list. Their java offerings are downright delicious and impossibly smooth. A barista at this chain once re-made me a latte because he deemed the latte art not good enough. My East Coast mind was officially blown. That kind of commitment to quality coffee makes me swoon. I also enjoyed its full-service restaurant next door. Head over to The Daily Meal if you'd like to read more about my dining experiences at The Ace. 

I just loved this sink. I think it was the symmetry that got me.

Another quality you'll love: each room at the Ace is different. A representative from Portland tourism--the company that paid for my stay--told me each year the hotel invites a local artist to decorate a room. If you visit this spot, be sure to peer into the different rooms to see how each one's decor differs. With any luck, the days of boring and bland hotel rooms are long behind us. Here's to hoping The Ace Hotel sticks around forever. 

Friday, December 5, 2014

Neighborhoods You Should Know: Cincinnati's Over The Rhine

Who doesn't love a good comeback story? If you're searching for a place with a great tale, Cincinnati's Over the Rhine neighborhood is for you. Back in 2000, Over the Rhine (just over the bridge from Cincy's downtown) held records for most crime-ridden neighborhood in the country. According to one local business owner, some streets that were so bad that you couldn't even look down them. 

From old... 
To new! Both look like New York a little, don't they?

But flash forward to 2014. This crime-ridden place has been transformed into a thriving spot. Many fine small businesses call this part of town home. And I fell in love with this neighborhood this fall. 

Start your visit on Vine Street. I enjoyed a smooth latte at the 1215 Wine Bar & Coffee Lab. And I fell in love with the doughnuts at Holtman's. Watch them being made in the window and enjoy creative creations like the red velvet topped with cream cheese (my personal favorite) or the maple bacon--one of the shop's signature offerings. According to Cincy's travel team that covered the costs for my trip, the wait at fried chicken joint The Eagle can sometimes be more than three-hours long.

Local businesses like the one above have been a key part of revitalizing the area. 

But it's not all just food--although that is one of my favorite parts of any city. I also enjoyed a visit to Steam Whistle Letterpress on Main Street. Owner Brian Stuparyk gave me and another writer the low-down on his unique business. His creations look like a nice mix of vintage and modern posters. My favorite of the bunch were these concert posters and these ultra-modern, sleek wedding invitations with embossed writing. 

And I've really just scratched the service of this dynamic spot. It's fascinating to watch a neighborhood transform, and you can literally find and see that transformation happening when you're in Over the Rhine. 

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Activewear That Lasts: Why I Love lucy

When it comes to activewear, I've got my few go-to brands that I can always rely on. Like that great friend you can count on in a pinch, these brands perform well, look great and holds up after many sweat-soaked workouts. And it's hard to beat the quality of a great brand like lucy. Notable for its bright orange signs and truly fabulous seasonal sales, lucy is a line that lasts. 

And my favorite part of the entire collection? Their bottoms. These are second to none. I have a pair of long pants, the Hatha Capri Leggings and a pair of shorter Ultimate X-training capris that are my favorite, favorite, favorite warm-weather capris. And that's saying somethings since I've got A LOT. The fabric is thick, durable and never sheer. My stuff I bought a few years ago looks just as good as my newer items. 

Those perfect core capris will make you look fabulous. I promise.

Lucy's perfect core capri is the stuff dreams are made of. The panels hold you in, lift you up and just smooth everything out. It's a little pricy, but worth it if you're looking for an investment piece. 

But right now, my current favorite item is the lucy Pocket Capri Legging. The design is so simple, that I can't believe other companies haven't thought of it before. The pocket on the side of the capri can hold an iPod, keys and whatever other essentials you might need. The seams are flattering and this was my go-to pair this past spring.  

Behold: The Holy Grail of capris, lucy's pocket capri. 

And now to the important part: here's how to save money on lucy. Another thing I adore about lucy is its sales. You'll almost never pay full-price retail if you time it just right.

First off, get on the company's mailing list. The company has seasonal sales where they cut prices pretty drastically. And if you can wait even longer, lucy puts its sale on sale so you can score even deeper discounts. You can try going to classes that lucy has sponsored or partnered with, as you'll sometimes get a discount on activewear. There's no guarantee, but it's worth a shot. Plus, you'll get a workout in too--an added bonus. 

If you're searching for an activewear line that you can count on, look no further than lucy. 

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Dedicated to My Chihuahuas

Seeing as half of the name of this blog refers to my beloved dogs, Autumn and Rocket, I thought I'd devote one post to them. Here's what you need to know: they're long-haired Chihuahua litter mates. Their birthday is Oct. 19, and I love them to pieces. Rocket is the shier one, but he's very affectionate once he trusts you. Although he's quiet, he's got a feisty side too. I named him "Rocket" because he's just as quick as one. 

Autumn looking sleepy and adorable.

Rocket looking cute too! 

Autumn loves being held and is very friendly. She's affectionate, and her favorite "sport" is cuddling. They're always excited to see me when I get home and make the best sleeping companions. They love going on walks and eating treats. But what dog doesn't? 

Here they are basking in the sunshine. Autumn's in the pink. Rocket is "naked." 

I can't imagine my life without them. I love you, Autumn and Rocket! If you want more pictures, check out their Instagram.  

Friday, November 21, 2014

Georgetown Cupcake is Magic

I love food. I always have. It's one of my true passions and in very ironic fashion, after I lost my job in 2011, I started interning with an editor who was running an Atlanta-based food magazine. That kick started my food writing career, and here I am. 

Since then, my love for food has really blossomed. I've been to food festivals in the Virgin Islands and have sat at chef's tables at some dynamite restaurants. But with all that traveling and eating all over the country, I've often found that some of my favorite treats are closet to home. And when it comes to local foods, Georgetown Cupcake is hard to top. This spot has come a long way from a tiny outpost in one of D.C.'s best neighborhoods. Yes, I have stood in that notoriously long line in the cold (thank you very much) to get one and think of it as a D.C.-area dweller's rite of passage. 

Dreamy cupcakes in a bright, pink box. Don't you love that tiny, bright heart on the red velvet cupcake?

Some say these are overrated, and although I have had a dry one, I think the frosting here can't be beat. It's sweet, but not overly sugar. And the Peanut Butter Fudge is out-of-this- world good. You can't go wrong with smooth, creamy peanut butter frosting and that rich chocolate cupcake base that's filled with (yes!) fudge. This treat impresses with each and every bite. 

Behold a birthday cake cupcake on the left and heaven-in-a-cupcake Peanut Butter Fudge on the right. 

So, next time you're near a Georgetown Cupcake, go in. If you get there early enough, you can even nab a free one. Every day, the company announces on its Twitter and Facebook pages the complimentary, "not-on-the-menu" offering. Check those pages before you head out and the clerks will hand one out for free if you ask for it by name. It really is that simple (and delicious). Here's to cupcakes! 

Friday, November 14, 2014

It's the Little Things: Luxurious Bath Products are a True Traveling Perk

One of the most underrated perks of traveling, in my oh-so humble opinion, is those tiny bath products. I've had great ones, and I've had my share of bad ones too. But let's focus on the positive aspects here. Finding out a hotel you love carries bath products that you also love is like winning the traveling lottery. Your bed is comfy, and your hair can smell great too. Here's a brief round up of some of my favorites.

I enjoyed the dynamic MALIN + GOETZ peppermint shampoo and cilantro hair conditioner at the Ace Hotel in Portland and 21c in Cincinnati. The peppermint just smelled so invigorating. The white bottles with the plain typography are just as cool as the Portland Ace Hotel itself. 

The peppermint shampoo will not disappoint. Promise.

The tiny Molton Brown products--served up at The Hermitage in Nashville and The Jefferson in Richmond--are a little more masculine than I usually go for, but just smell luxurious. So far my favorite scent is Indian Cress--a perfect, intoxicating blend of jasmine, honeysuckle and sandalwood.

When I see Molton Brown in my room, I know I've hit the travel jackpot.

Peter Thomas Roth makes a great masculine body wash and hair care products that you can find at the Hiltons in San Diego and Lexington. My favorite pick of this bunch is the Mega-Rich line that really does moisturize as it cleanses. 

And last, but certainly not least, is the Aveda Rosemary Mint Shampoo that you can find at the Goldener Hirsch Inn in Park City, Utah. If you happen to be in a mall with an Aveda store, be sure to pop in so you can get a whiff of this (try the tea too while you're at it). It's invigorating, sweet and one powerful combination. 

Sure, I could buy these on my own, but they're all out of my price range. And having them would take some of the fun out of traveling. 

Friday, November 7, 2014

Parks You'll Love: Michigan's Sleeping Bear Dunes

Despite my personal Michigan heritage (my grandfather is from there), I actually had never visited the state until this past year. And it blew my away. Michigan is unpretentious, pure and just gorgeous. The tourism rep told me that the "state sells itself," and it does. I fell in love with the water and relatively flat landscapes almost instantly. But as with all trips, I'm left with strongest memories of just one place: Sleeping Bear Dunes.

Yes! This is a real photo. And it doesn't even do the place justice. 

As you might have guessed from the name, be prepared to see some gorgeous dunes at this park. There's one that's notable for how many people climb up it. The press group I was with didn't do that, but we did take in some of the majestic beauty the parks offers. Chances are, you won't be able to take in enough of the deep blue of Lake Michigan in addition to that pure white sand. We were only there for less than an hour, but it's a place I keep revisiting in my head again. If you're in Michigan and have the time, be sure to stop at Sleeping Bear Dunes.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Places You Should Visit: Rocky Mountain National Park

I honestly never understood why anyone would go to a national park until I visited one. Back in 2011, I ventured out to Rocky Mountain National Park, and it was like someone turned on a light switch. It was just so beautiful, pure and straight-out-of-a-painting gorgeous, wherever we went. Every view was breathtaking. When I visited, it was elk bugling (read: mating) season, and I enjoyed seeing those animals all over the park. I felt so in touch with nature and at peace too. Save for a few camping trips in my childhood, I'm never considered myself much of an outdoor person, but this trip changed all of that. Now, I make a point of always visiting national parks or mountains if I'm nearby. 

Yes, even the roads in Rocky Mountain National Park are breathtaking. And yes, this is an actual picture I took.

I'm a firm believer that you have to visit a truly magnificent national park until you understand it. So, next time you get the chance, take it. It won't disappoint. And you'll finally understand why people seek out national parks over and over again.

                                         More gorgeous mountains. I wish I was there right now. 

Friday, October 24, 2014

Miraval: A Desert Oasis in Tucson

Miraval is a stunning, soothing getaway nestled in Arizona's Catalina Mountains. After just a few days, the calming spirit of the place will wash over you. You'll fall in love with the pink sunsets, green juice served at almost every meal and the stunning views you'll get when you're taking one of the spot's many exercises classes. And the spa here is not to be missed. Not only does it just smell great (like all spas do), but the entire place just exudes calm. From the sound of trickling water at the front desk to the soft lighting--just walking into the space will lower your heart rate. Lounge outside by the pool or enjoy absolute silence and gorgeous mountain views in the spot's quiet room while you wait for a treatment. 

The spa's entry.

It was raining when I visited Miraval just last week, but the outdoor beauty was not lost on me. My treatment room--where I received a fantastic, worked-out-all-the-kinks and left me feeling refreshed 100-minute full-body massage--even had a sliding glass door. That might not sound like much, but I absolutely loved hearing the rain fall during my massage. It brought me closer to the natural beauty of the spa, and I didn't even have to get up from the table. Details like that make all the difference, and I'm sure I'll be thinking of my massage for years to come.

Outdoor lounge. Can't you just imagine resting out here?

Friday, October 17, 2014

The Salamander Resort & Spa: Get in Touch with Virginia's Wine Country

The Salamander Resort & Spa is a luxurious property in Middleburg, Virginia, that's designed to capture the true spirit of the state's wine and horse country. The resort is beautiful, and the crown jewel of the entire spot is its spa. Even if you'd prefer not to stay overnight, the spa is a must-visit if it's in your budget. After walking down an illuminated hallway that's flanked by a small fountain, you'll be whisked away to the magical world that is the Salamander's spa. Highlights include gorgeous, cream-colored lounges--perfect for resting on pre- or post-treatment and an infinity pool showcasing the stunning scenery of the area.

The spa's dedication to nature is also evident in the treatments. The essential oils here are created out of herbs from the hotel's garden. Some rooms even have sliding glass doors that open to the outside world. Little touches like that go a long way. And I always love hearing rain fall or birds chirping as I relax on a table. Don't you?

Read my feature story on the Salamander's commitment to wellness over at The Daily Meal. 

Alala: Where Fitness Meets Elegance

If there's one thing I love, it's fitness fashion. I surprised myself way back in 2010 when I fell in love with luxurious lululemon. In high school, I wore baggy hoodies and sweatpants every day. Now, I wear nice stretchy pants just about all the time--I was always ahead of trends like that*. 

Dreamy photos of Alala. Swooning yet? 

Now, I review clothing regularly for heath and fitness site Bite Size Wellness and have written a handful of activewear features for Refinery29. But even with my vast fitness wardrobe, I still find pieces that I fall head over heels for. My latest find: these bright blue Alala leggings. I've had my eye on this boutique brand for a while--the company manages to create pieces that are both beautiful, innovative and understated. Alala recently loaned me a pair to try out, and I'm glad to report that the capris live up to the hype. The material is thick, soft and smooth. The sheer panels in the back add just a touch of sass and make good use of that current trend. These capris are like wearing Chanel to the gym--they're that elegant. Take a look and fall in love with this luxurious fitness brand. 

*Note the sarcasm.

Introduction and Some Chocolate

This blog is dedicated to the "sweet" life. I'll be writing about places, things and food that I love. Things that I adore. Things that are beautiful. Things that inspire. The title refers to two things I love: chocolate and my long-haired Chihuahuas, Autumn and Rocket. :-)

I'd like to dedicate my very first post to chocolate. From Green & Black to Hershey's, there are so many brands that I really like. But right now, I've got Fran's Chocolates on my mind. I visited Seattle (the home of this boutique brand) this past May and promptly fell in love. The company's signature salted caramels are too die for. The dark chocolate gives way to gooey, luscious caramel with a perfect salty finish. These special morsels are the kind of treats you'll still be tasting long after you've swallowed them. Sounds heavenly, huh? 

Delicious photo courtesy of Fran's Chocolates.