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.