48 Hours in Chicago

When Gerald and I went to Chicago to celebrate my longtime friend Victoria’s birthday (and squeeze in some quality time with Rox!) I did not expect to fall in love with the city. I’d heard horror stories about the cold, so I automatically assumed it wasn’t a city I would like — I was SO wrong. Chicago officially has a piece of my heart. It has so many things to do and places to explore, plus a lake and a beach, and the people there are SO NICE. Not to mention there’s fabulous shopping and a great food scene.

We literally spent 49 1/2 hours in the city, landing around 8 am on Friday morning and leaving at 9:30 am on Sunday. The flight was super easy — I slept the whole time both ways — and about an hour and a half from Reagan airport. Chicago does have a one hour time difference, so it was really nice to get that extra hour on Friday.

Since our flights were a little pricey — $330 each — we decided to forgo a nice hotel for the cheapest we could find and stayed at The Congress Plaza Hotel. It’s definitely one of the older hotels in Chicago, but the price was right and it was in a great location in the Loop, right near Millennium and Grant Park. I can’t really brag about the amenities or the room, but considering we were really only there to sleep and shower, it was a fine stay. We took the L (Chicago’s version of the Metro) straight from the airport to our hotel on Friday morning to drop our bags off and I was shocked at how easy the transit system was to navigate. We flew into O’Hare and it was about an hour ride to downtown, but the line is mostly above ground so you didn’t feel like you were stuck on a commuter train.

After dropping our bags, we headed to the Riverwalk to take one of the famed Chicago Architecture Tours. The tour is right on the river and you get to learn so much about the city and its architectural history! It sounds a little cheesy, but it was definitely a highlight of the trip. I booked our tour a few weeks in advance through Chicago’s First Lady Cruises, which is run by the Chicago Architecture Center, so I knew it would be legit. The first floor of the boat was covered (which was perfect since it was pouring rain), and had a bar! We rather aggressively had some 10 am mimosas, but it just added to the charm of the tour. We ended up going on the top half of the boat for the majority of the tour since it offered the best views, and the rain really didn’t ruin it. (Let’s just say it was not a good hair day for me.) I 100% recommend booking one of these tours if you visit the Windy City!

After the boat tour, I was so cold that I had to go buy pants. Rox gave me the location of the closest Forever 21, but on the way there we passed by Nordstrom and I am SO glad we went it. The Nordstrom on on Michigan Avenue, aka the Magnificent Mile, is actually the flagship store and it is insane — it made Tysons look like a dump. There are full TopShop, Reformation, Free People, and Madewell sections, in addition to a bar on the men’s floor! I snagged a pair of TopShop pants and a top and was so much happier in the chilly weather.

Straight from Nordstrom, we hopped on the L again and headed to Wrigley Field to catch a Cubs game. Wrigley Field is the second oldest baseball stadium in the US and it had SO much character. We went to a 1:20 pm game and I was shocked at how many people had dipped out of work to attend it! While I’m not a Cubs fan (#GoNats), it was a really fun game and it even went into overtime. We got tickets for a pretty great deal on StubHub (around $35 each I think?) and since the stadium is on the smaller side, every seat in the house is pretty solid.

We took the L back into the city and took some quick naps before meeting up with Rox and the Husband of Glam for dinner. (I’m not a napper, but in our defense, we had gotten up at 4:30 am EST.) We met at Beatrix in the Aloft hotel in River North and it was SO good. It was a total scene and the food was super veg-friendly. I’m still thinking about the chopped Thai salad I had! (Great choice, Rox.)

From there, the birthday celebrations started and I was reunited with my biffy since 5th grade at Point and Feather.  We had so much fun catching up with Vic and my college frat brother and playing darts (sorry I was a horrible teammate, Nina) and then decided to be insane people and go get bottle service across the street at Hubbard Inn. I’m not used to staying up partying till a bar closes anymore, but we had so much fun dancing the night away. Trust me, I paid for it with the hangover the next day.

Due to the night before, we had a slower start to our Saturday morning and walked over to Eataly for lunch. Eataly was SO cute and definitely worth checking out. Imagine if Union Market was 100% Italian, and that’s basically was it is. To nurse our hangovers, we each got a Neopolitan pizza and split a bottle of wine. I could have spent hours in the food hall exploring the different wines and sampling fare from each of the different mini restaurants, but we had a city to see!

To burn off the carbs, we walked to the lake and took a stroll around the Ohio Beach area. The lake is absolutely gorgeous and offers amazing views of the skyline. We both love people watching and had so much fun seeing all of the party yachts roll in. #Goals. Right next to the lake is Navy Pier, which was pretty touristy, but still a fun spot to check out! We grabbed a beer and hung out in the amphitheater area watching all of the riverboat tours sail by.

We headed back towards hotel via the Riverwalk, and I wish we’d had more time to check out all of the restaurants right on the water — definitely something to add to your list if you are visiting Chi! We had to stop into Millennium Park and see The Bean, and there was actually a dance festival going on! I convinced G to undergo five minutes of a salsa dance lesson on one of the park lawns, you can imagine how thrilled he was. We took an obligatory selfie in The Bean, then headed to the neighboring Crown Fountain to see the splash park.

Fast forward to dinner — we tried to go to the Milk Room, a speakeasy at the Chicago Athletic Association, for a pre-meal cocktail but it was fully booked for the evening so we headed to The Gage, which used to be a woman-run hat factory! We then hopped in an Uber to Bucktown to my favorite kind of restaurant, a Mexican hole-in-the-wall to meet up with the birthday girl. Estrella Negra was perfect, inexpensive and delicious!

To cap off the night, we headed to The Whistler, a dive bar with a live DJ around the corner where I got to reconnect with one of my old coworkers!  I kid you not, I ordered a round that included a glass of wine, a vodka soda, and an IPA and nearly spit my drink out when I saw that it was only $15. That’s ONE cocktail in DC! The District has ruined me.

All in all, it was a fantastic trip, chock-full of adventures. I can’t wait to go back.

Amazon Finds Round 2

DSC06369DSC06374DSC06372DSC06391DSC06398

I got so much positive feedback from my original Amazon fast fashion round up post that I figured I’d do round two! I’ve been loving how easy it is to order clothes at affordable prices and since Amazon is such a large, streamlined company, it’s super easy to do returns and track packages.

I have been ordering some items in multiple sizes because I’m not sure how they’ll fit, but the reviews are extremely helpful and I love that some customers leave their own photos. I wore this romper to a friend’s birthday celebration at Mission, and it was a little large, but I don’t think it looks bad!

Shop some of my most recent finds below, as well as some of my tired and true staples.

Screen shot 2018-09-03 at 7.35.38 PM

Oitom FitBit Band | I’m obsessed with my FitBit and feel absolutely naked without it on. I love how much nicer the gold mesh band looks compared to the black rubber band that FitBits come with, and I’m happy to report that it doesn’t feel weird sweating in it at the gym!

Screen shot 2018-09-03 at 7.36.28 PM

Two Tone Ankle Strap Sandals | I ordered these on Prime Day and have been wearing them nonstop! They are insanely comfortable — I clocked 22,000 steps around Chicago in them!

Screen shot 2018-09-03 at 7.38.17 PM

Zaful Leopard Bikini | This suit is by far my favorite bikini purchase of the year. I did have a slight mishap with sizing — I ordered both a small and a medium, assuming one would fit and ultimately decided to keep the medium even though the top ran a little large, but wasn’t able to return the suit, even after debating directly with Zaful. Since it was so cheap, I didn’t mind eating the cost and wear the medium bottoms with the small top!

Screen shot 2018-09-03 at 7.41.25 PM

Romwe Rainbow Tee | How adorable is this tee!? The fabric is actually super soft and I can’t wait to break this out for Pride next year!

Ivy Wild | Clean Beauty + Skincare

sarah-22sarah-11

sarah-21sarah-20sarah-17

A year ago, I thought skincare was using a drugstore face wash in the shower at night, dabbing some Witch Hazel on my icky spots (if I remembered), and wearing the same moisturizer I’d been using since I was 11 years old. I had always longed to be one of those girls who had pimple free chins and didn’t have to wear foundation, but I thought that I couldn’t afford nice skincare products and didn’t have the first clue about what products to use, let alone what my skin type was.

Last February, I had the worst breakout I’ve ever had, RIGHT before my 27th birthday. I was so embarrassed about it that I almost didn’t want to go out for my birthday brunch — it was like my skin was rebelling against me and I’d never felt more self conscious about my face. With our wedding looming, I decided it was time to actually start a skincare regimen and oh my gosh, I don’t know why I didn’t jump on the clean beauty bandwagon earlier.

It turns out, clean products are exactly what they’re hyped up to be. Essentially, clean products are made from non-toxic ingredients and harsh chemicals. If you read a label and can’t pronounce anything, chances are it isn’t “clean”. I recently had a conversation with my coworkers about skincare and one of them mentioned that you should never put anything on your face that you wouldn’t eat, and let me tell you — the products at Ivy Wild make the cut!. I had the opportunity to visit the new natural beauty and skincare shop in in the Manhattan Laundry building (14th and Florida, right next to 305 and across from Maydan) and had the best time sampling new products and getting made over by the founder, Rachel.

sarah-5

 

Ivy Wild carries both skincare and beauty products and I had the chance to try a ton of them during my visit! Before my makeover, I wiped off my work makeup with Little Barn Blue Yarrow + Geranium Cleansing Oil — I’ve been hearing a lot about oils as skincare products and was super skeptical about putting it on my face, but it definitely didn’t have the greasy feel I was expecting, and it turns out that oils actually help penetrate your skin more deeply than regular cleansers! I also tried the Soleil Toujours Set + Protect Micro Mist (SPF 30) and it was super refreshing. I’ve recently become obsessed with applying daily sunscreen and the mist makes application super quick and easy.

 

Next up was the fun part, getting my makeup done by Rachel! Before we met, I had mentioned that I was interested in a long-lasting foundation that would hold up on my sweaty two-mile-each-way walk to work and Ivy Wild certainly delivered. Rachel helped me swatch match my perfect shade of Saint Cosmetics liquid foundation and I am obsessed. For some reason, I thought that natural makeup wouldn’t have the coverage that I was hoping for, but boy was I wrong. This foundation has amazing coverage and feels like silk going on. The bottle says long wear and it is 100% accurate — I couldn’t believe how good my makeup looked after spending all day sweating at a winery the first time I wore it out! I may have also accidentally fallen asleep in it and woke up blemish free.

sarah-19

While doing my makeup, Rachel made sure to teach me how to apply it properly, and I swear it’s changed my makeup routine. She taught me how to contour with a Vapour Organic Beauty Solar Translucent Bronzer Stick (I will be back for it) and I’ve been having so much fun experimenting with the application at home with an old bronzer. Rachel also taught me the right way to apply blush (I’m embarrassed to admit that I’ve been applying it totally wrong for 10+ years) and I’ve been loving the Rituel de Fille Inner Glow Creme Pigment compact that came home with me! Creme blush is actually way easier to apply than it seems and can repurposed as a lip color. I’m not a lipstick gal, but Rachel convinced me to try it as a light lipstick and I’m slowly warming up to the idea.

sarah-15

Another product that surprised me was a brown tinted mascara. I’m usually a bolder-the-better girl when it comes to lashes, but I really liked the softer look that the Saint Cosmetics Mascara in Brownie Points gave me and it’s inspired me to swap out my harsh black eyeliner for a warm chocolate this summer.

In a nutshell, Ivy Wild doesn’t just sell beauty products, they actually help you find what works for you and teach you how to to wear it. I usually scurry into big brand makeup stores, grab what I want, and get out of there as soon as I can because I’m intimidated by the fancy makeup gals, but I could have hung out with Rachel and her team all afternoon long. I’m so excited that Ivy Wild helped me find new products that I love AND are good for my skin. Thank you for a fabulous experience! Catch them on IG at @ivy.wild.beauty for all the gorgeous things!

Photography by Mary Godier of Ringlet Studio and Mary Elizabeth Creative 

Engagement Photo Shoot Tips

I haven’t written much about wedding planning on here, so please let me know if you guys are into this type of content or if you already feel like you’re inundated with wedding stuff from too many platforms as it is.

While a handful of my friends are married, I’ve only really seen two of them actually tie the knot! My other close friends that are wifed up were already married when I met them, so I didn’t get to learn from them as they went through their own wedding planning experiences. I try to not talk about my own wedding planning too much because I don’t want to annoy people, and as a result I haven’t been asking them too many questions. (On the flip side, feel free to ask me anything and everything, I’m an open book!) If you’re in the same boat as me, I thought it might be helpful to chronicle what I learned from my engagement shoot and offer up a few tips for looking your best!

THE PHOTOGRAPHER

Our photographer Hayley is actually one of my bridesmaids’ best friends. The first wedding-related thing we did was book her because photographers’ schedules fill up so fast! We started talking in February and booked her in March, almost exactly a year out from the wedding. Our engagement shoot was part of our overall photography package, and I highly recommend taking advantage of it! While it’s wonderful to have professional photos of you and your partner not in wedding attire, it’s also a great way to make sure you mesh well with your photographer and like the outcome of the photos before your big day.

THE LOCATION

Since we are getting married in the winter, I knew I wanted our engagement shoot to be somewhere outside so we could have photos with greenery in the background. We initially wanted to shoot at the National Arboretum, but there’s actually a pretty extensive permitting process to shoot on any land that belongs to the DC National Park Service. While lamenting about the permitting process at work, my coworker suggested we do the shoot at a winery, and it was SUCH a good idea.

I chose Stone Tower Winery because I knew it had a lot of different places to take photos — in the vines, their stone patio and deck, and plenty of rolling hills. There was a $75 fee to shoot at the winery, but we got to come at 9 am and have the whole place to ourselves before they opened at 11 am. The perks of shooting early meant no one would awkwardly show up in the back of our shots, and we didn’t have an audience. While I’m used to taking photos in public for the blog, Gerald hates having his picture taken in front of people so it really helped us both loosen up. I definitely recommend shooting at an off time if possible!

THE OUTFITS

Pick two options — one more casual and one more “formal”, if you have the time to shot two different looks. I chose one dress that was very “on brand” for myself and went a little bit more conservative with my white dress.

You don’t need to rush out and buy something new — a tired and true dress that you feel pretty and comfortable in is going to translate better into photos versus something that you constantly need to adjust. You also risk the chance of your outfit not arriving on time…I ordered a maxi dress that was supposed to be delivered by noon the day before and USPS lost it. Needless to say I was a mess and spent Friday evening frantically running around Metro Center trying to find something. I ended up going with the black dress I wore for our first outfit — I’ve had it since 2013!

I did a lot of Googling about patterns in photos (something you think I would know!) and was a bit worried about how the polka dots in my white dress would translate to photos, but I lucked out! I would advise steering clear of any thin stripes, but other than that, you don’t need to stick to solids. Let your personality show!

Definitely opt for fabrics that don’t wrinkle. We ironed Gerald’s clothes the night before and hung them up in the car so that they would stay neat on the drive to the winery and while there are still some shots that have wrinkles, they aren’t so bad that they distract from the shot. Also make sure to keep an eye on your guy’s tuck, Gerald’s shirts always creep out of his belts in the back, especially if you’re doing poses like the “princess carry”.

THE DAY BEFORE

  • Drink at least 12 glasses of water, (6 Swell bottles worth!) this will help your skin look hydrated, help flush out toxins, debloat, and help your makeup take to your face better the next day
  • Refrain from alcohol and super salty foods, both can make you bloat and when I drink it goes straight to my face the next day
  • Do a face mask and/or scrub to prep your skin!
  • Lay out and iron all of your clothes. Also make sure to put accessories and shoes with your outfit or in bags by the door — you’ll likely be a little frazzled and don’t want to forget anything!
  • Get a mani for sure,and a pedi if you will be wearing open-toe shoes. You’ll likely be taking shots up close of your ring and you don’t want chipped nails all up in there! (Also make sure your partner neatly trims their nails, ask gently though!)

THE DAY OF

  • Get a workout in if you can! It will help you feel more confident and those post-sweat endorphins will help create a natural glow. You can use an an ice roller to firm up your skin and help reduce any redness after exercising! I have this one from Amazon and keep it in the freezer
  • Water, water, water and try not to drink too much caffeine, which drys out your skin. This sounds weird, but the whites of your eyes also are more white when you’re hydrated, making your eye color pop!
  • Put a little more makeup on than you typically do, even if you feel silly in real life it will translate well to photos, but not so much that you don’t look like yourself.
  • Use hair product! I woke up at the crack of dawn to blow it and curl my hair for our photos and while I used hairspray, it was no match for the humidity. I hadn’t realized that Gerald’s car air conditioning was broken and by the time we got to the winery (an hour away) it was in full on frizz mode. I was pretty upset and hate the way my hair looks in the majority of our photos, but it is what it is

THE POSES / SHOTS

I’m actually a total nerd when it comes to posing in front of the camera (I can get real awkward real quick) and Gerald has two poses, so I was a little worried about what the heck we were going to do with ourselves in all of the photos. Luckily, Hayley told us exactly what to do the entire time and we basically didn’t have to think! A good photographer should be able to direct you what to do, and it’s definitely a question you should ask when you’re narrowing down potential photographers — “Will you tell us how to pose throughout the shoot?”

Even though the shoot was so easy with Hayley’s direction, I wish I had laid out a few shots I wanted beforehand. I think I was so stressed out in the heat and with making sure Gerald was okay I forgot to speak up! I wish I had asked for some more detail shots of my ring (realizing I can get these on our wedding day, but still!) and some more simple shots of us smiling straight on at the camera.

You’re going to feel SUPER cheesy doing most of the poses that your photographer suggests you do, but just go for it! They know what they’re doing. I would never be able to get Gerald to take a picture twirling me around in any other setting, so it’s definitely fun to have some silly shots.

One other tip would be to ask your photographer if they’ll be editing some images in grayscale and some in color. I know a lot like to keep their creative license, but upfront and before you sign a contract, I’d ask if you can have the photos in both edits, color and grayscale.

All in all, don’t get too stressed out by the engagement shoot and try and remember to be yourselves!

All photos by Hay Alexandra Photography

End of Summer Bucket List

DSC06007DSC06036DSC06033DSC06009DSC06023

I don’t know HOW it is already August! This summer, and really this whole year, have flown by. I’ve been fortunate to do a lot of things already this season, but there are definitely still a few I’d love to experience before the cooler weather sets in. Read on for my end-of-summer bucket list!

Visit the Hishorn Museum – I’m a local, so I’m not quite sure how there are museums I haven’t been to left in this city! The exhibits always look amazing when I scroll past them on Instagram, and the current ones definitely look interesting.

Explore The Wharf – while I’ve been to The Wharf twice, I’ve only been to two bars and didn’t spend any time actually walking around and seeing all that the development has to offer. I’d love to catch a show at Pearl Street Warehouse and I’m dying to try Mi Vida!

Cheer on the home team – I’ve only been to two Nats games this year! Usually Gerald and I average around five, so I’m definitely trying to squeeze in a few more before the season ends. I love exploring Navy Yard after the games — especially hitting up Bluejacket!

Visit one of DC’s new wineries – DC is now home to two wineries — District Winery in Navy Yard and City Winery in Ivy City. I’m not sure if the vino is any good at either one, but I’m definitely game to find out.

Purge my closet – I know this isn’t exciting, but I always feel so good after getting rid of clothes I don’t wear any more (and even better if I can sell them!) I’m aiming to get rid of a whopping 50% of my closet before I pull out my fall wardrobe…do you think I can do it?

Go to Jazz In the Garden – can you believe I have only been to this free, quintessential DC event ONCE?! I had so much fun the last time we went, it’s just so hard to find a Friday where both Gerald and I can actually leave work early to make it

Shop My Look: 

Dress | Forever 21

Shoes | Similar 

Tax Free Weekend at Fashion Centre at Pentagon City

DSC06363DSC06364

PSA — this upcoming weekend is Tax Free Weekend at Fashion Centre at Pentagon City! Starting Friday, August 3 – Sunday, August 5, you can shop tax free on items under $100! Growing up in Northern Virginia, my mom and I would always take advantage of the weekend for back to school shopping, but the specials are open to everyone! It’s the perfect time to revamp your fall wardrobe or snag summer styles at a discount. I’m eyeing some new sandals (for some reason I really want Birkenstocks??) and definitely want to stock up on basics like cotton tanks and a new pair of black jeans from TopShop at Nordstrom.

Fashion Centre at Pentagon City is also offering a free backpack to shoppers who spend $150 or more at any store in the mall as well as hosting a backpack drive! The drive is being held August 4 from 1-4 pm and they are accepting both backpacks and school supplies.

The perks of shopping at Fashion Centre at Pentagon City don’t end there — it’s only a few Metro stops from DC (it only took us 12 minutes to get there from Shaw!) and there are some great dining options in the mall. Gerald and I stopped into Sugar Factory for pre-dinner drinks and then carbo-loaded at MatchBox after scoping out the fall offerings at some of my favorite retailers. There’s also a Shake Shack AND a honeygrow!

Check out some of my favorite retailers the mall below, all with a plethora of items under $100 and eligible for the tax free weekend specials. (PS. You can shop my entire outfit at the end of this post. I picked up the cami from the Forever 21 at Pentagon City and the jeans are available in the Madewell section of Nordstrom!)

DSC06351

t.b.d  at Nordstrom – I used to work at the Nordstrom in Tysons, and always day-dreamed of being cool enough to shop in this section. At the time, my college income wasn’t sufficient enough to nab the dreamy Free People and designer denim the section carries, but now they’ve added in some amazing and more affordable brands like Madewell and TopShop! Madewell and TopShop are my go-tos for denim, and you know I love me a boho piece from Free People.

DSC06354

DSC06347

Forever 21 – located in the ground floor of Fashion Centre at Pentagon City, this is one of the most well-organized Forever 21s I’ve ever been in. I’m used to going to the one downtown that just gets slammed with tourists and it’s so refreshing to walk into this location! Head straight to the back of the store for boho-inspired pieces and hook a right for their contemporary style section.

DSC06348Ann Taylor – I feel like Ann Taylor gets overlooked a lot, but they have amazing staples for work! All of their products are polished and high-quality, perfect for stocking up for your fall work wardrobe. They also have some pretty stellar shoe options! One of my favorite pairs of peep toe booties are from Ann Taylor and have held up amazingly well over 4 years.

DSC06350

GAP – I adore GAP. My mom has always loved it and it’s seriously the best spot for basics. From ripped boyfriend jeans to cute and breathable workout clothes to high-quality flannels, some of my most worn items are from this retailer! GAP’s not just for the girls either, Gerald really likes the way their slim fit jeans look and we both love the price tags on their pieces.

Shop  My Look 

Top | Forever 21

Jeans | Madewell

Necklace | Sugarfix by Bauble Bar (similar)

Shoes | Forever 21

Wedding Guest Dress Codes

DSC05804DSC05827DSC05837DSC05820DSC05830DSC05861

I ordered this red number online for a wedding last summer and couldn’t wait to wear it, until it arrived and I realized I had no business wearing something this low cut to a wedding! Online it looked like I could easily adjust the straps to make the V a little bit higher, but that definitely didn’t work out in person and the dress was lower quality than what I was hoping for. After completely freaking out, I ended up borrowing a dress from a friend at the last minute (thanks, Rox!) and saved the red dress for one of my favorite events, Fashion 4 Paws, this spring instead.

To save you the stress of what I went through, I’m sharing some of my favorite picks for wedding attire — all affordable, of course — broken out by dress code. (Disclaimer, half of these dresses overlap with each other when it comes to dress codes — categorizing them was harder than I thought!)

Casual Wedding – while this means you can pretty much wear whatever you want, it’s still a wedding so you should look nice! Dresses should be a step above a sundress, but no need to pull out the satin.

img_1055.jpg

Backless Skater Dress | Lulu*s – this almost veers into cocktail territory, but you all know I love a good backless dress! The high neck helps balance out the open back

Home Before Daylight Dress | LuLu*s – I love the sophisticated cut of this dress and the simple style allows you to accessorize with fun shoes or statement jewelry!

Floral Print Maxi | ASOS – while this is satin, I’m putting it in casual because of the fun print. I would 10/10 wear this to either a casual wedding or a dinner out!

Cocktail / Dressy / Semi-Formal – this basically means that your dress can be above the knee or tea-length. I think cocktail attire is the most fun because you get to buy (or rent!) something that feels really special but completely speaks to your personality.

Red Lace Dress | Zaful – can you believe this dress is under $50? I’ve worn it to two weddings, once in red and once in blue, and am planning on wearing the red dress again to a wedding in September!

3D Floral Cami Dress | ASOS – I mean, how pretty is this? It’s such a flattering cut too!

Floral Satin Slip Dress | TopShop – how dreamy is this dress? Wait until you see the back! And at under $80, this is a major steal

Beach Formal – I’ve actually never been to a beach wedding! I used to always want to get married on the beach so I’m hoping one of my friends will do this so I get to experience it in real life! Beach formal doesn’t mean casual, but you can definitely go for more of a floaty, boho look. Think maxis and bright colors!

Sugar Plum Striped Maxi Dress | Vici Dolls – I can’t put my finger on it, but I am obsessed with this dress. It’s a little bit brighter than I usually wear, but I still want it!

Ohana Key Hole Maxi | Vici Dolls – if this doesn’t scream “beach” to you, idk what does.

Casanova Ruffle Wrap Dress | Vici Dolls – this dress is SO FUN! It reminds me of the 💃 emoji. I can just see myself twirling on the dance floor in this

Formal / Black Tie – I’ve only been to one black tie wedding and rented a dress from Rent the Runway because I was struggling with finding a dress I loved in-store. (Why I didn’t turn to online, I don’t know. It was 2015 so maybe I get a free pass?) In a nutshell, black tie or formal means floor-length and fancy AF.

Cold Shoulder Cowl Back Dress | ASOS – how pretty is this emerald green color? I’m not usually crazy about cowl lines, but I think it works here

Strappy Back Maxi | ASOS – at under $70, this black dress is sleek but still has some personality, thanks to the back details. Definitely a number that can be worn again and again to formal events

Heavenly Hues Dress | LuLu’s – this was one of my bridesmaids dress options that didn’t make the cut, but I absolutely love the silhouette and it comes in a ton of colors!

Prep for Prime Day – My Experience Ordering Fast Fashion from Amazon

Since everyone has been going nuts over the Nordstrom Anniversary Sale, you might have forgotten about Amazon Prime Day, which is tomorrow! Amazon Prime day is sort of like a Black Friday blowout meets the Nordy’s Anniversary Sale — it’s a day full of specials that are available exclusively to Prime members. You can find deals on everything from furniture to kitchen supplies to hair products. The kicker is that you have to be a Prime member to take advantage of the sales, but you can sign up with just a few clicks. Gerald and I joined Prime when we first moved in together and I honestly don’t know how I lived without it. Getting online orders within two days is seriously the best and you receive all sorts of perks with their streaming app — I’m currently binging SweetBitter thanks to my free trial of Starz through it!

I digress, in honor of Prime Day, I thought I’d use the opportunity to share my experience about ordering fast fashion pieces from Amazon and link some of my favorite finds from the site.

Last year, I worked a lot with overseas fashion brands, promoting their trendy but extremely discounted clothing. I tried to be extremely honest in my posts when reviewing the items (catch the posts here and here) but eventually stopped working with them after I received some pieces that were such poor quality I couldn’t say anything favorable about them.

I really missed the constant influx of cute clothing — lets face it, those ads that follow you around on Facebook and Instagram make you want to buy everything with one click — but I was turned off by the return policies and often long shipping waits. Enter Amazon. While searching for my normal Amazon orders — sticky bras, kitchen utensils, dry shampoo, etc. — I began getting served clothing ads. I never thought of Amazon as a place to buy clothing before, but it turns out that brands similar to the ones I used to work with were selling their items through the major online store!

While I’ve had my ups and downs with Amazon purchases, their customer service center has always made everything right and I’ve always been able to return items and/or receive a refund if my items were delivered to the wrong spot. For example, I bought a bunch of bikinis for our annual trip to Seaside, but accidentally put my delivery address in wrong and the package was delivered to the Taylor Gourmet below my office (front 2) instead of “floor 2”. Since I couldn’t find the package at the sandwich shop, Amazon completely refunded my order and sent me the same suits at no additional cost from what I’d originally paid.

Since discovering that I could buy the fast fashion pieces I craved on Amazon, I’ve gone a litttttle crazy ordering swimsuits from brands like Cupshe and Zaful because I was so confident that I could get my money back through the distributor if they didn’t fit, didn’t look true to size, etc. While I’ve returned the majority of the suits (shopping for swimsuits is hard enough in person, forget online) I’ve loved the few that I kept and loved the price tags even more. I’ve ordered a few dresses from there, like this cute palm print number I wore to dinner at Thip Kao (side note: if you like spicy Thai-style food, YOU MUST GO.)

I’ve found that the customer reviews on the site are extremely accurate and the best part is that most reviewers will actually post photos of themselves wearing the item, so it’s super refreshing to see honest feedback from women of all shapes and sizes. Sometimes, I’ll bite the bullet and order an item of clothing that hasn’t been reviewed, but if you’re a cautious buyer I’d recommend sticking to pieces that have been vetted.

If you order a product that’s Prime-eligible, you can expect the package to arrive within the promised dates — usually 2-5 days. If the product isn’t marked as a Prime order, it will probably take about 1-2 weeks, but you can stalk its exact arrival thanks to Amazon’s pretty great tracking technology.

Disclaimer: this definitely seems like a sponsored post, but it’s not. I just really love using Amazon!

Favorite Amazon Finds

Palm Print Dress

Blossom Print One Piece Suit

Boho Off The Shoulder Dress

Colorblock One Piece

Gingham Bikini

Blue Striped Romper

Gingham For the 4th

DSC06123DSC06076DSC06096DSC06073DSC06075DSC06089DSC06124DSC06107

I hope that everyone had a safe and relaxing 4th of July!

I started the day with my annual run to the White House — something about seeing the tourists all jazzed up in their patriotic gear never gets old — then hit up the pool with a friend. Did you know that DC has public pools that are free for DC residents? I usually go to Banneker near Howard University and recently discovered Henry Thompson off North Capital. While the pools are free, seats go pretty quickly so get there early to snag a spot!

After getting crispy at the pool, Gerald and I headed off to dinner at Lauriol Plaza (I know, very American of us) and then watched fireworks on our friend’s rooftop on 14th Street. It was so cool to have a panoramic view of all of the fireworks shows! We could see the Alexandria and National Harbor fireworks in addition to the show on the National Mall.

Before dinner, I asked Gerald if my outfit was patriotic enough and he said “yes, you look like an American table cloth.” Exactly what I was going for — not. But I guess that is the general vibe gingham gives off!

I snagged this bodysuit at Forever 21 a few weekends ago for under $15! I’ve had this denim skirt for about a year, and while it sometimes gives an awkward pooching shape when you sit, it’s so comfy and I love wearing it with bodysuits or tucked in tanks! Of course, I had to break out my favorite sneakers to bring in a little red, white, and blue. Pro tip — to keep white Converse looking clean, you can actually throw them in the wash! Take the laces out beforehand and put only the shoes in, but you can add in bath towel to help with the noise. Air dry and they look almost new!

SHOP MY LOOK

Bodysuit | Forever 21

Skirt | BDG (similar)

Shoes | Converse

DC Dining Guide

DSC05658DSC05662DSC05663DSC05700_2DSC05667
Growing up, I wasn’t that into food — I ate whatever my mom made for dinner or had in the kitchen and that was that. When I went to college I ate at the dining hall or made frozen microwave meals, occasionally going out for pizza or fries “downtown.” It wasn’t until I moved to DC that I started getting into food and seeing dining out as a way to experience new things, catch up with friends, and explore other areas of the city. Whether it’s DC visitors, coworkers, or friends, one of the most common questions I get asked is “where should I go for _____?” Brunch, happy hour, parent-friendly lunch, special occasion dinner recs, you name it — I almost ALWAYS blank on the spot. I figured it was finally time to write it all down, plus I had to do something with these cute pics from a Tulips event with Bubbles & Bloggers!
Disclaimer: I am a vegetarian, but by no means are ANY of these restaurants considered vegetarian or vegan restaurants. I pride myself on being the kind of vegetarian that is easily adaptable and never forces someone to not go to a restaurant because “I can’t eat there.”
Read on for my top picks for eating out from everything to special occasions to the best dive bars with a draft beer list parallel to their food options.
Photos by The Carolove
Special Occasion Restaurants: these are reserved for milestone occasions — birthdays, anniversaries, catching up with friends we haven’t seen in a long time, etc. 
  • The Dabney – tucked away in Blagden Alley, this Mid-Atlantic restaurant is probably Gerald’s and my favorite restaurant. Although the restaurant’s main feature is an open hearth, the menu is filled with roasted vegetables and an amazing array of sides. The menu is 100% locally sourced, so it changes on the daily. From the service to the fare, we’ve always had an amazing experience here!
  • KyirisanI think I love this French-Asian fusion restaurant so much because I’ve had such good times here. Roxanne and I have been on two double dates here, and we both thought the service was phenomenal and the food like nothing else we’d seen in the city. See my recap of our wine pairing dinner here!
  • Red Hen – hands down, the best Italian in the city. You know your pasta is good when you don’t leave dinner feeling like a whale because the restaurant uses whole, fresh ingredients! This menu also seasonally rotates but they always have a burrata option on their apps list (GET THIS) and the sausage fennel ragu is Gerald’s favorite dish and always available
Casual Restaurants: you know, for when you feel like grabbng a quality impluse dinner and recieving a check that isn’t $200. 
  • Lauriol Plaza – I could probably write a book about how much I love this place. Just a few blocks from the Dupont Metro, this three-story spot serves AMAZING chips and salsa and margs and has the perfect casual ambiance despite its white table cloths
  • Pizza Paradiso – this restaurant is both my Dad and Gerald’s favorite pizza places.  This woman-owned spot has locations in Georgetown, Dupont, Alexandria, and Hyatttsville, but it still has the heart and soul of an independent pizzeria. From their massive beer list to their fresh, hand-tossed pizzas, this is easily a crowd-pleaser
  • Shaw’s Tavern – I’ve never had a bad meal at this neighborhood spot. Serving up fresh takes on southern comfort food, the atmosphere is always lively and their playlist on point. I love ordering “The Cuke” salad with a side of fries for dinner, or splitting a flatbread and a bottle of wine on their dog-friendly patio for happy hour
Bars With Good Food: for when you want to get a buzz on, but need some sustenance to soak all that booze up 
  • Mission – did you really think that this wouldn’t make it on here? While their margarita pitchers are lethal, the happy hour nachos make the perfect dish to sop up the tequila
  • The Commodore – I suppose this could be considered a dive, but my friends, Gerald, and even my mom love this Logan Circle BBQ spot. They call their fries “really good fries” on the menu, and they certainly live up to their name
  • American Ice Co. – I’m so thankful that I don’t live next to this bar because I would be there LITERALLY.ALL.THE.TIME. I’m obsessed with this watering hole and will jump at any chance to go to it. Also serving BBQ and nachos (are you sensing a theme?), I literally crave their veggie nacho platter 24/7
Brunch: restaurants without bottomless options need not apply 
  • Ambar – with locations in both Arlington and Capital Hill, this is always my first suggestion for brunches. The Balkan restaurant serves up bottomless Mediterranean-style dishes and an amazing dessert spread. $35 gets you both bottomless drinks and small plates!
  • Agora – another Mediterranean restaurant, this spot’s bottomless options are great for those who don’t love mimosas. You can order beer and liquor drinks in addition to champs to pair with your dips and flatbreads
Favorite Happy Hours: cause ya girl loves a discount just as much as the next one 
  • Tulips – I mean really, can you beat $1 glasses of champagne and $1 oysters?
  • Chaplin’sthis Charlie Chaplin-themed ramen bar holds a special place in my heart because it’s where Gerald and I first met. Aside from that, they have killer cocktails for $6 on their menu ALL WEEK LONG. Order the Vegabond — ya welcome.