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

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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

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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!)

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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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

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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

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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.

City Guide to 30A

Dare I say it — my guide to Seaside and the whimsical beaches along Highway 30A is back and better than ever. 

If you aren’t familiar with our annual trips to the panhandle in Florida, Gerald’s aunt owns a condo in the WaterColor community and she graciously lets us stay there when we visit. WaterColor, Seaside, Rosemary Beach, and Alys Beach are just a few of the white sand beaches that line Highway 30A along the Florida Gulf, and they’ve become Gerald’s and my sacred happy place. 

This is the third year that we’ve been to WaterColor, so we’ve pretty much mastered the logistics. We either fly into Fort Walton or Panama City beach airpot (whichever is cheapest, really) and rent a car, then make the 45 – 55 minute drive to the emerald coast. It’s possible to make the trip if you don’t have a car, but since Gerald likes to golf, it’s cheaper to rent your own vessel than to constantly pay for taxis to the courses.

This year, we made an effort to branch out to the neighboring beaches and try some new spots — and they did not disappoint. Read on for my new and improved guide to Seaside and WaterColor and shop my look at the bottom.

EAT  

273 Whiskey Bravo: we rode by this coastal spot on our never-ending bike adventure and instantly wanted to check it out once we saw the massive rooftop patio. Like many of 30A’s restaurants, it serves southern + seafood style fare, but they were kind enough to make me a custom vegetarian plate that was basically an assortment of grilled and steamed veggies and probably the healthiest meal I ate on the trip! The rooftop patio might just be one of our new favorite places to watch the sunset

The Wine Bar: somehow, this year was the first time we dined at The Wine Bar, even though it’s adjacent to the condo we always stay in! We’ve been in there plenty of times to stock up on booze and cheese board supplies, but man were we missing out on dinner there. We dined al fresco to live music and had one of the best cheese boards we have ever had. This might have been our favorite meal of the trip

George’s: we made a bit of a “road trip” out to Alys beach to try this highly-recommended spot, mainly because I spotted a salad I wanted on the menu and leafy greens are slim pickings in the southern town. We ate inside and the vibe seemed like it was better on the patio, but it was still a nice dinner. I don’t know if we’d go back since we had to take the car to get there, but it’s a nice option if you’re looking to get “out of town”

The Taco Bar: it’s become a bit of a tradition for us to go to this colorful taco stand on our first night of the trip. Aside from a great selection of tacos, burritos, and salads, the outdoor spot is perfect for people watching while sipping a Corona

Great Southern Cafe: as a vegetarian, I’m not a huge fan of southern food because it isn’t too friendly for us herbivores, but Great Southern gets the mix between veggie-friendly and comfort food just right 

Bud And Alley’s Pizza Bar: with a huge outdoor seating area, views of the gulf, and great pizza, this is probably my favorite restaurant in town. Definitely don’t forget to order an appetizer of avocado toast — it’s probably the best I’ve ever had 

Seaside Slipstreams: Seaside is full of quirky amenities and the slipstreams are certainly one of them. Lined up in front of the town center, the slipstreams are kind of like mini, permanent food trucks. You can find everything from BBQ to grilled cheese to smoothie stations at the slipstreams—perfect for a quick lunch or casual dinner  

DRINK 

Havana Beach Bar & Grill at The Pearl: I’d been dying to go back to The Pearl since we biked by it last year, it’s insanely picturesque and honestly I really really wanted an instagram photo by their striped awnings and yellow umbrellas. The good news — I was able to lure Gerald there with the promise of cocktails! While the drinks weren’t that memorable, the quirky boutique hotel and unaltered beach views from the rooftop patio certainly were

Amavida Coffee: I feel like I’m cheating by putting this in my guide because it’s the only coffee shop in Seaside, but whatever. They have a great cold brew and a cute patio where you can enjoy your caffeine! 

Bud and Alley’s: okay by now you’re probably wondering if Bud and Alley own Seaside, and TBH I have no idea who they are, so they might. This roofdeck bar is where we always head when we get into town and grab a drink while we wait for our room to be ready. We also end up here at least three other times to watch the sunset because it’s the best view in Seaside

Beach Club Grill & Rita Bar: located at the WaterColor Inn, the beach bar overlooks the resort’s pool and the beach and it’s pretty much picture-perfect. They have a daily happy hour so we liked to head up there after spending the day on the beach or the pool for a drink before we got ready for dinner 

Great Southern Cafe: I included this in both food and drink because it has a really good happy hour on the bar patio. The atmosphere here is super lovely and I love people-watching everyone strolling around the town center!  

DO 

Explore neighboring beaches: the first year we came we never ventured out of WaterColor or Seaside, and I was determined to change that the second and third time around. Nestled along Highway 30A, Seaside neighbors tons of beautiful beaches including standout Rosemary and Alys Beach. It’s definitely worth it to make a trip out to the towns to see their unique architecture and explore the restaurants, but I wouldn’t recommend biking there like we did unless you’re in way better shape than I am and have a legit bicycle — not the “pedal backwards to stop” bikes we were on

Go for a bike ride: contrary to that last point, go for a short bike ride through Seaside or to the nearby Publix. If you have a bike basket or backpack you can stock up on groceries or drinks and it’s way cheaper at the grocery store than at the tiny market in town 

Walk around the pastel houses: take a meandering stroll throughout the colorful neighborhoods and take in the sights of all of the adorable homes! Every single house in Seaside is a different design and has its own name and color scheme. The neighborhoods are practically begging to be Instagrammed

Catch the sunset at Bud and Alley’s: every night, the waterfront bar has a contest where diners and bargoers guess what time the sun will set and when the sun finally sets, the team rings a massive bell and the winner gets a free drink. It sounds silly, but everyone gets really into it and you really can’t beat the views from the bar! 

SHOP

DejaVu Boutique: nestled in the town center is a haven for all girls who crave an effortless, beachy boho style. The boutique is totally southern, but sources finds you won’t see in your standard DC retailers (except for this jumpsuit that I found at Forever 21 for significantly less…whomp whomp.) 

Sundog Books: there are fews things I love more than reading a book poolside, so Gerald and I always head here to stock up on beach reads. They have a fantastic selection of books and upstairs is a record store! It’s worth it to go inside just to grab a magazine so you can check out the decor 

Persipcacity: envision an outdoor farmer’s market — now imagine that instead of produce, all of the stands are selling accessories and clothes. This outdoor market is not only adorable, but stocked with great finds if you want to bring back a souvenir for friends or pick up a pompom beach bag

The Seaside Style: this is probably pretty lame to admit as someone who calls themselves a fashion blogger, but I love souvenir t-shirts and Gerald and I have started picking them up from the places we go to together. I usually opt for an oversized, long sleeve tee and love wearing them around the apartment because they bring back so many great memories. It definitely doesn’t hurt that the Seaside store has fantastic branding and very tasteful color palettes for their products—this is definitely nothing like a boardwalk beach store

Shop My Look

Romper | VICI

Sandals | Vestique (similar)

Earrings | SugarFix by Bauble Bar

Style Summer with Fashion Centre at Pentagon City

Photos by Elizabeth of District of Chic

Shop My Look: 

Dress | Forever21

Shoes | Forever 21 

Earrings | Sugarfix by BaubleBar(similar)

Growing up in Fairfax, VA, we actually had a lot of options when it came to shopping malls. Springfield Mall was the “ghetto mall”, so we steered clear of that, Fair Oaks was just “okay”, Tysons was a madhouse, but Pentagon City Mall — now called Fashion Centere at Pentagon City — had it all. Some of my earliest shopping memories are from this mall, and my mom always took my brother and I to Johnny Rocket’s on the lower level as a treat for coming with her.

The mall has gone through many changes, including adding a Shake Shack, Matchbox, and Sugar Factory as dining options, introducing new retailers, and renovating their food court, but the mall’s cleanliness, fan-favorite anchor stores (hi, Nordstrom!), and overall attention to detail and style have remained the same. Since I’ve always loved the mall, I jumped at the chance to attend their Style Summer: Influencer Mixer event last night.

The event was held at the beautiful Matchbox space, where we got to sample their house wines and select appetizers and mix and mingle with some of the mall’s best retailers and learn about the mall’s Summer Ready event on June 30. The Summer Ready event will be at the mall from 1 – 5 pm and allow shoppers to learn about the season’s latest beauty, clothing, and accessory trends through fashion displays, pop-up makeover stations, and more. There will be a variety of sample giveaways from brands like Aveda, L’Occitane, LUSH, New York & Company, Superdry, and more, and if you spend $150 or more at any store, you’ll receive a complimentary beach tote filled with summer essentials.

Read on for some of the highlights of the Summer Ready that we got to experience firsthand at the event last night!

Nordstrom: swing in to the beloved department store for their Summer Beauty Event where you can earn a free gift with purchase. Make sure to check out the new BECCA X Chrissy Teigen beauty glow palette and download the Nordstrom app to scan products and get consumer reviews immediately at your fingertips.

Calzedonia:the newly opened European swimwear shop is the only swim-exclusive retailer in the mall, so you know the ladies there know what they’re talking about! Stop in for suits of all cuts — we loved the numbers they displayed at the event.

Coach: the luxury leather handbag company is debuting two new bags this Friday and we got a sneak peek (which I shared on IG stories!). My favorite was the Rouge — the bag was made for the traveler on the go and lets you wear the bag three different ways

Garrett Popcorn: swing into the Chicago-founded popcorn shop to refuel after all that shopping cardio. Pro tip: repurpose Garrett’s colorful copper tins (featured in my pics above!) to store your makeup brushes or even children’s toys around the house!

Intimissi: also new to the mall, the Italian lingerie shop is a much-welcomed alternative to Victoria’s Secret. Since it’s European, the sizing tends to run a bit smaller, which is perfect for girls like me who aren’t as blessed up top! I’ll definitely be stopping in for a custom fitting.

Kate Spade: did you know that the iconic handbag brand is sister companies with Coach? I’m not going to lie, it pulled at my heartstrings to see the beautiful Kate Spade products displayed after the sad news last week, but I know Kate would want us to keep wearing her fun and flirty products with a smile on her face. The new flamingo collection is peak Kate Spade and embodies everything the cheerful brand is about.

Tumi: the luxury leather luggage company is back, but it’s getting a makeover. While Tumi typically conjures up images of masculine leather bags, the brand is drawing inspiration from women on the go and adding in special touches like additional storage and softer leather hues.

L’Occtaine: summer is the perfect time to revamp your skin routine and L’Occtaine’s new moisture-focused line is the perfect way to make sure your face is hydrated in DC’s hot weather months. Stop by the store to test your skin’s hydration and take home some tips from the skincare pros  

Star Spangled Sweater

Every weekend should be a long weekend, amirite?

We had a fairly low-key Memorial Day weekend that mostly revolved around eating all of the things (dinner with one of my besties and her husband at Filomena and brunch with another BFF at Sospeso), and rounded out the weekend with a trip to the movies.

I got us MoviePasses about two months ago and we have been LOVING them! We can walk to three movie theaters from our apartment so we try to go every other weekend. We saw Beast last weekend and Disobedience today — highly recommend Beast if you’re into psychological thrillers (I couldn’t sleep for two nights after seeing it), but Disobedience kind of made me want to fall asleep in the theater. If you’re a fan of moviegoing but haven’t looked into MoviePass yet, you definitely should. You pay a flat fee and get to see unlimited movies all year! We got ours on sale for $90 each, so it’s a pretty good deal if you go to the movies at least once a month.

Since it was a bit chillier today, and movie theaters tend to crank the AC, I opted for one of my favorite combos — jean shorts and a sweater. The fact that this star print sweater fit Memorial Day made it even better. Side note, thank you to those who have served and who continue to serve to protect our freedom and keep our country safe. I got this sweater from a new (to me) online retailer Vici, and am constantly finding things I love on their site! You get 20% off on your first order or can use code WEEKEND20 for 20% off if you’re a repeat shopper! My sweater is currently out of stock, but you can sign up for pre-order when it comes back in stock.

Shop My Look: 

Sweater | Vici

Shorts | Levi’s

Shoes | Converse