Sunday, February 26, 2017

Springtime Blues

I don't know about you but here in D.C. we've had a bit of an early arrival of Spring. And I, for one, am NOT complaining.

I quickly wanted to share one look I am absolutely coveting for this upcoming Spring season: Blue and Denim. There are so many cute options out there with ruffles, scallops, bell-sleeves, GAH! The options are endlessly adorable.

Here are just a few I'm pining over (and may or may not have in my virtual shopping carts):


Bottom Left: Banana Republic Riley-Fit Scalloped Blouse
Bottom Middle: J. Crew Factory White Wash 28" Inseam Skinny Jeans
Bottom Right: J. Crew Bell-Sleeved Top (Also Available in Pink)
Bottom Right Middle: J. Crew Factory Crosshatch Tunic Top
Top Right Middle: Banana Republic Tie Front Crepe Tee (Also Available in Olive)
Top Right: J. Crew Top with Gingham Bib

Happy Spring Shopping!

Thursday, February 23, 2017

5 Best Hikes Near D.C.


Hiking is one of my absolute favorite hobbies. Growing up I wasn't exactly what you would call 'outdoorsy' but once I got older I realized just how great hiking was for both the mind and body.

First and foremost I love hiking because it takes you into the mountains. I'm the type of girl that rather than own a beach vacation home I yearn to own a mountain vacation home (in Montana if my dreams really were to come true).

Also, it's SUCH a good workout without really feeling like you're exerting yourself. Some parts of trails are more difficult, that's for sure, but usually you can just go for hours and hours, and instead of worrying about getting tired, you're just taking in the beautiful views. The next day you definitely feel it, but it's one of those 'hurts-so-good' feelings.

Growing up in Western Pennsylvania I was constantly in the mountains to ski, hike (even though I HATED it when I was younger), and camp. Because it was such a part of my childhood I think I also love it because it brings back just a bit of nostalgia.

Those same mountains still aren't very far from me here in D.C. (Pittsburgh is only a 4-hour drive away), but I've also been recently exposed to a whole new range of mountains south and south-west of D.C.: The Shenandoah and Blue Ridge Mountains. These are two new ranges I'm thrilled to have gotten the opportunity to adventure because they're definitely on a bit of a bigger scale than Western Pennsylvania peaks.

I've said it before and I'll say it time and time again that D.C. is in such a great location because we're just hours (often even less) from many mountain ranges, beautiful beaches, and other cities worth exploring.

With the spring weather rapidly approaching I simply can't wait to get back out there and hike my weekends away. I do go hiking in the winter months, but I find it just so much more enjoyable in just a tad-bit warmer air.

Those day-dreams considered, I wanted to share some of my favorite hikes I've been on both in and around Washington, D.C. Some are a little bit farther away and I'll indicate the time it takes to drive, but others are right in my backyard. I'll tell you about five of my favorites that I've been on in the past couple years, but I can't wait to keep you all updated as I begin to explore more and more!

My 5 Favorite Hikes Near D.C.:


1) Old Rag Mountain, Shenandoah National Park


Old Rag is the most difficult of the hikes I've listed. It's peak is at 3,294 ft. and the trail loop it about 8-9 miles. The most challenging part of the hike is an area called the 'rock park' where you are climbing over rocks and boulders before you get to the top before descending. 

The views are absolutely breath-taking and if I could make any recommendation it would be to go in the Fall to see the seas of red and orange across the spanning Shenandoah mountains.

The drive is about 1.5 hours from D.C. so it's a very easy day trip.
 

2) Harper's Ferry National Historical Park


Harper's Ferry National Park is one of my absolute new favorite day-trip destinations from D.C. I went for the first time just a few weeks ago (see my raving review here) and I simply cannot recommend visiting any more.

Harper's Ferry has multiple trails that range in difficulty and is on the border of Maryland, Virginia, and West Virginia. The views are simply breathtaking and you're given the opportunity to visit the historic town of Harper's Ferry.

The drive is only 45 minutes from D.C. which makes it almost impossible NOT to get up and go visit!
 

3) Great Falls Park, Virginia and Maryland


Great Falls Park is more of a 'walk' rather than a 'hike' per say. Some of the trails on the Maryland side are a bit more challenging, but ultimately you are walking alongside the water with spectacular views of the falls. 

I would recommend spending the morning exploring the Virginia-side and then the afternoon exploring the Maryland-side. Both have different views of the falls that are absolutely picture-worthy.

The drive is barely 15 minutes from D.C. so it does tend to get pretty packed on weekends in the summer, but it is absolutely worth it as a day-trip any time of the year!
 

4) Swallow Falls Canyon Trail, Deep Creek, Maryland


I did the Swallow Falls Canyon trail for the first time this past September with all of my best girl friends while we were in Deep Creek for a Bachelorette Party

I've been to Deep Creek, MD countless times (it's only 1.5 hours from Pittsburgh so it was a popular destination for me as a child). I'd never done this trail though and it was gorgeous! It's only about a 3-mile loop but it takes you past multiple levels of water falls and gives you the opportunity to hike up to the top of the highest. The views are spectacular!

Deep Creek is about 3 hours from D.C. but there are countless numbers of lake homes, cabins, and hostels to stay at for a great weekend trip that could include hiking, swimming, and various other lake-activities!
 

5) Smith Mountain Lake, Virginia


So I honestly had never heard of Smith Mountain Lake, but I had a different bachelorette party over Labor Day weekend this past year (seems like weekends at the lake are popular bachelorette party ideas these days!) and I'm hooked! 

Smith Mountain Lake is first and foremost GORGEOUS! We stayed in a gorgeous log cabin right on the lake with deck views of both the lake and the mountains behind it. It also had a hot tub that I may or may not have soaked in the majority of the trip based on the gorgeous views.

There was a lake trail not far from where we were staying that sprawled for miles upon miles (Smith Mountain Lake is HUGE) so we did about 4-5 miles before calling it a day. I'm certain you could do upwards of 10-15 miles and not even question how far you had gone.

Smith Mountain Lake is about 4 hours from D.C. west towards the Blacksburg area. I recommend a long weekend so that you can enjoy the views, hiking, boating, and relaxing that comes with the lake!

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This list will be ever-growing so stay tuned as a write more posts on places to hike around D.C.! Also, my travels out west will be starting soon so there will be definitely be updates on more strenuous hikes from around the country. Have a great Thursday, every body!

Monday, February 20, 2017

Seven Quotes to Inspire Leadership


HAPPY PRESIDENT'S DAY! I hope some of you get to enjoy a day off and I hope wherever you are reading from is as beautiful of weather as I'm having here in D.C.

In honor of President's Day I wanted to share a few favorite quotes from former U.S. President's to inspire leadership in each of you (and in re-reading and posting it's definitely extra inspiration for myself).

I'm going to make this short because it's nearly 70 degrees right now so I have a shopping day planned in Georgetown.... but please enjoy!


"Discipline is about choosing what you want now and what you want most." -Abraham Lincoln


"One person can make a difference, and everyone should try." -John F. Kennedy


"Make sure you are doing what God has willed- then go do it with all of your strength." - George Washington


"There is no limit to the amount of good you can do if you don't care who gets the credit." -Harry Truman

"The greatest leader is not necessarily the the one who does the greatest things. He is the one that gets people to do the greatest things." -Ronald Reagan


"The supreme quality for leadership is unquestionable integrity. Without it, no real success is possible whether is on a section gang, a football field, in an army, or in an office." -Dwight D. Eisenhower


"The only man who never makes mistakes is the man who never does anything." -Theodore Roosevelt




Friday, February 17, 2017

Rehoboth Beach Weekend for $150


Ever just want to get away?

Living in Washington, D.C., sometimes I just feel trapped in the city and need to get away for a bit, clear my head, and come back refreshed.

Fortunately D.C. is in a wonderful location where I can be in a number of other fun cities, beautiful mountains, or salty beaches within 1-2 hours.

This past summer I was feeling that trapped feeling around mid-July and my summer vacation wasn't planned until late August so I had to figure out a way to get some fresh air.

One of my dearest friends here in DC has actually never been to the beach (she had only ever visited it once, but it was chilly, and she was fully clothed as opposed to in her itsy-bitsy bikini taking in the sunshine as she should have been). So I gave her a quick phone call and after an immediate yes I started planning.




It was an easy choice to visit Rehoboth Beach because it is just a darling little town and it's only about a 2-hour drive from the city (with my lead-foot of course).

The biggest thing about planning the trip was that it had to be budget friendly. Neither of us had really planned for this trip and we didn't want to take away from any of our other monthly expenses.

We decided on the itinerary:


Saturday: Depart D.C. 7:30am
                Arrive in Rehoboth 9:30-10:00am
                Beach all day
                Dinner
Sunday:   Wake up
                Breakfast
                Beach
                Depart Rehoboth 3:00pm

The biggest part about planning a spontaneous trip is that you have to be in the 'go-with-the-flow' mindset. We knew there would be little-to-no hotel rooms available. We knew the weather would be variable. We knew that we could only pick one or two of the many recommended restaurants and shops. Etc......


This is how I planned the trip for $150 per person for the weekend:

First cost: Hotel- $90 per person

I checked all of the standard sites for available hotels: expedia/kayak/hotels.com/on-and-on... the issue with using these sites to book however, was that they usually require you to stay a minimum of 2 nights. So, I looked at one of the cheapest price, best location hotels that had been listed: The Beach View Hotel. So I CALLED the hotel to see if there were anything available for one night. And yes, they had one! For $180 a night and we could stay just one night.

***The internets a fantastic resource and I obviously use it for 95% of the things I do... but sometimes using outdated methods such as calling the hotel to book the room is actually a superior option. In essence, always make sure to compare your resources.

The hotel ended up being just absolutely darling, right on the beach, with a wine hour and continental breakfast, and the bed was SO comfortable!

I'd say my limited booking options and on-a-whim decision making really paid off on this one!

Second cost: Food- $28

Neither of us are extremely heavy eaters so the food portion was easy to keep to minimum pricing. We grabbed a $5 coffee on the way. We split an order of the famous Thrasher's French Fries for lunch (with salt and vinegar of course)- $3 per person.

We did splurge a bit on dinner and went to Fin's Fish House and Raw Oyster Bar because we just had to have seafood while at the beach. I had a delicious Lobster Roll and she had Clam Chowder and Calamari. All-in-all, still only $20 per person.

Sunday morning was super easy because the hotel had continental breakfast so we ate up enough to hold us through getting back to D.C. for dinner.

Third cost: Gas- $30 per person

Our grand total ended up being $148 per person for a relaxing, enjoyable weekend on the beach.

All either of us really wanted was to soak up some rays, read a new book, grab a good meal, and get a goods night sleep and that's EXACTLY what we did.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

How to Throw a Galentine's Day Brunch


Valentine's Day is one of my favorite holidays. As I said in yesterday's post, I just enjoy celebrating love. I have so much love and joy in my life and although I try to constantly remind my loved ones how much they mean to me, I like to get into the holiday spirit and really celebrate around Valentine's Day.

Every year growing up all of the ladies in my family would celebrate Galentine's Day over Sunday brunch. We would exchange little gifts, talk lady things, and just enjoy the love we shared for each other.

Fast forward a few years to my days of binge-watching Parks and Recreation in college I was again reminded of this tradition by my favorite fictional character and spirit animal, Leslie Knope.

During every season of the series, Leslie Knope throws a Galentine's Day brunch on February 13th for all of her gal-pals. Originally is out of bitterness for being single, but even as she meets her boyfriend and future husband she continues the tradition to show her closest ladies just how much they mean to her.

Last year, a friend of mine threw a Galentine's Day brunch to ask us all to be bridesmaids in her wedding. Definitely a day filled with love, laughter, and happy tears.

This year, I wanted to throw the brunch because I have so many beautiful women from multiple walks of my life here in D.C. and I wanted them all to meet and be surrounded by equally strong and beautiful women.

There are a few necessities to through a successful and fun Galentine's Day brunch that I want to share with you to inspire your own:

1) Decorations

Decorations definitely transform a normal brunch to a Galentine's Day brunch. I wanted my friends to walk into my apartment to a see of pink so that it was clear that we were really celebrating. 

I very honestly got all of my decorations from the Dollar Tree (although I spent wayyyyy more than is acceptable seeing as everything was $1). I bought mostly pink, but added hints of white and red in to cover the whole Valentine's Day color spectrum. 

One of my favorite decorations was the little flower arrangements I made using sweethearts and multiple vases. It was honestly so easy: I simply placed a small standard vase filled with pink daisies in a square vase and filled the extra space with sweethearts. I placed it on a small side table with Leslie Knope's Galentine's Day quote, and had a perfect little display. 


All of the other decorations fell in suite and I'm in love with the product.


2) Food

FOOD! What would a brunch be without food?!? I wanted to stay in theme with hearts and the color pink so I did as best as I could. 

My favorite dish was the quiche's I made: one was a bacon/sausage/cheddar with bacon hearts on top and the other was a Mediterranean with Red Pepper hearts on top. I also made a granola parfait bar with pink strawberry yogurt and heart shaped fruit as per theme. Also in the picture below are DELICIOUS Sugar Shack donuts that one of my gal pals brought. Every last crumb was eaten.


Another friend of mine brought pink cupcakes and heart-shaped cookie pops. Again, every last crumb eaten.



Not pictured are the delicious chocolate-covered strawberries and cinnamon crumb cake that two of the other girls brought. Definitely two recipes I would recommend including. 

3) Drinks

I decided to provide two drinks: one alcoholic and one not.

The alcohol drink was very honestly thrown together with ingredients to purposely make it pink. It ended up being DELICIOUS and dangerous because you couldn't taste the vodka I added. I simply combined 1 bottle of Sprite, 1 bottle of white grape/strawberry juice, and 1 bottle of peach vodka. I topped it with frozen raspberries and VOILA!


The non-alcohol drink was a Pinterest recipe that I just had to create! It was a crockpot Pink White Hot Chocolate. It was a simple recipe that combined 7.5 cups of whole milk, a can of sweetened condensed milk, a bag of white chocolate chips, and 1.5 tablespoons of vanilla extract. I cooked on high for 2 hours and then kept it on warm during the brunch. Right before everyone arrived I added red food dye until it turned the shade of pink I wanted.

I served it in Mason Jars with whipped cream and decorative straws and had quite the Pinterest-ready drink!

4) Valentine Exchange

I think my favorite part of the whole brunch was the Valentine exchange. I had everyone bring a Valentine of their choosing for everyone else so each person got to leave with 10 Valentine's (did I mention I hosted 10 girls in my 500 square foot apartment?)

They were so creative and thoughtful and I absolutely loved them!

5) Photo Booth (Wall)

This part was so fun and I now have SO many pictures to show it. 

Originally I ordered a metallic backdrop from Etsy, but it didn't arrive in time, so I improvised.

I found glitter hearts during my Dollar Tree trip, so I arranged them on one of my empty walls so people could take pictures. 

I provided a few different headbands, heart sunglasses, and a frame so that everyone could use props and have fun!

Here are the wonderful pictures:












I hope that everyone had a Galentine's Day and Valentine's Day filled with love! Please leave any recommendations for next year in the comments!

XOXOXO

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Tell People You Love Them

HAPPY VALENTINE'S DAY!!!


"Make sure you tell the people you love that you love them. Loudly and often. You never know when it might be too late. Love your life, and love the lives of the people around you." 

-Unknown


Valentine's Day has always been one of my favorite holidays. Not for the whole romantic aspect, (although don't get me wrong, I've had 1 or 2 pretty special Valentine's in my day) but just because it's a day to celebrate love. 

I am surrounded every day by the absolute most amazing friends, family, and colleagues. So many people that I love dearly and that show me so much love. 

Yesterday, my closest friends and family from my hometown faced a tragedy when one of our own lost his long-fought battle with depression. In speaking with so many of my friends, the constant sentiment was that they all wished they had reached out more often, or told him just how much he meant to them and brightened their lives. 

So today, on Valentine's Day, I challenge to you reach out to those you love. Your friends, your family, your mentors, your neighbors. All those that brighten your life in any small way and all those that have a huge daily impact on your life. 

Today is about love, not necessarily romance, so show love. Spread love. Embrace love. You, and those you share these sentiments with, will be so ecstatic that you did. 

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Also, in light of recent events, I urge any and all of you to check out the National Alliance on Mental Awareness to learn more and get involved.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Happy Galentine's Day!


HAPPY GALENTINE'S DAY!!!!

I'll keep this short because later this week I will be sharing all of the details about the Galentine's Day brunch I threw yesterday for myself and 10 of my gal-pals here in D.C.

I wanted to wish each and every one of you a Happy Galentine's Day: a day for ladies to celebrate ladies and jubilate all of our amazing friendships.

For those of you that don't know about the origin of Galentine's Day... my main girl Leslie Knope (from the TV show Parks and Recreation) coined the term and I quote:

"What's Galentine's Day? O, it's only the best day of the year. Every February 13th my lady friends and I leave our boyfriends and husbands at home, and we just kick it, breakfast style. Ladies celebrating ladies. It's like Lillith Fair, minus the angst. Plus frittatas." - Leslie Knope


She began the ritual when she was bitterly single, but even after having found her boyfriend and future husband she kept it going just so her and her girlfriends could also rejoice in the love they share for each other... brunch style!

Galentine's Day is one of my absolute favorite traditions! I used to celebrate with my mom, aunts, and cousins growing up and now that I've moved I find it essential to keep the tradition alive with some of my besties here in D.C. (disclaimer: I'm SUPER missing my best friends that live in Pittsburgh that I couldn't share Galentine's Day with).

I love and appreciate my friends so much, so even if you're single/taken/married/love cats I urge you to go out and spread some girl-love today and tell your friends just how much they mean to you and just how much you love them.

That's what this whole holiday is about, right? Love. Love for oneself and love for others, in all areas of our lives <3