Summer Packing Essentials

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Summer is the perfect time to take a weekend road trip and explore local and regional gems, whether it’s a great restaurant or a scenic hiking trail. Living in Las Vegas, we have numerous destinations within a five-hour driving radius. To the west we have San Diego for a beach retreat while up north we can explore the forested hiking trails in Zion National Park. We want to take advantage of this convenient location and experience as many unique places as possible.

Packing for a weekend trip can be challenging if you haven’t planned out every activity and restaurant. The best way to be prepared for any occasion is to bring versatile pieces that can be dressed up or down and can be mixed and matched. These are a few of my packing essentials for a weekend getaway:

  • White v-neck t-shirt. I love a basic tee because it can easily be dressed up or down, creating a simple, sophisticated look. Plus, chances are it will match all of the bottoms you packed.
  • Gray tank. This is another piece that is versatile and can be interchanged with the v-neck. Pair it with shorts and sandals for an easy ensemble.
  • Simple, black dress. There’s a reason why every woman should own a LBD – they are elegant and create an instant outfit. For day, pair it with your shades and throw your hair in a top knot; for night, add a statement necklace and let your hair down in beachy waves.
  • Floral skirt. This floral, asymmetrical skirt can be worn for both daytime excursions and a night out on the town. It’s trendy and easily paired with both tops.
  • Denim shorts. An obvious favorite because they are comfy, casual and neutral. For an unexpected look, dress up the distressed denim and a basic tee with a colorful statement necklace.
  • Neutral tote. Since you’ll be living out of a suitcase, it’s ideal to have  a large tote that carries all of your essentials (sunglasses, sunscreen, wallet, camera, etc.). A neutral-colored bag that matches the other pieces you packed will make it easy to grab and go.
  • Classic sandals. Flat sandals that are comfortable to walk in are a must. For maximum packing efficiency, it helps if they match your casual outfits, but also look dressy enough for a nice restaurant.
  • Aviators. These stylish shades make any outfit look effortlessly put together. They will also come in handy if you are doing some outdoor sightseeing.
  • Statement necklace. This is the easiest way to fancy up a basic tee or dress. Add the stand-out accessory to your basic ensemble and you have an entirely new outfit!
  • Straw fedora. No time to wash your hair before your next activity? A stylish straw hat and side braid can fix that!

 

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San Diego To-Do List

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Although it may seem like all we did was eat while visiting San Diego (check out my favorite restaurants here), we actually did a lot of sightseeing, too. We explored the beautiful Balboa Park, kayaked to the La Jolla sea caves, sunbathed in front of the famous Hotel del Coronado and cheered on the Padres. From museums and parks to shopping and beaches, there is so much to do and see. The quaint neighborhoods along the beach were a welcomed break from the desert. I also enjoyed the chic, urban areas with trendy restaurants and stylish boutiques. We didn’t make it to everything on our to-do list, so we will definitely need to visit again!

IMG_2886{Taking a walk along Ocean Beach}

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{Beautiful flowers at the rose garden inside Balboa Park}

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{Balboa Park Carousel}

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{The deer on the vintage carousel reminds me of trendy home decor}

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{Colorful patio inside Balboa Park’s Spanish Art Village Center}

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{My floral shades checking out La Jolla}

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{Hotel del Coronado}

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{Seaport Village Fudge Shop. I love the pink, retro look of the storefront.}

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{Padres baseball game on the 4th of July}

San Diego Treats

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Rob and I went to San Diego last weekend for a wedding, so I did a lot of research and made a list of places to visit since we had never been. Of course my top priority was finding the best restaurants. Although we didn’t have time to try them all, we did have several scrumptious meals! San Diego has a fun culinary scene with a variety of fresh seafood and chic gastropubs. Gaslamp Quarter is full of trendy dining destinations and we also liked Little Italy, which has a bustling farmers’ market. We tend to stay within the $ to $$ range on Yelp, so the below restaurants are pretty affordable, but still delicious!

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My favorite restaurants + bars:

  • Prepkitchen. I knew this was going to be a great restaurant when I walked in and saw the rustic chic décor. We went on a Saturday afternoon when they were still serving brunch, so I ordered the chilaquiles made with chipotle braised chicken, avocado, onion, queso fresco and over-medium eggs. It had great flavor! My friend ordered the poppy seed pancakes topped with strawberries, rhubarb whipped cream and almond crumble – it was unreal! With the fluffy pancakes and flavorful toppings, she definitely had the best order. They also offer a self-serve coffee and scone bar (pictured above), which I thought was a cute idea.
  • Blue Water Seafood Market & Grill. Rob and I love watching Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives, so we try to visit at least one of those restaurants when we go to a new city. Since we were in San Diego, we also wanted to take advantage of the fresh, local seafood. Blue Water did not disappoint! I loved the mini Calico Amber Ale beer-battered shrimp tacos. The portions are good-sized, too, so you definitely get your money’s worth.
  • Donut Bar. Before heading home we stopped for some sweet treats. The artisan doughnuts come in a variety of delicious flavors, such as salted caramel (pictured below), Nutella, red velvet and chocolate espresso. These doughnuts are HUGE. I thought they might be a little overpriced when I was looking up the flavors online, but these are at least three times as large as a typical grocery store cake doughnut. We were in a sugar coma on our drive home, but well worth it!
  • El Indio. This popular San Diego establishment catered the wedding, which made for a tasty fiesta! We enjoyed the mini chicken burritos, fish tacos and chips topped with guacamole. Next time we will try out the actual restaurant, too!
  • The Fish Market. After touring the USS Midway, we were starving and looking to grab some grub right on the harbor. We came across this waterfront restaurant and had a savory lunch while sitting in the sun. It was pretty crowded, but we found a table on the deck with an amazing view of the water. We loved the baked crab & artichoke dip and king crab BLT.
  • Werewolf. Before heading to the Padres game on the 4th of July we fueled up at this American pub with seared ahi soba noodles and some drinks. It’s a fun atmosphere with a great menu and within walking distance of the stadium.
  • Frost Me. While looking for some waterfront attractions I came across Seaport Village, which is full of shops, restaurants and entertainment. I saw that there was a gourmet cupcake shop that had been a champion on Cupcake Wars, so I immediately added it to our to-do list. Located in the heart of the bustling village, the bakery has a long list of classic and specialty flavors. I tried mocha (pictured below), which was made with chocolate cake topped with a layer of chocolate ganache, espresso frosting and crushed espresso beans – delicious!
  • Noble Experiment. This chic speakeasy is hidden inside Neighborhood, a gastropub located in Gaslamp. To get in you have to text a number to make reservation. Luckily, they were able to squeeze the eight of us in last-minute. After you walk through the secret entrance, you’ll find an intimate bar where they specialize in craft cocktails. I didn’t know what I wanted, so I told the bartender I liked wine. He made a delicious drink with fortified wine and strawberries. It was exactly what I wanted without even knowing.
  • Taste and Thirst. This restaurant is divided into a bar and an eating area (hence taste AND thirst). When we stopped by, they were offering a 4th of July special, which was half off of all drinks. We are always down for a cheap drink! It’s a casual atmosphere with a tasty menu – hello, truffle fries!
  • Shiku sushi. Located in the heart of La Jolla, this tasty sushi restaurant has fresh seafood and unique rolls – we loved the soft shell crab. It was the perfect post-kayaking lunch.
  • South Beach Bar & Grille. Great food and great deals! We enjoyed the Taco Tuesday specials – all tacos were $2.75 and much larger than I expected for that price. Great surfside dining!

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Do you have any suggestions on where to eat next time? Let me know :)

 

Sprinkles Cupcakes

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The forecast calls for a lot of Sprinkles in Las Vegas – at least for cupcake lovers like myself! I couldn’t wait to try these sweet treats from Sprinkles Cupcakes when it opened at The LINQ this spring.

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In addition to the vast selection of cupcakes, Sprinkles also makes ice cream! Since I couldn’t decide between the two, I went for the cupcake sundae made with salted caramel ice cream and a vanilla cupcake with chocolate frosting. The cupcake is cut in half with the bottom at the base of the sundae, which is topped with the ice cream and then finished with the top half of the cupcake. It’s like a cupcake ice cream sandwich – amazing!

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Another fun feature is the Cupcake ATM. Located outside of the shop, it allows you to choose between the flavors of the day and then you watch a crane pick up the cupcake, put it in the box and when the little door opens, you’re cupcake is ready to eat!

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Chocolate cupcakes are my go-to and my standard of measurement for cupcakes shops. This dark chocolate flavor did not disappoint. And how can you beat this view?

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A Day at the Park

I love Downtown Las Vegas because it’s a great escape from the Strip and the cool, laid-back vibe reminds me a little bit of Seattle. I wanted to share some pictures of the quirky, whimsical decor at Park on Fremont since it’s so unique, but I could also see the eclectic style trending on Pinterest. The vintage-yet-modern look is so popular right now and makes me want to go spray paint my boring, brown furniture! Plus they serve delicious drinks, like the Pillow Talk and Trophy Wife, in Mason jars… LOVE!

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Home for the Holidays

Like the song says, “There’s no place like home for the holidays!” I’ve never found this so true until I was visiting Seattle last weekend. I’m not used to the sunny winters and brown scenery of Las Vegas, so it didn’t really feel like Christmas until I was able to see the green trees, gray skies and Christmas lights on the Space Needle. Below are a few photos from my quick trip.

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(1) My mom still hangs stockings for all of the kids (and the three dogs) in the family. (2) My pink “J” stocking. (3) As you can tell by the frozen fountain, it was a little chilly shopping at University Village – it got down to 15 degrees! (4) Although it was cold, I had to get the salted caramel ice cream from Molly Moon’s. (5) Ok, I also had to get my favorite cupcake from Trophy (6) I was just as excited (if not more…) to see my dogs as I was my parents. (7) Muddy – our sweet, old lab.

Life Is Beautiful

20131026-224151.jpgAfter acting like birthdays are no big deal, my boyfriend surprised me with tickets to Life Is Beautiful. I had wanted to attend this two-day music festival since July when I learned Imagine Dragons was co-headlining. This inaugural art, food and music festival in downtown Las Vegas was a big deal around town. From the concerts to the culinary village, it was a fun-filled weekend. 20131026-224157.jpgSeveral blocks were closed and transformed into the festival grounds complete with multiple stages, two ferris wheels, food trucks, a beer garden, charity lane and culinary village.20131026-224203.jpgThe murals and art exhibits played a large part in establishing the atmosphere. At this booth, festival-goers were able to paint a brick, which was compiled into one large wall.20131026-224246.jpgThe “Suzie Selfie” was my favorite mural. 20131026-224210.jpgThe food was another festival highlight. Out of all the chefs making gourmet meals, one of my favorite dishes was the Lobster Mac & Cheese from Lobster Me, a lobster-themed food truck. It was amazing! I might have to try making it myself soon!20131026-224215.jpgThe pumpkin spiced gnocchi with truffled butter and sage sauce from Lavo was another favorite. Anything with truffle is amazing.  As a foodie, the culinary village was one of my favorite parts of the festival. Celebrity chefs with high-end Vegas restaurants had booths serving signature dishes and also performed cooking demonstrations.20131026-224239.jpg20131029-200503.jpgPark on Fremont served fried mac & cheese balls, which were delicious! 20131026-224224.jpgI loved checking out the festival fashion. Fringe was a must! Whether it’s on booties or T-shirts, it gives a fun, laid-back vibe especially when paired with colored denim and booties. I found this shirt for $9 at Nordstrom Rack. How could I pass up that great deal!?20131029-200438.jpgDay 2! I was dying in my jeans the first day since it was 85 degrees, so I learned to sport shorts the second day. It’s still hard for me to wrap my mind around the fact that it can be almost 90 degrees in October. Guess we really aren’t in Washington anymore! Plus, comfortable tennis shoes were a must! We were on our feet and walking around all day.20131102-194445.jpgThe music was amazing. Even the bands I had never heard of were so good! Imagine Dragons (from Las Vegas!) was my favorite. The lineup also included The Killers, Kings of Leon, Beck, Passion Pit, Youngblood Hawke, Capital Cities, Vampire Weekend, Pretty Lights, Empire of the Sun, Janelle Monae, Allen Stone, The Joy Formidable and many more.20131102-194451.jpg

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20131102-194502.jpgWe had an amazing time and I’m so glad we were able to experience the inaugural Life Is Beautiful festival.