Friday, April 21, 2017

Friday Finds

Happy Friday!! What are you up to this weekend? I'm planning on keeping things quiet tonight with a little wine and a lot of Netflix, and then tomorrow we're heading out to the burbs for one of my college roommate's wedding! I'm super excited to see her tie the knot and to do a lot of dancing with my girls. I hope you have a good one!

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Thursday, April 20, 2017

How to Plan a Trip to Southeast Asia

When we told people we were planning a trip to Southeast Asia, a lot of the reactions we got were "woah" or "why." From the central US, Asia feels so far away and so foreign, so I get that, but it ended up being absolutely incredible. I would definitely recommend checking out the area if you ever get the chance!

I'll go into detail about what we did on our trip some other time when I manage to get my act together, but today I just wanted to share some of the logistics of planning a trip to Asia - it's not as scary as it seems! Our itinerary included stops in Hong Kong, Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam, and we were gone for 15 days.


HONG KONG 


Why go? Honestly, we only decided to add Hong Kong to our itinerary after discovering you could fly there direct to Chicago (versus three layovers to get to our destination in Thailand), but it's a huge, crazy city surrounded by mountains and the ocean. Plus, there's dim sum ;)

Where to stay: We stayed in Kowloon, which is on the mainland part of the city. This area has crazy views across the bay to Hong Kong Island, and is where most of the big chain hotels are located. Hong Kong is expensive, hotels in this area ran from $250 - $500+ per night. We ended up paying a little more for a room for a view at the Sheraton, but IMHO it wasn't really worth it. Sure, the view was amazing, but it was really foggy during the day (to the point where we literally couldn't see the hotel next to ours) and almost every  hotel in the area has a restaurant or bar where you can see the view. The location of your hotel also doesn't matter so much as long as you're near a subway station! Pro tip - most of the big hotels include a smart phone with your room that you can take around the city with you, so you won't need international data!

How long to stay: We were literally only there for 36 hours, but I could see staying for several days - there's lots to do!


Getting around: The public transit in Hong Kong is crazy good. Traffic is crazy so we didn't attempt a cab, and it was so easy and fast to take the trains and ferries everywhere. Buy an Octopus card as soon as you get there - it's their transit card and gets you onto the subway, the express airport train, the tram up to Victoria Peak, and the ferries, and can also be used in convenience stores. The minimum you can put on an Octopus Card is $50 HKD, but you get it back (minus a small fee) when you return the card at the end of your trip.

We flew direct from Chicago via Cathay Pacific, which I thought was the best airline of our trip - best food and best movie selection, plus zero delays. The flight was almost 16 hours which is basically going to kill you no matter what, but better than the 30 hours it would have taken us to go straight Koh Samui.

Currency: Hong Kong Dollar, exchange rate is about 8:1. Things for the most part were not cheap in Hong Kong, except for public transit!

Electricity: UK plug.

Health: Supposedly mosquitos are a big deal there and can carry fun diseases, but we didn't even see a mosquito. Go ahead and drink the water unless your hotel specifically says not to - Hong Kong has incredibly clean water but older buildings may have unsafe pipes.

Visas: No visa is necessary when traveling from the US.


KOH SAMUI, THAILAND


Why go? Amazingly beautiful beaches, scuba diving, less touristy than Phuket (although still pretty touristy), hiking and waterfalls. Or because your brother is already going there for spring break and you want to meet up with him.

Where to stay: We stayed near Bophut, which is on the north side of the island and is quiet and family-friendly. The south side of the island is more of the loud party area. We saw hotels for as low as $50 a night, although for a nicer resort you'll probably pay closer to $100-150 per night. We stayed at the Bandara Resort & Spa, which had a beautiful beach, four pools, happy hour for four hours every day, and was walkable to Fisherman's Village (an area filled with restaurants and shops).

How long to stay: Umm, as long as your money holds out? We met people who were staying in Koh Samui for three weeks! We were there for five nights, but I would have loved to stay a few more days.


Getting around: We only took cabs to and from the airport, and once when we decided we were too tired to walk home from dinner. Cabs were kind of expensive - definitely negotiate a price up front! The area we stayed in didn't really require much transportation because we were so close to everything, but if you're staying further out definitely rent a car. One of my brother's friends said the car he rented was the same price as taking one taxi per day. You could also rent a mini bike, but the roads are kind of scary, and Koh Samui has the highest accident rate for all of Thailand.

Currency: Baht, exchange rate as about 35:1. Things weren't as cheap as I hear they are on the mainland because it's a tourist heavy area, but we could still find lunches for $5 and fancy dinners with many drinks for $15-20 per person.

Electricity: Technically they use a European plug, but every outlet I saw could accommodate a Euro or US plug. Just remember that the voltage is different!

Health: There were lots of mosquitos so definitely use DEET! Thailand has Zika but is not in an outbreak there so it's not as dangerous as in Central and South America. If you're going to remote areas of Thailand, get vaccinated! Don't drink the water, and make sure the ice in restaurants is machine made - should be circular with a hole through the center.

Visas: No visa is necessary when traveling from the US.



SIEM REAP, CAMBODIA



Why go? To see the temples, including Angkor Wat, which are a thousand years old!

Where to stay: We stayed in downtown Siem Reap at Memoire d'Angkor. Staying downtown is preferable, as you can walk to restaurants, the markets, and Pub Street. Most of the hotels downtown are small and run from $30 - $100 a night. There are huge hotels further outside of town, but they're in areas where there are only hotels with nothing else to do.

How long to stay: We saw everything we wanted to in two days, and I can't really see staying more than three. Besides the temples there isn't a ton to do.

Getting around: Tuk tuks, which are little carts pulled by motorbikes, are the main form of transportation around Siem Reap. Rides downtown cost $1-2 and are fast and fun. Tuk tuks can also take you around the temples for $15-20 per day (make sure to negotiate first!) but we rented a car for $40 a day instead because it had air conditioning and it was hot.



Currency: Riel, exchange rate is about 4,000:1. But, everywhere we went accepted both riel and USD and prices were mainly in USD. If you got change back that was over $1, you would get it in USD, and if it were under $1 they would give you riel. Just note if you're planning on using USD - they won't accept any bills that look old or are ripped! Most things were super cheap (think 25 or 50 cent beers in Pub Street) but souvenirs in the markets were surprisingly expensive - come ready to barter hard!

Electricity: Technically they use a European plug, but every outlet I saw could accommodate a Euro or US plug. Just remember that the voltage is different!

Health: There were lots of mosquitos so definitely use DEET! Cambodia has Zika but is not in an outbreak there so it's not as dangerous as in Central and South America. If you're going to remote areas of Cambodia, get vaccinated! Don't drink the water, and make sure the ice in restaurants is machine made - should be circular with a hole through the center. Also, stay away from areas where there aren't a lot of people and don't wander too far from the temples. The war in Cambodia didn't end until the '90s, and there may still be land mines!

Visas: You need a visa to enter Cambodia, but it's incredibly fast and easy to apply for one when you get there. It probably took us three minutes total to get our visas, and that includes waiting in line. Bring an extra passport photo for them to use for the visa, or you can pay a small fee if you don't have a photo. The visa was $30 per person.


HANOI/HA LONG BAY, VIETNAM


Why go? Vietnam is so beautiful, especially Ha Long Bay, plus there's Vietnamese food!

Where to stay: Definitely stay in the Old Quarter in Hanoi, it's crazy busy and hectic but gives you the full Vietnam experience (as opposed to the French Quarter, which feels like you're in Europe). Hotels in this neighborhood range from $40 - $120. We also spent two nights doing a cruise through Indochina Junk in Ha Long Bay, which is definitely a must if you visit Hanoi!

How long to stay: I could see doing a two week trip in Vietnam if you had the time, but one or two days in Hanoi is enough. If you do a cruise in Ha Long Bay, definitely go for a three day/two night cruise. It takes about four hours to get there from Hanoi, so a two day cruise isn't worth the travel time.

Getting around: It's really easy to get around the Old Quarter and the French Quarter by foot, but further than that take a taxi arranged by your hotel - scam taxis are big there. We also booked airport transfers through our hotel because of recommendations from friends - just crossing the street is exciting in Hanoi so I wouldn't try taking public transit unless you're really in for an adventure.


Currency: Dong, exchange rate is about 23,000:1. USD is accepted in some places, but like in Cambodia old or ripped bills are not accepted. Some things were super cheap (50 cent beers and dinner for four for $16), but we also managed to find a $14 cocktail in the French Quarter.

Electricity: Technically they use a European plug, but every outlet I saw could accommodate a Euro or US plug. Just remember that the voltage is different!

Health: There were lots of mosquitos so definitely use DEET! Vietnam has Zika but is not in an outbreak there so it's not as dangerous as in Central and South America. If you're going to remote areas of Vietnam, get vaccinated! Don't drink the water, and make sure the ice in restaurants is machine made - should be circular with a hole through the center.

Visas: The visa process almost made me cancel this part of our trip, but it wasn't as scary as I thought! You need to get a visa ahead of time, or arrange for a visa upon arrival through your hotel or a travel agency. We got ours ahead of time by mailing off our passports to the Vietnam Embassy in DC, which completely freaked me out but ended up being fast and snag-free. They don't publish the price of their visas anywhere so you have to call and ask - for us it was $100 per person. Visas on arrival are cheaper in theory, but there are a lot of scams so you might end up paying a ton at the airport when you get there.


Whew, so there you have it! Any questions I didn't answer here? Feel free to email me, I'm happy to help!





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Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Tie Waist Dress


Dress - Gap / Flats - Banana Republic / Bag (similar) - Kate Spade / Earrings - BaubleBar / Necklace - Stella & Dot

I know I should be worried about the weather we've been having because, you know, the Earth is going to melt, but I can't help but enjoy it. Today it's supposed to get up to 75, so hellooooo, spring dresses!! I freaking love this one from the Gap. The tie waist is super flattering, and I love the fabric - it's so soft!

For summer I'm definitely going to pair this dress with bright, fun accessories, but for spring I love it with a whole lot of blush. These are some of my current favorite accessories - the earrings make a statement without being too heavy, and the flats are so cute and comfortable too. Which is a lot for me to say, because almost every pair of shoes makes my feet hurt. I actually need to go give them a deep clean, because I love them so much that I wore them to run after my niece on Easter and got them super muddy. And then I threw her in the air and got mud all over the rest of me. It was an exciting outfit day ;)









Dress - Gap / Flats - Banana Republic / Bag (similar) - Kate Spade / Earrings - BaubleBar / Necklace - Stella & Dot

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Monday, April 17, 2017

This Weekend...


This weekend I...

...Went out to Bub City for happy hour (and maybe stayed a little past happy hour too ;) and had quite a few palomas - so good there!! Also, it's always fun to get confused by the fake guy in the women's room.
...Headed down to Wrigley Field for our first Cub's game of the season, and you guys, it was so beautiful outside!! I'll go to see a baseball game just about any time of year just for the beer and hot dogs, but it is so nice to be there when it's warm and sunny. We got to the park a little early so we got to check out the new park outside the stadium. It's basically just a big beer garden that anyone with a ticket to the game can get into, and if you're willing to pay eight dollars per drink it's a much nicer space to hang out in than one of the Wrigleyville bars.
...Went with a couple of friends to Lou Malnati's after the game because I needed some deep dish pizza ;) Deep dish is one of those things you can't eat very often (because really, you'd probably die) but every now and then it really hits the spot.
...Ordered another little white dress, even though I have zero need for more little white dresses in my life. I'm really hoping it isn't super cute so I can take it back!
...Had a very busy Easter Sunday, filled with church, brunch with Jeff's family, dinner with my family, and lots of chasing a toddler around the backyard while trying to keep her from finding all of the Easter eggs that were hidden for when all of the kids had arrived.

I hope you had a good one!



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Friday, April 14, 2017

Friday Finds

Happy Friday! This week back felt loooong, so I'm really looking forward to the weekend. As per the usual, we started off the week with zero plans and have somehow managed to overschedule ourselves again, including two Easters. Not that I can really complain though, I'm excited for lots of family time! Plus it's supposed to be absolutely beautiful out - almost 80 degrees on Saturday, and around 70 on Sunday. You know what that means? I'll actually get to wear a cute Easter dress this year without freezing my you-know-what off!! I'm going to be shopping my closet on Sunday, so I think this dress may make an appearance - although if you follow on Instastories you may have seen the cute new dress I got in the mail from eShakti yesterday that's begging to be worn!

My wishlist is currently super long, but I ordered a ton of stuff this week (I got a little overexcited about the great sale going on at LOFT right now!) and used a bunch of giftcards to buy my dream bag, so all of these items are going to have to stay on the wishlist for now. Of course, I fully expect those sandals to make their way into my closet by summer ;)

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Thursday, April 13, 2017

Baby's First Lilly


Dress (similar) - Lilly Pulitzer / Bag (similar, I also love this one) - Sondra Roberts / Earrings - BaubleBar / Sandals (similar) - Sole Society

Yep, it's my first Lilly Pulitzer dress! I snagged it on major sale during the last After Party sale, and I freaking love it. As a born and raised Chicago girl, I'm normally not so into all of the crazy Lilly patterns. BUT, their little white dresses are so stinking cute!! I'm looking at you, lace and tassel dress (insert heart eyes emoji). I was super excited to finally get to pull out this dress for our vacation - it was perfect over swimsuits and dressed up a little bit for dinner.

Speaking of our vacation, we flew back late on Friday night, and this week has been a struuuuuggle!! I've been waking up super early, which is a nice change of pace from dragging myself out of bed in the mornings. I've actually been super productive from about 5-7am, getting all sorts of stuff done around the house! But, on the other hand, the afternoons have gotten really real. Jeff and I have been fighting not to go to bed as soon as we get home every night. Yesterday was starting to feel better, so I'm hoping that by today I'll have finally shaken the jet lag for good.

Since we've basically been zombies every night this week, we've been ordering in for just about every meal - so not good! Before we left I got into some really good eating habits with lots of veggies and very few processed foods (and actually managed to lose 6 pounds!) and now I need to figure out how to get back into that clean eating mindset. And stop myself from eating an entire bag of chips and salsa, like I consumed while writing this post ;)

That whole healthy eating thing probably isn't going to happen this weekend though, because we have a bar night on the books for Friday night to celebrate a friend's new job, and then we're headed to a Cubs game on Saturday. I'm super excited that it's baseball season again, and there's basically no way I'm headed into Wrigley Field and not grabbing a hot dog and a beer! It's supposed to be freaking beautiful this weekend in Chicago, so I'm also hoping to sneak in some patio time.

Anyway, that's probably enough rambling - time to shut off my sleepy brain!






Dress (similar) - Lilly Pulitzer / Bag (similar, I also love this one) - Sondra Roberts / Earrings - BaubleBar / Sandals (similar) - Sole Society


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Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Mother's Day Gift Ideas

Oh hey there, did you realize Mother's Day is right on the horizon? I did oh, about yesterday, and then proceeded to make plans with the special mama in my life and buy a bunch of presents. So now I'm basically set. Unfortunately, Jeff's birthday actually comes before Mother's Day, and I haven't figured out anything for him yet. What can I say, shopping for my mom is so much more fun than trying to figure out what sports memorabilia or country music concert tickets Jeff would want. I'll take looking at jewelry and candles any day!

When it comes to shopping for Mother's Day, I always tend to look for pretty little things that my mom would never think to buy for herself, so she can treat every day like it's Treat Yo Self 2011. Here are a few of my picks (and don't worry Mom, your actual presents are not included - no spoilers!!):



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