What’s in My Travel Bag

As I was editing and fixing my archives last week I realized I never did a “what’s in my bag” post. To be honest I’m not always a fan of those posts unless there’s something in the blogger’s bag that I want to buy. But I’ve decided to give it a shot myself and in honor of being in Austin this week I decided to make it a “what’s in my travel bag” post. Way to spice it up, right? Without further ado, check out my bag:

What's in My Travel Bag

What's in My Travel Bag

Let’s start with my bag: I wish you were here so you could touch the buttery softness of this leather. Also to appreciate the fact that this bag is still standing despite the abuse I’ve put it through. My mom got this bag for me when I was starting my graduate program about 3 years ago and I’ve definitely put it through the ringer. There are a few stains here in there and there are few stray threads around the seams but otherwise this bag has held up amazingly well. It is also deep enough to stash a ton of stuff without ever feeling too heavy and it has this handy dandy clasp that will pull the sides in and make it smaller in case I don’t want to put a million things in there (which honestly never happens).

Now for my travel bag essentials:

1. A cute wallet. Obviously I am shopping a lot right now in Austin so I have to bring a wallet. I used to have a much smaller one but this one is great for carrying all my cash, cards, quarters for parking meters in cities, and for collecting little travel mementos here and there. When I get home from a trip I love to open it up and find pretty business cards from shops we visited or ticket stubs from things we did.

2. Magazines. I’m a big book reader but I must have a magazine for a trip. There are lots of little moments of downtime when travelling and rather than open up a book and get immersed in a story, magazines are great for reading easy-to-digest, quick articles and for pretty pictures.

3. Cell phone. How can we go anywhere and not Instagram? Instagram is fast becoming my favorite social networking site (I know, late to the party as always) and I try to post a picture or two a day that way I can remember what I’ve been up to by scrolling through my profile. Curious as to what I’m up to in Austin right now? Find out!

4. Lip balm. One time when I was travelling to the Dominican Republic their security tried to take away my lip balm. I argued with them, me in English, them in Spanish, until they finally got tired and let me go through to my gate with my lip balm. Planes are drying and so are most climates in the summer so lip balm is a travel essential.

5. My Nook. Until I got my Nook I used to save half of my suitcase for books and packing my clothes was a nightmare. Now that I have my Nook I can easily bring along half a dozen books and take up less space than my favorite printed paperback. Downloaded and ready on my Nook are Where She Went (since I breezed through If I Stay and need to know what happens), All the Summer Girls, and Insurgent.

6. Hairties. While I usually wear my hair down, after a rough day of travel and getting up early I absolutely must put my hair up. I love these soft stretchy elastics because they don’t leave a hair bump and they are such cute colors.

7. Notebook and pen. There’s something I love about writing while travelling. I get so much inspiration from being in a new place, seeing new sights and sounds and I need to write it all down, not record it on my phone.

8. Travel guide. Of course most of my inspiration and recommendations for this trip came from Austin blogs and recommendations I found online. That being said I always find it really helpful to have a travel guide. If there’s a moment of downtime and we need something to do, I can always reference a guide to see something we might have missed. I guess I’m just a paper kind of girl.

9. Phone charger. Well, of course.

10. Sunglasses. On any given day I have at least two pairs of sunglasses in my bag and travelling is no different. Cute sunglasses should be a requirement for life.

*Also to be included but not picture is my DSLR. I can’t wait to take pictures!

 

What do you include in your bag, when you travel or every day?

Monday Links to Love

succulents

I’m currently in Austin, TX having some adventures on South Congress Street! I have always wanted to Austin and Texas and I’m so happy to finally be here. We’re only here until Friday before getting back to the daily grind but that should be enough. I haven’t forgotten about my blog and queued up some posts until I get back. Hope you’re having as happy of a Monday as I am!

* Surprisingly I haven’t heard of some of these places in New Jersey …road trip!

* If all you want is breakfast for one (the other guy can fend for himself!) you have Joy the Baker to thank for this fabulous single pancake recipe

* Why is it so hard to recognize your own typos?

* We all need to work  for Etsy already

* I’m always on the hunt for inspiration on the internet and this is truly a great list of inspirational blogs to get hooked on

* You only need three questions to plan your next big decision

* Whoopi Goldberg has been talking a lot about “bad teachers” and tenure reform and I love M. Shannon Hernandez’s well-written response

Wearing: Philadelphia Red

Philadelphia RedPhiladelphia Red

Philadelphia Red

tee: duke&winston, skirt: f21 (similar), shoes: blowfish, bracelet: gift

I am not a “fan tee” kind of girl. I once bought a t-shirt to wear to a Phillies game and then never wore it again. I keep contemplating buying a Flyers t-shirt and have yet to find an orange and black tee that I actually like. But put a bulldog in a hat on a Philadelphia shirt and I snatch it up faster than you can say “Philly.” Duke and Winston is a local clothing brand that creates beautiful clothing and accessories, everything from this Phila. shirt to silk ties with mini embroidered bulldogs. I’ve been a fan since they first started because I can represent my favorite city without looking like a little kid wearing my baggy sports team shirt. Also if you go in the store you might get to meet the real live Duke, a cuddly English bulldog. Can it get any better?!

We are t-minus 2 days until Austin! In case you didn’t catch my hints in previous posts Nick and I are hopping on a plane ridiculously early on Sunday to spend #sundayfunday and the next few days in Austin, TX. I am so excited to explore a new city and a totally new place. The only time I “visited” Texas was when I had a layover in the Dallas airport a million years ago. I get such a charge out of exploring a new place and I have bouncing off the walls this week with anticipation. I plan on eating tons of bbq, listening to a lot of music, shopping a ton, and relaxing because when we come back it’s back to school time. Ugh. Even though I’m heading to Austin I am not abandoning my blog. I’m working on awesome content right now and you will have to tune back in in two weeks to read a full Austin recap! Have a great weekend!

 

Time for Some New Brews in Philly

I’m officially on summer break (again)! I just spent the last five weeks working summer school and I am definitely looking forward to a little rest before going back to set up my classroom. Do NOT tell me that teachers do nothing all summer long. Being back on summer break means I want to squeeze all the fun out of these days that I can and I convinced Nick that meant beer. It’s long been established that one hobby Nick and I cultivated together is a love of craft beers. I feel like there’s no better place than Philadelphia for bars and breweries but after several years of hanging out on bar stools all over the city, it can sometimes feel like we’ve seen it all.

That’s why it felt like Christmas morning when I discovered there was not one but TWO new breweries in the Philly area that Nick and I had yet to try. On Sunday we got into Nick’s new Honda Fit and headed out first to Tired Hands Brewing Company in Ardmore, PA and then to Conshohocken Brewing in Conshohocken, PA. Both towns are close suburbs of Philadelphia and can be accessed by trains from center city.

I’d heard word of Tired Hands Brewing Company when it first started about two years ago because it was right down the road from where my brother was in college at Villanova University. I’m not sure why Nick and I never ventured out there but I wish we had sooner. I also can’t say that deciding to go to Tired Hands was completely random: it is right on the same block as the store where I purchased my wedding dress! See, it was all meant to be.

More Breweries in Philly

More Breweries in Philly

More Breweries in Philly

More Breweries in Philly

More Breweries in Philly

I loved Tired Hands. It’s part brewery with great experimental brews, part pub with delicious locally sourced foods, and part community meeting space with a “hang out, we’re all friends here” vibe. In short it’s what is so great about loving craft beer. People who brew beer love what they’re doing and it shows. After reading more about the brewery on its website, I found that Tired Hands was truly a labor of love and the founder even renovated the building himself. The bar serves up their brews in 16, 8 and sample size 4 oz. glasses. Nick and I decided to stick to drinking from the 4 oz glasses and were able to try them all . The beers were fresh, balanced and super drinkable. I know even the non-beer drinker would be happy at Tired Hands because after buying my wedding dress Mom (a wine enthusiast) and I grabbed a celebratory drink there and she loved their Just Like Honey IPA. In short if you ever find yourself in Philly and need a break from the hustle and bustle of the city, hop a train, grab a car, and head out to Ardmore.

Our second stop of the day was Conshohocken Brewing in Conshohocken which is about 20 minutes from Tired Hands. I love the drive between the two because it took us right through the stately neighborhoods of the Main Line. If you’re not familiar with it, the Main Line is basically a very old, ritzy area right outside of Philadelphia with big gorgeous mansions. I asked Nick if we could live there some day and he said maybe. I love how he lets me pretend.

Conshohocken Brewing was started quite recently and the whole operation is housed in an industrial building. The best selling point for this brewery is that its back door opens right out onto a bike path and they seem to have made it their mission to be the most bike-friendly brewery by putting out bike racks and keeping their back door wide open.

More Breweries in Philly

More Breweries in Philly

More Breweries in Philly

More Breweries in Philly

More Breweries in Philly

More Breweries in Philly

The brewery had a different feel from Tired Hands. Where Tired Hands was more experimental with their flavors and cozier with their dark wood bar and homemade bread and butter, Conshohocken had a sleek industrial feel with solid, straightforward beers. Each beer style was distinctive and I felt like those judges at a dog show who look for the best in breed. Here I was saying, this, this is exactly how an IPA should taste. Also I need to give them props for having some solid bar eats like a big soft pretzel and both vegetarian and beef chili. The best part of Conshohocken Brewing had to be their back patio where we could take our beer outside for a little bit of sunshine. It’s totally a bike-friendly brewery and a steady stream of bikers were grabbing seats at the bar to get a beer before heading on their way.

I’m so glad that more craft breweries are being opened up in and around Philadelphia. We had so much fun seeing the magic these brewers are making with simple ingredients at both Tired Hands and Conshohocken. It felt so local, so Philly, to enjoy beers in these microbreweries. If you’re ever in or around Philadelphia and want a great craft beer experience, check out either Tired Hands or Conshohocken Brewing!

Monday Links to Love

High Above the City

* Thinking of having a barn wedding? You may want to think about the neighbors…

* Summer is a great time to get your cooking on and I’m ready to check out these recommendations from Joy the Baker

* If you’re like me and just starting to bring the practice of meditation into your life, you will love Gabby Bernstein

* Planning a wedding? Some insights from The Lifestyle Project after she planned her own

* Even if you’re not a fan of the author Emily Giffin, the Everygirl just did a great interview with her about changing her path in life and realizing her real purpose

* Blogger or small business owner? Five tips for personal branding

* I loved Nadine’s insightful post about the worst feedback she ever received

My Favorite Philly Brunch Spots

If you talked to me just a few years ago I would have told you that I absolutely hated brunch. You must be thinking I was crazy but the problem was I just didn’t like breakfast foods. The only time I ate anything more than a toasted English muffin plain with no butter and no nothing, was when my family traveled overseas. I just couldn’t get enough of that thick cut bacon in London! But back on American soil I was a strictly roll-out-of-bed and grab something quick and easy. I’m still like that on most days unless it’s a Saturday or Sunday. Those days are reserved for my growing brunch obsession.

There are some great places to go for brunch around my hometown (anybody ever wait in line for an hour or more at PJ’s?!) but if I really want to do brunch right, I head into the city of brotherly love, Philadelphia. I’ve probably profiled a half dozen or more favorite places to eat in Philly by now but I wanted to dedicate a post entirely to my favorite brunch spots. Every time Nick and I hop in the car and head across the river for some delicious breakfast and lunch food, I feel like I’m going on vacation. If I could, I’d make it brunch-in-Philly day every day.

1. Standard Tap. Oh I love Standard Tap. Once you get past it’s sometimes pretentious hipster vibe, you’ll love it too. Located in the heart of Northern Liberties, it has a distinctly local feel cultivated by the farm-to-table food and local brews on draft. They make some killer brunch cocktails too but I’ve only heard that as you know I prefer my beer. Sometimes you’ll get lucky and they’ll be serving up some delicious pork chops or have an amazing omelette. While they do have some recurring items on the menu, Standard Tap’s commitment to using locally grown ingredients means that everything is fresh and new and so, so good. Also you have to check out their small side patio off the upstairs bar. It is perfect for all times of the day but especially for brunch drinks.

strangeloves menu

2. Strangelove’s. The thing that makes Strangelove’s perfect for brunch is that it feels sophisticated without being stuffy. It just feels right to head in there and plop yourself down at a table or at the bar for delicious huevos rancheros or, my favorite, shrimp and grits. It’s owned by the same person who owns Memphis Taproom, Resurrection Ale House, and Local 44 so it always has great beers on tap. Seriously though, the shrimp and grits. Also the artwork. And the beers. Okay, everything about Strangelove’s is amazing.

Brunch Places in Philadelphia

3. Parc. Want to have brunch in Paris? No need to head to the Philly airport, Parc has you covered. I’ve had every meal at Parc and it never disappoints. It’s situated right on Rittenhouse Square with a gorgeous view of the park and all the sophisticated (and not-so-sophisticated) Philadelphia residents walking their dogs and reading their Sunday papers. Parc makes you feel like you’ve been transported to a cozy bistro in Paris with marble topped tables and wicker chairs and delicious French food. It can get pretty loud inside and so far I’ve found it impossible to get one of those outdoor cafe tables but I adore Parc in spite of it. It’s the cheapest trip to Paris you’ll ever take.

Best Brunch Places in Philly

4. Jerry’s Bar. If you want to feel like you’re just a Philly native hanging out in a bar with a classy and delicious twist, head to Northern Liberties and Jerry’s Bar. It’s fairly new to the neighborhood but you wouldn’t know it by how comfortable it feels on its little street corner. It’s got a gorgeous marble-topped bar, our preferred seat for brunch, but there really isn’t a bad seat in the house. Also they have a little sit patio area that is my other favorite place to sit. I have never ordered anything I don’t like at Jerry’s except that time I ordered an omelette as big as my face and couldn’t finish it. But I still loved it. My only demand for when you go there: order the walnut sticky bun. And then find out what day they’ll be serving it for dessert toasted with a side of vanilla ice cream. You’ll thank me.

5. North 3rd. Hipster brunch more your style? You came to Philly for the hipsters right? Well, head on over to North 3rd on, where else, North 3rd street in Northern Liberties. It looks like a dark creepy bar inside and well, it is, but it has some great food and great drinks too. Brunch is my favorite because I love their mimosas and also their crispy chicken sandwich is to die for if you don’t like the typical brunch foods. Last time we went my friend ordered blueberry pancakes and almost converted me over to being a pancake eater. It can also be highly amusing and/or awkward to eat at North 3rd if they choose to seat you in what Nick and I call “the Boobie bar.” Let’s just say the back bar has a lot of topless paintings which can make for an awkward brunch with your mom. Not that I know from experience or anything.

Kraftwork Philadelphia

6. Kraftwork. I think Kraftwork might have been the restaurant that converted me into a brunch lover. The menu is simple but the food is fantastic. I’m salivating over here thinking about my favorite mushroom grinder. Oh, mushrooms, spinach, and red peppers! Also the french fries! Do you still believe that I’m trying to live a healthier lifestyle? No, well me neither. The thing that makes Kraftwork so much fun for me for brunch is the 21 or so beers on tap. You’ll always find something you like and if for some reason you don’t then just sip on a mimosa. Also if you’re looking for an industrial chic bar with no frills, this is your place.

Best Brunch Places in Philadelphia

7. Johnny Brenda’s. Johnny Brenda’s is such a mixture of places: a fantastic restaurant with outdoor seating, a corner bar with red vinyl bar stools and a pool table, and a music venue. I’ve never been to a concert there (concerts are held in a room upstairs) and I’ve spent a few late nights hanging out in the bar area but my favorite time at Johnny Brenda’s is always the brunch. When the weather is nice they open up their huge windows and you can watch the Fishtown people go about their business on Girard Avenue. The outdoor seats are also great for when you want to stretch brunch out into a day of drinking in the sun.

 

After looking over my list I realized I’m featuring a lot of bars in the Northern Liberties/Fishtown section of the city. I can’t lie that this is usually the part of the city that Nick and I frequent because there’s a bunch of bars in a small area, there’s plenty of free parking if you know where to look (and how to parallel park) and the food is never fussy and always good. Other runners-up for great brunch places in the city would have to be Good Dog Bar (center city), Smokin’ Betty’s (center city), Jack’s Firehouse (Fairmount), and Cantina Los Cabillitos (East Passyunk). Hope to see you this weekend in Philly!

Wearing: Summer Scarf

Summer Scarf

Summer Scarf

Summer Scarf

top: f21 (similar), shorts: old navy, shoes: blowfish (similar), scarf: anthropologie (similar)

There is no season I love more (or talk about more) than summer. Right now we are in the perfect season. I don’t care for the humidity but the beach, sun, and shorts make up for that. Obviously my love for summer runs deep but…I miss my scarves. When fall rolls around in a few short months I will happily pull my stash of scarves out of my closet. I don’t know what it is about scarves but I probably have about 20 of them! On Saturday I was able to get my “scarf fix” when the weather took a turn for the cooler. I loved pairing it with my favorite tank and white shorts for a casual dinner with family. Sadly the scarf has been hung back up and is waiting for cooler days. No way will I be wearing that scarf in these 80 degree temps!

Speaking of 80 degree temperatures, it is supposed to be in the mid-80s, low humidity, and just all around perfect the next few days so you can find me at the beach. I really can’t believe that it is August already and back to school time is right around the corner. I mean kids in the South and Mid-West have already gone back! But I will make this summer last as long as possible (despite the scarf). Besides getting my tan on at the beach, I will be busy planning our trip to Austin now that summer school is out and I can spend more time on it. Anybody have any recommendations for must do/must see in Austin?