Packing List: Florida Keys

Last year, ManFriend and I took a trip to Key West with some friends, and we loved it so much we planned another for this year. You can read about our eats, drinks, adventures, and snorkeling… and, of course, how I packed for that trip (flying from DC).

This year, we’re doing things a little differently – staying in the middle keys instead of Key West proper, bringing the boat with us, and I’m driving down instead of flying. While that might make it even more tempting to pack any beach/summer attire I have just in case, I’ve already pared down to the bare necessities to guarantee an easy, relaxing, comfortable, and tan weekend.

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Brunch Diary: The Strand in Mills50

A few months ago, gearing up for a busy Saturday of bargain hunting and house projects, the ManFriend and I treated ourselves to a little brunch at The Strand. This dive fits right in to the “up and coming” Mills50 neighborhood, in that you’ll probably have to double-take because it looks permanently closed from the outside. The food situation is on point and the atmosphere inside makes it the perfect little casual date spot for a fresh brunch. We went back this past Sunday with two friends to enjoy some mimosas, and it did not disappoint.

Yes I was that excited to dig in that I took a few bites before remembering to snap a photo. Thanks, silverware, for hiding my noms.

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KonMari Office Capsule Wardrobe

Ever since traveling to Europe with just a backpack, I’ve gained a growing appreciation for lightness and a minimal lifestyle. It was as if, once I realized I could traverse three new countries with just a few articles of clothing, I began to apply this same mindset to other aspects of my life.  I made it a point to only pack weekender bags whenever I traveled domestically… when I was in a big life transition, I relied on this capsule wardrobe to keep things simple. And, most relevant; I began adopting a “uniform” for work, especially after reading about it’s trendiness with successful people.Office Wardrobe.PNG

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Disney World Signature Dining Reviews

If you read my post about cruising, you know that I’m often not a fan of popularly-loved experiences and things. You can guess where I’m going with this… I’m not a fan of Disney World (never been to the Land but I’m sure I’d hate it too). Having grown up in Florida and now, living in Central Florida, I’m a minority among my friends for not having an Annual Pass. If we’re being quite honest, I’ve only been to Magic Kingdom twice… once when I was 7, and another time on my 19th birthday when Disney used to run their free-for-your-birthday deal. I’d be perfectly fine never going to the Mouse House again. 

I do, however, love and “frequent” the Disney property signature dining restaurants. I say “frequent” because they aren’t exactly at a price point where you can have a date night once a month. But when it comes to celebrating a special family event, my parents usually pick a Disney Property restaurant and I’m rarely disappointed. Here are my thoughts on the three I’ve visited most recently:

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The Light of a Global Pulse

I’ve had planned to publish a review of Disney Signature dining today, but it just didn’t seem appropriate in the wake of yesterday’s tragedy. Orlando was my home for four years of college, where I learned so much about myself and about others. Orlando has become my home again, after leaving DC at the end of 2015. My time in The District only expanded my appreciation for the world outside of my immediate radius. I can tell you about how DC introduced me to my love of Pakistani and Afghan food, my appreciation for the kindhearted nature of every Muslim man and woman I encountered (one of the benefits of working for an international university), and the frequency with which I went to drink at the gay bar in my Virginia neighborhood. I can tell you how I, a middle-class, white, straight female has connections to this tragedy in my city… but we all have a connection to the tragedy in Orlando, because we are all humans on this tiny blue speck in the Universe.

I was raised to somewhat disassociate myself emotionally from tragedy and death – it’s not that I don’t care, but that I was taught from an early age that it is an unfortunate part of life. Not just that the circle of life involves death, presumably at an old age or from incurable disease, but that life includes vicious slaughter, unjust tragedy, innocent victims. What a horrible thing for my parents to feel they had to prepare me for.

I am not going to use this as a platform to preach political agenda, or to villainize a religion or argue about gay rights. I simply believe that the only way to stop hate and darkness, is through love and light. I believe that the more of the world we can see, the more love we can understand. It’s too easy to stay in our bubbles, surrounded by the same comforts and like-minded people, and thus too easy to lose perspective that just because some people have different priorities, or call their God by a different name, or love someone with a different reproductive organ, doesn’t really differentiate us. When we travel, whether to try an Asian market in a different part of town or have beers with an Iranian in Madrid, we expand our little bubbles. When you interact with people from different cultures, you tend to find more things alike than you will find different – but we can only realize this when we put ourselves out there, and open our minds and our lives to new experiences.

We can sit in our bubbles and look out, judging every small difference harshly as some large distinguishing factor, but at the end of the day, we are all humans. No matter who we love, or who we worship, or who we want to win the 2016 Presidential election, we are all the same species, occupying the same planet. Civilization coming together over the course of history has allowed humankind to achieve some amazing things – yet we aren’t there yet. We still see these arbitrary, imaginary borders, or the differences in shades of our skin – biologically, the same skin – or made-up definitions and party lines, as these extreme factors that must divide us.

We cannot single-handedly save the world. We cannot enlighten humankind with a EuroTrip. But we can each do our best to learn more about this precious planet and our precious fellow humans. We can all do our best to shine a little more light into the darkness that exists in all corners of the world, across all religions, across all sexual preferences and all skin colors. Across the seemingly severe differences beats a global pulse. Light can drive out darkness, and I urge every one of us to shine our little light over a little more of the world, and to look for light from others.

Brunch Diary: DeVine in Oviedo / East Orlando

Sometimes the best Sundays start with a really strong Bloody Mary and end with a nap and lots of binge-watching the Game of Thrones. A couple of weeks ago, that’s exactly how my day went. The ManFriend had promised me a brunch date, and in our efforts to try new places around town, he stumbled across this hidden gem in Oviedo. Unassuming in a shopping center, the food and the drinks at DeVine Bar & Grill were absolute winners.

Brunch mac + South of the Border BM = perfect brunch combo

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5 Tips for Using Technology and Smartphones Overseas

For me, part of the beauty of an international trip is not having regular cell service. It’s wonderful to just connect with the person you’re traveling with and meet new people in actual real life. What a concept, right? I actually talked to a complete stranger standing at a market in Madrid because it’s not like I could check Twitter. And you know what? That stranger was incredibly interesting and fun (and got me to try a drink that has become one of my favorites even now that I’m back in the States). Swiping right on this delicious concoction… As you plan your summer trip abroad, keep these tech tips in mind to get the most out of actually being there.

sangria and sweet dry vermut to occupy my hands instead of a smartphone

sangria and sweet dry vermut to occupy my hands instead of a smartphone

And yet, while it’s all good and freeing to kick the incessant social-media-checking for a few days while abroad, my iPhone proved to be incredibly useful as I traversed 3 new countries.

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Hiking Old Rag in Shenandoah, VA

This past fall, during peak “leaf season” I convinced the ManFriend to hike a mountain with me. I knew I’d probably be leaving the “Mid-East-Coast” (or whatever the hell that area of the country is called) and wanted to get as much elevated nature in my adventures as possible. Be careful what you wish for…

I originally started off being very upfront that Old Rag is the hardest and most dangerous trail in the Shenandoah Valley, but by the time we left that morning I was almost cocky about how easy it would be. I was determined to complete the 10-mile hike in the lower end of the time estimate, and we averaged about 30 minutes a mile. Cocky me got a reality check that day… it wasn’t easy. 

On top of spaghetti… I mean, a mountain…

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Packing List: Perfect Purse for Every Trip

If there’s one place that brings out my most judgmental thoughts, it’s an airport. Something about lugging my essential personal belongings through a crowded terminal, rushing only to wait in another line, just really puts me in the worst of states. I have minimal grace for anyone. Knowing how stressful traveling can be, I can’t help the confused thoughts that rush through my head when I witness travelers with insufficient purse and bag choices for their trip.

Luckily, because you read this fine source of wisdom and knowledge, here’s my ideal purse-packing guide for just about any trip you take. Near or far, fancy or casual, a day or a month, this purse combo has never let me down.

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Best Beer & Wine Spots in Orlando, FL

While my favorite adult beverage is hands-down champagne, my young-professional paycheck doesn’t support much public consumption of anything other than Andre. Lucky for me, I am almost equally a fan of beer and wine, and while I miss the vineyards in Northern Virginia, I am lucky to live in a state with a booming microbrewery scene. Here are some of my favorite spots to grab drinks in the Orlando area… full of liquid goodness and absolutely not touristy.

Girls night at the wine-brary at my most favorite Wine Room.

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