Thursday, July 28, 2016

Best Of: Summer Travel Bags

During our cross-country road trip, we did a BUNCH of "figuring it out" as we went, but one thing I was meticulous about before setting out was packing the car so that I knew where everything was located. Our Prius was literally packed to the MAX, but I will say that I was pretty proud of my organization strategy, & could snake my hand through the maze of things to find whatever I needed very quickly.

My organization strategy involved a series of bags. Every "category" of stuff had its own bag. There was a bag for snacks, a bag for dog stuff, Tyler's stuff, my stuff, camping stuff, dirty clothes… & so on & so forth. All of these bags seriously got put to the test this Summer & came out the other side still on my list of favorites & still looking great! Every one of these bags is super functional, & I recommend them for any of your future travel needs. Read on to see how each bag came in handy on our 9,000 mile cross country trip!

1. I have had this Vera Bradley weekender & make-up bag for 2 years now (see the post from when I first got them here), & they are the perfect size for my travel needs. On the road, I used these two bags for what I would take into the hotel/AirBnB/friend's house with me. I love that the weekender has 4 roomy inside pockets for storing my various tech cords & jewelry, & the make-up bag has one of the best brush storage situations I've seen in a bag this size.

2. My husband says that I have a purse problem (he's crazy), but the difficulty of picking only one purse to take on the road with us might indicate that he is more on to me than I would like to admit. Of all my purses, I picked this Rebecca Minkoff cross body bag to serve as my purse (often getting thrown into the larger bags if needed). I picked it based on the size, color, & inside storage (all of which are fabulous). And after 5 weeks on the road, I found that it went with everything & I still enjoy using it!

3. If my memory serves me correctly, I have had this L.L. Bean canvas bag since college & I honestly can't remember road trips without it. The XL size was perfect for storing all of the linens we needed on our trip, & now that we are in Denver, I have been using it to tote groceries up to our apartment. Bonus: I have thrown this baby in the washer many times & it still looks great!

4. Some bags are jack of all trades & this one certainly qualifies! The Scout bag is not only super cute (love those bold stripes), but is also super durable. The fabric is waterproof & easy to wipe down, & the oversized pockets are beyond useful! This bag stored all of the dog products we took on the road with us - food zipped safely inside, waste bags easily accessible from the outside pockets. 

5. Like the Scout bag, this Sea Bags tote is made of waterproof material (old sails in fact!) & easily used for many occasions. This bag held our tech accessories, & often doubled as my purse when I needed something larger than the Rebecca Minkoff cross body. I've gushed about this tote on the blog before & you can check out its many accolades (including being made from eco-friendly materials) here.  

6. The Nisolo leather tote is such a classy bag! This leather tote is ready to take a beating & still look great after - I have found that it keeps looking better and better with age! This was one of our camping bags, holding essentials like our cribbage board, lantern & wine bottle opener that came out everytime we stopped at a campsite. Put it on your radar: Nisolo is now having their end of year sale starting TODAY!  Shop now for up to 60% off select items!

7. The ladies aren't the only ones who need to be organized & we have found some great options for Tyler too. This tech bag is perfect for keeping all of his cords & personal essentials in place/not-tangled, while not taking up much space in the car. 

8. This travel duffel bag was recommended by my sister & brother-in-law & Tyler is now equally enthusiastic about its merits. He took it with him on a 10 day trip to Europe last Winter & it was perfect as his "weekender" while on the road (aka what he took in with him when we stayed overnight).

9. Unfortunately, Tyler had to work while we were on the road, but he always had what he needed close by (you never know when wifi is going to strike) in this gorgeous leather computer bag. He got this bag after completing his PhD & I think it looks like a modern doctor bag. 

10. Finally, men might not have as many person hygiene items as us ladies do, but they still need to keep them together in a toiletry bag. Tyler has this "dopp bag" & it is a great medium size to hold his razor & other bathroom products. It is a study canvas lined with plastic, so it is very durable too! 

What are your favorite bags that are stylish & functional?

Sally Beauty Summer Secrets: easy waves

Some are already thinking about Fall (I mean, it is the season with the best clothes), but I'm still trying to squeeze the most out of my Summer (teacher training starts back next week). Yesterday I dished about one of my favorite Summer beauty hacks - tan-touring (full tutorial here). Today, I'm sharing a Summer hair style that I've perfected for myself, getting it down to a 15 minute endeavor.

Laid-back waves is a style that is "done" without looking over-done. Putting waves in my hair is a foundation for many other hairstyles - rocking a high pony, trying my hand at the half up top-knot, and pulling the front back with bobby-pins or tiny braids.

The only tools/products you need to achieve this look is the BTZ "Super Sexy" styling sauce & a 1" curling iron (I have this one, & this one is high rated from Sally Beauty)

Curling my hair is something that has gotten better with practice & perfection of my technique. Read on to see the tips that make this a quick & easy style!

Step 1: After washing your hair, apply the BTZ "Super Sexy" styling sauce to damp hair (can also be applied to your styled hair after if you would like to add more texture). This product adds texture, volume & great hold (without feeling stiff!) With this product, I get 2 day waves, without having to add any additional hair spray products.

For my mid-length hair, a quarter size amount of the Super Sexy styling product is perfect. I run it from my ears to tips, & then get any remaining product off my hand by adding to my crown.

Step 2: Brush out hair & blow dry (or air dry) as you normally would.

Step 3: Section off hair. To help make this quick & easy, I use two sections. If I wanted to make my hair super curly, I would use more sections to ensure that every single strand got maximally curled, but this style is meant to look more relaxed.

Step 4: Time to curl! I personally love this curling iron because I can use it with the clip or without & the 1" barrel size is perfect for creating tight or loose curls. To create tighter curls, wrap the hair around without any gaps, and hold the hair on the iron for longer.

Starting with the bottom section, I curl alternating pieces of hair towards my face & then away. Moving from one side of my face all the way around, I continue to alternate towards/away until I reach the other side. Continue with all sections of your hair, alternating each piece as you go.

CURLING TIP: To create waves instead of pageant hair, hold the barrel of the iron straight up and down, then when you are finished with each piece, pull the iron straight down.

Step 5: You now have what I call "sausage curls". Using your fingers or comb, brush through the curls to break them up & blend them together. The more relaxed look you are trying to achieve, the more brushing required.

The BTZ Super Sexy styling sauce is the key to giving your curls' beachy texture, while also providing super hold. With this styling product, I don't even apply hair spray afterwards & still enjoy 2 day waves!

What is your go to Summer hair style? What tips do you have for getting the look in less time?

Looking for more Summer style inspiration? Follow along with Sally Beauty on Instagram (I am obsessed with all of the braid and nail polish tutorials!)

Today’s post is sponsored Sally Beauty, by my love for their products is all my own!

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Sally Beauty Summer Secrets: Tantouring Tutorial

While my beauty routine would be considered low-key year around, during the Summer I like to take it down to only the bare-bones basics. Summer is a time to throw on a dress, grab your bag and have fun with friends, not spend hours in the bathroom getting ready (especially if you live somewhere humid where your makeup melts off, & your hair falls limp the instant you walk outside). 

Today & tomorrow, I am going to be sharing 2 of my Summer beauty secrets, in partnership with Sally Beauty Supply. Sally Beauty is such a great resource for effective, inexpensive products, & I always feel like I'm tapping into a secret stash of goodies when I'm there - you know, the stuff that salons make you shell out the big bucks for! Today's post features tan-touring tutorial, and tomorrow I will be showing you how to create easy-peasy beachy waves. 

Never heard of tan-touring before? It isn't a new planet in the Star Wars movie, it is the easiest way to get glowing skin without wearing make-up! Tan-touring is using sunless tanner to "contour" your face! I promise it is not as scary as it sounds, lasts for several days to a week, & isn't harmful to your skin (like baking in a tanning bed). 

As all beauty tutorials go, this one starts with a before and after. In the before picture I am wearing my eyelash extensions, moisturizer & lip tint (had it on before I started and it didn't wash off all the way). 

The after shot features my newly tan-toured face, after letting it sit for an hour. Read on to find out how easy this bronzed look is to achieve on your own! 
How to tantour - contouring with sunless tanner

First up, happy skin is protected and moisturized skin. I love basking outside, but whenever I venture out into the sun I use the Caribbean Gold SPF 30 lotion (smells great!) to keep my skin safe. I also use the Heel to Toe intensive care lotion to keep my feet feeling spa fresh & this also helps to exfoliate the dry skin, making sunless tanner look more natural on the notoriously hard to look natural feet area. 

Next comes the tanning steps! For all of us that grew up in the early 2000s, we each have our own self-tanner horror story (orange hands, blotchy ankles, a missing chunk on the back of your arm…), but the formulas of today's products are so much better & natural looking! 

To prep your skin for the sunless tanning product, use a body scrub (the Tanwise pre-tan body scrub leaves your skin feeling so refreshed!). Next, apply sunless tanning lotion to your body (I used Tanwise sunless tanning lotion), & to your face (Tanwise self-tanning face gel). This is your base before starting the tan-touring. 

Contouring with sunless tanner tutorial

And now you are ready to TAN-TOUR! 
Step 1: After applying a base coat of Tanwise self-tanning face gel to your clean face, you are ready to identify the areas to contour. 

Step 2: Suck in your cheeks. Now you have found the areas to shadow under your cheekbones. Using a flat makeup brush (this flat foundation brush is the perfect size), follow the line under your cheeks. I first made a faint line, then went over it with a pretty heavy hand. It will not be this dark when you are finished, most of the color comes from the lotion & does not reflect what will be left on at the end. 

Step 3: Continue applying self-tanning face gel to your jaw line, hair line, & on either side of your nose (I skipped my nose - personal preference). I went darker on my forehead and cheeks, and lighter on my jawline, but this is where you can build your own personalized look. 

Step 4: Let it sit. I left the product on for ~ 1 hour, & was happy with the color that resulted. If you want darker color deposited, let is sit for 2 hours. After waiting for an hour, I rubbed all of the remaining product into my skin, then washed my face. 

Step 5: Enjoy glowing skin without the hassle of make-up!

Looking for more Summer style inspiration? Follow along with Sally Beauty on Instagram (I am obsessed with all of the braid and nail polish tutorials!) And stay tuned for tomorrow's easy beachy waves tutorial!


Thank you to Sally Beauty for sponsoring today’s post and inspiring me to share my summer beauty secrets!

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Road Trip: Dog Friendly in Austin

Happy Wednesday! Today I am continuing with the round-up of road trip tips, focusing on dog friendly events/locations we loved in Austin, Texas. Along the way we found cities that were all along the dog-friendly spectrum. Austin & San Diego were SUPER dog friendly, while Phoenix almost killed them with them, but mostly because of the 120 ˚F temps (they had to stay in the AC 100% of our time there!). Regardless of where we were, we always checked for dog friendly hotels & resturants on BringFido.com. It is a simple site that never let us down & they just came out with an app!

If you are just joining the road trip series, read about our initial itinerary, how to set road trip expectations & my top 5 tips for exploring National Parks.

Austin, TX is such a great place to visit (I've now been 3 times - to visit a friend, for my bachelorette & on our road trip) - not only is it a very dog friendly town, but they have the best murals (I used this guide to find some new favorites) & it has an overall retro mid-century vibe (Tyler loved all of the kitschy neon signs). 

Topping our favorite dog friendly spots in Austin are these 6 restaurants & parks. If you have your own dog friendly favorites in Austin, let me know in the comments - I'm sure we will be back with the pugs soon!

1. Banger's - this sausage house & beer garden has a dog park in the restaurant area... how much more dog friendly can you get than that!? When traveling with dogs it can be such a juggling game as one person always has to wait with the dogs outside while the other goes in to order, & then you switch to do it all over again. But at Banger's, the humans get to sit at long farm tables, while the doggies play with their friends in the dog pen. Doug made lots of friends (as seen above) & Scout drank A L L the water, while we stuffed our faces with sausages + crisp beers. Win. Freaking. Win.  

2. Redbud Isle - Austin has some great public parks, but Redbud Isle is my favorite for the doggies. It is an off leash dog park that is actually an island in the middle of the Colorado River. Dogs are allowed to swim in the river, & even our non-swimming pugs enjoyed taking a dip in the calm, cool water right off the walking paths - some are even paved with steps so that the humans enjoy getting in too (as seen above). Our dogs aren't super accustomed to being off leash, but this is a calm spot & everyone's dogs are so friendly that our two little piggies did just great!

3. Yellow Jacket Social Club - hipsters love dogs, & this hip spot features great sandwiches, yummy brunch & tasty drinks, all in a dog friendly spot on the East side of town. It is equally great for people & dog watching! You have to get creative with the parking situation in this part of town, but the ambiance is worth it! This neighborhood is also a hot spot for mural hunting!! Happy searching :)

4. South Congress Bat Bridge - if you want an event to take your dog to, the nightly bat viewing is low key & dog friendly. About an hour before sunset, bat enthusiasts gather below the South Congress bridge to watch the bats fly out (they emerge right when the sky gets dark). You can bring your kids, dogs, picnic blankets, food & I even saw a red solo cup or two filled with adult beverages! Check out this link to see what time the bats will fly out before you go.  

And if you are in the area during the day, South Congress is a freaking HOT BED for murals. We just about wore the brakes down in our car as I forced Tyler to break suddenly at every corner with my mural induced squealing!! I really wanted to get a shot of this lion one (we are both Leos, how precious would that be), but I got cut off from my mural photography before I spotted it! Next time lions, next time!

5. Jester King Brewery - Located a little out of town, but definitely worth the drive! We do much of our new town exploring by hitting up the local breweries & this spot was an oasis in the outskirts of the Texas hill country that we spent a large chunk of an afternoon enjoying. The beers are very creative (lots of sour beers if you are into that sort of thing), but the highlight for me was the farm table seating, & amazing pizzas available from Stanley's Farmhouse, also located on the property. 

6. Oyster Landing - after hitting up Barton Springs early one morning (dogs are not allowed so we went super early so that it was still cool enough to leave them in the car + it is free before 8 am!), we stopped at the Oyster Landing strip of restaurants/shops to enjoy coffee on the amazing patio of Mozart's. Located close to Redbud Isle & also right on the Colorado River, this dog friendly coffee shop has ample patio space, serving up a front row seat for turtle & duck watching. 

Another of my favorite Austin spots, for tex-mex Hula Hut, is also located at Oyster Landing, but I couldn't find it on my favorite app for researching dog friendly spots (BringFido), so if you want to bring your pup, call ahead!

Just down the road from Oyster Landing is Maudie's (tex-mex) & their patio is dog friendly & I highly recommend the migas! 

Thank you Austin for your bevy of murals & dog friendly spots! 

What are your tips for traveling with dogs? 

Anyone else want to know why people can bring their unruly kids everywhere they go, but my well mannered pugs have been shooed from many a patio?? 

Monday, July 18, 2016

Road Trip: National Park Tips

We have wrapped up our 5 week road trip, & are now living in Denver, CO, but I will be sharing some of the lessons we learned along the way over the next week or so. If you have any road trip related questions or tips from your own experiences, please leave them in the comments!

A rough outline of our route is found here & the first post in the road trip series focused on setting appropriate expectations before you set out on your trip.

Today, we are talking about how to get the most our of visiting National Parks along the way. Tyler & I set out to check out as many National Parks as we could while on our trip, spurred on by the fact that many were on our bucket lists & this is the 100th anniversary of the US National Parks System.

As it is the 100th anniversary, many other people (literally thousands) have also made it a point to visit their favorite National Parks this year, so (as we learned the hard way), it is best to think ahead & be prepared!

guide to visiting National Parks
added text to image found here.

1. National Parks Passport. To celebrate the 100th anniversary, National Parks are offering official cancellation stamps at the parks, & you can collect the stamps in a collector's passport. I am actually from a National Park (Hot Springs National Park), so at the beginning of the trip, we popped into the park headquarters in my home town & picked up an official passport. The passport is only $10 & we both felt that it was a great price for what would turn into our trip memento & all of the extra information that was packed inside. Having the passport made visiting as many parks as we could a fun road trip challenge. You can buy the passport at any National Park store or online here, & check out all the cancellation locations here.

2. National Parks App. To make finding National Parks around you even easier, there is also a free app that is a companion to the National Parks Passport (download it from iTunes or the Google app store). For being a free app, it is surprisingly useful. It has features that let you check off the parks that you have visited, find out information about each park (including any fees) & has a pretty snazzy GPS tool that shows you all of the parks in a 50, 100 or 250 mi radius.

3. America the Beautiful Pass. In my mind I figured that visiting National Parks was a free activity (visiting my hometown is free, so I guess that is where I got the connection). Turns out, that is wrong. It costs money to visit parks, & if you want to visit several of them, it can actually get pretty expensive... QUICK! Entrance to Grand Canyon was $30, Grand Tetons + Yellowstone was $50, Saguaro (one of my favorites) was $20... & we are already at $100 and you've only explored 3 parks. But there is another way! The parks service actually has an all access pass called the "America the Beautiful" Pass, & it is only $80 for a YEAR of park access. Oh, & it gets better! The $80 pass not only provides a YEAR of park access, but you can put two people's names on it, & each person on the pass is allowed to have up to 4 guests with them. Basically, this thing is a STEAL & if you are going to go to multiple parks, with multiple people, it is a must have. See all the crazy money saving details at the park pass page here.

4. Camping reservations. Another misconception that Tyler & I had about visiting National Parks was that we would simply show up & snag a camping spot. Boy were we WRONG, WRONG, SUPER WRONG. Camping reservations are now almost 100% online, & the spots are available 1 year before today's date, meaning that most are gone one year out. They go FAST people! As I said above, it is the 100th anniversary, & this is no secret, people are out at the parks in record numbers. However, Tyler & I did not learn of this crazy, way up front reservation situation & we still got to camp in all the parks we wanted, so there is hope.

The two websites we used for finding camping in the National Parks were recreation.gov and reserveamerica.com. Both of these only allow you to reserve in advance (AKA not day of), but they have pretty helpful search tools to get you just want you need. It was also super easy to check in at the ranger station with our online reservations, as these are sites that are fully integrated in with the National Parks services.

In addition, most National Parks are next to National Forests (not exactly the same thing, kind of along the lines of the square vs. rectangle argument...). While the National Parks have aggressive camping reservation situations, National Forests are slightly easier to get a reservation last minute. For example, camping in the Grand Canyon is pretty hard to snag (unless you are a one of those year in advance planners), but the Kaibab National Forest is basically attached to the Grand Canyon Park, & offers 7 campsites of its own (that seem to be lesser known, or at least don't go as fast!). If the Park you want to visit is completely out of campsites, look for nearby National Forests or State Parks.

If all else fails, ask the locals where they camp. We scored a $5 campsite in Idado because we asked a bartender where he stayed. We were the only ones in the campsite (besides the coyotes) & enjoyed the most gorgeous sunset of the trip, from our campsite right on the Snake River (it was this campsite for those interested - close to Yellowstone). The locals might have more information about the state & county campsites that can be harder to track down online.

5. Visitor Center. Finally, unless you are a veteran visitor at a given park it can be overwhelming to know what to do in the park. As I explained in the setting expectations post, were decided that we would be on a "sightseeing" type of trip. Given that we had two dogs & not enough room in our car to pack all of the equipment that would have been necessary for long term camping or backcountry explorations, we were looking for day trips that let us see most of the action from our car.  The National Park Visitor Centers are not only where you will have to go if you are looking for passport stamps, but they are also an excellent source of information. Maybe, that previous sentence was a no duh kind of statement, but I think many people skip the Visitor Center thinking they are tourist traps or a waste of time. We found that each park had its own newspaper that you could pick up at the Visitor Center, with current information about events/conditions/maps, but also suggested things to do based on whether you were looking to spend 1-3 hours, half a day, a full day, or more. We also checked in with the rangers about the best driving loops through the park, & marked on our maps where dogs were & were not allowed to roam. I think we saved so much time that could have been wasted by aimless wandering, just by spending a few minutes in the Visitor Center.

Ok, I hope that helps answer any questions you might have about visiting the National Parks! If there are any additional question you can think of, please let me know in the comments. Coming up soon, I will be posting my favorite parks in each state, & giving more details about what we did & what are landmarks that cannot be missed!

Off to explore some more of Denver now!

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Road Trip: Setting Expectations

And we made it! At the beginning of June, Tyler & I set out on a 5 week road trip from Nashville, TN to Denver, CO & while it definitely felt like a marriage trial of 40 days & 40 nights at times, the trip was truly an experience that we will never forget, & I am going to dedicate the next few blog posts to our road trip experiences & tips we learned along the way. We did our road trip on a pretty tight budget, with 2 pugs, in a Prius & while everyone's trip is different (as it should be!), I hope that sharing our experiences will be helpful for any of you planning future trips. 

If you have any of your own road trip related questions or tips, please leave them in the comments & I will try to incorporate them into future posts. I posted a rough outline of our road trip itinerary here & will be doing a post on the final route we took soon. If you missed out on our road trip Snaps (username: jesshereandnow) or Instagrams you can catch up on the posts here: #hereandnowtravels.

Today's post is about setting appropriate road trip expectations. Before we set out on our cross-country move, both of us independently made lists of things we wanted to see/do, & then set about combining our lists so that that we would get a good mix of each person's top must do items! Below are 5 topics that should definitely be included in the discussion with your group before setting out. 

Having similar expectations means that no one gets their dreams crushed when it isn't possible to do everything or gets exhausted by a never ending roadside attraction photoshoot that they didn't sign up for.

1. What to eat. Tyler & I wanted to enjoy the regional flavors of each state/area we visited, but because we were traveling with our 2 pugs, we knew that dining out at 5 star restaurants every night would not be logistically or financially feasible. Instead we made a plan to try out Mexican food & burger joints, focusing on locally owned businesses that had great patios (& a decent beer list for Ty). Our plan to try out specific foods made it a fun challenge, & narrowed down the options when we were overwhelmed with possibilities in each new city.

2. Where to stay. Thankfully, there are a growing number of options when it comes to your lodging, including hotels, AirBnB, camping, VRBO, etc. In order to make our trip as budget friendly as possibly, we mostly planned our trip around visiting family & friends. In the cities where we did not have a free place to stay, we had to decide if that was going to be a splurge or save city. Our splurge cities were Austin, TX (stayed in a failed AirBnb experience that ended up being free), Marfa, TX (El Cosmico),  & Palm Springs, CA (The Saguaro). When looking to save on lodging, we first tried to camp (going to dedicate another post to that endeavor), or booked a dog friendly hotel that was cheap, but close to the action (Days Inn, Motel 6 & La Quinta were the most consistently dog friendly & not terrible). When it comes to where to stay, make sure that your group agrees on whether you are going to prioritize posh digs, or saving money to spend on things like eating out/shopping/seeing the sights. 

3. How much to see. The great thing about a road trip is that you get to decide how much you are going to explore & the amount of time you want to spend in each spot. Are you doing a road trip so that you can take a deep dive into a few special spots, or looking more for road side sightseeing? On our driving days, we never planned more than 6 hours of travel so that we could stop to eat, check out a few road side attractions, & walk the dogs a couple of times without having to drive sun-up to sun-down. For us, this felt like a great balance of pace + leisure. 

4. On the road jobs. After 5 weeks on the road, we had our in car situation figured out to a fine detail, but it wasn't like that from the start. Before getting into our groove, we first tested out who was going to do each of the on-the-road-jobs. I'm talking about the driver, navigator, entertainment manager & even packer/unpacker. You learn a LOT about each other while in the close quarters of a vehicle for any extended period of time, & it is necessary to let each person do what they feel most comfortable doing, while making sure that everyone is contributing to the cause of getting to where you are going & having a fun time doing it. My husband is great at finding podcasts & new songs to listen to (+ having the patience to hook everything up in the sound system), while I discovered that I was skilled at efficiently packing the car. We found that it was better to have a set person for each job, that way we always knew who was doing what.

5. Be flexible! Most of all, set out with the expectation that you are going to be flexible. Understand that plans change, & road side signs should be respected. After all, a road trip is all about enjoying the journey & being open to adjustments!

That is all for now! The next road trip post will be about our experiences with the National Parks system. The National Parks are celebrating their 100th anniversary this year & we had so much fun checking off some must see places from our list! If you have any National Parks/camping related questions, please leave them in the comments!