How to Look Like You Have It All Together: Shop Someplace that Does

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Do you remember, when you were younger - maybe in high school or college or even in your early 20s - thinking, "Someday, when I'm older, I'll have it all together"? I thought my outfits would be coordinated & well-pressed, my home would be nicely decorated & always clean. Now that I'm in my early 30s, I still wonder, "OK, is that ever coming?" & I've got to be honest: I don't think it is.

That's why I like places that make it a little bit easier for me to feel like I've got it all together.

I was invited to attend last week's launch party at the Laura of Pembroke store at Pinecrest, a new mixed-use development in Orange, OH, about 15 minutes outside of downtown Cleveland. Laura of Pembroke is a clothing store, homegoods store, and furniture store, all in one, & this is their second location (the first is in Canton). It was one of the first spots to open at Pinecrest - along with a Shake Shack! (I tried to wait in that line but bailed after about five minutes.)

Pinecrest aims to be "the downtown of the East side," which amuses me a little because it's so solidly suburban - but as we've previously discussed, I like the suburbs, so I'm into it.

In celebration of their opening, Laura of Pembroke hosted a lovely launch party - open to the public & with special invitations to local bloggers - complete with champagne, custom cookies from the Itty Bitty Bakeshop, & a bubble machine at the entrance.

I'm not kidding when I say that this place has - & sells - everything. 

In fact, the women who work here joke that the entire store is for sale because you can literally purchase the art off their walls & the light fixtures off their ceiling. Their furniture is unfortunately out of my budget (still living that IKEA life, for now), but damn, do they have some gorgeous stuff.

They also have an interior decorating consultant on staff to help you style your home, & looking at how the shop itself is styled, I trust them 1000%. I'd kill for a home that looks like this instead of a few levels up from a dorm, which is admittedly what I'm working with some days. OK, that's dramatic; my apartment is cute, but it's certainly no Laura of Pembroke. Look at this place.

They've also got a huge selection of clothing, jewelry, shoes, & accessories, all at varying price points. You'll find a $35 shirt on the rack right next to a $250 jacket, with familiar brands brands like Kate Spade alongside newer ones you've not yet tried. Unfortunately, the largest size they carry size is an L, which is usually still too small for my size 14/16 body...

But accessories fit everybody! I bought an absolutely gorgeous ring that I've worn every day since making it my own, & I've got my eye on the unusual, fabric-based statement necklaces you see in the first photo below.

And finally, they carry a ton of homegoods, from barware to dishes to home furnishings. 

If you're into home entertaining or are looking for something special for friends who are, this is the perfect spot to find your next gift. During the launch party, I bought a little something for my mom's upcoming birthday.

I also went back a few days after their opening to grab a wedding gift for our friends Ryan & Sam's July nuptials. I won't tell you what I got, because Ryan sometimes reads this blog (hi!), but suffice it to say that it was a lot of fun to pick out something frivolous & pretty for them to enjoy.

While at Pinecrest, I met up with a fellow bloggers Crystal of Eat*Drink*Cleveland, Leah of By Travel & Error, & Alyssa of The Mexitalian) I was so impressed with the way Laura of Pembroke reached out to so many of us, focusing on what we blog about & personally love. Alyssa, a food blogger, wrote about her kitchen style; Julia, a beer blogger, wrote about their gorgeous bar goodies; Rachel, a style blogger, wrote about her fashion finds, including a pair of shoes I'm totally coveting. 

After the Laura of Pembroke opening, we stopped by a few other stores, including the West Elm launch party (free booze & tasty apps!) & Pottery Barn's opening soiree, complete with a really dramatic flower-stealing episode that I documented on Instagram

It's so much fun to be a part of the Cleveland blogger community that has formed within the last year. And while I will likely always struggle with the balance of sponsored versus organic content, it's easy to say yes to sponsored opportunities like this one when I really believe in & love the brands I get to partner with. I believe whole-heartedly in the work & success of local businesses, especially those owned by women, & I relish the opportunity to raise them up & to help fellow Clevelanders find new spots to try. 

Bonus: A few days later, when I returned to Laura of Pembroke to buy the aforementioned wedding gift, I also stopped into the new Shake Shack. This time the line was only - only! - 30 minutes, but it was totally worth it. That cheese sauce is to die for, y'all.

Many of the stores, shops, & restaurants that will ultimately populate Pinecrest aren't yet open, but you can follow along on Instagram at @discover_pinecrest for updates as new spots launch.

Disclaimer: I was invited to attend Laura of Pembroke's launch party at Pinecrest & was gifted a bag of goodies in exchange for a blog post sharing my honest opinions. As always, all views are my own - & given that I went back to buy more stuff from them, you can assume I'm telling you the truth about how much I liked this place!

It's OK To Be Honest about Taking a Mental Health Day

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

I wasn't a devoted fan of either Kate Spade or Anthony Bourdain. Sure, I have a few Kate Spade bags I love, & I'd seen Bourdain as a guest on the many cooking shows I've obsessed over throughout the years, but I can't claim to have been a devotee of either of them. Still, when their suicides made headlines last week, I found myself deeply affected by the news & by the subsequent conversations their deaths inspired online.

Last Friday, the first thing I read when I woke up in the morning was a text from my friend Sammi that said, "I'm having a hard time with the news of Anthony Bourdain." As I read through the headlines, I found myself retreating into my own head. I was shocked - but I also went kind of numb. I had no reaction whatsoever.

All I wanted was to go back to sleep. So I did. 

I sent an email to my boss saying I needed to take a sick day... & then I slept until 3pm. Yeah, I know, that's a lot of sleep, but I guess I needed it, emotionally and/or physically. I just felt like I couldn’t face the day, you know? I needed to turn my brain off.

When I woke up in the middle of the afternoon, I felt much, much better. Sleeping is, of course, not always the healthiest way to address serious emotions, but in this case, it was really helpful to be able to rest, rejuvenate, & try to face the (rest of the) day with a little bit of added strength.

Upon waking, I showered & got dressed (because nobody ever crawled out of a dark hole with tangled, unwashed hair), then caught up on a little bit of work & invited my mom up for a quick visit. Mike was out of town, so my mom & I had a little mother/daughter date night: dinner & drinks at Bourbon Street Barrel Room, some shopping at Banyan Tree, and exploring the neighborhood during Walkabout Tremont. When she left, I watched UnREAL, caught up on some blogging, & went to bed early.

In short, the day was exactly what I needed to replenish, refill, & refresh.

Now, normally, if I took a sick day from work, I wouldn't do anything in the evening. That was the rule when I was a kid - "If you're too sick to go to school, you're too sick to do anything after school" - & I've held fast to it in adulthood. Even if I feel better by nightfall, I'm not going to share photos of a night out on the town after I've taken a sick day. After all, my boss follows me on Instagram!

But this felt a little bit different.

Even though I hadn't said so in my initial email to my boss, I did post to Instagram that I had taken a sick day. I shared some words about being a suicide survivor, about the importance of therapy, medication, & time to heal. I encouraged others to take the time they needed, if they were able - to take care of themselves however they saw fit. For me, that meant staying home from work & indulging in some things I love & enjoy, as a means of healing.

While it may not have felt quite right to say, in my email to my boss, "I'm taking a sick day because my heart is sad, & my brain hurts, & I need to sleep for five more hours before I feel OK," I wasn't ashamed for her to know that, nor was I embarrassed to say so online afterward. And in this case, the things that I did later in the day - you know, after I'd slept for a billion hours - were low-key, self-care actions that helped me feel better overall. They were part of the medicine I needed.

Mental health is real; mental health is health. And taking control of your health is not embarrassing.

If you need space, whether it's during a period of jarring news headlines or just an overwhelming time in your own life, I hope you find a way to take it, whether it means cashing in one of your sick days or canceling your weekend plans.

Get off the Internet. Spend time in nature. Read a book. Or just enjoy the peace & quiet. You don’t have to listen to me or the news or people on Twitter talking suicide - even the supportive ones.

Do what you need to do to be OK, today & always. Be kind to yourself, & listen to what your soul needs from you.

Highlights from Our Honeymoon in Costa Rica

Monday, June 11, 2018

Our honeymoon was the most relaxing vacation of all time. The weather wasn't great while we were there, so unfortunately, we didn't schedule some of the tours & activities we'd originally thought we would. We got in one good day of touring, but beyond that, we spent most of our time lying in a private garden next to the beach (no complaints),

Doka Coffee Plantation

On our second day in Costa Rica, we did a full-day tour visiting the Doka Estate coffee plantation & the La Paz Waterfall Gardens, which includes a wildlife sanctuary. The shuttle pick us up at 6am (we were the first pickup of the day) & by 8am, we'd arrived at the coffee plantation.

Coffee is one of Costa Rica's biggest exports - about 90% of its coffee is shipped elsewhere - & Doka is Costa Rica's largest coffee plantation. We explored their beautiful plantation grounds, just 40 miles from the active Poas Volcano, & got to see the step-by-step process of making coffee, from seed to bag. We got to try lots of free samples, including chocolate-covered coffee beans, & this tour marked the first time I ever drank - & liked - black coffee!

We also went to one of two butterfly gardens of the day.

La Paz Waterfalls & Animal Sanctuary

The La Paz Waterfall is the most famous in Costa Rica, but there are actually four other waterfalls surrounding it that are just as beautiful - & depending on where you're looking at th em from, you can sometimes see multiples waterfalls all in one view. Man-made trails make these waterfalls the most accessible in the country - though my recent workouts at Harness Cycle didn't make me any more fit for climbing the many, many stairs along the way.

While we did see some animals out in the wild throughout our visit, this tour was easily one of the most exciting parts of the trip, allowing us to see wildlife up close & personal & in a safe (for them & for us), enclosed environment. All of the animals that live at the La Paz Animal Sanctuary were either injured or illegally traded, & they've ended up at this sanctuary because they can no longer live on their own in the wild.

We saw a sloth - in motion, no less! - as well as a 200-lb jaguar named Torito, a toucan named Bob, a few different kinds of monkeys, tons of creepy, massive snakes, & a few very cool frogs, including the red-eyed tree frog, which looks like a living cartoon. They also have a beautiful Butterfly Observatory filled with every kind of gorgeous butterfly you can imagine.

Jardin del Eden Boutique Hotel

Staying at this hotel was easily the best Costa Rica decision we made. We found it on Trip Advisor, & because we had no real idea what to expect, we were blown away by how gorgeous & high-end the hotel was. We visited during the off-season & Jardin del Eden was at just 30% capacity, so we received extra-attentive service & even befriended a few of the hotel staff.

We'd planned to stay at a second hotel for the second half of our stay, but when we got there... well, it just didn't measure up, so back to Jardin del Eden we went. They gave us a discount for our return, & on our last night, we moved to a suite with a hot tub, just for fun.

We spent most of our time in the hotel's private garden off the beach, which had its own bar & bartender, Victor. We loved chatting with Victor & trying his cocktail creations; he introduced us to Cacique Guaro & chili water & turtle egg shots minus the turtle eggs.

Howler Monkeys

If you follow me on Instagram, you might've seen my series of videos (complete with annoying commentary) about the howler monkeys living in a mango tree on the hotel grounds. It's possible that nothing has ever brought me more joy than those monkeys did.

I couldn't tell how many of them there were, but I identifed at least one big, mangy male - with a louuuuud voice - & one itty-bitty baby monkey who primarily rode around on its mama's back. They howled all morning & rested during the day, occasionally swinging around in the trees by their tails, chomping on mangoes & throwing their leftovers to the ground like animals.

I don't have great photos, to my dismay, but I sure do have some happy monkey memories.

All. That. Food.

I'm thinking of doing another post just about the food we ate in Tamarindo, because truly, we went to some phenomenal spots & found some damn good eats - but the Internet wasn't much help. In fact, it was nearly impossible to find good, reliable restaurant recommendations online, either ahead of our trip or while we were there. We primarily relied on word of mouth, Victor's suggestions, &  restaurants we passed that looked good & seemed busy.

We ate a lot of shrimp - in taco form, primarily - & every day, for breakfast, we had gallo pinto, a combination of rice, beans, & cilantro that's customary in Costa Rica for, like, every meal. I smothered mine in Lizano salsa, a beloved local condiment that I liked so much I ordered it from Amazon to be delivered before we arrived home.

The Scenery

The drive from San Jose to Tamarindo were incredible - enough to keep me from sleeping throughout the drive - & the views from our hotel room were amazingly green & lush. Everywhere we went, things seemed to be vibrant & green & gorgeous.

And the sunsets. Oh, the sunsets! Unfortunately, it rained quite a bit while we were there, which meant we didn't get as many sunsets as we had nights there, but when we were lucky enough to have clear skies... those sunsets made it all worth it. On our last night, Victor took us up to a lookout point that was one of the most beautiful views I've ever seen.

All in all, it was a wonderful trip - just long enough for us to feel perfectly relaxed but ready to come home. We returned to Cleveland happy & chill, looking forward to making some changes & embracing Costa Rica's pura vida lifestyle right here in Northeast Ohio.

And, oh, yeah: We're already planning our next trip back. But next time? Next time, we adventure.
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