Thursday, November 28, 2013

Thankful.


Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

I have so much to be thankful for this year. Although I do try my best to appreciate my blessings every day of the year, it's nice to have this time to just pause for a moment and really reflect on it. I am so glad that I get to spend the day celebrating with family in Michigan and want to soak up every minute that I can. I hope that everyone has a day filled with love, gratitude, and lots of delicious food!


Monday, November 25, 2013

My Carry-On Essentials

Hello from Michigan!

I actually flew in last week, and it's been great to have a little extra time to relax with my family and see friends before Turkey Day. I was also really glad to beat the crowds that will inevitably be at the airports this week by flying in a little earlier as the holidays are such a busy time for traveling! Last week, Emily shared her carry-on essentials over at C&C and I really enjoyed the post as I love seeing what other people bring when they travel. It inspired me to put together a list of my own travel "must-haves" and I thought today would be the perfect time to share them to kick off Thanksgiving week!

When traveling, I pretty much try to avoid checking a bag at all costs. Not only do most airlines charge a ridiculous fee for checking a bag these days, but I hate to run the risk of my luggage getting lost/delayed when I get to my final destination, as that's such a headache. Most of the time, I find that I can pretty easily get by traveling with only a carry-on, however, you definitely have to be much more selective about what you bring with you when you travel this way!

Standard airline regulations state that you are allowed one carry-on suitcase and one "personal item." What I typically do is pack my clothes/shoes/non-liquid toiletries in my 22" rolling suitcase (22'' is the max carry-on size), and it's just a very standard black rolling suitcase (I think mine is Samsonite?) that I picked up at TJ Maxx last year. I try to fit as much in this bag as I possibly can and I try not to include any items that I'll need to access while I'm at the airport or on the plane. Then for my personal item, I pack a tote bag that includes my make-up bag, my liquid toiletries in a ziplock (for easy access at security), my laptop, my purse (yes, I stick my purse inside my tote!) and then anything else that I'll need to use at the airport or on the plane. When going through the airport, I typically sit my tote bag on top of my suitcase and interlace the handles for easy maneuvering and it works perfectly!

Here's what you'll typically find inside my tote bag...

My Carry-On Essentials


The tote bag I bring is this Longchamp XL travel bag. It's such a classic and perfect for travel; I love that it's super durable, it zips, and it's roomy enough to hold everything I need while still (just barely) fitting under the seat in front of me. (Only on a rare occasion have a had a flight attendant tell me it was too large, and normally I can fit it under the seat no problem!) The only problem with this bag is that because it is so large, it's (very) easy to overfill it which makes it super heavy!

I almost always bring my laptop when I travel, and so this Built laptop sleeve is great for keeping it protected, plus you don't have to take it out of the sleeve while going through security. The one I have is actually solid burgundy, but I think the polka dots are so much fun!

Traveling from the West Coast, I've taken my fair share of red-eye flights. If you're going to try to sleep, I think a good eye mask is essential! I first got turned on to these 40 Blinks sleep masks back when I worked at a travel store in Boulder, CO (seems like forever ago now!) and we used to sell them all the time. I recently bought them for Cam and I because the window shades in our apartment do a pretty terrible job of blocking out the light, so we actually wear them a lot when we sleep at home! They're super lightweight and go a great job of blocking out light on an overnight flight.

I try not to wear much make-up when I travel, but nothing is worse than chapped lips. I have raved about these Fresh Sugar Lip Treatments many (many) times before, but they're definitely still my go-to lip balm. They come in a variety of colors and they're incredibly moisturizing!

I always wear a scarf when I travel since it's easier to take on and off at security than jewelry, and it can double as a makeshift blanket on a chilly plane. I'm currently in love with this gold polka dot scarf from Target right now (and it's what I wore on my flight to Michigan)!

Cam got me the Kindle Paperwhite for Christmas last year, and it's perfect for traveling!

Another thing I learned at the travel store is the importance of using packing cubes--they are a necessity (IMO) when you're going to try to travel without checking luggage as they really maximize your space! I have these packing cubes from Eagle Creek (in varying sizes) and love them. I typically use a few in my suitcase for my clothes and then a small one for loose items in my tote.

I can get hot and thirsty on the plane, and there's nothing better than being able to have some cool water mid-flight. I used to always bring a collapsible water bottle when traveling, and while I still think they're great, I've found that it's worth it to bring this Hydro Flask water bottle. It keeps water ice cold for hours and hours...just be sure to fill it up after going through security!

Even though I bring my Kindle when I travel, sometimes I just want to be able to flip through a magazine :) A hefty InStyle magazine is the perfect thing to peruse on the plane!

This is not a sponsored post in any way, these are just my tried and true favorite travel items that I wanted to share! Plus, all of these things would make perfect gifts this holiday season :)

Safe travels this week!

Friday, November 22, 2013

Home, For The Holidays

Happy Friday everyone!

It's hard to believe that Thanksgiving is less than a week away and Christmas is in just over a month. Where has the time gone? When it comes to decorating for the holidays, I know there are varying opinions on how early is "too" early. Judging by my Instagram feed, I know that many of my friends and fellow bloggers already have their trees up, while others feel it's almost sacrilegious to put up any Christmas decorations before Thanksgiving. Stores seem to have different opinions as well; many major retailers have had Christmas stuff out since the beginning of November, while some stores like Nordstrom are choosing to take a stand and celebrate one holiday at a time.

No matter what camp you fall into, there are too many cute Christmas decor items out there right now to resist decorating your home for the season (whenever you feel it's appropriate that is...ha). I really love the idea of going beyond the normal tree/wreaths/stockings/etc. decorations to incorporate some holiday spirit into other areas of the home as well. Plus, I love how certain decor items such as mercury glass and plaid can look really Christmas-y in December, but it's also very possible to incorporate them into your home throughout the remainder of the year as well.

Unfortunately, we won't be doing too much decorating for the holidays for this year mainly because:
1.) Our apartment doesn't allow a ton of room for extra stuff.
2.) We're in Michigan for quite some time for Thanksgiving.
3.) We leave for Thailand before Christmas so there's not much time to even enjoy decorations.
(It's OK though because I love our apartment, I'm excited to be with family, and can't WAIT for our trip!)

However, just because I'm not doing much decorating doesn't mean I can't share my favorite Christmas finds with you! Here are some festive home decor items that have caught my eye lately...

Make It Merry
Pillows & Prints


You can click directly on the sets for specific product links, but basically these are all items from some of my favorite stores. Target always has cute Christmas stuff, Crate & Barrel/World Market have great entertaining items for the holidays, H&M Home (which I've only seen online?) has an awesome pillow collection, and West Elm has the best mercury glass selection. Oh, and I'm pretty much obsessed with adorable prints from SS Print Shop; everything of Stephanie's is gorgeous (including her bedroom tour on the Everygirl this week!) but the holiday prints would be the perfect way to liven up a gallery wall to celebrate the season! Have a happy weekend everyone!

Thursday, November 21, 2013

{Paleo} Beef Rouladen

We leave for Thailand one month from today! Eeek! 

We still have quite a bit of planning to do (double eek!) but I am getting super excited for this trip! However, I don't think the fact that we'll be sitting on the beach so soon has really sunk in yet as I've been thoroughly loving sweater weather and eating my way through Portland (i.e. my last post). It's going to be tough to avoid temptation with Thanksgiving next week and December coming up, so I'm just going to try to enjoy treats in moderation (because let's be serious, I love me some holiday food) and do my best to make healthy choices when I can. 

One of those great times to make healthy choices is by trying to make our meals as Paleo as possible when we make dinner at home. I'll admit, I've been somewhat uninspired when it comes to meal planning/cooking healthy dinners since moving into our apartment thanks to the abundance of restaurant options in Portland. But the other night, Cameron got the (wonderful) idea to make a Paleo version of Beef Rouladen and it was SO GOOD that I just had to share it!

Lola clearly thought so too :)

In general, I enjoy baking more than cooking. I like to be able to follow a recipe exactly and have something turn out. However, Cam really likes cooking (which is awesome) and he enjoys improvising in the kitchen. He glanced at a few recipes before deciding to just wing it when making this rouladen.
And I took pictures while he cooked.
Because that's normal. 
Ha. 

But seriously, it turned out so well and was DELICIOUS! I don't have an exact recipe to share but it's actually pretty simple, so hopefully the photos will suffice for anyone interested in recreating it!

 First, you need beef. 
(See I told you this wasn't going to be super specific, ha!)
He used cube steak and it worked great for this, but you could also use thinly sliced flank steak.
 Salt the meat.
Take some grainy mustard.
 Spread it on your beef.
 Take bacon. Yummy bacon. It obviously makes any dish better!
 Lay out strips of bacon on top of your mustard-covered flank steak.
Part of what makes this recipe so easy is you don't have to cook the parts before assembling it.
Take some sliced onions and put them on the beef, then take a pickle spear and lay it on one edge.
Then roll the beef around the pickle spear like so.
Cam cut one of the pieces of beef in half to have two smaller rolls and left the other piece whole.
 My recommendation would be to cut them in half though, as we both thought that seemed better.
You then secure the rolls with toothpicks (or you could use twine).
 Saute some garlic in olive oil over medium-high heat and then add your rolls of beef. 
 Brown the rolls on each side and then add some beef broth to the pan. 
Cover the pan and let the rouladen finish cooking through in the broth. 
 I went to go do something else at this point in the cooking process, so I don't have pictures of the remaining steps. Whoops. 
However, Cam let the beef cook completely with the lid on, then I believe he removed them to a separate plate and added a little arrowroot to slightly thicken the remaining broth in the pan.
And there you have it, dinner is served!
"Seriously? You're just going to photograph it when I could be eating it. WTF." - Lola
#blogdogproblems

Rouladen is such a perfect fall dinner as it's very hearty, and I love that it's also Paleo. The bacon and pickle spear made it so flavorful and we both cleaned our plates! Definitely give it a try!


PS: If you do want a more specific recipe to follow, here are some links (1 / 2 / 3) to other Paleo rouladen recipes :)

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Donut Decisions in Portland

Portland has been cool and rainy this week, and I'm coming to realize just why donuts are so popular in this city! When the weather is dreary and gray, there's no better pick me up than grabbing a hot cup of coffee and a delicious donut. For people visiting Portland, Voodoo Donut is the place that everyone always swarms to...and I'll share my thoughts on it in a minute. But first, I want to share two other Portland places that are definitely worth trying out if you're in the mood for donuts!

Valhrona chocolate deliciousness.


If you ask a local where to go for the best donuts in Portland, chances are they are going to recommend Blue Star Donuts. This place is so good. It's such a perfect example (in my opinion) of what makes the Portland food scene so great, and that's a focus on using high-quality ingredients, as it really does make a difference. Located downtown, this place is way too convenient to our apartment.

Blue Start bills themselves as "Donuts for Grownups," which I think is clever and true!
They have some very unique flavor combinations, and they change with the seasons.
 People rave about the Blueberry, Bourbon, & Basil donut...I still need to try it!
I love the overall aesthetic at Blue Star, as it's very modern yet warm.
Although I wanted one of each, I chose a Valhrona Chocolate Crunch...AMAZING. Seriously.

I took my parents here while they were visiting earlier this fall, and they loved it too. Their donuts aren't overly sweet, and they dough they use is amazing. Highly recommend this place!

Blue Star Donuts on Urbanspoon

If you're looking to try a little bit different style donut, you need to check out Pip's Original. 


This place has a very cozy feel, and it's right in the middle of a cute neighborhood in Northeast Portland. It's definitely a lot more low-key than Blue Star or Voodoo, but seems to be very popular!

Pip's Original has mini donuts that come in three flavors: Cinnamon Sugar, Honey & Sea Salt, and Nutella & Sea Salt. Obviously, we had to try all of them (after all, they are mini!) and they were all fantastic. They serve them to you warm, and they're just the most adorable thing if you ask me!

I can't even choose a favorite between the three flavors, they were all so good!

Pip's Original on Urbanspoon

Finally, when my friend Meaghan was visiting last weekend, we made a trip to Voodoo Donuts. 
Many people in that live in Portland are of the opinion that this place is really overrated, or so I've heard, and it seems like it's mainly tourists that you see walking around with those iconic pink donut boxes. I tried Voodoo Donuts a few years ago when Cameron and I were visiting Portland, but hadn't been back since moving here this summer. I figured that Meaghan's visit was the perfect excuse to give it another try! It's definitely not in the nicest area of downtown though, just FYI.


One other thing to be aware of with Voodoo is that is that it's cash only!
The branding of Voodoo Donut is somewhat dirty and I think that shock value attracts some people.
Those are the famous pink donut boxes I'm talking about...
The have a variety of different types of cake and raised donuts, along with vegan donuts as well.
People go nuts that they put cereal on donuts as a topping, which really is not that big of a deal.
But hey, to each their own I guess!

So how were our donuts?
Really good actually! 

For as much as people want to hate on Voodoo, I have to admit, the donuts are pretty good. They are more overly sweet, with lots of frosting and toppings, and that's not everyone's cup of tea...but luckily that's what I love! Also, because they are so busy all them time, the donuts seem pretty fresh!

I got the Maple Bacon bar, which seems to be one of their more well-known donuts.
I just love bacon and this donut did not disappoint.
 Meaghan got the Portland Cream donut and said it was good as well!
So my feeling on Voodoo is this:
It's not as bad as everyone makes it out to be and the donuts are actually pretty good!
Is it worth waiting in line for hours though?
Definitely not.
But if you're visiting and there is no line? Sure! 
(I personally prefer Blue Star though, mainly because I don't need a donut with some crude name...ha!)
We went to Voodoo on a Friday morning and it wasn't busy at all...but they are open 24 hours a day, so late night they get pretty packed! I took this bottom picture in the summer, seems so long ago now!

Voodoo Doughnut on Urbanspoon

If you're visiting and you really want to try Voodoo, go for it. (And get the Maple Bacon Bar!)
But if you don't make it there, you're really not missing out since there is so much other great food here in Portland! Nom nom nom...now go eat a donut!


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