Money Saving Tip for Your Next Hotel Stay!

img_0926I love to travel but I refuse to spend the majority of my travel budget on a hotel room.  Obviously, staying somewhere safe and clean is important, but it’s hard to fork out lots of dough for a place that you won’t be awake in for very long.  Plus, we all know saving money for lots of good food and drinks is very important!

 

Here are my money saving hotel tips:

  1. Start checking prices with your favorite travel search engine (ie: Expedia, hotels.com, kayak, etc)  if you don’t have an allegiance to a certain hotel company.  But, don’t book through that site.
  2. Once you find where you want to stay, go directly to its website for the best pricing.
  3. Don’t assume that the top prices are the best rates.  In fact, they are often tucked away at the bottom.

 

Exhibit A (from Hilton.com):

 

Once you click “more from $119”, then you see Exhibit B:

You’d think that since your travel dates are more than two nights, this $119 rate would be at the top of your results.  But, it’s not.  Moral of the story: do not assume that the first prices you see are the best.  Spend a few minutes scrolling down to check for better pricing!

Happy travels and happy wallets!

learn, brooke

January is the Worst.

We are only on day 4 of January but it feels like its been weeks!

So far, it’s full of rain, grey and general dreariness.  The sun disappears for days on end and no matter how much Vitamin D I ingest, I still feel bleh.  

The cheery Christmas spirit is gone and the dread of taking down its decorations is in full effect.  Why did I think it was a good idea to put up 3 trees?

We were so busy in December with non stop get together and parties.  But now, our social calendars are empty which is a brutal realization after such a fun December.  

Also, everywhere you look are messages telling you that you need to lose weight, work out more, buy a Peloton, or get new workout clothes.  And yes, maybe my yoga pants are a bit more stretched after the holidays, but the constant reminders that I need to do xyz to be a better version of me is downright annoying.

I know that January will suck and does suck each year, so this year I came up with a plan:

  1. Get outside and walk every day, even if it’s raining.  The fresh air is good for me, as is the cardio. But honestly, the change of scenery is really the best for me.
  2. Don’t make any crazy decisions/plans/changes.  Just take things slowly and know that big changes are best made over a long, slow time period versus quick and fast.
  3. Get out and about… so far we have been wearing out our Fernbank membership.
  4. I planned a fun trip for the end of January with some friends.  This is giving me something to look forward to!

What are you doing to survive this month?

keepin’ it real, brooke

ATL Staycation: Day 1

I love visiting the Eastside Beltline Trail- more commonly known as “The Beltline”.  This paved pathway connects several intown neighborhoods (including their restaurants and hot spots) and is sprinkled with artwork.  Come for an hour or an afternoon- either way, you won’t be disappointed!  It is full of energy (and people) and is always evolving. 

Stop One: Fritti

img_0642I love this place.  The pizza is SO good and they have my favorite arugula salad (that is also served at it’s sister restaurant, Sotto Sotto).  If the weather is nice, they have the huge garage doors opened and who doesn’t love dining al fresco?

Pro Tip: The pizzas are sharing size (6 slices) and the salads are too!

 

Stop Two: Old Fourth Ward Park

img_0620

After an especially yummy lunch, we jumped on the Beltline to head to the park.  On our (short) walk, we encountered lots of creative grafitti art, a metal sculpture and two men playing live music.  JB enjoyed a quick dance to their music.

 

The park is pretty expansive with a skate park (so cool to watch!), huge grass sports field, one small fenced playground, an awesome splash pad (in the summer), and a really cool, larger playground.  We loved watching the skaters/cyclist in the skate park and then swinging together in the little playground.

Stop Three: New Realm Brewery

img_0202To be honest, I am not a huge fan of their beer BUT their roof top views are FANTASTIC (and free).  Being just east of the city, gives you a really good 180 degree view of the city with the high rises of ATL all fanned out in front of you.  There used to be some pretty ugly powerlines that obstructed the view, but now those are gone and it’s perfection. On Saturday afternoons, there is live music on the patio next to the Beltline.  We enjoyed the music, went upstairs for the view (and a potty break), and watched some football.

Pro Tip: The rooftop has heaters, so even in the winter, you can enjoy the view!

Stop Four: A Sweet Treat for JB

img_0644

 

After New Realm, we mosied back towards Fritti in hopes of grabbing a King of Pop at their walk up window. Sadly, they are closed for the winter due to construction. We wondered around some in Inman Quarter and discovered Vogo Gelato.  JB inhaled the mint chocolate chip gelato.

Pro Tip:  Not sure what you like?  They give out free samples!

Stop Five: The Albert

This place is a straight up pub with plenty of tvs for sports watching.  We watched some more football and I ordered a snack. Their curried onion rings and kale salad are 👌🏼👌🏼.

Pro Tip: The bathroom is a one person set up, so be prepared for a line!

——————-

If you haven’t been to the Beltline but want to go and don’t know where to park, where to go, etc… just let me know.  I’d love to point you in the right direction!

Pro Tip:  Atlanta civil rights history is prominently on display right now throughout the Beltline.  

Cheers from ATL!

brooke

My Fav Waterfront Photos of 2018

I was lucky enough to grow up seeing the Savannah River each day from my family’s home.  As a result, I always feel called towards the water and love photographing it.  These are my top five favorite waterfront photos from 2018!

5.  Wisconsin River in Mazomanie, Wisconsin (July 2018)

IMG_1003

4.  Savannah River in Augusta, Georgia (June 2018)

IMG_0054

3.  Medway River in Midway, GA (October 2018)

IMG_2312

2.  Lake Oconee in Greensboro, Georgia (December 2018)

IMG_0243

1. Skagit Bay in Camano Island, Washington (April 2018)

IMG_1465

Best of the Best Christmas Cookies- 2018 Edition!

Last Saturday, we hosted our 12th annual beer and cookie swap. Everyone brought their A game when it came to the cookies. To say that my dining room table was full of yumminess is an understatement.

This year’s Most Creative Cookie went to:

Santa’s Naughty Cookies

https://www.delish.com/holiday-recipes/christmas/videos/a50593/santas-trash-cookies/

It was the perfect combo of salty and sweet (my fav!) and full of unexpected surprises- looking at you pretzels and potato chips!

——————-

This year’s Best Overall Cookie went to:

The Best Brown Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

http://joythebaker.com/2014/05/the-best-brown-butter-chocolate-chip-cookies/

If loving brown butter is bad, then I don’t want to be right! I may have eaten three of these… and of course there weren’t any leftovers!

——————–

A very close to award winning honorable mention goes to:

https://www.culinaryhill.com/no-bake-peanut-butter-balls/

These little guys were pure perfection!

Thanks to everyone who participated and congrats to the winners! Enjoy your year long reign and be prepared with your A game again next year!

brooke

What She Wore: Warm Coat!

Winter has come way too soon in Georgia!  As a born and raised southern gal, I have had to educate myself about how to dress and stay warm.  Sadly, leggings from Target with a Columbia fleece is not enough to stay warm with these low temps.  

img_1380For so many years, I felt like I needed to buy a warm coat but they are expensive.  Plus, it doesn’t get cold in Georgia that much (haha). I kept coming up with reasons to not pull the trigger on a coat investment.  BUT, a trip to Alaska in October 2016 finally made me do it. The daily highs were scheduled to be in the upper 20s with lows in the teens.  I wasn’t going to Alaska to sit in a house or ride in a car.  I was there to be outside and experience all of it’s beauty.  Time for a real winter coat!

(Photo Cred: Jackie Padilla)img_0087

At first, I thought it was just going to be a bit of a waste, just a heavy coat for the Alaska trip.  But afterwards, I am SO glad I bought that coat it actually keeps me warm in Georgia too. I thought that everyone was just cold when the temps dropped, that was just a part of cold weather.  Well, it made being outside miserable because I couldn’t stay out there for long periods of time. Needless to say, my “Alaska coat” was life altering in Georgia too!

My basics of buying a coat for warmth:

  1. This seems obvious but the trick is buying a coat that is actually warm.  News flash- cute coats from Target, Macy’s and Old Navy are not warm. They are cute and maybe warmer than not wearing a coat- but most are made to be cute- not functional (aka keep you warm).  
  2. When trying on coats, take note of the arm lengths.  There isn’t much use in wearing a coat with short arms if you want to be warm.  Buy something with sleeves that are long enough for your body and preferably have a fitted wrist cover.  This will prevent cold wind/air from going up your sleeves. For me, Michael Kors, Tommy Hilfiger, and pea coats from Old Navy are short on the sleeves.  
  3. Consider buying a coat that is longer than your waist- mid thigh is better but knee length is best.  Yes, a coat keeps your upper body warm but also covering your backside and legs helps a lot with warmth too.  This usually costs a bit more but is so worth it.
  4. Purchase your coat from an outdoor company.  I like REI because they sell multiple brands of outdoor clothing- Including their own line (which can save a few bucks).
  5. Buy something with a hood.  This is so helpful to pull over a hat to help keep you even warmer.  It is also great for staying dry in case you get caught in unexpected rain or snow.
  6. Zippers are key- they bundle you up tight.  I like the ones with two zippers- especially when sitting down in fitted, knee length jackets.  Buttons over zippers are nice too for even more security (and a great back up in case of a zipper 911).
  7. img_0086Keep in mind of your use for the coat- generally, you will be wearing it outdoors.  If you are in lots of snow- you should consider something water proof or resistant. If you are going to travel with it, consider something that packs well.  
  8. Sizing is really important and different brands fit differently, so when trying on, don’t just wear a t-shirt, have on a couple of layers to be sure the fit is good all the time.
  9. Lots of expensive brands have low end jackets that are popular and “cool” but aren’t that warm (looking at you Patagonia and Marmot).  REI has tells you what the coat is best for in its description.

Remember that a good jacket is a fantastic, long term investment.  I bought so many lower end, “fashion” jackets that I probably spent WAY MORE than what I should have spent buying a decent jacket.  If you find a good jacket, you will wear it every year and be so glad that you bought it when you did!

Stay warm!

Brooke

More info: https://www.rei.com/learn/expert-advice/insulated-outerwear.html

Christmas in the City: NYC

I just got back from a wonderful, whirl wind of a trip to visit the very festive, NYC!  This was a bucket list trip for me and it did not disappoint!

Some of our trip was expected but many stops were a surprise and blew all of my expectations out of the water (looking at you window displays and Theatre of Dreams!).  Keep reading to find out my top five festive spots!

5. St. Cloud Roof Top Barimg_3298

Located on the 17th floor of the Knickerbocker, this roof top location is an astounding bird’s eye view of Times Square!  The roof is draped in lights and trees but thats all a shadow of the bright lights of Times Square. As an added perk, the New Year’s ball is up on display which is a fun sight to see.  Definitely a great spot to grab a drink!

https://theknickerbocker.com/dine/st-cloud/

 

img_3312

 

4. Christmas Tree at Rockefeller Center

I am guessing this is probably the biggest tourist destination during December in NYC.  Well, it did not disappoint! That thing is HUGE. Plus, it stays lit all day, so no matter when you go, you can see it in its glory.  Be sure to walk around the entire block though because there are other beautiful sights to see!

 

 

3. Bergdorf Goodman’s Window Displays

For those of you that don’t know, window displays in NYC are a big deal.  They originally were used to showcase new clothing to potential shoppers but now have been transformed into pieces of art and a major source of free, holiday entertainment.  Each store has a different theme and experience so if you’ve seen one, you definitely have not seen them all!

Bergdorf’s was my favorite!  The giant window displays were packed with decor.  These were some of my favorites:

 

Here is a great guide to all of the NYC window displays this year: https://www.tripsavvy.com/holiday-windows-at-nyc-department-stores-1612956

img_3358

 

2. Bryant Park Christmas Market

I was blown away by the offerings in this festive location.  Ice skate, grab a beer, shop, or enjoy lots of sweets in this Christmas market.  I can personally recommend the chocolate croissants and old fashioned donuts but the champagne, duck fat fries, s’mores waffles, and cookie dough all looked fantastic!

http://bryantpark.org/eat-drink/holiday-shops

 

1. Saks Fifth Avenue:  “Theatre of Dreams”IMG_3398

I did not know that this existed so I had zero expectations but it was SO fantastic!  The front (several stories) of the store are decorated with lights that are in sync with Christmas music.  It gave me goosebumps to see something so festive, in a major city, and to realize that it has been going on for almost 100 years!

https://www.saksfifthavenue.com/editorial/events/holiday_live.jsp

(the show starts at 7 minutes 🙂

What are you favorite Christmas spots in NYC?

love, brooke