Travel Diary: 2 Days in Portland

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As I mentioned in my San Francisco Travel Diary, we spent one day in San Francisco and two days in Portland when we were on the West Coast back in October. Both cities were a lot of fun and each had its own vibe. But Portland? It’s definitely unique. The slogan “Keep Portland Weird”, which can be seen plastered on the side of buildings and bumper stickers, seems very appropriate. I can kind of see where some of the inspiration behind Portlandia came from. When I say that, I mean it in the best way possible. Portland is home to many local bars, restaurants, and shops, each one with its own personality. There were not many chains, which made sampling the local fair even more fun and interesting. Here’s where we stayed, ate, drank, visited, and shopped.

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The Perfect Holiday Top + Thanksgiving Traditions

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Madewell Top / H&M Jeans / J.Crew Factory Necklace / J.Crew Factory Shoes

I’m officially home for Thanksgiving! Yay! I drove in Thursday and have been working from home this whole week. When I can’t take paid time off around the holidays working from home is the next best thing. It means I get a bonus weekend in Cleveland! Over the weekend, I made sure to squeeze in as much fun as possible. I went shopping with my mom and sister, had dinner with our friends and their two kids (where we played a rowdy game of pie face), and spent a lot of time snuggling my niece.

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2019 Gift Guide: A Few of My Favorite Things

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I feel like a broken record, but I can’t believe it’s already time to start Christmas shopping again. Where did this year go? I feel like we just watched the ball drop and now 2019 is almost over. Time is flying! The holidays are right around the corner, and with that, comes the joy (and stress) of trying to find the perfect gift for everyone on your list.

As I get older, it seems like it gets harder and harder to come up with gifts ideas. Most adults I know, including myself, buy the things they need, and within reason, the luxuries they allow themselves. Every year I get more and more excited to receive practical gifts. I guess that’s part of adulting.

In an effort to add a little fun to your holiday shopping and maybe spark an idea or two for someone on your list, I put together a gift guide of some of my favorite things as well as some things I’d love to find under my tree on Christmas morning. I’ve included something for everyone – from the world traveler to the fashionista – and at various price points.

Happy shopping!

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Travel Diary: 1 Day in San Francisco

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A few weeks ago we had the opportunity to visit the west coast for a family wedding. You may remember reading about the gorgeous fall dress I wore to the event. To make the most of this trip, we decided to add on 1 day to visit San Francisco and 2 days to visit Portland. That’s not a lot of time in either city, but we’re always up for an adventure. Today I’m sharing all of the highlights from 24 hours in San Francisco. Portland travel diary to come!

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The Simple Pasta Carbonara Recipe That’s Great for Dinner Parties

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The kitchn Pasta Carbonara Recipe

Saturday night we had our friends and their two adorable children (brothers almost 2 and 4) over for dinner. We served pasta carbonara, two gorgeous salads, and garlic bread. A simple yet satisfying meal. It was the first time I made pasta carbonara and I was surprised at how easy it was. Although the online recipes kept warning me not to let the signature egg and cheese sauce turn into scrambled eggs when it hit the hot pasta. That part was easy. The hard part was deciding to have everyone over for dinner in the first place.

We had just been out of town for a few weeks and felt like we were still recovering from giant piles of laundry and a cluttered house. As a consummate homebody, I look forward to the weekends we get to spend at home. But one of the things that makes our house feel like a home is having friends over for dinner. And before our trip, that had not happened for a long time.

I couldn’t help but wonder what had been holding me back all this time. The only thing I could think of were a handful of excuses like: we’re too busy, the house is a mess, I don’t know what to make, what if it’s not good enough? Cooking for others is something I really enjoy. Thought I’m still a novice, it’s a skill I want to improve.

In the end, I decided that there will always be a list of excuses. It doesn’t have to be perfect to be memorable and meaningful. And, if your friends are truly great people (like ours), they will help make sure everything else goes smoothly. Even if that means bringing over a space heater when your heat suddenly stops working the night of your dinner party. The only things that truly matters are the memories you create around the table and the time you spend together because these moments seem more infrequent as you get older.

So, after a good pep talk with myself, I decided to make pasta carbonara. It’s something we had and loved while in Rome and I was intent on recreating it. I followed this recipe from the kitchn. I love the recipe because it includes a lot of tips from famous chefs. And it’s incredibly simple, focusing on a few high-quality ingredients as the stars. It proves that a dish doesn’t have to be complex to be impressive.

I thought the recipe turned out great, but there were a few things I could have done to improve it:

  • Add more pasta water

After stirring in the egg and cheese mixture, the recipe recommends adding some reserved pasta water. I should have added more because the cheese started to get a little sticky and the pasta ended up resembling a mac and cheese more than a pasta dish.

  • Serve right away

Between all of the stirring that must happen after the pot of pasta comes off the burner and getting everyone set up at the dinner table, it’s easy for the past to lose some of its heat. It tastes best when served hot, so I would recommend calling everyone to the table before taking the pasta off the burner.

  • Get the bacon a little crispier

The bacon was good but I should have gotten it a little crispier, using a pan that gets hot quickly like a non-stick or my All-Clad. A crispier piece of bacon will stand out in the pasta better, both in taste and appearance.

A Gorgeous Dress for Fall Weddings

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Modcloth Dress / Betsy Johnson Flats / J.Crew Factory Necklace / Target Clutch (Similar)

A few weeks ago we attended a wedding in Sonoma. It was one of the dreamiest weddings I’ve ever been to. The venue was the rental property of a farm-to-table restaurant situated right near the Russian River and close to many famous wineries. Both the ceremony and reception took place outside and the setting could not have been more beautiful. We were surrounded by redwood trees and everything had that simple yet sophisticated California-cool vibe. I was obsessed with the rustic tables and place settings, which featured gold flatware and eucalyptus leaves.

When searching for a dress to wear to the occasion, I followed the direction provided on the invitation. It said: boho chic. To me that meant nothing too formal or fussy, but something that had the right amount of special touches. Enter this Modcloth silk wrap dress. It fit the setting perfectly and I loved how the deep blue was a perfect complement to the natural reds and oranges of fall. I felt stunning and the skirt of the dress was great for twirling on the dance floor. I can’t wait for the next opportunity to wear it!

Because the wedding was outside and at a farm, I opted for flats. These Betsy Johnson flats are that rare combination of comfortable and stylish. The unique cutout design is in the shape of roses and the rhinestone embellishments give them a little sparkle! Normally I’m not much of a flats person for special occasions, but the shape of these shoes is really nice and flattering on my long feet. I felt like Cinderella when I put them on. They fit perfectly! We danced the night away under glowy string lights and a full moon.

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A Classy Fall Work Look

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J.Crew Factory Foulard Drapey Tie-Neck Top, Loft Ponte Flippy Skirt, Everlane Modern Loafers in Burgundy, Forever 21 Pearl Barrette

My favorite season is nearly here. If I’m being honest, I probably look forward to summer more than fall. The warm sun is such a nice reprieve from the inevitably long and cold winters we experience in Pittsburgh. But every year without fail, I go crazy for everything fall. The chill in the air cured with a mug of hot cocoa. The plaid blanket scarves. The frightful decorations and smiling pumpkins. I can’t help but look forward to cozy nights spent cuddled under a blanket, with a good book or a spooky movie, and a savory dish baking in the oven.

My style sense is no different this time of year. I reach for what feels comfortable. I was drawn to the silhouette of this skirt because of its flattering, timeless fit and flare. The blouse is one that I know will be in my wardrobe for years to come. The classic pattern will stand the test of time and can be worn just as easily with a pair of jeans. They both pair perfectly with my trusty Everlane Modern Loafers – still one of my best purchases of all time. I make the look feel current with an of-the-moment pearl barrette.

I’m making a real effort this fall to only add pieces to my wardrobe that fit me and my style. When I say that, I mean what actually looks good on my body, but also my personality and daily routine. I’m looking for trusty and reliable, but also elevated pieces. Pinpointing my style has been the hardest part, but it’s becoming clearer, the more I practice. As I get older, I notice that I‘m gravitating more toward to classic, timeless patterns and colors in sophisticated cuts. I’m starting to turn down the trendy pieces made of cheap fabrics more and more in favor of quality staples that will last.

What do you prefer? Trendy pieces or classics? What are you most excited to add to your fall wardrobe this year?

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