Friday, October 24, 2014

A Wedding Weekend in Charleston

I'm heading down to Charleston this weekend for a dear friend's wedding. I can't wait to spend time with old friends, eat at some of my favorite restaurants, and see what's new in the city. By the way, did you see that Charleston was once again voted the best city in the U.S. by Conde Nast Traveler readers? I've gotta vote for Richmond now, but this video makes a pretty compelling argument.

A Love Letter to Charleston from Charleston Area CVB on Vimeo.

P.S. My Visitor's Guide to Charleston.
P.P.S. I'm doing some writing for Wedding Paper Divas, and got two articles published this week: How to Brand Your Wedding on Amorology and The Weatherproof Bride on Smitten.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Travel Journal: Spain's Costa Brava

It's been awhile, but I realized that I never shared any photos from the last leg of our Eurotrip: Spain's Costa Brava. This little stretch of scenic coastline wasn't even on my radar before I started planning the trip, but I'm so glad I found out about it. It's dotted with medieval villages, stunning little beaches, and hilltop castles. (All photos were taken on my iPhone.)

We began our road trip in Barcelona, where we rented a convertible Mini Cooper — because if you're going to be driving through a region as jaw-droppingly beautiful as this, you better do it right. We checked into an old-school family-run hotel hugging the cliffs in Aiguablava.

See those dogs? They were wandering around the village near our hotel when we arrived. As Todd and I started exploring the nearby coastal trails, they joined us, walking just ahead of us as if they were enthusiastic tour guides. They would run ahead a few yards, then stop and look back to make sure we were following. When we got back to the hotel around sunset, they both disappeared into the twilight. It was pretty surreal.

We spent the next few days lounging by the pool and beach, taking walks along the shore, and exploring nearby villages like Begur and Pals. We had one of the trip's most memorable meals in the courtyard of the Hotel Aiguaclara's restaurant, where we shared a bottle of cava and enjoyed a view of the village's castle. The next day, we returned to the town square around 5 p.m. and watched it come alive as the locals wrapped up their work day.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Friday Favorites: Southern Food and 'Merican Dreams

Happy Friday, friends! Got any plans for this perfect fall weekend? I'm challenging myself to knock out a big ol' list of projects around the house, including painting the mudroom, making a Roman shade for the kitchen, planting some herbs in the backyard, and, if I'm ambitious, painting some yellow stripes in the laundry room. We'll see how that pans out. Here are some things on my radar from the past week:
  • Esquire said that Virginia is the food region of 2014. After living and eating in Richmond for just a few weeks, I have to agree.
  • On a related note, I love this Saveur article about the amazing eats you can find on Skyline Drive.
  • My neighborhood grocery store has a pretty decent wine section and a really helpful wine expert on staff. This is both awesome and dangerous — I usually walk out with a couple of new bottles. Bookmarking this article for next time.
  • I need this welcome mat. I think I'll try to DIY it.
  • Has anyone tried Spanish fried eggs? They sound amazing. Related: My egg obsession continues in full force.
  • Sean Brock's pimiento cheese recipe. Can't wait to try this.
  • Our new chalkboard wall has inspired me to brush up on my lettering skills
  • Ordered this dress for a friend's wedding. I hope it fits!
  • The new issue of Charleston Style & Design is out now. Be sure to check out the bridal section, 100 percent written and edited by yours truly.
  • This song's on repeat.
Have a lovely weekend, y'all!

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Settling in to Richmond.

We moved to Richmond less than a month ago, but already it feels so much like home. It's almost like we had a year's worth of DIY energy built up, and we went a little crazy working on the house the first few weeks. With help from visiting family, we painted walls and doors, built shelves and furniture, and installed new lighting. We have lots of big plans for this house, but for now we're forcing ourselves to just sit back for a bit and enjoy it.

I want to marry this couch.
We changed the door from red to yellow.

The chalkboard wall, which all guests are required to sign.
The beginnings of our sunny reading room.
Todd built this table himself!

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Moving Tips from a Reluctant Pro

Todd and I have moved more times than just about anyone I know—from Virginia to South Carolina to Massachusetts and back to Virginia. Since moving into our first place together, a little condo in Mt. Pleasant, S.C., we have moved no less than eight times.

Do we like moving? Not particularly, but I don't think we view it with the same dread as most people. It's a simple matter of putting things in boxes, putting the boxes in a truck, taking the boxes out of a truck, and taking things out of the boxes—it's not rocket science.

That's why we've never hired a moving service. Don't get me wrong—I think about it every single time. But then I think about how I could spend those thousands of dollars on new furniture for my house, or a trip. So we buck up and do it ourselves.

That said, it's not fun. I get stressed out just like everybody else. But over the years I've figured out a few ways to ease the process.

Start early. It's so much easier to start packing a month or two before your move than waiting until the week of. You don't want to go overboard, but start in the rooms you rarely use (basement, guest room), and pack a little bit each day. As you finish, stack the boxes in an out-of-the-way place so you don't trip over them. When moving week arrives, a lot of your stuff will already be packed.

Purge, purge, purge. This is the perfect opportunity to get rid of crap you don't need anymore. Be brutal, and you'll discover that cleaning out your wardrobe/drawers/closets is actually crazy addictive. Again, don't go overboard.

Leave your clothes in the dresser. I used to pack up all of my clothes in boxes. Then I realized that they're already in perfectly sized boxes—they're called dresser drawers. Just move the fully intact drawers into the dresser in the truck.

Start challenging yourself to skip the grocery store a few weeks before your move. No one likes to throw away good food. Instead, try to make as many meals using the food in your cabinets/freezer/refrigerator as you can. And when you run out of options, it's OK to order takeout. Doing dishes only adds to the stress-fest.

Make a cleaning checklist. I usually err on the side of too-clean when we move because I don't want to give the landlords any reason to keep my security deposit. To avoid a last-minute marathon cleaning sesh, I start cleaning long before move-out day, spacing out jobs like wiping down cabinet fronts and cleaning out the refrigerator over the course of a few weeks. By the time we head out, the house is mostly clean, save for a quick sweep.

Get to know your moving truck. If you've never driven a moving truck before, take some time to get to know it. Packing that sucker requires some finesse—if it's imbalanced, you could have a very tough drive. And be hyper-aware of height limitations on bridges and overpasses. We very nearly had a run-in with a historic bridge in Connecticut.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Choosing a City: Why Richmond Won Out

A lot of people were shocked to hear that Todd and I are moving to Richmond. For us, it makes perfect sense. We have a list of criteria that we want in a hometown, and when we started thinking about moving, we carefully evaluated various cities (like Nashville, D.C., and Charlottesville) with those things in mind. Richmond won out for these reasons:

Richmond Mural Project
Culture. We love a city that loves its creatives, and Richmond clearly does. From colorful public art projects and galleries to cool music venues, indie theaters, festivals, and a thriving startup scene, Richmond is an undeniably creative city.

Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden
Green Space. We both love city life, but we also need our green — trees, gardens, parks, and urban escapes. Besides giving us a big backyard just steps away from a park, our new city is built right along the James River, with plenty of trails to explore.

The Roosevelt
Food. Richmond's food scene has really taken off in the last few years. I can't wait to explore its restaurants—and write about them, too.

Cost of Living. Home prices in Richmond are significantly lower than anywhere else we looked. We wanted to buy, and we wanted to get the most bang for our buck. Huge selling point.

Weather. After spending a winter in Boston, I learned that I can tolerate extreme cold and ridiculous amounts of snow. But would I choose it for my forever home? Heck no. I love that Virginia has four distinct seasons, with beautiful falls, long summers, and bearable winters.

Location. Richmond is close to both of our families as well as a quick drive to the mountains, the coast, and Washington, D.C.

Character. This factor is probably the hardest to define, but most important. It's some combination of history, architecture, people... and some other things, too. You won't know it until you visit the city in person. Nashville has its own character, but it didn't speak to us. Richmond did, loud and clear.

Choosing a hometown is a hugely personal decision. But when you break it down, it's actually pretty simple. What are your most important criteria when choosing a city?

Monday, September 8, 2014

Visitor's Guide to Boston in 48 Hours

When I moved away from Charleston after six years, I left behind this guide to the city. Now that I'm leaving Boston, I thought I should do the same. I was here just over a year, but I got pretty good at showing visitors around (especially after working as the editor of a visitor's guide). So here it is: Whiskey Kittens' Official Guide to Boston.

Liberty Hotel

There are so many nice hotels in this city, but I always recommend choosing one with a bit of character and history attached to it. The Liberty Hotel, located at the foot of Beacon Hill, once served as the Charles Street Jail. Today it's a super stylish, luxurious place to rest your head — or grab a drink. If you're more cop than robber, the Loews Boston Hotel is in the city's old police headquarters. The newly renovated limestone building is located right in the bustling Back Bay. For something a little more luxurious, try the Fairmont Copley Plaza overlooking Copley Square, which has been in business since 1912. The hotel has a "canine ambassador," a fancy bar, and it's also where they filmed some scenes from American Hustle. None of these hotels are cheap, so if you're on a budget, just try Priceline or the Hotel Tonight app to find a deal. 

After a year in the city, I didn't even begin to scratch the surface of the restaurants here. With new restaurants opening up constantly, it's nearly impossible to stay on top of it. But I did discover a few favorites. My number one Boston restaurant is Toro, a dark, always-crowded tapas spot in the South End. Try to snag a spot on the sidewalk patio, order a bottle of Spanish wine, and order more tapas than you think you can eat. You won't regret it. Keep the multicultural theme going by heading to Chinatown for some noodles (Gourmet Dumpling House or Peach Farm), and for authentic Italian, follow your nose to the North End, the oldest neighborhood in Boston. 

Neptune Oyster
Of course, you can't visit Boston without getting some seafood. I recommend hitting up an oyster bar like Neptune, B&G Oysters, or Row 34 for some New England oysters and a lobster roll. For dessert, my favorite bakery is by far Flour, and luckily there are locations all over the city.

A word of warning: Cocktails are not cheap in Boston. Just how expensive are they? I accidentally paid $22 for a gin gimlet once, but they average around $15. But if you're a sucker for fancy cocktails, like me, you'll want to splurge a bit. Wink & Nod is a cozy speakeasy-style bar in the South End, and Drink is highly acclaimed for its custom creations. Over in Cambridge, both the food and drink menu at Commonwealth is playful and innovative, and Charlie's Kitchen has some of the cheapest drinks and food I've found in the area — plus they have a beer garden.


Acorn Street, Beacon Hill
Boston is a small city, and very walkable — you can easily see the highlights on foot in just a day or two. The city's must-see sights are anchored around the Back Bay, from the shops of Newbury Street to the meticulously landscaped Public Garden. Visitors love to take a ride on the amphibious Duck Tours that take you past all of the key attractions and into Boston Harbor. If you love art, a trip to the Museum of Fine Arts, the Institute of Contemporary Art, and/or the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum are in order. If you'd rather just mosey, check out Faneuil Hall, the North End, and Beacon Hill (Acorn Street, pictured above, is quite possibly the most photographed street in America). 

Depending on the season, there's likely some sort of sporting event going on, whether a Red Sox game at Fenway Park or a Celtics or Bruins game at TD Garden.

Boston Public Library
A few other places to see if you have time: the Boston Public Library, Trinity Church, the Esplanade, Top of the Hub, and the SoWa Market on Sundays.

Enjoy your visit to Boston!