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The Passionista

The Passionista The Traveler

#QTNA: How Can She Afford to Travel? . . . Asked and Answered!

February 21, 2018

If I told you how often I get this question, you would NOT believe me (includes those that opt to ask my family and/or friends instead)!  Clearly a Question That Needs Answers (QTNA) in a lot of people’s mind.  Let’s flip it to the question you really want answered, How Can I Travel More?  

If  you don’t follow me on social media, allow me to explain what’s normal for me:
  • 2017 Travels: Barbados, Phoenix, South Africa/Zimbabwe/Dubai, North GA Mountains, Oklahoma, Cuba, Girl’s Weekend Staycation, Italy, Spain, Vegas, Chattanooga, Chicago and Miami (OK, this year was a bit of an anomaly; 4 work trips and 3 life events (weddings and a funeral) added to trips planned in ’16)
  • 2016 Travels: Valentine’s Day Staycation,  Austin, Miami/Peru, DC, Miami/Bahamas, Hilton Head, Boston/Maine, Mexico, NYC, Istanbul/Prague, Ecuador/Galapagos Islands/Miami, DC, Cincinnati, Miami (6 works trips – 1 international!!! and 2 graduations added to deals I could not pass up!)
  • 2015 Travels: Houston, North GA Mountains, DC/Frankfurt/Kenya/Zanzibar/ Brussels, San Destin, Chicago, Miami/Key West, NC, Abu Dhabi/Joburg/Durban/Cape Town, Vegas, Miami/Key West
I’m sharing these details so you understand that this is my way of life, it is my passion (I am not new to this, I am true to this.  I’ve been to 30+ countries and 5 continents, most of which were over the last 3 years).  Travel is something I refuse to live without.  So, #QTNA: How do I make this happen?  I start each year with a goal to travel as much as possible (I have friends that travel WAY more than I do so it’s all a matter of perspective).  Okay, so what does that really mean? I am a process oriented person so I created a planning process that works perfectly for me:

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The Fashionista The Passionista

Fashion Fridays: 6 Tips for Newbie Consignees

February 10, 2018

Let’s talk consignment!  Do you shop consignment?  If not, you should absolutely try it!  In an effort to save money and infuse some new brands/looks into my life, I’ve started shopping consignment .  Disclaimer, a dear friend warned me that it can become addictive!!  I have not crossed that line yet but I can see how easy that can occur.  Now that I’ve been in the consignment shopping game for about a year, I’ll share what I have learned so far.

  1. It’s not always old/used: I’ve lucked up on a consignment shop with a niche for selling items that are less than 2 years old (they have also successfully extended their GA locations with sales via their website, Instagram and Facebook Live which is how I prefer to shop).  High-end designers are the only exclusions that I’ve noticed (e.g. Chanel, Burberry, Louis Vuitton, Gucci, etc.).  Back by Popular Demand consignment shop has great relationships with retail store managers and fashionistas who likely have NO SPEND LIMITATIONS so you can often find a lot of new with tag items.
  2. Discounted designer digs: There are several designers that inspire me but I doubt that I would ever pull the trigger on paying full retail (I enjoy a bargain far too much).  I’ve been able to add Vera Wang, Shoshanna, Diane Von Furstenberg, Catherine Malandrino, Tory Burch, etc. to my wardrobe at an average price of $55!!  There are a few consignors that I follow that consistently deliver high-end designer finds so check out Labels Resale Boutique and Alexis Suitcase (they also have websites and post their hottest items on Instagram)
  3. Know your consignor: Not all shops are created equal so you have to do your research and choose wisely!  This is especially important if you opt to shop online.  You will want to ensure that they post high quality pictures and fully disclose the condition of their items.  If you are unsure, inspect the item thoroughly in-person but know that the hottest items won’t last.  I typically rely on recommendations from other fashionistas in my network when adding new shops to my rotation.
  4. Be known by your consignor: If they know you, your style aesthetic and your wish list they will call you when new items arrive!  Some of the very best items are often sold before they hit the floor (this is especially true at the higher end consignment shops).  The more frequently you shop/stop in the greater chance you have of scoring incredible buys.
  5. Experiment: There are likely things you would love to buy but can’t justify because you are uncertain if the trend will stick or you won’t wear it often.  My first ever consignment purchase was a pair of red Hunter Boots via an Instagram post.  I had them on my wish list for a while but I just could not bring myself to pay full price especially since I knew I would likely only wear them when it rained.  After stalking them off and on for a few years, I stumbled on a gently used pair for $60 and pulled the trigger (this is SO UNLIKE me but I’m so glad that I stepped outside my comfort zone).  For me, consignment has been an excellent fashion sandbox to play in and a great way to take a chance on a new look!
  6. Replace something loved but worn/lost:  I had a bracelet that I absolutely loved and wore daily.  I ended up gifting it to a friend traveling the world indefinitely (Yes, INDEFINITELY!!  I know some DOPE people!!) because I wanted her to carry me wherever she went.  Once I returned home (we met up in Prague so perhaps I have some dope in me too LOL) I realized how much I missed my bracelet.  Thanks to the internet, I stumbled on Poshmark and I was able to find the same bracelet I had purchased years before and it had never been worn (reunited and it feels so good)!  I LOVE my closet so when something nears end of life I’ve had to get creative to find them all over again!

So now that I’ve shared what I’ve learned.  Let me share some of my recent consignment wins!

The feature image is an Alice and Olivia Mimi Cold Shoulder Dress that I scored new with tags for $60 (MSRP $295) and it was perfect for my trip to Miami!

 

I am in LOVE with the YSL LouLou Shoulder bag but there is no way that I am spending ~$2K on a bag so when the Tory Burch Kira Shoulder Bag popped up for $175 (MSRP $528) I had to snatch it up.  It’s been such a great addition to my girl’s night/date night rotation and I bought this via a Facebook Live video!!!

 

Fringe is HUGE this year so why not start with the Schutz Evelize Fringe Boot – $135 (MSRP $380).  They are SO FUN to wear and Schutz is one of my FAVORITE shoe brands.  I have several in my closet and many others that I have on my wish list.  I lucked up on these boots via Instagram (most of my consignment purchases have been online)!!!

 

 

 

 

 

If I had not already spent my Feb shopping budget (yes, I realize that we are only 9 days into the month but I caught a sale at a consignment outlet last week and got 2 leather jackets for less than $100), these items would be on my shopping list today (OK the first would be on the I wish list LOL)!

Click on the images below to access the Instagram posts shared below!

The Fashionista The Passionista

Fashion Friday: 5 Deals You Will Love + 3 Splurge-Worthy Picks + 2 Incredible Bonus Looks Sprinkled In

February 3, 2018

I genuinely LOVE shopping, not buying, the act of shopping . . . finding the latest trends but also looking for those off-season deals or mega sales that are sometimes irresistible.  It dawned on me today that I should probably share those with you!  So here are my picks for this week . . .

Deal Pick 1: Buy Here 

Bonus Buy!! Buy Here – GUESS by Marciano Women’s Faline Leather Jacket! Because who doesn’t love a good leather Jacket! AND this price is INSANELY LOW!!!

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The Foodie The Passionista

Tom Kha Kung – The Remix

January 29, 2018

I often remake meals that I’ve experienced during my travels.  I had some amazing soup at Weera Thai in Las Vegas and so I have attempted this many times and I’ve finally found the perfect ingredients.

DIRECTIONS:

  1. If you’ve opted to add your favorite vegetables, I listed the ones that I add in, clean (I prefer to use baking soda) and coarsely chop the vegetables and set them to the side (if you have baby bok choy you can keep whole or slice in half)
  2. In a medium-large saucepan, combine coconut milk (I prefer Chaokoh as it tends to be creamier), chicken broth, ginger and lemongrass (I tried the version in the tube the first time and there is no comparison, you must find fresh lemongrass!!) and bring to a boil over Medium-High Heat (be sure to watch the pot to ensure that it does not boil over, this may have happened to me once or twice).
  3. Reduce heat to medium-low/low, add carrots, lime juice, fish sauce, sugar and chili paste and simmer for ~4 mins
  4. Add mushrooms and remaining vegetables (napa cabbage & baby bok choy) and simmer for ~1 min then add Shrimp (peeled and de-veined) and simmer for ~2-3 minutes or until thickest part is opaque
  5.  Add Thai Basil, cilantro and salt to taste (I normally add an extra lime in place of extra salt)
  6. Serve and enjoy (I typically top with a pinch of thai chili flakes)

Let me know how yours turns out as well as any extra ingredients that you opt to include!

The Passionista The Traveler

Just Say YES!

September 29, 2017

My travel experiences are most enhanced when I open up, let down my guard, step out of my comfort zone and just say YES.  This may seem simple but I know there are people that either struggle with this or have never considered it.  For me, this starts by allowing that still small voice to guide my interactions (let’s be honest, some folks are crazy so you have to follow your gut on who to engage vs. not).

I heard that voice in the Atlanta airport where I met Kelsey from South Carolina in the security screening line (we all know how long that process can take, why not pass time by getting to know someone and besides dope people tend to meet other dope people) and learned that we were both headed to Italy (me Milan and her Rome, both through Toronto, what are the odds!).  I next saw her in Toronto, both flights to Italy were delayed, and so I had another opportunity to say yes, let’s eat and have drinks (why fret about things beyond our control, live in the here and now).  Most of the next 4 hours were spent drinking wine and getting to know each other’s stories, passions and on some level fears as well.  Now I have to back up here and share that I promised myself that thus year would be about cultivating true authentic relationships with like minded individuals, so saying yes in that regard aligns with my goal (yay me!!  Eat, Sleep and LIVE the goal!!!).  I learned that I had SO MUCH in common with Kelsey and it all started with a simple yes!

Let’s fast forward another 12ish hours, I make my way to Venice, Italy (yes, I know I said I was flying to Milan but that was just my entry point to the country on a cheap flight – – I must share those tips in another post – – coming soon!!).  Since I’m a foodie, I immediately look for the best nearby restaurant, Nevodi (this place was INCREDIBLE!!! HANDS DOWN!!!!).  After a great meal, I arrived back to the apartment and realized that I forgot the umbrella, my girl Dethra had to teach a class so I decided to head back for it.  Before I originally left the restaurant, I met Karen from Toronto who has traveled to Italy several times a year for the past 10 years (Wow!  Just WOW!).  Karen was still there and she asked me to stay, so as you’ve likely guessed, another opportunity for yes.  I spent the evening getting to know Karen and her boyfriend Silvio who just so happened to be the owner of the restaurant (yep, that happened in REAL LIFE).  They were so much fun, we ate and drank, ate some more and danced, yes, we danced when all other patrons were gone (what did we dance to?  Come on, I know that you are dying to know my most memorable moment . . . Lionel Richie All Night Long, just the facts folks, I couldn’t script this any better!).  So just when you think it couldn’t get any better, upon the clock striking midnight it was Karen’s birthday, she was so dope that she invited us to dinner the next night to celebrate with her (in case you’ve forgotten this all started with a yes, when you lead with yes, you are more open, more welcoming, more inviting.  Good energy draws in good energy.).  The next night, we arrived to Nevodi and the air had shifted, we were all old friends greeting each other with hugs and kisses (double kiss is a must in Italy!!!).  Thanks to Silvio and Chef Andrea, we had a PHENOMENAL meal (I am a bonafide foodie, if I say it’s good you can cash that check any day of the week and twice on Sunday!) and another great experience born by just saying yes!!

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The Traveler

Peru – A Mystic Journey Into the Andes

April 6, 2016
Prior to embarking on this journey, I had limited knowledge of Peru, it’s resilient people, it’s lush and vibrant landscape and its impressive history.    I split my time between 3 provinces (Urubamba, Cusco and Lima) to achieve 3 goals: 1) check an item off my bucket list by hiking Machu Picchu 2) embrace the local culture and 3) indulge in great Peruvian cuisine.  But my experience far exceeded my simplistic expectations.
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The Sacred Valley – Yucay (Elevation 9,373′)
Enchanted, picturesque and as the locals would say “mystic.”  I arrived via Collectivo (6 soles) after sunset in the rain so when I awoke to the mountain views from my hotel room, I was blown away.  During the taxi ride (40 soles) from the Sonesta Posada del Inca hotel in Yucay to Ollantaytambo, I was in awe of the lush and vibrant landscape and local culture from the stalks of the giant Peruvian corn, to the rushing sounds of the Urubamba River, to the colorful flowers growing in the fields, to the Peruvian woman walking along the road carrying their children or goods in a manta (traditional woven cloth), to the Collectivo drivers en los calles shouting their destinations (vamos a ir a Cusco), to the roaring sound of the moto taxis weaving in and out of traffic.  Urubamba had my heart from the start!
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Ollantaytambo (Elevation 9,160′)
The Temple of Ollantaytambo has a large market and guides for hire (the price is negotiable).  Fortunately, I was invited to join a prepaid tour and was enriched greatly by their kindness and their knowledgeable tour guide.  The history that remains here . . . the original Inca walls, views of the historic store houses where crops were stored to feed the town, the huge terraces and the Inca temple stairs.  Don’t underestimate the stairs, I had to stop to rest on a few terraces and I am very fit (I could not, after all, beat the altitude).  There are quite of few areas to explore once you climb up, the size of this place does not really set in until you’ve walked around.
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Moray (Elevation 11,106′)
As I rode along to Moray, our driver emphasized the importance of the Sun God to the Incas, which they continued to secretly worship after the Spanish arrived – this is reflected in the carvings
Up to this point, I had not suffered from altitude sickness.  My fate turned within 10 mins of overlooking the beautiful terraces of Moray, an Inca agricultural site..  I am thankful that I was able to retire to the taxi to recover but I regret that I was not able to navigate around the terraces and learn more about the site.
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Maras (Elevation 11,090′)
I never knew how salt was made and I’ve never even wonder how until now.  The drive in along a steep winding road is beautiful and scary at the same time since the turns are not wide enough to accommodate 2 cars.  There were several turns where I could peek over a very steep cliff and I found myself praying for safety.  The dry season is the best time to visit to see the most salt and a good portion of the main walking path was closed due to maintenance.
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Aguas Calientes or Machupicchu Pueblo (Elevation 6,700′)
Opt for the Vistadome train (if returning at night, consider the return trip via Explorer dome to save about ~$20 as you won’t be able to see a thing!) This small town sits along the bustling Urubamba River (“sacred river”) and is the portal to Machu Picchu.  Within seconds of exiting the Peru Rail train station, there are throngs of local tour guides offering their services.  I opted to go it alone but if you do use a tour guide, negotiate – they will accept a lower price (I made some friends and they booked a packaged deal in the US for $430 per person – trust me when I tell you that it is far cheaper to do it yourself!).  You then navigate through the market to get to the small city
Machu Picchu (Elevation 7,800′)
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Cusco (Elevation 11,150‘)
Pisaq (Elevation 9,700′)
Within 5 minutes of arriving to my B&B, it hailed and then the heavy rains rolled in, I was amazed by the quick change of weather.  Fortunately it was a quick shower so were able to enjoy curated cocktails at Museo del Pisco as well as a late dinner at Limo overlooking the Plaza de Armas.  The next day, I headed to Pisaq via the collectivo and continued to be amazed by the scenic views of the mountains and the valleys below.  We shared a taxi with another tourist from The Netherlands to the Ruins of Pisaq and ended up spending the rest of the day together.  Unfortunately,  several sections of the ruins were closed off that day so we could not navigate the full site.  The portions we saw offered amazing views but I am just about convinced that every nook of this region is astonishingly beautiful!  The Pisaq market had the typical tourist wares; the vendors were not aggressive, most waited for me to express interest.  We headed back to Cusco for a late lunch at Greens Organics and then the rain rolled and stayed for the rest of the day.  With Ponchos in tow, this did not slow us down but we opted for Inca massages and then drinks at our now favorite watering hole, Museo Del Pisco.  We met a lovely family from California and had a great time chatting and indulging in Pisco Sours (mine made with Maracuya).
Lima (Elevation 5,080′)
I am a city girl true so I felt at home when we sped (taxi drivers were very aggressive) through the city to our B&B ($25 from the Airport to Barranco).  I immediately felt the temperature difference (high 60s vs low 80s) and was thankful for the crisp ocean breeze when we hit the Circuito de Playas.  I immediately hit the streets for El Mercado since I read such rave reviews.  I LOVED the energetic and tropical vibe, the food was amazing and the service was impeccable!!!  The weather was so great that I decided to walk to the Miraflores boardwalk.  Along the way, I enjoyed watching a women’s futbol match, families picnicking in the parque or walking their dogs, surfers awaiting the next big wave as well as the sun set “into the ocean.”  The next day was full of activity starting with the Museo de Larco which had an impressive art collection and a small erotic art gallery which was essentially a salute to the male form, if you know what I mean.  From there we battled even worse traffic to visit Plaza de Armas and arrived just in time to watch the changing of the guards. The ceremony lasted far longer than expected so we moved on after 45 minutes of melting in the sun.  I reconnected with a tourist that I met a few days prior at Machu Picchu and had a great family style Peruvian lunch at La Panchita with a group of her MBA classmates (the portions were massive).  It was great to learn a few lines from the stories of their lives because that is what travel is all about: new experiences, new learnings and new connections. The evening ended with an amazing meal at Cala overlooking the balcony with the waves crashing on the rocks below.  Of all the Pisco Sours I tried, theirs packed the biggest punch!
The Foodie

Gluten-Free Basil Pesto Pasta Recipe

April 6, 2016

I often create recipes on the fly, based on what I feel like eating or based on ingredients in my kitchen.  This dish was created, as I walked through the grocery store, based on my preferred flavor profiles when making pasta.

Ingredients:

Box of Ancient Harvest SuperGrain Garden Pagodas Pasta (first time trying this and it is worth the splurge!  Other gluten-free national pasta brands don’t stand a chance against this!)

Pack of Aidelles Chicken Apple Sausage (4 count) (exclude this ingredient if you choose to go Vegetarian/Vegan)

Bag of Fresh Express Baby Spinach

Pint of Grape Tomatoes

California Sun Dry Sundried Tomatoes Julienne Cut with Herbs

4-8 cloves of Garlic or 2-4 teaspoons of minced Garlic

3/4 cup of Olive Oil (add more or less based on desired texture)

2/3 cup of Pine Nuts

2 Oz of Basil (use less Basil and more spinach or arugula, if preferred)

Block of Parmesan Cheese (exclude this ingredient if you choose to go Vegan)

1 Lemon

Sea Salt

Cracked Black Pepper (i.e. from a pepper mill)

Cooking Instructions:

Prepare Pasta according to package instructions and set aside in a strainer

While pasta water boils / while pasta cooks, brown Chicken Apple Sausage on all sides in a grill pan over Medium Low heat with a Tablespoon on Olive Oil – I personally use a Calphalon Signature Nonstick 12′ Round Grill Pan

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Once Brown on all sides, transfer to a cutting board and either allow to cool or use a fork to hold in place and cut each sausage into 5-6 diagonal slices (you can also skip the Chicken and go Vegan)

Warm a saute pan over Medium Low heat and add about 1/3 cup of sundried tomatoes

Add the sliced Chicken Sausage and 2-4 cloves of minced Garlic and allow to simmer for about 2-3 minutes

Add pint of Grape Tomatoes and allow to simmer for 3- 4 minutes or until tomatoes start to wrinkle

Add Spinach (washed and strained) and cook for 1-2 minutes until they start to wilt

Add Cooked Pasta

Add about 1 cup of Basil Pesto Sauce (you will have about 1 cup leftover or you add more, if preferred)

Plate pasta and top with freshly grated Parmesan Cheese and Cracked Black Pepper to taste

Basil Pesto Sauce:

Basil Stock PhotoYou can prep the pesto while the Chicken Sausage browns by using a food processor – I love my Cuisinart Food Processor!

Add Pine Nuts (you can also use Walnuts but I preferred Pine Nuts), Basil (washed and strained), 2-4 cloves of Garlic and 1/3 bag of Spinach (you can add more Basil or use Arugula if preferred) and pulse until coarsely chopped (scrap ingredients off the sides with a silicon/rubber spatula after pulsing)

Turn on processor and add Olive Oil in a steady stream until well blended

Add 1/3 cup of freshly grated Parmesan Cheese (you can skip the cheese and go Vegan) and juice from 1 Lemon and pulse to mix together

Add Salt and Pepper to taste (add more lemon juice as a tradeoff for the salt)

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Enjoy!