Create + Cultivate Recap | Dallas Edition

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I truly cannot say enough wonderful things about Create + Cultivate. Being a newer conference, I expected some possible hiccups along the way. Nope. Everything was so perfect. The check-in process was a breeze, the breakfast and lunch were delicious, the never-ending Hermanos coffee ended up being much needed and the decor was a dream. A literal dream. Hanging plants, shabby chic furniture, pop up booths galore! The 12 hour day was long but sadly went by so fast. The entire day was perfectly planned out for learning, breaks, networking and more coffee. Oh, and did I mention the gift bag? I’m such a sucker for a well thought about gift bag. My best friend asked me mid day if I’d consider going to the next Create + Cultivate. That is an absolute yes!

I came to Dallas solo, hoping I would meet new friends and gain knowledge about the blogging world + business in general. My business degree is great but there is something special about learning first hand from women who have been inspiring you for years. Between the panel discussions and the mentor sessions, I left feeling so refreshed and ready to tackle 2016.

For those who missed it, here are a shortened version of what I took away from the weekend:

Photo Hacks:
-Composition is key
-Captions matter (an emoji isn’t going to cut it)
-Have a set direction
-Gear content toward your most popular images
-Be creative every single day

Brand Collaborations:
Personally, I had a lot of questions about this topic. The panel covered several questions you should ask yourself before committing to a collaboration along with questions you should feel comfortable asking the brand. This is your business too so don’t be afraid to ask them to clear up any grey area.

When your blog has a certain look and the product your collaborating with doesn’t fit your aesthetics but you know it’s a great fit, turn it into art. Maybe a creative flatlay? Think outside the box for a not so “beautiful” product.

Matt Crump (@mattcrump / follow him, his feed is fun!) said one of the biggest ways he has gotten screwed in the past is not negotiating that he has final say in the caption on social media (ie, a company once made him put a link in an Instagram caption which wasn’t active -yikes!) Always have final say on what you’re captioning on your social platforms.

-Always stay true to yourself
-Will your audience love it?
-Doesn’t fit your brand but pays well? Skip it
-Establish that the company wants what you can do
-Portray the product honestly
-Are you able to have a say into the final edits?
-Will they let you use your creative vision?

Hash Tagging:
-The general consensus was you need them.
-No hash tag is a missed opportunity
-Use relevant hash tags (look at the ones being viewed)
-Pay attention to the constant changing with Instagram’s analytics

The Art of the Pitch:
Pitching your brand to someone was another area I had a list of questions about. The ladies on this panel all agreed that some brands will buy into your passion vs. only your skills. Always highlight your good parts. Also, to know what deal you need and don’t be afraid to ask for it. The company isn’t going to make a bad deal for themselves and will take care of their own. No one offers you their best deal first. Be upfront with them and ask!

Before you pitch your idea to a company you’re interested in working with:
-Know their brand
-Know your brand
-Highlight what you’re best at
-Know entire market, not only your blog

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IMG_0975Who What Wear’s Pop Up

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Preview of their Who What Wear x Target line

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Genevieve Ascencio from Factory PR #majorgirlboss

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Camille Styles, Julia Engel of Gal Meets Glam, Lauryn Evarts of The Skinny Confidential, Mary Seng of Happily Grey, and Sophia Rivka Rossi of Hello Giggles

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IMG_1003Hillary Kerr & Katherine Power, Founders of Who What Wear

Those are the secrets I’m giving away. Thanks for letting me nerd out on this post and I hope to see you at the next Create + Cultivate!

This entry was posted in Travel.

Early Morning in Notting Hill

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Notting Hill is definitely more than just the location for a famous movie.  Although I can’t lie and say that didn’t have anything to do with us wanting to check out the neighborhood.  For all curious minds, The Travel Book Company in the film doesn’t exist.  Whomp whomp.

Only having one full day in London, I knew I wanted to head to Notting Hill first thing. Unfortunately we got there a little too early as the Portobello Road Market wasn’t even set up yet. Portobello Market runs the two mile length of Portobello Road. It was such a bummer we didn’t have more time.  We did stumble upon the Portobello Green Market which is London’s leading Vintage Fashion and Antiques Market.  It was full of bargain vintage clothing, retro style furniture, vinyl and jewelry.

The colorful house lined streets and independent antique shops make this area one of a kind.  We saw a lot of cyclist in the area which seemed to be a popular way to explore Notting Hill’s cobblestone streets and nearby Holland Park, Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens.  Looking forward to exploring more next trip and starting the day a little later.

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INK Hotel | Amsterdam

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It has been a LONG time since I’ve checked out of a hotel and couldn’t think of one single fault.  We stayed at the smallest Airbnb EVER in London before we arrived to Amsterdam.  I booked it and thought it would be “fun” and “cute.”  I was so wrong.  There literally wasn’t even room to lay our luggage down.  This post might be a glorified Yelp review or a love affair with INK Hotel but either way, it was a magical stay.

The hotel is located in the former home of the Dutch newspaper ‘De Tijd’, a place where stories were written and ultimately brought to life in “ink.”  We loved the amusing and well appointed wallpaper; the more of the city we saw, the more the wallpaper made sense.  The entrance is unique, and the bar and restaurant are both comfortable and stylish. The bar served Veuve Clicquot as their house champagne.  Any friend of Veuve is a friend of mine!  The rooms were gorgeous and more importantly, comfortable beyond belief.  The bathroom in the room was everything I hope my personal bathroom will look like one day.  Five days at the INK Hotel was not enough and we will definitely be staying there on our next trip to Amsterdam!

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IMG_0943This shower was a gift from the heavens after cramming my tallness into our tiny Airbnb shower in London.  Thank you heavenly shower!

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IMG_0950It was so nice to wake up and have (a couple) espressos every morning before rolling out of bed.  It got the day started right!

 

 

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48 Hours In Portland

IMG_0863I’ve been dying to get to Portland since moving to the West Coast.  From the East Coast, it always seemed like such a pain.  From San Francisco, no biggie!  We decided to stay on the East Side of town and ended up picking our hotel from the choices on Rocket Miles.

Hotel: We decided on Jupiter Hotel. The motor inn-turned-boutique hotel definitely thinks outside of the box. From the quirky staff to the funky decorated room, this hotel has all the fun you need on a short vacation. Plus it’s next door to the best restaurant ever. Okay, that’s a broad statement but it’s next door to a great one!

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Eats: Oh Le Pigeon.  My husband has been raving about this restaurant since March when he ate there while he was visiting for a conference so this was a must do!  We ate dinner there both nights too which is something we would never do.  That.  Good. We enjoyed the French-inspired food without the pretentiousness.  We might have over indulged on their fabulous wine list as well.

We ate:

  • Beef Tartare and Salt & Pepper Squid
  • Cavatelli ala Fiducia (My personal favorite: beef rib ragu, whipped ricotta, scallion)
  • Glazed Beef Short Rib with Crispy Sweetbreads
  • Beef Cheek Bourguignon (Good Lord…)
  • And their Burger (The best I’ve ever had.  Again, bold statement)

Go!

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Drinks: There were several breweries on our list to try.  Base Camp Brewing Co, Cascade Brewing Barrel House, Deschutes, The Commons Brewery were the ones we made it to.  Base Camp was my favorite out of the four; solid beers, relaxed atmosphere and the ability to order eats at one of the food trucks outside (the BBQ was good!) was nice.  Cascade Brewing was the spot I was most looking forward to trying.  They’re known for their tart barrel-aged beers.  I’ve never had a sour beer I’ve loved but they had 18 on tap and I loved the 4 that I tried.  Their “Sang Noir” was fantastic.  Deschutes was a total miss for me.  The Commons Brewery was nice.  Not my personal favorite style of beer but if you’re a fan of European brewing, you’ll feel right at home here!

Pepe Le Moko is another not to miss spot for cocktails.  With only 32 seats in the entire underground bar, it gets busy so make a reservation to enjoy their infamous Grasshopper cocktail or an Irish Coffee made with Stumptown.  Truly the perfect late night spot with killer drinks.

IMG_0867S’more Stout from Base Camp Brewing.  Yes, they roast the marshmallow fresh after you order.

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CASCAKE

PEPEIMG_0881portland3Shopping:  Portland is full of unique shops but the most unique to me (because I feel as though they’re non existent these days) was Powell’s City of Books.  They claim to be the largest independent chain of bookstores in the world which I believe as this location took up an entire city block.  Grab a map and get to searching.  Powell’s has everything!

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I can’t wait to see you again Portland!

 

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The Fremont Diner

FremontDiner1The Fremont Diner is one of those quaint but trendy places you hope will live up to the hype. The restaurant has been quite popular ever since it opened in 2009, but it didn’t come across my radar until just a few months ago. We always use to pass right by it on our way to one of our favorite wineries. Now, it is usually our first stop on our way into Napa. We’ll grab a coffee in the city, make the 40 mile drive and enjoy an early lunch.  Come hungry and leave oh so happy!  From the Pastrami Sandwich to the “Nashville Hot Chicken”, there is just something so comforting about the food on their menu.  Something that I miss daily from living in the south.

Yes, I did say Nashville style Hot Chicken.  I’ve had this copy cat dish at a few places in the Bay Area and have been so disappointed.  They know what they’re doing here; crisp chicken and just the right amount of heat.

They have outdoor and indoor seating but it’s usually packed so arrive early or bring some cash to grab a mimosa or beer from their old airstream trailer which has been converted into a drink shack.  Kiddos seem to be very welcome here as well as I always see toys outside for them.

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Waiting For Franklin Barbecue

I love Austin, TX. To say we made the trip to Texas for Franklin BBQ last weekend would be a tad silly but not completely incorrect.  This is not any ole BBQ.  Aaron Franklin launched his first restaurant in a tiny trailer in 2009. It became so popular so that in 2011 he moved it to his current brick and mortar location. The restaurant has sold out of brisket EVERY single day since opening.  If that’s not enough to convince you to wait, let the photos speak for themselves.

I don’t enjoy waiting for much but I’d wait for a pound of a Franklin brisket any day of the week!  Waiting is truly part of the fun. You get to chat with people from all over the country, sit back and relax and maybe even make new friends.  Don’t forget a cooler of mimosas, something to sit on and your sunnies. Get there early for two reasons: they run out of food and the closer you are in line, the sooner you get to eat and get on with your day.

We only had two opportunities to attempt to get this glorious meat this past weekend.  My husband walked to Franklin BBQ so he could go ahead and get in line at 7:30 Saturday morning.  Nope, he was too late.  Wonderful.  I am determined to get there in time Sunday AM so I set my alarm for 6AM.  I wake up, ready to go and it starts pouring rain.  No way I’m standing out in a monsoon for anything so I go back to bed.  We finally get up and give the line one more chance.  Yes! The rain had scared people away and we were able to jump in the back of the line around 11:30.  Worth every bite!

Pro tip:  Learn all about Franklin’s history and how he makes the best BBQ by keeping it simple in his book Franklin Barbecue: A Meat-Smoking Manifesto.

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Flora Farm

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Before I moved to California last year, I had heard about Flora Farms via a favorite blog and knew I had to go one day.  As soon as we booked our trip to Cabo, I immediately made a reservation for dinner. It happened to be my birthday as well so I was extra excited about our dinner plans!  The restaurant is about 35-40 minutes from downtown Cabo so we decided to rent a car for our trip, for other reasons as well.  Driving in Mexico with no GPS and not much signage was interesting but luckily Flora Farms had a great map available on their website which we printed out.

Once we arrived, I realized this place was more special than I originally thought!  The grounds were simply breathtaking; perfect flowers, perfect grass and the perfect views. We popped by the bar first and grabbed some cocktails. The “Carrot Farmarita” I had was so unique and delicious!  The “Farm to Table” concept is a bit overdone these days, especially in San Francisco and my previous city Nashville. I was a bit reluctant to go to a Farm to Table in Mexico but I’m glad we just went for it. They raise all of their own meats and grow and pick all of their own vegetables. You could truly taste the difference, especially in the vegetables. Everything we had was wonderful. The service, breeze and live folk music made the experience perfect. You can also pick up some of their fresh fruits and veggies on your way out in their small grocery section. House made breads and beautiful flowers are available too!  Flora Farms is definitely a must do for any and all Cabo trips!

Make your reservations HERE

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Sips and Bites in Napa Valley

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Napa is such a special place. Between the out of this world cuisine, every delicious type of wine you can imagine, the views and the thoughtfulness of the boutique sized wineries…  I fall more and more in love each trip. A break at some of the massive wineries are a must stop, especially a bubble break at Chandon, Mumm or Domaine Carneros. What is really special to me is finding the tiny wineries that are off the beaten path.  The tours are smaller but more unique. Most of the time you get better service, a more complex tour, heavier pours and if you’re lucky…  Better wine!  A lot of the mainstream wineries feel very turn and burn. Get in, pay and get out. I’d rather relax, chat and enjoy the wine.

Where to stay?  You know…  I’m sure the hotels are lovely in Napa, Yountville, St Helena and Sonoma but I’ve always stayed at an Airbnb. I love Airbnb and especially love Airbnb in Napa. Something about having a porch, hot tub and kitchen is worth the little extra effort to find a comfy house. If you’re planning a trip with friends or another couple, getting a house is usually the cheaper option as well!  Not a member yet?  Use my CODE to get $25 in Airbnb credits to use anywhere!

Boutique Sized Wineries:

Saintsbury –  Where do I start with this place?  I love coming here.  The grounds are small and gorgeous. The employees are fantastic (ask for Peter!)  They’re known for their Pinot Noir but everything I’ve tasted has been wonderful.  I’m crushing on their Vin Gris of Pinot Noir hardcore right now.  Crisp wine perfect for the warmer weather. We currently have the “Everything But Chardonnay” membership.

VGS – Another small winery I’ve fallen in love with.  The grounds are so modern and beautiful.  You must do the food and wine pairing!  Enjoy 4 of their wines, each served in its own specifically designated Reidel glass paired with food bites from the famed Michelin starred La Toque Restaurant.  Every single sip was to die for.  It’s hard to find a winery where you love absolutely every bottle but at VGS it’s easy!  If you’re lucky the owner will be there and you’ll get to hear his story.  He made our trip last weekend!

Delectus – This small family-owned winery handcrafts luxury red wines from select vineyards throughout Napa Valley and Knights Valley.  Their tasting is delicious.  We haven’t stopped by their new tasting room (they were closed last weekend) but it looked great from the outside. These wines are a must taste.

I absolutely adore these three wineries as you can probably tell.

Bubbles:

Mumm – Turn and burn but tasty.  Pretty view and good service!  Cannot buy bottles here but a lot of different by the glass and tasting options.  Free tastings for wine club members.

Chandon – I enjoy Chandon because sometimes you don’t free like doing a tasting and just want to sit, chat and enjoy a bottle.  You can do that here.  Affordable too!

Domaine Carneros – The view is worth the stop alone.  I enjoy their tastings as well.

Schramsberg – Best bubbles in Napa?  Possibly.  You pay for it but they are to die for!

Where To Eat:

Bistro Jeanty – So cozy and cute.  Awarded Michelin star the past three years.  French bistro style dining with amazing food and service.

Redd – This was the first restaurant I ever had dinner at in Yountville.  What a first dinner!  Very inviting spot, not too fancy interior but the food is melt in your mouth delicious.  Most come to Napa Valley for the wine but Redd’s cocktails are killer.

Redd Wood – Famed chef Richard Reddington’s second, more casual outpost, this spot is a superbly stylish Italian-inspired eatery.  Casual, great entrees and unique wood fired pizzas.

Gott’s – Because sometimes you just need a greasy burger after drinking wine all day.

Dean & Deluca – One stop shop for all your wine country needs.  Gourmet cheeses and desserts, coffee shop and great sandwiches on the go!  I’m a huge fan of this spot, especially when you need a quick bite but are rushing to a tasting appointment.

Oxbow Market – A 40,000 square foot marketplace, which includes a scenic outdoor deck with seating along the Napa River, features a diverse tenant mixture of local food vendors, artisan cafes and an organic produce outlet for local farms. Perfect when you’re with a bigger group who can’t decide on what they want for lunch.  Options for everyone!

French Laundry – 20 years of dining perfection.  I still have yet to (want to blow a grand) to go here but it’s on my bucket list.

It’s hard to find a bad restaurant in Napa but these all stand out for me.

What are your favorites? What am I missing out on?

Cheers!

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St Patrick’s Day in Savannah

Savannah, Georgia means a lot to us for many reasons; the history, cuisine and of course my husband’s family living there is a blessing.  We try to make it down as much as possible but St. Patrick’s Week is a no brainer!  The St. Patrick’s celebration in Savannah is such a huge deal to the city.  It’s actually the second largest celebration in the US, second to New York City.  It’s a great vacation for friends or families with little ones.  Between the liveliness on River Street, live music at City Market and the parade, it’s non stop entertainment.

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Must do:
Vic’s On the River (Fried Green Tomato BLT is to die for)
Spanky’s (Gotta get the Tenders and Spuds)
Moon River Brewery (Huge patio + Craft Beer)
Bohemian Hotel Rooftop (Must see views, live music + cocktails)
Warehouse (Coldest beer in town)
Vinnie Van Go Go’s (Killer pizza)

 

Must pack:
Sunscreen
Bug spray (still itching!)
Allergy medicine (still sneezing!)
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Weekend in Tahoe

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Lake Tahoe is truly another world.

A girlfriend from Nashville and I made the short 3.5 hour drive from San Francisco to Tahoe last weekend. Lots of laughs, cocktails and skiing followed. Neither of us had skied out west before so we decided to ski Squaw Valley after chatting with a friend that lives in Incline Village and has a season pass at Squaw. It was remarkable! I stayed on the greens and blues as I was a bit rusty. Okay maybe a lot rusty.

Sunday morning we drove to South Lake Tahoe to explore a bit more and the drive along the lake was breathtaking. I loved the slow pace/small town feel of the area and cannot wait to go back in the summer for more outdoor fun. See you soon jet skis, hiking and paddle boards!

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