Thursday, August 21, 2014

Blo Blow Dry Bar Tampa

Over the weekend I was invited to visit the new Blo Blow Dry Bar's Body. by Blo location in Tampa to tour their facilities and try one of the many services offered at the salon. Ironically, I had my first blowout ever last month in San Francisco and loved it! I was hoping something similar would open up in Tampa and to my delight, I found out about one a couple weeks after returning!

Tampa's salon which opened just under a month ago is the franchise's 44th location offering blowouts and styling, and 3rd Body. by Blo location offering extended services (hair + manis/pedis, waxing, and makeup tentatively this fall). Read about my experience below!

The first thing I noticed when walking around the salon was the chic decor and neutral colors with pink accents, which I absolutely loved! Who knew I'd be getting design inspiration for home looks when visiting a salon?!

Blo Tampa uses Unite hair products from start to finish (shampoo/conditioner and styling), which are shipped over from the UK. Of course every salon is going to say great things about the hair products being used there, but I can't even begin to explain how amazing my hair looked/felt after having the variety of product used. Once I empty out my supply of hair products at home (or at least dwindle it down), I'm definitely going to purchase some of it!

The mani/pedi area of Blo Tampa looked so cute! The pedicure area reminded me of something out of a LA/Hollywood salon from the magazine pictures and TV shows I've seen celebs in. I like that this location offers you the ability to get your hair and nails done, all in one place. Gel manicures are done here too, so I know where I'm going next time for a day of beauty!

Style books are available to flip through to figure out what kind of hair styling you want (simple blowout is totally fine too). I opted for the wavy beachy look because (as I told my stylist) my hair is terrible at curling and never lasts. My fabulous stylist accepted the challenge and said she'd get it to curl/wave and hold for later in the evening when I was heading to a concert...

.. and it did! About 7 hours later when we arrived at the Ampitheater (for an outdoor concert) it still had some curl to it! The picture below is the initial picture taken after styling but if you'd like to see what it looked like later on, head over to Instagram and check it out.

I learned some helpful curling tips while getting my hair styled as well (which many of you may have known already) - after curling don't let it fall completely, hold it and crinkle the piece in your hand to have the curl hold better since it will have a mind of it's own until cooled. Definitely going to try that technique myself next time I attempt curling.

With my fab hair stylist!
With a prime location across from International Mall (in the plaza next to Cooper's Hawk Winery, Blo Tampa is open 7 days a week and a place I'll definitely be revisiting in the future (possible girl's day out in preparation for girl's night out)?!

You can book an appointment and/or check out the full selection and pricing of Blo Tampa's services here.

*Disclosure: I received a complimentary blowout + styling for review purposes. All opinions are my own.

Read More - Blo Blow Dry Bar Tampa

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Golden Tote: August 2014 Review

Golden Tote arrival days are just about my favorite day of the month. Any fellow subscriber can attest to the excitement that comes when you 1-get your shipping notification, 2-when you get your UPS out for delivery notice and 3-when you get home and tear open the box! This month I opted for the large tote, as fall styles are starting to roll out and couldn't wait to see what surprises the GT team had in store for me.

If you're not familiar with Golden Tote, here's a quick overview of what you need to know. This monthly clothing subscription offers two "totes" the small ($49) and large ($149), beginning the first Monday of the month. If you select the small tote, you'll choose 1 item and receive 2-3, and for the large you'll pick 2 items and receive 5-7. The additional items included in your tote(s) are chosen by the GT stylists, based on your style profile.

Merrick for Golden Tote Lace Top
This month, Golden Tote invited blogger and designer Merrick White of Merrick's Art to collaborate with them on some designs and they were a HUGE hit from what I've seen! I opted for the Merrick for Golden Tote Lace Top ($68) thinking I'll get some good use of it both at work and out of. The size I ordered was a little big on me, but luckily I found someone with the same shirt who was looking to size up, so I was able to trade. Regardless, I probably would've tried to find a way to make this work because I love the shirt!

Distressed Boyfriend Jeans
I recently heard a report that denim is going out of style which boggles my mind. I love jeans. Could wear them all day, every day. My second pick for my August tote was the Distressed Boyfriend Jeans ($60). Rumor has it boyfriend jeans typically run big, so I sized down and luckily they were perfect! I'm so happy I have these in my closet!

On to the surprise items selected for me....

Priddy by Puella Striped Olive Dress
I loved my Priddy by Puella Striped Olive Dress on the hanger but on, it wasn't too flattering on me. Stripes can be difficult to pull off and for some reason the dresses with pockets always end up looking a bit awkward on me. Luckily this dress was in high demand though so I was able to trade it easily to someone who can pull off the stripes and pockets!

Renee C Charcoal Knit Cardigan
I wear cardigans just about every day during the week since it's always freezing in my office. The  Renee C Charcoal Knit Cardigan is a bit longer than I usually wear, but I think it'll be a great piece to wear in the coming months!

Newbury Kustom Tank
This Newbury Kustom Tank is so cute! The pattern placement looks a little awkward on the hanger, but it wasn't so bad once on. This one did run extremely small though, so I ended up trading it. Kind of a bummer but I was able to get a dress I really liked so it worked out.

Paper Crane Hoodie
My immediate reaction to the Paper Crane Hoodie was NO WAY. It's white which is always dangerous (I'm afraid I'll spill something on it), and the material is pretty thin. I was almost ready to trade it off and then I tried it on. It's not something I'll wear around town, but I'm so glad I didn't trade it because this is something I'll wear lounging on the cooler days every chance I get - its so comfy!

This month's Golden Tote was a really big hit for me! Although I traded a couple things I received, I was able to swap for some things I love style-wise and can't wait to wear! It's crazy (but totally understandable) how much traction GT has been gaining lately. Orders from August are STILL shipping - about 1,000 were placed on the first day of the sale! You really can't beat the price for what you get though. Can't wait to see what'll be coming out for next month's sale which starts Monday, Sept. 8 (a week late due to Labor Day).

What did you think of this month's Golden Tote?

*Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links

Read More - Golden Tote: August 2014 Review

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Tuesday Tunes: Hooked on a Feeling

The Guardians of the Galaxy soundtrack could very well be my favorite movie soundtrack ever. My song pick this week comes from it, but was originally released in the early 70s by Blue Swede. "Hooked on a Feeling" has the most ridiculous beginning/background vocals (reminds me of "Shark Bait Hoo Ha Ha" in Finding Nemo) but I love it. It's been on repeat since rediscovering the song in Napa and then again in the movie. You can't help but be in an awesome mood when listening (and obviously dancing) to this song. It's is a must download!

Read More - Tuesday Tunes: Hooked on a Feeling

Monday, August 18, 2014

Mother/Daughter Weekend in Napa

One month ago today, my mom and I were California-bound, starting our trip with a mother/daughter weekend in the fabulous Napa Valley. I've already shared my thoughts on the Meritage Resort & Spa where we stayed (read about it here), as well as our dinner at the girl & the fig a short drive away in Sonoma.

We only had about a day and a half to experience Napa, so I did everything I could to research and plan in advance to ensure we made the most of our time. I found some great reviews of wineries and restaurants, but finding sample itineraries was near impossible, so I'm hoping that this post will help you plan if you're trying to figure out what to do in the area!

Saturday was our only full day in Napa and we wanted to make sure we squeezed in as many wineries as we could and not have to worry about where we were going or making any reservations on time (note: some wineries require reservations in advance). In order to help us keep moving at a good pace, we hired a driver for the day. It is a little pricey - most drivers in the area charge $35-40 per hour with a 5 hour minimum, but if you can fit it into your trip budget it, I highly recommend it! We knew this was going to be a big splurge for us but it saved us from having to navigate/figure out where we were going, drinking and driving, and circling parking lots for a spot to park.

Our driver Wes DeBow (visit his site here) picked us up at our hotel, prepared for the day with a cooler filled with waters at hand any time we needed them. As a local, he had plenty of great insight into the area and would drop us at the entrance of each winery and was waiting for us out front as soon as we stepped outside, ready for the next stop. This provided us peace of mind for everything we had on the list for the day!

Our first stop of the day was at the Robert Mondavi Winery for the 10 a.m. Wine Basics Class/Tasting (reservations required). I'd heard rave reviews from just about everyone I talked to that's ventured to Napa, especially since Robert Mondavi has been deemed the "father of wine" in Napa. The Wine Basics Tasting cost $35 per person and included a tasting of a few of RM's wines, and gave us a little wine education/etiquette to start our day (including a paper with a cheat sheet of descriptive words to describe each type of wine). Some interesting things we learned that you may or may not know:

  • The date on each bottle of wine is the harvest date (when they pull all of the grapes) - not when the bottle is released
  • When a waiter asks you if the wine is good/how it tastes at a restaurant, they're not asking if you like the flavor, it's to see if the wine has gone bad (1% of wine is lost due to cork failure - you can't tell if it's gone bad until it's opened)
  • Don't judge a wine on the first sip - sip 3x to allow your mouth to adjust to the acidity and take big sips so it hits all of your tastebuds
  • Merlot grapes have the highest amounts grown on the planet
  • Fermentation takes 30-40 days in the barrel
  • Stomping on grapes (like we see in TV/movies) is just for kicks - those aren't used to actually make the wine

Our second (and favorite) stop of the day was just a few minutes away at Round Pond, for the 11:30 a.m. Il Pranzo Lunch (reservations also required). I read a couple great reviews on the $95 per person lunch here, but they weren't too detailed so we made reservations on a whim and decided to splurge, because when else are we going to be back in Napa?!

I was relieved to find out that the family-style lunch with the tour group also included a tour of the property (including spending some time in their amazing garden full of fresh fruits and veggies), wine tasting, olive oil tasting AND lunch (see a couple of the platters passed around the table below) + dessert. So when broken down, the cost wasn't as bad. What was only supposed to be about 1-1.5 hours ended up being almost 2.5 hours because we were having such a fabulous time!

Round Pond is also famous for their olive oils so we were very excited to try those out! We learned that most of the oils sold in the grocery store aren't really "extra virgin," as advertised, but that there's no FTC regulation on olive oils currently, so the companies get away with it. I never thought much about it, but once we sampled some from RP, I don't want to go back to the grocery store ones! Sampling was pretty interesting. We tried 2 with sugar cubes (just sucking the oil out not actually eating the sugar part) and also tasting 3 others in the blue tea light glasses, taking them each in like a shot!

As far as reservations go, that was it for the day! We had a list of about 10 other wineries that we wanted to get to, but picked our top ones and decided to wing it for the rest of the day. Since it was vacation, we didn't want to feel pressured to leave one place and head to the next, especially if we were really enjoying ourselves (like our Round Pond experience)!

Stop #3 was Caymus Vineyards. This wasn't originally on our list, but it was right across the street from one of the others we were planning to go to and our driver Wes recommended the winery. Mom and I loved the green + flowers everywhere so we took quite a few pictures at this spot. We enjoyed the wine as well, but didn't care for the standing room at the bar atmosphere so we shared a flight of wine and then moved along.

Frog's Leap was our 5th winery of the day and one I really enjoyed. Especially as the day goes on and you're drinking more, eating is important! I loved their assortment of apple butter, crackers, nuts, and best of all, cheese! We sat outside on a porch overlooking fields of grapes and mountains and it was so peaceful. We didn't have a reservation for this winery, but they do accept reservations so to be on the safe side, you might want to make one when planning a visit here!

We kept a pretty good sense of humor about things as well when a bug actually flew into one of the glasses on the table. We thought it gave a whole new meaning to Frog's Leap's slogan "Times Fun When You're Having Flies!"

The flies didn't keep us from enjoying our day! Next, we moved along to Alpha Omega, one of the many wineries directly off the main highway/road in town. The wine was good, but this was my favorite view from a winery, hands down. We lounged in chairs right in front of this fountain, looking out at the mountains. It was amazing. And ironically we ran into a couple visiting from New York - right near where I went to college. What a small world!

Our last (and 7th) stop of the day was Peju. This was the only winery we had a wait for, but no reservations were required in advance. I'm assuming our 30 minute wait was because most of the other wineries in the area had closed already (the majority close at 5 p.m.), so we were hitting Peju at closing time. Another standing at the bar tasting,

To end our fabulous day of tasting, Wes dropped us back at the hotel and we decided to freshen up and drive over to downtown Napa to check out the scene. There were a couple restaurants that I had on my list in the downtown area, but we weren't too impressed with the area. We were definitely spoiled during our brief visit to downtown Sonoma. Now THAT is a downtown! We settled on Azzurro Pizzeria and shared pizza and salad before heading back and turning in for the night.

Day 2/Sunday Funday was our last day in Napa. We started our morning at the spa at our hotel and it was AMAZING. Afterward we packed up our things and went back to the downtown area in search of some souvenirs. You'd think there would be a ton of Napa Valley branded items, but surprisingly it was slim pickings. Most of the souvenirs were of specific wineries.

The Oxbow Public Market is a really famous spot in Napa with fresh foods and all kinds of delicious treats. It kind of reminded me of the market at Grand Central in NYC - buzzing with excitement! We ate lunch at Gotts, popular burger joint in the area which had a line out the door. Definitely worth the wait though, it was delicious!

Our last winery in Napa was Cakebread Cellars, which requires a reservation. After getting a quick tour of the facilities, we were taken to the barrel room where the tasting took place. There were a few stands set up around the room for different tours and it kind of reminded me of a sampling in Sam's Club or Costco. It was cool doing the tasting in the barrel room but I wish they had it out in their garden area instead. The views are just so beautiful in Napa to not take advantage of them!

An exciting end to our weekend as we headed to San Francisco for the next leg of our vacation (more on that to come), was spotting what looked like the real-life version of Mater from Disney's Cars. I could sit around and quote Mater all day long so I was VERY excited to spot the car on the side of the road. I'm curious if anyone else passing had the same reaction.

We had such an incredible weekend in Napa and I can't wait to get back one day! I'd definitely like to spend a bit longer in the area, as well as exploring more of Sonoma. It's definitely not a cheap place to vacation to, but it's worth saving up and splurging! 

Have you been to Napa? What was your favorite part?

Read More - Mother/Daughter Weekend in Napa

Friday, August 15, 2014

Fun Findings Friday

Dagne Dover August 2014 Collection:
Bags have always been my weakness/splurge items of choice and a new collection from Dagne Dover, being released next week is right on my radar. Although the company has kept pretty mum on the details (only a couple photos have been released), we know that a tote, clutch-wallet, cross body and mini tote will be released this coming Tuesday! Their bags are all about style and practicality (water bottle holder, keystrap, pen/lip gloss compartments, tablet/laptop pocket, etc.), something every girl can appreciate!

Photo credit: Dagne Dover // Mini Tote

A Celebration of Harry Potter 2015:
It's still almost half a year away, but Universal Orlando just announced the second annual "A Celebration of Harry Potter" event (see my review of this year's here), which will take place at the park January 30 - February 1. No solid details have been confirmed yet, but we do know that there will be Q&A sessions with HP actors, more fun things at the HP expo, special events, and HP excitement all around! Tickets go on sale for the 3-day event on Thurs. 8/21 at noon EST and will likely sell out pretty quick!
Jimmy Fallon & Taylor Swift, "EW!":
Jimmy Fallon is absolutely brilliant. I love watching his skits - especially when he involves celebrities in them. His "EW!" segments are AMAZING and this week he featured another one, this time including Taylor Swift. I don't know how anyone could keep a straight face filming this - I was dying laughing! Enjoy!

Read More - Fun Findings Friday

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Cause of the Month: ALS Association

You've probably seen the Ice Bucket Challenge videos popping up from your friends left and right on your Facebook news feeds, and more recently, being passed among celebrities. Since this is their biggest fundraising effort/month yet, I'm going to keep the momentum going, by spotlighting the ALS Association as August's Cause of the Month.

ALS (scientific name = Amyotropic lateral sclerosis) is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerves in the brain and spinal cord, resulting in the eventual inability for the brain to control muscle movement and possibly causing persons infected to be completely paralyzed. The disease most commonly affects people in the 40-70 age range and according to a stat on the ALS website, upward of 30,000 Americans are living with it (approximately 5,600 cases diagnosed each day).

Photo credit: ALS
We often see Lou Gehrig's name associated with the non-profit. That's because he was a famous baseball player back in the 30s and after he was diagnosed with the disease, his career ended and an entirely new wave of awareness came about, despite ALS actually being discovered in the late 1800s.

I don't have plans to participate in the Ice Bucket Challenge (although it might actually feel nice in this Florida heat), but I am going to make a donation to support the cause! The ALS Association has raised a record $4 million in just under a month (compared to last year's $1.2 million at this time of year) which is incredible!

Photo credit: NBC // Ice Bucket Challenge on Today Show
I'm very curious to see how this type of fundraising will affect other non-profit strategies for fundraising. Have you participated in the Ice Bucket Challenge?

Read More - Cause of the Month: ALS Association

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Dining in Sonoma: the girl & the fig

Last week I shared a review of the Meritage Resort & Spa in Napa, where my mom and I stayed during our mother/daughter weekend trip to Napa. We were bummed that we weren't able to squeeze in a couple wineries in Sonoma as planned due to unexpected traffic in San Francisco, but luckily we did make it (a little late) to our dinner reservation at the girl & the fig, and still had a little taste of Sonoma.

First up was our drink order. I couldn't decide on a specific drink, I mean, it's wine country.  EVERYTHING sounds great. After looking at the menu for a few minutes, I settled on the Sparkling Flight, which was made up of 3 delicious sparkling wines - Fig Royale, NV JCB No. 69, Cremant de Bourgogne Rose and Louis Roederer Brut, Anderson Valley. My favorite of the 3 was the Fig Royale,  a signature drink at the restaurant, with a base of (you guessed it) fig.

Although bread was a standard appetizer given to us, we decided to try a couple other plates as well, since we were starving from our long day of traveling coupled with the 3 hour time difference. First up was the restaurant's standard appetizers - bread and a small dish of olives. I haven't been into olives since I was a kid but my mom ate them right up while I chowed down on the bread.

We also ordered the cheese and nut platter as a starter, which was much smaller than I expected, but AMAZING. There were 3 types of cheese on the plate: cow's milk (my favorite), goat's milk (not a big fan of this one), and sheep's milk, as well as a mixed variety of nuts, apple slices, and fig! VERY tasty.

For my main course, I went with the steak frites (steak bites and french fries). YUM! I was already feeling pretty full from all of the food and sparkling wine I was eating beforehand but I did make a pretty good dent into my entree. It was SO good.

If you're going to be in the Sonoma area, the girl & the fig is definitely a place you should add to your list. Not only is the food incredible (country with a french flare), it's located in a quaint Main Street/downtown area filled with adorable shops (unfortunately most were closed at the time we were there) and restaurants, all surrounding a beautiful park.

Read More - Dining in Sonoma: the girl & the fig

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Tuesday Tunes: Just One of The Guys

My tune for this week hit my radar a few weeks ago, when celebs Anne Hathaway and Kristen Stewart appeared in the music video for the song and it's pretty awesome/hysterical. Jenny Lewis' "Just One of the Guys" has a similar sound to her Rilo Kiley days (she's the former front gal for the band) - very catchy and one that you can't help but bob your head to.

Read More - Tuesday Tunes: Just One of The Guys

Monday, August 11, 2014

Horror Block: August 2014 Review

As a big fan of the horror genre, I was looking forward to getting my second Horror Block (curated by Nerd Block) in the mail this month! Part of the Nerd Block family, this monthly box includes 5-6 items plus a t-shirt, all related to the horror genre for just under $30 (including shipping).

Funko POP! Sharknado Vinyl Figure
The big product Horror Block spotlighted in this month's box was the Funko POP! Sharknado Vinyl Figure ($10). I'm not quite sure if I'll ever understand the hype of Sharknado, but then again I haven't seen any of the movies (rumor has it they're already working on #3).

The Zumbies: Unkind Kenneth
I actually discovered The Zumbies doll series last month on vacation in San Francisco and was debating purchasing one because I love zombie things and also, I thought that the dolls in the series  were pretty cute. Cut to a couple weeks later, and my Unkind Kenneth doll ($8) showed up! Each Zumbie doll is supposed to bring good luck to life and has a special characteristic. This guy is supposed to make sure that you always have someone to back you up. I think I'm going to hang this guy up in my car. I love it!

Frog Brothers T-Shirt
I LOVED my Freddie Krugar shirt from last month so I couldn't wait to see which shirt was included this month. The Frog Brothers T-Shirt (~$17) definitely looks like something from a horror film (The Lost Boys), but surprisingly, it's not anything I've heard of before! Thinking I'll need to add this to my watch list sometime soon.

Nightmare Before Christmas Trading Figurine (Series 1) 
I was happy to find a Nightmare Before Christmas Trading Figurine ($5) in my box. I wish my figurine's name wasn't on the front of the box (blind boxes are more fun when they're truly blind), but now that I have one, I feel like I need to complete the rest of the collection!

Rue Morgue Magazine
Another issue of Rue Morgue Magazine ($10) was in my box. I'm thinking this is something that's going to show up every month. What awesome exposure for the magazine! I haven't read it just yet, but the major focus of this issue is the 20th anniversary of The Crow (another movie I'll need to add to my list).

Alien Pin Pack
Alien is a classic in the horror genre so with back-to-school season upon us, the Alien Pin Pack (~$3) seems pretty appropriate. These aren't something I'll get any use out of, but I think I'll donate these, I know there are plenty of horror fans who would love to have these.

This month's Horror Block retailed out to about $53. Although the value is great compared to what I paid, this month was a miss for me. I wasn't familiar with a few of the films represented in the box and was hoping for some other TV shows/movies in the horror genre to be included. I'm going to skip next month's Horror Block but I'm thinking I'll resubscribe again in October for what I'm hoping will be a really epic box in the month of Halloween and the return of The Walking Dead!

Read More - Horror Block: August 2014 Review