a {huge} whiting & davis giveaway.

I hope you all had a lovely Memorial Day weekend! My birthday on Sunday was positively perfect! I'll be recapping more about that {and sharing more from California!} later this week! Today's post is a HUGE treat--I've been itching to share this incredible news with all of you for weeks. My newest sponsor, Whiting & Davis, is giving away a handbag of your choice from their website. You have unlimited reign to choose exactly what you want--and in true Friday's Fancies fashion, you have no budgetary limitations! {Yes, you heard me right--you can pick absolutely anything your heart desires from their website!} 

When I featured this gorgeous clutch in my Friday's Fancies post a few weeks ago, I never anticipated hearing from their fabulous brand. I've fallen in love with so many of their pieces and picked a few of my favorites to share with you below. Whiting & Davis appeals to all fashion senses, which is why I have come to love their brand so much. Not only do they have pieces for the here and now, they also have pieces which will stand the test of time. Their company has been around since 1876, so trust me: these bags aren't going anywhere! If you're not in love yet, you certainly will be! Winning this giveaway is perfect ticket to starting your summer in style! The good news? You have four ways to win!

Want to win? {Why wouldn't you?!} Here's how:
For your first entry, complete each of the following three steps. {I promise it's completely worth it!}
{1} first, you must become a follower of Whiting & Davis on facebook {and you must be a follower of {long distance loving} in some capacity, either via blogger or bloglovin}
{2} after you become a fan of Whiting & Davis, hop over to their website and pick your favorite bag!
{3} loop back to {long distance loving} and write a comment with your favorite bag and your initials {so we can make sure your entry checks out with facebook!}

After this first mandatory entry, you can earn three extra entries to help your cause!
{1+2} create a Friday's Fancies post which includes a Whiting & Davis piece on Friday, June 3rd or Friday, June 10th {please remember to submit a comment for each post you do!}
{3} tweet this phrase {and be sure to submit a comment for posting your tweet!}: check out an INCREDIBLE giveaway from Whiting & Davis via @luvfromafar! You could win a handbag worth more than $100! http://tinyurl.com/ldlwdgi  

That's right--you have up to four ways to win a piece worth more than $100! 

You must leave a comment for each entry you submit. Any combined comments will only be counted once. The giveaway will run from today until Sunday, June 12th at 8PM EST. Any entries received after that time will not be counted. The winner will be chosen via random.org and will be announced on Monday, June 13th at 7:00am on {long distance loving} and on the Whiting & Davis facebook page! Any other questions? Email me!

A HUGE thank you to Whiting & Davis for sponsoring this extremely generous giveaway! I'm so blessed to have such devoted and fashionable readers--so giveaways are one way to show you just how much I appreciate your blog love :) I just wish each and every one of you could win! Best of luck! xoxo {av}

friday's fancies #26.

It's Friday--which means Friday's Fancies :) This Friday is especially grand because it is the unofficial start of the summer season! Memorial Day Weekend is perennially one of my favorites since it {should} signal the end of cooler weather in the Northeast and it almost always holds my birthday--so I love this weekend even more! Like last year, {cv} and I will be driving to the Cape to enjoy a weekend with {ch} and {ao}--full of bocce, boat rides, and best friends. It's become one of my favorite traditions :) 

If money were no object, you would see me sporting this outfit for my birthday dinner on Sunday! And in a perfect world, I'd also have a few of those cupcakes to share. This Friday's Fancies post is extra special because it marks a six months of Friday's Fancies posts on {long distance loving}. Ironically, I'm also turning 26 for this 26th week of FF posts. It's fate ;) Enjoy!

1) The second I saw this dress in person, I knew I would have to feature it in a Friday's Fancies post. This Shoshanna Beaded Strapless Dress is a statement piece, in the bold cobalt blue you've seen in many of my previous posts. I simply cannot get enough of the beadwork on the chest--which forced me to go a bit lighter on the jewelry this week.
2) You won't normally see me choosing hoop earrings, but these Alexis Bittar Pave Crystal Metal Strand Hoops caught my eye. With my curly locks, this pair would blend in it a bit more than the perfectly circular hoops do ;) I liked the contrast they provided next to the beading on the dress as well.
3) By no means are Jack Rogers anything new--but I'd love to have these Navajo Riviera Society Sandals to add to my collection. While walking the beach, they would be easy to take on and off but still provide that lovely little metallic pop.
4) With temperatures looking to be on the cooler side this weekend, I knew I needed to toss a cardigan into the mix. I loved this Westwood Cardi from The Row, in part because it just looked so cozy but also because it wouldn't distract from the beautiful colors in the dress.
5) When I lived in DC, I celebrated my 23rd birthday with a few dozen Key Lime Georgetown Cupcakes. If I still lived in DC, you better believe I'd be ordering a few again this year. Soooo yummy!

What do you have planned for your Memorial Day weekend?
Do you have any birthday traditions?

I simply cannot wait to see what you ladies pull together this week! Week after week, I'm blown away by your creativity and your vision. I simply cannot tell you how much I appreciate the time and effort you put into these posts! I just hope you enjoy creating them as much as I do :) In my opinion, Friday's Fancies posts are a perfect way to round out the week: you can dream and not be worrying about the pricetag! 
{If you're new to Friday's Fancies, feel free to email me or check out this post for more info!}

Have a happy and safe Memorial Day weekend! And on Sunday--indulge in something sweet for yours truly so we can pretend we're celebrating together :) xoxo {av}

adopting boston.

Though you'll find me in Indiana this week, my heart is still in New England with {cv}. When we started dating, he always sported this fantastically worn-in Boston Red Sox hat, cocked a little to the side. {Now, whenever he wears a hat, I smile and think back to those early days!} Growing up in a state without a baseball team, he worked quickly to outfit me as a Red Sox fan. In our almost six years together, we've seen the Red Sox play eight times--and I'm now a full-fledged fan. Here are a few photos from our most recent Fenway experience earlier this month:

See that hat!? It's not the one he wore when we met six years ago, but it is a little to the side like the good ol' days ;) After seeing this photo, I also realized how decked out we were in gear from our alma mater. We're a little nerdy--forgive us! {Our future baby {v}'s are destined for geekiness!} All in all, we had a perfect Friday night under the lights--in the best seats either of us have ever had at Fenway!

Have you ever "adopted" something because of someone you love?

I'm so happy to now call myself a Red Sox fan. I most certainly didn't jump on the bandwagon--I adopted Boston as my team very willingly because of my love for {cv} ;) Though we now have a shared  affection for the Red Sox, we'll always share a mutual hatred of one another's NFL teams. {He's a Pats fan and I'm a Colts fan. We have to have a little competition in our house somewhere, right?!}

Get excited for another fabulous round of Friday's Fancies tomorrow! Need some inspiration for your post? Pull together your dream Memorial Day weekend outfit! {I've got a post lined up with my birthday celebration and our Cape adventure in mind :) woohoo!} 

Thanks for bearing with me this week while I've been on my unexpected work trip--I promise lots of fabulousness next week, including a phenomenal giveaway coming on Tuesday! I am counting down the minutes until tomorrow when I can see your Friday's Fancies posts roll in! 
Have a great Thursday! xoxo {av}

my 26th wishlist.

I'll admit it. I have an ultimate wish list. It's fluid--and it changes all the time. As I turn 26 this weekend {and quietly mourn the fact my 20s are halfway through}, I have a few things on my "ultimate" wishlist for my birthday this Sunday. As you've learned from my Friday's Fancies posts, I dream big. If money were no object, this is what you'd find on my 26th birthday wishlist:

This year, on my ultimate birthday wishlist, you'd find:
-a pair of Christian Louboutin Décolleté 100 jazz pumps {to elevate my style for years}
-front row seats to a full summer tour for John Mayer {to fulfill my inner groupie}**
-unlimited flying abilities on US Airways {for jetsetting wherever my heart desires}**
-a Sarah Wallet from Louis Vuitton {to have a forever stylish wallet}
-these Lapis Studs from Kate Spade {for my growing collection of cobalt}
I'll be honest, I know the John Mayer wish is pretty lofty {i.e. unachievable}. If {cv} were a pilot, my jetsetting heart could be filled--but alas, he works at a desk, so that's probably out of the picture too. Regardless, it's fun to dream! I can't wait to hear what makes your list!

Have a fantastic Wednesday! xoxo {av}


Happy Tuesday! As promised, I'm coming through with the first dose of California photos! These are shots from our first {Satur}day in the Golden State, after arriving on our Virgin America flight from Boston. {cv} had never been west of Las Vegas, so his first glimpse of the Pacific Ocean was a momentous occasion in my book ;) We hopped on Highway 1 and made the trek down from San Francisco to Monterey. We saw a lot of the coastline and even found Magnum Bars {the first I'd discovered on this side of the Atlantic!}. Monterey proved to be a fabulous first stop as these pictures will attest!

Isn't the first day of vacation the best?

Hope you enjoyed this first glimpse at our little getaway--keep your eyes peeled for more next Monday! I have a load of fun posts lined up for the rest of this week! Have a great day :) xoxo {av}

P.S. Did you recognize my shirt?! It made an appearance in my 13th Friday's Fancies! I found it on sale at Anthropologie the week before our trip. I was thrilled to find it for a full $50 less than the original cost :) yay for the Anthro sale section!

a hoosier homecoming.

I hope you all had a fabulous weekend! {cv} and I made it back yesterday from our Californian adventure, but today I'm off again to Indiana for work. So far, May is turning out to be the busiest month of 2011!  With eight days on the west coast and two weekends elsewhere in New England, I'm also tacking on this four-day trip to Indiana. You won't hear me complaining though! This is {sadly} my first trip back to my home state since last July. I just know that climbing off the plane and emerging in the beautiful Indianapolis airport will be a perfect homecoming. {My parents are even making the hour trip from my hometown in southern Indiana to greet me! Yay!}

All this talk of Indiana brings me to the topic for today's post: the idea of home. When most people think of Indiana, the contents of these three images might come to mind. For many, Indiana is simply a "fly over" state, with loads of cornfields below them. Indianapolis is also another easy thing to remember from the Hoosier state {hello, the state is in the name--so easy!} and a few people might even think of the Indianapolis 500. 

To me, Indiana is so much more. I spent the first 18 years of my life in its pleasant confines. When I left, I wasn't exactly sad to leave. I was ready for more adventure than my small hometown could provide. In the almost eight years since my departure, I have experienced more than I ever dreamed I could--and I know I still have so much more to see. 

With each passing year, I have realized I miss the idea of "home" more than I ever anticipated. I don't miss the small town gossip or the slow{er} pace of life, but I have found that I miss the fact that people genuinely care what is going on in your life. {There are a handful of people in New England who have this characteristic, but on the whole, it's one of the things I miss most about my Midwestern home.} I miss the sunsets over those fly-over cornfields. I miss running and having people honk to say hello, not to tell you that you're in their way. I actually miss the quiet sometimes too.

So, where do you consider your "home" to be? 
If you don't live there, what do you miss about it?
If you do, what do you love most about your home?

I can't wait to learn a little more about each of you from your replies :) 

Get ready for a little taste of California this week--but let's be honest, I took 1750 pictures, so these recap posts will be stretching into the next month. Have a great start to the week! xoxo {av}

{images sources: cornfields, racecars + downtown}

friday's fancies #25.

Happy Friday, everyone! I hope you've enjoyed the fabulous California-themed guest posts--a huge thank you to Lena, Megan, Annemarie, and Ashley for sharing a little of their favorite state with all of you! Our vacation is all-too-quickly speeding by, but we've been enjoying every minute. This morning, we're planning on taking a hot air balloon ride over wine country--and I cannot wait to share some photos with all of you :) In a world without budgets, you could find me in this outfit for the day of wine tasting ahead:

1) I loved out this Beyond Vintage Deep V-Neck Lace Tee brought a little femininity to this outfit and that it still looked like a staple in my current wardrobe {the v-neck tee!}. I would likely have to wear a cami underneath, but in this dream, I wouldn't ;)
2) I know bib necklaces came into prominence last year, but I'm still on the bib bandwagon. This Kendra Scott Harlow Necklace brought a burst of color to the ivory lace tee and really tied the outfit together.
3) I'm quickly becoming one of Topshop's biggest fans. This Coral Gathered Slit Side Maxi Skirt brought the easy, Californian vibe I was hoping to create for this outfit. I also adore the color. 
4) This Chloé Heloise Small Leather Bag looked to be the perfect size for my wallet and my point-and-shoot. I love the rich leather and the texture too! Swoon!
5) As a huge fan of the denim jacket, I knew this outfit wouldn't be complete without one. With California's every-changing weather this week, this Acne Tag Milk Denim Jacket would be a great way to top off this get-up.
6) Working well in tandem with the purse I chose, I thought these Michael Kors Leather Sandals would be a great option for walking through vineyards and not getting too clumsy after a few glasses of wine!

Does this outfit make you want to roam the vineyards with me?
What else might be included in your wine-tasting essentials?

I can't wait to see what you all create for today! Though I'm a little behind {ok, a lot behind} on commenting, it doesn't mean I don't appreciate all the hard work each and every one of my Friday's Fancies faithful puts into their posts. I promise to get back on my game soon! With the blogger mayhem last week and limited internet access while on vacation, it's been rough to stay on top of things, 
so I hope you'll understand! 

For next week: create your perfect Memorial Day weekend outfit!! 
{mine may or may not have a Cape vibe--along with a birthday twist!}

Even though I'm away, you better believe I'll be checking my blog like crazy to see your {what are sure to be} gorgeous Friday's Fancies! If you're new to the concept, check out this post :) 
Have a fantastic Friday, everyone! Much love! xoxo {av}

a san francisco {love} affair.

 Happy Thursday, folks! I'm excited to share one last California-centric guest post this week :) this post comes from Ashley at a {little} dash of ash, one of my favorite new{er} bloggers on the scene. She also spent a few years in California after college, so I thought she'd be the perfect person to shed a little light on Northern California! Thank you again, Ashley! Have a lovely day! xoxo {av}

P.S. Even though I'm on vacation, Friday's Fancies will certainly be on for tomorrow! Get excited :) I have a wine-tasting outfit prepared! yay!
Hello readers of {long distance loving}!  This is Ashley from a {little} dash of ash guest blogging for {av} while she is on holiday in California (so, so, so jealous)!  She asked me to be part of her California inspired blog week since I lived out in San Francisco for a few years after college!

I am so excited to post about one of my favorite cities ever!  If you haven't already been, SF is one of the most diverse and fun cities in the country!  There is something to do for everyone and definitely more than enough things to do to last a lifetime!  For real, I lived there for over 3 years and didn't get to experience all that this city has to offer!  While there are a lot of "touristy" things to do in SF, there are so many hidden treasures that I thought I would share with you!  Hope you take this list on your next vacation, I promise it will not disappoint! :)

I love food more than anything in this world... and I definitely gained 20 pounds when I moved out west from trying all of the amazing restaurants!  It didn't help that I worked in an industry that had Vendor Dinners every single night! It was a luxury to go to some of the top restaurants in the Country, but my friends and I also found some of our own local favorites!  Here are just a few below:

and for some amazing BRUNCH try: Judy's, East Side West, Squat and Gobble, Beretta, Tangerine

Most tourists head down to Union Square for shopping - which isn't a bad place to go since it has every store you can imagine (including my favorite Bloomingdale's ever) - but if you want to venture off and find some unique boutiques head to Union Street, Chestnut Street,  

Ok, everyone needs to take at least one trolley ride in their lifetime and the Alcatraz night tour is pretty interesting as well!  But some other kind of "touristy" things to do is: Haight Ashbury, The Golden Gate Park, The Ferry Building, North Beach, and taking a bike ride across the Golden Gate Bridge!

If you are super touristy and head to Fisherman's Wharf - watch out for the Bushman!  If you are walking around Nob Hill, say hello to the famous Nob Hill Twins!  And don't forget to pay a tribute to The Grateful Dead by visiting Jerry Garcia's house!  The Painted Ladies (Houses from Full House) are beautiful and Lombard Street (the curviest street in America) is fun to drive down!

And... if you have time for a baseball game - I think AT&T Park, home of the SF Giants, is one of the most beautiful and fun stadiums I have been to!  Head to MoMo's for drinks before or after the game!

There are so many fun things to do outside of SF as well!  One of the local favorites is drinking on the patio at Sam's Cafe in Sausalito and one of my favorite weekend activities was heading up to Sonoma and Napa Valley!  Yes, we were that close for a day trip - It was heaven! :)

This post just brought back so many memories... and I think I'm going to head on over to Kayak to check out flights to the West Coast!  I miss you SF!

Thank you {av} for inviting me to guest post.  Be sure to hop on over to my {blog} for inspiration on fashion, home decor and things I love!  xxoo!

swoonworthy california fashion.

 Welcome to Wednesday! We're bound for wine country today, so in my absence, I have an extra special treat for you...a little guest post on California fashion from one of my favorite blogs, Brunch at Saks. Annemarie is the brains behind this blockbuster blog--and she is as sweet as they come! I'm so honored to have her guest posting :) Thanks again for taking the time out of your crazy schedule, Annemarie! Enjoy her post! xoxo {av}
I was so excited when {av} asked me to guest post while she enjoys beautiful California!  I'm Annemarie from Brunch at Saks, and as a lifelong CA resident (specifically calling Los Angeles home for the past 7 years), I've grown accustomed to our state's less refined and more relaxed sense of style. With our barely distinguishable seasons and what seems to be an endless mix of spring/summer temps year-round - especially here in Southern California - lighter pieces mixed with simple accessories have been a mainstay in our wardrobe for years.  So far this season, jersey and chiffon maxi dresses, wedge sandals, and beach-friendly accessories have been filling the racks quickly, so I've rounded up a few beauties that caught my eye:

1.  chiffon maxi by Mikael Aghal 

2.  Leah maxi by French Connection

3. Shyanne maxi by French Connection

4. high-low maxi by TopShop

5. Gypsy 05 maxi by Jordan dress

6. KM wedge by Matt Bernson 

7. Jollen wedge by Dolce Vita 

8. Wynn wedge by Michael KORS 

9. Quigley wedge by Coconuts

10. Brook wedge by Kate Spade

11. straw hat by TopShop

12.  Panama hat by Toast

13. Bay St. metallic by Kate Spade

14. printed scarf by SeedFemme

15. urban bracelet by Kenneth Cole

16. Alizee wristlet by Toast

Thank you, Alison! Enjoy CA :) xoxo

california bred.

Hope your week got off to a great start! {cv} and I are making our way up the California coast today and I have another special treat for you! Megan from Across The Pond is here to share what she misses most from her home state. I always adore her humor, her wit, and her smile. I'm sure you'll love her {and this post!} as much as I do. She just needs to move to New England when she moves back from the UK. I'd be a happy camper then ;) Thanks again, Megan! xoxo {av}
Oh hey there..
I am Megan from Across The Pond
  and sometimes I wake up in the morning to the sweet smell of salt water
and then I realize it's my own body sweat
from the wall heaters in this british home
and the hot british comforter that is meant for winter.
except it is almost summer now
and I am in England..
not in California with central air conditioning.
But I'm not complaining..
especially after 7 months of being punched in the face by the frigid cold air.
now I'm complaining.

I am a born and raised Southern California Girl..
birthed out of LA’s lady parts..
better known as Suburbia.
same thing.

i spent many hours/lifetimes on this freeway..image via weheartit.com

I grew up in, and worked in, the entertainment industry for the majority of my young life.
Then I got married and moved to Orange County..
and four years later wound up here in England for a year..
studying neuroscience..
I know..
don’t even ask.
Because I don’t know the answer.

There is so much I miss about home..
such as, but not limited to:

1. The Beaches: I am convinced that next to Hawaii, SO-CAL beaches are the prettiest beaches in the US.

2. My tan skin..aka my normal skin tone..RIP

3. Laguna Beach and Malibu

at the bffs Malibu Beach House

3. San Fran clam chowder in bread bowls


4. Hollywood (which ironically would go under the 'what I don't miss' category)


5. yearly 70 degree climate

6.dog parks and dog beaches

picking up my dog's poop while he eats poop.

7. Restaurants: Javiers, R&D Kitchen, Bandera, Italia Deli, In N Out (it's a restaurant okay?) Wilmas Patio, Taco Bell (also a resturaunt, and i dont care if the meat is fake) Wood Ranch, Jerry's Famous Deli, etc. etc. etc.

i promise i don't just ONLY eat fast food..i fine dine it up as well..sometimes..

8. being able to go to the beach, desert, wine country and mountains in a day..not that I have..but i think the fact that you can is pretty darn cool.

my Big Bear fashion. don't be jealous.
google images

google images

9. LA fashion.


10. Mexican Food. Oh sweet heaven...California does it RIGHT. And Europe doesn't do it at all.

 Doesn't this totally want to make you come visit California?
Or at the very least hang out with me..
 I know {av} does..
we are in a long distant relationship..
her and I..
that's why she started her blog
just so you know.

a city hall elopement.

 Happy Monday, everyone! I'm writing from quiet and cozy Cambria, a coastal town on beautiful US Highway 1. {cv} and I are enjoying weeklong roadtrip of California--and while I'm gone, I have four fabulous guest posts lined up. The first comes from La Petit Coquin, one of the first wedding bloggers I stumbled upon after I started this blog. Lena was kind enough to step in today--and I'm so glad she did! Her eye for beauty is spot-on and the wedding she chose to share is no exception.
Thank you Lena! Enjoy :) xoxo {av}
{av} emailed me a few weeks ago for my favorite California spots, and I immediately sent her back a list of about a million places to see and eat in the Bay Area. While {av} + {cv} are enjoying a well-deserved vacation--and all my recommendations, I'm sharing one of my very favorite places with you, San Francisco City Hall, and the very best thing to do there: elope!

Michelle and Mikhail were married at San Francisco's magnificent Beaux-Arts City Hall with just a single witness, the groom's brother, in attendance. Michelle wore a custom-made Erin Fetherston dress after seeing images from a recent runway show; she paired the perfectly sweet French silk tulle frock with Valentino peep toe pumps, a posy of red roses and a classic trench coat, perfect for foggy San Francisco.

After the ceremony, the newlyweds headed to the beach for photos. The shot of the bride up on the sea wall, the wind whipping at her full skirt, the slate gray sky behind her, might just be the most perfect shot of our little City by the Bay I've ever seen. 

I couldn't be more delighted to share this little gem with you, or thrilled that {av} asked me to guest post while she's away. I hope {av} + {cv} are having a divine time, and enjoying whatever weather our fair state throws at them!

{all photos by Anna Kuperberg - please do not reuse without permission}

friday's fancies #24.

Happy Friday--and a very happy birthday to my dear mother, {cnn}! I'm so excited to see her tonight--even if it's only over skype ;) She has some great surprises in store for her this evening...and I can't wait to hear her reaction!

With all the blogger woes yesterday and today, I'm severely behind on commenting {and blogging!}, but I promise to get with the gameplan tomorrow! {cv} and I will be making the trip west on Saturday morning and our airline promises free wifi...always a bonus! In a perfect world, I would sport a get-up much like the one you see below. It's comfortable yet functional--and out of my price range, but hey, Friday's Fancies is all about dreaming...so that's ok!

1) I spied this Matthew Williamson Belted Cotton Cardigan and thought it would make the perfect piece around which I could create the whole outfit. I loved the unexpected color combination!
2) With travel in mind, I wanted a bag like this Cleobella Sirena Raffia Tote that could work as a carry-on but also serve as a "beach" bag too! This was the perfect in-between...and it carried that touch of neon to help tie this get-up together :)
3) You can never go wrong with J Brand. These 814 Low-Rise Straight-Leg Jeans held their own against the teal in the cardigan. Even if J Brand doesn't fit me that well in real life, I can pretend they do in my Friday's Fancies, right?!
4) These Marc by Marc Jacobs Bow Enamel Earrings were preppy and still had a little bit of an edge to them. It didn't hurt that they also came in the perfect shade of highlighter yellow.
5) On its own, this Helmut Lang Short Sleeved Shirt is just a white button-down, but paired with the Matthew Williamson cardigan, it elevates it to a spectacular white bouse.
6) While attempting to create the beachy feel without wearing sandals, these Repetto Raffia Ballet Flats made it happen. My feet wouldn't get chilly and they would be easy to slip on and off through security. I'm sold!

Despite the blogger mayhem yesterday and today, I knew Friday's Fancies had to go on. This may be a quiet week, but never fear, there will be another {fabulous} round of Friday's Fancies next week! If you're new to the phenomenon, check out this post or send me an email to help you get started :) I'm happy to help! I cannot WAIT to see what the Friday's Fancies faithful creates this week :)

Have a very happy weekend--and get excited for some fabulous guest posts while I'm away!
Much love! xoxo {av}

P.S. I'm looking for ideas around themes--I had such a positive response to the Royal Wedding Friday's Fancies that it only makes sense to give you a starting point every so often. If you have an idea, pretty please send me an email! I can't wait to see what you think up :)

Be sure to include the name of your blog when you add your link--that way your blog gets the name recognition you deserves for all your hard work!

finding my toothbrush.

All right. I know what you're thinking. Finding my toothbrush?! What in the WORLD am I getting at here? This quote might help explain it just a bit...

For years, my decision was easy. I ran. Running was so much a part of my psyche that I really didn't feel "normal" unless I logged four or five days a week on the road. It's not hard for me to tally up a list of the things I adore about running: I love the wind through my hair. I love setting my own pace. Above all, I love that time on the road to just think.

Those of you who have been following me on twitter for a little while now probably saw a few tweets back in early February about my tibia stress fracture. It was a little badge of honor {though I don't wear it happily!} from the month of January when I attempted to train for a marathon solely on a treadmill. Considering my klutziness, I thought a treadmill would be better than falling on the snow or ice, but I was clearly very wrong. 

Hearing the news this stress fracture would prevent me from running for three months or more, my dreams of running my second marathon this spring were shattered {literally and figuratively}. I decided to focus my energy elsewhere {namely, this blog!}. Though I wasn't cleared for almost eight weeks to do any other physical activity, I somehow learned to fill my days in other ways. As the weather slowly improved this spring, my itch to run is back in FULL force. Thankfully, I was cleared to attend physical therapy to get the ball rolling so I can hopefully start running again this summer. 

With all of that background information out there, I can now get to the point of this post ;) After three months out of the saddle, I'm finding it SO much harder to get back into the workout routine. Until I'm back at full-strength with running, I have to find other methods to get a good workout. My physical therapist suggested spinning, the idea of which has made my skin crawl for years. Being a runner, I'm not one for "group" exercise, so the thought of sweating in a room full of people for 45 minutes with someone screaming at you isn't necessarily my idea of fun. Don't get me wrong: I am immensely thankful to have the ability to walk, let alone ride a bike or eventually run again.

With my heart set on getting stronger, however, I took my therapist's advice: I went to my first spin class last Wednesday and have been back a total of four times. Though I've not purchased spinning shoes just yet, I'm finding that it can be a good stand-in for a hard run.

Here's where you come in! Getting back in the groove isn't easy, so I need your always reliable advice :)

How do you overcome hiccups in your workout routine? 
{And will the spin bike ever get more comfortable?}

As always, thank you all SO much for your help! I feel like this is my week of health woes, so forgive me for that. It's been a big week of sharing on {long distance loving}--so thank you for your patience ;)
Have a great Thursday--and a very happy birthday to my blogger bestie, Kristen! xoxo {av}

psst: don't forget what tomorrow is--it's Friday, which also means Friday's Fancies! Email me if you have any questions or need any help getting your post ready :) I'm happy to help! So excited to see what you all pull together for tomorrow! 

packing up in style.

Happy Wednesday everyone! As we prepare for our trip next week, I started reminiscing about my other trips to the west coast. I've been to California on four occasions: once in fourth grade with my parents, again during my freshman and junior years of college with my roommate, and once last summer with my maid of honor. This trip to California is so special: it is actually {cv}'s first trip to the west coast! I couldn't be more thrilled to share memories with him in one of my favorite states! We are also getting to spend four {wonderful!} days with our dear friends from Denver and I may even get to see my college roomie, {si} :) All in all, we have lots of great things on tap!

So, as I'm starting to pack for next week, I decided to find a little packing inspiration from this old photo I took from 2004. In my opinion, it embodies that bold and beautiful nature of the California way of life. I've loved this photo for years now--which is why I picked it to serve as inspiration for what I might toss in my bag if money grew on trees! 

{sources: 1  -  2  -  3  -  4  -  5  -  6  -  7  -  8  -  9  -  10}

When I asked for your help in planning our itinerary, you all came through in a big way...so I have a feeling this time will be no different. My big question this time is:

What few items can always be found in your travel bag? 
 What is on your must-pack list for any vacation?!

I can't wait to hear your tips :) I simply cannot thank you enough for all your love and support after reading my post yesterday. I feel like I've made a HUGE step forward in accepting that being pale{r} is beautiful! I hope all of you have too! If you have any questions for me after that post, as always, I'm here to answer them...just email me. Thank you again for everything--you'll never know what your encouragement means to me! More from me tomorrow! xoxo {av}

the magazine that saved my life.

I started writing this post almost six months ago--back when I started blogging. While sitting on one of the most gorgeous beaches in the world {in Turks & Caicos}, I flipped through that month's Glamour magazine. It was a perfect day in paradise in May 2008...until I turned to page 129. 
On that page, I found the two-minute cancer test. It caught my attention on the cover, but I never thought it would apply to me. It was their perennial article on skin cancer and how to spot it. The pictures weren't pretty. Moles of all shapes, sizes, and colors that just looked wrong. Then, I spotted something which made my heart drop. One of the moles looked distinctly like a mole I first noticed in the spring of 2005, my sophomore year of college.

When I showed the mole to my doctor during the summer of 2005, she simply told me to keep an eye on it. At that point, it was the size of a pin prick. Extremely tiny--and by most accounts, pretty harmless. Three years later, it was the size of a pencil eraser and it was dark and almost black. The Glamour article scared me enough to find a dermatologist that first Monday I was back in DC. I booked the first available appointment they had, two months down the line.

For the two months I waited, I had this lingering suspicion something just wasn't right. It still wasn't enough to stop me from my once {or twice} weekly tanning trips. Returning from Turks & Caicos, I was so dark I would get asked daily where I'd been on vacation. I could easily say that May and June 2008 were two of my "tannest" months on record. I have plenty of pictures to prove it.

I will never forget the day I first walked in my dermatologist's office. It was July 1, 2008, a steamy DC day with a hazy sun hanging in the sky. I sat in the full-to-the-brim waiting room for almost an hour before they finally called my name. They had me change in a hospital gown, so the doctor could examine me from head to toe. The minute I opened my gown, she spotted the mole in question and immediately said it "had to go." 

My heart sank and an overwhelming sense of worry surged to the surface. As she took a small sliver of skin from the mole for a biopsy, I received my first-ever "non-scheduled" stitch. {The only others I had up to that point were for my wisdom teeth. Ick.} I remember walking back out into that hazy sun feeling angry. I left the appointment that day and told only a small handful of people about what had happened. I was ashamed. Though I didn't have a diagnosis, the reaction the doctor had to my mole was enough to foreshadow the news I received the next week.

A week later, while driving across the Key Bridge into Georgetown, a blocked number called my phone at 11:30am. I answered quickly--hearing a timid voice on the other end of the line asking if I had a moment to talk about my biopsy results. My heart pounded as he told me that the news wasn't good. I pulled into a parking garage right as he confirmed my worst fears. It was melanoma.

I walked a few steps into a Subway on K Street, with tears unabashedly streaming down my face. I bought a chocolate chip cookie and a Diet Coke. I called my parents and {cv} in disbelief. Everything was a blur. For the next week, I went for blood tests, x-rays, and doctor's appointments. I felt completely powerless. Even when I went shopping to numb the pain {never a good idea!}, the saleswoman said the turquoise top looked "so wonderful with my tan." Her comment kept me crying in the fitting room for nearly five minutes.

Thankfully, {cv} was able to come down up from Charlotte for the surgery on July 24, 2008. {kj}, one of my best friends, came to sit with him in the waiting room. {She even brought me chocolate chip pancakes from The Original Pancake House to take my mind off things!} My dermatologist was able to remove the entire mole during the thirty-minute procedure. That night, {cv} treated me to dinner at 1789 and I forgot about the pain for a few hours. 

In a strange way, I mourned my bronzed glow. I resented the fact everyone around me was still perfecting their tan, while I was watching mine disappear. I struggled to tell my friends, for fear they would somehow judge me--though I needed their support more than ever. Those I told assured me I shouldn't feel that way, but for some reason, I couldn't shake it.

My diagnosis was the wake-up call of all wake-up calls. I'll never forget walking into the tanning salon and revoking my "membership." When their cancellation form inquired about my reason for leaving, I wrote skin cancer. When the saleswoman saw my answer, she asked a few too many questions--and I left in tears. I also left knowing I would never, ever step in a tanning bed again. I also decided I would encourage everyone I knew to stay away from them too.

Since my surgery, I have been in a bathing suit less than five times. I didn't put on a bathing suit at all in 2009--and it took a lot of courage to put one on again last summer. It was a huge step in accepting the fact I could be in the sun, I just had to be smart about it. I bought a cute sun hat and a few extra cover-ups, but I'm still making peace with the fact I will never be as tan as I used to be. My post on one piece bathing suits was really my first step at admitting bikinis are no longer my schtick. Since my melanoma was on my chest, there is no sense in tempting the sun since statistics say I'm nine times more like to have another melanoma in the future.

I'll admit: I was one of those girls in high school and college who was tan all year round, even in the doldrums of winter. The irony is that I wrote a paper in eighth grade about the dangers of tanning, but two years later, I joined in the throngs of girls who filled the tanning beds in my hometown. My German skin never burned, so I thought I was invincible. I decided nothing would ever happen to me. Little did I know, I would become a part of a rapidly growing statistic. Any time I fill out paperwork for a doctor's office, I have to check the box marked cancer. It always gets a few looks when I return it to a receptionist. It will never be a badge of honor, but it will certainly always be a part of me.
After writing this post, I realize it could all sound frightening or maybe even too personal. I'm okay with that because skin cancer is scary and melanoma is more than just an ugly word. The sister of a friend from my hometown died of skin cancer when she was in her early 20s, so I knew I should go with my gut when I read that Glamour article. I am so grateful for each day {and each year} that passes because I shudder at what could have happened had I waited even a little longer to visit a dermatologist.

Please learn from my experience or from someone else you know who may have suffered a different outcome: Being tan isn't everything. Being healthy {and alive} is.

Apologies for this especially heavy post for a random Tuesday, but sharing my story with you today is my another step in my journey at helping other see that they aren't automatically immune from skin cancer. It's real. Very real. I certainly won't judge you if you're tan, I just want to make sure you're safe!
Thank you for reading--and wear your sunscreen. xoxo {av}

P.S. If you are at all questioning whether you should have something checked out, 
find an answer and book an appointment with a dermatologist today.
{source: glamour cover}