how to pack for europe in the winter.

how to pack for Europe in the winter (aka how to streamline your suitcase + avoid over-packing).

When we booked a last-minute trip to Europe at the holidays, my mind immediately when to every woman's question at hand: how in the world do you pack for a winter getaway an ocean away? We had to pack for ten days--and the list below captures nearly everything in my suitcase in the shoes and clothes spectrum.

For me, the hardest pieces to narrow down were the shoes. Looking semi-stylish while keeping comfort front of mind wasn't easy. In the summer, it is easy to pack a variety of lightweight sandals, but in the winter, the same solution does not apply. With my shoe choices, I had to think through my outfits in a way I didn't have to in the summer. In the end, I brought four pairs of shoes: a pair of versatile black boots, a weather-friendly {but light} pair of boots, an easy pair of sneakers, and a comfortable yet cute pair of wedges {similar here}. I only wore the sneakers twice, but I wore the black boots a ton. The weather-friendly boots made the rain easier to stomach--and would have worked wonders in the snow {if we'd had it}.

Choosing clothing wasn't much easier, but I played up the fact that my coat was visible most of the time. I stuck to a rather simple color scheme {lots of black and a few multipurpose pops of color}, but it worked! I packed some serious basics for tops: a few solid color sweaters, two basic button-downs {blue + white}, one chambray shirt, and a pair of tanks {black + white}. I ended up re-wearing almost everything, but before you start judging my cleanliness, remember that it wasn't sweaty summer weather and that we had the time to wash a few things in our hotel bathroom ;) On the pants front, I stayed simple as well {surprise, surprise}. I only packed one pair of jeans, two pairs of Pixie pants {charcoal gray + black}, and two pairs of Minnies {fun print + basic black}. For dressier nights, I did bring one dress {which I found on eBay!} and two "dressy" but lightweight tops. Throw on those wedges and a fancy top...and you're good to go for a night out on the town! Jewelry was also an easy way to jazz up an otherwise basic sweater or top. 

I made one big investment before the trip: a coat I would be happy to be photographed in the entire trip {similar found here}. Waterproof and warm, I knew I wouldn't be shivering as we saw the sights. I also packed one lighter jacket to wear on warmer days. {We had reasonable weather during our trip. It was definitely warmer than New England in December and January, though it did rain more than we expected}. My other suggestion would be to bring one set of winter wear accessories {i.e. hat, gloves, and scarf} which can work with both jackets. It will help cut down on the bulk in your suitcase.

There was a lot of J.Crew listed above, but it doesn't mean you need to go on a shopping spree before you fly to Europe {though it would be nice}. My takeaway was this: remember that you are essentially dressing for yourself. The people you pass on the street won't see your outfits. {I found that kind of freeing!} This definitely took the stress off my shoulders as I packed. This isn't a complete list, but it is a good starting point. I left off pajamas and undies because those are personal anyway ;) Thankfully, I never found myself aching for something I left at home this trip. VICTORY! I can't wait to share some actual photos from our trip soon! What other packing tips would you add to this list? xoxo {av}

life after long distance.

life after long distance (and how it'll feel when you get there!)

While chatting with a sweet friend last Friday, she told me she clicked through my long distance love stories on a regular basis. I spent the rest of the weekend thinking through how I could better keep this important facet of my blog alive. If Google Analytics tells me anything, it's this: people need more faith in long distance.

{cv} and I will celebrate five years in the same place this June. For the last 55 months, we have had the privilege of waking up next to one another. I call it a privilege because I have little reminders of our long distance days when {cv} travels for work. I hate how cold the left side of the bed is on those nights and I sleep terribly. I always anxiously await when his call before he goes into meetings...just like the long distance days of old. These days apart every so often serve as reminders about what we endured, but in the strangest way, they also give me peace in knowing how strong we are together.

While the acute pain of long distance has finally faded, much of what we learned during our three years apart is still alive in us today. I can tell when he is busy at work by simply hearing the tone of his voice. He can tell if I've had a long day by the tone of my voice when he walks in our front door. Those years we spent on the phone {before the real advent of Skype} taught us to pay attention. I know they always say that hindsight is 20/20, but it is truly only in retrospect that I've learned to love the lessons from our long distance years.

Long distance wasn't all peaches, but we survived. Wherever you are on the long distance spectrum, I hope this post encourages you to keep the faith. In a certain number of years, you'll look back and realize the heartache of your time apart was worth every. single. tear. I know I do. With all of this in mind, I know people desperately need that encouragement. For those of you in need of that hope for long distance, I promise more posts on this topic. For those of you not in a long distance relationship, I hope you'll indulge me every once in a while to share the love to those who need it.

For those who have survived long distance, how do those years apart live on in your daily life? xoxo {av}

P.S. Could your story help others in long distance relationships? Share a bit more about it with me--and you might be on {long distance loving} one day. {If you've shared your story recently, thank you. I'm wading through the submissions now!}

nyc: favorite eats.

where to eat in nyc.

Hello again! On Tuesday, I shared a few of my favorite things to see and do in NYC, but I'm back today with a few of my favorite places to eat. Truth be told, capturing all of the good food in NYC in one blog post would be impossible. My goal with this post is to simply share the places I've loved on my most recent visits. 

Case in point: Toro, a tapas restaurant with Boston roots. I would classify our meal there as a bit of a splurge, but it was definitely worthwhile. I generally love tapas, but tapas with your best friends is even better. As an admittedly picky eater, there were still plenty of options in my comfort zone. {I even took a few steps beyond it!} I also still dream of their grilled corn {pictured above}.

where to eat in nyc.

Next up, you'll find Buvette. I literally love Buvette. Both brunch and dinner at Buvette are worth the wait. If you love French food as much as I do, this little outpost will take you to Paris without the $1000+ plane ticket. The design of their menu is almost as incredible as the food it contains. {We tried to visit their second location in Paris in December, but we went on the one day of the week it was closed. I was so bummed!}

This photo is evidence of just how much {ch} and I love Buvette. We trekked in a snowstorm to get there. Not pictured: the coziest mulled wine of all time which greeted us inside...

where to eat in nyc.

Another favorite from my last trip to NYC was Commerce in Greenwich Village. I can easily say my favorite entrée from the trip was their impeccable short rib ravioli. If I hadn't been at the table with respectable people, I might have licked my plate. {This dinner also contained my only celebrity sighting of the trip: Padma Lakshmi's ex-husband, Salman Rushdie. I am not counting the moment earlier in the week when Allison Williams walked by me at the John Mayer concert. Yes, she is even more beautiful in person. #girlcrush} 

There may not be photo evidence of these favorites, but they are definitely worth adding to your list:
-Luke's Lobster: A trip to NYC is not complete for me without a pilgrimage to Luke's. The restaurant's namesake was actually one of my classmates from Georgetown. Luke brings in the best lobster daily from Maine. If you're not a fan of a lobster roll, trust me when I say you'll love a shrimp roll. If you are a fan of a lobster roll, you might want two; they are just that good.
-Hundred Acres: I met a sweet friend for lunch at Hundred Acres--and it did not disappoint. I went all out for lunch time with their Carolina shimp + grits. This adopted New Englander was in heaven.
-Jack's Wife Freda: We holed up here once for an entire afternoon, enjoying some rosé and some sunshine. I'd go back tomorrow if I could.
-Billy's Bakery: Back when cupcakes were more of a "thing", I preferred Billy's by a mile.
-The Standard Grill: Not only do they have a photo booth in the basement, they also have incredible waffles. Their location also serves as the perfect spot to hop on the High Line and explore. {I have also had great luck with celebrity sightings here, including Philip Seymour Hoffman and Selena Gomez. As a tourist, it was kind of fun. As an NYC resident, I'm sure it would get old.}
-Boqueria: I know, I know. Another tapas place. They once accommodated us for a late-night reservation and saved the day. Toro may be the new tapas in town, but Boqueria is still worth a try.
-Pommes Frites: Consider this place your late night fry heaven. Literally, they only serve fries. They also have twenty different dipping sauces, which are all pretty magical.

I am absolutely sure there are other things to add to this list, which is right where you come in: What other restaurants or eateries would you add to this list? Whether it is a quick lunch or a long dinner, I am all ears for great places to try the next time I'm in NYC! From one tourist to another, I hope this post is good food for thought for your next trip! xoxo {av}

wallet-friendly furniture finds.

fun + wallet-friendly furniture finds via one kings lane!

This year, I have tried desperately to cut down on the "junk" email coming through my inbox. Even though I get their emails twice a day, I decided that One Kings Lane made the cut. When we moved into our new apartment last June, we went on a furniture buying frenzy {mostly because we didn't have anything to fill the space}. This rolled into an all-out buying freeze after {cv} and I realized how quickly it was all adding up. Now that the holidays are over and life is getting back to some sort of routine, I decided it might be time to peruse One Kings Lane again.

Today must have been my lucky day! I scored a few things {including a bench, a trio of mirrors, and a sidetable} for more than half off the retail price. Our guest bedroom will be much more guest-friendly once these beauties arrive! Even better, they have a promotion running for a one-time $9.95 shipping fee for the month of January, which means you can save a ton on shipping through next Friday. I'll take any savings I can get!

If you haven't lately, it's worth looking through One Kings Lane again. All of the items below clock in below $300, though most are much below that threshold. The empty corner in your room will thank you ;) xoxo {av}

P.S. I was not compensated by One Kings Lane for this post--I simply decided to give it another try ;)

nyc: what to see when you have the time.

new york city: what to see when you have the time!

In December, I spent a wonderful week in NYC with my best friend {ch}. Though she currently has her nose in business school books in North Carolina, she had an address in New York City until last June. {ch} always seems to know the perfect little places to visit, so my trips are infinitely more authentic than the trips I took as a tourist back in my high school choir days.

grand central station.

Grand Central Station doesn't count as a non-touristy destination, but it is quite possibly my favorite train station in the entire world. It is just so beautiful. It also saved me from paying an arm and a leg in parking: I opted to park my car in Stamford, Connecticut and take the train into the city. For someone who is in driving distance of NYC, this was an easy way to save some time, money, and frustration.

the statue of atlas in rockefeller plaza.

{The Statue of Atlas in Rockfeller Plaza doesn't necessarily count as a hidden gem, I just loved this photo.}
fishs eddy.

Now to the good stuff: shopping!  There are endless {and I mean endless} places to spend your hard-earned cash in NYC. New Yorkers might shrug off the suggestions I have below, but for a non-New Yorker, I can't recommend these stops enough. First off: Fishs Eddy. To me, this store is like my favorite section of Anthropologie on steroids. The cutest home goods and fun little gifts will call your name from the minute you walk in the store. You'll be glad you made the stop.

eataly: the italian experience.

My uncle {jn} raved about Eataly years ago, but I didn't braved this Italian mecca until 2013. It is truly a sight to behold. A New Yorker might avoid the craziness of this massive and marvelous "food court", but a visitor to the city shouldn't miss it. {Note: I am including this in my "what to see" post because it is so much more than just food. It is an experience. Keep your eyes peeled for a "where to eat" post later this week.}

I know this dress isn't actually a "sight" in NYC, but I'm sharing it as a great reminder: you can visit one of their two Rent The Runway showrooms and find a dress for a fabulous night out in the city. I opted to rent this Theia Dress for a fun and festive Christmas party. It helped me feel less like a country bumpkin and more like a city girl.

I did not want to put you into a serious photo coma, so I will just list a few of my other favorites here:
-You cannot go to NYC without shopping {or at least browsing} in Soho. Going shopping south of Houston {not Texas, the street} was one of the things which the high school me never did. I love roaming the streets without constantly walking in shadows, thanks to shorter buildings. It doesn't hurt that nearly every shop I care about is within a few blocks radius.
-Strolling the streets of the West Village also ranks up there for this former small town girl. It may simply be the pace I like to take vacations, but I love just soaking up this adorable neighborhood when I visit the city. 
-The High Line offers unique views of NYC and a little breath of fresh air for the weary traveler. The city views may not disappear, but for a second, you might actually feel like you are out of the hustle and bustle.

Phew. I feel like I only touched the tip of an enormous iceberg. I'll add food into the mix later this week, but for now, this capture my favorite stops on a slightly-less-touristy trip to NYC. What other stops are on your "must see" list in NYC? I am always looking for new favorites for future trips. xoxo {av}

P.S. I may have grown up in southern Indiana, but I can manage the subway. You can too. Don't be afraid! Mastering the subway is much cheaper than taking taxis during your entire trip.

updo uproar.

This weekend, I'm honored to be standing beside one of my beautiful cousins as she says "I do." Whenever I'm asked to be a bridesmaid, I always get a bit nervous--because of my hair. Do a quick Google search of "curly bridesmaid updos" and you'll be seriously frightened. It's where the butterfly clips and jewels of the early 2000s went to die. There are a few celebrities in the mix, but walking the red carpet is very different than walking down the aisle.

Growing up, no one at the hair salon knew how to tame my hair. I ended up with cornrows and a puffball of curls for my junior and senior proms. {I wish I was kidding.} In a few recent weddings, my hair has been so cemented to my head that I get a three-day headache. The only day I've ever really loved my curly updo was my wedding day. The difference there? It was my wedding day and he spent two hours constructing that perfect pile of curls.

As a bridesmaid, you're simply an auxiliary part of the day. While important, guests are really only focused on one thing: the bride. I'm really ok with that. {I've had my day in the sun!} My argument with curly updos is simply that I don't want to look embarrassing in photos. I don't wear my hair down because it inevitably would find its way up. I don't have those curls hanging in front of your eyes because I have weird flashbacks to eighth grade dances and butterfly clips. I simply want some loose curls which look elegant and not frizzy. Is that so much to ask?

For the wedding this weekend, I've decided they should simply blow out my hair and add some curls into the mix. Thankfully, my hair would happily hold whatever shape someone puts into it. I'm just going to pray for no rain {or snow!}. If you're a fellow curly girl, what directions do you give your stylist when you ask for an updo? Cross your fingers for no cornrows this weekend ;) xoxo {av}

one day.

it takes four weeks for you to notice a change. it takes eight weeks for your friends to notice. it takes twelve weeks for the rest of the world to notice a change. it takes one day to decide you are enough.

You've probably seen the first three sentences on this graphic on Pinterest. After seeing it one too many times, I decided to add the last sentence. Back in September, I approached this topic of weight and body image with a bit of humor {you should always eat the cupcake, remember?}. Today, I approach it with a bit more reality. January is always a time when people recommit to taking care of themselves after a gluttonous few weeks at the holidays. Graphics fly around Pinterest with motivational quotes. Your friends share articles on Facebook. Countless ads for gyms fill your commercial breaks. It's...a lot.

Here's the thing: I think we forget that the commitment to our health {be it physical or mental} is a big decision, in and of itself. Yes, it may take weeks of working out and/or eating better to see a change. However, choosing that you are worth the effort is a decision which deserves recognition. Because the changes don't happen overnight, we must remember the daily victories.

This may seem like a simple addition, but truly, deciding I was enough made all the difference. Even though I work out 5-6 times a week, I have come to accept that I will not be the thinnest or fittest person at the gym. I like wine and cheese too much for that. The decision that I am enough is one I make on a daily basis. I know in my heart the journey for change starts with me.

What helps keep you on track at the gym, in the kitchen, or in life? Do you have a favorite quote which inspires you? In case someone hasn't told you this today, you. are. enough. xoxo {av}

friday's fancies: january.

shop it here: J.Crew Anchor-Button Sweater in Stripe // J Brand Mid Rise Skinny Jeans // Kate Spade Swirl Around Graduated Necklace // Michael Kors Skylar Crystal Bezel Bracelet Watch // NARS Larger Than Life Lip Gloss // Hunter Original Boots in Navy // Clare Vivier Grande Pochette

After three years of Friday's Fancies, the holiday break taught me that a bigger life balance was achievable. Making a few small changes would absolutely change my world for the better. I recognized the quality of Friday's Fancies would grow exponentially if I was managing it once a month, rather than four. Moving forward, the first Friday of each month will be all about Friday's Fancies. As always, there is no requirement to follow the theme I laid out. Themes are simply suggestions to get the creative wheels turning. Though #FridaysFancies is changing somewhat, the underlying mission is still true: money shouldn't put a cap on the possibilities. Every Friday's Fancies ensemble starts a dreamy get-up and is meant to inspire future fashion choices.  This outfit, for example, would be perfect for facing a new day with new confidence and classic flair.

Moving forward, we'll be able to make Friday's Fancies an even better form of its former self. {As an FYI, the link-up will remain open throughout the entire months. Multiple entries from the same blog over the course of the month are permitted and encouraged.} Many thanks to those who have been with me on this Friday's Fancies journey since the beginning! I am so blessed to have such supportive co-conspirators. I can't wait to see how you make the new year your own in your ensembles! Have a happy weekend, friends! xoxo {av}

new year, new you.

While in London, I picked up a new fragrance for 2014: Jo Malone Vanilla & Anise. I am picky when it comes to scents. Anything too floral or heavy gives me a headache. I tend to spray myself with my favorite, then leave the store (much to the salesperson's chagrin). If I can make it for a few hours without picking up a nasty headache, I find my way back to the store (much to the saleperson's surprise) and buy the scent. 

As we walked away from the store, beautiful bag in hand, I realized it isn't just the scent which makes my perfume purchases so time-consuming. It is the fact I attach memories to whatever scent I buy. The Jo Malone pick from London will always remind me of our European escape. For me, the perfumes below have big {and small} memories attached to them. Some were worn for a season of my life. Others lasted years. Those scents can immediately take me back to the good memories I earned while wearing it. I regret purchasing a few, mostly because I didn't have the same shopping sense that I do today. {Read: headache city!}

Buying a perfume over the New Year's holiday also made me feel like I was getting a shiny, happy lease on 2014. This smell could be the one with which I remember {what I hope are} exciting things ahead. In the strangest way, it made me even more hopeful for the new year. Sometimes, the whole "new year, new you" idea rings true in the most realistic of ways. This year, Jo Malone and I will take on the world.

Am I the only crazy one who attaches memories like this to smells or are you in the same camp? I'm praying I'm not alone here! If you have a picky nose like me, what fragrances have recently passed your test? xoxo {av}

my pledge for 2014.

teacups on portobello road.
 {Notting Hill}

A very happy 2014 to you! This is my first post in nearly two weeks, marking my longest blogging hiatus since I started blogging in November 2010. It came at the perfect time. The last few months of 2013 proved to be rather crazy, both personally and professionally, so the time away was just what the doctor ordered.

the ritz london.
 {The Ritz London}

I wish I could give you a grand plan for what I'll be doing differently in 2014, but I was a little busy during that time away. Our European vacation {best documented on Instagram} will give plenty of inspiration for posts in the coming weeks and months. {After taking nearly 1000 photos, the iPhone photos in today's post will have to do until I sort through all of them.}

Here's what I can promise you in 2014: I pledge to bring you my best. I pledge to blog when I have content of value to share, rather than simply pushing content for content's sake. I pledge my honesty and sincerity in the posts I publish. Most of all, I pledge to be me. I won't apologize for the less than glamorous daily life I lead. In my opinion, this blogging world has become a bit idyllic and {dare I say} fake. While this can be a pretty world to live in, I didn't start blogging to live in a dream world. I started blogging make the world I do live in better--in my own little way. I only hope you'll stick along for the ride... xoxo {av}