MEET THE GIRL GANG

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My girls. My squad. My #GirlGang. From left to right: Nikki, myself, Brandy, Shay. I’m sure you guys might have seen this post floating on Instagram of us shutting DOWN the streets of Times Square during New York Fashion Week. We were there Thursday-Monday and definitely made the most of our experiences! While we did not attend any shows, we had quite a few brand meetings set up along with many events to attend. Safe to say we were making boss moves, not just trying to get into all of the shows. While we would have love to attend a few shows, we all agreed that creating and building relationships with the people who you need to know in the industry would be more beneficial for us in the long run. When you think of it that way, they will remember who you are and will keep you in mind for future opportunities like collaborations, and personally invite you to their shows, etc. Keep in mind that you have to do the work, too. Always always always follow up and thank them for their time no matter how big or small the opportunity is.

Meet the #GIRLGANG.

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SHAY of @shaymone

Shay and I have been only been hanging out since the early summer, but we have known each other/and following each other a few months before we started hanging out. We also have closer ties because her future sister-in-law and I have known each other since middle school pretty much. It feels like we’ve been friends for a decade even though we haven’t. That’s how strong our connection is. I don’t have too many girlfriends, but I would consider the beginning of this friendship TRUE, REAL, and I can tell that it will be long-lasting. Sometimes, you just know. Out of all 4 of us, Shay is the dominant planner and the organizer. *Insert praising hands emoji here* She definitely keeps us all in line and on our toes with our to-do’s and tasks for the week. Also, she’s a petite mother of 3 and a certified BOSS in everything that she does all while being a boss at her full-time job. www.shaymone.com

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BRANDY of @authentically.b

Where do I start? Brandy’s Instagram handle is exactly what she IS! AUTHENTIC. She’s not afraid to be b o l d and fearless and her personal style reflects that as well. She has the attitude to back it up, all the while she is as nice as can be. Brandy is also the mother of her super handsome son, Grant! If you follow her on Instagram, her stories always reflect how her family brings out her soft side. I love that about her. She is also an elementary school teacher everyday and runs a kick-ass blog www.authenticallyb.com When B came into the picture, this was only in the summer time, too. We finally met in person when I agreed to be on a DIY news segment that she hosted on Houston Life TV. We clicked, and not too long after is when we all linked up!

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NIKKI of @newtexacali

Is she from New York? Nope. Is she from Cali? Nope. Her handle describes her well because she is a wanderlust and an absolute free spirit. Nikki and I met last year at a Create & Cultivate event here in Houston and have been connected ever since. Earlier this summer is when we really started to talk more and hang out. Nikki is also a mother of two gorgeous kids that I call “my fraaandsss” and knows how to balance everything so well! Not only does she talk the talk, but she walks that walk, too. She recently quit her full time job a few months ago to take on blogging full force. I’m so proud for her because all of us in the group aspire to blog full time! ha. (until then, we’re doing the work.) We recently had a conversation about aspirations, goals, and manifestation. It’s like, once she quit quit her job, things started to unfold for her. She’s featured in the LIKE.toKNOW.it book, she was nominated for Houston’s It girl of Instagram, and is/has been working on paid partnerships. www.newtexacaligal.com

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Our Driving FORCE: Each other

Considering that these friendships are new and flourishing, if you have been following along with us you can tell that we have a special bond. It’s like God had this ALL planned out. I was living in Austin with barely any friends that shared the same interest, let alone looked like me. Not saying that matters as much, but it just feels real when you can connect with likeminded people who are on the same level as you, and who just gets you. We love to celebrate each other’s WINS and accomplishments. Always rooting for each other, and helping out with anything when we can while being STRAIGHT UP HONEST. We get things DONE and take names. I’m very observant of behaviors and normally have a guard up when I sense something about someone that would turn off my interest. I don’t feel that when I’m with them. That’s how I knew that we would be the perfect #GirlGang. We all have different personalities, but at the same time we have a lot of similarities. A few of you asked about how we got to do some of the things that we did at NYFW. This is when we put all of our heads together and made those things happen. If one of us got an email from a brand, we responded and included WE and sent off one another’s names, handles, and media kits to everyone that contacted us and vice versa. Four is better than one! We always put things into perspective differently which is how we come up with “The Plan.” We did the dirty work on our own. WE contacted brands, WE contacted PR companies, WE did the following up and made it all happen. And when WE got the opportunities, WE made sure that WE created the hell out of some amazing content which got us noticed for MORE opportunities. The possibilities are truly endless when ideas are bounced around like basketballs. If it weren’t for them, I wouldn’t have some of the connections that I currently have, and some of the knowledge that I have about the blogging game. We’re all still learning and growing in progress and WE are doing it together! I thank God for these ladies and I hope our stories inspire you all. Keep up with us on social because we have some amazing things brewing in the master pot! Thanks for reading <3

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Shop my look below: ALL looks from ASOS

Not shown above: Saint Laurent ChYc bag in black patent from REBAG

Photos by Ahmad Sweeney @sweenshots

 

BREAKFAST AT PABLO ESCOBAR'S MANSION

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On our last day in Tulum, we went to visit the infamous "Pablo Escobar Mansion" also known as Casa Malca - which is now a hotel. This place is literally a hidden gem. It's located pretty far down Tulum Beach and is very ducked off. So if you don't know about it beforehand, you probably won't hear much about it or see it. Pablo's mansion was abandoned after he died in '93. After being rediscovered in 2003, Lio Malca - a New York based contemporary art dealer bought the mansion and turned it into a luxury hotel then renamed - Casa Malca. Many places down Tulum Beach have signs with the names of the property but Casa Malca does not. Also, you can't just roll up in there and expect to be able to explore the property. You will get turned around. We learned this after our second attempt to get inside. We tried to visit the day before, but for some reason they were closed for the day. I was like nooooooo because of course I saw photos of the property before, and I had some ideas  in mind (because that's what I do all the time - lol.) Luckily, we got in the next day! The experience was so exclusive - before you can get inside, there will be a guard at the door to check if you are a guest. Since we were not staying at the hotel, we told him we had reservations for the restaurant and he opened the gates to let us inside. *sigh of relief*

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This area normally has a big rug and couch but they took it down for maintenance and cleaning. I was bummed. (again) Since I can be "extra" when I want something, I asked when they were going to put out the couch and rug (that you can see is missing) he couldn't tell me a timeframe so I took photos anyway then headed to the restaurant. Life goes on. I also loved how the curtains were made from old wedding dresses!

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Just as I thought - every part was so beautiful and the atmosphere was absolutely peaceful. We arrived pretty early (around 9:30am-ish) just in case there were other tourists. We were the only ones there except for the housekeepers and the person working the front desk. We walked around, checked out the mansion, then went to have breakfast at the restaurant "Philosophy" inside. There were only 3 other people having breakfast, then just Des and me after they left. I loved having the place to ourselves! That meant photo-op time of course.

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Boy I sure do love a breakfast with a view. We sat on this gorgeous couch that I wish I could've taken home with me. (well, as for all of the interior decors) Our seating was right next to this open space that overlooked the Tulum Beach where you could hear the waves and feel the warm breeze. The restaurant was very rustic-chic, yet modern. The service was great, and the music was relatable - haha. We ordered pancakes and coffee with some kind of mouth-watering-delicious bread that I want more of..now. I certainly want to go back to Casa Malca when I visit Tulum again. Maybe stay there for a night or two to get a chance to explore the entire property since some were off-limits to non guests of the hotel. This place should absolutely be on your to-see list when you visit Tulum. 

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Tassel Earrings: Beaded By W // Top: Virgodowntown // Skirt: Nasty Gal (old) // Bag: Ellen & James Rectangle Basket

SHOP THE LOOK:

 

MY STAY AT AZULIK: TULUM

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Ahhhh, Azulik Hotel Tulum. Let's see, do I even have the words to describe this place? It is literally a d r e a m. I have been wanting to visit Tulum for a while, and ever since we went to Cancun last year (for my my future brother & sister-in-law's wedding) I had Tulum on my next Mexico destination list. Tulum is a smaller town located on the coastline of the Yucatan Peninsula - home of the most beautiful beaches, gorgeous natural cenotes, and of course the ancient Mayan Ruins. Tulum is approximately 90 minutes away from the Cancun International Airport which is the closest place to fly into. From there, you can arrange shuttle transportation with your hotel or rent a car and drive. 

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We arrived to Tulum in the late afternoon around 3:30pm - and once we get to the entrance of the Azulik Eco Resort & Maya Spa, there was a hostess outside waiting to check our names on the list to verify that we were guests of the hotel. Talk about an exclusive experience. We then headed to the lobby where we were greeted warmly with smiles, and a "healthy welcome shot" for purity, and peace of mind. Not an alcoholic shot, but the "healthy shots" are strictly healthy ingredients that support anti-inflammatory; apple, ginger, cinnamon, strength; ginger, turmeric, lemon, digestion & cholesterol; pineapple, grapes, ginger, healthy liver; garlic, cayenne pepper, apple, ginger, wheatgrass, as well as other options for particular pains. I thought it was so amazing once the lady told us what it was that we were drinking, and what it was for. Basically, it's like a cleanse before entering the hotel. We got all checked in, and took a tour of the place with our "Azulik Angel" while our luggage was being delivered to our room. We got a full run-down of where everything was, the services that were offered; such as the spa, free yoga classes, and where the on-site restaurants were located. 

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The lobby was nicely shaded, relaxing, and of course had some of the most delicious fruit infused water to enjoy if you needed to go down to use the wifi for a little bit. Did I mention that there's no wifi at all? The resort is completely eco-friendly. No electricity, no showers, and no wifi. (yes, I said that again) You're probably thinking; how the heck do you survive then?! Well, we went to relax and enjoy the experience so we just took it for what it was, and got in tune with nature. I had already done my research before choosing to stay at Azulik, so I think it's safe to say that we came prepared. 

 
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We got to our room and sure enough the sight is nothing short of amazing. Wooden floors, wooden ceiling, bamboo interiors, glass lanterns, and a bathtub made of gorgeous colorful tile. I think the bed was my favorite part because it was extremely roomy and quite comfortable...and dreamy. I loved the canopy attached because it prevented mosquitos from getting to us since we slept with the door open to listen to the waves crash against the shore in the early mornings. There are fans above the beds and that's probably the only type of air you will get besides the wind blowing from outside. It was pretty hot everywhere in Tulum and it seems like it couldn't be escaped. Nonetheless we enjoyed every bit of our Azulik experience and will be back.

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ROOM SERVICE PLEASE. Okay, this was the coolest room service process I've ever experienced. Reminding you I felt like we were Jane and Tarzan learning to survive and live in the jungle. To order room service, you write down what you'd like to order on a small piece of paper, you have to roll up that piece of paper and put it inside of this little ball (that has your room number on it) then drop your ball into a secret passage way outside your door. After your drop your ball you have to wait for the "DING" noise to know that they have received your special request for room service. It was so fun! I wish I could've just stayed in the room and ordered room service all day long. I ordered the casserole eggs with fruit & yogurt, and Des ordered the egg and cheese omelette. Man, oh so gooooood.

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Attempting to eat outside was almost a complete f a i l. Reason being is because we had a few unwanted guests show up on the balcony. Iguanas and raccoons. *stale face*  It was HILARIOUS because Des saw them first as he was eating outside while I got dressed. All of a sudden I hear "oh sh*t!* So I ran out there to see what he was yelling for and there it was - a huge iguana who had just come in peace because he smelled our yummy food. We just shoed him off and he crept back up again. And again. I wanted to get these photos for the blog (because my Sincerely Jules t-shirt was so perfect for the occasion) so they stayed around a little longer until after I got the shots I wanted. Eeeek! FYI: The mosquitoes are also a pain to deal with so I kept bug spray on me like I do my chapstick. 

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This balcony though...to me this was the best part about the particular room we stayed in. You get the best view of the ocean! There are swings everywhere, hammocks, and even a couch hanging from the ceiling if you'd like to take a nap outside or read a book. I mean, there's not much more to say than it was just absolutely beautiful. I think the first day we got there we didn't leave the room for the rest of the evening because we enjoyed the views and the room so much. Unwinding at its finest. Azulik does have it's own private beach (with clothing optional) so we'd also go down there to relax and have a drink or two. There's also a really good restaurant down at the beach bar too. Everything we needed in that moment was there. Just us, the ocean, and our views. 

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Would I recommend you to stay at Azulik? Absolutely! But I will be honest and say that it isn't for everyone. We were okay with getting in tune with nature and embracing the culture around us. It was one of the most amazing times. This trip is surely one for the books and we are going to stay here next time we visit Tulum! I tried to keep this post geared towards my stay at Azulik only without having an overflow of the other hundreds of Tulum photos I left with. I will also be doing a post on Casa Malca, and a Tulum travel diary as well. If you have any questions about my stay, this place, or Tulum overall please feel free to ask! Thanks so much for reading. xo

Until next time - Azulik..

 

SUMMER TRAVELS: NEW YORK PHOTO DIARY

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Gosh I just love New York. Almost everything about it gives me the best feelings I can't explain. Every time I have visited, I left so inspired. New York truly is a city like no other. When I have visited New York previously, it has been for something specific; like a few conferences that I went to (Create & Cultivate) and (How To Make It In Fashion NYC) and NYFW when I interned with Giulietta NY LLC. This time around, we actually got to explore the boroughs and visit all the places I've been wanting to see. I can also say that this was the BEST trip EVER! If you follow me on Instagram, I'm sure you know why. If not, keep scrolling find out :)

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When we arrived in New York, (about 9:30am) we stayed at the Arlo Nomad hotel located just North of Madison Square Park and a short walk to the Empire State Building. I found out about this gem while searching through the net when looking for rooms with specific details for ideas I had in mind to do a shoot for the blog. Ding, ding, ding! Arlo Nomad was the winner. I really wanted the full New York City vibe; views of the city and floor to ceiling windows. The Arlo Hotel also has another location: Arlo Soho. I personally liked the Arlo Nomad better when doing my research. Not to mention every corner of the place is 'Gram worthy! *praising hands emoji* Also, we'll just ignore the fact that the taxi cab below is advertising a gentlemen's club.

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There are ONLY two things I didn't like about the Arlo Nomad hotel. The rooms are literally about 150 square feet, and there's no room service. Room service normally isn't a big deal for me but I had it specifically in mind for this breakfast in bed shoot. Luckily, there are two restaurants located in the lobby of the hotel - Massoni, and Nomad Bodega. I went there to get a few bites just for the photos - and coffee of course. There's also a super chill rooftop patio bar which is where we hung out at night just before ending our day. If you go, ask for the "watermelon drink."

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Cafe Henrie is one of the most aesthetically pleasing restaurants in my book. The owner - Andre Saraiva is a Rakish graffiti artist and international club owner who definitely takes pride in his work. "It's a cafe, but almost an art project." We came here for breakfast and I think I took photos of the interior and artwork the entire time. Des and I both had the breakfast sandwich with scrambled eggs, tomato jam, herb salad, and added bacon. 

Man - where do I begin with Egg Shop? The food is D-E-L-I-C-I-O-U-S. Egg Shop has two locations in New York: Nolita - 151 Elizabeth St. and in Brooklyn (Williamsburg) - 138 N 8th St. This spot has a pretty chill atmosphere (and obviously very picturesque) with a little bit of everything to offer as far as on the menu. Fresh juices, refreshing breakfast cocktails, organic wines, breakfast bowls, and of course the amaaaazing egg sandwiches! I would go back and eat the same thing over and over if I could. It kind of reminds me on one of my favorite breakfast spots in LA: Eggslut *drools*  Sadly, I'm the type of person to stick with what I really like on a menu because I always feel like I have the worse luck when I finally decide to try something else; I end up hating it! In Des' words: I always take L's (lol) I doubt I would regret ANYTHING on Egg Shop's menu though. 

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A lil dessert won't hurt! I've been sooo anxious to try Milk (Momofuku) Bar. There are quite a few locations in New York, Washington D.C., Toronto, and Las Vegas. While strolling around SoHo, we ended up stumbling across the Milk Nolita location - of course we had to stop....maybe twice ha. I heard about Milk a while before Glossier collaborated with them for their new Balm Dot Com Birthday cake edition. Love that stuff btw! I bought two tubes because it's that good. The first time, I tried the birthday cake truffles (and oh my God) *takes a moment of silence.* We couldn't resist so we went back again. The second time around I got the Birthday Cake flavored ice cream with sprinkles, and Des fell in love with the Cornflake-Chocolate Chip-Marshmallow cookies. He's a cookie monster. 

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Chillhouse is a brand new multipurpose space owned by Cyndi Ramirez. You can enjoy chill lattes, coffee, wine, beer, small bites, a massage, and even a nice manicure - all in one chill spot! Hence the name; you can feel free to just grab a drink and chill if you want. With the good vibes playing in the background, I took the opportunity to grab an iced coffee, cooled down, and chilled out for a bit since I easily walked miles and miles in New York and they weren't super busy at the time. Every inch of this place is also what I consider 'Gram worthy, so I snapped a few quick pics to show you guys how awesome Chillhouse really is. 

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Where do I begin? This man never ceases to amaze me. From what I thought, we would just be headed to a nice dinner at Mercer Kitchen on the last night of our trip.  (I'll try to keep this short)  While on the way, we took a little detour. I was questioning where we were going because I knew Mercer Kitchen was not in the direction that we were headed. He just continued to play it off as if it were no big deal and that we were just going a different route. I just went with it like - hmm, okay cool. We ended up at this building that served as a hotel/restaurant with this super fancy rooftop. Okay, at this point I felt weird because Des wasn't saying much but seemed so confident that he knew where he was going. We got to the rooftop, and there it was...THE most gorgeous site. Rose petals shaped into a heart where he led me to the middle. Popped the question just like that. I look to my right, and there's a photographer. I was like what! You hired a photographer to be here?! It was the happiest moment ever. I said yes, we toasted with Moet, took hundreds of photos (of course) then headed to Mercer Kitchen for dinner.

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I had the Rigatoni with meatballs, and it was the best pasta I've ever had in life! (seriously) We will be going back. The service was amazing, and the food/desserts were so delicious. The ambiance was very dark, yet welcoming and chill.  We are already thinking of when we'll be back to visit New York. I can confirm now that it has become one of my favorite cities for sure. Until next time, New York. You'll always hold a special place in my heart. xo

 

SUMMER TRAVELS: LOS ANGELES PHOTO DIARY

This city has definitely got to go on my list of favorites. There's no other place like it. To say that San Diego is the only other major city that I've been to (besides the smaller surrounding cities)  Los Angeles hands down wins my heart! It's just something about the feeling that I get when I'm there visiting. I just feel like I'm not worried about much at all and that I can do anything I want to do. Seriously trying to move here pretty soon!

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As many times that I've been to LA, I am so grateful to have been able to stay at least three times now. That's how much I enjoy The Line. The interior is industrial-chic with concrete walls and floor-to-ceiling windows, and cool-funky artwork. The rooms have amazing views if you're facing the Hollywood Hills. For a few bucks extra, I would recommend requesting that option for your stay. If not, you'll probably be facing the loud street, or a building that blocks everything. Who wants that? The whole point of experiencing the Line Hotel is for the views. Don't pass up that opportunity for what you're paying.  Located in the Wilshire | Normandie neighborhood,  just in the center of Koreatown, The Line is not very far from a few LA attractions worth checking out. Although there are many places you can walk to near by, you honestly don't have to go too far because there are three restaurants to grab a bite at in the hotel.

The Commissary - A greenhouse inspired outside restaurant/bar serving Korean food with a touch of American. Located near the pool, you can grab a drink and chill outdoor on the surrounding patios

The Pot - Located inside near the lobby of the check-in area, you can always grab Korean BBQ (try the BBQ wings) or just a drink at night, where there's a DJ almost every weekend. The Line is mainly accompanied by modern hipsters + a trendy crowd of people in town visiting, or from the local area to party and have a good time. Always a fun atmosphere.

The Cafe - If you're a morning person, you can catch the Cafe open at 6am seven days a week. I have yet to try it, but the pastries always look so good 

As I get more into creating lifestyle content, I will be sure to update travel + travel tips when I can. I hope y'all enjoyed the photo diary! More LA pics to come in later upcoming posts. Stay tuned! 

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*All photos were taken with my iPhone 7 plus - except for the photo credited to the Line Hotel's Commissary restaurant*