Instashop! {online boutiques discovered on Instagram}

Instagram is hands down one of my favorite apps – it’s a little more artsy/creative/visual than other forms of social media which is why I am so enthralled with it. But what’s really fantastic about Instagram is not just seeing beautiful photography or keeping up with your friend’s lives through images, but discovering unique people (bloggers, photographers, makeup artists, fashion designers, artists etc.) and my absolute favorite: online boutiques and retailers.

I am not stranger to online shopping…in fact, I prefer it. Many times I’ve been asked where I shop and the answer is: everywhere. I am not one to gravitate toward one store or one style – what I wear ultimately depends on my mood and how I’m feeling that particular day. But I will say that between a hectic life, my desire for unique items and a consistent need for instant gratification, online shopping does the trick. Additionally, I like to have a plethora of websites in my arsenal so I can refer to them when I am looking for something specific or wanting to do some virtual window shopping.

In this day and age, many people are not just using social media for personal use, but as a platform to market themselves and/or their business. Therefore, those smaller retailers out there who are using Instagram to make a name for themselves are definitely nailing it. Between accessing new followers through hashtags and having the ability to find your target market in various ways, you are essentially able to market yourself for free while building clientele. That’s the beauty of social media in terms of business – it’s a wonderful tool to use if you know how to do it effectively and efficiently. With that said, I’ve discovered several shops that I’ve added to my “shopping bookmark collection” on my computer thanks to Instagram! WARNING: Apologies in advance if this burns a hole in your pocket. Enjoy!

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1.  Ban.do

Website: http://shopbando.com

{Instagram: shopbando}

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Ummm can I explain how much I adore this site? Ban.do is an L.A. based design house that creates funky (and almost Kate Spade-esque) gifts and accessories! From bags, koozies and umbrellas to shoe clips and hair accessories – there are numerous ways to add vibrant pops of color to your life!

 

2. Wedding Chicks

Website: http://weddingchicks.com

{ Instagram: weddingchicks }

Weddingchicks

This is one site that I was fortunate enough to discover before our wedding because I actually purchased tote bags from here and used them as goodie bags for my bachelorette weekend! Wedding Chicks not only has really incredible DIY projects for brides, but also has an array of adorable products that you cannot just find anywhere such as cute dish towels, stationary, favors and gifts. The prices are reasonable and I just adore all of the designs!

 

3.  Private Party

http://shopprivateparty.com

{ Instagram: shopprivateparty }

shopprivatepartyIf you’re on top of your pop culture game and have a sense of humor, please proceed. I stumbled upon Private Party merely by accident because someone I followed was wearing a “FEYONCE'” tee (Get it? Beyonce’? Feyonce’?), and I thought it was absolutely hysterical. This person had the name of Private Party tagged in their photo and so I found their account, checked out their site and the rest was history! This is definitely not an every day purchase but for a special occasion (or if you happen to have a friend who is engaged and want to get them a FEYONCE’ shirt), this is the place to go!

 

4. Hallelu

Website: http://shophallelu.com

{ Instagram: shophallelu }

Hallelu

So I cannot say that I discovered Hallelu on Instagram, but you could say that I rediscovered it there. Now, I have to give credit to my girlfriends who lived in Wilmington, NC during college (Steph, Sarah & Emily) who took me to the brick and mortar store for my very first time (located in Wrightsville Beach). However, it had been a few years since I had stepped foot in the boutique and I didn’t realize that you could purchase their merchandise online! So needless to say, It was quite a treat stumbling across Hallelu on Instagram as it’s affordable and beachy chic. I love their selection of clothing, shoes and accessories – definitely a good go-to store for the summer!

 

5. For Such a Time

Website: http://etsy.com/shop/forsuchatimedesigns

{ Instagram: forsuchatimedesigns }

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If you’re a gift or novelty junkie like I am, this is a shop you have to visit. Not going to lie, I had a hand stamped “I Do” & “Me Too” dessert fork set made for our wedding…so it comes to no surprise that I was immediately drawn to these clever stamped goodies at For Such A Time Designs’ Etsy shop. I mean, come on…a “Cereal Killer” spoon? How amazing is that? I discovered this shop through Lauren Conrad’s Instagram account. She had a custom spoon made by them and of course, tagged them in the post which led me to their Instagram and ultimately, their website. Check it out – it’s absolutely worth your time.

 

6. t+j Designs

Website: http://tandjdesigns.com

{ Instagram: tandjdesigns }

t+j designs

If you’re looking for some pretty jewels to spice up your wardrobe, check out t+j Designs. Not sure how I discovered this one on Instagram but I’ve been swooning over the new products they post! There is a large selection of statement necklaces, rings, watches, bracelets, earrings and even bags to choose from. Take a gander – you will not be sorry!

 

7. ILY Couture

Website: http://ilycouture.com

{ Instagram: ilycouture }

ily couture

I initially came across this Instagram account because I saw the “Wifey” and “Preggers” t-shirts and thought they were as sweet as can be! ILY Couture has both apparel and jewelry but their graphic tees are what make it!

 

8. Sabo Skirt

Website: http://saboskirt.com

{ Instagram: saboskirt }

Saboskirt

I am ALL about online shopping at U.K. and Australian based boutiques. Why? 1. If you’re looking in the right places, most of the time they will offer free (or very reasonable) shipping and returns and 2. you can discover some very unique pieces that cannot be duplicated or found just anywhere. If there is one thing that drives me crazy, it is owning the same article of clothing that everyone else owns. I found Sabo Skirt, an Australian womens boutique, quite some time ago and enjoy browsing their website for adorable summer dresses, tops, bottoms and rompers (AKA playsuits).

 

9. Hunt & Bow

Website: http://huntandbow.com.au

{ Instagram: huntandbow }

huntandbow

Another Australian website that I literally drool over almost every day. This is an excellent home decor site that will allow you to shop by style and offers up both eclectic and fun pieces for your home. I cannot get enough of this place!

 

10. Child of Wild

Website: http://childofwild.com

{ Instagram: child_of_wild }

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You can never own enough jewelry and this is one you do not want to pass up – especially if you have a love for Bohemian pieces like I do! I’m almost positive I found this shop through Vanessa Hudgens’ Instagram account. She has a distinct BoHo flair to her style and when I came across Child of Wild’s Instagram account and website, I couldn’t take my eyes off of these beauties! Darling rings, necklaces, bracelets…you name it!

…Stay tuned for more Instagram finds in the blog posts to come! XO

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Top Ten List | Fav Craft Brews of All Time

The weather is finally starting to heat up here in the Carolinas but what it is really doing is making me crave an ice cold craft brew on a picturesque patio. There, I said it. Of course there are tons of summer activities to plan like concerts, festivals and road trips…but nothing truly beats good company and the frothy, carbonated goodness of a delicious beer. So in honor of all the beer lovers out there, I have cultivated a list of my top ten favorite craft brews of all time. Some are year-round while others are seasonal – each bring something very special to the table.

Now, I will go ahead and give you my “fine print”: I am not a craft beer guru or connoisseur…nor do I claim to be. However, I would consider myself a craft beer advocate and I know what I like. So without further adieu, below is my go-to list of beers that I’ve experienced and loved. Maybe if you see one that you haven’t tried yet you can give it a go next time you’re out and about! { What are your favorite craft beers? What style of beer do you love? Share in the comment section as I’m always looking for something new to sip on! }

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 10.  Delirium Tremens from Huyghe Brewery – Belgium

{ deliriumbeer.com }

I remember the first time I picked one of these up at Common Market. I loved the bottle but wasn’t too sure what to expect regarding the beer itself. Delirium Tremens is a golden colored Belgian Strong Ale that is both fruity and hoppy with a slightly bitter finish.

 

9.  Maharaja Imperial IPA from Avery Brewing Company – Boulder, Colorado

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{ averybrewing.com }

This is a beer I have been drinking for a few years now – why mess with a good thing? Maharaja is an American Double/Imperial IPA with a very high alcohol content of 10.2%. This smooth, amber colored beer is fairly hoppy but truly encompasses the perfect blend of bitter and sweet. Maharaja definitely has some subtle notes of pine and citrus (perhaps some orange) and the aroma is divine.

 

8.  Anchor Steam from Anchor Brewing Company – San Francisco, California

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{ anchorbrewing.com }

This year-round brew is a solid go-to and I would even consider it a classic. I’m a big fan of San Francisco and as silly as it sounds, the taste of this beer reminds me of the city in every shape, way and form. It’s clean, refreshing and magical.

 

7.  Hazelnut Brown Nectar from Rogue – Newport, Oregon

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{ rogue.com }

If you’ve never experienced any Rogue beer before, stop what you are doing right now and find the closest store that carries them. I’ve been an advocate of Rogue for several years because they consistently put out a solid beer. Their Hazelnut Brown Nectar in particular is hands down one of my favorites although there probably isn’t a Rogue beer I haven’t loved. As you can probably infer from the name, this beer definitely tastes like rich, roasted hazelnuts. Sweet in flavor and copper in color, this beer is another good one to have in your arsenal.

 

6.  OMB Dunkel from Olde Mecklenburg Brewery – Charlotte, North Carolina

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{ oldemeckbrew.com }

Where do I begin with my love affair with OMB Dunkel? If it was a year-round beer, I would be in serious trouble. This seasonal brew is only around in the Winter but it will warm your soul on those frosty nights. Olde Meck’s Dunkel is a rich brown color, medium bodied with slightly sweet malts and an earthy flavor.

 

5.  Hop Drop N’ Roll from NoDa Brewing Company in Charlotte, North Carolina

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{ nodabrewing.com }

So, you need to take me seriously when I say that I swear I am not biased. I know the owners and employees of NoDa Brewing Company quite well. Not only does my husband work at the brewery part-time, but I’ve known many of the staff members for years. No words can explain my love for these people – Chad, the head brewer, knows what the heck he is doing…and the owners, Todd & Suzie? They are truly some of the best people I know. Now, to the beer. Hop Drop N’ Roll is beyond any other American-style IPA that I’ve had. It has an intricate and complex flavor profile – seriously incredible. I’m a big fan of all of NoDa’s beers but this one definitely stands out among the rest. In fact, it just took home the Gold Award at the 2014 World Beer Cup® for American-Style IPAs which is a huge deal. The best part about it all? You do not have to go the brewery to enjoy this beverage as this past year they started selling them in cans all around town. Convenience at its finest!

 

4.  Cottonwood Spiced Pumpkin Ale from Foothills Brewing Company in Winston Salem, North Carolina 

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{ foothillsbrewing.com }

If you know me, it is no secret that Autumn is my favorite season and that pumpkin flavored anything makes me the happiest girl in the world. So of course, I am pumpkin beer obsessed. However, when it comes to this type of seasonal beer, I am very particular about the taste. I’ve had some where you cannot taste pumpkin at all and some that are way too sweet…to the point of nausea. I remember first tasting Cottonwood Pumpkin when I was out having a post-work beverage with a coworker. I ordered it on a whim, not expecting to completely fall head over heels…which I absolutely did. WOW. Everyone will give you an opinion on the “best” pumpkin beer and I truly believe it’s all personal. Not everyone’s palettes are the same and what each individual is seeking is very different. But Cottonwood Pumpkin is the perfect balance of a pumpkin taste with hints of nutmeg and spices without being overly sweet.

 

3.  Cold Mountain Winter Ale from Highland Brewing Company in Asheville, North Carolina

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{ highlandbrewing.com }

I cannot even begin to take credit for discovering this beer – it was truly all my husband. Shahin is a huge craft beer guy and has been in the scene for several years now. But when it’s Winter time, all that I hear him talk about is getting his hands on a Cold Mountain Winter Ale by Highland Brewing Company in Asheville, NC. It’s clear as day that Asheville is a major craft beer hub and there are so many incredible breweries up there, but Highland Brewing is most definitely one of my favorites as they always put out a quality product. Cold Mountain is a deep, copper color beer with a creamy texture and subtle, soul-warming flavors such as nutmeg, cinnamon and vanilla. This well-balanced beer is definitely a wise choice for cold, winter nights.

 

2.  Coco Loco from NoDa Brewing Company – Charlotte, North Carolina

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{ nodabrewing.com }

Without a doubt, this is my favorite NoDa Brewing Company beer and number two on my favorite craft brews of all time. This American Porter is a rich, dark brown color (almost black) with a creamy, light tan head. What I love about this beer is it encompasses two of my most beloved things: chocolate and coconut. Let me sum it up for you…taste bud explosion! The flavor profile is ridiculously enchanting: the marriage of the slightly bitter chocolate with the sweet notes of the organic coconut (toasted on-site at the brewery) is pure perfection. It was even awarded the Silver Medal in 2012 at The Great American Beer Festival. Go…go try it now.

 

1.  Hopslam Ale from Bell’s Brewery – Kalamazoo, Michigan

Hopslam

{ bellsbeer.com }

There are no words to explain Hopslam except when you can actually find it…it’s like gold. You think I’m joking, but I’m totally not. Aside from this also being a Winter seasonal beer, only a certain amount is released to specific locations. That means…if I were you, I’d start researching now how to get it this Winter because those who know which bars or pubs receive shipments do not share with others. Would it be bold of me to even say that Hopslam almost has a cult-like following? Probably not…and I’m pretty darn guilty of being a part of it myself. But y’all, it’s really that good. This beer is a rich amber color and very easy to drink and goes down smoothly. As noted in the name of the beer, it is quite hoppy. But if you’re not a fan of hoppy beers, do not let that deter you from trying this because I too once felt that way and this beer changed my entire way of thinking. The aroma and flavors are so pungent: strong grapefruit, pineapple, honey and floral notes. I recommend this beer time and time again – it is worth all the hype.

Trying to better understand what kind of beers you enjoy or wish to discover something new? Check out beeradvocate.com

Travel | Windy City Round Up

Hello lovelies! I feel like a horrible blogger because I skipped a post last week. But do not fret – I will be posting twice this week to make up for it. In the meantime, I am dying to share our mini vacation we just came back from with you!

I’m coming to find that one of my favorite subjects to write about is travel. The hubs and I just got back from a long weekend in Chicago and let me just tell you…it blew me away (figuratively and literally). Shahin and I are big fans of tradition and although we’ve been together almost 7 years, we’ve only been married 7 months and have wanted to implement customs in our marriage. One we have established is an annual trip with one of our favorite couple friends to an uncharted area (or at least for most of us). Last year, we took on New York City, which was ridiculously fun (will touch on that trip in a separate post), and this year we chose Chicago. Why? We’ve all heard remarkable things about the “Windy City” between the places to see, activities to do as well as the cuisine and social scene. None of us had been there before except Shahin who had only visited when he was much younger.

The hubs and I have discussed many times before that it is not often you find a group of people you can comfortably travel with. Let’s be real for a moment: think about all of your friends. They’re amazing and you love them dearly but consider spending several days with them at a time…how many could you travel with without eventually wanting to pull your hair out? I can assure you, it will probably just be a handful. Erich and Rachel are the perfect travel buddies, we always have the best time together. Even more, we each play an important part in the planning and execution of our vacations. Erich always tracks down the best deals (without fail) while Rachel and I research and choose our activities, restaurants and watering holes (priorities). I like to consider Shahin a “game day” kind of guy. He’s not one to do any initial planning but he will be the spontaneous life of the party when we get to our final destination as well as our GPS (he has an amazing sense of direction).

Here’s a run down of what we did with some notable places and moments:

Thursday
• Had Chicago style pizza at Lou Malnati’s. It was quite delicious but really heavy. In fact, I was almost sick after eating one slice. Glad I gave it a try but I will stick with NY style all day, every day.
• Visited the Willis Tower (formerly Sears Tower), which is the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere at 1,353 feet. We stepped out onto the glass box, which extends out about 4 feet from the skydeck – totally worth the sweaty palms!
• Ate dinner at an oyster bar across from our hotel that had a very old school/1920’s Chicago vibe called Shaw’s. We enjoyed oyster shooters and listened to live jazz.
• Found the most talked about new hot spot in Chicago for 2014: Three Dots and a Dash, a tiki style speakeasy in a back alley with no signs on the door indicating where it is with just a bouncer out front. It was essentially an underground playground for adults/secret society of the most beautiful people in Chi town. Lively, vibrant and a very happening lounge with heavenly concoctions in unique tiki glasses.

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Friday
• First thing in the morning we walked to Intelligentsia and had the best cappuccino I’ve ever tasted.
• Stopped at Glazed & Infused and picked up some Maple Bacon Long John donuts on the way back to the hotel.
• Visited beluga whales, dolphins, penguins, and fish galore at the Shedd Aquarium – one of the largest aquariums in the world.
• Took in the most breathtaking view of Chicago seen from outside of the Adler Planetarium.
• Ate Chicago style hot dogs and Italian beef sandwiches at Portillo’s, which was recommended by a friend (thanks, Mike). Oh and the chocolate cake shake we ordered to go along with it…sinfully good.
• Did a little shopping on Magnificent Mile and hit up the holy grail (AKA Topshop).
• Dinner and margaritas at Frontera = wowza. The Meyer lemon margarita from the special Spring menu was divine.
• After shutting the place down, we decided to continue with the tequila (rule #1 of tequila drinking: you should never mix it with anything else) and popped into Mercadito, where I consumed passionfruit margaritas with a smoked paprika rim…and it was the most glorious drink I’ve ever had.

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Saturday
• Shahin and Erich stayed in their rooms (recovery mode) while Rachel and I picked up some coffee and stopped for a peanut butter cup donut at Firecakes. WIN!
• Did a little more shopping.
• Met the boys over at the Navy Pier where we rode the Ferris Wheel.
• Visited a 2-story Italian market called Eately.
• Ate dumplings and #hotasianbuns at Wow Bao.
• Had pre-dinner cocktails at CH Distillery, Chicago’s only distillery cocktail bar. This place makes their own alcohol and they’ve created a very chic and trendy atmosphere around it. Let me just start out by saying…they completely NAILED it with the drinks. The Moscow Mule Rachel had was ridiculously good and my unique beverage called The Baron Takes Tea (Earl Gray infused CH key gin, lemon, simple syrup, egg white and soda) was unbelievable.
• Had a 10:15 reservation at Girl and The Goat which every food blog, Chicago magazine, social media outlet and local Chicagoans rave about. Not to mention it was rated #1 on Urbanspoon Chicago as the hottest restaurant in town. Done and done. It’s tapas style so each couple had about 4-5 menu items each and we all did some sharing.
Here is what we tried:
o Seared tuna: Incredible.
o Diver scallops: Sweet and delectable.
o Goat carpaccio: Served with smoked trout roe and olive maple vinaigrette – I cannot even deal.
o Ham frites: Served with beer cheese…need I really say more?
o Onion bread: With tarragon butter and pepper chutney alongside it – holy hell.
o Tortone bread: Served with rocoto cream cheese and pepita salad – also amazing.
o Wood oven roasted pig face: Yes, you read that right. And no judging allowed because you never know unless you try. It tasted like the most tender BBQ you’ve ever had in your life – so surprisingly delicious.
o Fried pickles: The only one I was not head over heels in love with. They were tasty but let’s be honest…we are all from the South. Call me biased but they just simply cannot do it like we do.

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Sunday (Our last day but we made it count)
• Walked around and took in some last minute views.
• Enjoyed brunch at The Purple Pig – another one we’ve heard so much about. They don’t take reservations but we waited in line to get in before they opened (True life: we’re not in North Carolina anymore).
This eatery was also a tapas/shared plate restaurant and we had some appetizing bites:
o Meatball slider with parmesan and arugula: YUM!
o Razor clams with oregano, olive oil and lemon: Can you really go wrong with any clam?
o Chicken thigh kebabs with fried smashed potatoes and tzatziki sauce: An excellent combination.
o Octopus with green beans, fingerling potatoes and salsa verde: My favorite item we had.
o Fried pig’s ear with crispy kale, pickled cherry peppers and a fried egg: Made my taste buds dance.
o Fried petit basque cheese with membrillo: Basically a fancy mozzarella stick – so obvi it was delicious.

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What an incredible four days and three nights in the Windy City! It’s clean, beautiful and there is too much to see and do in just a short amount of time…you truly need a lifetime! We definitely painted the town red and made every minute count. On our way back to Charlotte, we were discussing what our next adventure would be! Of course we’ve created a bucket list of places to go but we’re thinking an all-inclusive resort in the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico or Mexico is a must. Who knows what 2015 will bring but it’s safe to say that we will have many years to come traveling with these two because they’re tying the knot next year. This means there are many couple trips together in our future – yippie!

Our list of places to visit include (but not limited to):

  • Seattle
  • Portland
  • Washington D.C.
  • Boston
  • San Francisco (we can’t get enough of it)
  • San Diego
  • Austin
  • Arizona
  • New Orleans
  • Maine
  • Paris
  • London
  • Ireland
  • Scotland
  • Amsterdam
  • Prague
  • Oktoberfest in Munich (sounds like trouble)
  • Switzerland
  • Thailand
  • Machu Pichu
  • Brazil
  • Buenos Aires
  • Istanbul
  • Greece

We may need to start doubling up on trips each year! Definitely cannot wait for our many adventures to come! What are places you’re dying to see or have been that are ridiculously amazing? Do share in the comment section below!

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